Book Review: The Doctor's Monsters - Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who / Author: Graham Sleight / Publisher: I.B Tauris & Co Ltd / Release Date: Out Now
As Matt Smith's Doctor battles his way through mad Daleks, angry cyborgs and Mitchell and Webb, sci-fi scholar and critic Graham Sleight takes his own trip through almost fifty years of Timelord history to provide a semi-comprehensive history of the Doctor's monsters.
The Doctor's Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who posits that many – if not all – of the creatures and monsters the Doctor faces all have meaning, reason and subtext. The Daleks are the series' answer to Nazis – their nasal goose-stepping (or hovering, rather) a response to Hitler's ideals of genetic purity. The Cybermen are a play on fears of surgery, and so on. There's a lot of philosophical musing to Sleight's well-researched, chunky encyclopaedia. As well as the philosophical, psychological content, Sleight also does a fine line in story recaps and criticism. My first introduction to the Doctor was with Russell Davies' series reboot, so I was grateful for the history and content Sleight provides. I would have liked to see more on the Doctor himself, or the Master but the 'monsters only' approach does mean that there's very little mention of the dreadful River Song or vastly overrated Rose Tyler. Those monsters that Sleight doesn't get to in the bulk of the book are referenced in a neat catch-all A-Z in the last few pages, which attempts to fill in any gaps. It's not comprehensive (with so much history and several lost episodes, it never could be) but it comes close.
The Doctor's Monsters should be well received amongst casual fans of the Doctor as well as those with a little more knowledge of the character's rich history. For me, the book will serve as impetus for me to finally seek out some of those older episodes referenced by Sleight. His passion for the subject is delightfully infectious.
Don't let the somewhat cheap cover put you off – The Doctor's Monsters is well written, well researched and very readable. The writer's passion for the subject matter is evident throughout, his findings insightful and interesting. While some may accuse the book of overthinking its subject or reading like a series of essays, I would argue that Doctor Who is a series that rewards the thought and exploration that Sleight provides. Its history is far too rich to dismiss as soon as the next Doctor, showrunner or series comes along.The Doctor's Monsters is a fun and illuminating read for fans of Who new and old.