Review: The Who’s Who of Doctor Who / Author: Cameron K. McEwan / Publisher: Race Point Publishing / Release Date: January 9th
Having just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary worldwide, Doctor Who is more in the public consciousness than ever. It’s no surprise that the past months have seen a spate of tie-in material, both official and fan-published. The latest offering comes from Cameron K. McEwan, who set up the Blogtor Who website as a news source for Who fans in 2008 and has since become an increasingly known name in fandom, having also directed a documentary about Whovians. His book, The Who’s Who of Doctor Who, aims to be an essential handbook detailing the eclectic cast of the show’s fifty years.
This takes the form of over 300 encyclopedic articles, categorised into ‘Doctors’, ‘Companions’, ‘Friends and Allies’, ‘Robots’, ‘Time Lords and Ladies’, ‘Villains’ and ‘Aliens and Monsters’. McEwan’s passion for Who shows in his light and entertaining prose, making this a book that’s very easy to pick up, flick through, become immersed in, and suddenly realise it’s half an hour later and you’re meant to be out of the house by now.
The problem is that, in having to pick and choose his entries, McEwan is far from comprehensive. He’s open about this, stating in the introduction to one section that he’s picked the “more interesting ones”, though his choices do skew heavily towards the new series. The reader may therefore get the feeling that, in a world where we can access an incredibly comprehensive Doctor Who wiki free of charge, a book of this nature, summing up what we’ve seen on screen without adding any new insights, is irrelevant. Adding to this problem is the fact that it’s already out of date, having clearly been written before The Day of the Doctor – the Eighth Doctor’s entry states that “no one knows for sure which incarnation of the Doctor was involved” in the Time War. Oops.
These issues shouldn’t preclude the book from being an enjoyable volume, and it’s visually well put-together too. Many articles are accompanied by brand new illustrations from the talented Andrew Skilleter, who’s been linked to the Doctor Who brand since 1979 due to his artwork for novel covers. Other articles use photos, which are hit-and-miss. Presumably for rights reasons, some are set photos or photos of actors not in character, which is quite distracting – Rassilon showing up in a suit and tie, for example.
Though the hardcore Whovian might not find enough new in The Who’s Who of Doctor Who to justify the asking price of £18.99, it does have enough in its favour – finely written prose and effective illustrations – to make it a decent coffee table book for those who don’t already have an encyclopedic Who knowledge.