Review: You And Who / Editor: J.R. Southall / Publisher: Miwk Publishing / Release Date: December 2012
I’ve not done the math - as they say - but I’d be willing to wager than there have been more books about Doctor Who than any other series in the history of television. And, like the show’s TV stories, they come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve had brain-draining academic tomes, episode guides, behind-the-scenes extravaganzas, more episode guides, critical analyses and lots of big books with pretty pictures in them. Superfans and TV historians have all done their bit to chronicle the comings-and-goings of TV’s most enduring and larger-than-life science-fiction superhero and many of them have gone on to shape the on-screen destiny of the very character they’ve written about. But few viewers of the show have been able to have their say; not the professional or semi-professional fans who eventually turned Doctor Who into a livelihood but rather the viewers, the ordinary joes, the you-and-mes who sit down on a Saturday night in search of a foolish, fabulous and occasionally ferociously frustrating bit of telly escapism. Viewers have adored Doctor Who ever since it first appeared on British TV screens in November 1963 but rarely have its grass roots devotees had the chance to explain exactly why this silly, quirky show managed to get under their skin.
Until now. You and Who, compiled by Starburst Magazine’s own Whoru J.R. Southall, is a lovingly-assembled collection of writings of various length - erudite essays, random episode appreciations, warm and charming and extremely personal remembrances of time and Time Lords gone by - all shot through with a sort of collective reverence towards Doctor Who and, in many cases, a realisation that appreciation of the show has had a fundamental affect on the roads taken and the way many of its contributors have lived their lives. You and Who is a grab-bag of enthusiastic fan opinion which, fortunately, rarely ascends to the level of pomposity displayed in many of the more earnest ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ fan forum debates. Here you’ll find fans writing heartfelt letters to their younger selves, fans writing letters to the Doctor himself, fans who nail down their love of the show to the mast of some specific facet or other of the series’ unique format. Others recall the dark days when Doctor Who was slowly slipping from its pedestal of popularity and fading away into youthful memory until that explosive 2005 rebirth made the show - and a half-forgotten love of it - a brand new passion born out of something long gone and shared amongst new friends and new families. Many of the pieces here recall earliest memories of earliest episodes and J.R. himself goes right back to the beginning with an evocative appreciation of ‘An Unearthly Child’, the episode which started it all way back in November 1963.
And ultimately ‘evocative’ is the word which best sums up You and Who; it’s guaranteed to bring back memories, raise a smile or two (one piece which states ‘I have for some time been an actor and a journalist’ turns out to have been written by a fourteen year-old…and why not??) and possibly even make you mutter ‘What? You can’t possibly have liked that!!’. But it’s all done with good grace, a great deal of wit and, above all else and even when the writing’s sometimes not quite as polished as we might be used to in Doctor Who books, an absolute and pretty much unswerving devotion to a show which, arguably, hasn’t always deserved it. Over the next twelve months, as Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations move into high gear, we’ll undoubtedly be hearing a lot from the great and the good about why they love Doctor Who and always have but You and Who much more modestly reminds us that the people in the audience who matter most aren’t the comedians and the chat show hosts and the TV chefs with their showbiz reminiscences and snappy soundbites; the people who matter are the people like you (and me) who’ve been there through thick and thin and whose faith, if not always unwavering, has enabled Doctor Who to reach its fiftieth anniversary in rude health and with its head held high. In the end this isn’t really a book about Doctor Who at all, it’s a book about you - about you and Who - and I doubt we’ll see a more passionate and enthusiastic book on the series in the tide of titles almost certainly coming our way in the next twelve months. It’s a book to cherish.