BOOK REVIEW: WALLOWING IN OUR OWN WELTSCHMERZ – AN AUTON GUIDE TO THE STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES OF THE SEVENTH DOCTOR / AUTHOR: ANDY DAVIDSON, CHRIS ORTON, ANDREW ORTON, ROBERT HAMMOND, MATTHEW WEST / PUBLISHER: MIWK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Few eras – oh, all right, no eras – of Doctor Who are as divisive amongst the show’s aficionados as the dying years of the 1980s. Sylvester McCoy became the seventh Doctor in 1987 after the unceremonious dumping of Colin Baker and the show limped on for three more brief series before the BBC finally turned off the life support in 1989. A hardcore group of fans maintain that McCoy’s era was the beginning of a new ‘golden age’ in the show’s history, signifying a creative turnabout in its fortunes unfortunately not mirrored in the BBC’s own attitudes towards a show they’d long since considered well beyond its sell-by date. Others – naming no names – have little or no time for the show’s last three series and some – naming no names - might even take the view that not only should all tapes of the episodes themselves be buried forever deep in a sea of peat but also that the memory of having ever seen them should be surgically removed from the brains of all those who suffered at the time – or even since.
Weltschmerz isn’t, thankfully, a hectoring ‘you are wrong, this is why it’s good’ text book chronicling the show’s perceived last-minute renaissance. Written by the team behind the popular and irreverent 1990s Auton fanzine, Weltschmerz is the work of admirers of the era who aren’t blind to its faults. The McCoy era is dissected and its illogicality, irrationalities and its downright inanities are laid bare for the world to see. Weltschmerz asks how and why the Rani built her cliff-side base on Lakertya in McCoy’s rancid debut serial ‘Time and the Rani’, how her four-eyed slaves the Tetraps could be kitted out with spectacles, why ‘Paradise Towers’ needed so many Caretakers and how its inept rebel Kangs evolved. Also of concern is why the CIA would employ two bumbling comedy spies to track down a rogue satellite in the pitiful ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ and why, having waited thousands of years to exact vengeance upon his people, ‘Dragonfire’s Kane chose the very moment the Doctor arrives on iceworld Svartos to put his revenge plan into motion.
McCoy’s twelve serials – plus his appearances in the 1993 Children in Need special ‘Dimensions in Time’ and the 1996 Paul McGann TV movie – are subject to similar outrageous scrutiny and generally found wanting. But there’s the sense that this is all being done with tongue firmly in cheek and a real sense of affection for the source material. It’s not for the faint-hearted; the humour’s often not just near the knuckle, but occasionally halfway up the arm and sometimes the Auton boys wander off on some fanciful frolic in their attempt to make sense of stories which clearly have the capacity to fall to bits with the application of even the most basic principles of logic. But we’d wager that a similar approach might reap similar results if applied to even the better-regarded eras of Doctor Who’s long history.
Weltschmerz is silly, smutty and seriously unnecessary. It’s also frequently very funny indeed, and with all proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Society it’s got to be deserving of a place on any Doctor Who fan’s bookshelf, alongside all those monster picture books and chunky anniversary celebrations volumes. It’s honeypotterific.