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The Who’s Who of Doctor Who
by Cameron K. McEwan
Reviewed by Kasey Minnis

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The Who’s Who of Doctor Who: A Whovian Guide to Friends, Foes, Villains, Monsters, and Companions to the Good Doctor is a gorgeous book. It’s the kind of book that catches your eye in the bookshop. It’s the kind of book you give in to the desire to have in your hands. You leaf through it and see the full-color photos and the fabulous illustrations by Andrew Skilleter, and it becomes the kind of book you buy on an impulse. But will it live up to its appearance?

Written by Cameron K. McEwan, the mind behind Blogtor Who, the content of the book is engaging and fairly effective as a reference. Need a refresher on the Doctor’s history with the Daleks? It hits all the high points. Settling a bet about which regenerations of the Doctor battled The Great Intelligence? You’ll find your answer.

The book is divided into multiple categories: The Doctors, The Companions, Friends & Allies, Robots, Time Lords and Ladies, Villains, and Aliens & Monsters. It covers characters from the first episode through the 50th anniversary special, but is definitely weighted toward the new series. The book isn’t exhaustive, as the author acknowledges, but while many single-episode characters that appeared in the recent series are featured in the Friends and Villains sections for example, relatively few from the earlier years make the cut.

There seems to be little rhyme or reason as to how characters are categorized. What makes a character a Companion, rather than merely a Friend? One would assume that it is traveling with the Doctor, but that was apparently not the criteria. Adelaide Brooke (who once caught a ride home from the Doctor) is listed as a Companion, as are Dr. Grace Holloway (who refused an invitation to be the traveling companion of the eighth Doctor), and even Astrid Peth, (who, it is noted in the book, never set foot upon the TARDIS). On the other hand, Brian Williams (father of Rory who, it is noted in the book, traveled with the Doctor for some time, sending postcards home to the Ponds) is listed under Friends.

Similarly, there is confusion as to what makes a Time Lord or Lady. River Song, who had the ability to regenerate (but alas, only a single heart) is not listed as a Time Lady, but the meta-crisis doctor, who had only one heart and no ability to regenerate was listed as a Time Lord. Jenny, the Doctor’s machine-generated daughter, is listed as a Time Lady because she had two hearts, though she cannot regenerate. And DoctorDonna - a.k.a. Donna Noble after experiencing a biological exchange with the Doctor - is listed as a Time Lady though she retained her human heart and could not regenerate.

In some cases, these placements appear to be intentional choices, but in others, they are merely sloppy editing. Adelaide Brooke who, as mentioned, was listed as a Companion, is actually included twice; she also has an entry under Friends. And the cardinal sin of editing a reference is committed here: under Companions, there is an entry for first Doctor friend Sara Kingdom that says ‘See Friends.’ No entry for Sara Kingdom is there to be found.

In summary, if you’re looking for a definitive and comprehensive reference on the characters of Doctor Who, this is probably not the book you’re looking for. If you’re a new viewer who wants to be able to look up call-backs to the show’s history, if you’re a long-time fan who wants to have a helpful guide on hand to provide to those you introduce to the show, or if you really just love the feel of a gorgeous book about Doctor Who in your hands, invest the cash.


 

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