The Who’s Who of Doctor Who: A Whovian Guide to Friends, Foes, Villains, Monsters, and Companions to the Good Doctor. Written by Cameron K. McEwan, creator of the fan site, Bloctor Who, a popular blog dedicated to Doctor Who—of course; and random yet elaborate illustrations by Andrew Skilleter, this colorfully glossy medium size table book commands the attention of any Doctor Who fan. That is just how I discovered this book. While searching for a gift for a friend, I had every intention of landing my hands on a sci-fi fan book on the film Aliens, yet unexpectedly found myself holding the blue and orange radiant Who’s Who of Doctor Who. A greater calling quickly thwarted my original plan, much like the unpredictable and omnipotent Tardis will occasionally reroute the Doctor’s path to some great event of the past that necessitates his interference. I immediately forgot about the Aliens fandom book—as there were more important space creatures to focus on, and this book was full of them.
It doesn’t take a sonic screwdriver to enter this colorful guide to the world of Doctor Who and its fifty-year history. McEwan and Skilleter have put together a fun and lively handbook that explores the TV show’s fifty year history by sensibly dividing each chapter into categories such as “Villains,” “Robots,” “Aliens & Monsters,” “Companions,” and of course “The Doctors.” The carefully selected pictures are engaging for anyone new to the series and intriguing for the staunchest fans. As I leafed through the pages, I couldn’t help but stop with a “say what?” as I encountered a picture of the Movellans, who are “humanoid in form” robots with platinum-blond cornrows that bring to mind Rick James at his “Super Freak(ist).” Having seen very few classic Doctor Who episodes (the show began in 1963), the Movellans picture (which originally aired in 1979) definitely piqued my curiosity.
What is missing in the book are the names of many actors under their respective photos of the various characters they portrayed. Fortunately they are located in the back of the book with the picture credits, though it is a little less of a convenient spot for a speed-reading enthusiast such as myself. Perhaps actor’s names are of no importance to Who fans, but ultimately it would be nice to see, for example, Andrew Garfield’s name next to his photo as Franck the boy who lived in Hooverville during the construction of the Empire State Building. Yes, not so long before Garfield became the rebooted Spider-Man, he was “caught by Pig Slaves and made to serve the Cult of Skaro” as Doctor Who fought the Daleks. Browsing through the book, one can’t help but notice a large number of British celebrities pop out, even Bill Nighy (Love Actually and many Brit comedy since) smirks from the pages as Dr. Black; even Walking Dead fans will discover David Morrissey who beheaded zombies as “the Governor,” once thought he was the Doctor. Dig deep through this book and you’ll find many of today’s rising stars with guest appearances in more current Doctor Who episodes—but you do have to possess quite the keen eye for recognizing these actor’s faces, as well as patience to turn back to the notes.
The Who’s Who of Doctor Who is not just a glorious book of pictures to browse through during commercial breaks (does anyone really watch Who in broadcast time anymore?), it’s also loaded with a sizable amount of text that clearly describes the various characters and how they fit into the Whovian world. For example, if you’ve missed episodes from recent seasons, or never quite understood how River Song’s complex journey fits into the history of Doctor Who, her matrix is outlined in chronological detail over three pages—quite a challenge considering the time travel element.
Finally, like little pop-up goodies, the book is sprinkled with “Fun Fact” and “Alternate Universe Notes” that provide superfluous but truly entertaining trivia bits such as “Kandy Man likes people to die with smiles on their faces.” “In an alternate timeline, Pete and Jackie had a rocky marriage and did not have a daughter” (What no Rose?). These little Fun Facts, although perhaps not life altering to the average reader or Who devotee, are appealing enough to keep the modern Ritalin induced mind happily engaged.
This is a book any Whovian will want to keep near their TV as they watch a Who marathon on Netflix, or to browse through before falling asleep and dreaming of the next episode to broadcast. And, of course, it’s perfect for any Who newbie or baby Whovian who might see the need to brush up on the facts in order to impress their fellow—ahem, superior—true Whovians. McEwan confesses in the notes section, “not everyone (or everything) is included. Not even nearly everything.” So, it might be less than what any hardcore Who Fan may expect, but at around $25 it really is a good price and a fantastic gift—quite possibly an essential gift for the Who fan in your life.
—John David West