Before I start with my review of Who Is the Doctor, an unofficial new book analyzing and discussing the post-2005 incarnation of Doctor Who, I'd like to point out that this book was released a few weeks ago, and I'm only now getting around to posting a review. Why did it take so long? At 421 pages, it's a heck of a lot to take in. Fortunately, it's 421 pages of good material.
Over the years, I have bought and read many books about Doctor Who. The About Time books by Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood, published by Mad Norwegian Press, are almost like "bibles" in a way as far as knowing the classic series inside and out. Who Is The Doctor is similar in that it's very in-depth, examining and talking about the ins and outs of the episodes... but it also has a different feel to it. It could be that, at no offense to them, I'd never heard of authors Graeme Burk and Robert Smith? (yes, the question mark is intentional) before. Reading their bios, they've done a lot, but they weren't pre-sold names, to me, in the way that Lawrence Miles had been. Even the fantastic Doctor Who books by Shaun Lyon weren't totally "new" to me in that Shaun and I have been friends for years. That means that the opinions expressed within were fresh and new to me. I liked reading about things from two new, different, and fair perspectives.
In addition to sidebars looking more deeply into characters or actors from the series, Who Is The Doctor analyzes each story individually and often splits into sections. There's The Big Idea, explaining what the story is about; Roots and References, which discuss influences and connections to the story; Adventures in Time and Space, about character development; Who Is The Doctor? talking about developments for the lead character; The Doctor and [Companion], examining his interactions with the companion; You're Not Making Any Sense, pointing out the parts of the story that might not work, and more. Trivia and timing of the stories also come into play, followed by analysis by Graeme and Robert, who don't always agree on things.
Graeme and Robert have a talent that might be considered rare in TV criticism -- even when you don't agree with their assessments, they're never insulting about it, and they always explain themselves.
I've written a few TV show companion books myself, and I can only imagine the amount of time that went into this endeavor. When I wrote, at least I had a lot of quotes from the creative teams to push me through... this, here, is almost all new material, written by the authors. I'm impressed. Also, the unofficial nature of this book means that even the embarrassing hiccups - like when "Rose" ended up on the internet a few weeks early - are actually mentioned rather than swept under the rug. The book goes all the way through the end of Series Six, which aired in October, so it's safe to say it's very up to date. Because the book is unofficial, there is no promotional BBC artwork within, but I must say.... the person who created the silhouettes of Doctors Nine, Ten, and Eleven did a great job. There's no question of who is Who.
ECW Press has made some fantastic TV show companion books, and this is a great addition to their line-up. At under $20 retail price, it's also a steal, considering the amount of pages and entertainment value within. I have a few books in my collection that I will always refer back to, and this is definitely one of them. (And hey - ECW - if you're ever looking for anyone to cover Smallville Seasons 8-10, I know a guy!)
Who Is The Doctor is available in bookstores everywhere. You can also get it at Amazon.com for a discounted price! If you're a fan of the modern era of Doctor Who, you will love it.