23 January 2015

BOOK: Who-ology

For those of you who don't know, Who-ology is truly a book for die-hard Doctor Who fans. What Cavan Scott and Mark Wright have done here is something that might not seem terribly original, yet has rarely been produced in such depth before. The pair have essentially compressed the best bits of TARDIS Wiki into 400-odd pages, added a sprinkling of well-judged humour (which admittedly becomes more prominent the further you delve into Who-ology) and added some lovely illustrations from Ben Morris.

But this is far more than just a list of facts. Categorised into sections focusing on different aspects of the show, on and off screen (with chapter titles such as Everyone's Favourite Time Lord, The Doctor's Best Friends, Lots of Planets Have a North, A Kettle and a Piece of String and The Matrix), this is a well-thought out and highly professional publication. The presentation is what makes this volume particularly enjoyable though. I personally find it quite tough going to get through full-length novels, not only due to forgetting what's going on, but also because long paragraphs are quite off-putting. 

Who-ology frequently resorts to handy, quick-reference tables and bullet-pointed lists, and features a considerable number of Morris' distinctive illustrations. Perhaps the best looking section is the double-page spread mapping where the Doctor's adventures on Earth have taken place but there isn't a single section that isn't attractively presented. Indeed, this does seem to have been engineered for easy fact-checking, with a complete list of stories, episode titles and number of parts concluding the book. This may well be a happy coincidence of how Scott and Wright, two writers of repute here at Artron Towers, assembled their facts, but it works nonetheless.

Indeed, the level of research that seems to have gone into this book is beyond dedicated. There's a wealth of information between its two hardcovers that I've never even considered, let alone read before, and I'm convinced the only way they could possibly have accumulated it all is by watching (or listening where sadly necessary) the entirety of Doctor Who from An Unearthly Child to The Snowmen. For YouTube's hit hunters, there's even a section that specifies the exact second at which an episode or story's title is uttered within the programme itself. 

The most pleasing thing about this book is how much useless information there is. There's stuff in here you would (or ought to) never, ever know. For its sheer obscurity and exogeneity, my own favourite chapter has to be that concerned with the Doctor's toolkit, including an extensive section on the Sonic Screwdriver, the aforementioned A Kettle and a Piece of String. In listing every TARDIS component ever mentioned, each is rated out of three TARDISes for reliability, with a well-timed tongue-in-cheek comment every now and again (for example, of the Fluid Link, they say, "liable to get knocked out of place or explode"). The section on the Master and his daft schemes is also worth checking out for the entries on Logopolis, Castrovalva and The Mark of the Rani.

In short, this a dedicated fan's ultimate book. Looking out to out-nerd another "fan" on the internet? Look no further than Who-ology. The forensic detail here is what ultimately makes this such a pleasure. Here you have someone who's passionate enough about the show to start a review blog, and even I'm baffled. I made a list of my favourite sub-chapters to mention at the end, but frankly it's longer than the entirety of the review so far. An injection of personality and a touch of humour was exactly the right decision, never detracting from their 'research', but adding for those doing more than skimming for obscure fact #5124. This is a hugely impressive volume, and certainly one I'll be returning to in future. Although it's probably not how it was designed, this is great to read through cover-to-cover, and a truly definitive account of the history of Doctor Who

However, this isn't simply a regurgitation of well-known facts (such as details on the previous acting careers of the Doctors) but features much information I was unaware of, which is especially pleasing when it heralds from recent series, a period which I've lived through. The only complaint I could possibly have is that it only goes up to The Snowmen, but it's my own stupid fault for being two years behind. This is an essential addition to the collections of fans of all ages, and far more deserving of your attention that some of the more famous or prominent works on the show.

In a Nutshell: A beautifully-presented, staggeringly fact-filled book that is extremely readable and guaranteed to broaden your knowledge of the programme. Not bad.

You can buy Who-ology on Amazon here, or visit the websites of Cavan Scott and Mark Wright.

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