Tuesday, July 19, 2016

REVIEW: "Unofficial Doctor Who: The Big Book of Lists" by Cameron K. McEwan


Originally written for and published on the (Re)Generation Who website.

Whovians are, among many other things, lovers of trivia. And a show with over half a century of content across every possible medium known to fan is going to have opportunities for a lot of minutiae. Chronicling every corner of it is a difficult job that some have already undertaken and few will ever commit to memory -- but if you're a 'fact fan' in the mood for some fun and random knowledge, Cameron K. McEwan's Big Book of Lists is probably just your speed.

If McEwan's name sounds familiar, it probably should: he's the creator of Blogtor Who, and has since moved on to work for BBC Worldwide. The Big Book of Lists catalogs his vast knowledge of the Whoniverse into (as the title suggests) 100 lists, categorized by theme. But if you're expecting simple, straightforward facts, you'll be surprised -- pleasantly so, though, I think.

While the book does cover basic facts like who the longest-serving writers were and how old each Doctor was when he took the role, the majority of the lists cover things you wanted to know (and have probably argued with your friends) but probably forgot you'd wondered about. Comprehensive lists of pop song usage, catchphrases, actors who have appeared in both Star Wars and Doctor Who, and even dinosaur appearances are the sorts of things that make up most of this book.

The book also digs deep into things you didn't know you wanted to know. How heavily Agatha Christie referential was 'The Unicorn and the Wasp'? (Very.) How many real people have made cameos as themselves over the course of the show's run? (More than you think.) What shows does Who reference, and vice-versa? (Again... more than you think.)

There's also a great deal of subjectivity in this book, but it's a pleasant subjectivity overall. Things like underappreciated episodes and saddest companion exits may not mesh completely with everyone's personal opinions, but they come from a place of genuine appreciation and may even make you give some episodes a second look. Also, you can't argue with four of the final lists: multiple reasons to love the 21st century Doctors.

The final chapter of the book, though in list form, is actually a quiz. (Don't worry, the answers are in the back.) So you can test your own Who knowledge against the Blogtor!

I read The Big Book of Lists cover to cover (as a reviewer will tend to do), but it's really best suited to flipping through for fun. Add in fabulous art by video and Target novel cover artist Andrew Skilleter, and it's perfect for any Whovian's coffee table. If there's still room between your LEGO Dimensions setup and DVD boxes, that is. Or maybe that's just my coffee table.

Unofficial Doctor Who: The Big Book of Lists is currently available to buy from Amazon.