Book Review – “Behind The Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who” (Edited by Steve Berry)

Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who

From Goodreads:

Steve Berry decided to do something a little bit different to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK. A life-long DOCTOR WHO fan he began to interview celebrities writers actors and people who had worked on DOCTOR WHO asking for their earliest memories of the show that sent us cowering behind the sofa. Now he presents the fruits of his four years of labour – a beautiful touching book containing short articles and touching memories of one of the most successful TV shows ever. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of DOCTOR WHO – this is the perfect way to enjoy those 50 years!

This revised and expanded edition includes over 30 new entries from people such as Sophia Myles Ben Aaronovitch John Leeson and many more.

Contributors include comedians Al Murray Stephen Merchant and Bill Oddie; actors Lynda Bellingham Nicholas Parsons and Rhys Thomas; writers Neil Gaiman Jenny Colgan Jonathan Ross and Charlie Brooker and politicians Louise Mensch and Tom Harris. In addition there is input from a number of the writers actors and production staff who were involved in creating DOCTOR WHO stories new and old.

As a Whovian, there was one thing that I dreaded more than anything when “Doctor Who” returned.  It was that people who didn’t give the programme a second thought or treated it with disdain would now think it was en-vogue to say how brilliant the classic series was and that they had watched it since they were a kid, most prominently from behind the proverbial sofa.  (For this statement, read ‘Z-list “celebrity” whose agent wants to raise their profile for the next ‘reality’ show).

(I have to admit, I never sat behind the sofa through fear.  The only time I remember being genuinely scared of “Doctor Who” was the cliffhanger to Part 1 of “City of Death” when the villain took off a humanoid mask to reveal a face reminiscent of green spaghetti… Oh, and that incident when I was freaked out on a visit to the “Doctor Who” exhibition in Blackpool in 1980.  (Come on, I was eight years old at the time).)

Anyway, when I heard about this book, I was half dreading the written version of a “talking heads” show whilst being half curious as to whether people had similar memories as I have, not only from my childhood when I watched the Classic incarnation of “Who” but as an adult when the programme returned in 2005.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this book as although sofas feature with alarming regularity the recollections contained within this collection are genuinely written – for good or for ill.

The reason for this is the diverse viewpoints carefully selected by the collection’s editor, Steve Berry.  From Gallifrey to Trenzalore, you have recollections of the first episode transmitted, along with its unfortunate ties to the assassination with President Kennedy, tales  of childhood terror, youthful geekiness, the loss of a hero during “The Wilderness Years” and the rebirth of a hero and his fandom in 2005.  You have stories from people involved with the series including Nicola Bryant, Sophie Aldred, Bernard Cribbins, Neil Gaiman, Sophia Myles and Hugh Bonneville, people who have turned their love for the Doctor into their profession such as Nicholas Briggs and Gary Russell and celebrity fans including DJ Jo Whiley, talk show host Jonathan Ross, musician Phil Hartnoll (from “Orbital” who performed with Matt Smith at Glastonbury) and comedian Al Murray.  In fact, you also get a piece from Michael Grade, the man who nearly killed off the series in the 1980s but, who to be fair to him, provides some context to that decision AND a foreword by none other than Sir Terry Pratchett.

These “love letters” to a British icon encapsulate all the emotions that you see at conventions, fan gatherings, websites and Twitter accounts.  Whilst I was almost dreading a book like this, an occasion like the recent fiftieth anniversary warrants a book like this as a statement that a) We love the Doctor and b) In a world like the one we live, we will always need a hero like the Doctor.

If you’re a Whovian, please buy this book.  Not only will you gain a re-affirmation of what makes “Doctor Who” so special, but you’ll also be doing something worthwhile as all the proceeds for this book go to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Rating: 4/5

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