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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Companion and Allies


Author: Steve Tribe
BBC Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07749 4
Available 02 April 2009

The Doctor has been travelling through space and time for centuries, showing his friends and companions the wonders of the universe. From Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier to Martha Jones and Donna Noble, this title celebrates the friends that have been by the Doctor's side and the heroes that have helped him battle his deadliest foes...

Companions and Allies is the fifth annual lightweight picture-heavy guide from BBC Books aimed at the younger fan.

Having previously covered a menagerie of Monsters and Villains, Aliens and Enemies, Creatures and Demons, and even Starships and Spacestations, you may have been worried that BBC Books were beginning to run out of suitable material from which they could fill up another 96 glossy pages. Let me be the one to put your mind at ease. Whilst the author of the previous four volumes, Justin Richards, appears to have jumped ship, Steve Tribe has courageously stepped in to present this all-new offering, focusing this time on the Doctor’s friends, companions, allies, assistants and dodgy robotic pets.

I’m sure most of you will already know what to expect from one of these books - a nicely presented volume, lavishly illustrated with terrific photographic material, and bite-sized no-nonsense guides to the subjects in question - this time round, the companions.

But I have to be honest, I was very pleasantly surprised by the scope of this one. The previous volumes have always concentrated heavily on the new series with just occasional polite nods to the classic show - which is fair enough, I suppose. These books are clearly aimed at the newer, younger fan who are no doubt keen to lap up all they can about the new Daleks and Cybermen and Slitheen and Judoon, and who very probably couldn’t care less about rubbish old Quarks and Krotons.

I was fully expecting this companions book to follow suit, and focus mainly on Rose Tyler and beyond, with maybe just the odd page on the likes of Jamie McCrimmon, Jo Grant and, if we’re really lucky, maybe even Adric.

But I’m happy to say that my expectations were completely wrong. The book actually takes a chronological look at each and every one of the TARDIS crew members from the last 45 years, beginning right at the very start with Susan Foreman, and taking us on a long journey encompassing every single companion ever to have travelled with, fought alongside with, or had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit with, the Doctor.

To cover the original series in such detail is a pretty brave and unprecedented move from BBC Books, and I hope it pays off. The slightly misleading cover featuring David Tennant and the new series companions may end up confusing the younger fan, seeing as there’s not even a whiff of Rose until page 63, but let’s hope they stick with it and learn a little about the classic episodes.

The amount of attention given to each companion was probably always going to be a bit questionable and couldn’t possibly hope to satisfy everyone. Katarina and Sara Kingdom, the short-lived and doomed companions from the 60’s, are given just a little bit of space in a box-out, but it’s actually nice and surprising to see them represented at all.

More confusingly, several characters from the new series who only ever appeared in a single episode (for example, Sally Sparrow) are given the full glossy treatment, whilst poor old Adam (who actually travelled in the TARDIS over the course of two unconnected episodes and is therefore surely more qualified to be a bona fide companion?) is written off with just a couple of cursory lines.

Generally, the text is fairly simplistic and undemanding, and won’t be particularly informative to the older Who fan, but the presentation is spot-on, with the typically gorgeous imagery that we’ve come to expect from these titles.

If you’re after an in-depth, definitive guide to the history of Doctor Who companions, then... don’t be silly, this is certainly not it. You’d be much better off tracking down a copy of Doctor Who: Companions by David J Howe and Mark Stammers, originally published by Virgin in 1995, which is a glorious body of work and has lots of semi-naked pictures of Katy Manning and Nicola Bryant in it.

This, however, is still a bold stab at something different from BBC Books, and I applaud it. It’s just the sort of book I would have loved to have had on my shelf when I was a kid.


Daniel Salter

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