Doctor Who
Creatures and Demons

Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: 7.99, US $12.99, Cdn $15.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 8460 7229 1
ISBN-10: 1 8460 7229 8
Available 10 May 2007

With exclusive photographs, concept drawings, diagrams and fx models, this is a lavishly illustrated collection of the scariest monsters from
Doctor Who. Written by Who expert Justin Richards, this is the follow up book to the best selling Aliens and Enemies and Monsters and Villains...

Is it just me, or are the endlessly recycled publicity shots of the Doctor and his companion beginning to get just a little bit uninspired and repetitive? Every new series seems to bring with it about 827 slightly different new variants on the 'Doctor pointing his sonic screwdriver at absolutely nothing' theme, whilst his companion has another half-hearted go at pretending to be positively horrified by whatever it is that the merchandise artist decides to superimpose next to her.

I'm reminded of the wealth of truly iconic publicity shots that regularly accompanied the classic series - from the eerie shot of Hartnell holding aloft a lamp as he inserts the TARDIS key into the lock, to Tom Baker standing moodily beside the lighthouse of Fang Rock. So far, the new series publicity images don't even try to capture this kind of atmosphere, and instead plump for a simplistic catch-all formula, clearly designed to be pasted with ease into accompanying merchandise when necessary. Shame.

And so it is that the cover of this latest offering from BBC Books features yet another wildly uncharacteristic image of our favourite friendly Time Lord threatening you with his Sonic Screwdriver, whilst his new companion Martha looks on in permanently frozen horror - although this time, she probably has very good reason, she appears to have been caught out sneakily squatting down behind a Dalek - surely no way to treat one of Skaro's finest?

Creatures and Demons is the third annual collection of nasties from Doctor Who's past and present, liberally sprinkled with glossy photographs and bite-sized facts for the benefit of the younger reader. Brand new foes such as the Judoon, the Empress of the Racnoss, and the (frankly very silly) Absorbaloff, happily rub shoulders with older adversaries such as the Celestial Toymaker, the Quarks and the Destroyer (the latter of which I suspect was thrown in to add a bit more weight to the slightly flimsy 'creatures and demons' theme).

Each section is backed up with a brief background on the monster in question, very handy diagrams (we are invited to note that Draconians have 'scaly reptilian skin', the Giant Maggots have 'vicious sharp jaws' and the Ogrons 'will eat anything') and an occasional slice of brief but very welcome insight from the new series writers and designers.

A little bit too much space is eaten up by yet more material on the Daleks and Cybermen, both of which have been extensively covered in previous volumes, but you can't blame BBC books for wheeling them out again for the kids, and we are given nuggets of new material relating to their specific new episodes.

Without question, the real treasure within these pages is the collection of fascinating original design drawings from the new series. In particular, the concept artwork for the Carrionites from The Shakespeare Code is genuinely nightmarish, and it seems a pity that they ended up as generic warty old witches on the television screen. Conversely, the original design for the Ood from The Impossible Planet was a bit pants, so it's interesting to see how Millennium FX expanded upon this idea and created one of Series Two's most memorable monsters, especially as the book reveals that they were all designed and created on the cheap.

BBC Books have recently attracted some criticism for neglecting the mature reader in their recent offerings, instead focusing exclusively on the younger reader's market. Creatures and Demons will of course do nothing to appease those critics, but I can't really see a problem. After all, the 'serious' reader is already spoilt for choice when it comes to in-depth reference works (most notably by the consistently excellent output of Telos Publishing), so I can't see the harm in BBC Books catering for the children, especially when it's as much fun as this.

A fourth volume seems inevitable (I'm putting my money on Beasties and Blobby Things) and long may this range continue, the Doctor Who kids have never had it so good.

Danny Salter

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