The Doctor's MonstersBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

Written by Graham Sleight
UK Release - 30 August 2012
Available to purchase from Amazon UK
For a show that revels in them, it is perhaps surprising that there haven't been as many books dedicated about the monsters of Doctor Who as one might expect. In the past, 'oldies' amongst us can look fondly upon our battered copies of the 1970s The Doctor Who Monster Book from Uncle Terrance, or more recently with 2005's Monsters and Villains by Justin Richards, but with several more years of 'monstrous' adventures to explore here we are presenting with a new tome from Graham Sleight.

However, those looking for a nice "A-Z" type book are likely to be disappointed, as the aim of this book is somewhat different, as the back cover explains:
This book takes a new look at the monsters and asks what inspired them and lies behind them. Why are we so scared of monsters? Why so they look and act the way they do? How do they reflect the time and place that the series is broadcast in?
Such a description immediately conjures up an image of in-depth analyses of monsters and their environment, and how contemporary socio-political influences affected the way in which they were realised - fortunately, we don't have to worry about the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes, however, as Sleight presents his arguments in clear, concise prose, and in a reader-friendly manner.

The Book

On opening the book, the first thing you notice is what appears to be a very strange ordering of monsters within the Contents. The Autons ... check ... The Weeping Angels ... check ... Kroll ... erm, okay ... The Primords ... pardon ... The Borad ... WTF? There is method in Sleight's madness, of course, as his intention is to show how the different monsters relate to one another. Thus, Kroll in couched within terms of its being a force of nature like the Angels; after the Primords, the Borad is compared with Stahlman from their story in a "Faustian overreacher" role. The next chapter deals with the Axons and a theme of beauty and ugliness formulated from Timelash. And so on. Building an ongoing narrative between chapters is a great idea, but is hard to maintain, becoming absent in a number of chapters later in the book.

All the big-bads are there of course, with the two major monsters split into 'eras' (four for the Daleks and three for the Cybermen). The coverage does seem a little 'random' at times (eg. the Mandrells), but as Sleight points out, the book can't be completely comprehensive and everybody has their favourites that might not be covered (what, no Zygons?!!). However, there is a handy Glossary at the back that does provide a brief A-Z of monsters in the show.

I also found that the story synopses tended to be quite lengthy; whilst I can appreciate that some readers may not be familiar with the stories in question, such information is readily available elsewhere so a simple summary would suffice and we can get into the monster nitty-gritty. There was also a tendency to slip into 'series politics' which obscured the monstrous discussion that I actually expected. This reached its nadir in "The Cybermen II", which concerned itself more with why the Cybermen stories epitomised what was wrong with eighties rather than the creatures themselves - indeed, with Attack of the Cybermen I thought the depictions of how the Cyber-conversion process depersonalised humanity and the mental affects of partial conversion had on the Telos workforce would be more worthy of exploration than the interminable debate over who actually wrote the story!

However, in many ways I found the book a little too light for my tastes, and for me it was hard to judge who was the intended audience for the book. It clearly isn't for children or the casual reader, but neither is it for those fans who love to delve into heady intellectual debate or critique. Instead, the chapters tended to paint broad strokes over the various monsters covered, and I often wondered what point was being made.

All the standard themes are covered, so oil-drilling in the North Sea is debated for Inferno, the European Union and Miner's Strikes in for Peladon, etc.

Marshmen - not Solonians?


The book sets out to look into the meaning of the monstrous, and certainly covers a variety of the creatures that populate the series

and falls firmly into same style of related non-fiction from IB Tauris (like Booy's Love and Monsters published earlier this year).

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