The Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who AssistantsBookmark and Share

Thursday, 20 June 2013 - Reviewed by Emma Foster
Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants
Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants
Written by Andy Frankham-Allen
Released by Candy Jar Books, June 2013
With the 50th anniversary year of Doctor Who in full swing fans are being treated to a near unprecedented level of merchandising. Virtually every week there's a new gizmo, piece of apparel or toy for the deep of pockets to pick up. More than most, those who appreciate a good tome to while away the hours with are being spoiled with an avalanche of books to read about every possible bit of the Doctor's fictional universe and the people in the real world who bring him to life.

Joining my heaving bookshelves is the companions book by Andy Frankham-Allen, a book which promises to "look at the story of 35 of the Doctor's friends who have changed him into the man he is today". The book gives a basic overview of the Doctor's companions on television and their later adventures in the expanded universe of audios and books.

The book is written in a clear, consice fashion and gives a good overview of all the television companions. However, an issue that all books of this ilk face is who is this book aimed at? For long-term fans this book will not be offering many insights into the psyche of companions, or interesting discussions of continuity. For new fans one wonders about the appeal of reading a book of descriptions of things that companions did and felt in an episode when you could spend the £9.99 the book costs on a few DVDs and get a lot more value for your money. Gone are the days where the only way you could learn about companions of days past was by reading a book like David J. Howe & Mark Stammer's Companions of the 1980's - stories from every era are now widely and cheaply available, reducing the need for a book that fills in knowledge gaps.

The book sometimes comes across like it's been copy-pasted from Wikipedia in its character summaries, and it reads in an excessively dry manner. Also, the expanded universe companions are quite poorly served by the book - characters like Evelyn Smythe and Erimem for example are some of the most interesting and unusual companions to have been created, but they are barely mentioned, getting just about a page each. This is a major oversight in a book like this; a lot of novels from the wilderness years are now long out of print and filling in information about companions which newcomers to the series would have never heard of and would be unable to learn about by simply watching television would have elevated this book above the ordinary.

In a marketplace which has books like the majestic About Time series - surely the gold standard for fan books in any genre - The Companions book is a very poor relation.