Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Doctor Who

This entry is part 87 of 97 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’ve been looking back at my Man vs Bookshelf spreadsheet, tracking down the last time I wrote a blog about Doctor Who.

It was the scriptbook for Doctor Who season one and was the 51st book I read for this challenge back in April 2018.

Mad to think that, a few days over ten months after I read that book 51, I am currently reading book 172.

That’s 121 books in 10 months, an astounding number considering I also released two novel-length novels in that time, as well as the blog review, plus, have a full-time job and live with my girlfriend rather than as a writing hermit.

There are now less than forty books to go and, while I think this challenge has been good to me, and I’ve enjoyed it to an extent, I won’t be sorry to see it end. To go back to reading what I want when I want. To not have to worry about churning out these blogs no one reads.

It’s been stressful, time-consuming, knackering. At times it has made me want to pull my hair out so, to be honest, it’s one thing I could do without as we go forward.

But for now, here we are, leaving the earth to talk about Britain’s favourite Sci-fi series…


Doctor Who

I’m not going to go into detail talking about Doctor Who. I’m presuming you all know who she is and plenty about the show, even if you don’t watch it.

In my previous blog on the subject I spoke about the show’s relaunch in 2005 and how my parents forced my brother and me to watch it, and how I’ve since become an ardent fan, despite my issue with their endings, which I have spoken about in another blog somewhere, though I can’t remember which.

Back when I wrote the last blog, of course, we had yet to see Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who, and frankly, I was dreading her accent.

As it turns out, I was wrong to worry. I thought Whittaker makes a fantastic Doctor, and I’d happily see her take on the role for several more years.

Unfortunately, I believe she was let down by several factors surrounding our thirteenth doctor (unlucky for some).

The main problem here is the writing. Chris Chibnal has taken the show away from what it has been under the previous two showrunners. Russell T Davies may have veered towards more child-friendly stories, while Steven Moffat’s who was more for adults, but they both kept up a breakneck fun pace. Thrilling sci-fi tales that were not overburdened heavy themes and strong moral messages.

In comparison, Chris Chibnal’s Doctor Who has felt slow, pondering, and often not exciting. Of the ten episode series run, I can remember only a couple and enjoyed even fewer. By the time it got to episode ten we were watching it out of obligation to the show, and I can’t remember a single thing that happened in what should have been the climax.

Further troubling Whittaker’s debut run has been the number of assistants.

The Doctor is, in my opinion, at his or her best when paired with a single companion, battling it across space. Think David Tennant and Catherine Tate or Matt Smith and Clara.

The show always seemed more laboured when a Rory or a Mickey was added, and now we have three assistants.

This is too many and left the writers with spare parts in many episodes which they didn’t know what to do with. One episode springs to mind where to keep two of the companions out of the way, they threw in a subplot about a man giving birth. While the Doctor and Yaz were off saving the day, Bradley Walsh and Ryan were left looking after the man.

It felt like an excuse, and it didn’t work.

Okay, I’ve gone off a bit here. I wrote that “Doctor Who” heading with every intention of writing a couple of lines on it and rushing on to talk about the books. Then I remembered I hadn’t mentioned Jodie Whittaker and, well, once I started, I couldn’t stop.

So, go back to writing proper Doctor Who stories, cut out two companions, and I’ll move on to my review.

Thanks, Chris.


The Writer’s Tale and The Man Who Invented the Daleks

From the man I believe is bringing down Doctor Who to two men instrumental to making it what it is today.

Terry Nation will forever go down in history as the man who, in the second ever serial of Doctor Who, invented the Daleks (guess which book was about him).

Meanwhile, Russel T Davies is the man who not only convinced the BBC to bring back Doctor Who to television after a 16-year break but also made it the massive success it would become.

Speaking of the former, there is much to be interested in, reading about Terry’s life, and that is what this book ostensibly is – a biography of Terry Nation. Albeit focusing more on his telly career than personal life, and sometimes veering from this scope to talk more of television in a general sense.

For a start, he had the masterstroke of sharing the rights to the Dalek’s with the BBC, making him an incredibly rich man because of merchandising and allowing him the first option to write every new Dalek serial as it was devised.

It’s also interesting to hear about his work on his other shows, including Survivor’s and, most famously, Blake’s 7, as well as how his estate almost stopped the Daleks from appearing in New Who.

For anyone interested in Terry Nation, the Daleks, or TV in the 60s, 70s and 80s, this will likely be the book for you. It’s nothing I would read again, but it was well written, easy going, and full of interesting facts.

It was enjoyable, but when comparing it to how much I love The Writer’s Tale, well, there is no comparison.

I have in the past spoken about my distaste for most writing help books. I’ve said you can learn a few bits from them but most of what you need to know you learn from reading successful fictional books inside and outside of the genre you want to write in and, even more importantly, but writing.

And writing. And writing.

That being said, there are a couple of books I would recommend any writer read. One is On Writing by Stephen King. I own it, so more on that later. The other is The Writer’s Tale.

That’s not to say this is a book on how to write. It is not. Russell T Davies makes great pains to point this out from right at the beginning.

What is brilliant about this book is it is an almost unfiltered look into the state of mind of a successful writer, producer and showrunner as he works on Series Four of Doctor Who and (if you have the Final Chapter version, which I do) the specials.

It is an email correspondence between Davies and Benjamin Cook, a journalist known for his work on the Radio Times and Doctor Who Magazine.

The emails cover the period above and see Russell being completely open about what he is doing. About the meetings he has and the edits he’s seen and the financial headaches he is dealing with, as well as the writing itself, which we get to see in various stages as he writes it.

It is beyond fascinating, especially for me, as I could see so much of myself when Russell talks about his procrastination, and the utter misery he feels knowing he should start, but still not starting. He knows it will be so easy to get some pages done. He knows he will feel miserable if he doesn’t do it.

But he doesn’t.

That might seem mad to a lot of people, but it’s amazing how often I’ve felt the same, whether it’s with writing, reading, or even getting out of bed in the morning.

Russell’s openness even stretches to his talking about how much of his fellow writer’s scripts he has to rewrite, as well as talking about what a nightmare he can be as a producer and a showrunner.

I won’t go into too much detail, but as a “writer” and a Doctor Who fan, I can say this is one of the most fascinating books I have ever picked up, and I would implore anyone with even a passing interest in Doctor Who, Russell T Davies, or writing, to give it a go.

You won’t regret it.


Next Time

Next up, we’re heading to the book written by those funny guys at Cracked: You Might be a Zombie and Other Bad News

See you then

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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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