The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011 by Clayton Hickman et al
Although the title appears quite boastful, this is indeed a rather splendid guide to series 5 of the revived Doctor Who. Each page is lavishly illustrated, and very well designed by Paul Lang. Doctor Who fans of a nostalgic nature (of which there are very many!) will no doubt be pleased that the illustrations that accompany Brian Aldiss’ story are much akin to those that graced the old Doctor Who annuals. Although it’s a real coup to have such a distinguished SF author contribute to this book, Brain Aldiss’ short story is nothing to write home about. Much more successful is David Llewellyn’s mini prequel to Chris Chibnall’s The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. Of course, the reason why the Silurians hibernated beneath the Earth is a load of codswallop, since the Moon came into orbit long before life appeared on Earth (and indeed may have contributed to the development of life). However, Llewellyn can’t be blamed for this, as the very confused origins of the Silurians were first postulated in the Classic Series.
I really disliked the redesign of the TARDIS for the 5th series, and the lavish illustrations of the original concept aren’t enough to win me over. In addition to this, I hated the redesign of the Daleks, as they now look too plasticky and hunchbacked (according to The Brilliant Book, that additional panel on their back conceals extra weapons, not that we saw any of these during Victory of the Daleks!). The book also reveals that the new Daleks would have been scarier if they’d had the fleshy internal eye that was originally devised for them, but this feature was felt by the production team to be too scary for kids, so it was dropped. This is quite a shame, especially as the Eknodine’s eyes in Amy’s Choice look quite similar. During an interview in the book, Steven Moffat dismisses the criticisms of the new Daleks by saying that they’re just “props”. However, many critics have just pointed out that the new Daleks look too toy-like, with the suspicion being that the redesign came about mainly from a desire to sell new Doctor Who toys. So, it would appear that Steven Moffat has discovered that you mess around with such icons at your peril, as it’s noticeable that when a new Dalek showed up in The Big Bang, it looked far more effective when covered in crud. More successful is the discussion of the work that went into recreating the Silurians, and the image featuring Millennium FX’s original concept looks suitably scary and imposing. However, this excellent piece of work had to be set aside, as the new Silurians were far more vocal than before, and so needed more flexible prosthetics that would not require a red flashing light in the forehead to indicate which of the homo reptilia were speaking at any one time.
There are many moments of great wit throughout the book. I especially liked the representation of Rory’s social networking page, and the fact that it was called ‘Twitbook’. There are also many other great details, such as the fact that someone has gone to the trouble of crediting one ‘Amelia Pond’ on the contents page with the images of the Raggedy Doctor on page 21. It’s also nice that even minor details from the series are highlighted, such as that weird portrait in Craig Owen’s hallway from The Lodger (the Brilliant Book reveals that this is none other than the Oligarch of Lammasteen). Such was the brilliant attention to detail during Series 5, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Oligarch were to make an appearance in a future story…
There are a couple of mistakes, such as the Aplans’ home planet being named as ‘Alfalfa Metraxis’ rather than ‘Alfava Metraxis’ (however, Matt Smith did appear to say ‘Alfalfa Metraxis’ onscreen). The Brilliant Book also explicitly displays what liberties the production team took with their presentation of Vincent Van Gogh by presenting an elegantly written mini-biography of him. Then again, as Steven Moffat said in the accompanying episode of Doctor Who Confidential, the production team’s main aim was to present the essence of the artist, rather than the real man sans ear. Indeed, much like Series 5 itself, the Brilliant Book is quite educational, and provides an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the series.
This was by far the most intricate series of Doctor Who, and the Brilliant Book does a very good job at explaining aspects of the ‘crack in the universe’ story arc that might have been missed on first viewing. For instance, the book’s writers even go to the trouble of explaining River’s remark about all her encounters with the Doctor ending up with one of them in handcuffs in Flesh and Stone, as many viewers probably missed the full implications of this… The Brilliant Book also provides some tantalising teasers for events in series 6… Although it’s a shame that there wasn’t room for a mini-preview of A Christmas Carol – perhaps the festive episode will feature in next year’s Brilliant Book?