Note: This review was originally done for a Doctor Who news site that I write for called The Gallifrey Times. You can visit them here.
One of the great joys of being a Doctor Who fan is when you hear a teacher or a colleague say “Allons y” and you and a friend friend both smile at each other because you know they’ve gotten it from Doctor Who. They probably don’t even know what it means, but they’re a Doctor Who fan and will revel in the chance of quoting the show. Such is the influence of the show and the genius of all those writers over the years giving us such marvellous lines for us to use in coffee shops and classrooms alike.
Wit, Wisdom and Timey Wimey Stuff – The Quotable Doctor Who is a new book by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright that celebrates some of the memorable lines and witty remarks in Doctor Who. As with Scott and Wright’s previous book, Doctor Who: Who-ology, this book covers 50 years of our beloved show, so there’s a plethora of quotes covering a wide range of topics.
There are a few small niggles with the book itself. The title, to me, is is a bit of a mouthful and could have easily have just been called ‘The Quotable Doctor Who’. The ‘timey wimey’ reference is also becoming a bit of a stale joke in Doctor Who. Where it was once used as a quick joke, it is now being referenced in the show as a silly line.
The book is split into chapters looking at the broader subjects of The Doctor, the universe, the past and so on. Each chapter is then split into sub-categories, so for example, in the chapter on The Doctor, it looks at topics such as the name of the Doctor, life after the Doctor and the dark side of the doctor. Whilst this is a good effort at organising a vast number of quotes that could go in any number of categories, it does mean that the book doesn’t really work as a reference point, as to find a quote on tea, for example, you’d have to go to a chapter called ‘The Simple Things’ and then go through 14 subcategories before you find it. Although there is an index at the back, there’s hundreds of different key words, with tea quotes being found on 5 different pages across the book. Another quarrel I have is with the Doctor’s quotes. Every quote by the Doctor, save the first lines in the first chapter, is simply accredited to The Doctor, so unless you know which Doctor starred in the episode the quote was taken from, you have no idea whether it was the first, fourth or eleventh Doctor who said it. Again, there’s the index to help you out, but with the likes of the Fourth Doctor, whose every line seemed to be a gem, it’s a tedious task trying to find a specific line.
With there being such an enormous library of material to choose from, it is inevitable that people’s opinions on the quotes that were chosen for the book will differ. For example, I didn’t see one of my favourite Fourth Doctor quotes in there: “But you have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe!” “Well, I do talk to myself sometimes, yes.” and Duggan/Romana’s line “Do you know what I don’t understand?” “I expect so.”
But then you have such gems as Romana’s “If you [Duggan] wanted an omelette, I’d expect to find a pile of broken crockery, a cooker in flames and an unconscious chef.” and even a whole subcategory dedicated to the Sixth Doctor’s quips from Time and the Rani alone!
Not all of the quotes in the book are as humorous as these. Some are thoughtful, philosophical, even depressing and there’s a good range of emotions to draw from. But it just shows that while this is a serious piece of drama, there’s also lots of fun to be had. The book also features a number of illustrations by Ben Morris, which are beautifully simple, but not always easy to recognise who they are depicting.
The nature of the book also highlights some interesting patterns in the show – “Humans, always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.” – and how the themes of the show have changed over the years. For example, topics like ‘The Darkness of the Doctor’ and ‘Kissing’ have very few quotes from the pre-2005 episodes, which seems to suggest that these are concepts which were not so much introduced, but certainly developed in the post-2005 series.
The book serves not only as a celebration of Doctor Who, but also a homage to the writers and script editors that have all worked on the show over the years, including such masterminds as Douglas Adams, Steven Moffat and of course, David Agnew. The quality of writing on Doctor Who has always been one of its stand out features, and this book really does showcase some of the funniest, most thoughtful and – dare I say it – most quotable lines in Doctor Who.
Scott and Wright are clearly huge fans of the show, and such dedication to compiling this book is admirable. Overall the book is an impressive collection, well researched and excellently documented. If you’re looking for a quick quote, this may not be the easiest place to find one, but for a light read to remind you of some of the best lines in Doctor Who, then at a generous price of £12.99, is a great book that you can dip into and enjoy. So, here’s to another 50 years of memorable memes and quotable quips from our favourite Timelord and his friends and enemies.
Our rating: (4 / 5)