‘A man is the sum of his memories. A Time Lord even more so.’ *WINCE, CLUTCH HAND TO CHEST* Some actual stage directions from ‘The Five Doctors’ there…OK, maybe not. The quote however is relevant when it comes to the collection: ‘Behind The Sofa: Celebrity Memories Of Doctor Who’, a good little book, doing a good job.
Pre-2005, especially during the nineties, celebrities and ‘Doctor Who’ weren’t something that mixed particularly well. The show may have provided the butt of jokes on ‘Noel’s House Party’ or a retrospective look at the programme from ‘celebrity’ fans meant wheeling out Toyah Wilcox again. However, ‘Doctor Who’ was suddenly back and it was cool and hip and, most of all, it was entertaining. Celebrities such as news reporters, pop stars, ex-MPs all appeared as themselves or in roles on the show and quietly to begin with, but then with fervour, they claimed themselves to be fans.
One man with his finger on the pulse, Steve Berry, quickly realised there was something to all this, when he decided he would do something good following an event in his own life. When Berry’s Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a vile and cruel illness, he decided the best thing to do would be to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and effectively fight back in the same way the Doctor might. He conceived a book of celebrity memories of ‘Doctor Who’ and began compiling as many as he could from the stars who were willing to give them. This book is the result and, rather brilliantly, 100% of the sales’ royalties go to Alzheimer’s Research UK. This is, without doubt, the best reason to buy it.
You want other reasons? Oh, OK. The content is refreshing. Naturally, for a project like this, the definition of ‘celebrity’ has to be stretched rather liberally. This means that you end up with a collection of TV presenters, authors and DJs offering their take on the show, while people who worked on ‘Doctor Who’ make up another batch. This is then topped-off with fans turned authors or comedians. Whether you count Jac Rayner as a celebrity depends on how excited you get each month reading her column in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’.
However and, this is crucial, that’s not the point but this is a large collection of memories about ‘The World’s Best Television Programme (TM)’ and should be dipped in and out of as one might do with ‘The Discontinuity Guide’ or ‘The Book Of Lists’. Besides, the toilet is the best place for ‘Behind The Sofa’ for a quick read. The memories offered come from the set of the show, the conventions, the pleas for quiet directed at other family members during Saturday tea times. Some are succinct and cosy, others more ponderous and profound. You may think that Louise Mensch is a Twitter-obsessed right wing loon but she writes on the opening sequence: ‘The tunnel suggested infinity – death, even – a passage from this world to the next…’ which is plenty to get the brain going. Then there’s the revelations from Jo Whiley – Jo, it could have all been so different. I was 14, listening to ‘The Evening Session’ on Radio 1, Jo was cool and unobtainable, if only I knew then what I know now…
‘Behind The Sofa: Celebrity Memories Of Doctor Who’ is great entertainment and a fun read. Some fans might recognise a few anecdotes, others will simply be envious of others’ and childhood trips to the set. I did both and still enjoyed it an awful lot. It belongs in your bookshelf of ‘Doctor Who’ irreverence and ephemera. Now, what did Bill Oddie say about the show again?
(pub: Gollancz. 235 page hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-12945-0)
check out websites: www.orionbooks.co.uk