While I was at Long Island Who (a general post about the weekend is coming, I promise) I also had the pleasure of spending a good amount of time with Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?, authors of Who is The Doctor and the new book Who’s 50 – The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die. Who is the Doctor is an analysis of the new series, episode by episode, through the end of Series 6 and Who’s 50…well that is self-explanatory, is it not? I think that these two books are must haves for any Whovian’s library, and I am not just saying that because I think the authors are delightful human beings. The books are smart, they are chock-full of tidbits and history, and they are funny. They read like the transcript of the impassioned debate over your favorite episodes that you have most definitely had with your friends at your local pub or on Twitter.
But what is the best about these books is that the overwhelming love that Graeme and Robert have for Doctor Who is evident in every word. So often these “Unofficial Companion” books can feel dry and “facts only” but that is not the case here. What’s one of the most engaging things about the books is that Graeme and Robert have very different opinions on how Doctor Who should be made. As Graeme put it at the con, he tends to look at the episodes more in the context of the big picture of the series, while Robert gets analytical about the details of the episodes. These differing opinions lead to some great and impassioned debates about the merits of episodes and their place in the Who canon. I can’t recommend the books enough, so I’ll leave it at that and stop gushing. For now.
Graeme and Robert hosted a panel at the Con where they talked about the process of whittling down all the Doctor Who episodes to their top 50 and they also read excerpts and took questions about their choices. They came up with their list by individually making their own list and then comparing notes (which made me chuckle, as that was the exact way Sage and I came up with our lists for our top episodes of The Office and The X-Files!). They actually matched on 33 out of 50 (wow!) and then broke up the remaining episodes between them and decided that neither one of them could object to the episodes that the other chose…which I LOVE. That is how, as they put it, some unconventional episodes wound up in the book. It wasn’t about picking the BEST or most IMPORTANT episodes (because there are tons of books that do that), it was about picking out the episodes that meant the most to THEM…which is why Who’s 50 stands out among the rest.
Whoops. Gushing again.
To open the panel, Robert read an excerpt from their section of “The Green Death”, a Third Doctor story, and the first episode he ever watched. To give you a taste of just how good this book is, I’m going to share some of what he read…
“I’ve seen amazing episodes of this TV show – including falling in love all over again with the New Series – that I continue to adore. But no experience in my life has ever been or ever will be as profound or worldshaking as watching the thrilling finale of “The Green Death” at five years old and losing my Doctor Who virginity. I went in as a boy and came out a fan.”
NO I DID NOT TEAR UP A LITTLE BIT WATCHING HIM READ THAT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.
Since the New Series is my area of expertise, I thought I would take a look at the episodes that they chose to include in the book. Several of them matched up with the list that Sage and I chose for people who wanted to get into Doctor Who, which again made me feel like we were doing things right here at Head Over Feels.
Ninth Doctor: “Rose” and “Dalek”
Graeme and Robert DID point out that the episodes they ended up choosing for the new series remained fluid right up until the very end. They were originally going to spotlight “End of the World” and “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” from Eccleston’s run but finally settled on “Rose” and “Dalek”, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The completist in me says you absolutely can NOT have a top 50 episodes of Doctor Who without including “Rose”, which was the jumping off point for SO MANY fans (including me). It’s the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with the Who Universe and had it NOT been good, the series probably would have flatlined. Having rewatched “Dalek” recently, I also feel this episode is an excellent choice. So much of Series One was about introducing a new generation of fans to the Doctor Who canon and “Dalek” introduced the storied battle between the Doctor and the Daleks in a wonderful way. Eccleston really brings his A-Game in this episode, showing all sides of The Doctor, but especially tapping into the darkness that we all could tell was lurking just under the surface. But what is also important about this episode is that it shows just how much Rose’s compassion and utter humanity is beginning to change the Doctor and heal him. It’s a truly fantastic episode and I high recommend a rewatch of it if you haven’t visited it recently.