I know my Doctor Who inside out.Â In fact, the only person Iâ€™ve ever met whose own knowledge of my favourite TV show has the power to unnerve me is a certain Mr Toby Hadoke (he of Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf fame).
On the few happy occasions weâ€™ve met, his copious understanding of the series, on screen and off, has left my own Who-related depravity oddly inhibited.Â Thatâ€™s not Tobyâ€™s fault, itâ€™s mine; I know when respect is due.Â But since January 2004, inspired by Doctor Who Magazineâ€™s Time Team, Iâ€™ve been watching all of Doctor Who, in order, from the start â€“ twice (once for entertainment, once for analysis â€“ and if thereâ€™s a commentary, then three times).
Even before 2004, Iâ€™d seen/heard every episode of the original TV run several times, but never in order.Â To spice things up, Iâ€™ve been listening to the audios, reading the comics, annuals and novels; cross-referencing with the Target books, and topping up my knowledge with evaluations from the reference guides.Â And what a journey!Â So believe me, I know my Doctor Who.Â And I think Toby Hadoke is the only other person Iâ€™ve ever met that has seen/heard every episode of Doctor Who.Â What all of this means is that Toby Hadoke is eminently qualified to be a co-author of this new reference book, and Iâ€™m reasonably qualified to read it.
The subtitle of the book is â€˜Rob and Tobyâ€™s Marathon Watch of Doctor Whoâ€™ â€“ and thatâ€™s exactly what Running Through Corridors is.Â Toby joins forces with New Who scribe Robert Shearman to spend a year watching all of Doctor Who, two episodes a day, come rain or shine.Â After each episode, Robert e-mails Toby with an evaluation of what heâ€™s seen and Toby responds.
This is a book for people who have spent time with the series and put some effort into appreciating it.Â A good friend of mine (heâ€™s the interviewer in that clip from Music Arcade, fact fans, asking Peter Howell how he made the 1980 theme tune) once lamented that the art of appreciation was dead.Â Ever since he said those words to me, Iâ€™ve made certain that appreciation is something I do with gusto, and itâ€™s certainly something Rob and Toby do in this book.Â One of the most encouraging aspects of the whole enterprise is that they wish to appreciate and examine whatâ€™s good about Who; not pick holes in its (allegedly) less successful moments.Â But be warned, this is no beginnerâ€™s guideâ€¦
This first volume deals with that most enchanting and magical period of the series, the 1960s.Â For those who donâ€™t know, this is the Hartnell/Troughton period, when the series was made in atmospheric black and white.Â On my own viewing odyssey, this proved to be the most beguiling and thrilling period of the series â€“ I just couldnâ€™t believe how simply brilliant it was when watched in some kind of narrative and cultural context.Â I count William Hartnell not so much my â€˜favourite Doctorâ€™ but, quite simply, â€˜THE Doctorâ€™ because of this.Â It is clear throughout this book that Rob and Toby are also bewitched by this period of the series.
However, as fans, we all â€˜ownâ€™ Doctor Who; we all have our own vision of what it should or shouldnâ€™t be; what works and what doesnâ€™t.Â Â Personally, Iâ€™ll forgive the series pretty much anything, as long as it stays on the right side of its own concepts and continuity, while Rob and Toby â€“ in spite of looking for the good in the show â€“ seem to writhe a little nervously when their favourite programme seems to fail or betray their requirements of it (or, perhaps more specifically, the requirements of some abstract â€˜casual viewerâ€™ that might not get it).Â Like all devotees of this wonderful series, they can be utterly objective one minute and frighteningly subjective the next.
At first, it seems that Rob will be the optimistic voice and Tobyâ€™s the more pessimistic, but this gradually changes.Â Rob pulls â€˜The Velvet Webâ€™ apart for being too shabby, but Toby defends its ambition.Â Toby puts up a spirited defence of how we fans watch the series and how weâ€™re able to mentally compensate for its shortcomings (he does this, appropriately, during â€˜The Sea of Deathâ€™).
By Season Three, too much death and destruction has deprived Rob of the joy and thrills, while Toby has open-heartedly welcomed a more thoughtful, edgy approach.Â I think Tobyâ€™s observations are â€“ even when I disagree with them â€“ perhaps a little more astute than Robâ€™s.Â They are very strong and well considered (especially when heâ€™s in a relaxed mood), and he also flags up some of the showâ€™s more â€˜hiddenâ€™ details â€“ things Iâ€™d certainly noticed and considered upon my own viewing that never get mentioned anywhere else.Â But it really is impossible to permanently â€˜sideâ€™ with one of the authors, and thatâ€™s a good thing.
Throughout the book, each authorâ€™s distinctive personality emerges.Â Toby, for example, has a continuing obsession with getting the programmeâ€™s facts right (see his entry for Mission to the Unknown for a lovely bit of detective work on the alien delegates).Â Rob, on the other hand, has a lovely turn of phrase (my favourite being his description of The Rescue as â€˜an elderly dog by a radiatorâ€™).Â His use of the phrase â€˜wet fartâ€™ has an amusing effect on Toby.Â Oh, and speaking of wet farts, Toby loves the surviving episode of The Underwater Menace â€“ and quite right, too.Â Itâ€™s brilliant.Â That he has to â€˜come outâ€™ on this (very amusingly) says a lot about fan fashion over the last 30 years.Â Iâ€™ve never met anyone else who adores this episode as much as I do â€“ and I only realised I did some five or six years ago.
Itâ€™s when the authors love something you thought you were alone in loving, or notice the tiny moment only you seemed to notice, that you feel like youâ€™re on the same journey of exploration, not just the usual tick-box guided tour employed by other works.Â For me, this was very rewarding, but then Iâ€™d done the legwork â€“ if you havenâ€™t seen these episodes, or spent time appreciating them, then I donâ€™t know if this book will be quite as thrilling as it is informative.
You see, even though Rob and Toby have their curmudgeonly moments, it is the love on display here that delights the reader.Â And itâ€™s what they love that certainly makes this reader believe that weâ€™re watching the same Doctor Who, and that our perception of it is (mostly) free from the shackles of the dogmatic orthodoxy that infected fandom during the 1980s (Rob seems to fall prey to the â€˜old waysâ€™ when his expectations of The Massacre are compromised by an old paradigm, and he still thinks The Celestial Toymaker is actually good).
Here are just some of the things they seem genuinely and unexpectedly enthusiastic about (and I applaud them for this): William Hartnell; Jacqueline Hill; Alethea Charlton; Brian Hodgson; The Ambush; Five Hundred Eyes; John Lucarotti; Dangerous Journey; Maureen Oâ€™Brien; The Space Museum; Peter Purves; Barrie Ingham; The Gunfighters; The Power of the Daleks; Anneke Wills; The Abominable Snowmen.Â I could go on, but these were the things Iâ€™d found myself loving that no one had hitherto told me I should.
If you can watch the episodes as you read this book, youâ€™ll have a wonderful time.Â Youâ€™ll find yourself not simply agreeing or disagreeing with Rob or Tobyâ€™s opinions, but identifying with observations that can only be made through appreciative viewing.Â If you donâ€™t, well thatâ€™s okay, youâ€™ll definitely learn something and youâ€™ll have a very enjoyable read.Â But will you be able to appreciate their musings on: the schoolgirls in An Unearthly Child; Hartnell dropping his scarf in the TARDIS during his first episode; Marco Polo as a â€˜road not takenâ€™; Hartnell flying a spaceship in â€˜Strangers in Spaceâ€™; Barbaraâ€™s self-denial at her DN6 infection; the sheer brutality of the Daleks in their second story; Peter Butterworthâ€™s prototype second Doctor; the unheeded lessons of Galaxy Four; Benâ€™s finest hour; Reg Lyeâ€™s delightful Griffin in The Enemy of the World; the guilty pleasure that is The Krotons!
Whether Rob and Toby like something or not, their opinions, observations (and arguments) are usually fresh and new.Â Weâ€™re lucky to have such enthusiastic and intelligent commentators with whom to take this journey.Â Mad Norwegian must be praised for commissioning this book (theyâ€™ve always been ahead of the game, certainly in terms of their Who output), but the genius of Toby Hadoke, Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson lies in the publication of the first ever book that treats Doctor Who episode by episode rather than story by story.
If the book has a unique selling point then that is it.Â Quite simply, this is one of the best books about 1960s Doctor Who youâ€™re ever likely to read.Â This is what the word â€˜essentialâ€™ was coined for.Â I look forward to Volume 2.
Running Through Corridors, Volume 1: The 60s is by Robert Shearman & Toby Hadoke and is published by Mad Norwegian Press. It has an RRP of Â£15.99, but you can purchase a copy from Amazon for just Â£12.68!