Space Helmet for a Cow: The Mad, True Story of Doctor Who (1963-1989)

By Paul Kirkley

Rating: 4 stars

This is an engaging book, informally written, with lots of snarky asides to the reader and imagined conversations between the figures that form this history. I’m a confirmed fan of many years standing, but there was still a fair bit in here that I didn’t know. Kirkley admits in the acknowledgements at the end that he relied heavily on secondary works, but for a book like this that’s perfectly reasonable. And he provides his references in a comprehensive source section at the back.

Although I didn’t really get into the fandom properly until later, I’ve always tended to go along with the general notion that John Nathan-Turner wasn’t good for the programme, but Kirkley is sympathetic to him and I find myself coming away with a much more nuanced view of the chap. The higher echelons of the BBC in the 80s, though, come in for a drubbing.

One thing that the book sorely needs is an index. There are so many names that it’s difficult to keep track of them all, so an index to let you flip back and check up on them would be invaluable. Without it, it makes it hard to use as a reference. In saying that, the book is clearly intended as a narrative history, not a scholarly one, so the omission is understandable.

So overall, this is an entertaining history of the fascinating story of a remarkable television programme. One that somehow managed to survive its first couple of disaster-laden episodes and is still going strong, more than fifty years later.

Book details

ISBN: 9781935234173
Publisher: Mad Norwegian Press
Year of publication: 2014

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