Book Review: Doctor Who The Writer’s Tale The Final Chapter

WHEN I read Doctor Who The Writer’s Tale more than a year ago – I was absolutely blown away by a fantastically involving and fascinating piece of work. You can buy both or either book by clicking here.

I wrote a lengthy blog post praising the book and Russell T Davies. I loved the gossip and behind the scenes information about how the show worked, castings that never were, brilliant flashes of inspiration and the characters involved. The level of access was near total.

I’d never seen anything like this before about any show, never mind one that I loved.

So to say I was looking forward to The Final Chapter – an updated version of the book, including all the info on the 2009 Specials and more – was something of an understatement.

Having poured over it in just a few days, how did it stand up to its predecessor?

While The Final Chapter was still a wonderful read, I am sorry to say it was not as good in my eyes (although that’s still like saying one of Leonardo Da Vinci‘s paintings is slightly better than another. They’re both still great).

Why? A few reasons.

Is it a rip off?

When I first heard the updated book was coming out, my first thought was it was a rip off to everyone who bought it last time around, for £30.

That was only a year ago, and while the original was a massive success to pump out a new version so quickly tainted my opinion of it to begin with.

Having read it now, it does have loads of new information and pictures in, like Benny and Bjorn from Abba wanting to make a Torchwood musical, or RTD’s process in creating the specials, or  planning David Tennant‘s leaving announcement. All valid and interesting stuff. (especially who the woman in white was, from RTD himself! But you’ll have to read it to find out – I’m keeping mum ;-D)

The sections where RTD describes what if feels like to finish his final episode of Doctor Who and then sit and watch David Tennant read it through are  also truly touching.

But I still can’t shake that first feeling entirely. Maybe one reason why is …

Too much filler

To me, the tone of the book seems to have changed  in parts and a lot of the emails between RTD and Benjamin Cook, the journalist he corresponds with, seem a bit … unfocused or distracted, by which I mean they stray into areas I couldn’t care less about.

Obviously The Writer’s Tale was a fantastic success, but I’m not really bothered about their signing tour, or choosing pictures for the front, or why RTD would move to Los Angeles, or appearing on Richard and Judy. One whole chapter is even a re-produced article from Doctor Who Magazine.

Given that the specials and Tennant’s farewell are over now and were preceeded by a seemingly endless number of interviews by anyone who has ever worked on Who about every aspect of the show, some of what is discussed is already out there, a bit old news.

Overall, alot of it feels like filler, filler that would have been cut from the first book and has been shoved in here to justify the new edition.

The End of Time

Is it harsh of me to suggest the real story in Doctor Who now is what Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger are doing?

They are the showrunners now.

With RTD discussing at length his plans to relocate to Los Angeles (more filler) in the email exchanges with Benjamin, I was unable to shake an image of him as Norma Desmond, receiving fan letters from her devoted Max. (Although given how that ended up, I hope not for Russell’s sake).

There are moments in the book where you get a sense of these noises off, for instance when RTD says he has been told who the new Doctor will be, but cannot tell Benjamin much to his frustration.

Whereas news of The Moff taking over Who was in the first edition too, then it seemed so distant. Now it is very real and while the Final Chapter helps RTD sign off his time in the hot seat, the world has turned.

Is Benjamin e-mailing Steven Moffat?

It’s not you, it’s me

I can blather on about tone or filler, but there is another major reason why I did not feel The Final Chapter as much as the first book.

I’m jealous. I’m a big jealous idiot who needs a slap.

The realisation hit me as I was picking over the bones of an especially juicy Who titbit and I railed against the unfairness of me not being able to drop a line to the Doctor Who showrunner and find out what the latest news is, whenever I felt like it.

I wouldn’t spill! I’d keep it to myself, most of it anyway!

But no, like almost everyone else I am reduced to picking over the bones of rumour and speculation, fighting for scraps, while those in the know laugh as they guzzle champagne and gorge themselves on delicious Who cake. In the Tardis.

Never mind the fact that that lack of knowledge makes my enjoyment of the show all the greater when the episodes come to air, and that I love debating the meaning of images or words from trailers again and again.

I even stay away from You Tube videos of the filming, because I want it to be a surprise, but it would still be nice to have the option.

Pathetic isn’t it, especially as Benjamin has done such a fantastic job of chronicling his correspondence with RTD and is a journalist whose work I admire a great deal. And these two books have given all Who fans massive access to every aspect of the show.

While I am over myself now – I think – can I just say that it would help me enormously if Benjamin, Russell or the Moff (all regular readers of the blog, I’m sure) were to drop me a juicy bit of info on new Who.

Just for closure or something. Just once. And strictly between ourselves.

Conclusion

If you haven’t read The Writer’s Tale, and are interested in Doctor Who or even writing TV fiction and drama, it is an absolute  must buy –  which will go on to be seen as the definitive Doctor Who book.

Rating: ★★★★★

If you have, then I think you may find The Final Chapter is diminished somewhat by the brilliance of its predecessor and the other reasons I discuss above.

I would still buy it and love its always revealing ride through the Whoniverse, but always with a wistful longing for the excitement of the first time I read the words FROM: RUSSELL T DAVIES TO: BENJAMIN COOK

Rating: ★★★★☆

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