This is a very funny book, containing some of the most amusing writing on the subject of Who Watching you’re ever likely to read. Not exactly laugh out loud funny, it’s more the “gentle humour” type of book that leaves you feeling a lot happier than you were before you picked it up, which is no bad thing. That said, it was a book that wasn’t quite what I expected, a bit like certain Doctor Who stories themselves, but one that ended up being as enjoyable as “Genesis” and as intriguing as “Ghost Light”, only a lot easier to follow and just as enjoyable.
Just in case you’ve been on retreat in Tibet and are, you’ll admit, a little out of touch, Wife In Space is probably the best idea for a Doctor Who review blog anyone has, or ever will, come up with. The premise is brilliantly simple: Take a Fan and his Not-We Wife – Neil Perryman and his wife Sue – and get her to watch every single episode of Classic Who from Bill to Sylv and then throw in Paul for good measure. It works so well that it puts every other variation on this theme, including DWM’s Time Team, so far in the shade that you would be as well just forgetting about them altogether.
I’d heard of AWTWIS and had even popped over there occasionally, but by the time it appeared on my radar, the experiment was almost over, so reading the book would, I thought, be a great way to get the Best Of bits, a sort of Sue’s Greatest Hits kind of thing, and then I could go back to the site later and get the detail.
It’s not that sort of book.
It’s much better than that.
When the review copy first arrived, I went straight to the contents, after admiring the embossed matt cover, complete with rather helpful dust jacket-like flaps for use as bookmarks, and the cover design itself – and yes the pedant in me clocked that the red Bernie Lodge logo on the telly should really be blue…
The book’s first 160 pages cover the build up to the AWTWIS experiment, albeit interspersed with relevant Sue-isms, and detail Neil’s relationship with Classic Who, which if you’re of A Certain Age, like what Whopix is, mirrors your own. This is real Dalek I Loved You territory and, whilst all very interesting and giving us an insight into the author’s relationship to The Text, only leaves 95 pages to cover the experiment itself.
Initially that was a bit disappointing and, having been down that particular road before, where the Who related content of a book, and the sole reason for buying the bugger, is only a tiny proportion of the overall page count[ Yes, I'm looking at you Tom Baker]. But AWTWIS is a book that still manages to engage you even when the subject under discussion isn’t really Who at all, but Neil and Sue themselves. And, as the section covering the experiment itself continues, even through diversions such as misadventures in convention going, the book never fails to raise a smile. And you still get a series of Best Of Sue quotes, so my initial disappointment soon dissipated and I found myself enjoying the book as much as I’d hoped I would before I started it.
Clearly aimed at the Not-We book buying public, AWTWIS is a book developed from a blog that will doubtless drive traffic to the blog that inspired the book, like some sort of Orobourousian feedback loop, but it remains probably one of the most enjoyable non-academic Doctor Who related books I’ve read to date. It’s also an outstanding contribution to the ongoing Enthographical study of Fandom and its intersection with mass media culture. Buy it.
Or better still, buy two copies – one for yourself and one for your Not-We relatives for Xmas!