Broadly speaking, there are two types of Doctor Who book. The first of course is the fictional variety, the novels, make your own adventures and low-cost reads to get people interested in books for an easily affordable price. This type also includes comic strips and the bulk of the annuals and yearbooks.
A second type of Doctor Who book, that covering the show in a non-ficional capacity, also exists. Arguably able to cover a wider range of topics than fiction is able (or allowed) to, such titles can be found in the majority of bookshops, both online and off. Since the 1970s more and more non-fiction Doctor Who books have been released, from the Terrance Dicks/Malcolm Hulke work The Making of Doctor Who in to the recently released Doctor Who and Race (reviewed shortly on Kasterborous), perhaps with our own Ultimate Regeneration coming somewhere in between.
However, Richard Kirby’s Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman is quite unlike any Doctor Who-related book I’ve ever come across.
The premise behind the book is straightforward – Kirby aims to obtain an autograph from every living actress that has portrayed one of the Doctor’s companions. He’s not interested in Frazer Hines or Mark Strickson, but Wendy Padbury and Sarah Sutton. There is little room for male companions in this book (a shame in some ways) but this shouldn’t put you off.
In fact, Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman should perhaps be seen as a useful historical document for fans. Kirby is an older fan, and as such can recall the events of the day the first episode was broadcast in 1963. Better still, the first chapter reveals that unlike earlier editions (this is the first version to have been released through a publisher) Carole Ann Ford has supplied an autograph to Richard, thus completing his quest (for now).
Early on in the book, the recollections of the early days of Doctor Who set the stage for Richard’s search, underlining his love for the series and providing a building block for what comes later. However it is the introduction that perhaps shapes the remainder of the book, where the author dedicates his work “to the collective memory of Lis Sladen, Caroline John, and Mary Tamm”.
There are 26 female companions in Richard’s list, from Carole Ann Ford through to Jenna-Louise Coleman, and each autograph is proudly displayed alongside some opinions and recollections of the show throughout the years. You can easily see which eras the author has more enthusiasm for, spending quite some time discussing Sarah Jane Smith, for instance, but his ability to easily pull in modern references and provide brief details of his autograph quests makes this one of the most unusual, readable and personal accounts of Doctor Who‘s 50 years.
To purchase your copy of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman, head to Amazon where it is available for Kindle (£6.89) and in paperback (£7.61). You can also find more information on the publisher Bear Manor Media’s website.