Reviewed: Doctor Who Memorabilia by Paul Berry

Memorabilia is a strange thing: what’s initially manufactured for profit becomes attached to memories, a vital piece in the fabric of fandom. For some, older merchandise brings back warm memories; for others, it conjures up pound signs; and for others still, it’s a door to a never-before-seen world. However old something is, it’s also new to someone.

In his book, Doctor Who Memorabilia: An Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who Collectables, Paul Berry beautifully captures how important classic Doctor Who merchandise remains to so many people. With pages of colour photos, it’s easy to reminisce, and to discover something you never knew about previously. But he also touches upon how rare certain items are, and then naturally what’s worth more.

The really amazing thing is, this book appeals to so many and achieves so much in a relatively short page count. In slightly fewer than 100 pages, Berry covers enough to show even seasoned fans a few things they’ll never have seen prior. (Okay, so retailers will likely know everything covered, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few items have gone under their radars too.)

Despite having seen a lot of merchandise over the years, I was surprised to see such items as the 1983 Dekker TARDIS tent, The Dalek Pocket Book and Space Travellers’ Guide (1965), and the 1985 Fine Art Castings Doctor and villains busts. And even if you knew the 1990s Laserdiscs existed, you might not have seen them; this lovely trim tome shows them off in all their glory!

Elsewhere, you’ll delight in spreads of action figures, those gloriously surreal and haunting Japanese Target novel covers, and the Daleks playset that’s the basis for that scene in An Adventure in Space and Time.

Paul splits memorabilia into seven chapters: Books; Toys, Models, and Games; Audio Visual; Comics and Magazines; Sound; Cards; and Collectors’ Items. While nothing’s ever going to be completely comprehensive – coins, watches, and calendars, as examples, are absent – this demonstrates a solid effort, and could be seen as the most definitive guide to Doctor Who memorabilia without becoming a stuffy list of products.

This is compiled with care and love, and that really shows.

Berry’s easy writing style makes for a wonderful nostalgia-fuelled trip through the past; indeed, the book solely covers items from the Classic series, yet touches on a few bits released after that period but solely relating to the 1963- 89 run – the Forbidden Planet exclusive action figures, for instance. (Here’s hoping a follow-up is in the works.) He approaches each section chronologically, but it’s a seamless narrative that never becomes boring: his writing is succinct yet warm, and he also throws in brief words about which items are more collectable, rarer to find, and more expensive. In some ways, it reminds me of the Shire Library range, which casts an expert eye over various antique collectables.

It’s all rounded off with an afterword that imparts advice for collectors, however ambitious they might be. He talks about buying and displaying items, if you should keep stuff in their original packaging, and is generally optimistic about the future of the show’s merchandising.

“The best rule of collecting,” he says, “is to buy what you like and gives you a buzz.”

I couldn’t agree more. Flicking through Doctor Who Memorabilia, discovering so much, definitely gives me a buzz, and this is one book that deserves to be in your collection.

Doctor Who Memorabilia: An Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who Collectables is out now from Amberley Books at the special price of £13.49.