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Monday, 20 December 2010

Frank Collins' "The Pandorica Opens"

When I read a book about Doctor Who it is essential that it entertains me almost as much as the show itself. It needs to be multi-layered, snappy and sharp. It needs to be witty, interesting and fun. It must compliment the show, not rip it up and repackage it in paper-form.

So when blogger-supreme Frank Collins' book, Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens - Exploring The Worlds Of The Eleventh Doctor landed at my door a week ago I was very pleasantly surprised - it was great. Actually, that sounds bad. I wasn't surprised, I had high hopes for this book ever since it was announced. Frank's Cathode Ray Tube blog is my favourite blog ever; indeed one of the very few blogs I read regularly. This book has been in my life since its conception - almost. Not only is Frank a great Blogger but a wonderful Tweeter too!

He's also a fantastic author. His first book is one of those rare works that blends an analytical, academic reading of a piece of popular culture with an enthusiastically over-analytical (that is by no means a criticism) love letter to a show the author clearly adores. For a fan-boy like me you couldn't ask for more! Split into chapters dealing with the individual stories from Series Five of Moffat's Who, The Pandorica Opens relies on its readers' familiarity with the series being discussed - which is very fair, since I can't think of anything I'd rather read about less if I didn't watch Doctor Who already. 

If you do watch and enjoy Doctor Who - and, most importantly, then I urge you to pick up a copy of this book. Frank has poured his knowledge and his love of this series onto every page he's written, which makes what could be "one of a million books about Doctor Bloody Who" so much more enjoyable. It is very much a personal reading of the series, as Frank himself tells us in his introduction, which urges the reader to question their own interpretation of the series using the new viewpoints offered within. 

The best way to enjoy this book - as I did - is by reading a chapter at a time, punctuated by a re-viewing of the episode in question. It took me a little over a week to get through it. I gobbled it up. It takes the "brainy, well-informed deconstruction" of a rich and unravelling text and covers it in chocolate sauce, hands you a spoon and tells you to tuck in. It not only adds humour and wit to what could be seen as a very niche subject but also serves up some rather unique views written with Frank's trademark warmth and charm. 

It's not without its bad points, however. There seems to be an obsessive 'Peter Pan through-line' to the whole thing, which I suppose, on reflection, is a comment on the series itself, not the book about about it - all of Frank's comparisons to the Pan story are spot-on. And the book is very well researched, although - for me, anyway - the sheer number of works referenced leaves you breathless. Frank's interpretations and opinions are enough for me, I don't need him to justify his thoughts. Although, that's how this sort of book works. It's not a review, it's a reading. It is, though, a great and enjoyable reading - indeed a great and enjoyable read!

I'm struggling to find things to pick on here, because I feel that over-enthusiasm and blanket positivity towards this book would look false and biased, since I know Frank. I don't want anyone to think I'm licking his arse here - especially him! But the book is great! It makes you think, it makes you work. It encourages you to go back and watch the series with a whole new perspective. I found myself smiling to myself, looking out for things Frank had highlighted in The Pandorica Opens and rewarding myself with a grin when I saw them, where I hadn't seen them before. 

Particularly lovely and informative are his chapters on Amy's Choice and Vincent And The Doctor. Two of my favourite and most-watched episodes from the series were given new life through Frank's nuanced probing into what makes them so important as stories. Likewise, his chapter on the Weeping Angels two-parter. Only one chapter initially felt like 'hard work' when I was reading it from the book (The Eleventh Hour) and that was because I'd already read it, in an early form, so many times before that I felt I could - though shouldn't - skip through it, if I wanted to. I didn't - I read it and enjoyed it, despite almost knowing the chapter word for word by this point.

All in all, if you like Doctor Who; like obsessing about detail and want more from your favourite show than flashing lights and loud noises, then this is the book for you! Series Five was a great series and The Pandorica Opens is a fantastic analysis of it. I loved this book. It was interesting, informative and - most importantly - a gripping read. If you know Frank's blog work then you'll love it. If you don't, you soon will after reading his book. Highly recommended - the perfect Christmas present, if you ask me. So, thanks Frank, for writing something special.

You can buy Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens - Exploring The Worlds Of The Eleventh Doctor from all the best places, including Amazon. Please do so :)