A few years ago, I posted a deeply snide comment on the blog of some political journalist. Several weeks later, I had that weird experience as if you’ve missed the last step on a flight of stairs when I saw my comment printed verbatim in Private Eye in a profile of said journalist.
I experienced the same feeling this week when reading “Adventures with the Wife in Space: Living With Doctor Who”, Neil Perryman’s recent book about his blogged journey with his wife, Sue, through all of Doctor Who. Hang on, thought I while reading an italicised quote lifted from the comments left on their blog, that delightfully wry yet overly wrought and heading nowhere in particular prose style looks strangely familiar. Then I experienced a feeling that I’d misssed not one step but a whole flight. Almost as if I’d missed a ladder and fallen off a caravan roof. Lordy! That was me. So I spent half an hour re-reading it and the surrounding paragraphs in a futile attempt to divine whether it had been quoted as an example of the ready wit to be found among their blog followers or as an example of what pricks some of them were.
I carried on reading what has to be the best Who-related book to have been published in some years. I confess that I wasn’t going to bother with it at first as I wrongly assumed that it would be little more than an anthology of all the reviews which I’d already read on Neil and Sue’s blog. Instead it’s Neil’s story of his life as a Doctor Who fan and his life with Sue. Why would you be interested in this rare example of the two concepts of “a life” and “a Doctor Who fan” coming together? Well, it’s written in such an engaging style that it’s hard not to be hooked from the first sentence.
Every chapter could be a Saturday teatime in itself. As he faces down a gang of knuckle dragging gorillas in a college TV room, you hold your breath as you did when the Fifth Doctor faced a firing squad. As two bigger boys corner him in a school playground, you feel the tension you felt when the Ood advanced on the Tenth Doctor and Rose chanting “we must feed.” Is there going to be unspeakable violence or will they turn out to be friendly? As he visits Sue’s family in Hartlepool for the first time, you’re on the edge of your seat as you were when the Fourth Doctor encountered the Sisterhood of the Flame. Will these strange dwellers of a distant land take him to their hearts or burn him at the stake?
Where you have tense cliffhangers, you must have surprise reveals too. In the list of improbable concepts, Neil Perryman as a rugby player is up there with Ian Levine as a ballet dancer or a member of the Restoration Team taking a vow of silence.
However, the undoubted star of the book (and reason enough on its own to read it) is the eponymous wife herself. To be honest, although Sue seemed very nice, while reading their blog I’d never quite grasped why she was receiving so much adulation. On reading this book though, the scales fell from my eyes. Although it took several pages before I twigged that Sue wasn’t literally the daughter of Denis Taylor, it quickly becomes clear that the alpha male of the Perryman household is the Irene Adler of the world of Doctor Who fandom and perhaps even of all Hartlepool.
“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex…there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.” (A Scandal in Bohemia)
What a woman! For selfless sacrifice on the altar of the family, the 3D specs story alone is enough to raise her on a pedestal. And I defy you to hold back the tears as she offers to “put up some shelves” for Neil in her beautiful home.
It’s a wonderfully entertaining book which you shouldn’t miss and, if you don’t come away from it understanding a little more about life and Doctor Who, you will at least come away resenting the author for his wholly undeserved luck in snaring The Woman.
(This review was written by the “Doctor Whom” blog’s resident book reviewer, John Levene. The editor apologises for any transcription errors in this posted version but the draft copy was received covered in Guinness stains.)