“ Hardcover: 288 pages / Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd / Published: 4 Oct 2010 / Language: English „
I am a lifelong Doctor Who viewer although I would describe myself as a casual fan rather than a fanatic. My family and much older siblings used to watch the show when I was in primary school and I basically spent my entire childhood hiding behind sofas and hearing "exterminate" echoing in my head. Although my favourite doctor was Sylvester McCoy I completely loved the latest incarnation played by Matt Smith so when I saw this biography in my local library I was keen to read it.
This book is called Matt Smith: The Biography and it's written by someone called Emily Herbert who is described in the jacket as being "a very experienced author". I have the hardback version of the book which is 247 pages long. The font is fairly large though and there are two glossy photograph sections mid-way through the book.
When I started reading this I thought that the library must have accidentally put a book from the teen section into the main biography section. The tone, style and content of the writing feels very juvenile from the outset. The author begins by explaining the relevance of the Doctor Who role as if she a teacher who is trying to coach her students. I found it a little bit unnecessary to be reminded of the iconic status of the show when I was sitting with a biography of the lead actor in my hands! Possibly the most interesting part of the introduction is the revelations regarding which other actors were up for the role after David Tennant exited. Surprisingly most of the names were still being bandied around before Peter Capaldi was chosen.
The author then leads us into a history of the show. Again, I feel this is a little unneeded as most of the information she covers is public knowledge. You don't even have to be a Doctor Who fan to know when the show aired, what sets were like in the eighties or who else played the doctors. Yet the author drudges through the history of the show as if she is a teenager having to produce an essay for her high school homework assignment.
Finally, after many 'empty' chapters we arrive at Matt Smith's biographical information. There are some interesting accounts from his past teachers and school friends about Matt's character when he was a boy. Of course, Matt was so young when he got the Doctor Who role that there aren't many details to cover. The story of how Matt got into acting is surprising to me though as was his original career choice. Much of what is written, though, seems to be snippets taken from interviews that were already public. In fact, it does feel at times as though the author has simply combed the internet for her sources and then mashed them all together. There is a strong sense that there is little new input from Matt Smith or any of his friends and family. In fact the author dwells on Smith's romances in much the same way a tabloid journalist does: is he or isn't he having an affair with this girl? It all feels a bit like a self published fan tribute that is chock full of regurgitated information.
There are a few interesting revelations from the show's creators and writers such as where ideas came from for certain episodes and what the experiences were like making such episodes. However, I found the habit of the author to explain what happens in certain episodes from beginning to end very irritating. Again, it's a bit like reading an extended TV guide and there seems to be no real purpose to doing this other than to bulk out this book! Another unusual tactic the author uses is to quote fan opinions from the internet. Although some of the comments she republishes are interesting and intelligent a lot of them are typical flame war style exchanges which I don't feel deserve any place in a professionally written biography.
The final segment of the book focuses on the financial achievements of Matt and of the show itself. Once again the author seems to produce a list of what has been manufactured in the Doctor Who line. Even as a casual fan I'm familiar with the merchandise available nowadays so I found this section redundant. Finally the author discusses Matt's ambitions for the future although much of this is based on the author's own musings: 'should he play James Bond? Hmmn...maybe!' There is very little real content here.
Overall I felt a bit silly after reading this book. I don't feel that this can seriously be read or appreciated by anyone other than kids age fourteen or under. It reads like a high school pupil's English project that has been poorly sourced from the Internet. Aside from a few amusing stories about Matt in his youth this biography was a let down and filled with a lot of irrelevant information and silly reflections which I feel were included in order to lengthen the text so it looked as though it had substance. Well, it doesn't. I wouldn't recommend buying this as it's way overpriced and someone somewhere is making a lot of money out of a lazy effort. It's really only suitable for a child and even then they might be frustrated as the pointless, hazy and erroneous details included in the book.