Wonderful Books, is the first exploration of both the factual and fictional history of Doctor Who through a range of eye-catching graphics, presenting information about the show in a way never seen before.
As Paul explains in his introduction, 'information is a product of the way humans codify the world around us and how we categorise, interpret and represent that information is crucial to its utility and value' and Doctor Who fans apply this very edict to their own enjoyment of the television series and the way we store millions of facts about it.
With a 50 year legacy, information about the production of the series and about the hundreds of adventures the Doctor and his companions have had is food and drink to any self-respecting fan. We pore over facts and figures constantly, make endless lists, charts and surveys about the series which encompass our favourite stories, the number of times a certain monster has appeared in the series to how many scripts a certain writer may have contributed to the show.
Just imagine your charts and lists synthesised in visual terms and you'll understand where this book is coming from. Data isn't just a string of words and numbers, as Paul argues, because it can look great too and for a series like Doctor Who, probably one of the most researched and over-analysed television programmes in the world, there is an imperative to find new ways of looking at the fundamental facts and figures we associate with it.
Each chart in each of these sections is accompanied by detailed notes discussing the background and context of the areas under examination, how the data was compiled and what it reveals. The results can therefore be appreciated by those interested in the possibilities of data visualisation while also presenting new angles to Doctor Who devotees who might think they know all there is to know about the show.
In 'Production' one of the first, most comprehensive, rather mind-boggling infographics is 'All of Time and Space', and is, by way of an example of how much data Paul includes in these analyses, a year by year, season by season, Doctor by Doctor set of charts which also trace how many times a certain monster or villain appeared across the 50 year span of the show, the companions featured in each era, the viewing figures, the most-prolific writers and, just for added geek cred, the duration of each story and who produced and script-edited it. It's a massive amount of information but elegantly and wittily presented in superbly clear graphics and iconography with accompanying expert testimony.
The rest of the section is devoted to a charts about the prevalence of 'A' and 'The' as prefixes to story titles or the very common use of 'the x of the y' as the name of an episode or story; a data set of the BBC director-generals and drama controllers who steered the programme for good or ill; which studios at Television Centre, at Lime Grove and Riverside were used to record the original episodes of the series where the graphic uses a delightful set of TV camera icons, and finally a chart of those composers who provided the incidental and theme music for the series.
When we move to 'Fiction' I think we get some of the wittiest visualisations of the Who universe, including the various UK and international locations for stories set on Earth by Doctor and, one of my favourites, the stories which have taken place either in the bowels or at the highest points of the Earth.
This covers the depths to which Professor Stahlman sank his drill in Inferno, complete with an eruption of green mutagenic slime; the Loch Ness home of the Zygons' ship and their pet Skarasen complete with own pied-à-terre cave; the Silurians' Derbyshire residence and, at the other end of the scale, Vesuvius, the remains of Atlantis and the Himalayan setting for Marco Polo's trek to Peking and the Detsen monastery besieged by Yeti.
The section concludes with an infographic on which of the classic monsters and Time Lords each companion met as well as which fate, out of being hypnotised, infected or kidnapped, befell them. There's also a colourful if complex chart of how companions arrived or departed; each decade's gender balance for villains; and how, using a very knotty looking graphic, each villain met their demise in the new series.
With the 'Transmission' section of the book you get some splendid looking charts about transmission times and patterns for the series and the first broadcast of episodes; the days of the week the series was shown; the broadcast times and actual duration of episodes. And if you're planning a whole rewatch of the series the book also lets you know just how much time you'll need to set aside to do that. Apparently, if you consumed one story a day it would take you 231 days or approximately 7.6 months to watch everything. At the rate of one episode a day you're looking at setting aside 2.16 years to get through them all. Very handy for any forward-planning.
There's also a very absorbing ratings chart for the seven seasons of the 2005 revival and that'll come in use when trying to settle those 'it isn't as popular as it was' arguments down the pub. For the classic series Paul charts the viewing figures against a fan appreciation index so you'll have fun working out which clunkers the fans hated but the general audience loved.
Finally, 'Reiterations' takes a look at repeat screenings and their ratings and includes an extraordinary infographic plotting where in the world Doctor Who has been shown and which stories were the most seen; a brain-twisting graphic showing the release schedule of Target book adaptations; a chart confirming that Uncle Terrance Dicks is indeed the king of the novelisation and a chronology of the show's releases onto VHS (it took 20 years to release everything on tape, by the way) and DVD (now clocking up 13 years).
The book concludes, fittingly in anniversary year, with a '50th events in the 50-year history of Doctor Who' wherein you will discover that the alternate-Earth Brigade Leader in Inferno was actually the show's 50th major villain, the 50th Dudley Simpson score was for Underworld and the 50th type of robot in the series were the Handbots in The Girl Who Waited.
You see, you need to know these things. And you can discover these nuggets and much, much more in Paul Smith's beautifully designed and written book which definitely earns the 'labour of love' sobriquet. It should be required reading for all Doctor Who data nerds.
Time & Space Visualiser: The Story and History of Doctor Who as Data Visualisations
120 pages, full colour / Designed and written by Paul Smith
Published by Wonderful Books
Printed on demand through Amazon's CreateSpace
Softcover / 22x28cm