Bookshelf (Starburst Reviews) Bookshelf compiled by David Howe
• part of Starburst's monthly Reviews section
selected from Starburst #269

Selected this month: Doctor Who's long-awaited Regeneration and
Waiting for Godalming, the latest confection from Robert Rankin

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In this issue's Bookshelf: David Howe talks to bestselling Fantasy author Terry Brooks, Gordon Larkin on more of the best recent Fantasy releases, best seller charts, November / December's new releases rounded-up, and four more reviews of the latest genre titles for book lovers

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by Robert Rankin
Published by Doubleday • 264pp, hardback

Robert Rankin's Waiting for Godalming

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‘Robert Rankin has a wonderful ear for a phrase, and a playful way with words’

The cover of Waiting for Godalming is a reference to a pub called The Crimson Teacup, watering hole of one Lazlo Woodbine, private eye. There are two plot strands. In the first, 18-year-old thief (or as he prefers: ‘relocator’) Icarus Smith steals a briefcase whose contents land him in the middle of a nasty conspiracy involving Red Head (a perception-altering drug). In the second, God goes missing, and His wife Eartha (don’t ask!) hires Woodbine (and his Guardian Sprout Barry) to find Him.

As you might imagine, the two strands are related. As Lazlo solves the case, both aided and hampered by Icarus, he gets hit on the head a lot; he also encounters silent explosives, sword-wielding angels and quill-headed demons, Jesus Christ (in disguise) and his half brother Colin, and midget Johnny Boy who earns his living as a ventriloquist’s dummy. He also travels deep beneath Brentford and Ealing into the sinister tunnels of the Ministry of Serendipity.

Robert Rankin has a wonderful ear for a phrase, and a playful way with words. His outrageous puns and running gags will have most readers chuckling. He promises (in the guise of Woodbine, the narrator) that since this is a genre 1950s American PI tale, there will be ‘a lot of gratuitous sex and violence, a corpse-strewn alley and a final rooftop showdown’, and he delivers… except for the sex. A minor quibble: topical references to Carol Vordemann, Mo Mowlam, and Dr Harold Shipman could leave non-Brits baffled.

Waiting for Godalming is a light and frothy confection (Rankin himself would probably describe it as a load of ‘toot’); but every now and then light and frothy hits the spot.

Starburst rating: 8 / 10
Barbara Davies

by Philip Segal with Gary Russell
Published by HarperCollins • 162pp

Doctor Who: Regeneration

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'For anyone interested in television history, this is a landmark book...'

Every so often a book comes along which almost defies expectations. Doctor Who: Regeneration is such a book. There has been an awful lot written about the BBC’s popular and much-missed Time travel show Doctor Who, and I have been involved in a fair number of behind the scenes factual tomes myself. However all my work and research has been primarily based around ‘the BBC years’, those television adventures from 1963 until 1989 when the show ceased regular production. In 1996, there was a long-awaited revival, when a one-off television movie was made starring Paul McGann as the time-travelling Doctor. This book is the story of that film.

To suggest that this is simply an of-interest-to-fans-only chronicle of the making of a Doctor Who adventure would be to do the book a great injustice. Philip Segal was the Executive Producer of the film, and Gary Russell is one of the UK’s most active voices in Doctor Who related product. Between them they dissect the long and convoluted history of the 1996 film. Starting in 1989, when Segal first made contact with the BBC, we then step forward through all the detailed discussions, background events, politics, castings, disappointments and successes which led to Paul McGann starring as the Doctor in May 1996.

It’s an incredible story, told with the voice of authority. Segal kept every piece of documentation: every letter, every memo, and these have been pieced together to present a history which, I suspect, even Segal did not know existed. This is a fascinating and enthralling view of just how the American television system conspires to prevent shows being made; how the BBC dodged and swerved to try to keep things the way they wanted, and of one man’s determination to see his childhood hero returned to the screen.

For anyone interested in television history, this is a landmark book. A true insider’s view of just how hard it can be to put a television show together. After reading it you will be astonished at how anything ever gets made, but a lot wiser as to the ultimate trueism, that the production of television lies more with the insular opinions of a few politiking figures at the top of the TV companies than with any artistic, financial or popular viewer acclaimed success.

Starburst rating: 10 / 10
David Howe

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction