Great Literature Of The 20th Century: The Doctor Who Cookbook

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, it brought with it a flood of merchandise. The BBC had shaken off it’s public servant past and now embraced the market place with moist abandon. It appeared there wasn’t anything you couldn’t stick a logo on, or shape like a TARDIS.

There were books and toys, obviously, but how about a TARDIS ice bucket? Or soft wardrobe? A trolley wheely bag like Nan used to have? How about an air-freshener shaped like K9? Dalek cufflinks, a bamboo curtain or a cereal bowl in which the face of David Tennant appears – like a holy redeemer – as you eat your wheaties?

Old-school Doctor Who fans could remember that back when we were young… the merchandise was rubbish. The cool toys were always for the American shows, while Doctor Who tended toward children’s books that felt like they were written by people who’d never seen the television show. Or any television show. Or even a book.

In the early 1980s Doctor Who was enjoying a particularly popular phase in Australia. Peter Davison (“The Bloke From That Show About The Vets“) was the Doctor, there was an Aussie in the TARDIS, and Myer even brought Davison out to do a tour of shopping centres and champagne breakfasts. Though things would sour in the mid-80s, leading the the show’s cancellation at the end of the decade, there was a sense in 1984/85 that you could brighten any book with a Doctor Who logo.

Which brings us to today’s book – The Doctor Who Cookbook.

First, let’s observe a beautiful cover detail of this original hard-cover edition. Look, it’s a Dalek in an apron! And a Yeti in a chef’s hat!

The Outland Institute is grateful to David Ashton for the loan of this book from his personal collection. It’s an original edition and contains these exclusive extras – a card-pocket and slip marked “State Library Service Of Western Australia”.

Looking further we can see the book was loaned just the once, in 1988, to someone called “Stone” in Bentley.

Now to the book itself. Well, it’s a cook book. And it’s Doctor Who related.

Edited by Gary Downie, the show’s production manager at the time, the book gathers recipes written by people connected to the show and accompanies them with short bios and sharp black & white cartoons. The recipes are genuine, although the food tends toward retro English dinner-party food, like Duck a l’Orange, Viennese Cabbage, Chicken Mousse and Hot Spinach And Prawns. Did I mention this book isn’t aimed at children?

It’s all surprisingly sober for a book that contains a recipe entitled Janet Fielding’s Ocker Balls. It’s also not intended for the novice – the above recipe for Dalek Bake With Exterminate Topping starts with “remove the skin and bones from the raw fish…” Some of the dishes go for amusing names, such as the Meddling Monkfish Chowder, or an alcoholic drink named a Sonic Screwdriver. But the best joke in the book – from a sad fanboy view – is Johnny Byrne‘s Kipper Of Traken.

The book includes recipes from the show’s stars, including many of the Doctors and companions, and guests including Beryl Reid, Michael Gough and those really annoying twins from The Twin Dilemma. But curiously it also includes slots for production crew who probably wouldn’t get a look in today. Directors, designers, even the producer’s secretary. Even wondered how Visual Effects Designer Mat Irvine makes paella?

Even fan clubs appear, with the Doctor Who Appreciation Society Of Great Britain’s Rum Pudding, or the Doctor Who Fan Club Of America’s South Western Gallifrey Corn Soup. It’s just the sort of book you expect as a charity fund-raiser. Except I can’t find a charity listed anywhere. Were people genuinely just shelling out money so they could learn how Audio Effects Designer Dick Mills makes chicken curry?

The Doctor Who Cookbook is interesting in that it shows how much the BBC ideology has changed when it comes to merchandise. I don’t think this book (or a craft book of the time, The Doctor Who Pattern Book) would be allowed now. Programs like Doctor Who now have “brand managers”to ensure the merchandise sends out the right message, that it matches the tone of the show. I’m sure this book would be seen as too daggy, too damaging to the brand. In a world in which the BBC threatens fans with legal action over home-made Doctor Who knitting patterns, there is no room for Matt Irvine’s paella.

We leave you with an Outland Institute challenge – remember Elisabeth Sladen? She was plucky girl reporter Sarah-Jane Smith – here’s a picture of her wearing a big spider:

Everyone was wearing those in 1974. Anyway, here is the complete receipe for Elisabeth Sladen’s Cauliflower Cheese. We challenge you to make this dish, then send a picture and review of this tasty treat to for inclusion on The Outland Institute. (Click on the images below, it’ll make them bigger. Ooh yeah.)

The Doctor Who Cookbook often shows up second-hand on (follow the links) or on ebay. And someone DID make this recipe – more details here

7 Responses to Great Literature Of The 20th Century: The Doctor Who Cookbook

  1. Edward says:

    Cauliflower cheese with red wine, olives and anchovies? Is that normal?

  2. outlandinstitute says:

    Yes, I chose this recipe because a) it’s vegetarian and b) it’s bonkers.

    Actually maybe it’s great, I do not yet know, but it did seem to have an unusual list of ingredients for Cauliflower Cheese. At least it didn’t start with “remove the skin and bones from the raw fish…”

    FUN FACT: Gary Downie was a West End dancer and choreographer before joining the Doctor Who team. Curious term there – “before”. What kind of career arc is that?

  3. Anne-Marie says:

    is the big spider why Donna wears a big cockroach in this season? Yes I’m such a nerd that I “obtained” the season before it was shown free to air. But I’m sure there are plenty more of you who did the same and will provide a long, overly detailed answer.

  4. Dan Cardone says:

    I love the fact that the recipe states that it serves ‘hungry’ people. And after having reading the recipe, i would add that should be ‘really, really hungry, perhaps starved and not in a position to be choosey…’

  5. Anne-Marie says:

    Perhaps they meant white wine – kind of like fondue? I’m tryingto give the Dr Who Cook book the benefit of the doubt. And the olives and horrible fuzzy fish would be like a pinch of salt. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to combine those ingredients and eat them – but I’d watch someone else do it.

  6. Narrelle says:

    “Adding the wine to the sauce brings a whole new dimension to this traditional dish of cauliflower cheese”.

    Yes. A dimension of stomach pumps. Perhaps also a dimension of legal action against anyone who makes you eat it. If we make this stuff, are you going to indemnify us, John?

  7. Naomi says:

    Sci-fi fans you may be; cooks you are not. This should actually work quite well, though might I suggest you only use the olives or the anchovies, not both together. Substitute in some King Island Smoked Cheddar for the “farmhouse cheddar” (I miss that term) and it should come up a treat.

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