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 email@example.com for inclusion on The Outland Institute. (Click on the images below, it’ll make them bigger. Ooh yeah.)