With the Doctor getting in touch with her feminine side, how will companions past affect her new persona?
‘The Women Who Lived’ is the collaborative effort of Christel Dee and Simon Guerrier. With a troop of the most talented artists in Doctor Who fandom to illustrate its pages.
Authors and Artists
Simon Guerrier is an author whose work with Doctor Who dates back to the early 2000s. As well as Who, Guerrier has penned tie-in novels for Primeval and Being Human. Meanwhile, over at Big Finish, he’s written for the Blake’s 7, Dark Shadows and Bernice Summerfield ranges. To name but a few. We recently reviewed one of his Doctor Who works in ‘The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles‘.
So many talented women have contributed artwork to this book that it’d take too long to name them all. They’re given due billing at the end of the book with a handy reference so you can spot their work.
The book homages recent bestsellers like ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls‘ by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Originally released in 2017, this originally Italian-language series condensed accounts of great women in history into short stories. Translations and sequels have cemented the series as a cultural phenomena and must-have reading for young women the world over.
Talking to Simon Guerrier, he told me, “The book was Christel’s idea so she can tell you how influential that book was. But once she came to me about it, we made a point of going round bookshops and looking at what was on sale, and also on how it was presented. In the Waterstones on Trafalgar Square, I took a picture of a whole special stand of books about amazing women from history and we used that picture in our pitch. So it was more the whole genre of these books than one in particular.
Closer to Whome
Guerrier also found inspiration closer in Doctor Who’s own publication history. “In terms of writing, my big inspiration was the 1975 Doctor Who Monster Book, which transfixed me as a kid, detailing the whole history of Doctor Who – as it was all that time ago – in such thrilling but concise detail.”
Indeed the book doesn’t shy away from the complexity and downright absurdity of Doctor Who history. Even if certain characters (like River Song) have their sections condensed out of sheer necessity. However, Dee and Guerrier decided early on to keep things contained.
“Christel and I agreed early on that we’d stick to what’s presented in TV episodes,” said Guerrier. “Not books, audios and comics. That was to make it manageable for us, but also to keep the book accessible to our readers.”
So no attempts to sneak in a cheeky reference to one of his own titles. But Guerrier’s own history with the characters definitely benefited the book.
“I would have been cheating to sneak in references to my own stuff. Even so, the stuff I’ve written means I’ve met, worked with and got to know various people in Doctor Who, and that informed some of the entries I wrote. For example, when I wrote the Leela entry I remembered what Louise Jameson told me about the character’s intelligence when I interviewed her for [Doctor Who Magazine]. ”
Romana and Rose
When the cover, created by Lee Binding, was first revealed, a sizeable response on Twitter asked after Rose. Rest assured that Bad Wolf girl is very well-represented within the pages of the book.
In fact, her placement immediately after Romana (though a happy alphabetical accident) makes for a nice double-page spread. In classic Who, Romana is as much a fan-favourite companion as Rose is for new Who. So seeing them side-by-side is a nice touch.
Heroes and Villains
As you go through the book, the selection of characters who get the focus is certainly varied. From series mainstays like Sarah Jane Smith and Donna Noble to one-shot guest stars like Rosita and Sally Sparrow. Even some villains, henchwomen and dubious denizens of the Whoniverse get a look in, such as Madame Kovarian and Mercy Hartigan. I wanted to know what informed these decisions.
“There was a lot of debate over who to cover, everyone involved putting forward their favourite characters. But we had only so many pages…so there were some fierce debates about who to favour,” Simon Guerrier told me. “I was keen on an entry for Old Mother, the first person killed in Doctor Who, but editor Steve Cole persuaded me that it would me more interesting to tell the events of the first Doctor Who story from the perspective of another female character, Hur, and he was right.”
“Then there were characters we thought deserving of a mention but who we didn’t know enough about to warrant a full entry, such as Alice and May in ‘Gridlock’, who are the first gay married couple to appear in Doctor Who.”
To close out the book, a plethora of short-form “Honourable Mentions” includes the likes of Alice and May (Gridlock), Cass (The Night of the Doctor), Gwen Cooper (Torchwood) and Rodan (The Invasion of Time). And if that weren’t enough, a two-page spread lists everyone from Countless Scarlioni (City of Death) to Karra (Survival) and Iraxxa (Empress of Mars).
“The shorter entries, and the list at the end, is all an attempt to include as many of these brilliant women as possible,” said Guerrier. “But we still had to miss out some of our favourites.”
Does that mean the enormous team behind ‘The Women Who Lived’ are warming up their pens for a sequel? Guerrier couldn’t be drawn.
“Ideas, yes. But I’m not telling you.”
‘The Women Who Lived’ is a vital addition to your shelf if you enjoy stunning Doctor Who fan art and collecting encyclopedic compendiums. Not to mention a few easter eggs for characters shrouded in mystery like The Woman and the Hostess. The incredible amount of love that has gone into this book makes it as much a tribute to the fandom as a book about a TV show.
Since we already know that Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is inspiring young women to become Time Lords, here’s hoping that the new era of Doctor Who will fill out the pages of a sequel.