Doctor Who – Eclectic Gypsy 1

Eclectic Gypsy – An Unauthorized Biography of Doctor Who was published by Collectors Guide Publishing.


The volume that you are holding in your hand is one of the rarest books in the universe.

It is also one of the biggest sellers in history.

The provenance of this remarkable edition is simple.

In 1962 residents of the Ascension Islands, a British dependency one thousand miles off the Atlantic coast of Africa, witnessed the descent and crash of what local authorities originally termed a meteorite—a meteorite that burned and screamed for three days before attempts to extinguish the flames were finally successful.

When scientists were finally able to enter the charred crater, they discovered the blackened and damaged metallic casing that would, fifty years later, be identified as a Dalek warrior, one that had somehow fallen through time.  Prior to that, however, it was regarded merely as an alien artifact that passed through the hands of sundry private collectors before being purchased by the 21st century technocrat Henry Van Statten.

However, the creature did not journey alone.  It was accompanied by a small metallic box—light-heartedly referred to as a “space rucksack” in certain circles—which escaped both the immediate, and the ultimate fate of its presumed owner.  Rather, the box, and the contents that spilled out of it during the initial impact, was gathered up by one of the first humans on the scene, and kept for many years as secret souvenirs of the event.

This book was discovered among those contents.

News of the book’s existence first leaked during the mid-1990s, when Van Statten himself reacted to rumors of the rucksack’s existence by dispatching a team of mercenary soldiers to Ascension in hopes of locating it.

He failed.  The rucksack’s owner had migrated to the United Kingdom some twenty years earlier and, by the time Van Statten was able to track him down, nothing remained of the treasure.  Rather, it had been disseminated far and wide, both through a series of private auctions and sales and, regrettably, theft.  Even today, nothing more than the sketchiest inventory of the rucksack’s original contents exists.

This book was one of the luckier items.  Damaged both in the original impact and subsequently, as individual pages were either stolen or given away as souvenirs, it first appeared on the open market at a fan convention dedicated to the British science fiction television program Timeslip in 1987.  Regarded even by its purchaser as a curio whose stated provenance was surely more rumor than reality, it was widely assumed to be a piece of fan-made paraphernalia relating to one of the countless other “sci-fi” shows and movies that have been broadcast over the years.  Indeed, the next time it was exhibited, it was described as a possible prop from an episode of the American series Star Trek, and the language in which it was printed as “archaic pseudo-Klingon.”

Flimsy though this explanation was, it remained the “best guess” until 2003, when the first attempt to translate the text was made following the discovery of similarities between the published text and a “dictionary” devised by the late Terry Nation, possibly the greatest expert in Dalek studies on Planet Earth..

Nation’s dictionary swiftly proved inadequate for the task before it.  But it was a start and, over the next five years, a worldwide Internet project, Codename John Smith, saw several hundred, possibly even thousand, enthusiasts entrusted with fragments of the text to decode according to their own understanding of the language and alphabet employed in the original book.

This volume is the result of those labors.

Many questions remain to be answered.  We know the book is not complete.  The text here represents around one-half of the complete book, with the majority of the absent pages falling in the second half of the text.  But no author’s name has yet been translated; neither has a city, or even planet, of original publication.  Even as this first-ever English language edition was being prepared, debate continued to spark over the true nature of the text.

Clearly it is a scrapbook of sorts, dedicated to the being that we on Planet Earth know as “the Doctor,” or “Doctor Who.”  But who compiled it, and for what reason?

It is immediately apparent that the newspaper articles collected and excerpted within these pages were drawn from across the spectrum of available coverage.  But the emphasis upon what historians have described as the cheaper, tawdrier side of the inter-galactic media, as opposed to the more highbrow reportage that also accompanied the Doctor through his travels, would suggest that neither accuracy nor favoritism were on the compiler’s mind.

Indeed, the oftentimes negative portrayals of the Doctor’s character, together with the generally sensationalist recounting of his activities, would suggest the book was originally prepared by a race that had no love for him.  The fact that it was found among the possessions of a Dalek leads many experts to believe that the volume originated on Skaro, the Daleks’ native planet, and home to a vociferous audience for such a “hatchet job.”

However, others prefer to claim a Gallifreyan origin for the text, suggesting that the book was edited together by one of its subject’s own people, for a market that would naturally appreciate a literary style that we on Planet Earth readily recognize from the host of supermarket tabloids that assail us as we stand in the check-out line.

Others still have postulated that the book’s authorship can be traced as far afield as Mars, Alpha Centauri and even New Earth, and that its existence in the Dalek tongue is merely an indication of the volume’s inter-galactic popularity.  On Planet Earth, for example, a book published in English will frequently be reprinted in dozens of other Planet Earth languages.  It only follows, therefore, that a similar volume published in the primary language of one planet should likewise be made available in others.

Each of these explanations is worth considering.  But there is one more that should also be noted; the possibility that Eclectic Gypsy – The Unauthorized biography of Doctor Who is an elaborate fake, a stance supported by the fact that the book was clearly written following the Last Great Time War, and could not, therefore, have fallen to Planet Earth while that conflict still raged. To those people, let me just say your argument is so simpleminded as to defy all belief.

Wherever this volume originated, whatever its author’s intentions and, ultimately, whoever that author might be, there are no doubts that Eclectic Gypsy – The Unauthorized Biography of Doctor Who is “the real deal,” and that the story told in its pages is indeed that of the man whose adventures have been followed by so many millions of people on our own planet.

It is not a story that we will fully recognize; nor one that we will necessarily find ourselves in full agreement with.  Over the course of the almost-half century during which the Doctor’s Planet Earthly admirers have chronicled his adventures, a dogma has emerged that demands even acknowledged fiction be weighed up and worked into the “canon”; that is, bent, folded and manipulated into shape, so that it might be fit into what we assume is the chronology of the Doctor’s long life.

Yet, as is the case with so many other of Planet Earth’s heroes, from Beowulf to Buffalo Bill, from King Arthur to Robin Hood, the tales that we know to be “true” are simply those that have been repeated so often that to dismiss them would be to deny a large part of our own personal belief system.  A new discovery that painted Arthur as a French usurper, or Robin Hood as a robber baron, would be dismissed from the history books with the same alacrity that sees Christopher Columbus still venerated as the discover of the Americas, decades after a host of previous European and Asian visitors were acknowledged.

That is the status that Eclectic Gypsy enjoys.  It is Lief Erikson, standing at the door of a classroom, wishing somebody could see past the sails of the Santa Maria.  It is Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower and insisting, yes; it was all a dream.  It is the Doctor himself, sifting through almost fifty years worth of television programs, audio dramas, movie adaptations, comic books, novels, stage plays and more, and circling the errors with a day-glo marker pen.  Except the Doctor himself would not do that, so the editor and compiler of Eclectic Gypsy does it for him.

Are any of us bold enough to take this remarkable journey alongside him?

Dave Oldskar, September 2008

From 2003, Dave Oldskar coordinated and partially funded the Codename John Smith internet project.  His next book, Varga: My Story, is scheduled for publication in 2010.


Eclectic Gypsy: An Unauthorised Biography of Dr. Who by Dave Thompson
Review by EJ McClure
Collector’s Guide Publishing, Inc. Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1894959892
Date: 01 November 2008 List Price $24.95
Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info / ShareThisShareThis

The more you know about Dr. Who, the more you will enjoy Eclectic Gypsy: An Unauthorized Biography of Dr. Who. If you have a neglected penny whistle in a drawer, a 13-foot scarf in your closet, or have ever used a stalk of celery as an accessory, you’ll revel in the cheeky insider humor in the purported excerpts from interviews, tabloid stories, and academic journals documenting the peripatetic Gallifreyan’s multiple lives and loves.

For those who first met the Doctor in 2005 his ninth incarnation, played by the saturnine and sardonic Christopher Eccleston, the section on the Doctor’s early years will be an illuminating and amusing read. The titillating tidbits of the Doctor’s backstory, only hinted at in the current television series, are sure to intrigue new fans. But the following chronological sections on the early incarnations will be heavy going for readers who have not seen those episodes, despite the snappy writing and laugh-out-loud hilarity of some of the quotes. If you are a seasoned fan, the quips will tease your memory, perhaps enough that you’ll dust off those bootleg videos from that long-ago fan club gathering. Other readers will probably skim those sections to get to the chapters highlighting the ninth and tenth incarnations of the Doctor. Fortunately, Eclectic Gypsy is so tightly constructed that even a cursory reading will pick up on the juxtaposition of the enduring enmity between the Doctor and the Daleks, and the transiency of the Doctor’s companions, a theme central to understanding the Doctor.

Dave Thompson, author of a number of best-selling biographies of pop icons such as Kurt Cobain and David Bowie, was evidently denied an interview with the Doctor. Without direct access to his subject, he set out to illustrate the complexity of the Doctor’s character through the eyes of his friends, enemies, schoolmates and few surviving relatives. The resulting jigsaw puzzle of quotes from sources ranging from The Daily Telegraph to the Gallifreyan Gazette presents a brilliant, contradictory man often at odds with himself and his universe. Until the Doctor decides to give interviews, or pen an autobiography explaining some of the curious and troubling gaps in his public history, Eclectic Gypsy is as close as fans are going to come to an inside scoop.

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