December 20, 2013


(Special thanks to Telos Publishing for providing a complimentary electronic copy for review)

Growing up, I was the kind of child who paid serious attention to television credits - I was more interested in who Rod Serling or Gene Roddenberry were than, say, the actors. So when I noticed that Robert Holmes' name often cropped up frequently on Doctor Who - and more importantly, on stories that I thoroughly enjoyed - it made my appreciation of the show a little more tangible.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read Richard Molesworth's Robert Holmes: A Life in Words. Quite honestly, this book is not just a biography of a great Doctor Who writer, but a great writer period.

From humble beginnings as a British policeman, Robert Holmes soon made his way into the writing world: first, via a series of short pieces and into the then-burgeoning world of British television. (Which - at least, in my opinion - is as fascinating as the "Golden Age of Television"on this side of the pond). Had this been a cliche tale of Holmes' failure to connect to an audience until Doctor might not have been so fascinating.

What makes this book worth reading is the extent of Holmes' work ethic and the relative lack of ego that Holmes seemingly had about his career. (He once came very close to some prestigious writing assignments). Molesworth does a great job in not only tracking down key information and insights about Holmes (who was a reluctant interview subject at best), but also provides some of Holmes' story proposals (for both Doctor Who and other shows). At a time when dysfunction and personal revelation drive many contemporary biographies, Molesworth's A Life In Words provides a relatively unblemished view of Holmes (with some discussion of his faults) that seems less diplomatic and more focused on an objective viewpoint. There is a palpable sense of sadness towards the end of the book, with Molesworth suggesting that Holmes was as much the victim of internal and creative politics as he was of failing health.

You can order this book directly from Telos Publishing, and although you may have to wait for delivery, Richard Molesworth's Robert Holmes: A Life in Words is worth the wait. It's not only a great profile for Doctor Who fans, but provides great insight into the writing process in general.

A definite must-read.

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