Wednesday 29 September 2010

Blue Box Boy: The Memoirs of Matthew Waterhouse

It's well known around these parts that The Cult of Adric holds the power. Their influence is everywhere and everything I put on this site has to be checked by them first. They will be pleased then that their founder member has written a review of the autobiography of Matthew Waterhouse who played the teen maths whiz on Doctor Who during the 80's.

A wordsmith far more talented than I, this post belongs to Chris, who is quite possibly Adric's biggest fan of all, and who wrote this great review. Enjoy

A Review of Blue Box Boy: The Memoirs of Matthew Waterhouse

There is a famous saying “you should never meet your heroes.” There is sound logic behind this; they will inevitably disappoint. This is especially true if those heroic attachments were formed in the fires of adolescence, where even the smallest act or word takes on an epic significance. This was a real danger when I finally unwrapped my copy of Blue Box Boy – the autobiography of Matthew Waterhouse. He was one of my childhood heroes and I declare now, an unashamed bias in favour of Adric. I loved the idea of an immature yet brilliant companion, someone who – actually – was not a million miles away from what the Doctor might have been in his early years. I was excited beyond words that he decided to write his book. I’d heard the rumours of his disaffection with the show and I was eagerly anticipating just how bitter this was going to be.

Let us not mince our words; in places this is a strange book. For one thing, it is written in the third person, which is surely an indication that all is not well. That being said, I could not, in all honesty say there is much bitterness in the book. His description of a Doctor Who childhood is one that will be familiar to many of us. His fury at not winning a scary monster competition clearly has not mellowed with age (I’m assuming this was actually tongue in cheek but the effect was one of genuine rage). Some of his anecdotes are (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious and his appearance on Pebble Mill at One taking in Kenny Ball and Hywel Bennett is frankly comedy gold.

The really good stuff however, kicks in during the second part of his tale as Matthew describes his entry into that rarefied atmosphere of the regular Doctor Who cast. He gives wonderfully intimate and clear descriptions of his initial meetings with John Nathan-Turner and Chris Bidmead. His recollection of the moment his first scripts dropped on to his doormat send shivers of thrill down the spine and he brings a sense of reality to what it must have been like for a young Doctor Who fan to actually become part of the show. Unusually, for this type of book, he is fulsome in his praise for the stories that he was involved in. He is generous about his co-stars and most of those involved with the show. Indeed the only one who comes in for any real ire is Peter Grimwade who, if Waterhouse is to be believed, hated just about everything to do with Doctor Who.

I said above that one should never meet ones heroes, and this is never more apparent than when Waterhouse describes his working relationship with Tom Baker. There is a bittersweet aspect to all his descriptions of working with the fourth Doctor. Yet, towards the end of the book, Waterhouse tries to position himself as the sort of bohemian, well-read actor of a similar ilk to Baker and the Soho set of the late seventies. Unfortunately the difficulties of living and working with such an actor are all too apparent. It clearly must have been difficult for an 18 year old in only his second job to deal with the death throes of Baker’s tenure. The description of working with Peter Davison, on the other hand is slightly more superficial and less revelatory. Davison is portrayed as a nice bloke with a slightly waspish side – and this is very much the character I recognize from the many interviews and DVD extras.

In conclusion, this book is very much aimed at the Doctor Who audience. Waterhouse realizes that people like me are mildly curious about his life before and after Doctor Who but it is his time during the show that we are most interested. From that perspective, the book doesn’t disappoint. The style is a little too affected in places and there is an attempt to convey intellectualism that borders on the desperate at times. But on the whole, this book is a treasure trove for the discerning fan. Largely, it portrays the memories of an actor who appreciates his role in the history of Doctor Who and realises that he may be condemned to be remembered as Adric. Through the medium of this book, I feel that I have met a hero from my childhood. Unlike Waterhouse, however, I was not disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I heard that Mr. Waterhouse could be as difficult to work with sometimes as the others, including Tom Baker sans Elizabeth Sladen. Then again, he was rather young in comparison and the teenage years aren't always easy ones.
    So far, I still prefer Turlough to Adric as characters. It's just personal preference.
    Which do you lot favor and what are your opinions on Matthew Waterhouse?