A Life In Time And Space – The Biography of David Tennant

The departing Doctor deserves a better biography than this...

With the recent announcement that he’s handing over the Tardis keys, David Tennant is preparing for the next stage of his career and, if nothing else, his contribution to Dr Who is a lasting legacy he will always be proud of. Considering the phenomenal success of the revamped series, it has also become a lucrative money-spinner for merchandise of all size, shape and form. Nigel Goodall’s book, A Life In Time And Space: A Biography of David Tennant is one of the latest tomes to materialise and one that seems born of opportunism rather than lasting value. And probably a book that should be devoured by the Vashti Narada.

Tennant’s rise in popularity has indeed been meteoric, but he has been working since he left drama school, appearing in drama series such as Takin’ Over The Asylum and Blackpool. However, since becoming the 10th Doctor, his star has risen in a multitude of galaxies, and now is arguably poised on the brink of greater international success. Goodall’s book is less interested in that early career but prefers to focus on his involvement with Who. But this is not written by a fanboy, nor is it written by someone with a real passion for the series. It has been assembled from an assortment of interviews and articles culled from the press or the internet. And not necessarily the most obvious places. Nor is it reassuring that he misspells not only Mark Gatiss’s name but also Big Finish. Such carelessness with fact-checking does not promise a literary masterpiece.

Curiously too, considering much of chapter one is talking about Voyage of the Damned, you would be mistaken to think you had stumbled across a biography of Kylie Minogue, since he can’t resist dabbling in her life story (he has, after all, written a biography of her too!). In another universe, that could be referred to as padding. It’s true that Goodall links that in with the death of David’s mother from cancer, trying to give emotional weight to that tragic period in his life, but it still feels curiously disjointed and more akin to tabloid journalism.

The bulk of the book, naturally, is focused on the four years that has sent Tennant’s career into stellar orbit in terms of his profile and in the programme that helped get him there: Dr Who. As a result, Goodall fleshes out his bones with discussion of the series and the assorted high-profile assistants.

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The big problem is with such an abundance of in-depth books dedicated to the time lord – which fans voraciously digest – there’s no new information here to savour. There are extensive plot descriptions of selected episodes, as well as other projects such as his latest film, Einstein and Eddington. That might make the book more appealing to the casual reader who hasn’t bought into the magazine and merchandise. Goodall plays magpie, borrowing extracts of interviews from all over the place to build up his profile, especially from assorted internet sites including the official David Tennant site, and selected interviews in the official magazine too, without any access to the actor himself. It makes it a lightweight read and light years away from an insightful biography.

Tennant has had an extraordinary career in a short space of time, and proven to be versatile on stage and screen. There’s also something magical about the boy from Paisley reaching his childhood dream of playing his favourite TV hero. Now that he’s moving on, the best years, I suspect, are still ahead of him though.

A Life In Time And Space reads like an extended magazine piece, liberally sprinkled with borrowed anecdotes, and as such, seems better placed to capitalise on the passing appeal of a younger audience (even if the higher-than-usual price is no reflection of that). It’s hitchhiking on the Tennant-Tardis bandwagon before it dematerialises. Surprisingly more invaluable is the glossary at the back which explains the meaning of most technical and production terminology. A space filler until it regenerates into a more authoritative volume.

Author: Nigel Goodall Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd (hardback, rrp £17.99)

2 stars
A Life In Time And Space is out now.

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