Torchwood: The Encyclopedia book review

Gary Russell delivers an exhaustive reference tome to the world of Torchwood...

Following on from his superb Doctor Who: The Encyclopedia, Gary Russell turns his highly detailed telescopic attention to the spin-off Torchwood. That’s right, the show that’s cool to talk about now after Children Of Earth aired earlier this year. (Though some of us also liked it before the bloody 456 turned up you know!)

It’s a lavish affair with a plethora of pretty pictures peppered throughout, satiating even the most image-hungry Ianto fan (if they still exist). Though I was slightly miffed to note that some of the photographs are, in fact, screengrabs and are notably poorer in quality to that of other images. Thankfully, these tend to be smaller in size so it’s only pedants like me who get annoyed (there’s also a spelling error on page 12).

Pedantry is the key word here, appropriately so being an encyclopedia, and Gary Russell is well versed in the world of Torchwood picking up on some of the most obscure tidbits humanly possible. For example, there are entries that detail roads such as the A470 (“Truck road north of Cardiff leading towards the Brecon Beacons.”) and the always-interesting B587 (“Cardiff road that led to Hedley Point”). Yup, it’s that detailed.

And this is where I had a slight problem with the book. It’s journey into the minutiae of Torchwood can either come across as needless and tedious (‘X74JGF813W ‘gets an entry for being an access code!) or quite funny (the listing for ‘Barbarastates, “Not, Jack considered, a suitable name for a Weevil.”). There’s also a great deal of repetition, specifically when it comes to entries for songs. For every song played (within the context of the onscreen goings on) or mentioned, there’s an entry, but not only that, there’s another listing for the artist who performed the tune. A cumbersome crossover. Surely, like the entry for ‘Years’ (where we get a listed breakdown of all the years mentioned and where the action takes place) the editors would have seen fit to have a similar ‘Songs’ listing?

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(Of course, complaining that an encyclopedia is too detailed, too researched is akin to moaning that a dictionary has too many words. I digress.)

The other problem I have are the stories the makers saw fit to include. Naturally, we get treated to all the television episodes and we get the excellent BBC Fouraudio dramas, but it stops there. The novels (and comics too) are discarded. Now, I understand going into all the stories would be problematic, but it seems odd to include the audios and not the novels. Even odder is the exclusion of The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End – an entry for the ‘Time-Lock’ would have been much more appropriate than the ‘To Buy Or Not To Buy’ entry (despite it being “briefly watched by Owen”). Having said that, some of the events in the Doctor Who series four finale are fleetingly mentioned, though not directly referenced.

Anyway, these are trivial points. My enjoyment was certainly not impaired and, being a fan, I was surprised at just how much had passed me by, at just how many characters I had forgotten and at just how many songs flew over my head unheard.

As a reference book (which is exactly what this is) it’s almost perfect and I get the feeling that it will make fantastic toilet reading (well, that’s where I do all my reference reading, don’t you?) for a great number of fans.

The cover of Torchwood: The Encyclopedia calls it the “Definitive Guide” and the BBC don’t lie. Buy it for the geekoid in your life (even if it is yourself).

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Torchwood:The Encyclopedia is released on 1 October.


4 out of 5