Is There Life Outside the Box?: An Actor Despairs by Peter Davison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Peter Davison is absolutely splendid

To anyone other than a Doctor Who fan, the title of the review is going to sound a bit poncey. But I’m betting the majority of people interested in this book are Who fans, eager to hear the life story of one of their favourite Doctors.

I really enjoyed Peter’s autobiography. It was my first Lockdown Listen (the first of many). The book covers Peter’s whole life, and a fair bit of his prior family history, too. I have to be honest, this is the bit I always struggle with in any autobiography. If the subject has a fairly average childhood, ie they go to school, they’re mostly happy, nothing horrendous happens, and their parents are kind of OK (give or take a war) then I’m pleased for them, but it isn’t always the most fascinating story.

For me, Peter’s autobiography gets going about the time he joins drama school. I like hearing about how famous people ‘made it’: How and when they get their breaks; the kind of knock-backs they get; and the type of life they have to lead in order to create opportunities for themselves. Peter lays it all out in his usual humorous, self-deprecating style.

He tells us about his early career breaks, the rise to fame as Tristan in All Creatures, and provides lots of great anecdotes about his time on the show. I love listening to actors. I find what they do totally amazing, and I can (and indeed, now do) listen for hours to their stories of working in the profession.

I particularly enjoyed the parts relating to Peter’s time as the Doctor. Sadly it seemed all too brief (as did his tenure, which was a formative part of my childhood), but his subsequent ‘wilderness years’ and his ability to come back from that is absorbing and entertaining. He was always too good an actor to just disappear forever in a dry patch. His talent and simple likeability guaranteed his return to mainstream acting parts, thank goodness.

I loved listening to this book. I’m a runner, but my mojo had slipped a bit, so I needed a way back into enjoying running again without the pressure to hit PBs every time I went out. I’d already downloaded this book, and it had been sitting in my library unlistened because I never seemed to have the time. The answer to both problems was simple: listen to my book while running. Yes it was lockdown, but I got out for my hour’s exercise most days and listened to Peter’s story. When it was over I felt like I’d lost a friend.

The only negative of the book is that it isn’t read by Peter himself. It’s a big shame, but the narrator does a good job, and in my memory it feels like I did hear the story from Peter himself. Actors are clever like that.

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