Review: Doctor Who Encyclopedia, by Random House (iPad)


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Jul 5, 2008
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[URL="]Doctor Who Encyclopedia[/URL], by Random House
$6.99 ****1/2

? Nice interface and graphics
? Fairly comprehensive study of Doctors 9, 10, and 11

Cons:? No old episodes (pre-9th Doctor)
? Limited multimedia, and limited use of things like the gallery

Doctor Who ? people seem to either ?get it? or completely not understand it. As a Doctor Who fan (with a wife and daughter who enjoy it even more than I do) I had to try this app when I saw it. I actually purchased late last year, only to find out that it only covered Matt Smith, the current Doctor. Grumbling, I then purchased Doctor?s 9 and 10 (for $6.99 each). The good news for you ? ALL three of the Doctors are now included for the single purchase price of $6.99 (good for you, bad for me!).


The Doctor Who Encyclopedia is the officially licensed app from BBC to provide a wealth of information from Doctor Who. And trust me, it is loaded. Let me start with the great user interface ? making full use of swipe gestures and the touch screen, you can cycle through a list of friends, swipe through pictures of enemies and companions, or just scroll down a text list of all the entries. The pictures are the best, however, because they appear to be ?layered?, giving a 3D impression as you swipe back and forth (there is also a ?panorama? mode where you can look by moving the iPad, but I found it a bit unwieldy).


Most of the major entries (companions, enemies, objects, etc) have a picture and a short text description (about 1 or 2 paragraphs), but they also include links to other related entries. The more major the character, the more text it has. So, for example, if you choose to read up about Donna Noble, you have a fairly detailed history, a picture with links to closely related entries (such as Wilfred Mott and Racnoss), and then a secondary list of related links (including each episode where she appeared, related characters, locations, and objects. Each entry has the option of becoming a ?favorite? so that you can easily reference it at some future date.


There is some difficulty at times in the navigation. For example, if you navigate to the Daleks using the interactive image, you get a three or four paragraph about the Dalek?s that pops up on the screen. On the other hand, if you use the ?enemies? tab, you get a new interactive ?Dalek only? screen, which includes all the sub-entries of interest for ?Dalek?. I couldn?t find any way to get to the latter from the former, so it appears that the connections between related entries are not 100% ?linked up?.


One major disappointment was the image gallery. The gallery includes many nice images and scenes from the series. Unfortunately, there is no way to use these as wallpaper, as you can?t save them to your iPad. In addition, there are no ?extra? images included ? no promotional posters, advertising images, behind the scenes, or anything like that. Some sort of in-app interactive tools (like a ?Turn yourself into a companion? photo editor, where you can take your picture and put it next to the Doctor) would also be a great inclusion.


There also was a distinct lack of multimedia in the app. Sure, there are various sound effects when you transition from one screen to another (mostly based on the TARDIS sound effects) but there is no sound library, no video clips, no animations, nothing at all. I certainly understand they can?t include the episodes, and they DO include a video preview of each episode (along with a link to purchase it in iTunes), but it would be really great to have clips of some more memorable scenes, or a library of sound effect or memorable lines (especially if you were then able to use those for ringtones). Likewise, including a little ?extra? with the app would be great ? a behind the scenes video library, maybe some outtakes, or even a library of the ?Doctor Who Confidential? series (although those are available for purchase on iTunes as well). The iPad is a great multimedia tool, and it is almost painful to see an app like this, which cries out for multimedia, not take advantage of it.

But the most glaring omission was the admission that Doctor Who has existed for 40 years before Christopher Eccleston. Where is the gallery and encyclopedia for the 8 Doctor?s that came before? Where are their entries for companions, enemies, and locations? For a true Doctor Who fan, these omissions leave a big hole.

All in all, even with its faults, this is still a very good app. Solid design and interface meet with interesting content, and deliver an enjoyable experience. While it may not be as much fun as watching an episode of Doctor Who, perusing the app is enjoyable in its own right. I wish there were more multimedia options as well as an ability to download images, and I especially wish there was information for Doctor number 1 through 8, but this is a good reference source for the ?modern? era of Doctor Who. At $6.99 for the whole app (as opposed to the previous price of $6.99 for each individual Doctor) this is almost a must purchase for any Doctor Who fan. Four out of five stars.

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that ? opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.

*To all who are awaiting reviews ? I apologize about the lack of reviews recently, but I hope to post a steady stream of app reviews of the next few weeks. If you have contact me regarding an app review, I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Please note that contacting me (even sending a promo code) does not guarantee a review. If you have not heard from me within the next week or so, please send me another PM*

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