January 18th, 2011


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January Books 11) AHistory: An Unauthorized History of the Doctor Who Universe, by Lance Parkin

This is a truly fantastic effort to locate every single Doctor Who story (shown/published/released up to January 2008) on the historical timeline, from before the Big Bang to the very End of Time. Although the cover claims it is the second edition, Parkin states that it is actually the fourth, and I hope it won't be the last; quite apart from the TV episodes of Who, Sarah Jane and Torchwood (and K9?) shown since then, perhaps he might also go back and think of including the various short story collections and annuals and the Big Finish spinoff audios and books (the Dalek comics from TV21 magazine are already in).

Having said that, there are already "almost 800" stories covered here in more than 800 pages, with around 4000 meticulous footnotes and various slightly longer essays. I now understand the UNIT dating controversy much better than I did before. I had not realised that the evidence for Bernice Summerfield's birthday is equally confusing. Parkin also goes to great lengths to demonstrate that several Second Doctor stories which I had mentally placed much later are probably set in the 21st century, and raises the interesting question of how the Cybermen in Earthshock could have obtained footage from Revenge of the Cybermen which is clearly set centuries later. There are other delightful details as well - I now know when the Doctor first met Winston Churchill (1899, in the Sixth Doctor novel Players) and have several more Shakespeare appearances to add to my list.

I picked up on just a couple of slips - an apostrophe has mysteriously infiltrated early mentions of the Scots Guards, and Susan reminisces about her home planet in The Sensorites, not Marco Polo. But in general I loved it. In particular, I think the book could be a useful gateway drug for fans of the TV series who are bewildered by the various series of Who books and audios, and are looking for guidance on where to start.