Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

January Books 10) TARDIS Eruditorum, volume 2: Patrick Troughton, by Phil Sandifer

The Space Pirates is missing. But in a way, it has to be. These gaps are as much a part of what Doctor Who is as the TARDIS or the Daleks - something that is not just a DVD set for obsessive 21st century fans, but that has been a living, breathing part of every year since 1963. Without stories like The Space Pirates that flicker on in an imagined 1969 we can never reach, a vital part of the show's magic would be lost.
I occasionally go and dip into Phil Sandifer's excellent blog, but have not read as much of it as I would like to. I find the individual essays fascinating, but in the whole just a little too long for my preferred reading time; and more worryingly, they tend to leave me simultaneously wanting to read more and wishing there was better internal navigation to the blog than simply following Sandifer's stream of consciousness (even though that is largely aligned with the broadcast order of the series, subject to diversions).

These problems are largely resolved by packaging the posts in book form, so that you can leaf back and forth at will, making annotations if you feel like it, but also with all the advantages of traditional dead tree reading rather than squinting at the screen. It is also nicely packaged, with a lovely mosaic cover picture of Patrick Troughton playing the recorder. And the content is of course still excellent.

The core of the book is the series of essays on each of the 21 Second Doctor TV stories (with extras at the end including The Two Doctors and also The Massacre, left out of Volume One). These add to the standard vade mecum approach some hard data on what was in the charts and in the news at the time each story was originally broadcast, and also Sandifer's own personal opinions, particularly where he diverges from fandom. I often found myself wishing I could have expressed my own views as eloquently where we agree, for instance on why The Power of the Daleks is a better story than Evil of the Daleks, or why The Dominators is so very bad. But I also found our points of divergence interesting - why The Enemy of the World is a classic, or why it may not be such a bad thing that The Space Pirates is lost, both perhaps cases where I would probably have argued the opposite but can now see Sandifer's point.

The story-by-story write-ups are leavened with another dozen or so essays roughly equally divided between other Whovian topics (spinoff literature, UNIT dating, racism) and other media of the same era (Cathy Come Home, The Prisoner, the moon landings). I found the latter on the whole more interesting than the former, since in general I knew much less about the topics, though I agree with Sandifer's disgust at The Prison in Space and Big Finish's reconstruction of it. Sandifer's style is engaging, and for someone who has lived mostly in the USA and was born after all of these stories were broadcast, he has done a remarkable job of contextualising these stories. Now I must go and get the first volume.

Incidentally Sandifer lives in Newtown, Connecticut, and wrote this in December last year.
Tags: bookblog 2013, doctor who, doctor who: 02, doctor who: reference, writer: philip sandifer

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