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9) Inside the Tardis: The Worlds of Doctor Who, by James Chapman
10) Doctor Who, by Kim Newman

Two books which both claim to go beyond the usual cataloguing of stories and look at the cultural and literary context of Doctor Who. Both take us up to the end of 2005 (Chapman includes "The Christmas Invasion", Newman does not) but start very vigorously from the very beginning in 1963. Both authors declare early on that they are fans and tell us which is the first story they remember watching ("The Dalek Invasion of Earth" for Newman, "The Time Warrior" for Chapman who must obviously therefore be nearer my age).

Newman's book is more gossipy and opinionated (ianmcdonald, for instance, gets an entire footnote to himself, in a comment about a completely different programme) and has lots and lots of illustrations, no doubt contributing to the £12.99 price tag for a paperback with lots of white space on its 118 pages. Newman holds that the series entered terminal decline with the arrival of K9 and so devotes much more time to the first half of the original run. He does succeed rather better than Chapman in linking what was going on in Doctor Who to what else was going on in televised sf at the time, but basically this is a rather thin effort.

Chapman's book is the same price, for 200 dense pages of text and numerous appendices and other apparatus. I thought it was much the better of the two. He goes through each Doctor and each season in chronological order, with reference to the BBC's archives of internal correspondence (where they are available), pointing out the show's connections with other TV drama and with the written sf of the day. He has evoked in me more enthusiasm for the middle Pertwee seasons than I thought possible (though I must finish watching "Inferno" first), and also makes me want to try both "The Celestial Toymaker" and "The Mind Robber".

However I would have liked more. In the front matter, Chapman asks, "The Doctor may have conquered Daleks, Cybermen and Ice Warriors, but would he survive an encounter with Foucault, Derrida or Deleuze?" We don't really find out the answer to that very interesting question. I was also disappointed that there is no decent review of the existing literature on Doctor Who; there's a bibliography, but this is just a listing with no guidance as to what is worth reading (Chapman makes more effort to describe the much more ephemeral websites). Perhaps there is nothing else at all, other than Tulloch and Alvarado's The Unfolding Text? But I find that difficult to believe. Also there were some irritating proofing errors - "reign" instead of "rein" a couple of times, references to "Ursula Le Guinn" and the surprising news that Alan Moore wrote The Dark Night Returns.

Anyway, I'l look out for more along these lines; recommendations very welcome.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 12th, 2006 02:13 pm (UTC)
and also makes me want to try both "The Celestial Yoymaker" and "The Mind Robber".

The Mind Robber is one of the all-time greats IMHO.
Aug. 12th, 2006 08:49 pm (UTC)
You must tell me what Champan says about certain key stories I'm interested in ("The Romans" for one).
Aug. 13th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC)
He has quite a long section about it on page 36, concluding, "Here the viewer's pleasure arises from the script's knowing and playful deconstruction of the classics."
Aug. 13th, 2006 11:03 am (UTC)
This is clearly a book I will have to read ...
Aug. 13th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
I've not seen the Chapman but will keep an eye out for it. I enjoyed reading the Newman at the time, but ultimately found it frustrating - although I suspect this is down to the format rather than the author. It is part of the BFI TV classics series which mirrors the old film classics series. Each volume is of a specific length and is very much an authored piece of work (eg Rushdie on The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful critique and the volumes by AL Kennedy on COlonel Blimp and David Thomson on The Big Sleep and viewed from that perspective it works fairly well, although condensing a two hour film to the format is fine, condensing 42 years of Doctor Who (at the time) was a more difficult task.

The book has a few problems. I picked up a number of errors (eg The Brigadier was never a Major on-screen despite Newman's assertion at one point) and as I'm at the lower end of expertise (outwith the general orbit of someone like Andrew Pixley) suspect there will be more than I noticed; and the footnoting is off at one point. I know some thought it concentrated too much on the Hartnell era (although when the firt three years experiment with so many different styles it is difficult not to compare later eras with that).

I have dipped into it at various points as it makes some great points about various matters (including canon where it draws analogy with Holmes).

You asked for recommendations of other books on the show. I'd really recommend the About Time series by lawrence Miles and Tat Wood. Miles is one of the better novelists produced in the EDAs in particular (creating the wonderful Faction Paradox - time travelling voodoo terrorists). They are published bY Mad Norwegian Press (who also publish the Faction Paradox spin off books) http://www.madnorwegian.com/ - although the About Time series is available via Amazon. It's programme guide, critique, places Doctor Who in a cultural context and contains a collection of articles on various issues (where does the Doctor get his driving licence and other burning topics). It's in six volumes (not all yet published). It's worth getting hold of one as you'd know within pages whether the style appealed or not.
Aug. 13th, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot. The Mind Robber is great. It influenced two novels in the Virgin NAs by Steve Lyons (Head Games and Conundum) and lies in part behind Managra. The scriptwriter was Peter Ling, a principal scriptwriter on the original Crossroads. I'd recommend watching it an episode at a time rather than in a block. I think some of the 60s shows benefit from a slight gap between episodes.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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