Review: About Time – The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, Volume 7 / Author: Tat Wood / Publisher: Mad Norwegian Press / Release Date: 10th September
In 2005, Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood began a massive project, a reference guide that would cover the entirety of televised Doctor Who in great depth. Six volumes later, with everything from Hartnell to McGann explored, About Time was complete – except Doctor Who had come back on telly, so it was immediately incomplete again.
After a much-deserved rest, the series is back. Wood is the main writer of this latest volume, which covers 2005 to 2006 – the Christopher Eccleston year and David Tennant’s first series. This is a shorter time period than each earlier volume covered, allowing the book to be remarkably comprehensive. After all, there’s a lot to be discussed regarding Russell T. Davies’ resurrection of the show.
Really, there’s a lot of information in here and reading it will quite comfortably fill up the time from now until the fiftieth anniversary finally comes. Every story, even Children in Need’s eight-minute Pudsey Cutaway, gets a good chunk of pages. For each episode, there’s a well-argued critique. There’s ‘The Bigger Picture’, looking at surrounding political issues. There are impressive continuity notes, profiling each character and monster’s part in the story (and going as far as to speculate on Raxacoricofallopatorian blood pressure). There are behind-the-scenes facts (including at least one not already publicly known per episode), and there are ‘Things That Don’t Make Sense’, which is always a popular subject (though I’m not a fan – knowing all the plot holes ruins the fun).
In addition to all of this, most episodes are accompanied by an essay which takes something from the episode as a starting point and extrapolates this into a very interesting exploration of some aspect of Whodom. For example, The Girl in the Fireplace is accompanied by ‘Is Arthur the horse a companion?’, which takes the episode’s equine guest star and spins off into an exploration of what it actually takes to be classed as the Doctor’s fellow traveller. Also covered are ‘Did Eccleston fall or was he pushed?’, ‘How many Cyber-races are there?’, and ‘Was series 2 meant to be like this?’, among much more.
It really is a diverse read, but with over 460 pages of deep and complex analysis, with constant linking of classic and new stories, it may be too complex a read for casual Whovians. What really helps, though, is the sense of humour and lightness of touch with which Wood writes. He’s a talented writer – his jokes elicit laughs and his passion for Who really shines through.
In a world with more Doctor Who guidebooks than actual episodes (probably), About Time won’t appeal to everybody, but it’s a remarkably intelligent and ambitious project, and if you know your Who, you’ll love it.