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About Time 7: Doctor Who Seasons 1-2 2005-2006, by Tat Wood with Dorothy Ail

October 24th, 2013 (01:53 am)

I was sent a review copy of this in pdf form some time ago, and feel conscious that I have not given it its due now that the book has been on sale for nearly two months. In its seventh volume, the first to deal with the twenty-first century revival of Doctor Who, About Time still fails to deliver on its mission statement. It's too badly referenced, uneven in approach and simply inaccurate to be "the most comprehensive, wide-ranging and at times almost unnervingly detailed handbook to Doctor Who that you might ever conceivably need". It's still phenomenally entertaining as an entry to the plains of culture over which Tat Wood has grazed and which shape his profoundly personal and imaginative understanding of Doctor Who's impact on British culture. For every dubious statement about bendibusses on London bus routes, Queen Victoria's speech patterns, misspellings of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet or the workings of S4C, there are truths about the way satellite television conquered the council estates before marching on the middle classes (a reality which has been missed by some prominent mainstream social commentators) and the emergence of high-profile media figures as Doctor Who fans and how it rankled with those of us who felt we had openly kept the flame burning during the wilderness years. The similarities between the scheduling environment into which Doctor Who was launched in 1963 and that of 2005 are explored in such a way to give those who insist the 2005 series can't be considered the same programme pause for thought.

In the decade and more in which About Time has been unfolding, the expectations of the Doctor Who factual book audience have changed, and About Time 7 suffers as a result from the absence of footnoted or endnoted references. Expansion of the About Time books into the apparatus-laden, thoroughly factchecked works they could be would be a challenging task and produce much heavier tomes, and more of them. However, About Time 7 remains an intelligent read, a conversation with people able to pull in all manner of references to different areas of human activity in an attempt to show how they are reflected in the fictions of the Doctor's world and the facts of production behind them. It's by no means a last word, despite its assertions, but should be proud instead that it is an engagement with its readers - daring them, perhaps, to recognise the in-jokes at the expense of strands of fannish commentary which litter the text like icebergs which refuse to melt - and implicitly a work in progress.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2013/10/24/about-time-7.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: October 24th, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)

I didn't realize this was out already! I've rather drifted from fandom in the last few years. I will have to wait a bit longer for it (lack of money and time, as usual). As you say, Wood lacks depth and accuracy, but he does have tremendous breadth and an endearing writing style - one might say dangerously so, as sometimes his jokes blind this reader to the unfounded (or just plain wrong) nature of his assertions. It's a pity he hasn't done something in recognition of all the complaints about errors, though.

Edited at 2013-10-24 02:32 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 24th, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)

I know that his publisher is working on the latter point.