Friday, 17 June 2011

TARDISbound: Navigating The Universes Of Doctor Who

Written by: Piers D. Britton

Published in: 2011 by I. B. Tauris

In a nutshell: A book compiling several essays (by the same author) displaying Doctor Who’s narratives through a combined tour of television, audio and text.

Review: This book has both its highs and lows, although sadly it’s the lows I shall be focusing on mainly here as they over compass the good times. Britton is clearly a fan of the show (plus the associated media) but somehow manages to get so many facts wrong (especially dates). At one point he refers to ‘Remembrance Of The Daleks’ as being screened in 1989 before correcting himself on the very next page, citing the episode again, this time as the correct 1988. In his introduction he sees fit to inform the reader how the ‘wilderness years’ between the shows cancellation in 1989 and the revival in 2005 (barring the 1996 Paul McGann movie) is often wrongly referred to as a hiatus as it was never a hiatus. But then once you get a little further into the book, he calls this gap an hiatus himself! Other poor moments rise through trivial matters (although important to fans!) like ‘The War Games’ appearing “four years” into the shows history when we all know it was screened in 1969, with the show beginning in ’63.

Britton also tries to outlay in his introduction how this book is written by a fan and isn’t heavy it’s referencing although there is over 250 references in a 220 page book. He can get very heavy on things at times such as ethical matters and aesthetic matters although once he gets past all this, there are some really good points. There’s a great case study near the back of the book on 2010’s ‘The Beast Below’ as well as a glance at 2006’s ‘The Runaway Bride’ (whilst he’s meant to be case-studying something else) although there isn’t enough really good focus points like this. Don’t get me wrong, he certainly has his good points and raises some great debate topics, but there isn’t need for some of the comments he makes, such as ‘Last Of The Time Lords’ (2007) being a homosexual match between the Doctor and Master, going as far as informing us every time the Master uses his laser screwdriver on the Doctor its meant to be metaphorical for having sex with him. Who really wanted that image every time they see John Simm and David Tennant on their TV screen?

Where Britton really does excel his when he mentions the audio and PDA/EDA (Past/Eighth Doctor Adventures) as they are more niche and not so many people have written critical essays looking at them. We all know about the television show, so it’s nice to see these in-depth looks, although he undertakes far too much for one small book. The audios and text don’t get enough recognition (certainly not as much as he claims on the back cover) and even then he usually sticks to the same few and spoils quite a few endings.

In the final chapters he decides to argue in twenty pages ‘Is Doctor Who good?’ and ‘What good is Doctor Who?’ both of which I don’t really care about as I know my own opinion and, secondly, how can you decide that based on two or three peoples critical approach and by summing up a fifty year old show in three categories?

Personally I wouldn’t read this book again, but I think it’s good to read once if (like me) you don’t have a huge knowledge of the 1990s novels or the early Big Finish audios, but otherwise there isn’t a lot of detail that you won’t already know. Plus you wouldn’t have to go through “I’ll discuss (A, B and C) in my next chapter” mixed with “I discussed (X, Y and Z) in chapter one, a technique that really gets old before you’ve made your way into the first essay!

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