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.
One of my rare experiments in Doctor Who fan fiction has now been republished at AO3. So back to 2008 and...

Rose Cottage
Another video from the 2009 David Tennant Doctor Who wrap party. Mr Barrowman goes over all Victoria Wood:

Saw this on Facebook and thought that it had to be shared. Proclaiming the end of David Tennant's period in Doctor Who:

The Unsilent Library, edited by Simon Bradshaw, Antony Keen and Graham Sleight (SFF Foundation' £10) is dangerous bedtime reading. Anyone prone to academic treatment of Doctor Who will probably enjoy it, but be prepared to be kept awake by new ideas. This particularly goes for technocratic humanists brought up by the 'old series' in the 1970s. Going to Una McCormack's essay on Gridlock (the episode which reconciled me to the tenth Doctor), we are bid to read Foucault, and probably advisedly given how my own quasi-instinctive understanding of society would probably be dismissed as 'carceral' by Foucauldians. Watch out for much chewing over the role of quasi-Messianic Time Lords in a non-metaphysical universe. This is a book on Doctor Who, as showrun by Russell T Davies, to develop opinions and change minds. It's tremendous that the series can inspire books like this; there's a thriving school of acafandom now concerned with Doctor Who, and long may this continue to be the case.
Colin Brockhurst's mock-up Radio Times cover, imagining Planet of the Dead as a Hartnell story, has been mistaken for a real cover by the staff of The Guardian online:


ETA: The staff took the page down rather quickly; but I've added a link to a screengrab over at [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight.
I spent this afternoon at Faringdon Arts Festival, a thoroughly community-based event in Faringdon in south-west Oxfordshire (or north-west Berkshire if you abhor the 1974 boundary changes) with which renaissance man of writing Paul Cornell is involved. With live music (all kinds, very very good) playing through from the Market Place, the Breakfast Room in the Old Crown played host not only to Mr Cornell but to his fellow contributor to the Cardiff fantasty factory, Phil Ford, chief writer for The Sarah Jane Adventures. For two hours audiences were treated to live commentaries from their authors on first Phil's SJA story The Last Sontaran, and then Paul's The Family of Blood.

[personal profile] tree_and_leaf has given a great account of what transpired already on her journal. My main impression was of the children - having been a fan through the long wilderness years when Doctor Who and all concerned with it existed in a parallel universe inhabited by the definitely late teenage-plus, rainwear elbowing for space alongside battered leather jackets and perhaps too-crushed velvet. Now, the kids are most definitely in town, and asking the right questions for the most part, though one eight-year-old clearly already thought he should be running the show... Phil clearly enjoyed talking about his inspiration though most of his audience were too young to have seen Predator, which inspired his image of the invisible Sontaran; he cheerfully admitted to the sleight-of-hand by which the episode forced the pace of chase sequences to avoid resolving the question why Kaagh didn't just blast the SJA kids down. He gave a good answer to one child's question: "Apart from the news [Phil having admitted to finding inspiration in a news story about a satellite falling to earth], where do you get your ideas?" urging them to read and watch as much as they could. One boy was adamant that K9 was dead in Doctor Who, having no memory of the replacement K9 left behind with Sarah at the end of School Reunion, and thought that SJA was guilty of a continuity error in still having K9 there, if I understood him correctly. When Phil explained that this was not so, the boy exclaimed "So he is in Cardiff!" which was not really what viewers are meant to think given the occasional references to Sarah living in Ealing.

Paul had to get through a much more layered episode than Phil, Doctor Who's target audience being much broader than SJA's and having to include material that different sections of the family audience could relate to. Nonetheless the children were rapt, and the raising of several hands during the episode, despite Paul's insistence that he would not answer questions until the end, was probably a tribute to Paul's not childlike, but child-familiar obsession with the subject. I was not surprised to learn that the reason 'He who would valiant be' became the signature hymn of Human Nature/The Family of Blood was because it contained the line 'Follow the Master'; I'd forgotten that the episode ends on a medium close-up of the fobwatch, in the centre of the picture, in the elderly Tim's hand; and there was much amused speculation on how Professor Yana could have released the Master's essence from a cricket ball, if that had remained the vehicle for the Doctor's Time Lord nature while part of him was being John Smith.

All in all, a good idea - it was good to take this kind of retrospective out of venues like BAFTA and the BFI and place it among the folk culture where it really belongs.

Some pictures behind a cut )
City of Death II )

ETA: ...but does it deserve the accolade? )


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