About Time: The Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who: 2005-2006 Series 1 & 2 by Tat Wood (book review).

When I first saw the listing for this book crop-up I was delighted. I’d devoured the first six volumes of Tat Wood’s ambitious ‘Unauthorised’ Guide To ‘Doctor Who’. so I was eager to see what would come next.

I’m pleased to say that the latest release, ‘About Time’, devoted to the return of the show in 2005 and focusing on Eccleston’s only season and Tennant’s first (‘Rose’ to ‘Doomsday’) is every bit as witty and interesting as the previous volumes. With the help of Dorothy Ail, Wood has once again placed each individual Doctor Who story inside its own cultural context. This is vital for understanding why the show is the way it is. Along the way, we pick up notes on the characters as well as learning behind-the-scenes production information.


Wood’s approach allows us to not only see the ‘why’ behind stories, but give us a balanced critique for each adventure that judges individual stories on their merits. As such, it’s great to see that so many positive things said about the new series, with triumphs like ‘Dalek’ being rightly celebrated. It’s also useful to see the criticism applied thoughtfully, too, such as when stories have been cobbled together to get across a series of images rather than a coherent plot or how Mark Gatiss’ highly derivative writing often fails to take on-board a subtext or two.

The book isn’t perfect. In some cases, there still isn’t quite enough time passed between production/transmission and publication to get all the facts. For example, the essay on how ‘Doctor Who’ returned could have done with more material being available from sources such as the recent (ie in the last two months) articles in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ or the feature on ‘The Green Death’ special edition DVD. Another minor issue are some of the irritating errors. For example, the geriatric spy network from ‘The End Of Time’ is referred to as the ‘Silver Cloud’ in the book, whereas the term used on screen was the ‘Silver Cloak’. Perhaps worse is the assertion that ‘Doctor Who’ was so popular by the transmission of ‘Doomsday’ in 2006, that people were talking about Rose’s departure just as much as England reaching the Semi-Final of the World Cup at that time, too. The problem is England only reached the Quarter Finals of the competition that year and were knocked out by Portugal some ten minutes before ‘Army Of Ghosts’ was broadcast. I know this because we ran from the pub to home to watch ‘Army Of Ghosts’ and I reflected with my friend, Steve, how nice it was for the BBC to bring the Daleks back to cheer the whole nation up after England crashed and burned.

Don’t let the errors put you off, though, because, on the whole, this is a thoroughly remarkable and entertaining read and one of the first valuable critiques of the RTD years to be available. Be sure to get it, as soon as you’re done, you’ll want volume 8.

John Rivers

October 2013

(pub: Mad Norwegian Press. 463 page enlarged paperback. Price: $34.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-93523415-9)

check out website: www.madnorwegian.com

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