BooksDoctor Who

Doctor Who In Time And Space edited by Gillian I. Leitch (book review).

I’m not too sure about the choice of cover for this book, ‘Doctor Who In Time And Space’, using Christopher Eccleston than one of the other Doctor regenerations which would have better selling power, but then this is an American book. Well, in name only. There are sixteen chapters and some of them are written by British writers, which is just as well as the opening chapters examine ‘Doctor Who’ fandom which started over here before immigrating to the USA. Oddly, all the writers involved have degrees and could be perceived by many as the only means to be involved in a book such as this. Surely there must be some known writers in Whodom without degrees who are also good writers and could be called upon to express their views or these books are going to turn into all things academia?


Having said that, just in case you’re wondering what this book is centring on, the sub-title, ‘Essays On Themes, Characters, History And Fandom, 1963-2012’, should give it away as to how much they are covering. Next to ‘Star Trek’, the ‘Doctor Who’ fandom is also one of the longest, simply because at fifty years, it has had longer to be set up, even if it didn’t start building steam and unity until the 70s. Fans of other shows should study here to see how they can extend their own fandoms before fans drop off or find other interests. Probably the most significant note is that paper fanzines dying off because the Internet can cut off the horrendous expensive of printing but a side-effect of this is too many people expressing opinions and a reduction of centralising of contact points which spreads the interest. From my perspective, there are good and bad points of this as it affects all other fandoms as well and, in some instances, can remove certain strangleholds. You can get excesses of anything in any subject matter.

A lot of the things in this book are those that I was either aware of or just had the gaps in my knowledge that needed to  be filled in. In that respect, the history end is explained sufficiently to enable you to understand it better but not enough opinion for you to voice disagreement.

Oddly, I did find it rather amusing in chapter four as J.M. Frey makes her case for why doesn’t the Doctor visit Canada as he does with the States in chapter four in recent seasons. Although Frey gives a good argument, she’s also probably too close to the problem, pointing out the number of exports in terms of famous actors who hailed from Canada. In many respects, Canada on the world front does come over as a bit of a backwater. This isn’t said out of any disrespect but see how many famous landmarks you can identify as being Canadian compared to the USA? I remember the tower that was used in ‘Dark Angel’ but without looking it up, I’d be stuck to name it. Saying that, I’m certainly familiar with Canada more as a place to film as being better looking like the USA than the USA.

One thing I do outright disagree with is Kieran Tranter in chapter five describing the Doctor and his TARDIS as being a cyborg when it is actually a symbiotic relationship. The Doctor would have to contain mechanical parts in his body to be a cyborg.

Andrew Chrome in chapter 11 points out many of the label associations with the Doctor but misses out one from the Tennant tenure itself with the Flying Dutchman, always turning up where there is trouble.

In chapter 14, Antoinette F. Winstead only uses the recent female companions as examples of wanting to do something about changing their mundane lives when they travel with the Doctor. I do think she missed out on an important thing with all of them over the decades is that the first time they step into the TARDIS it is because of innate curiosity, followed by surprise to discover its bigger on the inside before a spot of time-travelling. Mind you, the Doctor asking a new companion where they would like to go is kind of limiting their imagination to just Earth history than the cosmos.

As to whether the companions are descendants of Ellen Ripley from the ‘Alien’ films in being more in the protagonist mode, that was happening before her by Sarah Jane Smith by a couple years. The requisite of a woman screaming when seeing a monster isn’t just a ‘Doctor Who’ thing as it happens in other series and films long before that and it was often the men who screamed as well and was an accepted trope for a long time. As many of the writers in this book point out, the companion is the representation of us in these bizarre situations. How many of you wouldn’t be jumping out of their skin by seeing a menacing alien? Whether it is because we think more now and been indoctrinated by visual SF to be less frightened and that is reflected in these characters only you can decide.

It’s rather weird reading a book that I don’t really have too many disagreements with, even if I have to remind myself that none of the writers were old enough to have seen the series on TV back in 1963 like I was. Mind you, looking at the footnote references after each chapter, thankfully they are only mostly source reference so can be ignored, they also rely a lot on research. Whether then they rely on consensus or their own opinions, is something for you to ponder on. A useful tome to add to your collection.

GF Willmetts

(pub: McFarland. 224 page indexed medium softcover. Price: £31.95 (UK), $ (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-4355-0)
check out websites: www.mcfarlandpub.com and www.eurospanbookstore.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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