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About Time 7: The Unauthorized Guide to…

About Time 7: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, 2005-2006; Series 1 &… (edition 2013)

by Tat Wood, Dorothy Ail

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Title:About Time 7: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, 2005-2006; Series 1 & 2
Authors:Tat Wood
Other authors:Dorothy Ail
Info:Mad Norwegian Press (2013), Paperback, 463 pages
Collections:Your library

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About Time 7: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who: Series 1 & 2 by Tat Wood



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My first thoughts on reading the wonderfully dense "About Time 7":

* How brilliant must (the admittedly brilliant) Tat Wood think himself if he needs to provide dozens of witty references that require a footnote for the reader to understand?
* Why did the writers commit to including the foreign titles of every episode, when they're largely just the same phrase translated and, when they're not, we don't get English re-translations to explain? (Wouldn't it just have been simpler to point out the rare occasions when a title translation has a difference of any import?)
* For a book devoted to a TV series with such admirable educational aims (at least for the first half of its life), is it churlish to chortle at the moments where the author's verbosity approaches silliness, such as the line - written, it seems, in all seriousness - "since 2005, phylogeny has recapitulated ontogeny"?
* Why does the author seem to think that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is the ultimate turning point in American serialised television, and can he provide proof that he has ever seen any other programme from the good ol' USA? (At first, it just seems like he is using this show as a synecdoche for "all 21st century American programming" but by the sixth time he has used "Buffy" plotpoints as comparisons, you begin to wonder if there's a certain irony in the author of an ultimate British TV guidebook requiring someone to write him an ultimate American TV one...)
* The author is incredibly vociferous (if right) about his hatred for Ricky Gervais, but his repeated intolerance for the film "Marie Antoinette" certainly explains a great deal about his approach to "Doctor Who", don't it?
* Has the word "supine" been used more often in any single book other than this?

All of which is a preface to saying that this series is one of my favourite non-fiction works, and I'm so glad to have the lovably pompous (but not in a Lawrence Miles kinda way) Tat Wood back again for the first of at least three volumes covering the New Era of "Doctor Who". The first six volumes of "About Time" covered all of the series from 1963 to 1999, examining in painstaking detail the continuity, flaws, stylistic nuances, political and social origins, and influences of every single episode. The facts co-exist with brilliant and/or scathing reviews, and the true reverence of lifelong fans. Wood who co-wrote the majority of the series with Lawrence Miles but took carriage single-handedly after the notoriously moody Miles cut ties after five volumes.

Those works were so important to me because of how much I discovered about the '60s, '70s, and '80s (before my time, you know). An original viewer, watching the series from a British middle-class family at 6PM on a Saturday night in 1973 undoubtedly took home countless references and implications unknown to me, recognised actors from their lifelong careers on the stage and screen of that island nation, and witnessed that single episode as part of a much larger narrative formed by what was on TV that night, that week, and that year. Placing the episodes of this 50-year-old series in that context is a smashing feat. Now that we're examining episodes I watched within a year of broadcast, it's intriguing to see how much I still missed, but also to get a greater sense of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the series.

If you liked the first six volumes, you'll enjoy "About Time 7" a great deal. It does all that you asked, and more. We have a lot more accessible information about the making of these episodes, with Wood and contributor Dorothy Ail dig into, although at the same time we have neither the distance from them to allow for truthful (near-hostile) DVD extras like you can expect from Janet Fielding or Lalla Ward, nor enough space to really see how the series has evolved from this. Still, Wood makes the most of it and this quickly became one of my favourite volumes. When you combine "Torchwood", "The Sarah Jane Adventures", and the timey-wimey nature of the Tenth and Eleventh doctors, there's plenty of meat for the essays which accompany every story. (Here, the essays include: "Gay Agenda? What Gay Agenda?", "Does Being Made in Wales Matter?", "Are We Touring Theme-Park History?", "Stunt Casting: What Are the Dos and Don'ts?", and the all-important "How Long is Harriet in No. 10?"

Of course, trying to provide a guide-book for a show like this is tough when you're an uber-fan, and Wood and Miles' own opinions came through resoundingly clear in Volumes 4 - 6. Here, thankfully, that's pulled back a bit. Don't get me wrong, I want to know honest critiques, and to get inside the mind of fandom, but I also want each episode to stand on its own merits. It's clear that Wood has issues with the Davies era (and I share many of them) concerned about the showrunner's "Fear of a Zog Planet", about stunt-casting and repetitiveness, about the need for the extra-canonical production line possibly overtaking continuity, logic, and high-quality output on the main programme, about the show's increasing use of near-magic, the music (natch) and, presumably, much else. Rather than just ranting (as was sometimes the case in Volume 6), Wood takes the approach of the intelligent biographer (for the most part): simply present the facts, and let the facts do the talking for you.

As with every volume in this series, no-one will agree with everything, and that's part of the fun, if you ask me. On the quality of this, I'm excited to rewatch these episodes and rediscover their depth (or lack thereof) all over again. And I cannot wait for the much-anticipated Volumes 8 and 9. (Many of the essay titles and subjects are given away in this volume, and they look to be a treat.) Soon, please, Mad Norwegian? ( )
  therebelprince | Aug 4, 2019 |

As I had hoped, this is an in depth and critical look at the first two years of New Who, the time of Rose Tyler as a regular companion. It's the seventh volume of the superlative About Time series, and it's difficult to imagine anyone producing a better survey of the period. (Phil Sandifer's book on this, when it comes out, will also be on the must-have shelf, but he is pursuing a different intellectual project and anyway his chapters are usually shorter.)

For each episode, as before, there are substantial sections on continuity (fitting in what we are told into what we know from other Who stories and 'real' history), analysis and the production process. This last is the biggest improvement from previous volumes; About Time 7 has practically a day-by-day breakdown of production (Eccleston's first scene, filmed on 18 July 2004, was chasing the pig down the corridor in Aliens of London; his last was on 5 March 2005, as he steps into the TARDIS in The Parting of the Ways). The sections on guest stars are consistently more informative than in previous volumes as well, probably because there are a lot more of them. The sections on popular culture sources for the stories remain as interesting as ever.

Wood is consistently upbeat about the lead actors, particularly about Billie Piper, who of course was known mainly as a teen pop singer before 2005. His snark, however, is fully unleashed for the plotting and sometimes the directing of individual episodes - the "Things That Don't Make Sense" section, which has always been an attractive feature of the AboutTime series, reaches new lengths and depths here. As he points out, although Series Two was a huge hit at the time, there's an awful lot of plot nonsense in it, and the real difference is that the series had a bigger budget than it had ever had or would ever have again.

This volume doesn't have the strongest accompanying essays of the series (for those, you want the second edition of Volume 3), but they are still satisfactory enough. Probably the two most interesting are "Was Series Two Meant To Be Like This?", which speculates about original plans for the 2006 episodes, including Stephen Fry's unmade story, and "Did He Fall Or Was He Pushed?", looking at the various accounts given of Eccleston's departure and tryng to find the overall picture - the evidence pointing to his not having firmly signed on for more than a year in the first place, and then a series of circumstances and incidents which all pushed against renewal of his contract.

Though this is Volume 7 of the ongoing About Time series of books about Doctor Who, those who started with New Who can jump in here. It is strongly hinted that Volume 8, which will cover the rest of the Tennant era, as well as Torchwood and Sarah Jane, is already written - at the rate this volume goes, about 16 pages for each episode, I suspect that may appear in two pieces - and that a projected Volume 9 will cover the Matt Smith era. Anyway, it's well worth getting, not just for Who fans but generally for fans of 21st century sf television.

Standar formatting gripe - 90 endnotes? Seriously? Why can't we have footnotes, which actually put the interesting nuggets next to the text they illuminate? ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Jan 25, 2014 |
Umm... wow. I get the distinct impression that the author *really* hates:

1) The new series.

2) Anything having to do with Wales.

Simply because it's WHO-related, parts of the book were modestly interesting, although it rambles around like nobody's business and often leaves you with the feeling of, "Hunh? What did he just say?" I mean, really: five-plus pages outlining seven theories why Christopher Eccleston left after one season? Come on. Is the author getting paid by the word? As a reasonably competent writer, I would die of embarrassment to have my name appended to this lengthy mishmash.

There is, of course, the possibility that I misunderstood the author completely and that he is neither a NuWHO hater nor a Cymruphobe; but, if so, it's damn hard to tell. I'm giving this book a generous two stars because I have more than four decades of WHO-watching experience behind me, and I will read just about anything related to Classic or NuWHO. But frankly, I'm a little sorry I bothered with this. ( )
  soror_peregrina | Oct 14, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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Wood, Tatmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ail, DorothyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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About Time vol. 7 continues an examination of the real-world social-political context in which each Doctor Who story was made, this time focusing on Series 1 and 2 of the revamped series (2005 to 2006) starring Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Essays in this volume include: Why Now? Why Wales?; RT Phone Home?; Is the New Series More Xenophobic?; Why is Trinity Wells on Jackie's Telly?; He Remembers This How?; What's Happened to the Daleks?; Why Doesn't Anyone Read Any More?; Reapers - Err, What?; What's So Great About the 51st Century?; Gay Agenda? What Gay Agenda?; Does Being Made in Wales Matter?; Did He Fall or Was He Pushed?; Bad Wolf - What, How and Why?: What's a 'Story' Now?; How Long is Harriet in No. 10?; Has All the Puff 'Totally' Changed Things?; Stunt Casting: What Are the Dos and the Dont's?; The Great Powell Estate Debate; Is Arthur the Horse a Companion?; Are Credited Authors Just Hired Hands?; How Many Cyber-Races Are There?; and more.

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