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About Time 6: The Unauthorized Guide to…

About Time 6: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who - Seasons 22 to 26 and… (edition 2007)

by Tat Wood

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813221,830 (4.06)None
Title:About Time 6: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who - Seasons 22 to 26 and TV Movie
Authors:Tat Wood
Info:Mad Norwegian Press (2007), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, tv, doctor who, sixth doctor, seventh doctor, eighth doctor, reference, science fiction, analysis, media studies, criticism

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About Time 6: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who: Seasons 22 to 26, the TV Movie by Tat Wood



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The sixth volume of "About Time" is both the best and worst of... times.

Without Lawrence Miles - who departed after five volumes to write increasingly agita-driven blog posts about the series (and Mr. Wood) - Tat Wood is left to handle the bulk of the writing alone, aided by Mad Norwegian's Lars Pearson, and a guest commentary from Rob Shearman. I'm not well-read enough to distinguish between the two authors' styles, but even so, Miles' absence is felt profoundly throughout. I adored volumes 1 - 3, but, although volumes 4 and 5 were still marvelous, they sometimes seemed to tantalise you with the outline of facts ("this scene was changed because Tom Baker objected", for instance) without going into detail. Many of the essays in these volumes also seemed to suffer from brevity, as though raising the question was better than trying to answer it. Wood is, to say the least, less concise. While this raises issues (see below), it allows him to be comprehensive and opinionated, with many of the valuable essays - such as those about the series' fandom, and its history in academic circles - actually providing the same kind of eye-opening material that the Hartnell and Troughton volumes did. As a 'young person' who has come to the series in the last few years, this was invaluable.

On the other hand...

There are some minor issues - many more typos and errors in punctuation - which aren't the author's fault, but should really have been checked. Wood has a tendency to wander off into gobsmackingly long sentences made up entirely of gibberish. I assume these are pop culture references intelligible to British people over 40, but unfortunately for me they were nonsensical! I understand that - for people in Britain - an EastEnders character is someone you've grown up with, so identifying them as such would be as much of a tautology as saying "pop musician Elton John", but I still struggled.

While MOST of the essays are instructive, there are a few which suffer from a slightly ironic dilemma. One of Wood's biggest criticisms of the 1980s era is its reliance on 'continuity': that is, stories that rely on your understanding of the series to have emotional or narrative resonance. I'd never understood this problem: after all, who wants to watch a series where each episode begins from scratch and intentionally doesn't reference anything that has gone before? One of the great joys of the Hartnell era is seeing how both he and his companions develop on their journeys. However, oddly, it was reading this book that made me understand Wood's complaint. Some essays - notably one I was looking forward to: "What would the other Season 23 have been like?" - were all but unintelligible. Now, I guess many people who made it this far in this 1.7 million word book series will be die-hard Who fanatics; me, I'm just some guy who's only watched the televised stories and heard a few audio dramas. As such, when he casually namedrops a Who novel from the 90s, or discusses some authors who were prominent in Who fan circles, it's hard to keep up with the discussion. Too much continuity, not enough explanation.

(One final petty complaint: Wood several times disparages people who look for 'gaps' between episodes, where they can place audio books and novels into the series' continuity. I don't understand at all. A) Where ELSE are they supposed to place them?; and B) I personally hold the idea of the expanded Universe in high regard, at least in theory. Sure, it seems like a lot of questionable decisions were made over the years in this regard, but I'd much rather believe that Tom Baker or Peter Davison spent decades or even centuries travelling the Universe, rather than that they were there for a couple of years before death yet again.)

In closing, though, this is still a worthy successor to the previous five books. For a latecomer like me, these were wonderful companions to have by my side as I braved "Doctor Who" from Hartnell to McGann. (I also appreciate Wood's conclusion that we can accept McGann as the Doctor without accepting the TV movie.) The books have made me grasp the nuances of British culture and the way "Doctor Who" has played into the country's culture over the last 50 years; I came to grasp the distinctions between eras, and why each one is both adored and derided by fans; and picked up some new words and a few dozen reading and viewing recommendations (at least!). And even though I feel the need to argue with Wood and Miles quite often, I'd much rather read a well-informed, opinionated piece that I rabidly disagree with, than the millionth safe discussion of the series which imbues so many similar guidebooks. These are highly recommended - with all the caveats I've laid out in my six reviews - and I have nothing but envy that these two gentlemen produced a series of this depth. Book 7 is announced in the inside cover as "forthcoming". I hope to see it soon.

Now that I've started rewatching the new series in light of this, I'm very much approaching it with new eyes! ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Easily the weakest of the "About Time" series. Left to his own device without former co-author Lawrence Miles, Tat Wood seems to have fallen prey to the infamous disease of not-being-edited. The initial Colin Baker section predominantly reads well, but once we hit the McCoy era Wood begins to waffle on...and on...and on. There is an excruciating amount of detail and commentary in that section of the book that simply doesn't go anywhere or add anything new. In previous volumes, I really felt like I came away with a new understanding of the time period and the way in which the show was produced. Here, I...erm...learned a few things about the strike that affected "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy." That's about it.

Wood's unrelenting hatred for the McGann TV movie is similarly baffling. He discards any attempt at being objective (something the previous books only managed in part, to be fair) and simply goes off the deep end, devoting a very long essay to whether or not McGann can reeeeally be the eighth Doctor, right down to a debate over whether that face drawn in "Human Nature" is reeeeally taken from a TVM publicity photo or not (it is, and a very famous one, too!). Perhaps the nadir of Wood's mania comes when he actually suggests Eric Roberts would've been a better Doctor than McGann. Yeah, we get that you don't like it, mate.

Overall I really felt like Wood's unbridled "opinion column" approach sabotaged the book from being the culmination of a great series. Instead, it's a decent entry, but you really have to wade through some overdone nonsense to get to anything interesting. It's one thing to present a humorous, spiky take on the making of a TV show. It's quite another to rant on and on and on without actually saying anything meaningful at all. ( )
1 vote saroz | Jul 3, 2008 |

As in previous volumes, Wood's sarcastic yet affectionate humour makes it a good read, even though it's the period of the programme's history I probably know least well. There are some brilliantly sardonic one-liners which I was regrettably unable to refrain from reading aloud to anyone who would listen. The explanatory essays are as good as ever. Slightly disappointed with the editing - there seem to be a lot more typoes than usual, and some other structural glitches as well. But any serious fan needs to get this. ( )
  nwhyte | May 4, 2008 |
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Tat Woodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pearson, LarsContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0975944657, Paperback)

About Time vol. 6 covers Seasons 22 to 26 of Doctor Who, focusing on the tenures of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, as well as the TV movie starring Paul McGann in mind-bending detail. In addition to the usual concerns such as the TV show s continuity (alien races, the Doctor s abilities, etc.) and lore (anecdotal, Did You Know?-style material), author Tat Wood will examine each Colin Baker, McCoy and McGann story in the context of the year/historical period it was produced, determining just how topical the stories were. Essays in this volume include: Is Continuity a Pointless Waste of Time?, Why are Elements so Weird in Space?, Why Do Time Lords Meet in Sequence?, Is There a Season 6B?, Did They Think We'd Buy Just Any Old Crap?, What Might the Other Season 23 Have Been Like?, Who Narrates This Programme?, How Warped was the Doctor's Mind?, How 'Good' is the Doctor?, The Valeyard, Er - How?, What's All This Stuff About Anoraks?m What are the Oddest Romances in the Programme's History?, The Semiotic Thickness of What?, When Did Susan Go to School?, What are the Gayest Things in Doctor Who, Did Cartmel Have Any Plan at All?, Could It Be Magic?, Where Does 'Canon' End?, What Were Josiah's Blasphemous Theories?, Are These 'gods' Related?, What About Season 27? and Does Paul McGann Count?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:56 -0400)

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