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About Time 4: The Unauthorized Guide to…

About Time 4: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who - 1975-1979 Seasons 12… (edition 2004)

by Lawrence Miles

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946185,294 (4.26)1
Title:About Time 4: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who - 1975-1979 Seasons 12 to17
Authors:Lawrence Miles
Info:Mad Norwegian Press (2004), Paperback, 327 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, reference, criticism, analysis, science fiction, tv, doctor who, fourth doctor

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About Time 4: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who: Seasons 12 to 17 by Lawrence Miles



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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
It seems I'm not alone in thinking that this book doesn't quite live up to the previous three volumes in the series. (Although the third volume has been revised and updated since the others were published, so that would help explain its thoroughness.)

There IS still a lot to like: the mechanics and entire world of each story are relentlessly chronicled and picked apart. Miles and Wood's "Things that Don't Make Sense" section is always a crack-up. And as always they approach the series with a mix of an analytical, thoughtful grown-up and an eager ten-year-old who can't wait for Saturday evening.

So really, I'm not *disappointed* by Volume 4, just a little underwhelmed. This time around, there is comparatively little of the in-depth behind-the-scenes information that made the first two volumes such a joy for a young "Doctor Who" viewer like myself. (Indeed, the relationship between Tom Baker and Louise Jameson is only mentioned obliquely - a far cry from the constant updates of Hartnell's mood in Volume 1). And Volume 3, which possessed such a wealth of cultural primers and truly interesting essays, isn't matched here - where many of the essays are only a page or two, and often don't seem to come to any conclusion, be it earnest or jocular.

(Having said all this, I'll concede that things pick up later in the book - mostly because the writers share the world's slight disdain for the way that Tom Baker, Douglas Adams et al kind of ruined the series' mystery/adventure/terror aspect towards the end of Baker's era)

It's still a very enjoyable read for a "Who" fan. No one is going to agree with everything (some people appear to agree with little), but the authors are passionate and well-read enough that you're bound to either feel swayed over to their side, or emerge even more zealous about your own point-of-view. However, I do hope that Volumes 5, 6 and the highly-anticipated 7 can return to the series' earlier form. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Certainly useful, have to admit though it's not quite as enjoyable a read as Sandifer's work. I'll refer back to it as I watch the episodes and blog about the show myself, but I don't know if I'll try to read other volumes straight through. Maybe the essays, but probably not the individual story write-ups; going to treat them more as a reference companion while watching the stories than as a sustained work about the show.

My major complaint is their approach to continuity. Not that I don't appreciate the insights and attention to detail, I just felt like the overall effort to "find" the explanations that might make the stories make sense in a larger continuity felt like a hollow exercise. If a thing's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well, and if the creators of the show couldn't be bothered to make a reasonably coherent continuity over time, I don't think it necessarily follow that fandom should pick up that slack. Where there is continuity, I'm all for it, but forcing square pegs in round holes strikes me as a sucker's game.

I did enjoy how the critiques got a bit tetchy as they got into Prosecution and Defense mode, but I think Miles (they're unsigned, so I'm making some assumptions about authorship in those sections that may not be accurate) gets the better of Wood every time.

Probably essential for fans. Probably not for anyone else. A contrast from the Eruditorum volumes, which I think stand on their own as criticism worth reading for even non-Whovians. ( )
  cdogzilla | Jul 31, 2013 |
In the ever-confusing history of the About Time series, this was actually the second written.  As a result, the series is clearly still growing into the format that it would perfect with About Time 1 and 2, covering the 1960s stories.  Still, this one is pretty good.

I found it hard going at first, but once we got into Season 14 or so the book began to pick up a bit and yield more interesting insights.  I wonder if this is because Miles and Wood obviously both love the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, and so the analysis often tends to boil down to "they got it just right"; perhaps there's more for them to sink their teeth into with Graham Williams's often misfiring producership.  This is also the part that sees the "Critique" essays being split into "Prosecution" and "Defense," with one author writing each one (but they don't say which is which).  Oddly, even though I don't really like Season 17, I found myself agreeing with the defense more often than not-- the prosecution's arguments often boiled down to "you can't do X in Doctor Who," when the case wasn't that you couldn't do X, but that X just hadn't been done well.

It's a good read, as all the About Time volumes have been, but strangely, my main takeaway has been a desire to watch The Invasion of Time and The Armageddon Factor again, of all things.  Now that's some good Doctor Who. (No, really.)
1 vote Stevil2001 | Dec 22, 2011 |
By this point in my Who watching, I was getting pretty tired of it. Too much Who in too short a time? Too shoddy production values? Too much (far too much) Tom Baker? Probably all of the above.

Hell, the book itself may have been more entertaining than the stories it was commenting on. But then, that's at least as much due to how fantastically enjoyable these books are, as to how uninspired the Tom Baker years were (for me). ( )
  duck2ducks | Sep 4, 2008 |

I loved the first two books in this series, but felt it would be difficult for the same quality to be kept up for all volumes. This one, covering six of the seven Tom Baker years as Doctor Who, is, frankly, squashed, with fewer than nine pages on average for each story covered, compared to eleven-ish per story for the first two volumes. (Though in pages per episode broadcast it comes out better, at 2.2 which is the same as Vol 1 and a shade more than Vol 2.)

I can forgive it. What's been cut is the back-stage gossip about the relations between and among the production team and the cast, with enough left in to make it very annoying that you don't get more; but I felt that the book is as good as the others in the series at looking at the roots of the stories covered, and impassioned in its assessment of the dramatic impact of the programme as broadcast.

Also, it is my favourite period of Doctor Who. This is when I was watching it most assiduously when first broadcast (the second episode of Revenge of the Cybermen was shown on my eighth birthday), and also, frankly, I think it includes a disproportionate number of the truly great stories of Old Who. The Doctor Who Dynamic Ratings Site agrees, with five of its top six Old Who stories dating from this era (The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Genesis of the Daleks, City of Death, Pyramids of Mars and The Deadly Assassin, with The Robots of Death, The Seeds of Doom and The Ark in Space not far behind).

Miles and Wood explain really well how it was that Hinchcliffe and Holmes made it so good, and how and why Williams simply wasn't able to deliver the same product (and Tom Baker is fingered as a major culprit in that process). There are also the usual enlightening essays about bits of Who-lore, BBC procedures and British culture of the day (of which the best is surely the piece on Top of the Pops). So, while I didn't learn as much from this book as I did from Volume 1 or 2, I did enjoy wallowing in nostalgia as I read it. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Aug 13, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lawrence Milesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wood, TatAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0975944630, Paperback)

About Time serves as the definitive (albeit unofficial) guide to Doctor Who Seasons 12 to 17, the main bulk of the Tom Baker era. Written by Lawrence Miles (Faction Paradox) and Tat Wood (SFX, TV Zone), About Time not only examines the usual continuity concerns (alien races, etc.) in bursting detail, but looks at how the political / social issues of the 1970s affected the show's production. Essays in this volume include: Where (and When) is Gallifrey?, Why Couldn't the BBC Just Have Spent More Money?, Why Does Earth Keep Getting Invaded? and War of the Daleks: Should Anyone Believe a Word of It?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:13 -0400)

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