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Book Review

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The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who Continuity Volume One


Author: Jon Preddle
Telos Publishing
RRP: £15.99, US $29.95
ISBN: 978 1 84583 004 5
Available 24 March 2011

An in-depth exploration of the complex continuity of the world’s longest running science fiction television programme, Volume One of Timelink contains detailed analysis of every aspect of the Doctor’s lives, friends and foes. Discover how to date the UNIT stories; what order the Dalek conquests took place; and how old the Doctor really is. The history of the Time Lords is put in context, and the chronology of space-flight is revealed. The analysis encompasses the original series that ran from 1963 to 1989, the one-off Paul McGann TV movie of 1996, and the 2005-2009 revival helmed by Russell T Davies, as well as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures...

This is the first of two volumes of an updated edition of Jon Preddle’s exhaustive analysis of Doctor Who continuity. The very notion of “Doctor Who continuity” might be considered a contradiction in terms, given that the series has run for so many years, under a variety of production teams, each with their own ideas about what Doctor Who should be. Nevertheless, Preddle wrestles with such knotty conundrums as the Doctor’s age (which appears to have varied from about 450 to several thousands years), the dating of the UNIT stories (which in some respects give the impression of having a near-future setting, while in others seem to be contemporary), and why the Doctor only ever seems to be bothered about damaging the web of time at certain points in Earth’s history.

Along the way, the author persuasively overturns some popular fan theories, such as the altered Dalek history proposed in Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping’s Discontinuity Guide. This volume also covers some of the territory of Lance Parkin’s AHistory, by including a comprehensive universal timeline of events depicted and alluded to in the Doctor Who television series.

Unlike AHistory and other reference resources (mostly online), Timelink restricts itself to episodes that were broadcast on television as part of the official BBC series. It ignores the numerous spin-off novels, comic strips, audio dramas and video releases. This is fair enough, because although many of these unofficial spin-offs have sought to resolve continuity problems in the television show, the multiplicity of authors and ranges have led to discrepancies of their own. Preddle also disregards unbroadcast footage from the BBC series, such as deleted scenes on DVDs and the VHS release of the incomplete Shada. More controversially, he even omits charity specials such as Time Crash, even though they were made by the regular Doctor Who production team. Still, I suppose one has to draw the line somewhere, otherwise this tome might have run to more volumes!

The first 560-page volume is structured thematically, whereas the second comprises a story-by-story analysis. Themes include histories of the Cybermen, Daleks and Time Lords, the UNIT years, the Doctor’s age and the enigma that is Susan Foreman, each of which gets its own chapter. There are appendices on Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Smith spin-offs (K-9 and Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures), as well as a couple of chapters on subjects that Preddle considers to have been sidelined since the book’s original 2000 edition: the questions of whether or not the Doctor is half-human (in the Paul McGann TV movie) and more than just a Time Lord (during Sylvester McCoy’s second and third seasons). Far from being superfluous, as the author claims, these appendices make fascinating reading and should not be overlooked just because they are tucked away at the back of the book. Indeed, in light of the decontamination scene in Cold Blood, the half-human issue might be due for reappraisal during the next update.

Although somewhat shorter than its 700-page companion, Volume One of Timelink is the more readable of the two, thanks to its page-turning thematic format. Well worth spending time with.


Richard McGinlay

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