Doctor Who
Second Flight
Back to the Vortex II

Author: J Shaun Lyon
Telos Publishing
RRP: 12.99 (paperback), 30.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN-13: 978 184583 008 3 (paperback), 978 1 84583 009 0 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN-10: 1 84583 008 3 (paperback), 1 84583 009 1 (deluxe hardback)

Available 08 January 2007

Picking up where
Back to the Vortex left off, Second Flight continues the story of the development of Doctor Who as David Tennant takes over the TARDIS from Christopher Eccleston and embarks on a 2005 Christmas special (The Christmas Invasion) as well as a second series of adventures in time and space. Second Flight reveals the background to the series, from the announcements, to the press releases, casting calls, the highs and lows, and the return of the dreaded Cybermen. The book also features detailed analysis of the new adventures, facts and figures, and exclusive review commentary from an international panel of writers and critics...

The first thing that surprised me about this follow-up to 2005's Back To The Vortex, is the sheer mighty size of it. Yes, it's excellent predecessor was certainly a hefty tome itself, but then it had the entire rebirth of Doctor Who to deal with before it could even begin to concentrate on the actual episodes of Series One. I was expecting this sequel to be a slimmer volume, as Second Flight picks up the slightly lighter baton, and cracks on with chronicling the incredible voyage of the second series. I was to be proved wrong. Telos have produced another shelf-creakingly stunning book, positively crammed with passion, rich detail and intelligent critical opinion.

There is perhaps nobody on the planet better equipped to take us on this journey than J Shaun Lyon, founder and editor of Outpost Gallifrey - the biggest dedicated Doctor Who community and news resource on the Internet. This background comes in particularly useful in the first section of the book which guides us through the development of Series Two from a unique fan perspective - the rumours, the speculation, the media coverage and the eventual transmission of the episodes. Lyons captures perfectly the frenzied anticipation, the controversies, and the sheer unapologetic fun of Doctor Who fandom as we waited in the wings for the arrival of the tenth Doctor. It's a mesmerising read.

The second, and chunkiest section of the book is a complete guide to the episodes themselves, including fun facts and figures, a wealth of behind the scenes information that was completely new to me, and a full critical analysis from a remarkable panel of writers. These reviews form the main core of the book, and it's refreshing to see such a wide range of well-informed and often wildly differing opinions from the cream of fandom. If there's any fault at all here, it's that there's probably just a little bit too much of it. In particular, I wouldn't have minded if novelist Kate Orman's unorthodox essays had been trimmed completely, as many of them bordered on the massively irrelevant, and seem largely out of place in a book devoted to a fun television show.

There is, however, brilliantly entertaining and insightful critique from the likes of veteran Who luminary Keith Topping, and also the late Craig Hinton - a creative and often underrated novelist who sadly passed away shortly after publication, and who will be a much-missed voice in fandom. Another major highlight here is an outsider's perspective of the episodes, supplied by none other than legendary novelist, critic and broadcaster Kim Newman. Perhaps it's a little misleading of me to class Newman as a genuine 'outsider' as he does seem to have a pretty robust working knowledge of the show and has written Who fiction himself, but he clearly doesn't fall into the same bracket as his accompanying team of devoted expert writers. Newman has always been dismissive of large chunks of Doctor Who's history, and indeed his initial opinions here on the opening episodes of Series Two are largely negative. It's a real pleasure though to see him gradually warm to both the new series and, with still a couple of reservations, the new Doctor.

The final section of the book is a series of Appendices, and even here there are golden nuggets tucked away between the endless cast and crew lists. Lyons provides a fascinating overview and analysis of the Series Two ratings battle; there's welcome additional coverage of BBC3's sister documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, and CBBC's (frankly awful) children's magazine show Totally Doctor Who; and finally, a complete and exhaustive guide to the ninth and tenth Doctor's other adventures in original novels, annuals, comic strips, chocolate bar wrappers etc.

Overall, Second Flight is bursting at the seams with everything you needed to know (and probably at least 50 pages of stuff that you really didn't need to know) about the 2006 season of Doctor Who, and all told from such a refreshing and warm perspective. The book is available in a very nice paperback edition for the sensible buyer or, if you're feeling a bit flash, a really beautiful deluxe hardback edition. Either one of these is an essential and rewarding purchase for any fan of the new series.

Surprisingly, an exhausted Lyons rounds off the book by calling it quits, and announcing that he will not be writing a third volume for the upcoming 2007 series. I'm not sure I believe him, though. He recently called time on Outpost Gallifrey but was wooed back to relaunch the site by overwhelming support and encouragement. Maybe we just need to overwhelm him a bit more to get that third book on the shelves.

Daniel Lee Salter

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