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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Starships and Spacestations


Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: £7.99, US $12.99, Cdn $15.99
ISBN: 978 1 8460 7423 3
Available 08 May 2008

The Doctor has his TARDIS to get him from place to place and time to time, but the rest of the Universe relies on more conventional transport. From the British Space Programme of the late twentieth century to Earth's Empire in the far future, from the terrifying Dalek Fleet to deadly Cyber Ships, this book documents the many starships and spacestations that the Doctor and his companions have encountered on their travels. Doctor Who historian Justin Richards documents the amazing story of Earth's ventures into space, examines the many alien fleets who have paid Earth a visit, and explores the other starships and spacestations that the Doctor has encountered on his many travels...

Following the introduction of the Daleks, Doctor Who moved fairly quickly away from Sidney Newman’s idea of educational historical dramas to become the longest running science fiction show in the history of television. Given its long history, the show has produced a prodigious amount of spin-off book, so it is with little surprise that BBC Books have produced another of Justin Richards’s best selling Doctor Who guides. Doctor Who: Starships and Spacestations is the the latest volume and I know you’re way ahead of me on the possible content. This offering is one of those slightly smaller soft back books, offered up at a fairly reasonable price.

Following the introduction the main body of the book, which maintains a nice balance between text and pictures throughout, is split into the following chapters: Earth Space Program; The Earth Empire; Escaping the End; Alien Encounters; and Alien Fleets. Now it would be easy to produce a cheap little book with just some captures from the show, but this release goes that little bit further. As well as the expected shots from the program the book also contains a number of original composite shots, the most intriguing is the one at the front of the book showing a Time Lord standing in front of the Citadel, a hint of the show's finale, who knows?

First off, I liked the fact that, although the book is short - ninety-six pages - the content has been shared between the current series and its predecessors. The first section details Britain’s space program and is as short as the actual program was. The next section is an attempt at some sort of timeline for man's exploration and eventual colonisation of the galaxy, although this has a somewhat jarring effect of placing the latest CGI ships next to shots of ships made from airfix parts. The Empire, like all things, came to an end and the book looks at a number of attempts by humans to escape the inevitable. The last two sections mop up what could not be usefully placed in the preceding chapters.

Although I loved some of the illustrations for initial designs and some of the background shots of the models, I do think that giving the TARDIS only one page was a bit of a mistake as it would have been interesting to see the various incarnations of the control room and some speculative illustrations of what else the ship contained, especially as the current incarnation of the show has so far failed to make it out of the control room, so younger viewers may be unaware just how big the old girl is.

So it’s bright and glossy, the sort of thing you would browse rather than read, but still for the price it’s a nice little number.


Charles Packer

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