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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Time Traveller's Almanac - The Ultimate Intergalactic Fact Finder


Author: Steve Tribe
BBC Books
RRP: £14.99, US $27.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07572 8
Available 25 September 2008

Who are the eminent artists of the 16th, 19th, or 21st centuries? What are the mysteries of Carrionite Science? Where do the Daleks come from? Answers to all of these questions and more are found in The Time Traveller's Almanac, the ultimate intergalactic fact-finder. The Almanac draws on resources far and wide, from the beginning of time to the end of the universe, to provide information on key historical events and great lives, important issues in science, technology and the arts, and the stories that have defined each era. Fully illustrated with photos and artwork, The Time Traveller's Almanac provides an essential biography of the Doctor Who universe...

It seems an annual event now for BBC books to release a thick, glossy and heavily illustrated Doctor Who coffee table book at this time of year, exploring the fictional events of the new series with in-depth detail and lavish, expensive presentation.
An obvious and entirely forgivable bid for the lucrative Christmas market, maybe, but what’s less obvious is how exactly they’re going to fill up these annual releases with fresh material every year.

Last year’s release was Doctor Who: The Encyclopedia by Gary Russell, which set out its stall as the definitive A-Z guide to every possible reference imaginable in the first three seasons of new Who.

With only one further season to have hit the TV screens since then, I was curious as to how The Time Traveller’s Almanac could hope to expand and develop this concept any further without loitering suspiciously on old ground. Even after holding this new weighty book in my hands and studying the blurb on the back, I was still none the wiser as to what the pages inside might actually contain.

Eventually, the new ‘twist’ on recycling already well-known material becomes clear. The Time Traveller’s Almanac is actually a ‘timeline’ book, covering every episode of the new series, but this time placing them all in chronological event order, from the dawn of life on Earth to the final end of humanity.

Yes, I suppose an obvious question to be cried out at this point would be “Why? In God’s name, why?” but that’s hardly going to be bothering the conscience of distant elderly relatives who’ll be eyeing up this book as stocking filler for young Who fans across the country. And why not?

It’s certainly a pleasant enough book to dip into, and clearly a lot of time and effort has been put into compiling a colourful and engaging layout. For example, the events of the Series Three episode 42 are appropriately presented in a snazzy countdown format, whilst a truly excellent job has been made of charting the complex and potentially unwieldy history of Captain Jack Harkness, and actually making it palatable to the reader.

Whilst the book naturally focuses heavily on the new series, there are also very occasional but entirely welcome nods to the classic series too, including a nice overview of the UNIT organization, and a dip into the history of veteran companion Sarah Jane Smith.

If you’re a hardened old-school fan and are expecting something along the lines of Lance Parkin’s meticulous 1996 book Doctor Who: A History Of The Universe (or it’s recent unofficial update Ahistory) then you should be warned that this is not nearly in the same league, and is naturally aimed at a completely different market.

But The Time Traveller’s Almanac is still a lively and fun book, more suited to the young, keen fan than the wrinkled old Who expert. It would, however, be nice if BBC Books could really push the boat out next year and come up with something entirely fresh and original.


Richard A Wattis

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