About Time vol 8: 2007, Series 3, by Tat Wood and Dorothy Ail

Second paragraph of third chapter (on The Shakespeare Code):

Firsts and Lasts To disentangle the whole story from various tie-in works and three previous broadcast stories, it's simplest to say that this is the first time Shakespeare has met the Doctor, rather than the other way around. (We'll elaborate later.)

Second paragraph of essay accompanying third chapter ("Why Does Britain's History Look So Different These Days?"):

Rather than just making a big thing of a character coming from Africa and being allowed to answer the phones on a starship, in "The Tenth Planet" (4.2), the minor character of Williams – written as Welsh – was cast so that Earl Cameron could go into space as part of a vision of 1980s life where race was irrelevant.That his co-pilot was an Australian called "Bluey" (all Australian characters who weren't called "Digger" or "Bruce" have that name) and where an Italian character is introduced singing La Donna i [sic] Mobile and shouting "Mama Mia! Bellissima" on sighting Polly's legs in the Antarctic blizzard need not detain us. The script has its lazy stereotypes, as is usual in anything Kit Pedler wrote, an attempt to limn a future where scientists are an international fellowhood.

I've been taking a break from bookblogging, as you may have noticed, so the time has come to clear the backlog. I'm saving my thoughts on the new Doctor Who season for a bit later (in summary, I'm pretty happy so far), but here's a look back over a decade ago now, the 8th in a series of exhaustive commentaries on the history of Doctor Who. (See previous write-ups of volumes 1, 2, 3, 3 revised, 4, 5, 6 and 7.) This concentrates purely on the 2007 series (the one with Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones), starting with the 2006 Christmas special (The Runaway Bride) and finishing with Time Crash, the 2007 Christmas special (Voyage of the Damned) and the animated Infinite Quest. Counting (arguably) three two-parters and not counting Time Crash, at 340 pages that's about 26 pages per story; Counting The Infinite Quest as a single episode, and including Time Crash this time, it's 21 pages per episode. Compare with less than nine pages per story in Volume 4 and a shade over two per episode in Volume 2.

This is the season that includes my personal favourite episode of New Who (the Hugo-winning Blink), Paul Cornell's excellent two-parter based on his own novel (also a Hugo finalist), and the return of the Master in the shape of first Sir Derek Jaobi and then John Simm. David Tennant then encounters his future father-in-law Peter Davison in the first multi-Doctor story of the new era. The low points are the awful two-part Dalek story and the final episode's failure to deliver on the buildup of the two previous ones. It also has to be said that Martha's character arc is not the most elegantly executed (though, come on, at least she doesn't get sent to stay on Sir Charles' country estate), though I rate Freema Agyeman very highly indeed.

I wrote about these stories both at the time they were first broadcast (The Runaway Bride, Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Daleks in Manhattan, Evolution of the Daleks, The Lazarus Experiment, 42, Blink, Utopia, The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords, Time Crash, Voyage of the Damned) and again when I did my rewatch in 2013 (The Runaway Bride, first half of main season, second half plus Infinite Quest, Time Crash, Voyage of the Damned). In general, Wood and Ail's assessment of the stories is pretty similar to mine – they are even tougher than I am on the Dalek one, saw more in The Infinite Quest than I did, and perhaps less enthusiastic about the high points than I am. As usual, the commentary is pretty brutal about the Things That Don't make Sense plot-wise, but normally sympathetic to the constraints of production (grim accounts of David Tennant struggling with a heavy cold but still putting in long days and night shoots).

There’s surprisingly little exploration of the roots of individual stories, a strength of earlier volumes, but I did gain a new appreciation for the extent to which Paul Cornell draws on Neil Gaiman. The big gap here is that Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures were already well under way, and it’s a bit tricky to analyse Tennant-era Who without bringing them into the mix as well. However, the accompanying essays as usual are well worth the cover price in their own right, tackling inter alia New Who’s (or at least RTD’s) approach to race and sexuality as displayed on screen, and also a fascinating piece about the online extras.

My usual gripe, magnified this time: 65 endnotes (I hate endnotes), including two numbered 14, the first of which is located between notes 7 and 8, so that it’s not at all clear what text it is referring to.

I haven’t yet read any of the Black Archive books (and am frankly a bit intimidated by them), but I still think the About Time series is the standard by which other critiques of Who should be judged. You can get this one here.

One thought on “About Time vol 8: 2007, Series 3, by Tat Wood and Dorothy Ail

  1. Sheugh and bake were the 2 which to me were not W Scottish.

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