December Books 1) About Time: The Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who, 1980-1984

1) About Time: The Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who, 1980-1984, by Lawrence Miles and Tat Wood

This is the fifth and latest so far published in this superb series of reference guides to Doctor Who (see previous reviews of volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4). It’s the only one that doesn’t begin or end with a change of Doctors – it encapsulates the whole Peter Davison era, plus Tom Baker’s last season and Colin Baker’s first story; it also, of course, covers roughly the first half of John Nathan-Turner’s time as producer. It’s an era where my memory is variable – I saw every episode of seasons 18 and 19 when first broadcast, but remember only about half of season 20 and a bit less of season 21. Since I started watching old Who again in 2005, I’ve seen only five stories from this period (out of 29), so on the whole it is less fresh for me.

Still, Miles and Wood deliver the goods, explaining what the intellectual and cultural roots of each story are, usually finding good things to say despite their general anti-John Nathan-Turner snarking as well as blistering specific critiques of each one (eg, under The Twin Dilemma, they point out that there doesn’t actually appear to be a dilemma in the story). Their inserted essays are, I think, more analytical on the whole than in the other volumes, starting and finishing with the cases for the defence and prosecution of JNT, and including also reflections on the effects of Doctor Who Monthly and the 1983 Longleat celebration on Doctor Who fandom.

 thinks they miss the importance of the Renaissance in Season 18. They also mourn the fact that Graeme Harper directed only two stories – fortunately, this turns out not to be true.

I have another three Who books on my reading pile, but this series is the best I have seen so far.

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