As not just a fan of Doctor Who, but a full-blown geek, reference books about the series have always been part of my thing.
(Daily Doctor Who #44)
Last time I wrote about this, I talked about how books–both novelizations and reference books–were pretty instrumental in getting me into Doctor Who in the first place.
That’s largely because back in the USA in the early or mid 1980’s Doctor Who wasn’t something that was actually that easy to find on TV. So Waldenbooks was my gateway into television’s longest-running science fiction series. But not just because I liked reading Doctor Who stories so much (although I did).
It was also because I was reading books about the television show–books which gave me a hint about how much of this show was out there to watch, back in the days when (and where) watching it was actually kind of tricky.
Those books are long gone, but others come in their wake. Some were only around for a while, but others are still on my shelf.
Out of them all, I think this one is my favorite…
The Discontinuity Guide
By Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, it’s the Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide. It was originally published in 1995, during a period when these sort of books were popular.
Specifically, author Phil Farrand published several books in his Nitpicker’s Guide series, covering plot holes, continuity mistakes and other errors in the Star Trek franchise.
I never bought these but I enjoyed standing around in the bookstore skimming through them.
The Discontinuity Guide also pointed out plot problems and continuity errors in Doctor Who stories (the entire classic series, plus the spinoff K9 & Company and the 30th anniversary oddity Dimensions in Time.
But more than that, it also just pointed out proper continuity–when episodes linked with other episodes, or just general information about the universe of Doctor Who (like, in the original Daleks story, it points out that Skaro is the 12th planet in its system and that Thals went through a full series of mutations and then eventually became farmers).
It also identifies what it feels like were really good examples of dialogue (like “You can’t rule the world in hiding. You’ve got to come out onto the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle,” from Terror of the Zygons), as well as examples of disastrous dialogue (such as “I will now activate the hostility circuits,” from The Android Invasion).
It ends each entry with a short summary of the authors’ opinions about that story (“A brilliantly constructed tale, blessed with good visuals and a cracking pace. There’s scarcely a shot or line that isn’t needed,” it says about Full Circle, for example).
But most interesting of all, are its efforts at actually making sense out of the show’s obviously broken continuity. This isn’t a book whose primary interest is in pointing out problems–it’s a book that is trying to fix them.
In other words, it’s full of fan theories and head canon. You know, that process we all do when we in the audience organize the information we get from the show in our minds…ideas and facts that were left ambiguous, either on purpose or because the production team couldn’t be bothered to deal with it, or didn’t even notice.
It was in this book, for example, that I first heard about Season 6 (b).
This refers to a fan theory that is so widely accepted that it may as well be “canon” (and indeed, if one counts the comics from the early days of the series, I think it is actually is canon).
It also might be once we get a full explanation for how Jo Martin’s so-called “Fugitive-Doctor”, who debuted on the show last year, fits in.
This is the theory that states that after the Doctor’s trial in The War Games (from 1969), that he wasn’t forcibly regenerated and sent to earth immediately, but rather he was intercepted by certain Time Lords and made to go on missions for them.
The theory arose to explain the appearances of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton in his later reappearances, specifically The Five Doctors from 1983…
Here the Doctor is clearly aware of the Time Lords sending Jamie and Zoe back to their own times with their memories of him erased, even though that happened (supposedly) only moments after his own regeneration.
Also, The Two Doctors from 1985…
This one is even more obvious. The Doctor is with Jamie, having dropped off Victoria with the full expectation of being able to pick her up again (in his original run, the Doctor could not control the TARDIS so easily). He even has a remote control for the TARDIS, a fact which legitimately surprises the later Sixth Doctor. Presumably, when the Time Lords finally forced his regeneration and sent him to earth, they erased his memory of this era of his life.
One could even include The Three Doctors (from 1973) in this whole bit of head-canon…
…simply because the Second Doctor doesn’t seem at all alarmed or put out at being used by the Time Lords for a mission, even though in The War Games he clearly was trying to stay away from them as much as possible.
Anyway, Season 6 (b) isn’t the only bit of head canon this book introduced me to. It also attempted to tie together the three explanations the series has given us about the destruction of Atlantis, it ties in the short time that the Key to Time was assembled with the universe’s heat death as discussed in Logopolis, and in general it tries to offer what explanations it can for as many of the inconsistencies of the show that it can.
The other idea that the book put forth that I found most interesting was the idea of the two Dalek histories. This has to do with the changes made by the Doctor to Dalek history in Genesis of the Daleks.
That story is all about the Time Lords sending the Doctor back in time to prevent the Daleks from existing. He hesitates at the moment that he could potentially accomplish this, losing his chance. Later he tries to do it again but his efforts only delay them by a thousand years or so, he says.
The book, however, points out another, more significant, change to history that the Doctor’s visit creates: thanks to his involvement, Dalek-creator Davros is warned about the Dalek’s future, and takes measures to ensure that he can survive the conclusion of the story (when his creations apparently exterminate him). In the original history, the book speculates, Davros was killed and the Daleks emerged as a unified force to terrorize the universe. In the revised history (consistent with all the original series episodes that aired after Genesis of the Daleks), Davros survives, and the Daleks end up in a constant series of civil wars, with different factions fighting each other, preventing them from ever achieving the same level of dominance that they had before.
(And of course, when they found this out, they saw this as the first salvo in the Time War! Ooh…it all fits!)
Anyway, makes perfect sense to me.
So yeah, this is probably my favorite Doctor Who reference book, even though it’s plain, black and white, with no pictures, and probably all the information (and a whole bunch of imitators) can be found on the internet. Sometimes, there’s nothing like a book!