The folks at Mad Norwegian Press were kind enough to send me their preposterously monumental 4th edition of Ahistory. This now three-volume set, which began as Lance Parkin’s A History of the Universe for Virgin twenty-two years ago and has been periodically and extensively revised with help from Mad Norwegian publisher Lars Pearson is… completely insane. I mean, I’m the author of a six volume and counting history of Britain through the lens of Doctor Who, but I look at these things with a mixture of trepidation and awe. They are sublimely, gloriously useless, and I absolutely adore them and recommend them to anyone for whom the admittedly considerable price tag of three large paperback volumes is not prohibitive.
What Ahistory sets out to do is simple: provide a complete in-universe chronology of every Doctor Who story. But by “every Doctor Who story” I do not mean some relatively easy and straightforward task like all of the television episodes. I mean all of it. Every television episode through Twice Upon a Time is in here along with the televised spinoffs, the Virgin and BBC Books lines, Big Finish, the comics… all of it. This is a book series that accepts the “it’s all true” ethos of Doctor Who non-canon and then does the single most ludicrous thing you can possibly do with that premise, namely try to get it all to fit sensibly together.
As a reference book, at least for what I do it’s an object of occasional use, although when I need it it’s amazing. When I needed to figure out the precise details of why Under the Lake/Before the Flood‘s dating was weird, it was an earlier edition of Ahistory that I checked to go “oh, right around Paradise Towers, that’s weird all right.” But its value is less as an actual reference (although it’s surely of use to anyone who wants to do an inventively fanwanky work of fiction, authorized or otherwise) and more as a textual game that has been played to masterful perfection. Ruthlessly footnoted with a bevy of sidebars and appendices, Ahistory is just plain fun for any intense Doctor Who fan to dive into and be swept away in the minutiae of. Immaculately argued and thus dellightful to disagree with, this is a masterwork of sheer and unbridled ridiculous ambition.