I went back and forth over whether to run this as an Eruditorum post or as a side post. Ultimately, I wanted to put it in before we started talking about The Runaway Bride, so it got an Eruditorum slot. Nevertheless, this is a book review of About Time Volume Seven, out on September 10th from Mad Norwegian Press, who were kind enough to give me a preview copy, which I spent two days doing nothing but reading. The short form is that it’s brilliant and you should buy it. The long form actually makes sense to describe in context of the series’ history, because About Time occupies a particular and important place in that history.
About Time is a fascinating example of a book series swallowed by history. It started and premiered before the announcement of the new series, and continued over the course of the series’ development. You can watch, reading it, as the new series exerts its gravity and changes the project out from under Miles and Wood, so that what the books are changes over the course of the series. Given that the series was released out of order, starting with Volumes Three through Five, doubling back for One and Two, and then finally concluding with the Wood-only Volume Six and Wood’s solo rewrite of Volume Three, this gives an interesting sense of things. What started as an attempt to do the most thorough episode guide ever took on an oddly elegiac feel, becoming something more like an attempt to make the definitive statement of what Doctor Who was prior to the new series, before the cultural gravity of the new series erased the ability to see it. In doing so, it went from being a very long guidebook to being the definitive account of it.
Let’s be clear: if you like TARDIS Eruditorum and have never read any of About Time, get thee to Amazon. About Time is indispensable. It’s not that TARDIS Eruditorum wouldn’t exist without it – in fact, if I’d known it existed when I decided to start the blog I’d probably have been intimidated out of starting it, because you’d have to be mad to look at About Time and say “yeah, I just think there’s more to say.” But discovering it a few entries into the Hartnell era was perfect, even if I do have a nagging sense that my Season One coverage is forever compromised by the fact that all the essays started absent the context of About Time. Because About Time got to what I was doing first. It’s an attempt to explain all of Doctor Who – everything about it. Which meant I got the wonderfully easy job of just sitting back and responding to it.
This is, of course, ridiculous as a goal. Doctor Who is far too big to be pinned down into a single explanation. Which is, of course, part of the conceit of About Time, which immerses itself so deeply in the minute particulars of Doctor Who as to willfully lose all sense of Doctor Who as a singular object.…