Lately I’ve been trying to make it to the Doctor Who New York events and get-togethers organized by Barnaby Edwards. After years and years of being a fan of Doctor Who and really not knowing anyone personally who was also into the show, it’s great to be able to meet up with other local viewers and hang out, shooting the breeze about our favorite sci-fi series. Best of all are the signings that Edwards organizes for DWNY. Given that Doctor Who is a British-produced series, we American fans don’t often have the opportunity to meet too many people involved with the show, since they typically live on the other side of the pond. So those events are really cool opportunities to actually meet some of these actors, writers, directors, and other creative personnel.
Last week I went to the latest DWNY event, a book signing that was held at a pub called The Churchill on 28th Street near Park Avenue. The two books that the authors were there to promote and autograph were both published by Mad Norwegian Press. The first of these was Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who. A group of female writers from around the globe who are fans of Doctor Who wrote a series of essays analyzing each individual season of the television show, from the debut of William Hartnell in 1963 to Matt Smith’s 2011 series.
I have to say, as a white male viewer, Chicks Unravel Time was a very intriguing read. The essays contained within offered up some very interesting alternative analyses and viewpoints of the series that I simply had never considered in my more than 25 years of watching Doctor Who. Understandably, the majority of the essays are concerned with differing female perspectives on the series. Other fascinating topics include the power structure in the relationships between the Doctor and his human companions, race & ethnicity, Cold War politics, music, spirituality, and the delicate balancing act of rooting the show in the past while continuing to move it forward in new directions.
The three writers from Chicks Unravel Time who were at the signing were Deborah Stanish, L.M. Myles, and K. Tempest Bradford. Stanish’s essay “Anything Goes” observes the show’s early period of experimentation of format in the Third Season. Myles essay “Identity Crisis” looked at how the show evolved in the Fourth Season when Patrick Troughton replaced William Hartnell as the Doctor. Bradford examined the role of women, as well as their notable absences, throughout Season Thirteen in “The Woman We Don’t See.” At the pub, each of them read excerpts from their pieces before the signing, as well as explaining what drew them to this project. It was a very interesting session.
The other book that was being promoted that evening was AHistory: An Unauthorized History of the Doctor Who Universe (3rd Edition) written by Lance Parkin & Lars Pearson. AHistory is an incredibly ambitious project on the part of its authors, an attempt to arrange in chronological order every single television episode of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as the Big Finish audio plays, the Doctor Who novels published by Virgin and the BBC, the Bernice Summerfield novels, the comic books published by Marvel and IDW, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting! AHistory weighs about as much as your typical telephone directory, and clocks in at a massive 784 pages.
Lance Parkin was at the DWNY event to explain how AHistory came to life, starting out as a fan project many years ago that grew in size & scope with each revision. Parkin describes it as “a parlor game,” i.e. an exercise in fun. It certainly isn’t intended as any sort of serious scholarly attempt at a historical work. Indeed, considering the Doctor Who fictional universe has existed for a half century in numerous mediums with hundreds of different writers having contributed to it over the decades, there really is no way to truly reconcile all of the contradictory continuity in a completely flawless manner. Parkin & Pearson obvious intended it to be an enjoyable read for fans, a useful reference book for devotees of the series.
Unfortunately, I did not have $50 on hand, so I wasn’t able to purchase a copy of AHistory last week. But I definitely want to pick it up at some point in the near future. I see that it is available on the Mad Norwegian website for $39.95, shipping included, and is also on Amazon at a discount. So I’ll probably order it online.
I was able to get a couple of other books signed by Lance Parkin, though. He is the author of several Doctor Who novels, and I have two of these, The Dying Days and Father Time. I brought along my copies to The Churchill, and Parkin kindly autographed them for me. It’s been several years since I read each of them, but I remember that both were very entertaining, well-written books. Unfortunately, both of them are currently out of print, but if you can locate inexpensive copies, I highly recommend them.
Parkin also wrote one of the Big Finish audio plays, Davros, which I have been meaning to purchase for some time now. Colin Baker previously had an excerpt from that story on his website, and it sounded top-notch. The only reasons why I haven’t gotten it before now are the usual: lack of funds and procrastination. But, yeah, along with AHistory, it is on my short list of Doctor Who items to obtain.
So, while I haven’t had the opportunity to read AHistory yet, it sounds like a fun reference book. And, as far as Chicks Unravel Time goes, I would consider that to be an indispensible read for any serious Doctor Who fans that enjoy differing interpretations & analyses of the series.
In any case, if you happen to be in the New York City area and are a fan of the series, I definitely encourage you to come by to future DWNY get-togethers. The group has a page on Facebook where you can find out about upcoming events.