The Untold History of Space and Time
(2016) George Mann & Justin Richards, BBC Books £35, hrdbk, 318pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94061-3
Doctor Who has been going for so many decades (the hiatus years notwithstanding) that the accumulation of storylines, let alone the overall story arcs, has become so great as to threaten to compress down to a singularity, absorbing all who come near.
Recent aficionados of the show – especially those that have come alone since the 2005 re-boot – are faced with a formidable task of getting the hang of who did what and when let alone come to comprehend the longer-term arcs and characters and how they fit together.
What we have with Doctor Who – The Whoniverse is an imagination of the Universe as if Doctor Who and all his friends and foes were real. It takes us from the beginnings of the Universe, the Big Bang, through to the emergence of life and its evolution some of which led to creatures we might regard as super-beings as well as the lesser intelligent species that themselves would eventually create super-civilisations. And so, for example, we get the Silurians. Here the book scores in my mind by bringing in real science (not that the Big Bang is not real science) by pointing out that the term 'Silurian' is something of a misnomer as they did not evolve in the real-life geological Silurian period of time.
There are only seven chapters and these cover most of the key aspects of the Doctor Who show's many decades. For the Who aficionado perhaps the two key chapters of interest will be the ones on the Cybermen and the Daleks respectively.
The book is published in a large-sized format, in full colour, on gloss art paper and bound in a thick cover. All this is very commendable and will attract Dr Who fans. However, unlike Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds many, if not most, of the illustrations have been blown up to the point where the image loses detail and often become blurred: this is not good. To my mind the book would have been far better if it had been published in a large paperback format such as BBC Books did with Doctor Who: A Brief History of the Time Lords. Having said that, there are a few paintings that have not been enlarged, but originally drawn to a far bigger scale and these reproduced on a large, whole page do work extremely well. Sadly, though, these are outnumbered by their blurred, overblown counterparts. Maybe the dazzle of colour and the sheer physicality of this weight book will overcome some fan reluctance to buy despite the book's cost.
So bringing this all together. This book will certainly appeal to those die-hard fans with a few tenners to spare and there are so many of the show's fans that the book is likely to sell sufficiently well. For my money, as mentioned, I'd personally go for and be prepared to spend on the equally, if not more, lavish Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds as well as the smaller and cheaper but no less colourful Doctor Who: A Brief History of the Time Lords. Having said that, this book has such a presence that all of the show's fans coming across it will at least have to think as to whether or not they want it in their collection.
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