ABOUT TIME 4, the second (don't be fooled by the numbers, Mad Norwegian decided to start in the middle of the series because the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors are the ones most known to viewers of the show, especially in America.) in Mad Norwegian's exhaustive series of guides to the televised adventures of Doctor Who, covers the bulk of the Tom Baker years; the period where the show was first noticed, for the most part, in America; the period with the classic team of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and, as I mentioned in my review of ABOUT TIME 3, my favorite Who writer, script editor Robert Holmes, and the time frame where Douglas Adams was script editor. To most casual fans then, this is the book that will mean most, because it's the Fourth Doctor's book; to myself, the ABOUT TIME series gets interesting because here is where the authors start disagreeing on what is good Who and what isn't, and more importantly actually state the differences. More on this later.
ABOUT TIME 4 details the first six years of Tom Baker's run on Doctor Who in the same sort of insane detail that ABOUT TIME 3 started. Each story is examined by the authors on every level imaginable, from the memorable moments, to the development of the main characters, to the continuity and history of the show, and to the monsters and aliens and other creatures that were staples of the show. Each story has a section about the most glaring of plot holes, continuity errors, or just plain wrong things about the story, as well as background history on what was going on behind the scenes during the filming of each story. The level of detail is mindboggling at times-as I said in my other review, Miles and Wood devote as much space to the Fourth Doctor as other guides do to the entire 26 years of the series run; if anything, perhaps they use too much detail, but one can hardly quibble about the authors spending that much care on a subject, rather than being lazy.
Of interest to many is the coverage of the time Douglas Adams spent on Doctor Who, first as the writer of THE PIRATE PLANET, then later as script editor of Season Seventeen. Fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide who aren't aware of this aspect of Adams' life will be interested in how much of the Guide turned up in Who, and vice versa.
To me though, the most interesting part is that where, in ABOUT TIME 3 the critiques of each story were mostly in agreement over the quality of said episode, as time goes by in ABOUT TIME 4, the critiques are broken down into a defense of the episode and a prosecution of it. It's interesting trying to guess if one author disagrees with the other, or if they're presenting both sides of a controversial story. Given what I know about Lawrence Miles, I would say the former, though I can't be certain; it is interesting though to see a guidebook give more than one opinion on a story, rather than following some sort of editorial party line (and it gets really good in ABOUT TIME 5, when the John Nathan-Turner era gets in full swing, but that's another review.)
ABOUT TIME 4 is an exhaustive, detailed, and moreover honest guide to some of the most crucial years of Doctor Who, and is highly recommended.