For nearly fifty years now, the BBC television series Doctor Who has entertained countless viewers around the world. It also inspired many of its viewers to write about it not just in the realm of fiction, both officially licensed and fan written, but in fan magazines (better known as fanzines) as well. Often these fanzines would be read by only a small handful of fans and yet the articles inside them could cover a truly incredible range of topics. Now, thanks to Mad Norwegian Press, some of the best fanzine articles are available to a wider audience in the Time Unincorporated book series. This volume, which follows last year's volume dedicated to the fanzine writings of Who author Lance Parkin, focuses on the original (or classic as the subtitle says) series of Who that ran from 1963-1989 through nearly 75 different essays that show off the truly incredible range of topics that fanzines have covered over the years.
The saying "you name it, we've got it" could easily apply to this volume as every era of the original series of Doctor Who is covered in some size, shape or form. Essays range from influences on the show (such as Graeme Burke's look at show co-creator Sydney Newman's pre-BBC career in Canadian television and how it influenced the early years of Who) to explorations of themes within the original series 26 year run (including Dave Rolinson look at the series in a Feminist light) to story critiques (such as the 1991 essay where four different writers, including future Who novelist Kate Orman, give four different critiques of Ghost Light) to defenses of much maligned stories and eras (no better displayed then in Daniel Clarke's review of Day Of The Daleks and Emily Monaghan's passionate defense of the Trial Of A Time Lord season) though detractors get a chance to speak as well (such as Mike Morris' "top ten" critique of the Pertwee era). Others are fascinating historical documents like Dave Owen's essay on the early 1990s trend to bash Pertwee era stories or Paul Masters 1991 essay on Tomb Of the Cybermen that was written a year before that story, which existed in audio form only when the essay was written, was rediscovered in its original visual form. Plus the final section of the book is dedicated to the fans themselves and what its has been like to be a Doctor Who fan while the show was on and off the air. All the while the volume is guided, so to speak, by six essays by Scott Clarke that look at "the key to a Time Lord", the elements that have Doctor Who such a successful and long running series. While some of the essays are not for everyone (the essay Two-Four Of The Daleks was an agonizing read personally), there is plenty to satisfy practically any personal tastes no matter what era or actor you may be a fan of and they may ever make you reconsider some things as well.
Ten of the essays are not from fanzines at all, but were commissioned by Mad Norwegian for this volume and like the rest of the essays they cover a wide range of topics, They are written by those who are either Who writers such as Simon Guerrier and Jonathon Blum or well known fans of the series like Lou Anders for example. Highlights include Jim Sangster's reappraisal of the Troughton era stories, Guerrier's intriguing look at both the role and evolution of technology in Doctor Who, Gian-Luca Di Rocco essay on whether the Doctor is a pacifist, Colin and Anthony Wilson's highly successful attempt to make sense of Dalek continuity, Anders' look at the Doctor's dark side and Blum's passionate (and brilliantly done) defense of the 1996 Paul McGann TV movie. Like the reprinted material some of these are not for all tastes (as the shipping ones were for me) but the range of topics means there's not a dull essay to be read.
If I do have a quibble with this volume it is the fact that almost half of the essays found in the book come from two sources that are perhaps a bit too close to its two editors: Graeme Burke and Robert Smith?. 23 of the essays (or about a third) come from the fanzine Enlightenment, which is the fanzine of the Canadian based Doctor Who Information Network, with nine of those being written by one of the two editors. A further 13 come from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide, an online Who review site run by co-editor Robert Smith?, where the reviews were open to any and all to see who visited the website (at least until this volume was released and the original web versions now having a notice stating they have been removed for copyright reasons and to read them you need to buy this book). Together, these two sources account for almost half of the essays found within the volume with a quarter of those being written by its two editors. To be fair, these essays are are all intriguing reads for the most part (once again it's really down to a personal taste in the end) and I can see the point of including the Enlightment essays as its audience is limited to those who read it. That said, I can't help but wonder if this volume could have done with a few less essays from either source or either editor for that matter though I hope essays from then appear in volume three including Smith?'s excellent review of Boomtown over on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide for example.
Whatever your personal taste in Doctor Who might be, if you're a fan of the original series there's something to read here. The range is as incredible as the quality of the essays themselves, proving that just because something might not be widely read doesn't mean it isn't well written. Overall then, Time Unincorporated Volume Two is a fine successor to the Parkin-centric volume one and it raises the standard even higher for volume three on the new series.