If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you should check out a new book based on Philip Sandifer’s blog TARDIS Eruditorum. The collected edition of his essays related to William Hartnell’s first Doctor is now available on Kindle and it’s a fantastic read, some of the best writing on Who that I’ve come across. It’s already made me reassess what I thought I knew about the characters and the history of the series, and you can’t really ask for anything more than that.
(The blog also inspired an entry I wrote on the recent episode ‘Closing Time’, although I fully admit I lack the critical vocabulary and the attention span to match Mr. Sandifer’s work.)
What’s interesting about the book is that it’s accessible and intelligent. There have been critical works published about all manner of TV shows, but, frankly, most of them disappear up their own backsides. Fortunately, Doctor Who has long been one of those shows that seems to attract and encourage fan engagement, to the extent that nowadays it’s being made by fans. This may be a fatuous comment, but some shows (like Star Trek) encourage fans to make the show real, either through cosplaying or through involvement in science, engineering or campaigns to rename space shuttles; Doctor Who encourages fans to actually create the fiction, either on TV itself or through fanfiction, comics and, probably most importantly, novels. There’s something about Doctor Who that prompts a significant chunk of its audience to engage with mythmaking and storytelling, either directly or by thinking about how stories work. The writers seem to have latched on to that as a theme, exploring the Doctor as an intergalactic legend, a mythic figure, and the benefits, problems and consequences of that. It’s interesting.
But I’m rambling. If you’re interested in how the Doctor became the Doctor, or how the cultural context of the mid-sixties affected the show, check out the book. If you’re not interested, well, check out Doctor Who anyway…