Once in a while the DOCTOR WHO merchandise universe spawns a publication that eloquently mixes the cohort of analytically intelligent with a humorous incredulity that I cannot but recommend to fans, and, on 27 September 2012, DOCTOR WHO - A HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IN 100 OBJECTS is that singular tome.
I entered into an intimate - yes, reading it in bed over three nights - relationship with James Goss & Steven Tribe's 260-page eclectic collective of (seemingly) random items drawn from DOCTOR WHO 49-year old universe, and we never argued (never go to sleep without `making-up' after an argument, by the way, trust me, it could flare-up in the morning and shouting with morning breath is not pleasant. I digress) from start to finish.
Every chapter is like having Christmas Day such is the non-sequential surprise of the `object' and its relative narrative, and whilst the `object' choices are singular - categorised chronologically - there is a collaboration of insight by the authors that engages and entertains in equal measure.
`A Christmas Tree' juxtaposed with an Agatha Christie novel is joined by a humble `Hairdryer' and `Tegan Jovanka's Lipstick, followed by the archetypal DOCTOR WHO barrier-to-be-succumbed (`A Door') and loathed - in its juiced form - by the Sixth Doctor, `Carrots'. As you can see, there is neither rhyme nor reason to their selection, and there lies its strength.
Certainly, this is not another boring and earnest `encyclopaedia' and may be the first DOCTOR WHO `coffee-table book' that even the most casual of series viewers would not be embarrassed to have on display.
Charmingly, DOCTOR WHO - A HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IN 100 OBJECTS asks more question than it answers, and that conversation (or heated debate) is refreshingly astute, and unlike other publication released since the series was re-launched (2005) it's a cross-pollination of CLASSIC and NEW SERIES is reverentially balanced and a credit to Ebury Publishing and the authors.
To be honest, it is difficult to fault this book, not only in its content and but rationale but its exemplary print & production quality (the clarity print, the page stock and the overall design meets Ebury Publishing/BBC BOOKS exacting standards that DOCTOR WHO fans have come to expect), but I have to identify at least one criticism to justify an unbiased review. And this is where I am struggling. Struggling to find a singular excuse to chastise the authors but I think I have found one. Yes, only one as this `reference' book is that stunning.
So, what's the conflicting problem?
The authors skip lightly over the `other' main character, TARDIS, of the drama series with such alacrity that it seems to disregard its central importance. Chapter 052 is brief, far too brief, given the prestige nature of this storytelling device, especially as TARDIS' consciousness has finally, after decades of being hinted at, been realised as organic manifestation (see THE DOCTOR'S WIFE). In this chapter there is no mention of `nano-telepathic' technology (allowing its occupants to understand any/most languages of the universe/s without a second thought), nor (alleged) `state of temporal grace', nor the fact that the Doctor can remove (see INFERNO) its operational console from its main piloting area whilst retaining the transcendental dimensions within, nor the relative fact that an asteroid, discovered in 1984, was named after it (see 3325 TARDIS). However, yes, another positive - damn it - from the release, the two-page analysis of the Doctor's ability to pilot the time:space ship demonstrates that the random nature of traversing the Time Vortex has become too contrived (well, for this reviewer at least) throughout the NEW SERIES. The excitement of settling down with a plate of fish fingers and baked beans teetering on your lap in front of the affectionately named "goggle-box" (read: television set) and to guess where the Doctor would be materialising next was all part of the fun, rollercoaster ride of the series. Now, sadly, TARDIS is a mere taxi service (as the Fifth Doctor referred to it) with the element of uncertainty dramatically dissipated resulting in tempering the action.
Oh, and the publication's wraparound jacket. For impact, it may have been more substantial if all the cut-and-paste images had been removed, focusing purely on a typographic (with a gloss varnish matte) design. Unreservedly, this would have classically intriguing.
Overall, as you might have guessed, DOCTOR WHO - A HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IN 100 OBJECTS is, and I use this next word with only a minor hesitation, genius.