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Exploring Material Culture in the Whoniverse - Crafting A Linear Chronology of the Doctor's World,
This review is from: Doctor Who: A History of the Universe in 100 Objects (Hardcover)
I received my copy of 'Doctor Who - A History of the Universe in 100 Objects' from two of my closest friends on my twenty-fifth birthday. They know that I have become somewhat of an avid Whovian since the series' revival in 2005, and thought this book would be a great little coffee-table reader. Compiled and authored by James Goss and Steve Tribe (famous names in the world of media tie-in novelisations and compendia) have attempted to put together a history of the Doctor's Universe from event one (the big bang) to the end of reality itself. The way they have done this is in a way very similar to the recent anthropological BBC radio programmes and academic articles, published by specialist lecturers from the Open University, exploring humanity and nature's most important and beautiful accomplishments through the interdisciplinary study of material culture. Both animate and inanimate objects are given as examples, including such things as a simple door, the Lost Moon of Poosch, the Doctor's scarf and the Face of Boe, amongst many others. In their preface introduction, Goss and Tribe declare that 'this book is wrong', meaning that every reader will have their own opinions on what should be included in their list of objects that are meant to explore the realms of the Doctor Who universe. I certainly agreed with most, but sometimes disagreed with the addition of others, but these opinions are simply to be expected when searching through the history of such a rich and diverse media franchise.
This publication from BBC Books was released in 2012, just after the new series' seventh season episode 'Asylum of the Daleks' aired. With the upcoming fiftieth anniversary celebrations, it is a great accompaniment to some of the other latest publications that have been released, such as 'Who-ology' and the latest edition of the 'Doctor Who Encyclopoedia', for example. What is great about this release is that it sets out to decipher a timeline of important events within the Whoniverse using sometimes everyday, and sometimes extraordinary objects which are part of a particular story, set at a particular point in time. For example, object 029 is a gas mask, taken from the new series' first season episode 'The Empty Child', wherein a mysterious child, wearing a gas-mask seemingly welded to his face, is spreading a horrific infection to the regional population in 1940s London. The authors link the object and the episode it is depicted in to real world events, such as the Second World War in this instance, and they add additional information regarding behind-the-scenes exploits of the episode in question. Each object is also lovingly rendered artistically on a full-page scale, and additional scenes from the series and pictures from the real world surround the text where appropriate.
Naturally, the home universe of a Time Lord, with almost limitless travelling distances in time and place, can become very complicated when attempting to put together a chronological and linear time-line of major natural occurrences, invasions, inventions and species development, etc.. A particular convolution is that of the history of the Daleks, in that two origin theories have been established via various television stories and tie-in media. A lot of people, including Goss and Tribe it seems (and myself coincidentally) attempt to place the various dates of dalek history into one cohesive time-line, although this book (and myself) do acknowledge the alternative origins as well. Even with these potential hindrances, the authors are meticulous in presenting in-story information and how this connects to other televised stories in linear sequence.
Ultimately, this is a well-crafted book that attempts to give avid viewers a detailed overview of the world of the Doctor, his companions, enemies, friends and family; with linking relevance to the real world and how ideas for stories and particular species were crafted from contemporary issues, literature, film and other media. By utilising a strategy introduced as an anthropological tool of categorising the world's most intriguing and influential material culture, this publication offers a sense of academic insight into the Whoniverse, while still maintaining a simple yet witty repertoire. For fans old and new of the Doctor Who franchise, 'A History of the Universe in 100 Objects' provides just that - a detailed, comprehensive and illustrated guide to the most important (matter of opinion, of course) items which surround the Doctor and the people he has come in to contact with. This, in turn, also provides the most up-to-date and detailed compendium of the universe in which the most famous of all Time Lords resides, offering viewers a visual linear chronology of events that have shaped nearly fifty years of adventures in time and space.