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The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who
Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping
MonkeyBrain Books, 349 pages

The Discontinuity Guide
Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping
Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping have all authored popular Doctor Who novels as well as numerous non-fiction books on television and film. Recently, Paul Cornell was selected as a staff writer for the new BBC Doctor Who television series currently in development.

ISFDB Bibliography: Paul Cornell
ISFDB Bibliography: Martin Day
ISFDB Bibliography: Keith Topping

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

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The Discontinuity Guide: the Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who is an exhaustive television reference manual dedicated to that strange, sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful British series, Doctor Who.

Alas, I am not a dedicated fan of the good doctor. I am not sure The Discontinuity Guide will make a fan of me or of anyone else who is not already a Dr. Disciple. The information presented in the guide is too fragmented, and few 'big picture' moments exist.

The Discontinuity Guide's strength is its detail and its interest in the facts. The authors do not shy from the show's multiple blunders, and more attention is sometimes paid to what went wrong rather than what went right. However, a lack of general context weakens the overall effect of anything the authors might be trying to show. At the same time, I don't think Cornell and company wanted to collect a bigger audience for the show, rather than give a resource to enrich the experiences of current fans as well as those fans who find Dr. Who on their own.

The book and its authors feature a consistent template of information for every episode in the show's 26 seasons. Yes, there were actually 26 seasons of Dr. Who, from 1963-1989. The guide works through the television, movie, and other influences for each episode, as well as examples of 'dialogue disasters' and 'dialogue triumphs.' Also included is a comment on the 'continuity' issues each episode presents, and how one episode might connect to episodes past or future.

The dialogue sections are just plain funny. During the show's last season, a Dr. Who character said, "I thought you'd died. Or gone to Birmingham." The humor works for most any reader, whatever that person's Dr. Who background (and listed as a 'dialogue triumph). Another example comes from the 1970 season when some Dr. Who character said, "Listen to that! It's the sound of the planet screaming out its rage!" That's a well-named "dialogue disaster,' and it is funny only because of its groan factor.

Obviously, I have no idea of what was happening during the dialogue, who said each bit, and the reaction to the dialogue. That would have been nice, but this guide sorely lacks any such material. To make matters whose, the authors sometimes span an entire season of episodes to find their category winners, leaving little idea of the specific moment in each case. To be fair, 26 seasons is a ton of time, especially in TV land, but again, I felt left out.

The authors are fully aware of the camp value of the Dr. Who series, as well as the guide's role. There are sections for "Goofs," which document the numerous shoddy moments in script writing and in production, as well as the above mentioned 'dialogue disasters.' There is also a section for "technobabble" (a Trekkie phrase), which gives examples of the show's writers talking out of their collective butt about the realm of future science.

The Discontinuity Guide is a fine reference to those academic among us, those who like to win at Jeopardy, or for those fans who do not feel complete without copious and useless knowledge about a favorite show. The rest of us should -- at best -- thumb through the The Discontinuity Guide for its few moments of humor. Then we need to put it back on the shelf.

Copyright © 2005 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.


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