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Timeless Adventure: How Doctor Who Conquered TV
Brian J. Robb
Kamera Books, 256 pages

Timeless Adventure: How Doctor Who Conquered TV
Brian J. Robb
Brian J. Robb is a writer and biographer whose previous books have included a New York Times Best-Selling biography of Leonardo DiCaprio; Screams & Nightmares, the definitive book on horror director Wes Craven; biographies of Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor; and Counterfeit Worlds, a study of the films of Philip K. Dick. He is currently Managing Editor at Titan Magazines, a publisher of film and TV related titles. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Official Star Wars Insider Magazine, and oversees magazines for Lost, Stargate, Smallville, Star Trek and Supernatural, as well as being Managing Editor on Total Sci Fi, an international cult film and television web site.

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A lone traveler in a battered blue police box traveling through time and space, righting wrongs and keeping the universe safe. Doctor Who is an amazing show with a phenomenal 40-plus year history. But more than being the longest running and greatest resurrected television show ever, it's a reflection of the culture that created it. Brian J. Robb captures Doctor Who's cultural importance with Timeless Adventure: How Doctor Who Conquered TV, a critical study of the impact the show has had on British society and, through that, the world.

Robb has done a phenomenal amount of research for this undertaking, commenting on not only every episode, movie, novel in the Doctor Who canon but also the political, social and historical context in which each piece of fiction premiered and the reality of England at the time versus the Whoniverse.

Starting with the early days of the show's creation and production, he chronicles the socio-political elements as well as blind luck that resulted in the show's creation as little more than a children's show. From there, he moves through each episode, some more in-depth than others, continuing his case and point as the series grows beyond these humble begins to reflect the flavor of the times.

For long-time fans, this creates an interesting dichotomy, reliving the classic story, but seeing it placed in a context that might have been overlooked during the initial viewing. One would think this constant analyzing would wear a bit thin, but it actually serves to heighten the enjoyment of the read and builds the desire to watch these episodes again.

As he continues through each season, Robb emphasizes how, above all else, Doctor Who was the show with a very solid fan base that was accessible to the casual viewer but honored those who had been with it from the beginning. He sites the Jon Pertwee to the early Tom Baker era as the pinnacle of this style of visual and narrative openness.

Then we reach the 80s, producer John Nathan-Turner takes the helm of the show and its popularity dwindles. Reading between the lines, Robb possess an extreme dislike of John Nathan-Turner and his long stint on the series. Some of it is well-deserved, however, as he attests and cites multiple examples of the show growing so mired and ingrained in its own continuity from late 4th Doctor to the end of the 7th Doctor's run (and the original series itself) that this period became almost incomprehensible to the casual viewer.

Robb does briefly mention the 1996 made-for-TV film, but things really take off in 2005 with the introduction of the current series. Here, Robb notes how the show has reclaimed the "anyone-can-join" quality the early years had while still respecting all that came before for the hardcore fans as well as maintaining its air of relevance to the current social situations of the world.

Political, economic and social realities are ever-changing, just like the style, feel and storytelling of Doctor Who. But it's the unconventional, humorous, frightening and sometimes baffling ability of this offbeat, seemingly immortal series that has persisted through the decades to not only remain relevant, but allow us insight into our own changing times.

Copyright © 2011 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been Star Trek characters, the Riddler in a Batman stunt show and holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. He has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories while acting on stage, screen and television. He can sometimes be seen giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood and playing Norman Bates.


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