THE DISCONTINUITY GUIDE
by Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In 1995, Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping published The Discontinuity Guide, a fannish look and every episode of "Doctor Who" made from the series' inception in 1963 until its cancellation in 1989. A year later, the Doctor was reincarnated (as Paul McGann) for a film. In 2004, Monkeybrain Books reprinted the classic book and a year later the Doctor was again reincarnated (as Christopher Eccleston) for the first time since McGann's single appearance.
The book is not an episode guide to the television show and shouldn't be approached as one. The authors clearly believe that their readers have a familiarity with the television show and the specifics of the episodes. Therefore, the not only do not include plot summaries for the series, but do not even note (except in passing) the characters and actors who appear in the episodes. However, as this is not the purpose of the book, it isn't really a problem.
What the book is, on the other hand, is a discussion as might happen among fans over a couple of pints in a pub. Each series contains a discussion of goofs, sources, fashion comments, dialogue comments, and a look at where it is set in the continuity of the greater show. While some of this discussion is arcane, especially if the shows are not readily available, The Discontinuity Guide does provide an interesting glimpse into "Doctor Who" from the point of view of fans, in this case, fans who have also have professional credits, and Cornell is involved with the reimagination of "Doctor Who."
Interspersed among the 159 episodes of "Doctor Who" covered in the book are sidebars looking at thematic issues in the series. These range from a look at the various histories of the Daleks to the location of Gallifrey. Set apart from the main text by boxes, it is easy to find the sidebars, although some sort of specific index or table of contents to the sidebars would have been appreciated, especially as they are referred to in a variety of main entries with no real indication where they can be found in the book.
It would have been nice if an additional entry covering McGann's movie could have been added to this edition, but such is not the case. Perhaps a future edition will be published with not only a section on the film, but also covering the seasons with Eccleston and David Tennant as the Doctor. However, that is for a future edition, and therefore a future review, to cover.
Unfortunately, reading The Discontinuity Guide without access to the series it discusses is a bit like reading a computer manual without having the software in front of you. However, about sixty of the series discussed in the book are available in whole or in part on DVD, and many more of them can be found on video tape.
Taken for what it is, a fannish conversation on the strengths and weaknesses of a popular television show, The Discontinuity Guide makes for entertaining reading and can lead to numerous debates, even if just between the reader and the perceived authors. If it isn't always organized as well or written as clearly as possible, that only serves to heighten its similarity to a discussion in the con suite, and makes the book enjoyable for any "Doctor Who" fan.
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