A History of the Universe
|ISBN#||0 426 20471 9|
|Synopsis: The history of the Dr. Who Universe from the dawn to the end of time.|
Indispensable by Tim Roll-Pickering 16/6/02
Back in 1996 this book was a veritable triumph. It was the first attempt to produce a coherent timeline for both the television series and the New and Missing Adventures that weaved everything together and also the first time a published chronology had actually included details explaining just how the author had come to his conclusions about all the dates and order for the various stories. As a result this book is indispensable, not just for anyone trying to write their own story but also for those wishing to see an alternative perspective on matters. Furthermore it is written in a highly accessible style, with the three different typefaces never once confusing the reader. Even if the reader agrees with Gerry Davis' comments 'I loathe and detest people who produce these elaborate chronologies' (reprinted at the start of the book) it is still possible to enjoy this work that seeks to tie together all the events.
It is possible to disagree with many of the dates that Lance Parkin has selected for stories. To take one at random, I would date the first Dalek story (The Mutants) as being in 2263 on the basis that Inside the Spaceship establishes the previous story took place in the future of 1963 as well as the Doctor's comments in The Dalek Invasion of Earth which suggest that events on Skaro were in the future of events on Earth and the behind the scenes documentation that dated the story is set in the 23rd century. Lance Parkin however selects the date 1963 for the story, but I fully respect his choice of the date. Many fans will have their own ideas about how to date the stories but here is the chance to understand fully an alternative take on the events. He is also willing to acknowledge the dates chosen by other chronologies, as well as admitting that there are some stories which are extremely difficult to fit into the timeline such as The Invisible Enemy or the entire history of Gallifrey. Wisely he deals with the latter by having a specific chapter for the history of Gallifrey that also manages to incorporate the many secrets of the planet's history. The other famous bugbear of Doctor Who chronologies, UNIT dating, is a harder concept, especially when trying to work out how to fit them around other stories such as Fury From the Deep which take place in the 1970s with no direct link to the UNIT stories. Lance Parkin admits the problems of several dates in onscreen dialogue all contradicting one another whilst other clues confuse matters further, but does his best to fit the stories into 'the 1970s'. Parkin's narrative is highly readable and offers a consistent theme for the series and novels, with similar themes lumped together and the result is a clear chronology. However six years on it is harder to follow the chronology. Whilst the last year of the New and Missing Adventures should be relatively easy to fit into this chronology, the BBC Books and Big Finish audio adventures present a harder problem since many of the earlier books started on the basis of completely ignoring the Virgin stories and even some of the television adventures (e.g. War of the Daleks). It would be fascinating to see an updated version of A History of the Universe which can fit all these developments into a chronology whilst at the same time maintaining coherence and I have little doubt that Lance Parkin would be able to do so. But to criticise this book for only going as far as the books that came out at the same time as it did would be ridiculous and Parkin did at least try not to contradict the-then immediately forthcoming adventures and acknowledging some of the details of books due to published almost immediately like Killing Ground.
The sidenotes for the book are extensive but highly intelligent and show a willingness to expound on difficult continuity problems such as the Doctor's changing age and highlighting the ambiguity about the Doctor's background and whether or not there really were any pre-Hartnell incarnations. Equally readable is the appendix reproducing the bulk of a document by Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt detailing the background to Gallifrey and some of the basis behind the so-called 'Cartmel Masterplan' but tantalisingly the last part is omitted though the subsequent New Adventure Lungbarrow has answered some of the outstanding questions.
This book is simply indispensable and probably the best chronology that has ever been published. Now if we could only see an updated version... 9/10