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01 May 2008 @ 06:43 pm
Time and Relative Dissertations in Space  
This is an oddly schizophrenic book and its clear that the authors had rather different conceptions about its primary audience. Jonathan Bignell and Alec Charles, for instance, are clearly writing essays targetted at an academic audience with a strong background in the theory and jargon of media studies and/or social science (since I'm not an academic in these areas it is difficult to tell which, precisely). Most of the authors settle for writing in an academic style but with an eye to being readily comprehensible by the lay man and a few, particularly in the final section, write pieces that wouldn't be out of place in DWM; light on academic theory and sprinkled with fannish in-jokes.

It also suffers from the accident of timing. It is a collection of essays studying Doctor Who with a particular emphasis on its evolution and its cross-media forms. Sadly, although published in 2007, its essays are all based on presentations given in 2004 so its contents are forced to largely ignore the developments of the new series. This renders most of the essays instantly out-of-date which is a shame because every single one of them (even those that are jargon heavy and difficult to follow) have something interesting to say but you wish that the new series perspective could also have been brought into play.

The other interesting observation I made across all the essays in the book was a more personal one. When I did my PGCHE (Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education) much was made about discipline context and assumptions. So I was struck by two "discipline assumptions" here. Firstly, and this is peculiar to Computer Science, we write predominantly to page counts. Unlike most disciplines which publish in journals we publish predominantly in conferences generally with a 15 page limit. This causes problems (B. often complains about the lack of necessary detail in CS papers), but it also forces you to ruthlessly prune out, for instance, additional interesting examples which are, perhaps, not central to your point. So I found several of the essays "unnecessarily verbose". In particular I felt that they marshalled more examples to make their point than was strictly necessary, almost to the point of mindless listing in some cases. Secondly it seemed very problematic, to me, to try and make a point about the body of work that is Doctor Who as a whole based on selected examples. In something as diverse and multi-authored as Doctor Who (a fact stressed by several of the essays) I couldn't work out what the criteria could be for choosing representative examples since a counter-example was almost bound to come along within a couple of years, if not sooner. How do you distinguish the trend from the one-offs? I suspect this is something obvious to someone within the discipline (or at least, the accepted processes are obvious though they presumably also have their within discipline critiques).

It's too daunting to try and cover all the individual essays in one post and there are things I want to say about several of them. So I'm going to group them together into a number of subsequent posts.

I wouldn't recommend this to a general reader, but anyone interested in a theoretical take on the development and impact of Doctor Who or with a more general interest in the nature of popular culture and television programs in particular, will find lots to sink their teeth into here.