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28 July 2008 @ 09:29 pm
The Parting of the Critics: Value Judgements and Canon Formations  
The last segment of Time and Relative Dissertations in Space was the part that contained the most essays that read like articles out of DWM. This kind of journalistic article is very well but, as I've got older, I've become more aware of the way these things really are just opinion with no real theoretical framework to back them up and so they felt out of place to me in this volume which was otherwise working quite hard to present its material academically.

The Talons of Robert Holmes kicks off the section by discussing Robert Holmes' contribution to Doctor Who and, specifically, making a claim that he is the one person with the greatest impact on the show. That he, in a sense, created it. The essay essentially serves as a review of Holmes' career and a discussion of his Doctor Who episodes. It's pretty solid stuff but was disappointing after what had gone before. Essentially it was something that would, could (and more or less had) appeared in Doctor Who Magazine.

The next essay, "Why is 'City of Death' the best Doctor Who story? by Alan McKee is probably the most bizarre in the volume. Ostensibly its a dissection of the the story City of Death (which, incidentally is the best Doctor Who story) analysing its success in, again, a fairly journalistic fashion, give or take quotes from DWM and varies fan guides. The punchline though is in the first endnote:

The academic purpose of this paper is simple. Some academics have worried that postmodern challenges to traditional hierarchies of cultural authority mean that `anything goes' and consumers no longer make judgements about what is good and bad culture (some refs). This paper seeks to demonstrate that this is not the case. The fact that academic systems of aesthetic judgement no longer command the respect they have previously done does not mean that aesthetic judgements are no longer being made.

and then some more. So basically the entire essay is a spoof in order to make the point in the endnote.

'Canonicity matters: defining the Doctor Who canon' by Lance Parkin begins promisingly, looking like its going to actually explore the concept of what canon means using Doctor Who as an example. But mostly it is just a guide for the outsider to various demarkations in the Doctor Who canon debate. I guess this might be of interest to an anthropologist studying fan behaviour but again, compared to what we had seen in the earlier parts of the collection, it appeared rather slight: a survey rather than a thesis of any description.

Broader and deeper: the lineage of and impact of the Timewyrm series by Dale Smith again reads more like a simple, DWM style, account of the start of the New Adventures novels than an academic piece of work, even a fairly straightforward piece of narrative history. I think its something about the exclusive focus on Doctor Who fiction and the absence of any wider context that give this impression. However it was interesting to see my own experience written down in black and white - the sense that in the New Adventures Doctor Who had somehow grown up with me.

Televisuality without television? The Big Finish audios and discourses of 'tele-centric' Doctor Who by Matt Hills returns to the more academic style of the earlier parts of Time and Dissertations in Space with a discussion of the Big Finish Audio Doctor Who adventures in the context of the idea of televisuality both in terms of how the audios try to reproduce the experience of watching Doctor Who on television and the ways in which they, especially the eighth Doctor adventures, diverge from this. In the course of this Hills considers the concept of "televisuality" and tries, not entirely successfully in my opinon, to frame the discussion within that concept. It's a decent enough essay, marred perhaps by the fact I'm not terribly interested in the Big Finish audios, but a disappointing close to the volume. Influential as they have been, ending a book discussing Doctor Who with a discussion of the Big Finish adventures does give the impression of petering out in some sense.

So, all in all, I found lots to interest me in Time and Relative Dissertations in Space. But, as I said when I started these reviews, I think it suffers from an uneven tone - veering wildly from very jargon heavy academic discourse to much fluffier, more journalistic pieces and the lasts quarter, in particular, didn't appear to me to have a great deal to offer beyond the articles you can (or at least used to, pre-2005) find regularly in Doctor Who Magazine.

WHO DAILY HTML: <lj user=louisedennis> <a href="http://louisedennis.livejournal.com/81978.html">reviews part four of time and relative disserations in space</a>