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New Dimensions of Doctor Who

New Dimensions of Doctor Who: Adventures in Space, Time and Television: Exploring Space, Time and Television edited by Matt Hills (I B Tauris, 2013), 256 pages. ISBN: 978-1845118662 (paperback), £12.99

s200_lorna.jowettAbout the Reviewer: Dr Lorna Jowett is Reader in Television Studies at the University of Northampton. Dr Jowett has published widely on visual media and popular culture, with much of hee research directly addressing genre and representation in television, film and popular fiction. She is on the editorial boards of Slayage: The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association and Intensities: the Journal of Cult Media and write guest blogs for Critical Studies in Television. She currently Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project on Cult TV and was co-organiser of TV Fangdom: A Conference on Television Vampires (June 2013) at the University of Northampton.Her recent publications include: Sex and the Slayer: a Gender Studies Primer For the Buffy Fan (2005, Wesleyan University Press); Editor, with Stacey Abbott, TV Horror: Investigating the Darker Side of the Small Screen (2012, I.B.Tauris).

New-Dimensions-web2013 saw a large number of Doctor Who publications, especially in the latter part of the year as the series’ much-publicised fiftieth anniversary approached. These ranged from TV tie-ins such as Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn (BBC Books), to ‘unofficial’ guides such as Who’s 50: 50 Doctor Who Stories To Watch Before You Die by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith? (ECW Press), to ‘handy books’ from academic publishers such as Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who edited by Paul Booth (Intellect), to full-blown academic studies like Doctor Who in Time and Space: Essays on Themes, Characters, History and Fandom, 1963-2012 edited by Gillian I. Leitch (McFarland). The publisher of New Dimensions of Doctor Who, I B Tauris, even developed its own ‘Who Watching’ label. In his introduction, editor Matt Hills addresses this explosion in Who publishing and explores the notion of a burgeoning Who studies, warning against ‘textual exclusionism’ (page 4) and suggesting that previous rifts between ‘classic’ and ‘new’ Who are on the wane, affording new perspectives on Doctor Who as a complete work (page 5).

As might be expected from a collection edited by Hills, author of Triumph of a Time Lord (I B Tauris, 2010), this book is knowledgeable and thorough. Hills has amassed contributions from a range of scholars, including, as he notes in his introduction, authors and editors of several previous books on Who and its related spin-offs, including Melisss Beattie, Piers D. Britton, David Butler, Ross P. Garner, Andrew O’Day and Rebecca Williams, as well as from established scholars working in television or popular culture such as Will Brooker and Catherine Johnson. This roster alone suggests that the book will offer consistent quality across its various chapters, still unusual for edited collections, and indeed New Dimensions delivers this.

The collection is organised into three sections: New Doctor Who; New Television, New Media; and New Spaces and Times, and the contributions range admirably across various factors that impact the series, such as music, visual design (and redesign), authorship, television ‘overflow’ into new media, branding, audience engagement, the public service remit or the BBC, the educational ‘value’ of Doctor Who, and the association of new Who with Cardiff, while providing a logical progression from text to industry to the series as a national and international cultural commodity. Thus, while some readers may choose to dip in and out, reading the collection from start to finish offers a surprisingly coherent experience and a strong narrative of Who as a still-developing television product.

The range of perspectives and angles contained in this one book make it ideal for teaching television. Who’s high public profile and mainstream address make it a good case study for encouraging students at different levels of an undergraduate degree programme to think about scriptwriting, aesthetics, genre, commercial branding and patterns of consumption. As a publisher, Tauris generally prefer their television and film books to be written in an accessible style so that they can engage a general readership. The contributions in this collection do not stint on academic analysis and rigorous examination of their subject, but manage to provide this in chapters that an undergraduate can grasp. Likewise, a reader who is knowledgeable about Doctor Who, or even about television or science fiction, is likely to find engaging material here, as will an academic versed in these areas. A ‘selective bibliography’ offers tips for further reading and individual chapters incorporate a wide range of Who and other scholarship.

If there is a downside, this is simply the usual frustration of an edited collection: short pieces written by different authors. Yet the strengths of this collection mean it works equally well as an introduction to ‘Who studies’ or as a complement to and development of existing scholarship on the series.

Dr Lorna Jowett

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