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Timelink 1 by Joe Preddle

01/05/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Timelink 1: The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who Continuity Volume One in the USA - or Buy Timelink 1: The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who Continuity Volume One in the UK

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Timelink 1: The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who Continuity Volume One by Joe Preddle. pub: Telos. 563 page enlarged paperback. Price: GBP15.99 (UK), $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-84583-004-5.

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The sub-title of ‘Timelink 1’, ‘The Unofficial And Unauthorised Guide To Doctor Who Continuity’, should clue you in as to what this book is about. Actually, two books because it’s a massive under-taking covering forty-five years of TV ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ history. Author Joe Preddle is also wisely ignoring anything that doesn’t appear on TV as not being canon which is something I agree with but then I would also say the same for other shows that have tie-ins, etc in the paper world for the simple reason that show-runners tend to ignore them.

Continuity with ‘Doctor Who’ is confusing because as a Time Lord, time travel is seen as a matter of course and although the Doctor has his own time-line and flits in and out in the regular universe. Something else I agree with Preddle is that the Doctor’s universe isn’t quite the same as our own, we might have spotted the alien invasions in the last two centuries here otherwise and parallels rather than duplicates it which gets around certain discrepancies.

Preddle also defines the eleven rules he’s applying so you can see where he’s coming from in his decisions as well as spotting odd quirks where terrestrial calendar dates aren’t quite the same as our own. Indeed, there are extra days where we don’t have them.

This doesn’t mean I totally agree with him. There are several places where I can clearly dispute him. Time Lords are acutely aware of significant events that they should not play with in case it radically changes history, even if they did try doing this by getting the Doctor to alter history by preventing the creation of the Daleks. Mind you, this didn’t stop his later regeneration destroying Skaro. A lot of the time (sic), the Doctor’s intervention is to correct history back to its original direction and these are blips along the away. It would also explain why the TARDIS’ original random moves tended to hit on danger spots than staying in safe areas all the time. It might also explain why the Time Lords’ Celestial Intervention Agency originally didn’t go after him or the other rebellious Time Lords roaming the universe because they were fulfilling their part in history. That should give you some thought as to malevolent and benevolent behaviour of these people.

Something else I would dispute is the number of regenerations the Doctor had up to the point of ‘The Brain Of Morbius’. When he was having the mental battle with Morbius, the mental imagery showed earlier Doctor regenerations and some unfamiliar faces. I was always under the impression that these other people were Morbius’ not the Doctor’s. This would also imply that the Hartnell appearance was his first regeneration which might produce some conflict to his age and his grand-daughter, Susan, although as his appearances in Gallifrey showed later in ‘The Invasion Of Time’, the Time Lords normally grow very old before regenerating.

The heaviest chapter has to be the second one dealing with the time-line of the universe, even if it is based on Earth dates. Ensure you have a good ninety minutes to read it in. Despite its size, you’ll be surprised how you’ll just sit and just read and read with this one as your head puts the details together. I should point out that not all events are placed, only those that are dated. Several things came out of thia. I think the current ‘Doctor Who’ show-runners need to be reminded that Salamander from ‘The Enemy Of The World’ story will be with us in four years time and it would be an opportunity for the current regeneration not to run into himself on Earth. Mixing Gallifreyan dates into all of this places the Doctor’s birth date as in 1213 and he steals his TARDIS in 1610. Not that this isn’t useful to know but I was under the impression that Gallifrey was outside of normal time. Another interesting birth year is Sarah Jane Smith who parallels the late actress Elisabeth Sladen’s birth-year. Something that isn’t explained is how the manned Mars Probe does its thing before Neil Armstrong’s trip to the Moon which also exists in this alternative reality. Then again, maybe the Americans were slower than the British here.

Other chapters in the book examine other species histories from Cybermen, Daleks, UNIT, human interplanetary flight, Gallifrey and the Doctor himself. One thing Preddle does have problems with is matching appearance to our reality’s time frame but considering that that it is a parallel reality, I’m surprised that he didn’t put things down to that and their Earth is just slightly out of step with ours in some things. Then again, I’m surprised he didn’t question who or what is showing the Doctor’s adventures. Knowing humans for dramatising real events, it is conceivable that the alternative reality BBC channel is actually doing this on a tiny budget which would explain inconsistencies and might, horror, actually be making some stories up or extrapolating on things that were learnt from former companions.

An observation when it comes to the prevalent Earth standard planetary norm goes to the Dawkins Goldilocks planets. It’s unlikely that the TARDIS would deposit the Doctor on any planet whose atmosphere would kill him the minute he stepped outside.

In many respects, Preddle’s book gives all the information and observations he’s distilled from the TV series before drawing conclusions, so using his homework you can address points he’s made in a constructive way. With the Gallifrey chapter he explores the aspect that not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords and the problems of their age. I commented on this from doing reviews of the Who DVD reviews earlier in the year and he’s drawn a similar conclusion that they don’t regenerate until really old to get the longest life possible. If anything, Time Lords like the Doctor and the Master are rather more reckless with their regenerations.

The exploration of their First Law of not bumping into themselves is very interesting but I don’t think earlier regenerations of the Doctor or their companions really remember meeting their future selves when replaced back in their respective times or they would remember the conclusions and knew everything would be all right or have the solutions, but then they wouldn’t need their earlier regenerations then.

When it comes to the Doctor’s actual age, I can understand the number discrepancies. I wonder why Preddle didn’t contemplate that while the Doctor is in the TARDIS he’s essentially in a stasis area when nothing really ages which must make things difficult to remember how much he’s aged. Likewise, we’ve only ever seen the significant adventures that have been carried out and rarely the periods where they land on planets without much really happening although he does cover this point in a later chapter. Something else I did consider is that the original writers didn’t have access to the resource detail to check back on earlier details relating to the characters which would explain a lot of age and date discrepancies. Within the reality, would long-lived individuals really be that worried about their own age or give a vague number to show it doesn’t really worry them how much older that they are to their companions? The fact that it is more precisely given now is that Russell T. Davis was a long-time Who fan and would have done his own research. Saying that, having recent Who adventures spanning a single year, let along every fourth year regenerating doesn’t leave much gaps for hidden adventures, neither. Long life doesn’t equate to parallels with youth, adolescence and adulthood being at the same points as, say, with humans and Preddle addresses this although I think he might have gone further than he has but this should give you things to ponder on.

Preddle spends a lot of time examining what is known about Gallifrey. Although I agree that not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords, I do think they all have twin hearts and the potential to regenerate. He doesn’t address what makes them different or the need for regeneration and there is still an assumption that not all of them can do it. After all, in ‘The Invasion Of Time’, the Gallifreyans who went native were still Time Lords but just turned ‘green’ or gone back to nature and there were some youngsters amongst them. I’m not so sure if Gallifreyans have a gift for language but as beings who have telepathic leanings, the ability to communicate to the brain’s language centre would be a minor accomplishment.

One thing he certainly doesn’t address is who is Susan’s father but then he’s vague as to who was doing what at the academy. I can see one reason why Susan went to school while they were on Earth in 1963. Considering the number of celebrated people the Doctor has explained he met and learnt from, ensuring Susan gets some of this habit would make a lot of sense while he was repairing the TARDIS. Just because the adventures over the years shows them moving on after a resolution doesn’t mean that they don’t hang around longer elsewhere. ‘The Romans’ being probably the best example of them taking a respite but who wants to watch them doing nothing much for a story?

One observation I do like is that he might not have been called the Doctor until Ian and Barbara started calling him that when they became unwitting companions. That still doesn’t explain what he was called before then but it would make some sense although I doubt if, like Susan, they would have called him ‘grandfather’.

The Doctor ‘stole’ the only available TARDIS when he left Gallifrey, not realising it was up for repair. I don’t agree with Preddle that he was inexperienced in using it, just having to get around the repairs. Likewise, I can’t see him going back for Susan but taking her with him, which is largely why when I speculated on his origins that the Master might be her father a couple years ago. As to why the Doctor wasn’t remembered by his fellow Time Lords, it’s been highlighted that they are very insular in their attitudes and the various chapters only get together for major inaugurations so might not have cared too much or even noticed anything off-planet.

As a New Zealander, Preddle doen’t actually realise that although an under-age cannot buy alcoholic drinks in a British pub, this would not stop them being able to buy a packet of crisps or even a soft drink.

Much of this book is very much a researcher’s tool. You can look up the various skills and people each regeneration of the Doctor has met as well as quotes related to particular subjects. Of particular note is if the Doctor is half-human, on his mother’s side, or not from the American Who movie where the producers didn’t want him being totally alien. A similar thing happened with Spock in the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, too. Considering how the Americans pride themselves on accepting all kinds of people and one of their icons, Superman, is totally alien does make such things nonsensical. I’m more inclined to think it an unfortunate glitch that doesn’t need to be rationalised.

The same could also be said about Time Lord physiology and why two hearts were not recognised in the Hartnell and Troughton regenerations, mostly because no one had thought of making the Doctor significantly different at the time. I do think that it’s pretty much established how many regenerations the Doctor has had now and as shown with the Master, there are ways to get around what to do after the thirteenth time if he chooses to go on living. Oddly, Preddle doesn’t dwell on the radical changes the Doctor goes through each regeneration in contrast to the Master, who only in his latest regeneration dispenses with his goatee and dark hair colour but by then, he is also completely mad and probably didn’t care.

The history of Torchwood putting things in historical context is, despite being long, at least follows things a lot more tightly, no doubt because creator Russell T. Davis had to ensure some events had to tie in to its parent show. Following Jack Harkness being on Earth in five multiples and having to stay ‘dead’ to return to his designated time is still one of the oddest ones. I mean, he stays in a coffin for a millennia and is either a great sleeper, doesn’t get bored or go mad or any combination of the above which I would have thought would have been a bigger problem than growing a beard. From my point of view, if he gets restored to the point that he was first made seemingly immortal, maybe it also has good repercussions for his psyche. If you want to see the history of Torchwood and its characters in context, then you’ll love this section of the book.

In many respects, though, Preddle doesn’t do as thorough a history analysis here and with ‘The Sarah-Jane Adventures’ but only in the context of the episode order. Speaking of which and in the latter section, I was under the impression that Sarah-Jane was investigating mysteries before she bumped into the Doctor again, else why was she at the school in ‘School Reunion’? It was only after that she was given the equipment to do it better.

This is an epic-long book and if there are only a few glitches that I’m criticising then they are out-weighed by the useful information and this book will undoubtedly become the reference book every Who fan will look to for information let alone read it all the way through like I did.

I always measure a non-fiction book by how much I have to say about it while I’m reading it. The length of this review should indicate that it will also keep you reading and thinking. Make space in your bookcase.

GF Willmetts

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