Lance Parkin is a true veteran when it comes to writing Doctor Who. He wrote four titles in the late 1990s when Virgin Publishing were producing New Adventures, including the final entry in that range, The Dying Days which featured the Eighth Doctor in his first print adventure. When BBC Books took over the licence, Parkin wrote a further four Eighth Doctor novels and one for the Tenth Doctor. Parkin has also written for Big Finish, including the rather excellent Davros which shows the creator of the Daleks at his best against the Sixth Doctor. His work included complex ideas which bound disparate elements of the Doctor Who universe (or Whoniverse) together.
The writer’s biggest achievement in my eyes though is his magnificent A History. A tome which attempts through considered reasoning to catalogue every event from the television programme, novels, audio adventures, comics and other Doctor Who output. It’s a marvel of research and I’ve owned three editions of it, from the original Virgin release to the current edition which covers everything up until 2011.
This pre-amble hopefully shows that Parkin is excellently placed to compile a book about the Whoniverse and the planets, galaxies and pocket universes that it contains. It was with great anticipation that I waited for my copy to arrive. But also with a little trepidation as I’ve noticed a slow trend in Doctor Who reference work to be a bit content-light and picture heavy of late. Which side does Whoniverse: Whoniverse – An Unofficial Planet-By-Planet Guide to the Universe of the Doctor, from Gallifrey to Skaro land? Let’s find out.
AUTHOR: Lance Parkin
PUBLISHER: Aurum Press
What exactly is Trenzalore? Where did the Sontarans originate? Where does the mysterious blue crystal get its powers from? Who are the Eight Legs? Which of the Doctor’s companions come from Bortresoye? Whoniverse is the ultimate guide to planet spotting in all the weird and wonderful galaxies the Doctor travels through and beyond. Packed full of facts, stats, trivia and data, the book is organised according to the galaxies and star systems that appear in the Doctor Who stories. Encyclopedia style, each entry offers information on the planet, its native species, history, and the role it plays in the Doctor’s journeys. Uniquely, the book is peppered with bespoke timelines that chart the Doctor’s interaction with each planet, not just in his television appearances, but short stories, comics, and radio stories as well, making this the most comprehensive study of the Doctor Who universe ever compiled.
I have to admit I had a slight sinking feeling as I read the introduction to Whoniverse. Lance Parkin states upfront that this book is not intended to be an overview to every location visited by the Doctor and nor does it feature statistics about planets – their size, orbits and so on. Rather it’s a look at some of the more prominent, interesting or bizarre parts of the Whoniverse it covers. With this in mind, I was expecting another light-weight, image heavy book that offered little actual information to the budding Doctor Who scholar.
Reading through the book though, I found an excellent amount of detail. Parkin has filled the 288 page tome with just enough factoids and references to whet the appetite and point the reader to the story in which a certain planet (or fact about it) appeared. Each entry includes a general introduction, a “history” section and one or more sidebars of information – such as a fact file which details key facts introduced by different stories and so-on or Behind the Scenes information about the development of the location in the series, books, audios or comics.
The book is divided into sections into which planets (and galaxies and pocket universes) are grouped. This division in no way feels arbitrary and the order of the sections flows neatly from one to the other in a logical fashion. From the origins of the universe through Earth and human worlds, the worlds of major aliens and on to the end of the universe.
As ever, Parkin provides references to the source to back up the statements included in the book. Something missing in many such reference books, whether related to Doctor Who or another franchise. If any complaint were to be made about these references, it is that there is no bibliography attached. In many cases, simply the title of the source and the type of media is listed which makes hunting down the source a bit more of a challenge than perhaps was necessary. On the other hand, it’s far better to fill a book with content rather than bibliographies, so this can easily be forgiven – especially in this age of the internet.
As a long-time fan of Doctor Who in all its forms, this book offers tidbits of information that may otherwise have been missed. Never is the presentation bland, demonstrating Parkin’s mastery of this unique format of a non-fiction book presenting fictional information as “fact”. Fans without the encyclopaedic knowledge of the universe of Doctor Who that someone like I have will get even more out of this book.
Special mention has to be given to JC Lanway, the book’s designer. I absolutely loved the presentation of this book – from the cover art through heading layouts and the design elements featured on the pages. The book is a delight to look at and the quality of the design and its production shines and helps lift Parkin’s hard work to a new level.
Whoniverse is a beautifully designed book that deserves its place on any Doctor Who fan’s bookshelf or coffee table. While not comprehensive, the locations covered are varied and give an excellent insight into the worlds visited by the wandering Time Lord. Pick this up if you’re a fan of the show who wants that little bit extra information … or if you know someone who is. After all, Christmas is just around the corner on planet Earth …
Whoniverse: An Unofficial Planet-By-Planet Guide to the Universe of the Doctor, from Gallifrey to Skaro is published by Aurum Press and was released on October 22nd, 2015. It retails at £20 in the UK.
GS Rating: 4.5 / 5