With the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who just about a year away, the amount of books being released on the subject has gone up substantially. There are enough episode guides, monster dossiers, and potted histories to fill a small library (that’s bigger on the inside… had to), but I really doubt you’ll find a book quite like Chicks Unravel Time, which is available today from Mad Norwegian Press. A follow-up to 2010’s award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords, Chicks Unravel Time is a fun, entertaining, informative, and highly amusing read that further proves what we already know: women like science fiction and can write intelligently about it. Not just a few women, either; a lot of women.
The conceit of the book, edited by Deborah Stanish and LM Myles, is to look at each of Doctor Who’s seasons, from 1963 to 2011, from a different angle, by a different female writer. That’s 34 different points of view and topics of discussion. For a show as constantly in motion as DW, to have completely different writing styles, points of view, frames of reference, and predilections for each season is unbelievably refreshing. They all come from different backgrounds, professions, cities, countries, what-have-you, but they all have the love of the show in common, which illustrates its ever-growing appeal. The experience of the writers also varies with some having written professionally for many years and some having never done so before. Some chapters are purely analytical, some are much more anecdotal, but all of them explore the topic in a thoughtful and relevant way.
I particularly enjoy the disjointedness of the presentation. Instead of going in chronological order, the seasons are arranged in a fashion that seems at once random and perfectly aligned. I was never sure where I’d be headed next but I was always pleasantly surprised to be there. It starts with a celebration of 2005’s renewal series and ends with Season 8’s continual Doctor/Master showdowns and in between the other seasons are explored from about every angle possible. Gender roles? Check. Racial depictions? Covered. Companions both strong and simpering? It’s all in here. There’s revelry in some seasons, criticism of others. You can go from reading about the First Doctor in terms of his relative childishness, to the importance of sound and music in a season beset by missing episodes, to an exploration of being Jewish centered around “Let’s Kill Hitler.” And if you’re one of those fans who’s all about the Tenth Doctor’s backside, there’s something here for you too.
It’s truly a delight to read smart words from smart people on a subject beloved and important to them. Chicks Unravel Time is a fantastic read that delves into why Doctor Who holds such a dear place in the hearts of so many, and how it has impacted them. It’s a joy to read and will make you think about the show in ways you may never have, and for a series pushing 50 to still be eliciting this kind of discourse, it must be doing something right. I highly recommend this book to Whovians everywhere.
-Kanderson supports good writing. Support him on TWITTER.