Home : Archive : TSV 41-50 : TSV 45 : Review

The Discontinuity Guide

Book review by Jon Preddle

It can be quite daunting to write the Doctor's Dilemma column when faced with questions that will take a lot of research to answer. However, the task should be easier now with The Discontinuity Guide (a very misleading title; it should have simply been 'The Continuity Guide', which would be a much more accurate description). Authors Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping have undertaken the grueling task of going through every Doctor Who story, listing all the continuity references as well as highlighting goofs, fluffs, and examples of great and terrible dialogue. Some of the double entendres mentioned are invisible on TV given the context in which they appear but when read out of context one wonders if Doctor Who should continue to be regarded as a childrens' programme!

Each story is covered in broadcast order, with separate 'boxed' topics such as Dalek History, Cyberman History, the Doctor's age etc. It is rather annoying that these boxes are not indexed on the contents pages as it is difficult to find them for later study.

Contributors to Who-oops! in TSV will be pleased to know that the column was used as a source for the Goofs and Fluffs listings. As for my own contribution, this came about in August last year when Paul Cornell asked if I would like to read through an early draft of the manuscript with a view to making changes, corrections and additions; a task which was also given to many other Doctor Who fans. It is pleasing to see that many of my suggestions have been used. With so many fans being involved in putting the book together The Discontinuity Guide can be considered an essential book in any Doctor Who fan's collection.

That said it is by no means perfect. It is clear that some stories have been researched with a fine-tooth comb and every piece of solid continuity mentioned regardless of how trivial and yet some stories, Black Orchid for instance, are missing many continuity elements that ought to be there. Another example is that the authors have taken great pains to list the odd items the Doctor produces from his pockets for some stories and yet the Batmobile that appears in The Talons of Weng-Chiang does not receive a mention!

The subject of what is canonical and what isn't is raised; the authors not only include Shada but also Dimensions in Time. The authors' justification for making the 1993 spoof part of Season Seventeen is quite clever so I'll forgive them!

The Discontinuity Guide is written in a way that enables us to laugh at Doctor Who. The book is best read at intervals, dipping into it now and again as opposed to cover-to-cover (my brain started to spin when I tried that approach!). I am sure that in a few years I will need to replace my copy which will have become dog-eared and worn out. Great stuff!

This item appeared in TSV 45 (September 1995).