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A History of the Universe

By Lance Parkin

Book review by Paul Scoones

My own limited involvement in Jon Preddle's long-standing quest to develop a chronology of the Doctor Who universe has given me an appreciation of just how difficult it is to arrive at a logically consistent time line of events. There are no right or wrong answers to such dilemmas as UNIT dating or the placing of Revenge of the Cybermen; simply different theories. Lance Parkin takes pains in his introduction to explain that A History of the Universe is simply his theory - it is not 'The History' but 'A History'. This said, I found it extremely difficult to find anything with which I disagreed with in Parkin's often inspired decisions regarding the many thorny continuity problems presented by the series.

The history includes the New and Missing Adventures mingled with the television series continuity, but perhaps mindful of readers who reject these books as 'uncanonical', Parkin has presented anything that doesn't originate on screen in a bold typeface. The sequence of dates is considerably enlivened by a number of extracts from various fictitious documents, from such 'sources' as Njeri Ngugi's The Children of Davros, Oolon Calupid's The Origins of the Universe and Bartholomew's Planetary Gazetteer. As might be expected from a work of such broad scope, the book is a chunky read, perhaps best treated as something to dip into rather than attempt to digest from cover to cover. Each and every reference is backed up by a sidebar footnote detailing the origin of the information presented, as well as the Parkin's rationale for his choice of dates. The footnotes alone make fascinating reading.

The most interesting thing I learned from studying this book is just how much The New Adventures series is like its television antecedent in its sometimes flagrant disregard for established continuity. The dating of the 'future history cycle' of novels is a case in point.

An ideal companion volume to The Discontinuity Guide, A History of the Universe is an extremely worthy addition to any Doctor Who fan's bookshelf.

This item appeared in TSV 48 (August 1996).