I confess to being a somewhat obsessive collector of Doctor Who books. I have thousands, including nearly every publication of every Target novelization. The latest addition to my collection comes courtesy of Oolon across the pond - BBC Books The TARDIS Handbook by Steve Tribe.
While both the Moff and RTD have embraced returning Doctor Who to its children’s program roots, the fact is that the vast majority of Who reference material in print has been aimed squarely at an adult audience over the decades. Tiny print, no pictures, and woefully dry narratives are standard fare for the entire bookcase of reference material I have in a wonderful oak bookcase in our living room. The few reference books geared towards the child audience have made no effort to be factual in any way – I aim my sights of disdain at the oft quoted Technical Manual published in 1983.
This fact annoyed me greatly as a pre-teen. Unwilling to wade through the almost clinical writing style of the books such as The Early Years, A Celebration, and The Doctor Who File (I mean, I had King’s Quest to play on my Tandy computer…), but annoyed with the obvious lack of any canon references in the Technical Manual, I was left resorting to traveling to conventions and asking the actual writers themselves what the hell was going on. Well, I guess I did find a suitable alternative.
The TARDIS Handbook is constructed much like a modern day middle school textbook. Dry facts mixed in with interesting story references in a quick paced and flowing narrative style combined with an inviting visual layout. Liberties are not taken to “fix” the myriad of inconsistencies that we have grown to love about the TARDIS’s history, instead pointing out the various continuity errors in the ship’s history as a matter of fact and only offering an explanation when there is one from the small screen to quote. The book touches on such issues as Timelord history and biology, and other facets of the Whoniverse besides the TARDIS, as we all know how intertwined the mythos has become.
Kids are smart. This is a fact that the new Who production team seems to be embracing this year with more complex story arcs, emotionally delicate subject matter, and print material aimed at a more intelligent teenager. This is probably due to the fact that Steven Moffat himself seems to have insightful and intelligent children of his own, and believes in giving a younger audience the benefit of the doubt.
For a new fan to the Doctor Who universe of any age, I highly recommend The TARDIS Handbook as a sort of beginners look at the technical side of the Whoniverse. Definitely a $50 evening when it comes to Who print material.