Captain Jack HarknessGary RussellCody Quijano-SchellDoctor Who
Queers Dig Time Lords
Medium: book [non-fiction]
Year: June 2013
Publisher: Mad Norwegian Press
Editor: Sigrid Ellis, Michael Damian Thomas
Writer: John Barrowman, Carole E. Barrowman, Paul Magrs, Emily Asher-Perrin, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jed Hartman, David Llewellyn, Paul Cockburn, Amal El-Mohtar, Jason Tucker, Sarah J. Groenewegen, Tanya Huff, Jennifer Pelland, Erik Stadnik, Scot Clarke, Melissa Scott, Racheline Maltese, Nigel Fairs, Julia Rios, Martin Warren, Gary Russell, Brit Mandelo, Hal Duncan, Neil Chester, Kaia Lendelius, John Richards, Naamen Gobert Tihaun, Cody Quijano-Schell, Susan Jane Bigelow, Rachel Swirsky
Keywords: favourite
Series: << Doctor Who >>
Website category: Doctor Who
Review date: 6 May 2013
It's a collection of essays about Doctor Who from LGBTQ writers, from Mad Norwegian Press. (It also hasn't been released yet. It'll be available from June 2013 and I was reading a review copy.) I thought it was brilliant and beautiful.
To get the obvious out of the way, I'm not gay. This doesn't matter. There's no gay entry requirement to read this book and indeed I'd go further and say that I found it so fascinating in large part because it's a world I'm relatively unfamiliar with. There are so many viewpoints here I'd never considered. Everyone knows about the gay element of Doctor Who fandom, but I'd never read a book about it. In fact, the editors say that such a book never been published before for Doctor Who, or indeed for any SF TV show. Maybe they'll start something here? Let's hope so, anyway.
It has analysis and memoir. Both are important, because this book isn't merely about Doctor Who. It's about the intersection of Doctor Who with the lives of people who are responding (often strongly) to how it speaks to them. Torchwood gets in-depth attention. That you'd expect, but what did surprise me was that Captain Jack and his show have, without exaggeration, changed people's lives. Racheline Maltese has a stunning article on exactly that. Mary Anne Mohanraj and Jed Hartman's analysis gave me a new appreciation for the character. Brit Mandelo gave me a critical viewpoint on Torchwood that I'd never considered and a new way of interpreting it, which is at once head-over-heels in love and entirely aware of what we're looking at (e.g. Barrowman's performance). Mandelo's reading might well be contrary to Chibnall's hapless intentions, but that doesn't matter. It's there and it's something that makes Torchwood, in its way, both unique and groundbreaking.
If those are words you wouldn't associate with Torchwood, that's a reason to read this book.
Oh, and Amal El-Mohtar's article on the Master and the Doctor provides a viewpoint that feels to me like the missing piece of Last of the Time Lords. I'm now somewhat embarrassed that I had to have this pointed out to me, especially since those two characters' actions in that story don't really make sense unless viewed through the prism of that relationship. With hindsight, surely that's the entire point of Rusty's story?
Sadly, no mention of Maria's Gay Dad from The Sarah Jane Adventures. I suppose that's a significant data point in itself. I'd offer to write something myself if I belonged in this book, which I don't.
It has a rich diversity of voices, with the biggest chasm being between those who celebrate camp and those who don't. Some people unashamedly squee, while others have sharp things to say about what we've lost in recent years. There are people who discovered the show with Eccleston, Tennant or Barrowman, but others who can remember watching Hartnell and Troughton on first broadcast. Much has changed since then in gay rights and homophobia. All these overlapping narratives are fascinating. This breadth of history wouldn't have been available with hypothetical books on Farscape, Buffy, Babylon 5, etc., although Star Trek could do something similar and have a racial equality angle that would have no Doctor Who equivalent until much later. (Mind you, coloured gay viewpoints are here too, e.g. Naamen Gobert Tihuan's piece on Mickey.)
There's cultural diversity. Britain, America and Australia supply most of the writers, but there's also Lebanon, Sweden...
I'm reminded of Howard Hawks's definition of a good movie: "Three great scenes, no bad ones." This book has no bad articles (although it took me a bit of time to get inside Rachel Swirsky's) and several outstanding ones. The memoirs are liable to be a bit random and anecdotal, but that's inherent to the form. They're memoirs. The nature of the project would justify their inclusion even if they weren't frequently funny, thought-provoking or "Oh My God". Susan Jane Bigelow's poleaxed me. On a more mundane level, though, it's often interesting just to see the world through new eyes. (The 1977 annual does indeed have "psychedically terrifying illustrations".)
Paul Magrs yet again writes a piece with which I fell in love, full of perceptive analysis and delicious observations (e.g. Revelation of the Daleks) and in addition might have the greatest Tom Baker quote of all time. Gary Russell shows up and is genuinely fresh and interesting. I think it's my favourite thing he's written. Julia Rios has a must-read analysis of The Stones of Blood.
This is an important book. It's showing us how lives have been changed by TV that celebrates differences. How many mainstream family TV shows have shown a consensual sexual relationship with a paving slab, for example? It's spoken deeply to people, many of whom tell us about that in this book. Then, in return, these writers show us how their own unique viewpoints can in turn enrich the source material. There are wonderful throwaways, from new takes on familiar stories (e.g. Cody Quijano-Schell's on Dr. Who and the Daleks) to something as simple as a turn of phrase. "He has been protected from all but the slightest mention of anything deviating from normality." "There's nothing more adolescent than the repudiation of the juvenile." I also love the way we begin with Paul Magrs and then, towards the end, Cody gives time to The Scarlet Empress. Chatty and often internet-influenced, thoughtful, fiercely intelligent, wildly distinctive and for the first time giving voice to what I'd have assumed had been a entire genre of Who analysis.
"I've watched these scenes over and over. They matter to me."