I've recently read two books related to Doctor Who that I think those of you who are fans of the show might enjoy.  The first book is The Science of Doctor Who, by Paul Parsons.



Parsons is a scientist and a journalist, and his book is pretty much what you would expect from the title - it examines various elements of the program and discusses their scientific plausibility.  There have been a number of books of this nature - I've read some that similarly treat the science of programs like Star Trek and The X-Files, and enjoyed them both, so I had high expectations for this book. By and large, Parsons does not disappoint. The book a quite readable, and largely avoids the pitfalls one sometimes finds in these "science for the masses" books, those of being either too simple-minded or of being too technical.


Among the topics covered are such things as -


  • Regeneration, could it happen and how would it work?
  • Time travel, can it be done, and how?
  • Would it be possible to create a object that was bigger on the inside?
  • What physiological purpose would a second heart serve?
  • How close are we to having "real life" Cybermen and Daleks?
  • How close are the show's portrayals of robotics, space travel and alien life forms to what scientists expect we might actually encounter?

The above merely scratches the surface of what the book covers. Of course, the point of a book like this is to not only address how well the science of the show corresponds to "real world" science, but to educate the reader in general about the sorts of things that scientists think may be possible, and thus give them a better idea of current notions about the nature of the universe.


The second book is Doctor Who and Philosophy - Bigger on the Inside, edited by Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka.



Lewis is (or was at the time of writing) a PhD candidate and Smithka is an associate professor of philosophy. Again, I've read a number of similar books, covering such varied subjects as Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Wizard of Oz. The book consists of a series of essays on various philosophical questions raised by various aspects of the program. Where Parsons' book tends to ask "Could this be done?" or "How would this be done?", the essays in this book tend to ask "Should this be done?" or "What would it mean if this was done?" There's a certain amount of overlap, but not much.


Among the topics this book covers are such things as -

  • Is the Doctor the same person after he regenerates as he was before?
  • How would a race that was devoted to logic (as the Cybermen claim to be) really behave?
  • Could it be possible to do high-level science without numbers, the way the Carrionites do?
  • If "To be is to be perceived", where does that leave the Weeping Angels?
  • Is the Master truly evil?
  • Would it be right for us to exterminate the Daleks? Can we exterminate the Daleks?

Many other topic are covered as well. As with Parsons' book, a major goal of this book is to use the fiction of Doctor Who to make us think about our own lives -  how do we know who we are, and so on. By and large, this book is quite readable, as well. There are one or two essays where the terminology gets a little too "specialist" - I'm not quite sure what the chapter about the Doctor's "monads" is all about - but overall I didn't find it hard to follow. This book also has a chapter at the end consisting of favorite quotes from the beginning of the show up through the end of Matt Smith's first season. There were one or two small glitches in this book - the Doctor's car is referred to as "Betsy", for example, but overall it seemed well-researched.


To sum up, I quite cheerfully recommend either of these books to fans of the show.  I think you'll find them entertaining and thought-provoking.







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Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on September 6, 2011 at 9:38am
Both of those books sound really interesting. Thanks for bringing them to my attention! Just yesterday I was watching DVD extras about the scientific plausibility of Planet of the Apes (evolution, time travel, etc.). Take a look at the Dr. Who book solicitation I posted last week to the "Watch Doctoer who? Who Me?" discussion if you haven't already.
Comment by The Baron on September 6, 2011 at 9:39am
Yeah, I saw that.
Comment by Doctor Hmmm? on September 6, 2011 at 5:16pm
Thanks, Bob.  If I only had time for 1, which would you recommend.  (I'll probably end up reading both eventually, so this is more of a "which should I start with" question.)
Comment by The Baron on September 7, 2011 at 8:43am
That's a tough one, Doc - I enjoyed 'em both. The Science book is a slightly quicker read, maybe.


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