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Twitter Who Volume 1: The First Doctor Paperback – July 20, 2013
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About the Author
Hannah J. Rothman is an American Whovian who came to the party a little late. By the time she started watching Doctor Who, the 2009 specials were well underway and by the time she was officially a fan, the Tenth Doctor was pleading "I don't want to go." She spent the following year (particularly that summer) soaking up as much Classic Who as humanly possible, drawing fan art, contributing to the fanzine The Terrible Zodin, developing preposterous amounts of head-canon for the Fifth Doctor and his original trio of sadly underdeveloped companions, and making some wonderful friends in the fandom online. There was also a lot of Tweeting. Hannah sports a BA in English and currently lives in bustling New York City, where she has thankfully never encountered any Daleks on the Empire State Building.
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As the book's title may suggest, Rothman's perspective on the first Doctor era comes through the use of the social media force known as Twitter. Across much of 2010, Rothman tweeted her thoughts as she watched or (due to the short sighted junking of much of the BBC archives in the 1970s) listened to stories from across this era of the show 140 characters at a time. The book collects together her Twitter commentaries of the various stories from this era, making them an almost textual equivalent of a fan commentary on the stories and that is a big part of its appeal.
Even if, like myself, you're neither a fan or user of Twitter, what Rothman does is nevertheless intriguing. Rothman's comments are often humorous as she catches onto formulaic plots which allows her to predict (more often than not) exactly what's going to happen next or, as is the case of a line of dialogue in The Crusade about “a never ending story”, has an apparently random thought about needing to see the film of the same name properly at some point. What the book is great at doing is showing what it's like to experience these stories often for the first time
Yet there's more to Twitter Who than that though. Rothman's retrospectives on various companions and indeed the first Doctor himself are amongst the best parts of the book and perhaps the most serious as well. In these retrospectives, she often try to make sense of the sometimes contradictory nature of the characters such as Susan for example while elsewhere she makes a convincing case for why Vicki is perhaps more of what Susan what was meant to be in the first place. Perhaps the best retrospectives are those given to Ian and Barbara following their exit at the end of The Chase or the one given to “One” himself which ends with a sentence that speaks volumes about the mark that both him, and the man who played him, left upon a show that's celebrating its fifteenth birthday.
Twitter Who Volume One definitely isn't your typical piece of Doctor Who related non-fiction. Its collection of Twitter commentaries from a young fan brings a new perspective to the stories while the character retrospectives give often thoughtful looks at characters served both well and ill by the series. If her Twitter commentary on The Macra Terror in last year's Outside In is anything to go by, readers will also be in for a treat when Rothman brings us volume two and I for one can't wait to read it.
The author, Hannah J. Rothman, was both after the original series left our screens in 1989, liked New Who, and then started watching Classic Who and loved it. As a Classic Who fan - I just think that's so cool! And it flies in the face of conventional "wisdom" that New Who fans can't watch the original series, or that they won't enjoy it. Hah! Hannah's reviews are enthusiastic, bright, funny, and darn it but I now really want to re-watch all of my William Hartnell (the First Doctor) DVDs.
I had just a couple of quick comments: a dictionary in the back of slang and Twitter terms would have helped. It took me a while to get used to the author's use of "One" to refer to The First Doctor - but considering this book was originally a Twitter account feed it makes sense - 3 characters verses 16 is quite a savings. And, yes, I did note the dates of the original blog posts, so I realise that the DVDs with animated reconstructions probably weren't available in 2010, but it bothered me some that rather than reviewing the DVDs for episodes such as "The Reign of Terror" and "The Tenth Planet" which were released with the missing episode(s) reconstructed completely with animation and the original soundtrack, the author relied on telesnap reconstructions instead. On the other hand, though I've read several different summaries and reviews of missing stories - it was fun to read such a fresh, amusing, and at times deep, reaction to stories that I haven't seen because they don't exist and aren't on DVD. I mean, the comments in Twitter Who just really give an idea of what the episodes were like, even the ones that aren't available on DVD.