Myth Makers Presents Essentials

edited by Scott Clarke & Richard Salter

Doctor Who Information Network, 2003
DWIN website

With more officially-licensed anthologies out this year than ever before, it is impressive that the Myth Makers team still stand out with their high standard of consistency and quality. The previous two issues of "Myth Makers" gloriously illustrated the breadth of stories you can tell under the umbrella of Doctor Who. As an anniversary special, the latest issue follows a theme: "Myth Makers Presents: Essentials" offers us 13 pieces, each based upon an essential element of the series (according to the respective authors). The highlight this issue is Daniel O'Mahony’s "A Rag and a Bone", in which he manages to both satirise the more pretentious symbolism of some Who writing, while using such symbolism to make a strong point about his essential, the Doctor's connection to human history. Other highlights are Mags Halliday's "The Silk Road", with the eighth Doctor, Anji and Fitz offering a new riff on "Marco Polo", and Pete Kempshall's "Last Minute", a tale about the role of the cliff-hanger that manages to capture the character of the Doctor well.

Other pieces are enjoyable, but don't quite go that extra mile. Dale Smith gives us a stunning opening paragraph, but the prose seems ill at ease with the farce that unfolds. Graeme Burk's format-bending "The Second Book of the Dok'Tar" is clever, but misses an obvious trick. Dave Hoskin's closing story had perhaps the greatest potential, which his execution does not quite realise. I wonder whether the theme became more of a yoke than an inspiration with a number of the stories seeming too mechanical in illustrating their essential.

This issue is not just about fiction, however. Editors Salter and Clarke have collected suggestions as to the essentials of Doctor Who from an impressive array of contributors. Some are obvious, some thought-provoking: look out for John Binns' cogent argument for the role of sex, while Gary Russell is surprisingly pessimistic about a new TV series (comments written before the announcement of the new TV series). There are some amusing contradictions (Russell argues the series "didn't try to reflect passing fads", while Jac Rayner argues it kept "reflecting the mood of the time"), although it seems odd when two stories—Dale Smith's "Recursion" and Richard Salter's "Yestermorrow"—make diametrically opposite points.

As well as names from the world of Doctor Who, there are comments from the likes of Larry Niven, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. While these are among the most interesting, the most famous names often have the least familiarity with the show. Some of the best essentials are from the fans and I wonder whether the placement of Steven Kitson's contribution as the very last was because the editors agree with me that it is among the best: "in the end there's just this man. In his box. And he can go anywhere."

Henry Potts, 2003; revised 19 Nov 2005

Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.

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