Whovian Heaven

Doctor Who: The Vault: Treasures from the First 50 Years offers a visual treasure trove and plenty of history for even the most devout Whovian.

Doctor Who: The Vault: Treasures from the First 50 Years

Publisher: Harper Design
Length: 320 pages
Author: Marcus Hearn
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2013-10

As I was growing up in the suburban Los Angeles area, I would watch local televisions shows like Sheriff John and Hobo Kelly. When I was home during the day I would watch soap operas with my mother. The Guiding Light, As the World Turns and The Young and the Restless.

Unbeknown to me, these shows had already been on television for decades by the time I joined the audience in the '60s. So, too, was my ignorance of television lore when I met the rather strangely dressed man on public television, seen first in grainy black-and-white, who called himself The Doctor—a character about to celebrate his golden anniversary.

I had already met Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, and watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space because, as my personal adage goes, “bad science fiction is better than no science fiction.” And although Lost in Space made a big screen appearance in 1998, nothing had the staying power of Star Trek or Doctor Who.

Unlike Star Trek, perceived during its production as another throw away, much of its early material was not curated, if it survived at all. The BBC, on the other hand, kept good records of its productions and those records can now be found in Doctor Who: The Vault: Treasures from the First 50 Years.

As would be expected, this oversized, overstuffed volume chronicles every Doctor Who moment from the first day of production. Other books, like Buffy: The Making of a Slayer and Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years recreated a few artifacts for readers that made them appear to be more collectable (what they did do was make those books more fragile with bits to fold-and-unfold or items easily lost), but while Doctor Who: The Vault offers tantalizing glimpses of production designs and various Doctor Who kit, it keeps the images on the page.

At its core, Doctor Who: The Vault , is a history book. And a good history book, at that. Most history books don’t include detailed memories, memos and interviews with the actual participants. And even when they do, they don’t span an entire 50-year period. This isn’t a retelling of a story trying to make a point, this is the chronicle of a kind of meta-adventure that was the backdrop to the adventures of the enigmatic character of Doctor Who and his companions. Marcus Hearn does a fine job of offering just the right balance of insight, exposition and detail to keep the reader moving along.

Despite rubbery costumes and cheesy sets, Doctor Who always intended to be the best kind of science fiction, a show that puts realistic, relatable characters into incredible situations. Doctor Who: The Vault presents origins and every other aspect that a fan of the show can imagine: props, creatures, sentient aliens, design sketches, toys and memorabilia. The book is as much a journey through television’s history as it is a journey through the show’s history. Black-and-white cards of the stars appear quaint and nostalgic next to today’s high-tech, video-on-demand, follow-the-star’s tweets world. Indeed, Doctor Who was always about the future, but the early chapters of this book remind the readers that Doctor Who, and television itself, arose from rather humble beginnings.

There are two ways to read Doctor Who: The Vault. Read it as a picture book. Forget all those paragraphs of explanatory text, history, trivia and detail and just let the images wash over you. K-9, the Daleks, Tom Bakers great scarf and his even greater companion, Sarah Jane Smith. Images of various incarnations of sonic screw drivers, sketches from children, spin-off magazines and books. And of course, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, The Master and the TARDIS.

In all this imagery, though, you may miss the '90s, the dark years of Doctor Who, when the show wasn’t renewed for television. But its dark years, like the dark ages, weren’t nearly as dark as their name portends. Doctor Who, like Star Trek before it, was creating a fan base through re-runs, appearances, video releases and the explosion of other media outlets, including BBC radio, novels, webcasts and comics. There was even an American/Canadian mashup that resulted in a television movie that received more viewers in England, than it did for the target North American audience.

Doctor Who’s '90s era hangover lasted until 2005, when the BBC once again launched the series in the format for which it was designed, television. To absorb this history, you will need to actually need to read the book.

On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of the show, which will conclude season 7, and likely leave as many unanswered questions as answered ones, Doctor Who: The Vault should be seen as a well written, companion to the show, that is in many ways, all about companions. In the intervening months between the 50th Anniversary special and the 2014 launch of season 8, fans can look to Doctor Who: The Vault as a ready reminder of all that they love about the show, that like its main character, keeps regenerating in order to deliver ever new delights, conundrums, and hell, just fun.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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