Many years ago now (or is it many years to come?) Gary Russell wrote a witty and rather wonderful little piece called "The Legacy Of Gallifrey", as included in the 100th issue of DWM-the magazine was still a mere teenager back then, as was I! Steve Tribe's Brief History of Time Lords reminds me very much of Russell's tongue-in-cheek, and hugely fun attempt to reconcile the many contradictions and inconsistencies various production teams have created around the history of Gallifrey and its infamous inhabitants, with the added complexity of another 30 years of Time Lord lore (such as the Untempered Schism) added since Russell first wrote his guide to Gallifrey (I like how Steve Tribe slyly slips in a couple of nods to Russell's article, such as the development and expansion of Robert Holmes's brilliantly cynical creation, the Celestial Intervention Agency.
It's that sort of book really, chock-full of in-jokes and insider references that definitely marks it out Rani-style as one for the fans-it's hard to imagine a casual viewer or reader of Doctor Who really being that interested in such an arcane type of book, but no doubt the worldwide audience for the show is large enough these days to justify such a mainstream publication. That said, the book is well-laid out and easy to read and follow, using the clever framing device of having the narrator be the young boy the Doctor meets at the beginning of Heaven Sent, and who makes his own admiration and hero-worship of the Doctor clear a few times during the narrative ("yes, he was a boyhood hero of mine") and it's little creative touches such as these that lift this little book above the standard, dry spin-off publications purporting to cover every corner of the Whoinverse and gouge every last opek from the pockets of committed Whovians.
That said, the book is surprisingly shoddy in some of its visual representations- while the design is of a generally high quality throughout (I particularly loved the blurred, hazy overlay applied on the still photos from televised stories), some of the illustrations are of a very amateurish nature and makes me wonder how they ever passed the editorial desk-they are really glaring and jarring and detract from the otherwise impressive visual tone, the equivalent of 80s Gallifrey versus its 70s splendour; it's a big let-down for a professional publication.
Enough to prevent me from recommending this book? In truth, I learnt very little from this book that I didn't already know. I enjoyed the angle it took to present the fictional history of the Doctor's people, the cortortions it took to integrate nearly 50 years of disparate Gallifreyan facts and storylines into a coherent narrative, and most of the design work used throughout. I read it in a couple of hours, went over a few sections again over the following week, but still not sure if I'll be adding this one to the TARDIS library just yet-after all, Who writes the history after all? This story has a long way to run yet, perhaps next volume will be worth hanging onto instead...
(PS an index and episode guide would have been a great inclusion too-there are plenty of fans who would probably collate this for free-like me!)