Who Online

This month – The Time Scaleshttp://www.thetimescales.com/

There are not a wealth of websites dedicated to Big Finish audios, so it is very pleasing to see one that caters exclusively for that market.

The Times Scales devotes itself to Big Finish and covers each and every range produced. What is particular impressive is the level of care and love that has gone into the site to produce it to the high standard that it is.

The site itself is very easy to navigate, with a toolbar at the head of the page offering several options. You can choose to look through the Doctor Who ranges, with a menu appearing with a choice of everything Who that Big Finish has produced. You can look through all other non Who ranges via another drop down menu, and this covers anything not covered by the Who menu, including Big Finish books. Should you wish to investigate a particular Doctor, that option is also available, and should you so wish you can look through a particular Doctor’s stories from most recent to least. You can also click on an icon for a particular range instead, another example of the very accessible nature of the site.

It is very easy to find what you are looking for very quickly, such is the user-friendly nature of the site. There is even a search option, so should you wish to see just which audio stories Beth Chalmers had appeared in you can simply select ‘actor’ and type in the name. Low and behold a list appears detailing each and every audio they’ve acted in, with a link to each one.

The site is a very good guide for fans to get a general feel for a particular story’s worth, as voted for by fellow fans. Each product has beneath it the numbers 1 to 10, and a simple click will register your vote for a particular story. If you mistaken press the wrong number, it’s easily fixed with another click on the correct one. Very quick and very easy.

The Time Scales also offers the change for you to write your own review of a story so that a fellow fan may have a better idea of what a product might be like. It’s an especially good idea, and certainly benefits the site no end. Should you simply wish to see the most popular stories of a certain Doctor or range, they are listed in sidebars on the pages of that range so that a quick glance can ascertain what is popular and what less so.

The front page features a list of the current and previous month’s releases, and also includes listings for the last 5 stories from each Doctor (with ratings) as well as a top 5 for books, Bernice Summerfield and Doctor Who (as a whole). It’s there little touches that make the site stand out from other ratings sites, not least since this one specialises in Big Finish’s products.

Comprehensive is the word that springs to mind when describing the site, since it covers pretty much everything that Big Finish has done, even including DWM freebies and subscriber bonus Short Trips readings. Indeed, there is even a newly created section for stories not accepted by Big Finish as part of their Short Trips competition of last year, which users of the site are encouraged to submit to.

It’s clear that there is a lot of passion for Big Finish and since the site is made in such a user friendly and thorough way it is an invaluable resource for those seeking to investigate Big Finish further, or simply offer their own thoughts to other fans in order to assist with the choosing of what to listen to.

Here’s what Chris McCutcheon, the creative force of the site, had to say:

In 2006, I stumbled across the Big Finish website.  I was really excited to see the continuation of the classic Doctor Who adventures.  I dipped my toes into the Big Finish waters with "Davros" and I've been hooked ever since.

I wanted to keep purchasing stories, but costs required me to pick and choose the best they had to offer.  I scoured the Doctor Who forums searching for any information and reviews I could find.  The problem with forums is that people create multiple threads about the same story.  Threads get buried over time, so more are created.  Searching for a single title became an arduous task, but I did it.  I also participated in the user polls for each story and I still do.  The problem is that I like to listen to stories multiple times.  Sometimes a second or third listen allows me to pick up on subtle details that I may have missed the first time through.  As a result, I enjoy the story much more that I had before.  Forum polls only let you rate a story once.  The only way to rate it again is to start a new thread with a new poll.

In early 2009 I thought perhaps people would enjoy a website where they could submit reviews and rate all the stories they have listened to.  A website that would help people determine if they want to take the plunge and make a purchase.  I personally wanted a website that I could easily find a specific story, in a specific series, without wading through pages of search results.

I finally had some free time during the Spring and on July 4, I officially launched The Time Scales.  The website was very basic in appearance and has gone through some iterations since then.  I've been adding new features from time to time.  The latest is the "Enlightenment: Standout Reviewers" section.  The name could probably use some tweaking though.  I wanted to create a separate section where those really striking reviewers could be easily found.  I will continue adding new features, as time permits.  I am always open to ideas and suggestions from people, for features they would like to see, as well as adding new stories.  Originally The Time Scales was only for the Doctor Who series.  It has been expanded to include almost all Big Finish series'.

There are new features I've been slowly working on.  I'm also considering expanding into the TV stories, Classic and New.

People are slowly discovering the website.  There are about 20 - 30 members that visit the website daily.  I'm told from time to time how people like the website and appreciate having the resource.  So the responses have been very positive.

I want to thank both Joe and Andrew at The Third Zone for recognizing The Time Scales.  

This month - The History of the Doctor - http://www.doctorwhoreviews.co.uk/

The History of the Doctor is a comprehensive review website run by Eddy Wolverson. The website is extremely easy to use thanks to the inspired idea to group the reviews into the individual Doctors and run a timeline of their adventures incorporating the TV series, the novels, the comics and the audio adventures. Click on the Doctor Who logo of their period and you are transported to a page, which strikingly displays cover images of every story. If you aren’t sure what the cover represents hover of the image and the title will appear. It is much more visually appealing application than simply listing the titles. Trying to squeeze all of the Doctor’s adventures into one timeline is a tricky business because at times the various medias contradict themselves and the spin off merchandise squeezes into a hole of continuity that cannot exist (ala Ten Little Aliens between The Smugglers and The Tenth Planet). Eddy tries to chronicle these stories as seamlessly as possible and many fans find the idea of all the adventures be they books or audios all being part of the same timeline. Another lovely touch is a photo/drawing of each of the companions for that Doctor and as you hover over them it gives a little summary about their characters. With the comprehensive reviews of all the merchandise, the timeline and information about the companions this really does cover all the bases in incredible detail. There is a ‘Continuity Corner’ at the bottom of the reviews, which points out information that is relevant to the history of the show.

Appropriately, the website lists the logos of the various companies that produce the merchandise. The contributors have an email address listed but you can also click on their name on the home page and an email will automatically appear. This is a fantastic way to discuss the content of the review with the writer. Each review is lavishly illustrated with photos from the stories and in the case of the spin of material cover illustrations and sleeve artwork. The home page includes a link to a list of websites that compliment and offer an alternative perspective on the material featured on The History of the Doctor. There is a very handy frequently asked questions section which looks at some of the thornier topics involved in the series and studies them and there are regular updates of emails that have been sent in about the site.

Contributors: Eddy Wolverson is the editor and is the most prolific contributor to the site. His reviews are detailed, fun and very well written and his love for the show shines through even when he is condemning a piece of work. His DVD commentaries spread the focus between the story itself and the special features, which makes it a particularly good site to visit if you are unsure which DVDs to buy. He has covered all of the New Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures and provides a positive spin on these hiatus filling pleasures. Big Finish takes up a large portion of the site and Eddy’s love for the audios is very apparent. The website was even mentioned on a recent Big Finish pod cast!

Daniel Tessier writes reviews on the more niche material, from the graphic novels to the Iris Wildthyme audios and even the K.9 series that has just been released. His New Series Adventures are required reading, particularly since there are not that many sites that concentrate on them.

Chris McKeon has contributed some striking fan fiction to the site and also chips with extremely thorough reviews of the latest TV series.

Kory Stephens has taken it upon himself to chronicle the Bernice Summerfield audio adventures and his reviews are humorous, easy reads.

And finally there’s me. I have dusted down my old reviews from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide and polished them up considerably for the website. I have currently reviewed the first two seasons but will slowly work through the entire series.

The History of the Doctor is justly one of the most popular review sites online. Stylish aesthetics, well written reviews and an unusual approach to the listings makes this an unmissable website. Check it out today.

What the Editor said: I decided to start up the site in early 2006. Outpost Gallifrey had stopped publishing reviews as often as it once had, and I was keen to get my latest reviews online and read as soon as possible. However, I didn't just want to create another reviews site - I was a big fan of both The Canon-Keeper's Guide and The Doctor Who Reference Guide, and was looking to create a similar sort of online reference work, but hopefully with a few unique bells and whistles. In particular, I wanted people to be able to start at the beginning with An Unearthly Child - or Frayed, come to think about it - and, if they had the stamina, click 'Next' about 900 times until they'd get all the way up to the latest David Tennant episode. It wasn’t something I could do overnight, obviously, but even so by the end of 2006 I’d managed to get many of the bases covered, and in January 2007 I started focusing “just” on new release DVDs and audios, as well as the latest Doctor Who and Torchwood broadcasts.

After about 18 months, Daniel Tessier contacted me and offered to review the comics and several of the novellas that he had, together with the recently-released first batch of Companion Chronicles, and we've kind of ballooned from there. I've managed to rope in a couple of other regular reviewers since (Kory Stephens, who's reviewed most of the Benny spin-off series, and Joe Ford, who's embarked on the ambitious mission of covering the entire classic series in an insane level of detail!) and, after he read my glowing review of Time's Champion, Chris McKeon has regularly weighed in with some top-quality fan fic and the odd review too. All the contributors have been incredibly generous with their time, which – as the site actually costs money to run, as opposed to makes it – I can’t compensate them for.

Turning to the design, if you were to look back at the old 2006 update pages you’ll see how much the design has evolved, particularly in the last couple of years. When I started out I knew nothing at all about HTML or web design, and was entirely dependent on user-friendly Frontpage and the advice of a long-suffering colleague who’d rather have been making wi-fi aerials out of tin foil and forks than getting himself involved with the design of a “geeky” website. Even now, technically we're still a bit of a shambles, but I am working on that, and at least it looks good on Internet Explorer – very good, even. I think the reason that the present design has proven so popular with readers is that it’s striking, simple and uses all the “proper fonts”, which does seem to give it a little bit of extra weight. Believe it or not, most of the e-mails I get from people are asking which font is which, and where they can be bought from!

Looking forward, we’re hoping to build upon 2010’s successes; keep as up-to-date as we affordably can with releases; get some more of the spin-offs covered; and hopefully improve upon browser compatibility. It’d be nice to get more of our quotes on the back of books and things too – Dan’s 1-0 up on me at the mo.