Showing posts with label Doctor Who Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doctor Who Related. Show all posts

13 December 2018

Why Every Writer Is The Tardis (And Every Reader Is A Companion)

The Tardis
The Tardis (Image via
I am a writer. By the title of this article, you might immediately assume two other things about me:
  • I am a fan of Doctor Who
  • I am a blue police box
One of your assumptions would be accurate. When I suggest that every writer is the Tardis, I do not imply that they are blue, that they are hollow or that they pretend to serve law enforcement.

But in most respects, writers are Tardises.

Bigger on the inside

The first thing one notices when stepping into the Tardis is...come on, say it all together with's bigger on the inside.

The first thing one notices when conversing with a writer is that he is bigger on the inside.

A writer accumulates a vast array of knowledge with every writing project. In fact, research is half the writing process. For instance:
  • When I wrote my own book on happiness, I read several dozen academic journal articles and at least a dozen other self-help books.
  • When I ghostwrote a true story of corporate espionage for a client, I learned a lot about HVAC, trades regulations, subcontracting and how an airport is built (among other things).
  • When I ghostwrote the hidden story behind the Underground Railroad and a forgotten town on the US-Canada border, this Canadian learned a lot more about American history than most Americans know.
I've written about mortgages and credit scores, about fertility and learning disabilities, about PTSD and medical procurement. I've written about the steel industry, ball bearings, the legal profession, various Christian themes, anger management, virtual reality, home renovations and LEED certification. The entire list would take up a few pages, but you get the idea.

I've forgotten much more than I remember, but I remember more than most non-writers are exposed to.

"The first thing one notices when conversing with a writer is that he is bigger on the inside."
"The first thing one notices when conversing with a writer is that he is bigger on the inside."


Ever meet a Tardis that wasn't finicky? It will take you where it wants to take you, rarely where you want to go. As long as you are happy being lead around, you'll get along just fine.

Ever meet a writer that wasn't finicky? Oh, yeah. We dwell on each word, determined to get it just right. We have our own ideas of how a story should go. Yes, editors are our friends...but we curse them for every comma they change.

When it comes time to write a screenplay from a novel, sparks fly (which is occasionally another ... um ... endearing feature of the Tardis).

Travels in time

In case it's lost on anyone that the Tardis is a time machine, it is. That's the whole point. It travels in space and time, taking its usually willing occupants with it to the near and distant past, and to the near and distant future.

It's taken the Doctor and his companions more than once to New New York, and several times to Victorian England. It took us to the Jagoreth space ship's explosion that created life on Earth, and it's taken us to the end of the Earth.

Like the Tardis, writers travel in time. We write about things that have already happened. As we write, we are transported.

We write about worlds that are yet to be created. As we write, we are transported.

How is this possible? What alien technology, known only to writers, allows us to travel in time?

Well, it's not technology. It's actually a not-so-secret time-travel manual I published on my own blog. But, sorry, you have to be a writer to make use of it. The good news is that you can become a writer if you are sufficiently motivated.

"Like the Tardis, writers travel in time. We write about things that have already happened. As we write, we are transported."
"Like the Tardis, writers travel in time. We write about things that have already happened. As we write, we are transported."

Travels in space

Of course, the Tardis travels not just in time, but in space. For instance, New New York is not even on Planet Earth.

The finicky Tardis will take its occupants whenever and wherever it feels like. By the way, that's what we writers do. You never know what spine-thrilling adventure the next chapter holds.

Reinvents itself

As we saw when the Tardis finally made its appearance in season 11, it looked totally new, both on the inside and on the outside.

"Oh, you've redecorated!"

And that's not the first Tardis redecoration. Every so often, the Tardis reinvents itself.

Writers do that, too. Consider Anne Rice, famous for her vampire novels. She also wrote Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Spoiler alert: there are no vampires.

She has also branched into erotica, and I'll go out on a limb to suggest the vampires are rare in those works.

As you can tell by my own list of a few of the topics I've written on, a ghostwriter reinvents himself for each new project.

Every reader is a companion

If every writer is the Tardis, every reader is a companion. The writer takes the reader on a trip. She takes them where and when she feels like it. The reader has three choices:
  • Follow along, as most companions do for as long as possible.
  • Do what Barbara and Ian did, what Martha and several other companions did – decide to stop travelling.
  • Follow Rosita's lead, and stay off from the start, in which case they aren't companions.
On the wings of the Tardis (Yes, I know that's not anatomically correct) companions get to travel in time and in space.

On the wings of the writer (also not anatomically correct, most of the time) readers get to travel in time and in space. Until they get off. Or they might choose not to open the which case they aren't readers.

Like the Doctor's companions, readers are observers to events. They don't change things. They don't interfere. They don't alter the course of history. They merely watch and listen.

Unlike the Doctor's companions, readers actually follow those rules of non-interference. In fact, readers are like companions who actually behave.

The same cannot be said of us rule-breaking writers, who have been known to be liberal with our interpretations of history (but somehow seem to avoid the paradox that our interference doesn't actually change history). Someday, I must ask Katherine Neville how she does that.

I feel I should apologize for not being a blue police box. If I was, I would actually be a Tardis. But, I'm not, so I'll have to settle for being a metaphor when I say that every writer is the Tardis. If you are a writer, add that to your CV: Tardis.

About Today's Contributor:

David Leonhardt - "Bigger on the inside"
David Leonhardt - "Bigger on the inside"
David Leonhardt is a ghostwriter and editor, who also runs THGM Writing Services. In that role, he coordinates a team of Tardises, serving individuals and small business clients. And that's something even the Doctor hasn't done. Yet.

Doctor Who Related Videos:

Doctor Who Related Stories:

7 October 2018

Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker Excels And Inspires As The BBC's Time Lord


Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor
Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor (BBC Images)
SPOILER ALERT: this review assumes you’ve seen the first episode of the Doctor Who series starring Jodie Whittaker, and includes detailed plot and character information from the outset.

The 13th Doctor Who, played by Jodie Whittaker, falls into this story in the middle of the action, crash landing on a train where her new companions are trapped.

In case you’ve been hiding on Mars (or Gallifrey), her first appearance is given a pulse of the famous theme music for identification purposes – not that anyone in the massive earthbound audience will need much persuading that Whittaker is the Doctor.

She plays an absolute blinder throughout, ranging from quietly amusing moments such as asking to have a police car’s “lights and siren on”, through to smelting her own sonic screwdriver. There’s also some convincing stunt action on show – and a moving account of long-lost family thrown in for good measure.

But the classic BBC series’ new showrunner, Chris Chibnall (the writer of smash-hit drama series Broadchurch), is preoccupied with overturning expectations in “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”. The episode begins with 19-year-old warehouse worker Ryan (Tosin Cole) vlogging about the “greatest woman” he’s ever met – but just who is she? Before long, Ryan’s grandmother Grace (Sharon D Clarke), her second husband Graham (Bradley Walsh) and a former schoolmate of Ryan’s, police officer Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), are united on a train that’s under attack near the city of Sheffield, England.

Ryan assumes that an unknown entity moving through the train carriages has killed someone. A classic Doctor Who set-up, you might think, only for the Doctor to counsel that, no, this death was more likely from shock – while linked to the alien incursion, it wasn’t intended or executed by a traditional monster. The expected storyline is quickly overturned.

Later, the Doctor comes up with an “Alien vs Predator”-style explanation of events, only to accept that unusually she too has got things wrong – this isn’t one alien against another, instead it’s a hunt for human trophies. And Chibnall wrong-foots viewers by depicting the character of Karl Wright, another passenger caught up in the train attack, as classic monster fodder – only to make him rather more “randomly” central to the narrative than standard conventions might dictate.

Shock of the new 
New can be scary”, the Doctor cautions her latest friends – while reflecting on the fact that – post-regeneration – she’s temporarily become “a stranger to myself”. And there’s a mission statement of sorts put front-and-centre, as she hails “Tim Shaw” – her name for the alien warrior chasing around Sheffield – with an inspirational account of transformative self-identity: “We’re all capable of the most incredible change. We can evolve, while still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.”

The Woman Who Fell To Earth” is preoccupied with gender – but probably not the one you were expecting. It is sometimes less about the Doctor’s newfound femininity (which gets some great one-liners) and more about wayward masculinity, represented by both Karl and “Tim Shaw”. The former is obsessed with inspirational quotes (“I am brave”, “I am confident”, “I am special”) while lacking many of these positive qualities, and the latter is an intergalactic cheat, insecure about his ability to become a leader.

There is, also, a stronger sense of male vulnerability in this tale than ever before: we have the story of Ryan’s dyspraxia to follow in coming episodes and it seems unlikely that Graham O'Brien’s cancer remission will be mentioned just this once (Graham is Ryan’s step-grandad as well as Grace’s partner, and is superbly played by Walsh).

Who are you? Grace, Yasmin, the Doctor, Ryan and Graham
Who are you? Grace, Yasmin, the Doctor, Ryan and Graham. (BBC Pictures)
Indeed, the decision to include these real-world problems – the energetic Grace having been Graham’s chemo nurse when they first met – strikes me as a genuinely brave move for a family entertainment show, and one to be applauded. This is a grounded, challenging view of Doctor Who – one which displays its humanity not via reassuring neoliberal tales of self-celebration, but instead through a (public service) sense of needing to “work through” difficulties.

However, given recent debates around “fridging – the trope where a female figure (often a girlfriend) has to be killed in order to motivate a male character’s angst-filled storyline – the demise of courageous Grace feels like a misstep. Her loss leaves a symbolic gap for the Doctor to fill, perhaps – as well as a reason for Ryan and Graham to become time travellers rather than wanting to return to Sheffield, 2018. But she’s the one character who instantly feels as if she should have been a “companion” to this Doctor.

Brave new Who-niverse 
The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is sharply directed by Jamie Childs (His Dark Materials) and benefits from some impressive incidental music from Segun Akinola (Dear Mr Shakespeare: Shakespeare Lives). Whittaker doesn’t put a foot wrong and – with a convincing group of new friends, a brilliant cliffhanger and a showrunner unafraid to incorporate mentions of cancer, chemo and dyspraxia – this looks to be a show in safe hands.

Male heroics will no doubt earn an ongoing place in the new “Who-niverse” – if Ryan and Graham can be shaped, inspired and remade by the transformational zest of Whittaker’s Doctor. In time, they will have an opportunity to properly learn the lessons of human rather than Time Lord regeneration, and how “we’re all capable of the most incredible change”.

This is a strong opening to a new phase in Doctor Who’s history: it is accessible, bravely grounded and inspiring in its own right. The Doctor is in.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:
Matt Hills, Professor of Media and Film, University of Huddersfield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

27 April 2018

Premiere of 'Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks' Hits U.S. Movie Theaters for a One-Night Event on June 11

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks
Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks
BBC Studios - Americas and Fathom Events are partnering to present the never-before-seen, 90-minute director's cut of the hugely popular classic Doctor Who adventure, "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks," for a special one-night event on Monday, June 11 at 7:00 p.m. local time in more than 750 select movie theaters nationwide through Fathom's Digital Broadcast Network (DBN). 
An exclusive interview with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker will follow this special version.
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks"
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks" (© BBC 1975)
Following the cinema event, the complete season 12 of Doctor Who comes to Blu-ray on June 19, featuring fan favorite Doctor Tom Baker.
The Fourth Doctor and his companions Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan are transported thousands of years into the past to the ancient planet Skaro where they are given a mission from the Time Lords to prevent the evil scientist Davros from introducing to the universe the most destructive race of killing machines ever created, the Daleks!
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks"
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks" (© BBC 1975)
"We are excited to work with our long-standing partners at BBC Studios to bring our 17th joint cinema event, 'Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks,' to movie theaters across the U.S. and for fans to see Tom Baker on the big screen," Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said. "Our Doctor Who events are always a great opportunity for Whovians to gather at the cinema and experience their favorite content together."
"We continuously strive to provide special moments for Doctor Who fans and we think this is a really fun and unique opportunity to see the popular Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker in 'Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks' while surrounded by other Whovians in a theater setting," stated Julie Dill, VP Franchise Marketing, Creative, and Partnerships, BBC Studios – Americas.
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks"
Scene from "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks" (© BBC 1975)
 Tickets for "Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks" can be purchased at or participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

SOURCE: Fathom Events

30 November 2017

Billie Piper Gets... Piping for Small Business Saturday UK 2017

Billie Piper helps bake cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London, as she partners with Amex to encourage people to go out and 'Shop Small' this Saturday.
Billie Piper helps bake cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London, as she partners with Amex to encourage people to go out and 'Shop Small' this Saturday. (PRNewsfoto/Small Business Saturday)
This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of Small Business Saturday, a day that shines a spotlight on all the amazing small and independent businesses across the country in this busy Christmas shopping period.

While at The Cake House, Billie Piper alongside the café owner, 
Lorenzo Khan helped out, baking and icing cakes to encourage everyone to get out there and support Small Business Saturday

Lorenzo has owned the café for over 15 years making it an integral part of the community in which Billie and many others live.
"I've been coming to The Cake House - daily! - since I moved to the area. I live locally and absolutely love the relationships with people in what feels like a village. I want my kids to know people in the community and be able to come into The Cake House and ask for their ridiculous desert requests! I come to The Cake House all the time and Lorenzo has managed to get my daily coffee order down from three shots to two which, in fairness, took quite some doing." 
Billie Piper

Billie Piper serves cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London, as she partners with Amex to encourage people to go out and 'Shop Small' this Saturday.
Billie Piper serves cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London, as she partners with Amex to encourage people to go out and 'Shop Small' this Saturday. (PRNewsfoto/Small Business Saturday)
Small Business Saturday sees thousands of small businesses all over the country take part every year since its inception. According to research undertaken by American Express, founder of Small Business Saturday, last year a total of over £717 million pounds was spent by shoppers on this particular day. 

⏩ 3,610 UK adults were polled by Toluna between 8pm on Saturday 3rd December 2016 and 8am on Monday 5th December 2016. 
Billie Piper helps owner Lorenzo Khan bake cakes at her local favourite shop
Billie Piper helps owner Lorenzo Khan bake cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London, as she partners with Amex to encourage people to go out and 'Shop Small' this Saturday. (PRNewsfoto/Small Business Saturday)
Billie Piper partnered with American Express to celebrate the United Kingdom's thriving small independent businesses, such as The Cake House, to encourage shoppers to go out and 'shop small' this weekend.
"I was delighted when Amex asked me to help support this year's Small Business Saturday. They actually read about me talking about local businesses that I'm passionate about in my local press and decided to contact me to get involved. Independent retailers across the UK offer so much more to a community than just a shop - and that is something I really care about." 
Billie Piper

Q&A with Billie Piper: 
(Courtesy of Small Business Saturday)
Billie Piper with cakes...
Billie Piper with cakes... (PRNewsfoto/Small Business Saturday)
Q: Why do you think it’s important to support Small Business Saturday? 
A: “Because small businesses are amazing! They really are the unsung heroes of communities and the high street. When Amex approached me to support Small Business Saturday I jumped at the opportunity, I am a true believer in shopping small and local. Plus it’s Christmas, so if you want a gift that’s really special, then hunt around your local small businesses, especially this weekend. And that goes for food shopping too; small businesses are brilliant for advice and ideas on how to ‘do’ Christmas”. 

Q: Billie Piper Why did you choose to drop in to The Cake House ahead of Small Business Saturday? 
A: “I’ve been coming to The Cake House since I moved to the area. I’ve always loved local businesses that I can walk to, and when The Cake House opened, I was there like a flash. It’s so nice having Lorenzo in the area, he’s a total star and he makes a mean cake. His passion is so inspiring”. 

Q: Billie Piper Any dessert traditions for Christmas day? 
A: “Sherry trifle!” 

Q: Billie Piper Small Business Saturday is an initiative to encourage people to get out and shop small. What do you think independent retailers contribute to a local community? 
A: “Independent retailers who live & work locally, really are the glue that holds a community together. There’s a lovely vibe to Lorenzo’s. He says that his ‘mission’ was to make his business feel like it’s an extension of everyone’s living room and that’s 100% what he’s achieved, it’s so relaxed. My Mum goes there all the time too.” 

Q: Billie Piper What are your other favourite independent retailers? 
A: “There are so many that I love, particularly around my local community, but besides The Cake House & Lorenzo – there’s Frost on Bellenden Road in Peckham; a fantastic Mid-century furniture store which also specializes in art, antiques and utterly brilliant rarities and I always find a unique treasure there; and, Libreria in East London, an independent book store – it’s so beautifully set up, you can spend hours in there and find something truly beautiful”. 

Q: Billie Piper How do you think what you are doing will help to support Small Business Saturday? 
A: “Honestly I just hope that people think about all the brilliant small businesses out there. I hope that by working with AMEX as a Shop Small Ambassador, we can encourage people all over the UK to see that all these independent retailers offer so much more to a community that just being ‘a shop’. By supporting local, independent businesses - you’re investing in your local community which is brilliant”. 

Q: Billie Piper Have you started your Christmas shopping and what are the Billie Piper family Christmas traditions? 
A: “Yes I have actually. As for traditions, there’s always a proper prawn cocktail for starter on Christmas Day, and always the Queen’s Speech on telly – live, never recorded!” 

Q: Billie Piper If you could have your own independent retailer, what would it be? Where would it located? 
A: “A florist underneath my house has always been my dream!” 

Q: Billie Piper Are you working on any projects next year which you’d like to share? 
A:“I’m going to perform “Yerma” in New York, Spring of next year and after that I will direct and star in an independent film that I’ve also written, so that’s incredibly exciting”.  
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who (image via

About Billie Piper: 
Actress Billie Piper recently won six Best Actress Awards, including the highly prestigious Olivier Award for her phenomenally reviewed starring performance in the title role of Simon Stone's sold out adaptation of Yerma at The Young Vic. She is going with the production to The Armory in New York in Spring 2018.

She is much beloved from our television screens with highly celebrated performances in Showtime's Penny Dreadful, Doctor Who for the BBC, the Philip Pullman series of The Shadow of the North and The Ruby in the Smoke for the BBC.

About Small Business Saturday: 
Small Business Saturday is a grassroots initiative encouraging people to show their support for small businesses by shopping small.

First conceived by American Express in the U.S. in 2010, where it has become a key date in the shopping calendar, it has received widespread backing from numerous organisations and personalities.

Now in its fifth year in the UK, Small Business Saturday UK 2017 (2nd December) aims to build on the success of previous years.

As founder of Small Business Saturday in the U.S., American Express is principal supporter of the campaign in the UK, encouraging people to make the most of their small, local, independent shops and businesses.

Billie Piper helps bake cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London
Billie Piper helps bake cakes at her local favourite shop, The Cake House in London (PRNewsfoto/Small Business Saturday)

SOURCE: Small Business Saturday

Bonus Videos:

27 September 2017

A Time Traveller's Guide To Television Acting

William Hartnell as the original Dr Who
William Hartnell as the original Doctor Who. BBC
British television acting has changed a lot since the days of live drama. With the exception of soaps and some sitcoms – such as Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow – production has shifted from multi-camera studio to single camera location and the rehearsal process that was once so vital is now little more than a table-read at best. At worst, it’s a brief discussion with the director on the shoot. The other side of this coin is that training for TV – which used to be an afterthought at drama schools focused on stagecraft – is now a much larger part of a performer’s toolkit. So, what impact have these changes had on how actors work for TV?

That was the question I wanted to answer when I undertook my own research. I interviewed more than 30 actors, directors and producers from six decades of television drama and looked at a selection of TV sci-fi programmes, including The Quatermass Experiment, Doctor Who and Survivors – each of which was remade in the 2000s. These provided both a historical overview and a “then and now” comparison of changing acting styles.

As most early television was live, we don’t have many recorded examples of TV acting before the 1950s. The accusation often made about these performances is that they are “stagey” or “mannered”. But watching the opening episode of Quatermass shows that some actors were already learning to scale down their theatre performances to something more suited to the small screen.

‘Studio realism’
Yes, there are wide, and at times hilarious, variations in the level of projection used for voice and body (by modern standards, W. Thorp Devereux is particularly wooden). But the lead actor, Reginald Tate, had already perfected a style that wouldn’t be entirely out of place today. Unlike some of his colleagues he keeps unnecessary gestures to a minimum and his voice is only as loud as it needs to be for the boom microphones. I’ve called this emerging style “studio realism”.

Ten years later, the cast of Doctor Who were much more consistent when it came to gesture and vocal projection. Studio realism was beginning to bed in. The coming of videotape made little difference to the BBC’s production routine: the cast still practised lines and actions in a rehearsal room before moving into the studio. However, there is less sense of a theatre performance being given – despite the fact that the stage is where most actors still cut their teeth.

‘Location realism’
In the mid 1970s, Survivors saw the start of a sea change, away from the studio and on to location, albeit with outside broadcast cameras more often used to cover football matches. This is the start of modern “location realism”. Being out on site means the “frontal” acting required by three-walled studio sets can be abandoned and – no longer surrounded by the technological paraphernalia of Television Centre – many of the cast are pitching their lines at a more natural level.

Thirty years on, the relaunched Doctor Who and Survivors featured actors who had spent more time on screen than on stage and an arguably more spontaneous acting style has emerged. These day rehearsals have virtually disappeared and the production block is devoted primarily to filming. Scenes are usually recorded out of story order and the emphasis is now on repeated takes. Whereas multi-camera meant actors were playing scenes (and sometimes whole episodes) all the way through, the modern TV actor’s job is less a case of staying “in the moment” for a practised performance than an attempt to maintain “the illusion of the first time” (a phrase coined by US actor William Gillette to describe the actor’s art of making a scripted scene seem live and unrehearsed) while keeping continuity firmly in mind. All on increasingly tight shooting schedules.

In addition, the screen training now provided at drama schools, where students are warned they will be “too big” for TV, has led to an under-projected physical and vocal style that can sometimes frustrate audiences and directors. BBC shows such as Jamaica Inn and SS-GB have both come under fire for inaudibility.

When The Quatermass Experiment was remounted live by the BBC in 2005, the cast and crew were attempting to recreate a production template that fell out of use decades before. Intensive and lengthy rehearsals were required and nerves ran so high on the night that the adrenaline-fuelled, accelerated production came in significantly under time.

While most of those involved enjoyed the challenge – particularly the generous preparation time – few wanted to see such a stressful model become the norm again. However, nearly everyone I spoke to said they would like more rehearsal. Actress Louise Jameson explained:
The absolute ideal is film, one camera – hours to light it, hours to rehearse it. When you’ve got that kind of luxury it’s fabulous, but it’s so rare.
The ConversationMy research showed that, while British TV acting hasn’t always followed a straight or predictable path, the scaled-down style of location realism has now almost entirely replaced studio realism. What direction it will take next, in an age of multi-platform and mobile viewing, remains to be seen.

About Today's Contributor:
Richard Hewett, Lecturer in Media Theory, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

18 July 2017

'Chinks In The World-Machine' – On The Casting Of The 13th Doctor Who

File 20170717 6049 m2run3
The Whovian Life via Twitter
By Una McCormack, Anglia Ruskin University

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of going into space. She would sit on the floor in the library, cross-legged on the carpet before a big shelf of books and read about a machine that could travel in time and space. She would put on the television, and see the Doctor and the TARDIS, and wish that she could be there too. She wanted to be on the Enterprise, and the Liberator and the Millennium Falcon – and she imagined great adventures, in which she saved the world, the galaxy, and (why not) the universe.

Unfortunately, a Catholic girls’ school in the 1980s was not a great place to harbour such ambitions – and there weren’t many kindred spirits dreaming these particular dreams. They became private stories, told to myself at odd moments, just before falling asleep – but not to be shared. After all, what kind of girl likes Doctor Who? What kind of girl wants to jaunt around time and space?

Doctor Who - The 13th Doctor
At long last! BBC/Colin Hutton

To say that I am delighted at the news that Jodie Whittaker has been chosen to play the 13th Doctor is a huge understatement. I enjoyed the whole media build up immensely. I was greatly entertained watching good friends rapidly bring themselves up to speed on the rules of tennis in order to predict how long a Wimbledon final might be – so that they could make sure they were on hand when the announcement was made. I watched the trailer with refreshed wonder and a whoop of glee at the reveal.

I remembered how happy friends had been when Christopher Eccleston was cast as the ninth Doctor back in 2004, how glad they were that now there was a Doctor who seemed like them. I hoped that they would be glad now that there was a Doctor who was like me.

Remaking the world
For me, science fiction – speculative fiction – is a genre that asks us to think about possibility. All good fiction, of course, asks us to expand our horizons by sympathetically imagining the experience of others. But the apparatus of speculative fiction provides us with particular, useful tools to re-imagine what that “other” might be – and to imagine the kinds of worlds that would be needed in order to make radically different kinds of being possible.

Alien life, yes; but also the kinds of human life and organisation that might be brought about by technological or scientific advance – or the radical re-imagining of how power, authority and resources might be e distributed among us. Its best writers, such as Ursula Le Guin, seem to have the power to remake the world.

Science fiction grows up
Science fiction has not, historically, been generous to women. Mothered by Mary Shelley (in Frankenstein and The Last Man), the genre, throughout the first half of the 20th century, becomes predominantly a form of heroic literature, steeped in fantasies of mastery and conquest.

Women were rarely present in this literature, except as trophies or temptations. We survived, in the arresting phrase coined by the great science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr (aka Alice Bradley Sheldon and Raccoona Sheldon): “by ones and two, in the chinks of the world-machine”. A surge of feminist Utopian writing in the 1980s marks the beginning of a shake-up of the genre, which can now delight and surprise in many ways.

Casting a woman as the Doctor seems like something that should have happened years ago. Television is expensive, success is not assured, and risks with a flagship property can be difficult to justify. The incoming production team should be commended for this decision, choosing in Whittaker an actor of great talent whose presence will surely revitalise this ever-changing, fascinating, British institution.

Having a woman as the Doctor will not solve the conditions of vast and cruel inequality under which millions of women live today. It will not alter the grotesquery of the most qualified woman in history being passed over for the job of US president in favour of an overgrown child who wanted a toy and now doesn’t know what to do with it.

But representation and visibility do matter. What I have enjoyed most about this casting news is thinking about how this Doctor – a woman Doctor – was going to be the one that my little girl would grow up seeing. She will be her Doctor. The hero, the adventurer, the person to whom the text turns for moral and intellectual authority – that is a woman now.

The ConversationA little more of the glass ceiling has cracked. A spanner has been thrown into the workings of the world machine. We are reminded that something different is possible.

About Today's Contributor:
Una McCormack, Lecturer, Creative Writing Faculty, Department of English and Media, Anglia Ruskin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

13 April 2017

What The Casting Of The Next Doctor Who Will Tell Us About The BBC


Image 20170413 25894 14l4mg4
Des Willie/BBC/BBC Worldwide/Shutterstock
By Alec Charles, University of Hull

If, frozen in time in 1989, an old-school Doctor Who fan were roused from cryogenic slumbers, he (and in those days it would almost certainly have been a “he”) would be astonished to see the direction taken by the latest series. He’d note that the hero’s arch-enemy had been reincarnated as both a man and a woman, that his companion was both black and gay, and that the show’s audience demographic had broadened (beyond anyone’s wildest expectations) to include women. The Conversation

But he might be reassured that two things had not changed. The BBC is still beset by government animosity – and the British press still speculate obsessively about the possibility of a female Doctor Who.

In 1985, Margaret Thatcher’s government had established the Peacock Committee to explore “replacing the BBC license fee with advertising revenues”. This was partly prompted by an antagonism towards the BBC’s perceived liberal bias, a hostility escalated by the BBC’s refusal to adopt jingoistic rhetoric in its coverage of the Falklands War – which went as far as seeing allegations of treason being levelled against the broadcaster.

In July 1986, the home secretary, Douglas Hurd, had thus reported his government’s enthusiastic response to Peacock’s proposals to promote a “free broadcasting market including the recommendation to increase the proportion of programmes supplied by independent producers”.

Two years earlier, that champion of popular broadcasting, Michael Grade, had moved from commercial television to become controller of BBC One. Although feared by traditionalists as heralding a “tidal wave of vulgarian programming”, Grade reestablished the BBC’s reputation as a bold and popular innovator. Those who saw Grade’s ascendancy as a sop to Thatcherism would have been reassured by the controversy he sparked in 1988 by broadcasting Tumbledown, a TV play depicting the indifference of the state towards a serviceman wounded in the Falklands.

Michael Grade giving evidence to the media select committee in 2007. PA/PA Archive/PA Images
As a result of Grade’s forceful endorsement, the drama was, as Mark Lawson has observed, “transmitted despite sustained political and military complaints”. So much, then, for the view of Michael Grade as a corporate collaborator. As noted in a Guardian profile of Grade:
To every generation of BBC executive there is the one programme which irritates the government so much it defines the corporation’s relations with Downing Street for a decade and Tumbledown was Grade’s.
The BBC website notes that Grade “was not afraid to make tough decisions – like scrapping sci-fi favourite Doctor Who”. Grade took the series off air for 18 months and fired its star, Colin Baker – but it was his successors who actually cancelled the programme. Grade remains demonised by die-hard fans as the executive who dispatched their favourite show. Yet his opposition to Doctor Who was indicative not only of his own confidence, but of the institution’s confidence under his management. It was a bold decision, symbolically important in his bid to modernise the organisation, to put a moribund old favourite out of its misery.

Yet Grade was not dogmatic about Doctor Who. When Russell T Davies resurrected the series in 2005, Grade wrote to congratulate the BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson on this “classy, popular triumph”. Indeed, Thompson and Davies’s bold move in bringing the series back was only possible as a result of Grade’s bold decision to send it into exile two decades earlier.

Under pressure
Let’s fast forward to the present day – 13 years on from when the Hutton Report scarred the BBC’s confidence and led to the resignation of chair Gavin Davies and director-general Greg Dyke. It’s also nine years since the on-air conduct of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross prompted the resignation of the controller of Radio 2 and five years since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke. Just last year, the findings of Dame Janet Smith’s investigation emphasised that, in that latter context, the BBC had “missed opportunities to stop monstrous abuse”.

In 2015, a battered BBC dithered in its response to the latest incident involving the presenter of its global franchise Top Gear. The organisation prevaricated for a fortnight between the suspension of Jeremy Clarkson following a “fracas” with a producer and the presenter’s termination.

The loss of Top Gear was a big blow for the BBC. via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

The following year, the organisation’s confidence was further dented when Clarkson’s replacement, Chris Evans, quit following poor reviews. Clarkson’s successful move that year to Amazon Prime (along with co-hosts Hammond and May) did not bolster the BBC’s morale.

The situation was hardly improved by the arrival of the government of Theresa May and Philip Hammond, and their allies’ claims of the “pessimistic and skewed” BBC response to Brexit – despite the robust defences advanced by Lord Hall, Nick Robinson, Ivor Gaber, The Guardian and a sizeable group of MPs.

In 2015, the BBC relinquished The Voice, one of its most successful formats, to a competitor. Late in 2016 – as a result of production processes promoted by Peacock three decades earlier – the institution lost another treasured asset to another competitor, the quintessentially “BeebishGreat British Bake Off. Having lost its Voice, Auntie was now in danger of losing her identity.

Going, going, gone: another BBC crown jewel. Mark Bourdillon via Flickr, CC BY

Michael Grade had once fought off bids by rivals to usurp the BBC’s rights to the popular American import Dallas. But today’s BBC lacks Grade’s showmanship. It now bravely clings on to its rights to broadcast such staples as Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Is there a Doctor in the house?
That is why the choice of the next star of Doctor Who counts. In its international sales, critical success and popular following, the series ranks alongside such titles as Top Gear, Bake Off and Sherlock. The new series – Peter Capaldi’s last – is scheduled to start on Saturday April 15. It will be the programme’s tenth full season since Davies brought it back. The corporation is clearly keen to retain and regain its success as a highly remunerative global brand.

The casting of its lead may signal the BBC’s confidence as a bold trendsetter – or not. Who it chooses to play the Doctor may be even more significant than the all-female Ghostbusters remake or Tamsin Greig’s Malvolia – or than Idris Elba’s chances of playing Bond.
(In a show of exquisitely pertinent impertinence, Doctor Who’s new cast member Pearl Mackie has this week declared her own desire to play James Bond.)​

Lorna Jowett, of Northampton University, has suggested that the relentless white maleness of this pointedly progressive series’ lead has prompted “increasing criticism. A 2015 episode provocatively presented the regeneration of a white male Time Lord into a black woman, and this prompted renewed press speculation – speculation rife since the 1980s – that the next actor in the role need not be male or white.

When it was revealed last month that the Time Lord’s new companion would be a lesbian, showrunner Steven Moffat expressed surprise that anyone thought this was a big deal, commenting: “The correct response should be, ‘What took you so long?’” This was, after all, the show that had given us John Barrowman’s glorious bisexual Captain Jack.

The hype around the casting of the series’ next lead may be seen as a barometer of the BBC’s sense of confidence in itself as a cultural driver and leader of social mores. Since Peter Capaldi announced his departure in January there has been much speculation as to who might fill his boots. David Harewood threw his hat into the ring, while Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Natalie Dormer, Olivia Colman and Tilda Swinton have all garnered support.

Confidence motion
In recent days, however, speculation that the BBC may cast a woman (and/or an actor of colour) in this flagship role has given way to tabloid reports that they may make a rather safer choice. “Hopes of a woman have been dashed,” reported The Sun, while The Mirror announced that TV bosses determined to recapture “the glory days of the David Tennant era have set their sights on finding a dashing male actor”.

If the Mirror is right, we may at least hope that Sacha Dhawan is in the frame. This strategy would, however, exclude both Thandie Newton and Vicky McLure – despite their thrilling performances in the latest Line of Duty – from the running.

Thandie Newton and Vicki McClure in Line of Duty. World Productions/ BBC / Bernard Walsh

After Hutton, Savile, Top Gear and Bake Off, the question as to whether a BBC rocked by waves of crisis and beset by political hostilities will seek to retrench or renew itself is of massive cultural and political significance. Will the organisation see this critical period as an opportunity to emulate Michael Grade’s modernising chutzpah – aligned with the cultural zeitgeist, yet unafraid of antagonising the establishment?

The impending decisions it takes as to the casting of this particular role may offer a gauge as to its confidence (and dexterity) in negotiating a route towards a post-Brexit Britain. It will certainly be something worth watching for.

About Today's Contributor:
Alec Charles, Head of the School of Arts, University of Hull

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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