Meet our writers #4

Doctor Who Unbound and Alternate History.

BAKarenThe writers of Doctor Who and History focus on a different aspect of history as it expressed thematically in the show. Karen Hellekson goes explores the alternative history of Big Finish’s Doctor Who Unbound series of six full-cast audio dramas.

Her chapter focuses on that genre which asks history-based questions like what if the South won the Civil War? “The audios recast the Doctor—in one case as a woman (Arabella Weir)—in order to ask questions about the Doctor’s nature, as well as the nature of storytelling, morality, temporality, and cause and effect”. Actors reprising their roles as classic-era companions lend legitimacy to the whole idea of recasting the Doctor: Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, Carole Anne Ford as Susan, Michael Jayston as the Valeyard, and Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush.

Hellekson, who wrote a book on the topic of alternate history, leapt on the audios when they were released—and she also leapt on a series of recent tie-in audios featuring one of the alternate Doctors, David Warner as the Third Doctor, with snarky companion Bernice Summerfield (played by Lisa Bowerman).

“I love Big Finish’s stuff,” Hellekson said. “It’s the best way to reimmerse yourself in the world of classic Doctors. They’ve got all the living Doctors doing audios for them. But the Unbound series takes it to a whole other level: the alternate Doctors they cast are completely different but completely wonderful. Maybe I love David Warner best because he’s got a great voice, but Arabella Weir is hilarious, and they got Derek Jacobi to play one of the Doctors. Derek Jacobi!


“It’s not just ‘what if the Third Doctor were a woman’ or ‘what if the Sixth Doctor lost the Trial of a Time Lord,'” Hellekson says. “It’s also ‘what if the TV show Doctor Who had never been made,’ or ‘what if the Doctor thought the end justified the means.’ These audios ask really big questions.”

Several of the episodes are about storytelling, with fantastic, gorgeous images, including a sailing ship plying the stars and a talking elephant, all to make the point that imagination is the ultimate TARDIS. But the “series doesn’t shy away from darkness,” Hellekson notes. In one audio, a woman finds out about the Doctor’s long-term betrayal—and she stands over him, shooting him through each regeneration. In another, we’re not sure if the Doctor character is experiencing dementia.



Doctor Who and History is available on Amazon UK  Amazon US  McFarland shop and also available on Kindle. Check out the McFarland catalogue.

When Sydney Newman conceived the idea for Doctor Who in 1963, he envisioned a show that would entertain as well as educate. Historical adventures were part of his vision-the Doctor and his companions would visit and observe, but not interfere with, events in history. That plan was dropped early on. Not only has the Doctor happily meddled with historical events for decades, his adventures-on television, in films, novels, comics, books and games-reflect how we regard our own place in history. This collection of new essays examines how the Doctor engages with history and inspires reflections upon it history. Topics includes reconstruction of lost historical serials, reflections on Britain’s colonial past, the subversion of nostalgia for village life, the depiction of Norse myths, alternate history, and the impact of historical decisions on the present.

Book Format Paperback
Number of Pages 193
Author Fleiner, Carey, October, Dene
Publisher McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication Date August, 2017
ISBN-13 9781476666563
ISBN-10 1476666563

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