Doctor Who in China. Part I

What is the experience of Doctor Who fans in China? As an English teacher working in Beijing, Doctor Who in History contributor Mark Wilson got the opportunity to find out. Over the next four blog posts he muses on the stirrings of fandom, emotional connections and why 13 is the right number for change in …

Doctor Who in China   


I Won’t See the Doctor Now

When the first episode of series nine aired in September 2015, I was really excited – and happy – because Doctor Who was back. During my doctoral studies, my fellow grad students, knowing I liked the show and I’d discussed it in my thesis (I gave them a presentation on the show and my research just before the fiftieth anniversary special), speculated with me about what the ‘new’ Doctor (Peter Capaldi) would be like. We’d all seen The Thick of It and they wondered and wanted to see what Malcolm Tucker would be like as the Doctor.

20170813_135450My research looked at the development of environmental awareness in Britain after the Second World War, 1945 to 1975. This included discussion of environmental disasters, pressure groups and environmental-themed television programmes, including a couple of stories of classic Who – one from 1964 and two from 1973. I’d seen one of the 1973 ones – ‘The Green Death’ – before, but I was unfamiliar with the other – ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’, and the 1964 story ‘Planet of Giants’. There is much of classic Who I am also unaware of, I admit. Being born in the mid-1980s, much of the original series passed me by, though I’ve seen all the Seventh Doctor’s stories. I liked his umbrella, and, I suppose, when I was watching it in the early-mid 1990s, it was not that long ago since it finished.

When it returned in 2005, it was watched each week by myself and my parents, and I’ve sort of watched it ever since. Until series nine, that is. The Saturday the first episode aired, I left to go to China to work. I work as an English teacher in Beijing. So I missed all of the series. I read up on what happens but it wasn’t the same as watching it. I saw the Christmas episode ‘Last Christmas’, in 2014, and also the Christmas episode in 2015, ‘The Husbands of River Song’. But none of the main series.


Life continued, and the show moved to the back of my mind for a while. I didn’t even notice there was not a series on in 2016. I saw ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ which I liked a lot and I have been lucky enough to watch all of series 10, which I’ve loved. I think Capaldi is a good Doctor, and I really liked the themes of the series. Bill was also particularly good, and I think the musical cues for the Twelfth Doctor have also been particularly well put together. The highlight, if I had to pick one, would probably be the final episode of the series, where the Doctor explains why he helps people. He does it because it’s right. I think that sums up the whole series, really, and why I – and others – like it. You have this alien who knows we – humans – are not perfect yet he seems something positive in us and helps us out because it’s the right thing to do.


IMAGE: Blue Box Willow by thirdhalfstudios on Spoonflower


The writers of Doctor Who and History focus on a different aspect of history as it expressed thematically in the show. Mark Wilson‘s chapter is all about the environment, pesticides and pollution. BAMarkWilson“As environmental awareness grew in post-World War 2 Britain, so Doctor Who incorporated this topic into its stories. My chapter describes three stories – one from the First Doctor’s era (1963), and two from the Third Doctor’s (1973). .”

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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