Doctor Who in China. Part II

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   


China and the Doctor

As I’ve written a chapter for the book Doctor Who and History, the editors thought it would be interesting to see how the show is viewed in China, given I live and work there. Living in Beijing, I didn’t think I’d meet many Whovians. Yet one of my younger students in the high school where I work is a massive Doctor Who fan. She’s really only seen the new series, but she really enjoys watching it and talking to me about it. So I asked her and a few of her Whovian friends to describe the series to me, and their thoughts about it (in total I had about six or seven responses). These are some of their responses.


My student, called Angela, describes the show as ‘absolutely fantastic’. Most of those who answered the questions stated the show was not big in China. Angela reckoned it had a following of about 80,000, which, in a country of over a billion people, is not a lot at all. University student Zhu Lijie, said that the problem is not the programme itself but that people have no way of understanding it. Kang Xingyuan, another student, stated that though it does not have a huge following, Chinese fans of the show are very passionate about it. Through my own experiences, I know that Sherlock is more well-known and popular than Doctor Who is in China. Many high school students have heard of, if not watched, Sherlock; far fewer are familiar with even who the Doctor is (as a character), let alone having watched any episodes of the show.


Hermione, a university student studying at the University of St. Andrews, considered that it might not be that popular because ‘people need to focus on the plot and the ideas (e.g.: never be cruel or cowardly, never give up, never give in, etc) that’s behind it, instead of solely appreciating how good looking the actors are’.

Although Whovians all have their own favourite Doctors, and will often passionately defend their love of that Doctor to others, there seems to be a universal, or near-universal, reason why people become engaged with the show in the first place. Lydia, a high school student, described it as escapism, and how she’d had a difficult time in high school and watching the show really helped that. Hermione similarly described her love of the show because it provides infinite possibilities in life, in time, and in space, and makes her feel like her life is as rich as the Doctor’s. Li Chenyuan, a university student, juxtaposed her educational experience, studying for many hours a day, with the freedom that the Doctor has. ‘All those time and space … adventures allowed me to forget all the rubbish things in my … life’. Angela similarly described her love of the show because of the stories. ‘Not every adventure has a happy ending, and no one is always correct; all we can do is learn from failure and move on’.


IMAGE: President Xi meets a Dalek (Daily Mail)

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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