The 13 Doctors – Part I

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What did the thirteen academics behind Doctor Who and History make of the decision to cast Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor? Dene October spent that Sunday alternating between Wimbledon on telly and regenderation war on social media.

Screenshot_2017-08-13-20-01-03“That was the most exciting weekend ever. I mean, I screamed when Peter Capaldi was announced. I was overjoyed even though I already knew who 12 was. It was really exciting all the same. But 13 was excitement to the max.

“First of all, what an epic way to make a change – hack into Wimbledon! And it really felt like history in the making…  a woman Doctor being announced at the end of the men’s final. Someone has a great sense of humour.

“A lot of us were wired up to the max on social media. I was watching the finals, juggling tablets, phones and laptops … and all over Twitter. During the build-up, there was a lot of hostility to the regenderation, a lot of people (not all men) promising they would quite if it was a woman.

“But I knew he was going to become she .. had to be. I had been writing about Missy for Andrew O’Day’s next book [Twelfth Night]. So the precedents were fresh in my mind. Everything pointed to the change. I just couldn’t see a way it wouldn’t be a woman.

“Still, there was a battle on Twitter to win… hearts and minds … get the gender diehards on board! Try to, at least. I hated that people were prepared to give up on the programme because they couldn’t face doing what women have done since books were invented .. identify through a character of a different gender.

“It felt like we waited an age. On the other hand, the speed of Roger Federer’s victory. Quite suddenly he was in tears and some random bloke was walking through a forest clearing.

Shit, I thought. Those are bloke’s legs. Kris Marshall after all?
Nuh, wait.
Men’s hands?
BBC you cowardly .. uhh??!!
Jodie Whittaker!
YES! Oh yes!
Tears. Yes, I cried.

“And – genuinely – so much relief. Looking back, it might seem strange I cried. But really the expectations were so high! This was so important.

“I can’t wait to be Jodie’s number one fan. She has so much weight on her shoulders. It’s so special that we have the first female Doctor … but I’ll be glad to let that go too. Jodie isn’t the female Doctor … she’s the Doctor!”

BADeneThe writers of Doctor Who and History focus on a different aspect of history as it expressed thematically in the show. Dene October looks at the programme’s depiction of thirteenth century explorer, Marco Polo. Marco Polo is in the fourth serial of the show, and not only the first historical proper, it is sadly the first ‘lost’ story. Dene explores the decision to present the story of the Doctor and his companions, whose characters we as viewers are still learning about, through the observation and narrative focus of the renowned Venetian explorer.

It is worth remembering that the thirteen writers interviewed are academics whose speciality is expressed through their individual contribution to the book. But they are also fans and their opinions on a range of Who-related issues are, not surprisingly, emotionally diverse.


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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