Louis Marks and the Vitality of Worms and Bees.
The contributors to Doctor Who and History researched a specific aspect of history as it is explored in the show. This series of taster-blogs previews their work – and thought processes – by offering a sneak peek at the finished book. Mark Wilson‘s chapter is all about the environment, pesticides and pollution. “As environmental awareness grew in post-World War 2 Britain, so Doctor Who incorporated this topic into its stories,” says Mark.
In “Planet of Giants,” when the Doctor’s companions ask him about all the insects and other creatures which were dying, and whether it was wrong, the Doctor replied “quite so. Both [worms and bees] are vital for the growth of things.” The program put to use “science fact” in a “science fiction” setting, which, as Jorgensen notes above with regards audience awareness of events in the series, was effective in getting its message across to the audience. Having read Carson, Marks used her narrative—about the potentially dangerous use of pesticides—as a reference for his story and in the character of the Doctor; whilst his attitude is sometimes arrogant, he does state on several occasions why it is wrong to kill creatures indiscriminately. In this way the First Doctor reflects Carson’s work. As noted in The Television Companion, the idea of shrinking the Doctor and his companions was originally considered to launch the series. This did not happen, but the idea remained for a future story. What Marks brought to the table, specifically, was the environmental theme, from Silent Spring (Howe and Walker 2003, 75).
Nine years after “Planet of Giants,” the political landscape of Britain had changed considerably, with regards to the environment. By now, environmental concern was central to British society—the Department of the Environment had been created; the first United Nations environment Conference had been held; and the Green Party had just been formed in Coventry, as PEOPLE (Veldman 1994, 206; Beckett 2009, 136–137, 234–243). It was during this period, in 1973, that a very different, more overtly environmental Doctor Who serial aired—“The Green Death.” Following the death of Welsh miner, whose body was glowing green, the Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning), arrive, meet environmentalist and Nobel laureate fictional scientist Professor Clifford Jones (Stewart Bevan) and begin to investigate. Local chemical company Global Chemicals, which claims their new refining process can produce 25 percent more fuel from any amount of crude oil, were responsible for this and other deaths, as well as creating large maggots from the process. The story dealt with contemporary environmental issues, covering deforestation in the Amazon, as well as connecting to Silent Spring with debates over pesticides and events like the Torrey Canyon oil spill, which occurred in March 1967.
This brief snapshot of the author’s chapter focuses on a small part of a much larger argument that seeks to address the significance of the programme to exploring and understanding history.
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ABOUT DOCTOR WHO AND HISTORY
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.
|Number of Pages||193|
|Author||Fleiner, Carey, October, Dene|
|Publisher||McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers|
|Publication Date||August, 2017|