Working drafts from the book Doctor Who and History were exhibited at this year’s London Design Festival and judged on their archival value. Room 2084 – identified as the antithesis of George Orwell’s Room 101 – comprised an exhibition and live performance project. Designers and artists defended their work before a jury of librarians and archivists. Only a handful survived to be taken up by the archive. Over the next five days, DW&H co-editor Dene October recalls his five defences before the judges, and reveals the ultimate fate of the book in
DOCTOR WHO AND HISTORY:
TRIAL OF A TIME LORD
It’s my second year exhibiting at the London Design Festival which runs every September and is a showcase of London as a design capital of the world. Last year I submitted a piece called David Bowie Fan Mirror, a piece reflecting on the loss of the icon, and my work was done. This year was different. This year I had to defend the exhibition piece – a fat wallet of edited drafts from the book I co-edited with Carey Fleiner. Literally had to defend it, stand at a podium and give the case why the exhibition judges should choose Doctor Who and History to go into the archive.
Over the next five days, I’ll let you know just what that defence was. Conveniently, for this blog, the defence came in five parts. But first, let me tell you more about the concept of the exhibition.
The unusual event, Room 2084, was one of many exhibitions during the capital’s design festival in September 2017. The antithesis of George Orwell’s ‘Room 101’, Room 2084 contemplated what constitutes a memory object. Alongside the draft chapters for DW&H, the works on exhibition included an unused 8-track cartridge of David Bowie’s 1977 album ‘Low’, a life-jacket worn by a Syrian refugee and a bird’s nest. The designers and artists competed to assure the future of their artefact in a live performance of ‘trials’ while a judging panel found reasons to block their access to the archive.
I was last up to give my 10-minute public presentation and, stepping onto the platform, aware just how few pieces had been accepted. The judges were taking their job seriously, interrogating the defences, taking every single word apart. The signs were particularly ominous since, somewhat foolishly, I’d labelled the first of my five defences ‘By Analogy’ –a provocation surely.
At the microphone, I raised a figure in the air for dramatic effect, as well as to indicate the first defence, and began speaking:
For a year and a bit, thirteen writers contributed to a book examining the history of the beloved and long-lived BBC show Doctor Who. Over fifty chapter proposals were submitted – a staggering number for a collection – of which fifteen were accepted. Three of these were abandoned along the way (writing a chapter for an academic book is a long process, and requires all the contributors to hit editorial milestones simultaneously – it’s a tall ask, and there are always stragglers and a few who miss the finishing line).
The twelve chapters that remain are about how Doctor Who does history, how Doctor Who is (broadcast) history, and how Doctor Who may be understood through historical methodologies. The book is not just about history but how history is practiced and has meaning.
The book’s writers all engaged in extensive research, including rare documents such as those held at the BBC Written Archives Centre in Reading. In turn, their own writing was scrutinised by editors and reviewers. The chapters were checked and rechecked for accuracy, for how the drafts made use of the programme and research archives.
Which brings me to the first defence. Ironically, the one thing that many contributors had no access to was the programme itself. This is because, during the 1960s and 1970s the BBC purged the vaults. Leaving the archive derelict.
DOCTOR WHO AND HISTORY: TRIAL OF A TIME LORD continues in the next blog
Look out for more on the author in upcoming blogs.
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|