Wholiday Advent(ures) 3

Adventures in Whostory

Introducing Doctor Who and History


Continuing from the previous post …

Early efforts of the program and its production team at teaching history were earnest, and the production crew expected writers and script-editors to do their homework, even in comedies. Several of Doctor Who’s writers have had degrees or a background in history, including John Lucarotti (“Marco Polo,” 1964) and Louis Marks (“Masque of Mandragora,” 1976), who had a Ph.D. from Oxford. Lack of formal education did not preclude historical knowledge among the writers, however, and reflects, too, what could be appre- ciated by the audience: although Dennis Spooner was forced to leave school at a young age, his initial draft-script for the serial “The Reign of Terror” was praised by David Whitaker for its excellence and depth in the treatment of the subject matter. His follow-up script of “The Romans” hit all the marks required for a screen-version of Rome and assumes the audience is conversant in the general history of the period. Similarly, history enthusiast Donald Cot- ton drew up a detailed crib sheet outlining the timeline and information on contemporary Greek culture that accompanied his drafts and script of “The Myth Makers” (1965), a document that is preserved in the BBC Written Archives.

The BBC were pleased to receive mostly positive feedback from schoolteachers at the time of the early serials; there were, however, some complaints from viewers of too many liberties taken and too much frivolity in the storytelling as well, something Sydney Newman had been quite against. Presenting history to the masses, however, has always been a tricky business, as the first century AD Roman historian Tacitus himself observes complaining that one’s audience is far more eager to hear (and to believe) scandal and crime, and distrusts the historian who “curries favor” (Tac., Hist. 1.1).




Wholiday Wishes

20170726_183521Free articles

Recent articles include: Trial of a Time Lord;  The Almost 500-year Diary; Watch with Mother; The Thirteen Doctors; Doctor Who in China.

About the book

Buy the book

Please shop thoughtfully. History is for life, not just for Christmas. 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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