Wholiday Advent(ures) Christmas Day

Adventures in Whostory

Introducing Doctor Who and History

Continuing from the previous post …

Doctor Who had as part of its original plan historical stories—stories set in the past—to enlighten and entertain its audience. But it is unfair to dismiss the program as a budget-busting pastiche with the conceit of a time-traveling main character whose adventures represent a rummage through the BBC’s props and costume. Doctor Who has used history and historical characters as creatively as any of its science fiction and fantasy-orientated stories have created new worlds and new creatures for the Doctor and his companions to experience and explore. But the program is, after all, a drama and one of its strengths lies in adapting from sources not with the intention of fidelity but to tell a good story, one that sometime subverts the original source (as the Troughton story “The Evil of the Daleks,” 1967, does with the much mythologized—and frequently revisited by the program—Victorian period). The idea of a “pure historical,” that is, a story with no science fiction elements at all, was quickly superseded by so-called pseudo-historicals in the classic era of the program and then by the “celebrity-historicals” of the modern incarnation of the show. Nevertheless, as the show has evolved, so too has its dynamic engagement with historical elements. Doctor Who continues to educate and inform audiences 50-plus years since its first broadcast in November 1963, one day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination which destabilized the audience’s sense of time and order and connected the cultural with the televisual (since events meant the first episode had to be quickly repeated). Yet the relationship of broadcast history to history as theme and methodology is in need of scholarly appraisal. This collection brings together several authors under the common goal of extrapolating one of the major themes of the show and exploring what it means to travel historically, to engage with and debate the historical, and to discuss what Doctor Who can do with and for history.

We invite our readers to join with us on our adventures in history— perhaps it is impossible simply to observe dispassionately. The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) once insisted to his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), “We are observers only. That’s the one rule I’ve always stuck to, in all my travels. I never get involved in the affairs of other peoples or planets” (“The Beast Below,” 2010). He immediately, of course, gets stuck into the affairs of other people. The goal of this collection is that its essays speak both to the program and to history as a subject area, draw on and identify appropriate historiographical methods and debates, and encourage further meddling by our readers through thoughtful debate and discussion. These 12 essays are also a gateway to adventures with “this man … [who] has a time machine. Up and down history he goes, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip—getting into scrapes” (“Before the Flood,” 2015). Time, then, to travel back in history, and get stuck in.



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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