Benedict Morrison
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Queer adventures in time and space
Complicating simplicity in Doctor Who
in Complexity / simplicity
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This chapter argues that, despite enormous variations in on-screen style and off-screen modes of production, the serials of classic Doctor Who (1963–89) share a common interest in television’s role in the production and circulation of knowledge. The programme’s self-reflexive acknowledgement of its own status as a television text creates a complex both/and logic in which characters, objects and events both generate the illusion of a coherent science fiction universe and expose how this illusion is created. The chapter analyses elements of the series’ production which have been discussed as simple – or even simplistic – and argues that this simplicity can be read as a baring of the televisual device which offers a complex critique of knowledge formation. The chapter’s analysis of Doctor Who’s performativity aligns with queer theory’s rejection of binary thinking and interest in how simplifying cultural myths – including those concerning sexuality, gender, identity and meaning – are made. These general arguments are complemented by a detailed reading of a moment from the 1966 serial ‘The Gunfighters’ in which the Wild West is exposed as a complex intersection of history, myth, genre and medium. The chapter argues that this serial critiques heteronormative myths of masculine power, familial honour and cultural exceptionalism through its playful – and complex – acknowledgement of its own construction as television.

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Complexity / simplicity

Moments in television


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