Interrogating kinship networks with the thirteenth Doctor
In the first years of the Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who, the Doctor and her companions refer to themselves as ‘fam’ and represent an alternative to nuclear kinship networks of a heteronormative married couple with biological children. The chapter by Hannah Hamad contributes to work on the cultural politics of race and focuses on the character of black companion Ryan and the way the programme perpetuates damaging stereotypes of black families and in particular that of the absentee black father. This discourse was also presented through the characters of Mickey Smith in Russell T Davies’s 2005 Doctor Who and Clyde Langer in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Hamad reveals how the series celebrates the counter-hegemonic kinship network of the TARDIS crew and also how the series emphasizes that biological fathers must fulfil their social responsibilities in line with the demands of hegemonic family values.
Constructing and characterizing Doctor Who’s Thirteen in fashion design and cosplay
In this chapter, Nicolle Lamerichs draws on online data collected from Instagram and a small qualitative sample of Dutch cosplayers. Lamerichs looks at how some fans have responded to the programme’s latest era through cosplay, with cosplayers celebrating and (re-)interpreting the thirteenth Doctor’s costume. By analysing the fashion and design meanings of this new costume, as designed by Ray Holman, the chapter goes on to set out how some queer and female cosplayers have seen much of themselves in this version of the Doctor, becoming involved in performative and ‘affective reception’ in relation to the character. Indeed, it is argued that the fluidity of the Doctor, whose body is never stable, allows for an exceptional form of affective reception and play among these fans. When fans cosplay the thirteenth Doctor, they express their own hopes and expectations for the character, and selectively use her as a resource to form their own identities.
Gender and Doctor Who Barbie dolls, adventure dolls, and 1:6 scale figures
Victoria L. Godwin
This chapter examines thirteenth Doctor toys and collectibles from a fan studies perspective, focusing on figures like Mattel’s posable thirteenth Doctor Barbie doll. Victoria Godwin argues that different marketing names such as ‘dolls’, or even ‘adventure dolls’, can be linked to anxieties around ‘feminizing’ fandom, whereas similar toys targeted at boys have typically been positioned as ‘action figures’ instead. This is due to a commonly held belief that boys will not play with toys aimed at girls. By exploring this, Godwin critically interrogates the restrictive gendering of specific Doctor Who merchandise. Her analysis contrasts the mainstream thirteenth Doctor Barbie with Big Chief Studios’ high-end, niche ‘1:6 figure’ collectible, arguing that this collectible is masculinized (and aestheticized) through its marketing emphases on physical ‘fabrication’ and sculpture, as opposed to exnominating those who worked on fashioning the figure’s clothing fabrics and their designs. While the Chris Chibnall / Jodie Whittaker era may often have been progressive on screen, highly gendered terms for at least some of its paratextual merchandise suggest that there are commercial and cultural limits which remain in play around Doctor Who’s transformations.
Lorna Jewett posits that science fiction with its emphasis on defamiliarization and estrangement is inherently queer and examines the diversity of writers in the Chris Chibnall / Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who, arguing that this range leads to the potential for more inclusive representations of sexuality. Jewett explores the ‘casual queerness’ which follows on from the era’s statement of intent to become more inclusive and diverse. By looking at story choices and character dynamics, Jewett shows how series 11’s ensemble cast signals some of its new directions. It is further argued that series 11 and 12 offer visual cues that allow the audience to follow desire lines between characters, though the text draws clear limits to this (queerbaiting) – especially in relation to the Doctor and Yaz – and therefore remains constrained by tensions between progressive statements of intent and the constraints of mainstream television.
This book explores a new cultural moment in the history of the BBC TV series, Doctor Who: the casting of a female lead. Following the reveal that Jodie Whittaker would be the thirteenth Doctor, the series has been caught up in media and fan controversies – has it become ‘too political’? Has showrunner Chris Chibnall tampered disastrously with long-running continuity? And has the regendered thirteenth Doctor been represented differently from her predecessors? Analysing Whittaker’s era – up to and including Doctor Who’s responses to 2020’s first lockdown – this edited collection addresses how the show has been repositioned as a self-consciously inclusive brand. Featuring brand-new interview material with those working on-screen (series regular Mandip Gill and guest star Julie Hesmondhalgh) and those operating behind the scenes in crucial roles (Segun Akinola, composer of the current theme and incidental music), Doctor Who – New Dawn focuses on how the thirteenth Doctor’s era of spectacular TV has been created, and how it has diversified representations of queerness, race, and family. Moving beyond the television show itself, chapters also address fan responses to the thirteenth Doctor via memes, cosplay, and non-Anglophone translation. Finally, this collection looks at how the new ‘moment’ of Doctor Who has moved into gendered realms of merchandising, the commercial ‘experience economy’, and a paratextual neo-gift economy of Covid-19 lockdown reactions that were created by previous showrunners alongside Chris Chibnall. A vigorous new dawn for Doctor Who calls for rigorous new analysis – and the thirteen chapters gathered together here all respond adventurously to the call.
Internet meme culture, Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who, and fan mockery
This chapter looks at how Doctor Who fans have made and used Internet memes to mock the programme under the stewardship of Chris Chibnall, often fondly, but sometimes cruelly. Taking her data from the Reddit group DoctorWhumour, as well as Facebook and Twitter, Brigid Cherry begins by looking at fan responses crafted in the wake of series 11’s pre-publicity, some of which were overtly negative, particularly in response to the casting of a female Doctor, but which also included affectionate mocking of the thirteenth Doctor’s costume. The chapter then goes on to analyse a range of fan memes responding to specific aspects of broadcast episodes that fans have singled out for (sometimes affectionate) mockery, including textual elements such as Jodie Whittaker’s facial expressions, and extratextual elements such as Chris Chibnall’s writing. By creating humorous, playful memes to express disappointment at what they feel are poor-quality elements of Chibnall’s Doctor Who, fans demonstrate their symbolic mastery over the programme, in some cases even positioning Chibnall as an ‘anti-auteur’. Fandom blurs into anti-fandom here, yet it is not Jodie Whittaker’s gender or performance that are typically mocked. Instead, rather than attacking the show’s widening representation, the memes studied in this chapter suggest that a backlash against the latest showrunner has been the main vehicle for fans’ negative emotions and frustrations.
This begins by considering academic critiques of Doctor Who’s periodization – does it really make sense to divide the show into eras marked by showrunner and star? Despite some previous scholarly scepticism from Paul Booth, it is suggested that such eras can be treated as analytical devices rather than as claims over the essence of the series. An alternative academic approach set out by James Chapman, however, has sought to contest conventional fan discourses of ‘eras’ by instead analysing four major cultural-historical ‘moments’ of Doctor Who, namely Dalekmania of the 1960s; institutionalized ritual of the 1970s; the move from mainstream to cult TV in the 1980s; and reinvention as a global brand after 2005. Adding to this, it is argued that a new, fifth ‘moment’ can be discerned via Jodie Whittaker’s casting and Chris Chibnall’s role as showrunner – Doctor Who as a self-consciously inclusive brand. Using this concept to frame the edited collection’s central concerns, the Introduction then concludes by summarizing upcoming chapters in sequence.
Paul Booth travels beyond fan studies’ conventional focus on ‘fan tourism’, where fans journey to a location familiar from the diegesis of a media text. By contrast, in this chapter, he examines the tourism of commodified fan experiences that aims to commercially discipline what it means to be a fan. Following an analysis of how this process operates through The Doctor Who Experience, Booth draws on scholarship regarding the contemporary ‘experience economy’ to argue for four categories of consumer experience: entertainment, education, escapist, and aesthetic. He then takes us on a tour of four further Who-themed exhibitions and interactive events – a Madame Tussauds exhibition; the Worlds Collide escape room; Time Fracture’s COVID-delayed immersive theatre experience; and the Edge of Time VR game – placing them in relation to these categories of experience. Through this era’s proliferation into the experience economy, Booth argues that visitors are positioned as ‘trying on’ a highly commercialized and pre-structured version of new series’ Doctor Who fandom.
Susana Loza argues that, although the Chris Chibnall / Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who may appear to offer a progressive vision, multiculturalist images can disguise the violent racism of Britain’s imperial past and can lead to the ‘racial amnesia’ surrounding this past, issues which have returned in specific ways in relation to Brexit Britain. Such an idea is not unique to the Chibnall / Whittaker era but, in order to make this argument, Loza concentrates on the specific episodes ‘Demons of the Punjab’, ‘Rosa’ and ‘Spyfall’ and ties these narratives in with a real-world historical background.
Fan practices and reception of the female Doctor in Spanish fandom
Saida Herrero explores the Spanish Doctor Who fan community, drawing on an online questionnaire to map out reactions to a female Doctor from Spanish fans, along with their related views on issues of translation. In the absence of officially translated, televised Doctor Who, a group called AudioWho provided Spanish versions of licensed Doctor Who comics, addressing the linguistic problems in Spanish translation that can occur when a character changes from male to female. Here, Spain offers a case study outside the more usually analysed UK/US contexts, whilst Spanish grammar’s genderings also directly pose the question of how the thirteenth Doctor should be correctly gendered in the language. Herrero tackles the matter of translation head-on, including and analysing interview material with translators who have been involved in reinterpreting this era of the BBC brand.