This chapter considers official and unofficial Doctor Who responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the first-wave UK lockdown of 2020. In particular, Matt Hills focuses on how the thirteenth Doctor appeared in lockdown fiction, extras and short-form videos, both those that were branded by the BBC and those that moved beyond BBC authorization. Rather than representing paratextual additions to a main TV text, unusually these gift-texts became central online experiences for fans seeking solace. Hills examines how such texts mirrored lockdown experiences and provided ‘ontological security’ and ‘sperosemic interpretations’ by offering reassuring sources of inspiration, comfort and hope for fans of all ages. The chapter also considers how – in a suspension of standard industrial practices and partly as a result of COVID disruptions – Doctor Who’s current showrunner, previous showrunners and writers, and professionalized fans such as Emily Cook from Doctor Who Magazine, were all united in terms of producing new Who gift-texts for a somewhat captive, locked-down audience. Playfully dubbed ‘the Emily Cook era’ on Twitter, this also became not so much a multi-Doctor story as a temporary multi-showrunner story.
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.
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.