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Out of Time

The Deaths and Resurrections of Doctor Who

Alec Charles

Doctor Who is one of television’s most enduring and ubiquitously popular series. This study contends that the success of the show lies in its ability, over more than half a century, to develop its core concepts and perspectives: alienation, scientific rationalism and moral idealism. The most extraordinary aspect of this eccentric series rests in its capacity to regenerate its central character and, with him, the generic, dramatic and emotional parameters of the programme.
Out of Time explores the ways in which the series’ immortal alien addresses the nature of human mortality in his ambiguous relationships with time and death. It asks how the status of this protagonist – that lonely god, uncanny trickster, cyber-sceptic and techno-nerd – might call into question the beguiling fantasies of immortality, apotheosis and utopia which his nemeses tend to pursue. Finally, it investigates how this paragon of transgenerational television reflects the ways in which contemporary culture addresses the traumas of change, loss and death.
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Chapter 7 Imitatio Christi


← 130 | 131 → CHAPTER 7

In 2005 the series had returned to Britain’s TV screens after an absence of nearly a decade, and, in a format reimagined by Russell T Davies, against a backdrop of council estates and shopping malls, and facing the massed hordes of farting aliens, TV executives and game show hosts, the unprecedentedly contemporary figures of the Doctor (in his tight jumper and leather jacket) and his companion (who now provided the core dynamic for the drama) took the series to unprecedented levels of critical and popular acclaim. As significant (although not as successful) a rebirth had however come nine years earlier, in San Francisco and in the person of Paul McGann.

In 1996 Doctor Who had been dead seven years: the original series had been killed off at the tender age of 26. Its return to television screens that year was not the series’ first resurrection: it had been reborn several times before, perhaps most notably after threats of cancellation in 1969 and 1985. It would not be its last.

Directed by Geoffrey Sax (at the time best known for his work on the cosy BBC dramas Bergerac and Lovejoy) and written by Matthew Jacobs (who had previously authored several episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), the 1996 Doctor Who television movie was filmed in Vancouver and set in San Francisco. Its core action takes place on the night of the millennium, as it attempts to reinvent the franchise to...

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