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Adventures in Time and Space: A Dr. Who Reader

TARDIS with books in background
Photo credit: Dante Candal on Unsplash
y Paul Booth

​In November 2023, the British television show Doctor Who will celebrate its 60th anniversary–having been on the air longer than any other television show in history. What is perhaps even more startling than its longevity, however, is the fact that Doctor Who has been written about in both academic and fan venues for almost that entire length of time. With thanks the College of Communication Summer Research Grant and the DePaul University Research Council, I was able to collect more than 25 academic articles and fan work published over the past sixty years about the television series Doctor Who, as well as include 15 newly commissioned works about the history, longevity, and scope of the series for an academic reader to be published by Bloomsbury Academic Press in November 2023.

The Doctor Who Reader – the first academic Reader to focus on Doctor Who – charts changing cultural norms and media history over that huge swath of time. In this volume, my co-editors and I have focused less on some abstract “cohesiveness" of Doctor Who and instead embraced the prismatic (and often contradictory) viewpoints that have shaped the history of the show. We believe that the best way to describe Doctor Who is through an explication of the many perspectives it has generated over the past sixty years. The Reader will prove to be a valuable addition to scholars and fans of Doctor Who.

The importance of studying Doctor Who lies in the way it has changed and developed over time, for more than anything, Doctor Who represents longevity, devotion, and transformation. Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin have called Doctor Who a 'vast, fictional quilt'; a whole constructed of many different parts. Like a fractal, we can see this quilting metaphor at many different levels. Purely at the level of the text itself, Doctor Who has had a continually changing set of producers, writers, directors, and actors at the helm, meaning that a show that started in 1963 is now wholly different than the show at 1983 or at 2023. But the quilt thickens with additional transmedia connections, as with the comics (which started in 1964), novels and novelizations, audio adventures, and web content—all of which are equally (in)coherent within the skein of Doctor Who. Intersections between fan and creative personnel develop the show even further, as classic fans of the long-running programme eventually take over the production of series in the 2000s. But hints of this intersection come earlier in the programme's history as well, as the 1980s saw fan-feedback as crucial for the show's development. Fans are the creative personnel, which both opens up and restri​cts the types of content that gets made.

The Doctor Who Reader helps researchers, scholars, and fans understand the importance of studying a popular culture text like Doctor Who. Although often denigrated as unimportant, popular culture makes up a significant part of our lives – we watch it, read it, experience it. For 60 years, Doctor Who has been a facet of contemporary popular culture, and has had a hand in shaping the culture we take for granted.

Ultimately, Doctor Who is not, and never can be, just one thing. The Doctor Who Reader celebrates its complexity and contradictions, its vast and expansive history, and its many interpretations and meanings over time. This volume collects the voices of fans, scholars, creatives, and professionals alike to offer the multifaceted and (yes) contradictory meanings that construct Doctor Who at its sixtieth anniversary and beyond.​

Professor Paul Booth
Paul Booth​ is a professor of Media and Cinema Studies and Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Engagement for the College of Communication.