By Danny Nicol
Doctor Who is not just science fiction: it is also a television programme which seeks to represent the British nation. In this regard, in November 2017 the British Broadcasting Corporation announced that it would arrange big-screen viewings of the Doctor Who Christmas special in advance of Christmas Day. These would be held exclusively in towns in the North of England: Hartlepool,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Middlesbrough, Salford, Durham and Bradford,
tickets to be allocated by ballot, with some preference being accorded to local
|Clara and the Doctor follow the no-nonsense Mrs Gillyflower|
in Yorkshire-set "The Crimson Horror" (2013)
The concession to Northern England reflects the fact that the North is neglected compared to
This in turn was reflected in the majority of voters in most Northern
towns registering their dissatisfaction by voting “Leave” in the EU referendum
of 2016. This was seen as a cry of
community outrage against disparities of wealth and power. There is endless talk by government of building “economic
powerhouses” in the North, but not much seems to materialise.
Yet the “concession” of an early viewing of the Christmas special seems rather tokenistic. It is, after all, a lottery: only a small proportion of local Doctor Who fans will benefit. Moreover the prize is double-edged, forfeiting the traditional element of surprise on Christmas Day.
There are surely more substantial ways of making Doctor Who more inclusive in terms of its representation of
One, as argued in the blog before, would be to have the new Doctor play the role in her own accent. Jodie Whittaker hails from Skelmanthorpe in
Yorkshire, in the North of England, and has already played
several prestigious roles in her own accent.
It is to be hoped that, like Christopher Eccleston, she plays the Doctor
with a Northern accent.
|Christmas jollities: tensions at the Yuletide table for|
Clara and family
Another way would be to have Northern companions, but to take their Northernness seriously by locating their back-stories far more markedly in the North. The failure to do so is seen in Clara Oswald’s (Jenna Coleman’s) tenure of the role of companion. Clara came from Blackpool, yet worked as nanny then teacher exclusively in
Even when she invites her family to a rather strained Christmas dinner in “The Time of the
Doctor” (2013), this proves a peripheral element of the story, detached from a
|Three Time Lords in the North East: the Rani, |
the Master and the Doctor in "The Mark of the Rani" (1985)
A third way would be to set more Doctor Who adventures in the North. So far only two Doctor Who stories have been set in the North of England in the show’s long history. “The Mark of the Rani” (1985) was set in North East England, with its actors failing rather lamentably with the region’s difficult accent (The film I, Daniel Blake (2016), set in
Newcastle, made the better choice of using
local actors). “The Crimson Horror”
(2013) was set in Yorkshire. Depressingly, in both instances, the TARDIS
had veered off course: the Doctor meant to transport his companion to a
Southern English setting. Even in the latest series the programme relocated the Doctor to a university in Bristol, another southern city, albeit in England's south west rather than the south east. If Doctor Who is to represent Britain
properly, this will require a determined effort to shift a critical mass of Doctor Who escapades from the show’s