Doctor Who: A British Alien?, by Danny Nicol

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The United Kingdom is also characterised by English domination, insofar as England is by far the most populous of the four nations, accounting for some 55 million of the Kingdom’s 65 million people. As a result, governments tend to be English dominated. This English preponderance contains the seeds of Scottish and Welsh discontents. At the same time, whether those who grow up and live in England choose to self-identify as English or British remains very much a question for the individual. Aside from certain sports, there is scant social necessity for an English person to identify as English rather than British. Though probably most choose to define themselves as English, some identify primarily as British while many others may express different identities in different contexts. There is also ambiguity over whether Englishness constitutes a nationality or an ethnicity, a haziness which impacts on whether non-whites in England favour a British identity over an English one. These sensitivities and nuances may create difficulties within Doctor Who studies, particularly for scholars not imbued with the lived experience of England. For example, in a chapter entitled “Rose is England”, Tanja Nathanael argues that Doctor Who companion Rose Tyler represents England and that indeed “the body of Rose is conflated with England”.3 Yet Nathanael’s account does not explain why Rose represents England rather than Britain and, on occasion, she uses the terms “England” and “Britain” interchangeably. There is, in fact, some evidence that Rose’s narrative aligns her more closely with Britishness than with Englishness.4
3 Tanja Nathanael, “Rose is England”, in Who Travels with the Doctor? eds. Gillian I. Leitch and Sherry Ginn (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016), 79-90.
4 For example, Rose is the only companion to have adventures with the Doctor in England, Scotland and Wales, and she is closely connected to the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, in “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” (2005) and “The Idiot’s Lantern” (2006). If she were representing England she would be aligned with England’s own flag, the Saint George’s Cross.

I was alerted to this book by Paul Driscoll’s criticism of it in his Black Archive on The Movie, and then realised that I already had it on the shelves, having acquired it in February but having forgotten to log it in my system. The author is an academic lawyer, and he spends the first three chapters analysing Doctor Who and Britishness, as you would expect from the book’s title; but then he looks at broader questions of law and politics for the remaining four chapters, constituting more than half of the book, so it is slightly mis-sold.

There are interesting thoughts here, but some gaps and slips as well. As Driscoll points out, The Movie, which is remarkable for the extent to which it highlights the Doctor’s Englishness, is barely mentioned (likewise The Dæmons, which we’ve just covered). It’s true that there’s not much to say about either part of Ireland in the show pre-2020, but there is a bit more than Nicol has found. And just a minor point, but it’s not true that everyone except the TARDIS crew has been killed by the end of Warriors of the Deep.

I got the most out of the exploration of wider political ideas in Doctor Who, about the shift from British to international governance (not only UNIT) and the fairly consistent challenging of corporate authority (until 2018’s Kerblam!). ON the other hand, I really didn’t think it was worth spending fifty pages analysing whether or not the Doctor can be considered a war criminal.

So, an interesting enough addition to the shelves, with flaws. You can get it here.