Thursday, October 18, 2012

Laura Black and the Complex World of Dr. Who

A wizard-like character with a wry sense of humor. The never-ending struggle between good and evil. A time-traveling police box. Those of you who enjoy science fiction probably already know what we are referencing. Dr. Who is an iconic British TV show that has picked up a legion of loyal fans across the globe. The show is at times camp and at others serious. And in all of it Vol State associate professor Laura Black sees a reflection of human society. She’s taking those observations to a special conference next year. She’ll be presenting a paper at the “Walking in Eternity” conference in England.
“I didn’t think it would have a great chance, because it’s an international conference,” Black said. “The people that will be attending are the same ones I am referencing in my paper. I’m excited to be asked and I’m excited to be able to be there during the 50th anniversary.”

Black points out that Dr. Who made its television debut in 1963, on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated. The show has become the longest running television series in the history of television. While it’s considered to be a children’s show in England, those young fans have grown up and the plot lines have grown more complex. That’s the focus and title of Black’s paper: “Unraveling the Complex Narrative of Doctor Who Series Six”.

“This kind of puzzle box narrative is growing more popular. The kids figured it out long before the older people.”

Black says that keeping up with the twists and turns in complex TV is aided by the technology we often use today – DVD and DVR.

“We’ve changed the way we watch television- we have binge watching where we watch an entire series uninterrupted.”

 For Black, dissecting a popular TV show is much more than just being a fan- it’s a way to examine society.

“TV is like any aspect of culture- it’s reflective of the time period. TV is like film and other popular media in that it holds a mirror up to the face of society. There’s a lot of reflecting back on World War Two in the show, which is very significant in British culture.”

Black is trying to decide between two very divergent paths for a dissertation as she works on her PhD in English at MTSU. One is the activism and literature of James Baldwin in the civil rights struggle. The other is inspired by that love of Dr. Who- the complex story lines of television.

Black traveled to England last year to participate in a class on Dr. Who and that gave her an inside view of the TV show. To find out more about Dr. Who and its close connection to British culture check out Laura’s blog on the significance of the Dr. Who Christmas special in England, featuring pictures from her trip:

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