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The epic in the everyday: television and Doctor Who, ‘The Chase’

Bignell, J. ORCID: (2023) The epic in the everyday: television and Doctor Who, ‘The Chase’. In: Cardwell, S., Bignell, J. ORCID: and Donaldson, L. (eds.) Epic / Everyday: Moments in Television. The Television Series. Manchester University Press, Manchester. ISBN 9781526170224

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The British science fiction television series Doctor Who (1963-89) interwove the epic with the everyday, and this was a key component of its popularity and continuing cultural significance. This chapter examines the Doctor Who serial ‘The Chase’ (1965), an epic journey in which the TARDIS time machine is chased by the evil Daleks to a desert planet, then to the Empire State Building, the sailing ship Mary Celeste, a Gothic haunted house and finally to a futuristic metal city. By 1965 Doctor Who was losing its initial appeal; it had become everyday and ‘The Chase’ is in some ways an attempt to raise the stakes by using ambitious special effects and exotic locations despite the restrictions of the programme’s rapid, low-budget production. At the same time as it proclaims Doctor Who’s epic ambitions, the serial’s journey begins from, and includes extended scenes in, the TARDIS, a time travel machine that is also the everyday home of the protagonists. Studio-bound drama, characterised by talk and not action, alternates with jumps between exotic, other-worldly settings. In ‘The Chase’, Doctor Who explores the alternatives for what television science fiction can be. The serial’s epic journey ends by bringing the Doctor’s human companions home to the London of 1965, to look askance at their and their viewers’ everyday present. The chapter argues that ‘The Chase’ interrogates the value of long-running television programmes to domesticate the epic’s seriousness and scale, and to explore its alignment with everyday human experience.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:109894
Uncontrolled Keywords:Doctor Who; science fiction; BBC; serial drama; Daleks; domesticity; television production; special effects; television studio; mise-en-scène
Publisher:Manchester University Press

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