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Doctor Who: Call For Proposals

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 2, 2008

Doctor Who

Filmmaker Chris Hansen, of the underground hits The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah and Clean Freak, is looking for papers and panels about the long-running British TV series Doctor Who for an academic sci-fi conference being held this fall. Proposals are due by August 1. If you’re interested in submitting something and want to get to the nitty-gritty of it all, you can skip down to the differently-shaded, indented section down below.

If you’re wondering why a website devoted to underground film and comix is posting this, keep reading here:

As a teenager living in the suburbs of New Jersey back in the ’80s, I was a huge Doctor Who junkie. This is when the series was a staple on PBS stations all over the country and I would watch it diligently every Saturday night. I was also such a nerd, I found a checklist of every Who episode ever made in some comic book magazine, and every time I watched one, I would check it off that I had seen it.

However, at the time, just like with my comic book collecting, I didn’t have any friends who were into Doctor Who. So, I watched it by myself and never had anybody to talk to about it. Then, the show vanished from PBS and that seemingly was it for my interest in the show.

But when the show came back twenty years later and the Sci-Fi Channel started airing the new episodes, I became a fan all over again. I absolutely love the new series, first with the great Christopher Eccleston and now with the even better David Tennant. But what’s funny to me is that I also recently found out that two of my underground film connections are big fans of the show as well. One is, of course, Chris Hansen, which is why I’m posting this. And the other is Richard Wolstencroft, director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, who recently wrote about Doctor Who here on his blog Idea Fix.

So, below is the deal on Chris Hansen‘s call for submissions, which you can also find on his website here:

2008 Film & History Conference
“Film & Science: Fictions, Documentaries, and Beyond”
October 30-November 2, 2008
Chicago, Illinois
Third-Round Deadline: August 1, 2008

AREA: Doctor Who

Doctor Who first entered the public consciousness on November 23, 1963, as a new science fiction serial on the BBC. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Science Fiction Television Show, the serial is a national institution in its home country – the subject of countless pop-culture references – and a popular export to American public television stations. As a televised serial, Doctor Who has exhibited features dared by few others, from its controversial content, to its public ranking in the 1970s as the most violent programming produced by the BBC, to the serial’s constant re-casting of the leading man, the adventurous Doctor, whose alien biology conveniently allows for regeneration.

These controversies and innovations, along with the evolution of a complex “Whoniverse” of audio stories, novels, and entries in various other media (the “canonicity” of most of which is still in question), not only have turned the enigmatic Doctor Who into a cult figure but have interwoven time and history through grand adventures that address issues of human existence and the meaning of civilization. The newest edition of the series, which continues the storyline/timeline from the original, often features the Doctor interacting with historical figures (and making wry commentary on current events in the process) and explores more deeply the dilemma of the Doctor as a lonely traveler who will generally outlive any human companion who joins him or who falls in love with him.

The Doctor is clearly a man of science, yet his function on the show is often God-like, with occasional explicit references to him as a Christ-figure. How does the Doctor’s dual role comment on the role of science in society? In its peregrinations through human events, what does the show say about the construction of history? What does it say about national/British identity in the new millennium or about the uneasy relationship between Western empiricism and theological mysticism?

Papers and panels are invited on the topic of the Doctor Who series. Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Cultural commentary and trans-historical morality tales
Issues of and intertextuality and metafiction
Historical figures and the depiction of historical events (and the Doctor’s role in them)
The role of technological innovation and special effects
Fan cultures
Gender and sexuality
Psychological models
Canonicity of other media
Use of guest stars/actors
Religious imagery and allegory
The role of visual technology (including film and television) in the show’s content

Please submit all proposals by August 1, 2008, to the area chair:

Professor Christopher Hansen
Baylor University
Department of Communication Studies
One Bear Place #97368
Waco, TX 76798

Submissions by email are encouraged.

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. Deadline for first-round proposals: November 1, 2007; third-round deadline: August 1, 2008.

This area, comprising multiple panels, is a part of the 2008 biennial Film & History Conference, sponsored by The Center for the Study of Film and History. Speakers will include founder John O’Connor and editor Peter C. Rollins (in a ceremony to celebrate the transfer to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh); Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of Visions of the Apocalypse, Disaster and Memory, and Lost in the Fifties: Recovering Phantom Hollywood; Sidney Perkowitz, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and author of Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, & the End of the World; and special-effects legend Stan Winston, our Keynote Speaker. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (www.uwosh.edu/filmandhistory).