TV In an unusual detour for Doctor Who's PR juggernaut, this week's The New Yorker has an eight page essay about the series, in which Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program and staff writer for the magazine interviews Steven Moffat at Roath Lock and offers a commentary on the history of the programme and its thematic underpinnings.
It's one part Guardian fluff piece and the other part The Unfolding Text and what a messy, poetic, often brilliant piece it is (though you would miss its existence on the news-stand, because unlike some magazines who would run a picture of Matt Smith no matter how many pages they've set aside for Who, the cover image is a satire on the ongoing problems at healthcare.org, the Obamacare sign-up website).
The first three paragraphs are here. The rest is behind a paywall.
As ever, because they always creep in unless a fan's writing and sometimes even then, there are some inaccuracies, or arguably inaccuracies, though this being The New Yorker, they're rather strange and ambiguous and might not even be inaccuracies at all:
(1) Lepore says, "An Unearthly Child," the first episode of "Doctor Who," was broadcast - live, in black-and-white -- from a BBC studio in London on November 23, 1963, one day after John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas."
In fact, "An Unearthly Child," was recorded on 18 October at Lime Grove, which was own by the BBC. The second episode of what's now collectively called The Mutants or The Daleks, "The Survivors", was taped on 22 November 1963, the day John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas.
(2) Lepore says, "The biggest change that Davies made concerns the Doctor's backstory. He decided that the Doctor's home planet had been destroyed by Daleks in the Great Time War, leaving the Doctor the last of his race."
Well hum. Semantically Gallifrey was apparently destroyed because of the Dalek invasion, but it's the Doctor who pressed the button, pulled the lever, or whatever we're possibly about to see John Hurt do in Day of the Doctor.
(3) In one bit, Lepore seems to imply Dinosaurs on a Spaceship happened under RTD. Maybe.
"When Doctor Who, a character who operates as an allegory for Britain, becomes the remnant of a nearly terminated race, a timeless atrocity is folded into the national narrative. Davies's Doctor is consumed by grief, regret and compassion. In one episode, he meets a space pirate who has murdered the inhabitants of an ark, the last survivors of a doomed planet.
"Piracy and genocide," the Doctor says, grimly.
"Very emotive words, Doctor," the pirate says.
"I'm a very emotive man."
See what I mean? Is the new Doctor still "Davies's" if it's being written by Moffat or in this case Chris Chibnall? Does it matter?
(4) Perhaps as a consequence of the interview were Moffat describes the casting process, Lepore says that Capaldi was the only actor auditioned. Again, possibly. Ben Daniels says that he was on the list, on stand-bye, all of those things in this Digital Spy interview but he never once uses the word "audition", just conversations. It's an interesting distinction. Was the plan to hold more auditions and have a proper process if Capaldi fell through. Again, ambiguous accuracy. Possibly.
(5) At one point she describes seeing, during her visit to Roath, even though she says she signed a confidentiality agreement, four Cybermen which seems at first like it might be a spoiler for Matt's final two episodes, except she then goes on to imply that we don't know already why Clara turned out to be Dalek which suggests that the article was written ages ago which means those Cybermen sound like they're from Nightmare in Silver which was recorded last year. The New Yorker certainly has some long lead times for articles. Unless that is a spoiler and Lapore hasn't quite caught up yet.