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Reading: Doctor Who, Family and National Identity


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Doctor Who, Family and National Identity


Danny Nicol

University of Westminster, GB
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National identity is often intimately bound to connectedness to, independence from, and constructions of, family. Furthermore, family remains integral to neoliberal capitalism such that efforts to develop national identity along capitalist lines are likely to involve engagement with it. Legal changes in Britain over the last forty years reflect these constructions. Doctor Who is a science fiction programme in which an alien (the Doctor) has adventures with mainly human companions, travelling in time and space in a ship called the TARDIS. As the BBC’s longest-running television drama series, and one with a long-term focus on projecting Britishness, Doctor Who valuably charts how national identity has evolved. In the context of the Doctor’s companions in particular, Doctor Who’s treatment of family has altered starkly over time. This article identifies an orphan companions era in the programme’s early years in which characters’ families were either startlingly unmentioned or dead, leaving the TARDIS ‘family’ unchallenged. After a transitional phase in the 1980s in which each companion’s family assumed only fleeting significance, the programme’s post-2005 reboot ushered in an era of deep engagement with family in which families assume seminal importance. By putting family centre stage, Doctor Who captures the spirit of the age, marking a refashioning of British national identity in which family looms large. This reflects Britain’s transition from social democracy to neoliberalism. Distancing itself from conservatism, however, Doctor Who’s promotion of family goes hand in hand with the programme developing its own more progressive take on what constitutes the ‘good family’.

How to Cite: Nicol, D. (2020). Doctor Who, Family and National Identity. The Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, 18(1), 4. DOI:
Published on 29 May 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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