Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside

Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside

by Courtland Lewis, Paula Smithka

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Not only is Doctor Who the longest-running science fiction television show in history, but it has also been translated into numerous languages, broadcast around the world, and referred to as the “way of the future” by some British political leaders. The old (or Classic) Doctor Who series built up a loyal American cult following, with regular conventions and other activities. The new series, relaunched in 2005, has emerged from culthood into mass awareness, with a steadily growing viewership and major sales of DVDs. The current series, featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, is breaking all earlier records, in both the UK and the US.

Doctor Who is a continuing story about the adventures of a mysterious alien known as “the Doctor,” a traveller of both time and space whose spacecraft is the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), which from the outside looks like a British police telephone box of the 1950s. The TARDIS is “bigger on the inside than on the outside”—actually the interior is immense. The Doctor looks human, but has two hearts, and a knowledge of all languages in the universe. Periodically, when the show changes the leading actor, the Doctor “regenerates,” changing his body and his personality quirks, but retaining all his memories. Regeneration causes the Doctor to be temporarily disoriented and weakened, both before and after. The Doctor usually has one or more companions, most often attractive young females, who also change from time to time, giving the Doctor the opportunity to explain some basic facts about himself to the new companion. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and battles various evil forces in the universe, including the nasty robot Daleks and The Master, a renegade Time Lord.

2010 will see the release of four other major books about Doctor Who, but they are addressed to academic readers whereas Doctor Who and Philosophy, like other volumes in the Popular Culture and Philosophy series, is aimed at thoughtful fans.

For almost fifty years Doctor Who has brought both entertainment and philosophy into millions of households through television, comics, magazines, books, and the internet. Doctor Who’s cultural relevance and the deep conviction that it inspires in fans suggests that it successfully portrays philosophical themes that are important to individuals. Now, more than ever, the philosophical themes found in Doctor Who need to be explained and understood.

Doctor Who and Philosophy contains contributions from some of the sharpest minds in philosophy. Everyone involved was dedicated to producing a work that would honor both Doctor Who and the art of philosophy, and it doesn’t take long for the reader to realize the quality of work contained within the volume. The book starts by examining issues of personal identity and how the Doctor provides valuable insights into how we should understand “who” we are. Next, the volume discusses Doctor Who’s representation of science, logic, speciesism, perception, physics, and causation. After discussing several fascinating issues from the philosophy of science, the volume moves on to a wonderful discussion of ethics. In this section, the reader receives both a nice introduction to ethics and some important insights into how the Doctor tells us to live the good life. The final two chapters deal with human existence and aesthetics. Both chapters complement each other by giving readers a discussion of how Doctor Who illuminates several philosophically important features of what it means to be human and how one should understand the beauty, the fear, and the excitement of existence. The end of the volume includes two bonuses. First, there is a collection of insightful quotes from the Classic and New serie

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812697254
Publisher: Open Court Publishing Company
Publication date: 10/22/2010
Series: Popular Culture and Philosophy , #55
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 592 KB

About the Author

Courtland Lewis is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is a lifelong Doctor Who fan and has written on Doctor Who, Monk, politics, and other philosophical topics.

Paula Smithka is Associate Professor of Philosophy at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She is the co-editor of Community, Diversity, and Difference: Implications for Peace.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Opening this book is like opening the door to the TARDIS: we get to spend time with our favorite incarnations of the Doctor whether the First, the Fourth, the Eleventh, or Doctor-Donna, and ponder what it means to travel through time, grow a new personality, fall in love, sacrifice for a greater good, and experience the cosmos for all the wonder it is. Really, Doctor Who and Philosophy is even better than a Sonic Screwdriver.”

—JOSEF STEIFF, Professor of Film at Columbia College Chicago and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking

“This dimensionally transcendental volume explains what the Doctor never gets around to until later: the basics of Gallifreyan philosophy and ethics, as translated through Earth’s philosophers. A fun, informative volume for folks interested in an introduction to philosophy through the vortex of Doctor Who.”

—LYNNE M. THOMAS, co-editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It

“Lewis and Smithka have done all sapient species a brilliant service by introducing Doctor Who and Philosophy into the time continuum. Like the Doctor’s human companions, we get to travel through a universe of Big Ideas with a caring, clever, and, yes, conflicted friend. Next to a real TARDIS swooping down and carrying us off, nothing could beat the experience of reading this book.”

—PATRICK D. HOPKINS, editor of Sex/Machine

“Doctor Who and Philosophy makes you want to go right back to episodes like ‘Robot’ and ‘The Brain of Morbius’ so you can watch them again, now that you know what they’re really about. No series in the entire history of television has lit up all the beacons of classic philosophy like Doctor Who, and this brilliant book is chock full of Time Lord enlightenment.”

—ROB ARP, Consulting Ontologist and author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving

“An intriguing collection of essays that examines Doctor Who from every philosophical angle imaginable. Do you want theories and contradictions of time travel? It’s in there. Do you want a deep examination of the nature of identity, as understood through the Doctor and his regenerative ability? It’s in there, too, and it is considered from a variety of philosophical approaches. And so is much, much more. Lewis and Smithka have assembled a fascinating anthology, one that all Who fans, media scholars, and armchair philosophers should want on their shelves.”

—CHRIS HANSEN, editor of Ruminations, Peregrinations, and Regenerations: A Critical Approach to Doctor Who

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