Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Archaeology of Doctor Who: 2

Doctor Who: love it or love it (more) there's one thing you can't's full of archaeologists.

Ok, so I'm a Whovian (so much nicer, I think, than the alternative term 'Who-er'): a long-term fan of the TV series Doctor Who. No big surprise to anyone who has ever been in my office (and counted the Who-related toys lying around) or to the (three) people who read my PhD thesis on Neolithic Monumental Architecture (entitled 'Time and Relative Dimensions in Space').

Of course, it's easier to own up to these days. 15 years ago, well before the current TV reboot, being a Whovian was a rather solitary affair, one akin perhaps to being a Bottle-top collector / Train-spotter / stamp-collector (not that there's anything wrong with bottle-top collecting, train-spotting or stamp-collecting you understand). When anyone did ever come in to my office (usually by mistake), they gazed suspiciously at the large poster of Patrick Troughton that hung above my desk, wondering (literally) ‘who’ on earth he was. Now, of course, it's (largely) fine. Now it's considered (generally) to be ok and not an exercise in nostalgia / TV-deviancy to have a big picture of Matt Smith over your desk (which I do).

All this will change on December 25th 2013, when Matt becomes Peter and the reign of the 11th (or is it the 12th or possibly even 13th?) Doctor comes to an end.

Regeneration is a tricky time for Whovians: will we like / accept / dislike / detest the new Doctor? (I'm guessing 'like'). Ever since Jon Pertwee morphed into Tom Baker (and I spent the summer and winter of 1974 vowing that I’d never watch it again) the thought of change brings both trepidation and excitement.

What bothers me most, however, is not whether Peter Capaldi will be a good Doctor (he will) or whether the series will continue going from strength to strength (it will) but whether or not there will be any archaeologists in it.

There have been archaeologists in Dr Who ever since the early days of black and white. Mostly they've been the tomb-raiding / curse-invoking bad-hat type, such as Professor Parry, who's expedition to Telos awakened the Cybermen (in The Tomb of the Cybermen)

or Professor Horner's excavation of the Devil's Hump chambered barrow that awakened Azal and his gargoyle friend (in The Daemons),

or Dr Fendelman's tinkering with a fossil skull that awakened the Fendahl Core (in The Image of the Fendahl)

or Professor Marcus Scarman's opening of an ancient Egyptian tomb which awakened Sutekh (in the Pyramids of Mars)

Never mind their intent, motive or general attitude, archaeologists have always been there in Dr Who, and that is something that has constantly cheered me up: knowing that the profession does indeed have a future (albeit of the earth-destroying, monster awakening kind).

An archaeological presence continued on into the new series, most important of which, of course, was the wife of the Doctor, Professor River Song (who has a doctorate in the subject from the Luna University no less), an all action, gun-slinging, banana-wielding, library-looting field operative.

who’s first meeting with the good Doctor (from his perspective anyway) provoked the by now famous retort: "I'm a time-traveller. I point and laugh at archaeologists"

Don't we all luv...don't we all....


  1. As a Whovian (a classic Whovian no less), I am hoping you've already seen this - but if you haven't - it is worth 30 minutes of your time.

    The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

    No Patrick Troughton for obvious reasons (did I just prove that Time Travel isn't possible?) but we can't mention him without mentioning the BBC's 1984 Adaptation of "The Box of Delights", in which he was every bit as mysterious and intriguing.

    1. As time travel would put all archaeologists out of a job, I reckon we should all club together in order to prevent it from ever happening!

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    3. Thanks both. Yes, have caught up with the rebooted 5 doctors - excellent. Shame though, given the resources put into it, that it was only on the BBC 'Red Button' and not on the main channel (as it was a lot better than, say, The Science of Doctor Who with the ever-present Prof B Cox). With regard to 'Time Travel' - who's to say that it hasn't a) already been banned or b) already changed the past (but in ways we can’t detect…until it's too late?).

      My head hurts....

  2. As I'm sure your aware, tonight's (new) episode is entitled MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Will there be an archaeologist in it? Will they die before the opening credits? Will there be a curse? Will there be a monster in bandages? My guess is Possibly, Perhaps, Of Course and Yes definitely!

  3. Sadly, as we're all now aware, there were no archaeologists in the episode Mummy on the Orient Express BUT there was a 'Professor of Alien Mythology'. No indication was given as to which University the good (SPOILER ALERT) and now deceased professor worked, but I tell you something, I sure want his job!