Eagle-eyed readers of Issue 503 of Doctor Who Magazine will have seen that coming soon from Candy Jar books is a new, unofficial book ‘Connecting Who: Artificial Beings’. The book traces the origins of some of Doctor Who’s most recognisable elements a lot further back than you would’ve imagined.
We had the recent pleasure of talking to the books Cardiff based author Peter Grehan about this intriguing project. See what he had to say below along with our thoughts.
Bedwyr Gullidge: ‘Connecting Who: Artificial Beings’ is the title of the new book so what is it about?
Peter Grehan: It is a look at Doctor Who from a different angle, what I wanted to do was not necessarily just look at Doctor Who but see the connections between Doctor Who and human culture and history, how these themes exist in the human consciousness but have found their way into Doctor Who and have manifested themselves within the stories we see. Things you see in Doctor Who actually have got a much longer pedigree than you might think. It makes it more interesting for me to do that.
BG: So the themes that have influenced the show have gone back hundreds of years if not further?
PG: If you look at stories about, for example, artificial beings they go right back to ancient times. If you consider something like a statue that moves or there’s a reference in there to Lucian of Samosata who was 2nd Century AD. He wrote about his journeys through the solar system. He probably wrote the very first story about artificial beings that had escaped from human servitude and had set up their own society. They were actually oil lamps but they’d set up their own society. It’s a bizarre story but in a sense, that’s where we get our roots going back to talking about artificial beings.
BG: Monsters like the Cybermen or Voc Robots, those themes have been around for thousands of years?
PG: If you think about the ‘non-human human’ construct, they have in a sense been around for thousands of years. They were like statues that were made to move through some obscure magic or technique. But there are lots of stories in history of something like artificial beings actually being there. In a sense science fiction has just modernised them and made them technological to reflect the society we live in now.
BG: What has been the most interesting revelation which you have come across as a part of the research for this book?
PG: Just how much these concepts, this idea of an artificial being and what it says about us as human beings and our own insecurities. I suppose that’s the most interesting thing because when you write about these things what you are doing is you are writing about human beings. For example, if you look at a robot, it might often be a metaphor for slaves or something like that. But at the same time you are asking the question, what is it that makes me human? It isn’t just my physical form. It’s the way I think. It’s the way I feel. So if you make something that has those feelings, has that thought process, that reflects my thought process, doesn’t that make it human as well? It’s something from humanity that’s been created.
‘Connecting Who: Artificial Beings’ is a hugely intelligent book. Doctor Who is a subject which has had a significant amount of analytical assessment over the years. Yet this book makes the reader consider it in a completely different way. It offers a refreshing analysis of wider themes which have existed throughout our society for much longer than we might previously have imagined.
For instance, it is easy for Doctor Who aficionados to understand that ‘The Brain of Morbius’ was influenced by the classic movie ‘Frankenstein’. However, I have to admit I had not considered the influences of Greek mythology which had preceded Mary Shelley’s tale. Further dissection from the author is skilfully composed and manages to add hitherto unappreciated depth to ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’, for example. Similarly, reflections on the meaning of humanity and how the portrayal of artificial beings in science fiction has often reflected our concerns and paranoia are eloquently described. The result is an excellent book which I can highly recommend.
To find out more about the author and to pre-order, head to award-
winning independent book publisher Candy Jar Books. All orders receive a copy of Lethbridge-Stewart: Beast of Fang Rock for free!