An academic book rather than a fan production, Once Upon a Time Lord, by Ivan Phillips, has a lot to offer. Don’t be put off by its formality and the author’s erudition. (For example, Phillips used a word this widely read reviewer had never encountered before: Aristotelian entelechy (p. 42), which he explains is an actuality rather than potentiality.)
Ivan Phillips has academic credentials. He is an Associate Dean in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, publishing widely on popular culture, art and literature, in particular on science fiction and the Gothic. He reviews for the journal Critical Studies in Television and has contributed to numerous publications, including a chapter to Paul Booth’s Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who (2013).
So let us state upfront that Once Upon a Time Lord is excellent and even exciting, and go on to examine it further. Phillips develops a critical analysis around considered Doctor Who as another mythology, and what can be concluded from both academic and fan viewpoints. After an introduction that defines terms and discusses canon, the book dives deep into this consideration. It is an interesting take and the author points out that is the programme is examined as mythology then the audience must remember that bodies of myth are never entirely cohesive. The idea is further expanded upon through a discussion of Doctor Who’s early transition from teaching history to something more imaginative borrowing both from horror as well as history.
There is a compelling case developed for considering the show as a body of myths. Mythologies are ordinarily disorganized, and self-contradictory, which of course has implications for the idea of canonicity. Myths have elements of history within them but necessarily must delve into realms of the imagination—just like a show that began by combining Edwardian wear and a contemporary police box. Philips draws more parallels between the TARDIS – something that disappears and appears, something that is both tangible and intangible – and mythical creatures such as ghosts.
Once Upon a Time Lord certainly provoked a lot of thought for this reviewer and deepened his understanding of the show. It ought to do the same for you.
Admittedly that’s a potentiality, not an entelechy.
Discover some of the conclusions that can be drawn when considering the show as mythology. Examine mythic underpinnings, creatures and locations. See the parallels with mythology in the worlds built by the show. Thoughtful and thought-provoking.