Friday, November 22, 2013

Doctor Who: Literary Time Traveler, a guest post by Annie Cardi

A fun question to ask writers or readers is: “If you could meet any writer, living or dead, who would it be?” For most of us, that’s at least partly a hypothetical question. At best, you can see deceased writers’ homes and see their original manuscripts in rare books collections of libraries. For the Doctor and his companions, meeting famous writers of the past is a real adventure.

As a book nerd, I love that Doctor Who features literary time travel. Sure, the Doctor also meets other historical figures, but it seems like there are very particular shout-outs to readers and writers. In the last few seasons, the Doctor has encountered ghosts alongside Charles Dickens, battled “witches” with Shakespeare, and solved a real-life mystery for Agatha Christie. It’s hard to think of any other show that really embraces the awesomeness of meeting literary greats and being a fan of books.

Dcotor Who: BBC

These episodes also have inside jokes for fans of the particular author’s work. In “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” companion Donna Noble drops hints at books Agatha Christie hasn’t written yet, which leads to a fun exchange with Christie:

Agatha Christie: Marvelous idea, though.
Donna Noble: Yeah. Tell you what. Copyright: Donna Noble.

Can’t blame Donna for trying to cash in on some of those royalties.

Similarly, “The Shakespeare Code” has references to Shakespeare’s work and life, like Shakespeare coming up with “To be or not to be” and then deciding it’s “pretentious.” Even more fun, the episode is sprinkled with references to the Harry Potter series—the Doctor claims to have read the last book in the series (at this point, months before it was actually published for viewers) and companion Martha Jones defeats the aliens by yelling "Expelliarmus!" In what other show can being a Harry Potter fan literally save the day?

Source: Popwrapped

But Doctor Who doesn’t leave the literary travels just to meeting famous authors. One of the series’ best episodes, in my opinion, is “Silence in the Library.” The Doctor and Donna travel to a plant that is literally the largest library in the universe. Okay, so deadly complications arise, but imagine—a planet of books. So freaking cool. And the Doctor, who’s seen all kinds of planets and life forms, knows that reading and books are cool and valuable. Ultimately, libraries save lives.

Portraying books and writers as exciting matters. They can be as exciting as visiting New New York or battling vampires in Venice or meeting Queen Elizabeth II. And the Who-verse never questions this fact. No one claims that meeting William Shakespeare is boring or that a planet of books isn’t awe-inspiring. Even in my teen favorite, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies were the only ones hanging out in the library. For Doctor Who, it’s assumed that people are into literature.

Every so often (especially when the dishwasher is making TARDIS-like sounds), I imagine where and when I’d go if the Doctor showed up at my door. Here’s my list of potential literary travels through space and time:

Chawton, England, 1813, Jane Austen
Pros: Austen publishes Pride and Prejudice. Get to hang out with one of the wittiest writers of all time, go to balls and wear cool dresses.
Potential cons: encountering an evil alien version of Mr. Darcy, intent on taking over London society. Also corsets.

Yorkshire, England, Early 1400s, Robin Hood
Pros: get to see if there’s a real Robin Hood, learn archery.
Potential cons: getting caught by local law enforcement, getting taken to the Crusades. 

Another Planet, the Future, the Most Extensive Bookstore in the Universe
Pros: all the books in the universe, translated into all sorts of languages, in one place—and you can buy something!
Potential cons: long lines at the checkout counter, Vashta Nerada.

Oxford, England, 1933, Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis
Pros: workshopping with the Inklings, having a drink at the Eagle and Child.
Potential cons: Orcs are a real alien species.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 1816, Mary Shelley
Pros: a wild summer with Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.
Potential cons: the sketchiness of Byron, someone trying to make a real monster out of human body parts.

Another Planet, the Past, the First Book Reading Ever
Pros: literary society is formed.
Cons: awkward Q&A questions.

Where would you take your literary travels through space and time?

Bio: Annie Cardi is a young adult writer whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in April 2014. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain.


This post is part of TWO marvelous blogging events!

Sci-Fi Month is brought to you by Rinn Reads. Check out the full schedule of Sci-Fi Month posts! There are reviews, discussions, giveaways, and more!

Doctor Who Week is a joint venture between  Maria's Melange and Teen Librarian Toolbox. We have a full week of fun posts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

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