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Interview: Matt Hills

Matt Hills is Professor of Film and TV Studies at Aberystwyth University. His new book New Dimensions of Doctor Who was published last month.
So Doctor Who is turning 50. Is this actually a big deal?

It’s a slightly curious anniversary, since it’s based on when the show started, and not the number of years it’s actually been on air as an active TV series. It’s clearly an opportunity to market Doctor Who, and boost its profile to a level rarely, if ever, seen before in its history. Yet there have been relatively few actual new episodes shown this year (and certainly not a full 13-part series), leading to a suspicion that the promotional and merchandising tail is almost beginning to wag the televisual dog. But, yes, with these few provisos, the 50th anniversary is a big deal: Doctor Who is part of our cultural history as much as a TV show, and celebrating the show’s longevity helps to bring this into focus. It also concentrates the mind on tensions between public service broadcasting and commercial exploitation, given fan complaints about the organisation of the official ‘Celebration’ event, for example.

Who would you like to play, or have seen play, the Doctor?

I think Michael Sheen would make an amazing Doctor, and it would be interesting to have a Welsh actor in the leading role. Another actor who could create a wonderful Doctor, I think, is Chiwetel Ejiofor. And given this year’s debate over a female Doctor, I’d be happy to see Andrea Riseborough, Jessica Raine or Romola Garai as the Doctor. But I doubt any of these male or female candidates would take the role.

What directions do you see Doctor Who going in the future?

Doctor Who was taken over in the past by production teams who weren’t themselves lifelong fans of the show, but who nonetheless had creative and energizing plans for the series. I suspect this type of scenario may happen again at some point in the programme’s future – it would be surprising if producer-fans were always to head up production, even if Chris Chibnall and Mark Gatiss may be strong candidates to succeed Steven Moffat. And I can’t imagine that the Doctor will forever be played by a white male actor; when that moment of change eventually comes then it’ll help to further modernize, revamp and regenerate the show. In story terms, I’d expect the Time Lords to fully return, as this opens up a host of new narrative possibilities.

Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if the TV show took a break at some point, with this being planned and scheduled around a film production, perhaps. A massive cliffhanger could set up a big-budget film release, allowing the BBC to capitalize on their property in a new range of ways. It’s tempting to view the limited cinema release of ‘Day of the Doctor’ as a way of testing the waters for a film project, albeit one integrated into the overarching mythos and storylines of the TV series – perhaps even involving a one-off Doctor.

The one constant in Doctor Who’s history is change – moving with the times and with the TV/media industry. As long as producers remain willing to take risks and embrace change rather than allowing the series to ossify into an overly fixed template, then Doctor Who will no doubt be around for many years to come.

What is your favourite episode?

‘Love & Monsters’, possibly, because unusually it combines my love of Doctor Who with my love of Doctor Who fandom (for good and ill). And it is a wonderful piece of writing by Russell T Davies – despite occasional missteps – since its emotional impact hinges on what’s not said by Elton Pope (Marc Warren) as he narrates his fan life. Picking one episode or story out of so many is vastly difficult, though – I have soft spots for ‘Logopolis’, ‘Caves of Androzani’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, and so many others.

Jon Pertwee’s famous catchphrase was  ‘reverse the polarity of the neutron flow’. Can you explain how this is done?

Very carefully!

Daleks vs Cybermen: who should really win in a head to head confrontation?

Probably the Daleks, as they’ve always been nominated as the show’s ‘number one’ monster. But I’d like to see a clash between iconic ‘classic’ and ‘new’ Who monsters. Exactly how Daleks and Weeping Angels would deal with one another would be fascinating to discover. I’d also be interested to see how Davros would mastermind a showdown between Daleks and Cybermen, since he was absent in the series two tussle. ■

New Dimensions of Doctor WhoNew Dimensions of Doctor Who explores contemporary developments in Doctor Who’s music, design and representations of technology, as well as issues of showrunner authority and star authorship.

One comment on “Interview: Matt Hills

  1. curesearchseminars
    March 20, 2015

    Reblogged this on CU Media Research Seminars and commented:
    Interested in Matt Hills and/or Doctor Who – take a look at this interview!

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2013 by in Who Watching and tagged , , , , .

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