affiliated to the International Association of Constitutional Law
The BBC’s longest-running drama series Doctor Who is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Doctor Who might seem rather distant from matters of constitution and law. In fact questions of politics, law and the constitution continually arise in Doctor Who stories. Each new planet on which the Doctor’s time-and-space machine, the Tardis, materialises, has a different constitutional story to tell. And a series which purports to be about distant epochs, far-flung planets and bizarre monsters, is often really about Britain, its politics and its law.
To instance a few issues constantly raised in the show:
In the interdisciplinary spirit of the age, the Doctor’s adventures merit academic attention, including from scholars in the fields of law and politics. To this end, Westminster Law School is organising a symposium on the programme’s legal and political aspects:
Through allegory, Doctor Who provides not only a reading of the state of Britain but an underlying normative critique of the country’s governance. This is a good thing, because we live in an era of political convergence in which differences between the British political parties have significantly narrowed. This has contributed to a lack of incisive critique of the political and legal status quo outside the academy. The same spirit has to some extent seeped into academia, leading to a “flattening” of criticism. Against this backdrop, thoughtfully-written, multi-authored programmes such as Doctor Who can contribute to providing the more critical voices presently lacking. It is to be hoped that Doctor Who – besides entertaining millions of people in Britain and worldwide – continues for years to come to contribute to the political and legal controversies surrounding our permanently-contested national identity.
Danny Nicol is Professor of Public Law, University of Westminster.
Suggested citation: D. Nicol, ‘Doctor Who and the Constitution’ UK Const. L. Blog (18th November 2013) (available at http://ukconstitutionallaw.org).