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Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-first…

de Matt Hills

Outros autores: John Tulloch (Prefácio)

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Before Saturday March 26th 2005, "Doctor Who" had been off the air as a regular, new TV series for more than fifteen years; until a production team led by Russell T. Davies re-imagined the programme so successfully, so triumphantly, that it's become an instant Christmas tradition, a BAFTA winner, an international 'superbrand' and a number one rated show. It's even been credited with reinventing family TV. This is the first full-length book to explore the 'new Who' phenomenon through to the casting of Matt Smith as the new Doctor. It explores "Doctor Who" through contemporary debates in TV Studies about quality TV and how can we define TV series as both 'cult' and 'mainstream'. Further, the book challenges assumptions in focusing on the importance of breath-taking, dramatic moments along with narrative structures, and in analysing the significance of Murray Gold's music as well as the series' visual representations. Matt Hills is a lifelong "Who" fan and he also considers the role of fandom in the show's return. He investigates too the multi-generic identity, the monster-led format, and the time-travelling brand of BBC Wales' 'Doctor Who'. In the twenty-first century, TV is changing, but the last of the Time Lords has been more than ready: he's been fantastic.… (mais)
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I am pretty sure that I once saw someone point out that this is the first scholarly monograph that takes as its subject the new Doctor Who (i.e., 2005 and beyond).  As such, it represents an excellent next step beyond texts such as Time And Relative Dissertations In Space, which took the entire 26 years of the old show as their topic, bringing some focus to the enterprise.  Triumph of a Time Lord isn't much more focused than that, however-- there's no central thesis to Matt Hills's book that I can see, aside from 1) media studies can tell us interesting things about Doctor Who, and perhaps more usefully, 2) Doctor Who can actually upset some things that we think about media studies.

I found the first and third sections of the book the most interesting.  The first, "Fans and Producers," talks about Doctor Who's "author."  As a now-almost-50-year phenomenon with no clear George Lucas or Gene Roddenberry figure, Doctor Who has long resisted the idea of an "author," but Hills points out the ways in which Doctor Who is now coded (or was, anyway) as the work of Russell T Davies.  Linked to this is his upsetting of Henry Jenkins's work in the seminal Textual Poachers; Hills argues that fans no longer "poach" from Doctor Who, for the fans now run Doctor Who.  The discourse of the show is the fan one; there is no clear boundary between fan and professional anymore.  Similar themes permeate the last part, "Quality and Mainstream TV," which looks at how Doctor Who is positioned as either a "cult" or "mainstream" television show, ultimately arguing that the distinction is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Using various media studies texts lets Hills both how useful they can be, but also where their limitations are.

I might have found an overall argument easier to find if Hills's use of transitions was smoother.  He doesn't really do introductions or conclusions; rather, there are periodic paragraphs that say, "I have just argued [X]. I shall now argue [Y]."  I'd rather see something that drew [X] together and explained why it was the perfect lead-in to [Y].  I know what you just argued, because I just read it!

Perhaps the most impressive thing that Hills does in Triumph of a Time Lord is create "Who Studies" as a field.  Hills effortlessly quotes not just from other works in media studies, or even other scholarly works on Doctor Who, but articles in Doctor Magazine, blog posts, fanzines, reviews in the popular press, and so on, pulling them all together into a body of work that he can respond to and quote as need be.  At first I was like "Really? Blogs?" but fan amateurs have thought as hard about Doctor Who, if not harder, than many academic professionals, and ignoring their work would make very little sense.  Why should Hills reinvent work that has been done?  Triumph of a Time Lord is the first substantial contribution to a scholarly discussion about the Russell T Davies Doctor Who; with a starting point like this, it ought not to be the last.
  Stevil2001 | Apr 26, 2012 |
Well I'm not really a media geek, so I didn't understand a lot of what the author was saying. Nevertheless I enjoyed the discussion and insight, especially about Russell T Davies, Murray Gold, and the cult/mainstream distinction (or lack thereof). The uses of music and monsters, and the multi-generic nature of the show, were ideas which hadn't occurred to me and were worth thinking about.
I think reading this helped me to distinguish some of what it is about the show that appeals to me. I love the big, rousing adventure music. I love the inclusiveness of new Who: a few fun crumbs for the geeks but nothing that makes a newcomer feel left out. I enjoy the emotional stories but only up to a point; my least favorite episode is one in which I think they took the "soap drama" element too far ("42"). I love action/adventure and sci-fi, but I also love that the show stays relevant to humans on Earth rather than going too sci-fi and dealing with planets and cultures no one cares about. I love that it's optimistic.

I don't think I'd recommend this book to every single Who fan, but definitely to those with some interest in television and media theory. ( )
  elwyne | Jun 17, 2011 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1429958.html

This is one of the better academic books about Who that I have read. Hills is a sympathetic fan and also a media studies lecturer in Cardiff. In this book he has sensibly not tried to provide a global guide to Who, but instead has taken a small number of (big) issues and tried to illuminate them in detail. Looking mainly at New Who up to early 2009, he basically has seven things that he wants to say and takes a chapter to say each of them:

1) New Who is strongly authored (by RTD and now Moffatt) which makes it very different from Old Who; NB though that the credit for this authoring is shared by others (notably Phil Collinson and the BBC's upper hierarchy)
2) New Who's writers are themselves long-term Who fans; but this does not mean that they have a harmonious relationship with the fan base.
3) Time travel, though obviously central to Who, is not really used in an sfnal way in New Who (the weakest of the chapters, I thought)
4) Monsters are even more central to New Who, both as spectacle and as moral lessons.
5) New Who cannot clearly be categorised as 'quality' or as 'non-quality' TV (includes a very interesting passage on how Christopher Ecclestone's comments on the show undermined RTD's attempts to mark it as 'quality').
6) Murray Gold is one of the key creators of New Who (also the occasional use of pop songs in the show is mildly interesting).
7) New Who has managed to become both 'cult' and 'mainstream' (NB this is quite a different distinction to 'quality'/'non-quality').

I thought the two best sections were on Christopher Ecclestone and Murray Gold, but there is lots more here too.

By writing this book, Hills appears to have hoped to update Tulloch and Alvarado, but I think has done a better job. It's not quite as magisterial as the Time and Relative Dimensions in Space collection (to which Hills contributed the chapter on Big Finish) but way better than the books I've read on Who by Robb, Newman, Chapman, Couch, etc.

I was a bit annoyed at first at yet another book which banishes footnotes to the end - why, with 21st-century typesetting technology, is this still considered an acceptable way to publish? - but fortunately most of the footnotes are simply references to other work, most of which I have already read (though I am still irritated by the handful that do have substantive content, marooned hundreds of pages from the statements they are illuminating). So that turns out to be a minor gripe. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 25, 2010 |
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Before Saturday March 26th 2005, "Doctor Who" had been off the air as a regular, new TV series for more than fifteen years; until a production team led by Russell T. Davies re-imagined the programme so successfully, so triumphantly, that it's become an instant Christmas tradition, a BAFTA winner, an international 'superbrand' and a number one rated show. It's even been credited with reinventing family TV. This is the first full-length book to explore the 'new Who' phenomenon through to the casting of Matt Smith as the new Doctor. It explores "Doctor Who" through contemporary debates in TV Studies about quality TV and how can we define TV series as both 'cult' and 'mainstream'. Further, the book challenges assumptions in focusing on the importance of breath-taking, dramatic moments along with narrative structures, and in analysing the significance of Murray Gold's music as well as the series' visual representations. Matt Hills is a lifelong "Who" fan and he also considers the role of fandom in the show's return. He investigates too the multi-generic identity, the monster-led format, and the time-travelling brand of BBC Wales' 'Doctor Who'. In the twenty-first century, TV is changing, but the last of the Time Lords has been more than ready: he's been fantastic.

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