Interview – Time, Space and Faith: Religion and Doctor Who 5 November 2013
Time, Space and Faith: Religion and Doctor Who is an academic conference that was held in the University of Manchester on 2nd November 2013. Before the event, we caught up with conference organiser Dr Andrew Crome to find out what attendees could expect.
OR: Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your research?
AC: I’m lecturer in the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Manchester. I research the way in which an interest in the “end of the world” has played out in British religious history from seventeenth-century biblical commentaries and eighteenth-century radical prophets through to apocalyptic ideas in contemporary film and TV.
OR: Are you the convener of the conference? What prompted you to organise it?
AC: The conference is linked to a book I’ve co-edited, “Time and Relative Dimensions in Faith” (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2013). I appreciate that this is an odd topic at first glance. As a historian, I’m interested in looking at how portrayals of religion on British TV have shifted over the last fifty years, and Doctor Who was an ideal lens through which to examine that question, as it dealt with religions that were unfamiliar to viewers (from Buddhist and Aztec faith through to “alien” belief) from its early days onwards.
This raised a whole host of other questions – what sort of mythic and religious themes can be found in Doctor Who? I was particularly intrigued by the fact that while Doctor Who has often explicitly critiqued belief. At the same time, religious believers have often made use of it as a tool for evangelism – for example, when the Church of England organised an event encouraging clergy to use the show in preaching. I thought there was a tension there that was worth exploring.
OR: Can you tell us a bit about the presentations planned for the conference? What kind of papers have you received?
AC: They are very diverse! One thing we’re very clear about is that neither our book, nor the conference, equates Doctor Who with a particular faith, and we therefore have participants from a range of religious backgrounds (including many who would not profess any faith). So we have presentations on the way in which Buddhism and Paganism have been featured on the show, how the programme has dealt with immortality; its representation of faith and doubt; and discussions of how Doctor Who can be used to teach Religion at University level. Our keynote speaker is Caroline Symcox, who has written a number of Doctor Who audio adventures, and is also a Church of England minister – having sent Peter Davison’s Doctor back to the Council of Nicaea, she’s had a lot of practice in thinking about the connection between religious history and the show!
You can read more about this topic in our article Religion in Doctor Who.
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