The Doctor Who Franchise: American Influence, Fan Culture and the Spinoffs
Written in preparation for Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary this year, Lynnette Porter’s book The Doctor Who Franchise: American Influence, Fan Culture and the Spinoffs explores the question of how, if any, the show has become “Americanized” in its current incarnation, with specific focus on the Torchwood: Miracle Day Starz co-production (now airing on BBC America) and its lead, the “American” Captain Jack.
Where the Doctor is part of the cultural fabric in the UK, here in the US, he’s a relatively recent discovery, with most fans focusing on the revamp incarnation (since 2005). Porter explores various techniques used to introduce American viewers to the show and character, from appearances with Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show to convention appearances and the use of social media.
There’s a lot of coverage of Torchwood, with more attention to it in total than to the parent show. (Something that should have been considered when titling the book.) A chapter also sums up The Sarah Jane Adventures in terms of American knowledge of the show and its star, Elisabeth Sladen.
Porter presents a number of intriguing ideas, such as how British viewing often has a higher component of nostalgia; how Americans are more interested in the romantic/sexual aspects while the UK context is more family-friendly; and how US and UK fans interact differently with the material, since US fans aren’t often as involved with spin-offs like audio dramas or novels. I also wasn’t aware some of the BBC Worldwide business context she provides. I was expecting to see some acknowledgement of the possibility of Anglophilia in driving US fan interest, the idea that a certain component of viewers appreciates the show because of its Britishness, not in spite of it, but that topic was at best mentioned in passing.
Overall, I found the book’s organization sensible and read it all the way through (which isn’t often the case with works stemming from academia). It’s already a bit out of date — since a current study comparing US/UK reactions to Doctor Who would cover in detail The Doctors Revisited series, which explicitly introduces historical episodes of the show to new viewers — but entertaining for the intellectual fan. (The publisher provided a review copy.)