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Essay

The Keys to the TARDIS: An Unearthly Child

In this installment of "The Keys to the TARDIS," Peter McClean reminisces about the anticipation he felt for the very first Doctor Who episode ever and how this episode is key to charting his trajectory as a lifelong Doctor Who fan.  He also identifies the Daleks as the key to the series as a whole, which he will talk about more in next week's column.


Doctor Who: An Unearthly ChildIf I were to identify one single thing that most signifies Dr. Who for me it would be Daleks. They are the one thing from all the Dr. Who series that has had the biggest effect on me. Dr. Who without the Daleks would never have been what it is today; and that’s speaking as someone who saw the start of the first ever episode when it was first broadcast on BBC on Saturday, 23rd November, 1963.

It took me forty-seven years and two months to watch that episode.

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The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: "Joan"

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen's work was recently the subject of a glorious exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entitled Savage Beauty. Elements of the fantastic ranging from the sublime to the grotesque can be found throughout his work, and many of his collections were directly inspired by works of the fantastic. It's Only a Game (spring/ summer 2005) was inspired by the wizard chess scene in the film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Eshu (autumn/ winter 2000-01) was inspired by the trickster god of the same name. McQueen also showed collections inspired by Dante, and by angels and demons.

This column focuses on a specific dress from McQueen's autumn/ winter 1998-99 collection, Joan, inspired by Joan of Arc. It is the final dress in the collection, a vivid reminder that it was a young French peasant named Jehanne, not Katniss Everdeen, who was the original girl on fire.

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Franz Kafka Meets Ray Bradbury: My Students' Metamorphosis

The MetamorphosisA few semesters ago, I was teaching a course in modern fiction.  It was a fun class to teach, since the term "modern fiction" was broad enough that I could include a lot of my own personal favorites on the syllabus.  And so we did some David Mitchell, some detective stories, and of course, some science fiction and fantasy.

We started our "playing with reality" unit with a text many of them had already read--Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

They hated it.

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I Was Genre When Genre Wasn't Cool

It Came From Del RioToday's guest contributor, Stephen Graham Jones, is an author whose most recent novel is the thriller Seven Spanish Angels. Before that, it was the bunnyheaded novel It Came from Del Rio and the Stoker finalist The Ones That Got Away. Next up is Zombie Bake-Off, a not-announced-yet one, then Once Upon a Time in Texas, Flushboy, Not For Nothing, and a couple he can’t talk about yet. Stephen’s been an NEA fellow, is an FSU grad, and teaches now at CU Boulder. He’s also kind of into horror.

In this article, he talks about the relationship between genre fiction and the academy, and why fantasy, horror, and science fiction are good things to bring to dinner parties.


Lev Grossman talks about those dinner parties where people find out you write fantasy. And, of course, ‘dinner party,’ that’s the world, isn’t it? It’s family reunions where your great aunt should get a gold medal for holding that smile on her face when you tell her the title of one of your books. It’s standing around in the hug ’n go lane at your kids’ elementary, whoever you just dropped that genre bomb on still trying to absorb the recoil. It’s your job, where everybody else is at least topically involved with ‘legitimate’ pursuits like buying, or selling, or making, things that, as they see it, interface with the real world, don’t escape it.

I should say too that for ‘fantasy,’ here, I’m subbing in ‘genre fiction,’ specifically horror, as that’s what I do the most of. I mean, I’ve done science fiction—do giant time-traveling caterpillars count as sci-fi?—I’ve done thrillers with bodycounts you’d need three pairs of hands to keep track of, I’ve had giant coyotes gulping people down and I’ve done heavily footnoted novelizations of horror movies that never existed. One of my last books has a bunny-headed zombie who shepherds chupacabras around Texas, and the sequel to it’s up soon, Aunt Nell.

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The Keys to the TARDIS: The Christmas Invasion

Doctor WhoToday we are launching a new series called "The Keys to the TARDIS," in which people write about the parts of the BBC show Doctor Who that they think are somehow key to the series.  "Key" can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways--key to the narrative, key to a certain character's development, key to personal understanding, key to the overall conception of the show.  We'll post a new installment each Friday, and we'd love to know what you think, too, so make sure to post your own choices in the comments. 

In this first installment, Jen Miller writes about how "The Christmas Invasion" episode in between Series 1 and 2 of the reboot changed her thinking about the nature of the Doctor. 


I'm new to Doctor Who.  I just started watching this summer, and I started watching the show from when it picked back up in 2005, rather than from the very beginning.  Not only that, but I haven't caught up to the current episode of Doctor Who, either.  I'm not even close--I only just started watching the episodes with Martha Jones as the 10th Doctor's companion.  All of this is a very long way of saying: I'm not an expert on Doctor Who, and this essay shouldn't be read as an analysis of the series as a whole.

Rather, this essay is a look at one episode that changed the way I thought about the Doctor, and thus changed the way I watched the show. 

This essay is about "The Christmas Invasion."

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