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Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside (Popular Culture and Philosophy) Paperback – December 1, 2010
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Opening this book is like opening the door to the TARDIS: we get to spend time with our favorite incarnations of the Doctor whether the First, the Fourth, the Eleventh, or Doctor-Donna, and ponder what it means to travel through time, grow a new personality, fall in love, sacrifice for a greater good, and experience the cosmos for all the wonder it is. Really, Doctor Who and Philosophy is even better than a Sonic Screwdriver.”
JOSEF STEIFF, Professor of Film at Columbia College Chicago and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking
This dimensionally transcendental volume explains what the Doctor never gets around to until later: the basics of Gallifreyan philosophy and ethics, as translated through Earth’s philosophers. A fun, informative volume for folks interested in an introduction to philosophy through the vortex of Doctor Who.”
LYNNE M. THOMAS, co-editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It
Lewis and Smithka have done all sapient species a brilliant service by introducing Doctor Who and Philosophy into the time continuum. Like the Doctor’s human companions, we get to travel through a universe of Big Ideas with a caring, clever, and, yes, conflicted friend. Next to a real TARDIS swooping down and carrying us off, nothing could beat the experience of reading this book.”
PATRICK D. HOPKINS, editor of Sex/Machine
Doctor Who and Philosophy makes you want to go right back to episodes like Robot’ and The Brain of Morbius’ so you can watch them again, now that you know what they’re really about. No series in the entire history of television has lit up all the beacons of classic philosophy like Doctor Who, and this brilliant book is chock full of Time Lord enlightenment.”
ROB ARP, Consulting Ontologist and author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving
An intriguing collection of essays that examines Doctor Who from every philosophical angle imaginable. Do you want theories and contradictions of time travel? It’s in there. Do you want a deep examination of the nature of identity, as understood through the Doctor and his regenerative ability? It’s in there, too, and it is considered from a variety of philosophical approaches. And so is much, much more. Lewis and Smithka have assembled a fascinating anthology, one that all Who fans, media scholars, and armchair philosophers should want on their shelves.”
CHRIS HANSEN, editor of Ruminations, Peregrinations, and Regenerations: A Critical Approach to Doctor Who
About the Author
Courtland Lewis is a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Paula Smithka is the coeditor of Community, Diversity, and Difference: Implications for Peace. She is also an associate professor of philosophy at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
Top customer reviews
Like all books that are collections of short essays by different authors, this volume is a bit uneven, though less so than most. The reason is likely that it seems clear that all the authors here are actually fans of Doctor Who as well as being experts in their fields. Each essay references episodes of the show--some from the classic era and some from the modern era--in a way that indicates a certain level of fandom and understanding. The book also ends with a nice collection of quotes from the show and a listing of all the episodes starring the various Doctors. So it actually appeals to those of us who are fans instead of coming across as a cheap trick with which to discuss other things.
That being said, the focus here is real, serious philosophy. This is where things become a bit more uneven. What becomes obviously early on is that there's going to be a bit of repetition as the first chapters discuss identity in the face of things like regeneration. In doing so, our philosophers end up covering a lot of the same ground without really leading us to a conclusion. We get the same sort of repetition in places throughout the book. This can be a bit trying at times.
To the book's credit, however, by the end, you realize that, despite the repetition, you've covered a lot of philosophical topics. Even better, the topics are analyzed not only with the big names of history--Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, etc.--but with ideas that are current in philosophical circles. I was particularly taken with the discussion of care ethics as well as the discussion of the concept of horror (though I found myself disagreeing with some of the conclusions reached by Saint & French in their essay on this latter topic).
All in all, despite some minor flaws, this is a book that should be read by any fans of Doctor Who. I would say "any fans of Doctor Who who have an interest in the big questions of philosophy" but who doesn't have some interest in the big questions? And, even if you claim not to, this book might change your mind.
* Almost all the chapters put forward an interesting premise and follow it through to satisfaction.
* Older Doctor Who material is pulled in and explained well to newcomers: there's definitely a lot of catching up that I have to do now thanks to this book, and now I know exactly what I want to check out.
* A few chapters really stand out as being great - the authors' chapters in particular are extremely well written, as well as "Chapter 22: Overcoming Evil, and Spite, and Resentment, and Revenge" and "Chapter 29: The Evil of the Daleks."
* The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) is on the cover of the book, but there's only one or two really short references to him throughout the entire book. As the book is published in December 2010 and the Fifth Series ends in June 2010, it seems like just long enough to either include him in or cut him from the cover. It's especially odd to leave him on the cover since the Fifth Series has a number of interesting time-travel-related questions in it that I was really looking forward to seeing here.
* While it may be forgivable that the Eleventh Doctor is missing in action here, it's strange that 99% of the discussion stops at the end of Series Four, at "Journey's End." This means we don't get to even see the end of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) at "The End of Time" (with two minor exceptions) and once again, we're missing out on a ton of great material by not getting really any coverage of it or "The Waters of Mars".
* Although many of the chapters are distinct from each other, the most prevalent question by far is "is the Doctor still the same person before and after regenerations?" This would be fine, but since this shows up for at least six chapters of the book (four of which are in a row), this means you'll become very familiar with Locke's theory of memory continuity very quickly, and unfortunately, you'll become bored of it very quickly.
The pros really add up and make it worth the inexpensive selling price, but the cons stop it from being what I would call perfection. So now that you know what you're getting into, Doctor Who fans, pick up this book and get reading!
Doctor Who's writers never seem to come to any definitive conclusions, but they do ask the important questions that have dogged philosophers for ages:
How can psychological identity be defined when the self changes over time?
Can violent creatures have a reasonable system of ethics?
How can we understand causation, when the roots of the events we see now remain masked?
Are beauty and morality necessarily linked?
This book is great material for young fans of Dr. Who - perhaps as a bit of between-season reading before going off to college. Placing philosophy in the context of cheeky science fiction removes the pretentious nonsense that clouds the writing of too many academic philosophers, which may be refreshing for older readers as well.
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