Tuesday 10 March 2020

1619. 🇬🇧 Britain In The 2020s - Stamps And Dr Who.

 🇬🇧 Amid the general prevailing anxiety with pestilence now added to the flood and fire recently in the news here in Britain (well, the fire was in Australia but with instant news we heard all about it), Royal Mail has a firm policy of showing the more trivial things in life on its present-day postage stamps rather than commemorating anything noteworthy. Perhaps it’s Royal Mail’s way of trying to soothe us all. Though usually almost every issue it announces does not soothe most collectors of British stamps but sends them into paroxysms of annoyance at the latest vaguely inane (and definitely overpriced) new issue which Royal Mail wishes to sell to them.
  As we all know by now, Royal Mail has arrived at the idea that featuring various aspects of popular culture coupled with baby boomer nostalgia on its stamps is the way it’s likely to make most money from its philatelic and paraphilatelic products which it chooses to unload on to the current stamp collecting market. In a few days we will have a multitude of items featuring the James Bond movies and later in the year will appear an issue commemorating the world’s longest-running television soap opera, the eternally depressing Coronation Street (see Blog 1577) and then, at the end of the year, the very-British (written with irony) Star Trek.
  The James Bond issue of innumerable items will feature the actors who have played the various incarnations of the character in the movies over the years (see Blog 1607) though canonicity apparently prevents the actor Woody Allen from being featured despite playing the role in a version of Casino Royale. Allen may also have been excluded because of his alleged controversial relationship with his former wife, Mia Farrow.
 This depiction of actors who played the same part in a long running ongoing series began when Royal Mail released a set in 2013 of 11 stamps depicting all the actors who up to then had played the character of Dr Who in the BBC children’s science-fiction series of that name (see Blog 184). This was a successful issue which was released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the series’ first showing on British television. One couldn’t help wondering if a follow-up issue might appear in the 60th anniversary year - 2023 - which might feature all the actors who had played the role since the previous issue.
 Well, now that might be a little more difficult.

  The latest episode of the series, the plots of which have become increasingly convoluted in recent years as well as taking on the role of paying more emphasis on issues including wokeness and identity rather than delivering a ‘jolly good adventure’,  has altered the series’ backstory so that the Doctor Who which the programme’s enthusiasts had believed for 57 years was the First Doctor actually turns out to be none of the sort and in fact there had been countless Doctors before him.
  The key to this load of hokum is that the series is able to continue when the lead actor leaves the part because the eponymous hero, Dr Who, is able to regenerate himself into a completely different body - that is - the body of the new lead actor. Quite brilliant, really if one wishes to continue making, showing and making money from, the series indefinitely.
  For some years there has been a growing controversy about whether the character could be played by a female actor and in this era of gender fluidity a woman was finally given the role a couple of years ago (see Blog 1294). But there has also been the question of race and again in this age of equality it was felt it was always a matter of time before a non-white actor was given the role.
  Now all these issues of race and gender have been solved in one fell swoop by a story in the latest series of Dr Who which has seen not only the first black woman to play Dr Who but also representatives of other races albeit for a few seconds each. This solution has occurred at great cost to the canon of the series so that it appears that The First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, a grumpy old white male, was not the first incarnation of the character, rather there had been many such incarnations before him.

  Thus it now emerges that the First Doctor Who was not a Time Lord but a creature of another species which can regenerate itself. It is in the form of a black humanoid female and falls into the hands of an inhabitant of the future Time Lords’ planet who first adopts it and then experiments on it once the adopted mother discovers it can regenerate itself. Infant mortality is obviously higher than you might expect on this advanced planet since The Doctor (or perhaps one should say the future Doctor) dies 6 times in its childhood (though having a mother who likes to carry out experiments on you might be quite a dangerous thing in itself) and then makes it to adolescence which is a triumph in itself. The various incarnations are in different genders and racial types. Further Doctor Whos were shown during the course of the story before William Hartnell makes an appearance.
  So if Royal Mail intended to issue a set in 3 years time to commemorate the 60th anniversary of this television programme showing all the Doctors as it did in 2013 then it now seems to have 31 versions of Dr Who, a number of them children, which could be depicted.
  This television programme, long considered to be as British as any programme could be, interestingly reflects the current themes which dominate contemporary society - identity, equality and environmental concern - and stamps featuring it would also reflect these British concerns and attitudes. I like stamps which tell the collector about the country whose name is printed on them. So just in case Royal Mail does decide to commemorate Dr Who’s diamond jubilee in 2023 here are the new Doctors it could feature and it would also illustrate the change in social attitudes and concerns since the early 1960s:-

Not William Hartnell, obviously.

Not Patrick Troughton.

Not Jon Pertwee.

Not Tom Baker.

Not Peter Davison.

Not Colin Baker.

Obviously not Sylvester McCoy.


  1. "canonicity apparently prevents the actor Woody Allen from being featured despite playing the role in a version of Casino Royale"
    For accuracy's sake - Allen played "Jimmy Bond" - nephew of the original James Bond who was played by David Niven.

    Niven of course has twice been on a stamp - British Films of 1985 and Great British Films of 2014

  2. "Wokeness" is a word typically used in a pejorative sense, but the tone of this article doesn't sound judgmental -- more like predictive.