RESEARCH: papers, conference presentations, books, residencies

credit: BBC Wales

Time and Reality Die in Spectacle: Doctor Who as the Perfect Crime

Conference presentation

Engaging Baudrillard International Conference, Swansea, Wales. 4-6 September 2006


The 2005 reboot of the television serial Doctor Who follows a time-traveller named The Doctor. Because his planet and people were "already" destroyed in the great Time War, his many lives are instantiated "after" an ending that is a fait accompli. Similarly, an early episode portrays the last moments of Earth as a spectacle for galactic tourists. Subsequent narratives are played out in the shadow of this predestined apocalypse. We know that history has already ended, but must pretend otherwise.

The Doctor is the embodiment of a perfect crime, an act accomplished "already" after history, threading back through spacetime, undoing reality. By accompanying him to the present, we escape our human end, but in so doing infect reality with a principle that erases its meaning. The perfect crime is constituted in the very hypothesis of time travel that gives this programme life.


This paper was presented when only the 2005 season of Doctor Who had been aired. Many details revealed later in the story arc were obviously not incorporated, the author not owning a time machine.

Attentive readers will note that "Time And Reality Die In Spectacle" has an acronym.