Doctor Who In China
Friday, August 16, 2013 | By: Jamie Hamill
The Doctor is coming to Beijing on the 21st of September! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show, the British Embassy is holding an event in the Gallifreyan’s honour. A trailer for the new series will be shown and visitors will even be able to step into the TARDIS. The event follows in the wake of a big announcement in the “Whoniverse”.
Unless you have been living under a rock, or in a faraway universe, you probably know that Peter Capaldi has been announced as the next actor to undertake the mantle of “the Doctor”.
Capaldi, probably best known for his role as the explosive Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, is set to become the 12th incarnation of the roaming Gallifreyan. While Capaldi may not be well known to audiences outside of Britain, he is certainly an actor of pedigree. He received an Oscar for his performance in the short film “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life” and has won and been nominated for numerous BAFTA awards. Attentive cinemagoers may recognize Capaldi from his brief cameo in summer blockbuster “World War Z” in which he played a Doctor working at a World Health Organization clinic. From W.H.O doctor to Doctor Who, Capaldi seems destined for the role.
The BBC television special announcing the casting decision recorded huge viewing figures in the UK and America, indicative of the Doctor’s enduring popularity. However, while the show has retained its following at home, how has it fared abroad? In particular, what is the shows history and popularity like in China?
The Doctor first visited China, in chronological order of time as opposed to the order of his regenerations, in 221 BC when the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond went to China to leave a message on a vase for River Song. His next visit came in the 13th century, where he encountered The Venetian Marco Polo, who was travelling throughout China (then called Cathay) as the emperor Kublai Khan would not permit him to return home. Polo planned to appease Kublai Khan by giving him the TARDIS, but eventually allowed the First Doctor and his companions to escape. The Doctor’s next visit did not come until the 19th century, when the Second Doctor ventured there. Five years later, The First Doctor and his companions revisited China. Confused yet?
The Doctor’s involvement in China became more prolific in the 20th and 21st century. During The Boxer Rebellion, troopers were kidnapped by the War Lords for use in their war games. Captain Jack Harkness was also active in China during the rebellion, where he worked with explosives. In 1928, the Fifth Doctor and his companions travel to Mount Lishan in China.
The Doctor’s most significant adventure in China came in 1936. The Doctor reveals that he accompanied Mao Tse-Tung, who would eventually seize control of the country, on the Long March. The Doctor also clashed with the Master, when one of China’s generals was assassinated by an aide under the control of the Master. The Doctor clashed with his oldest foe again when, on Christmas Day 2009, the Master used the Immortality Gate to convert all 2.5 million soldiers of the Chinese Central Military Commission into duplicates of him.
While the Doctor has a long history of travel in China, his future there is less certain. According to a report by The Guardian, Li Jingsheng, of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), disapproves of the time travel genre. Jingsheng told a conference in 2011 that “Many stories are totally made up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged any longer.”
Speculation over whether this was a ban or a warning soon erupted over the internet. However, the success of the 2012 time travel film Looper in China would suggest it was the latter. Chinese officials do not seem particularly concerned with time travel into the future, perhaps indicative of why censors allowed Looper to be shown. It would seem then that the future of Doctor Who in China is, ironically, the future.
Nonetheless, the threat to the existence of the Doctor in China is not just down to officials at the organization formerly known as SARFT. As a few astute viewers have pointed out, the Doctor is supposed to only have 12 regenerations. Numerous solutions to the problem have been touted. Some claim the regenerations in the updated version of Doctor Who are different to the old series, so the rules have changed; while others state the example of The Master, who has exceeded his limit. In truth, the number of regenerations granted to the Doctor will ultimately depend on his on screen popularity, rather than any plot discrepancies. Regardless, given the abandon with which Stephen Moffat deployed the ‘deus ex machina’ in the most recent series, if there is demand for the Doctor, he will deliver.
Please get involved in the comments section below; let us know if you are a fan of Doctor Who, what you think of the appointment of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and who your favorite actor to play the Doctor is.
Main image courtesy of Baike