Fans of the classic series may be interested in this new study of Malcolm Hulke’s injection of political thought into his Doctor Who adventures.
Doctor Who and the Communist; The Television Career of Malcolm Hulke
by Michael Herbert (Five Leaves Press, £4)
This publication was mentioned this week by actor Paul McGann who played the Doctor in a film in 1996. He tweeted “@MJHerbert has nicked the title I wanted for my memoir.”
Malcolm Hulke (1924-1979) (known as “Mac” to his friends), was a successful writer for radio, television and the cinema from the 1950s to the late 1970s. His work included episodes for Armchair Theatre and The Avengers and eight serials for Doctor Who, broadcast between 1967 and 1974, for which he is best remembered.
Malcolm was a socialist, belonging for a time to the Communist Party of Great Britain. In this pamphlet Michael Herbert examines the life and work of Malcolm Hulke and how his political views fed into his writing. This is the first study of his work.
Michael says, “The late 1960s and early 1970s was a period when when race, the destruction of the environment, industrial militancy, the Cold War and the liberation of women were live political issues. It’s not surprising that a writer such as Hulke, with a political background, incorporated these themes into his work through the medium of science fiction.”
He quotes Terrance Dicks, script editor on Doctor Who (1969-1974), who said, “What we never did was commission a Doctor Who with a political message but nonetheless if you look at it there is a streak of anti-authoritarianism in all Mac’s work: he doesn’t trust the establishment.”
Mac himself said of Doctor Who, “It’s a very political show. Remember what politics refers to, it refers to relationships between groups of people. It doesn’t necessarily mean left or right…so all Doctor Who’s are political, even though the other group of people are reptiles, they’re still a group of people.”
Mac died on 6 July 1979. Terrance Dicks recalls that, as a convinced atheist, he had left orders that there was to be no priest, no hymns or other ceremony at his funeral and that therefore his friends sat by the coffin not knowing what to do. “Finally Eric Paice stood up, slapped the coffin and said ‘well cheerio, Mac’ and wandered out. We all followed him.”
Michael Herbert is a Manchester-based historian. He watched the first Doctor Who episode, “An Unearthly Child” on 23 November 1963, aged 8, and has been watching regularly ever since. He will be teaching an evening class on the history of Doctor Who in the spring of 2015 at Aquinas College, Stockport. His Doctors are William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.
Doctor Who and the Communist costs £4 and can be purchased directly from Five Leaves Press by ringing 0115 8373097