Exclusive Interview: Frank Danes, Author of Six Decades of Adventure in Space and Time

Six Decades of Adventure in Space and Time: A Social, Cultural and Screen History of Doctor Who is a new tome charting the history of Doctor Who.

It’s partly a charity venture, which is why it’s being published by Bedford Who Charity Con. The publisher’s profits are split between Bedford Foodbank, and set-up costs for Bedford Who Charity Con 5 in April 2019. (Once costs for the convention have been paid, everything we make goes to Bedford Foodbank anyway.) Bedford Foodbank currently provides emergency food for some 600 local adults and children every month.

To learn more about Six Decades of Adventure in Space and Time, we caught up with its author, Frank Danes (who I have known for a number of years…).

The DWC: Do we really need a new history of Doctor Who?!

Frank: I think it’s worth doing. Lots of writing about Doctor Who makes a big distinction between the ‘classic’ show and ‘NuWho’. I don’t think there is one – it’s a single programme, a single text, unfolding over time – and that’s what I stress in Six Decades. There are new episodes every year which add to the canon, and new revelations about old episodes are uncovered, like Richard Marston’s book about [1980s producer] John Nathan-Turner. So I’ve incorporated lots of new material into the book.

Six Decades in Space and Time is a social and cultural history of Who as well as a screen history, so there’s something about the experience of actually watching the programme since 1970 (when I first remember it with any clarity), and of course how it relates to, and is shaped by, the changes in society. Doctor Who is a unique and fascinating text. That all sounds a bit academic and earnest and serious: actually people who’ve read the book say it’s quite funny, which is good. Like the show itself. I hope.

Who did you write the book for?

Anyone who likes the programme and who, like me, reads anything about it they can get their hands on. It’s also for people who know the new show but aren’t quite so familiar with the series that ran from 1963-1989. I usually find I pick up things I didn’t know from reading critical guides to the series: hopefully, people should learn some new things from Six Decades in Space and Time.

Have you got your own favourite era of the programme?

I actually like almost all of it. I’ve got particular affection for Tom Baker’s first three seasons, Jon Pertwee’s era, and most of NuWho.

Final question, and this might be a controversial one: is Doctor Who actually any good?

Yes, at its best it’s excellent. I was an English teacher for 30 years and write a lot of A level and GCSE guides to literature. Doctor Who is up there for me with some of the literature I love best: my favourite play by Shakespeare is Measure for Measure, and I think stories like The Sun Makers, Genesis of the Daleks, and Blink are of similar quality. If I had to choose – do without Shakespeare or without Doctor Who – I don’t know what I’d do…

People are sniffy about Who because “it’s just a television programme” and written literature is supposedly classier, but I don’t see it that way and don’t subscribe to the idea that there is a hierarchy of texts.

Six Decades of Adventure in Space and Time: A Social, Cultural and Screen History of Doctor Who is out now, priced £15.95 plus £2.85 UK postage – but wait!

Readers of the DWC can enjoy an exclusive discount on Frank’s brilliant book: you can get a signed copy for £10 plus £2.95 UK postage.

(Overseas readers: we can offer you copies, including postage, at £18.60 if you’re in the EU and £23.40 for the rest of the world. Postage on a heavy book is pricey, alas, but this is still cheaper than you’d get it elsewhere.)

How to order:

  1. Please go to I M Foreman’s Junkyard at https://www.imforemansjunkyard.co.uk
  2. Find the book on the Home page and order a copy there.
  3. Email me (Simon) on simon@bedfordwhocharitycon.co.uk to say you heard about the book on the DWC. We’ll then refund you your change through PayPal. Overseas buyers: please contact me for details of how to order on simon@bedfordwhocharitycon.co.uk

Thanks to Frank Danes!