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Frightening Children: Doctor Who and the Monstrous Child

Green, John Paul (2011) Frightening Children: Doctor Who and the Monstrous Child. In: Child Actors/Child Stars: Juvenile Performance on Screen, 8-9 Sep 2011, David Puttnam Media Centre. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Given that Doctor Who is one of the most successful children’s science fiction television shows in history, it is surprising that few children have appeared in the series, particularly during its initial run between 1963 and 1989. While the first episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ hinted that the series would focus on the figure of the child companion, it rapidly moved away to concentrate on the eponymous hero. Aside from a handful of adolescent travelling companions who accompanied the Doctor, children would not provide a point of identification in the show. As C. E. Webber noted in a 1963 BBC report, “child characters do not command the interest of children older than themselves.” The overall absence of pre-adolescent children in Doctor Who during its initial run goes against the popular image of the monstrous child in several key British postwar science fiction novels and films, notably John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos (and subsequent film adaptations Village of the Damned and sequel) as well as Joseph Losey’s unrelated film The Damned. Since the show’s re-launch in 2005, however, there have been several memorable stories involving malevolent children. Rather than avoid the image of the ‘bad’ child, the new series engages with issues around children, their behaviour and their otherness. Focusing on the two-part story ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,’ this paper will address issues surrounding the appearance of the monstrous child as well as exploring how monstrousness is evoked through the child actor’s performances, which in turn provide the ‘behind-the-sofa’ scares expected of the series.

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Depositing User: John Paul Green


Item ID: 952
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Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2011 10:15
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:32


Author: John Paul Green

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications


Media > Film
Media > Media and Cultural Studies
Media > Television

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