Doctor Who and the Myth of the Psuedo-historical

Not long to go until series 12 opens with Spyfall and we’ve had little bits of noise in the media getting public interest warmed up. This includes Chris Chibnall talking about pure historicals (eg Radio Times Doctor Who boss Chris Chibnall is open to bringing back “pure historical” stories). Like missing episodes, pure historicals are very much a thing, but how real is the alternative?

The impure (or pseudo-) historical

Let’s first cover a deep truth about Doctor Who. It’s not real. It’s made by many, many people over the years with all their fallibilities, time pressures and views on the show. There is no canon. There are many areas where the show doesn’t form a coherent whole. The UNIT dating controversy and Atlantis are widely quoted, but I think the so-called psuedohistorical is another.

We all know what we mean by historical stories. It’s everything from Aztecs to An Unearthly Child as listed here. The psuedohistoricals are the set that look like history but have an alien presence or other science fiction aspect. It’s everything from The Abominable Snowmen to The Woman Who Lived as listed here.

I think this is too simplistic. Why can’t a piece of tech have existed in 1600? If we don’t know about it and its effect was limited, why can’t it be part of history?

More importantly, various alien races had space travel while we were in caves. Why can’t they have visited? It’s entirely sensible for Sontarans to have visited Earth in the thirteenth century? There are many stories where it’s entirely reasonable Earth would be under alien control or destroyed. It’s all plausible history. When we say pseudohistorical I think we mean something else. We mean a timeline leading to Totter’s Lane in 1963.

It’s clearly nonsense. How could this timeline exist and be visited? Every story featuring latter incarnations of the Doctor in our past needs to have happened to make our history be true. It’s ridiculous!

Anyway, that doesn’t stop me enjoying the show!

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