Inside the Doctor Who college course: “Everyone has done their homework already”

We spoke to Michael Herbert, who teaches a new Doctor Who course at Aquinas College, Stockport, about who turned up and want went on in the first ever lesson

imagenotavailable1

Many people enjoy studying Doctor Who in their free time, but Michael Herbert has formalised the arrangement. 

Advertisement

His Doctor Who course at Aquinas College, Stockport, covers the show’s half-century of adventures: both in time and space and behind the scenes.

“I’ve been watching it since I was eight and a half years old (a half is quite important when you’re eight)” he told RadioTimes.com. “I remember cutting things out of the Radio Times for the scrap book. It faded away a bit with the eighties with Thatcher, but I got interested in the history of the show since it came back. Quite a lot of episodes involve miners actually…”

Examining how the show was made and developed, and placing it in a wider historical context, the 11 week course goes over the entire history of Doctor Who: “It’s not too academic, it’s more a gentle study really. There’s no exams, there’s no certificate, it’s a course to follow for pleasure to help people learn more about it.”

Every two-hour lesson covers a different era of the show. “We’re doing 12 Doctors in 11 weeks,” Herbert laughs, “who the producer was, who the script editor was, and what direction they took it. Then we watch three or four episodes.”

Colin Baker and Paul McGann get slightly less attention to make the schedule work.

The cohort for the first lesson wasn’t massive (four people, although Herbert hopes for more next week) but one issue he faced was the students trying to outsmart the teacher.

“It went well, they all knew a lot. Some of them knew about as much as me, but that’s OK, I was able to look into it in perhaps more depth. I was hoping perhaps people who didn’t know that much would come along – new-Whoers – but that’s OK. There was one young man who started watching with Matt Smith.”

“Everyone has done their homework already, they all know the episodes inside out.”

Herbert remains optimistic about a larger turnout next week, following national media attention.

“I asked them ‘why have you come on the course?’, but they just like to watch episodes and talk about it,” he says “because even nowadays you might find yourself isolated sometimes.”


Background Reading

Books

  • Inside the Tardis: The World of Doctor Who, James Chapman (I.B. Tauris)
  • Malcom Hulke: Doctor Who and the Communists, Michael Herbert (Five Lead Press)

Episodes

  • An Unearthly Child (William Hartnell)

You have to watch the first one, although you don’t actually learn much about the Doctor for many years.

  • Prisoners of Mars (Tom Baker)

Because it’s really good. 

  • Blink (David Tennant)

It’s the best Moffat script, it all hangs together.

  • The Day of the Doctor (Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt)

It starts off in the same way as An Unearthly Child, and there are nods to people who remember it, but you can enjoy it if you’ve never seen the show.

Discussion Topic:

Advertisement

Why did Doctor Who become so popular in early 1960s Britain, with particular reference to the change between William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.