The BBC TV series Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013; this book analyses how promotion, commemorative merchandise and 3D cinema screenings worked paratextually to construct a 'popular media event' while sometimes uneasily integrating public service values and consumerist logics
Brand anniversaries have become a regular part of today's popular culture, yet they have received surprisingly little analysis. Doctor Who: The Unfolding Event takes the BBC's flagship science fiction TV programme, and its 50th anniversary in 2013, as a case study. Anniversaries involve the proliferation of 'paratexts', e.g. trailers, merchandise, and conventions; this book considers how these paratexts can relate to one another, as well as being incoherent or ambiguous rather than cueing textual meanings. It tackles the brand anniversary as a 'popular media event' that is pre-planned and yet can also be contingently disrupted. Analysing how Doctor Who's 50th worked as a 'BBC metonym', and how 'public service consumption' has contributed to the BBC's cultural reproduction rather than harming its distinctive ethos, this study demonstrates that brand anniversaries are about asserting contemporary relevance. Doctor Who's 50th achieved this via an innovative 3D cinema/TV simulcast. Rather than dismissing anniversaries as commercial 'pseudo-events', we need to take their bids for cultural value more seriously.
"Hills delivers the goods again, with a superb, focused examination of Who that expands and energizes discussion of texts, paratexts, media events, marketing, merchandising, and media temporality. Doctor Who: The Unfolding Event is wonderfully nuanced, thoughtfully composed, and offers as much to those who don't know the Doctor as to those who do." - Jonathan Gray, author of Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts