'I'm Scottish … I can really complain about things now': Discourses of Scotland and Scottishness in Doctor Who

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Since 1963, the BBC television drama Doctor Who has featured a range of actors as its central character, the Doctor. Despite the quintessential ‘Englishness’ often claimed for the programme, the Doctor has now been played by three Scottish actors – Sylvester McCoy (1987-89), David Tennant (2005-10) and Peter Capaldi (2013-17). This chapter examines how Scotland and Scottishness have been represented in Doctor Who. It considers both ‘classic Who’ (1963-89) and new Who (2005-present) in which Scottishness derives from wider cultural discourses which have inevitably affected both showrunner Steven Moffat and Twelfth Doctor actor Peter Capaldi. The programme’s representation of Scottishness draws upon cultural discourses spanning both the classic and the new series, and the chapter discusses how both series draw on, and develop, those discourses. The chapter first sketches some of the arguments around representations of Scotland and discusses the set of place-myths involved in the Scottish Discursive Unconscious, the store of images and tropes associated with Scotland in the popular imaginary. It then summarises the way in which Scotland and the Scots have been represented in Doctor Who and how those representations relate to the chapter’s earlier discussions around place and identity. The second half takes a different approach, considering the period under showrunner Steven Moffat, and in particular Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor. As the Capaldi era does not offer any sustained portrayal of Scotland in the way earlier episodes do, the chapter focuses on discourses surrounding Capaldi’s casting as the Doctor, specifically through analysis of primary material such as interviews with Moffat, followed by textual analysis of episodes. The chapter concludes by linking these discourses to Scottish devolution and the emergence of plural, playful and complex post-industrial twenty-first century Scottish identities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDoctor Who - Twelfth Night
Subtitle of host publicationAdventures in Time and Space with Peter Capaldi
EditorsA. O'Day
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781788313636
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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