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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.



Introduction: Media Anniversaries — Brand, Paratext, Event … and the Hype of the Doctor

Given the rise in media/brand anniversaries, I consider Doctor Who’s 50th in 2013 as a case study. Such anniversaries could be dismissed as pseudo-events, but we should not devalue them as mere hype. Instead, I deploy a paratextual approach, developed to become more phenomenological. Rather than focusing on paratext-text relations, the media/brand anniversary raises questions of inter-paratextual, para-paratextual and meta-paratexual relationships of meaning. I also address how media/cultural studies and philosophical approaches to “media events” may be useful, arguing that previous work has overly emphasized the ritual centrality (and national unification) of media events. I conclude that a rigorously paratextual take on anniversaries as “unfolding events” is required. This Introduction thus develops, and contests, theorizations emerging from the “paratextual cohort” in screen studies.
Matt Hills

1. Marketing the 50th Anniversary — Brand Management and the Cultural Value of the Doctor

This chapter considers how the BBC used spin-off texts — positioned as paratexts — in the build-up to “The Day of the Doctor” and afterwards. Anniversary publicity incorporated BBC paratexts drawing on its public service ethos. However, tensions between this ethos and commercial “fan service” inflected the anniversary’s blurrings of promotion and content, beginning with a San Diego Comic-Con trailer. Doctor Who’s anniversary paratextual array acted as a BBC metonym, standing for the Corporation’s identity. But brand discourses were never omnipresent: Who’s 50th confronted damaging rumours and spoilers via worker paratexts. And acclaim such as a Guinness World Record didn’t securely consecrate the show. Chapter 1 therefore considers how paratexts can open up devaluing discourses as well as aiming to elevate Doctor Who’s cultural value.
Matt Hills

2. Merchandising the 50th Anniversary — Public Service Consumption in the Name of the Doctor

This chapter considers how Doctor Who’s anniversary underpinned a wide range of merchandise. Such material might be viewed as corroding the BBC’s public service remit, but I argue instead that “public service consumption” has formed an important part of Who’s history — fans’ decommoditization of merchandise has aided in cementing audience affection for the BBC’s distinctiveness. I also examine how the ExCeL “Celebration” was saturated in memory discourses, with merchandising being pre-decommoditized as “souvenirs”. Merchandise acutely raises the work of para-paratexts, given that its paratexts are themselves framed by books such as The Vault, commemorative brochures, or fan reviews. I conclude by addressing how the BBC’s public service brand was disrupted by glitches in capitalist realism such as BBC Worldwide licensees going out of business.
Matt Hills

3. Mediatizing the 50th Anniversary — Cinematic Liveness and the “Developing Art” of the Doctor

This chapter addresses how Doctor Who navigated the “mediatic system” via its anniversary paratextual array. Part of constructing “The Day of the Doctor” as a popular media event involved releasing it in 3 D in cinemas. A series of BFI screenings also built up to the big day, adding an aura of “liveness” to Who’s celebrations. TV Studies has thought of television’s relationship to cinema as one where TV aspires to become “cinematic” and legitimize itself. Exploring how3D TV was used as an “event”, I argue that there are signs of “cinematization” in play. However, Who’s media anniversary also aligned notions of liveness and fan communitas with movie screenings in order to unusually enact a valorizing “televisionization” of cinema and a “technologization” of TV.
Matt Hills


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