In Fall 2013, undergraduates at the University of Redlands, a small private school in San Bernardino County, California, could find an unusual offering in the course catalogue of the visual and media studies program: “Doctor Who: Transmedia Travels.” Piers Britton, who teaches television studies and art history, promised to explore the texts of Doctor Who—and not just the classic series (1963-1989) and the revival (2005-present), but also the TV movie, novels, and audio plays that continued during the hiatus between the two.
So, should college-age Who fans out there start filling out their transfer paperwork and making plans to relocate to the halfway-between L.A.-and-Coachella suburb in hopes of joining the next round of the class?
“I will never teach another class on Doctor Who!” Britton says now with a hint of a grin. “That class, quite candidly, was a gimmick. I was doing it purely and simply because of the 50th [anniversary of the show].”
Britton grew up in Yorkshire, England as a huge fan of Doctor Who—at a time when, for all the show was far more mainstream than it’s ever been in the U.S., it was still on “the kooky end of the spectrum,” he says. “What was mainstream was to like James Bond and Star Trek.” But he held onto that fandom—in particular his affinity for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor (“For me Tom Baker is still the Doctor,” he says)—as he built his career as an art historian with a particular research interest in Renaissance-era costume.