The last pure historical story Doctor Who has done was Black Orchid, a Peter Davison episode. The current showrunner Chris Chibnall has said he is open to bringing back the pure historical so here are five historical events and figures I would like to see team TARDIS encounter.
Doctor Who has always been progressive in its politics, with more recent episodes like Rosa, Spyfall and Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror exploring the lives of lesser-known people from history. Bearing this in mind I would like to see a Doctor Who episode where the Doctor and her friends meet Hans Asperger and the autistic children he cared for. This could be a way of emphasizing the evil of fascism, that it ultimately destroys anyone it comes into contact with, as well as portraying autism and autistic people positively. I would love to see Jodie Whittaker get her first big “I am the Doctor speech” by defending the right of Hans Asperger’s autistic children to live against Nazi soldiers who have come to take them away.
The Peterloo Massacre
An episode that focused on the Peterloo massacre could be a way of showing the heroism of ordinary people and why our democratic rights are important enough to be worth fighting for. The Doctor could find herself in a situation similar to the one he faced in The Fires of Pompeii or The Waters of Mars in as much as she already knows what is going to happen but is powerless to do anything as this would be a fixed point in history. It would be interesting to see how Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor handled her friends’ response to her inaction and whether a situation might arise where 13 saved one person or one family as 10 did in The Fires of Pompeii. I think an adventure exploring the Peterloo massacre would fit in well with the Chris Chibnall era theme of visiting the lesser-known and uglier parts of history.
The Przemysl Siege
In 1914, the Habsburg fortress of Przemysl managed to hold out against Russian forces despite the men manning the castle’s defense being much fewer than their attackers and older and weaker than the Russian soldiers. While an adventure like this might seem better suited to the 3rd Doctor or the War Doctor I think there is a great opportunity here for Doctor Who to show that anyone can be a hero, keeping in mind that the soldiers who defended Przemysl were not young nor were they battle-ready. This episode would have to be done carefully in order to respect both the people who survived the siege as well as the pacifist philosophy of the Doctor. I believe though that in the right hands an episode that focused on the siege of Przemysl could be one of the most affecting that Doctor Who has to offer.
Alexander von Humboldt
A man who warned of climate change in the 1800s who described Earth as a living organism, an episode that focused on him could be up there with Vincent and the Doctor in terms of quality. I’d like to see the Doctor and her friends meet Alexander von Humboldt while he is exploring South America, to show the events that formed him. It might be nice to see this episode done as a pure historical, where the only dangers are the sea and the climate. I think if done well this could be an engaging and entertaining adventure even if there were no science fiction elements other than the Doctor and the TARDIS.
Continuing the theme of neurodiversity, an adventure which shone a light into Alan Turing’s life as Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror did for Nikola Tesla could bring in the idea that there are other ways to be a hero than being a soldier, as well as showing an LGBT and neurodiverse person in a positive light. Perhaps in this episode, we meet Alan Turing before he became a codebreaker or during the period when he was being prosecuted. An episode that dealt with that part of Turing’s life would have to tread with the utmost care but I think such an episode could be a great source of education for those who were unaware of Alan Turing as well as a way of promoting tolerance. Many films have been made about this great man and he has appeared in a 12th Doctor comic but I would still like to see the show tackle Alan Turing’s life and legacy in a similar way to Malorie Blackman’s 2018 episode Rosa.
What famous or lesser-known events or people from history would you like to see the Doctor encounter? What do you think of the ones I have listed? Leave a comment below and have a good week. Many thanks also to Nick for giving me the idea for this article.