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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in History > THE SECOND WORLD WAR & POST-WAR YEARS 1939 to 1963

THE SECOND WORLD WAR & POST-WAR YEARS 1939 to 1963

The horror of global war gave way to austerity and prejudice – all memorable backdrops for adventures set in the years leading up to Doctor Who’s début.
Madge Arwell (Claire Skinner) in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011), Sergeant Mike Smith (Dursley McLinden) in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) and an ‘Irsonside’ from Victory of the Daleks (2010).

As a staunchly moral individual of enormous influence, the Doctor’s apparent lack of engagement with one of Earth’s most appalling conflicts is perhaps surprising. There are many potential reasons for his absence from the events of the Second World War; monstrous fascism was already embodied in Terry Nation’s Daleks – who were directly inspired by Nazi Germany – and Doctor Who began transmission less than 20 years after the end of hostilities. As a consequence, it’s likely that for a long time, the Second World War was considered neither historical nor fantastical enough for consideration. However, since the series’ return in 2005 there has been a greater willingness to engage with this era in inventive and fascinating ways.

Lilian (Susannah Fielding) on duty in the operations room in Victory of the Daleks.

Throughout the long years of the Second World War there was a notable reliance on certain famous characters in public life. From politicians to military commanders to movie stars, these people seized the imagination with the relatively new media of radio and cinema. One of the most celebrated of these figures was Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965). Impeccably portrayed by Ian McNeice, the wartime Prime Minister made his first Doctor Who appearance in Victory of the Daleks (2010). This depiction of Churchill is wily, charming, astute and assured. We learn that he and the Doctor are old sparring partners – he covets the TARDIS for the Allied war effort – and their mutual affection is apparent. It’s therefore indicative of his desperation in 1940 that he’s reluctant to believe the Doctor about the true nature of the ‘Ironside’ machines being developed in his workshop.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.
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