Geographies of Science Fiction, Peace, and Cosmopolitanism: Conceptualizing Critical Worldbuilding through a Lens of Doctor Who

Hannah Carilyn Gunderman


Critical worldbuilding offers a framework for building more compassionate spaces which are staunchly critical of violence and injustice. At the heart of critical worldbuilding is a belief that the actions, mobilities, and worldviews of a single individual can contribute to building the characteristics of these broader spaces. I advocate for a framing of critical worldbuilding through three pillars: geographies of science fiction, cosmopolitanism, and geographies of peace. I enact this framing through a lens of Doctor Who, a BBC television program in which an alien species faces various nemeses during their time travels across the universe both within and beyond planet Earth. Since the show’s beginning in 1963, several iterations of the Doctor have faced these nemeses amidst compelling themes such as natural disaster, mental illness, and fascist social control, all within a fantastical setting yet decidedly applicable to real sociocultural issues seen within planet Earth. Using a case study of three episodes of Doctor Who, I undertake a literary reading of the plots through each of the three pillars as they relate to critical worldbuilding, from the alternative landscapes and fantastical metaphors of geographies of science fiction, to cosmopolitanism’s dissolution of borders, to the transformative and healing praxis of geographies of peace.  This research frames further work in critical worldbuilding as conceptualized through these three pillars, encouraging geographic scholars to recognize the power of individual action in creating more compassionate and peaceful landscapes.


critical worldbuilding; Doctor Who; science fiction; cosmopolitanism; peace

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