The Fires of Pompeii: Doctor Who and Stones that Speak



Publication Details

I. Willis (2009). The Fires of Pompeii: Doctor Who and Stones that Speak. ICT Building 111 Barry Street, Carlton, 26 August.

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Classical Association of Victoria


Famously (at least among classicists who watch British science fiction), in the 2008 Doctor Who episode The Fires of Pompeii, the Doctor encounters Caecilius, Quintus and Metella, the family from the Cambridge Latin Course. In this paper, I am going to argue that this is not just a small and ornamental joke for classicists. Instead, the episode is a far-reaching exploration of history and temporality, suggesting that Latin itself is a kind of time-travelling technology, and that the ethical dilemma that the Doctor faces in this episode is one which resonates with everyone who engages with classical texts and languages.

Dr Ika Willis is Arts Faculty Lecturer in Reception, in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol, U.K. Her publications are in the field of textuality and reception, and she is particularly interested in the idea of the archive, and in the impact of phonographic and photographic technologies on philosophies of writing, reading and reception.

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