Monday, July 27, 2009

Aethelstan Saves Dr. Who

It is no secret that I'm a Dr. Who fan. Last night, BBC America aired Dr. Who: Planet of the Dead for US audiences. And surprisingly there's a bit of medievalism in the episode! SPOILER ALERT!

The episode opens with a character stealing a medieval looking cup that is highly guarded; though the alarms sound and the police are in hot pursuit, the thief gets away on a double decker bus, joined by The Doctor. The bus goes through a tunnel with the police in hot pursuit, and encounters a worm hole that takes them to a dead planet, dead that is except for a billion creatures with a metallic exoskeleton that enables them to travel through the wormhole. On this planet happens to be a wrecked space ship from another race, The Doctor cannibalizes it, takes the parts back to the bus, but needs something to be an interface between the alien technology and the bus....and he needs a sheet of gold. The medieval looking cup gets pounded and used and The Doctor saves the day.

The cup is what I'm interested in here. It surprisingly is the "cup of Aethelstan" whom The Doctor rightly identifies as a tenth century king, first king of the English, and that the cup was given to him by Hywel, King of the Scots (if I remember it correctly). The Doctor mentions that he was Aethelstan's court and recognizes the cup, remarking he doesn't recall the thief having been there. The only error there being that Hywel was king of the Welsh in Gwynned, but he did submit to Aethelstan and probably gave him gifts. Such was the relationship that both Aetheltan and Hywel ruled part of Wales jointly and Hywel is said to have minted coins for himself in the English city of Chester.

Thus, Aethelstan of the English and his fictional cup saved The Doctor. A nice bit of medievalism there, and mostly accurate in what little history is reported. Kudos to BBC and the Dr. Who team on that score!

1 comment:

Michael said...

That mistake is a lot more forgivable than the West Wings howler that Beowulf was written in Middle English!