The Science of Doctor Who: Prof Brian Cox gives fans the time of their lives
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Thursday 14 November 2013
Saturday 23 November is the "The Day of the Doctor", aka the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who. Although, of course, as all good students of Whovian physics know, Saturday has already happened, will happen and is also continuously happening.
Non-Whovian physicists had a chance to catch up in this televised lecture in which Prof Brian Cox aimed to explore The Science of Doctor Who on BBC2. Is time travel possible? Do aliens really exist? Could a black hole provide a power source for a 1960s-style police box? That sort of thing.
Though Johnny Ball did his best in the Eighties, the televised science lecture is still strongly associated with those deathly-dull Open University programmes that the BBC used to broadcast early in the morning. Luckily, Cox had a few tricks up his sleeves to stop us nodding off. Instead of intercutting archive clips from the show, he appeared alongside out-going Time Lord, Matt Smith, in a series of sketches that allowed the Doctor to poke fun at the Professor ("What year is this? From your hair, I'd say the Sixties") while whetting appetites for the anniversary episode a week tomorrow.
The audience was filled with the celebrity fans of both Cox and Doctor Who. The likes of Robert Webb, David Baddiel and Jessica Hynes were content to look on and marvel from their seats, but comedian Rufus Hound, physicist Jim Al-Khalili and actor Charles Dance bounded down the stairs to join in some demonstrations. "This takes me back," said Dance as he sprayed a chemical solution into a Bunsen burner to produce a shower of brightly coloured sparks. "To school chemistry lessons?" asked Cox. "No, to early psychedelic rock concerts."
Well, Coxy is the rock star physicist, isn't he? He can recite the speed of light off the top of his head ("Altogether now: 299,792,458 metres per second!") and make the super-scientific seem very nearly comprehensible, all while emoting that trademark sense of wonder. There was no sparkling firmament visible inside the Royal Institution lecture hall, so Coxie improvised. "Beautiful," he murmured reverently over a black-and-white line graph – and we took his word for it.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote