This line in "The Chinese stream" The Economist - Nov 9 2013 seems to imply that China has a rule barring depictions of time travel.

Rules about content range from the predictable (no shows inciting political unrest) to the puzzling (no depictions of time travel). It takes months for programmes to get official approval for broadcasting, and only an estimated 30% of shows that are made get aired on TV.

This appears to be confirmed by The Guardian which even states the reasoning:

Sci-fi encourages us to imagine alternative realities – so if China is none too keen on the Doctor and his ilk, don't be surprised ... Time travel television, said China's government administrator of radio and television, is "frivolous" in its approach to history – a verbal warning that was seen as tantamount to an official ban. ...

The Marxist literary critic Frederic Jameson once pointed out that science fiction and historical imagination are actually aspects of the same thinking. He believed that the effect of immersing yourself in another historical age in, say, The Eagle of the Ninth, was very similar to travelling in your mind to the world of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Both genres are set apart from pure fantasy, because they claim some basis in reality. Sci-fi expounds futures that might be possible, or at least that follow basic rules of human nature in how they portray people; historical fiction is, likewise, rooted in actual events.

So China is right to fear time travel. No state that wants to keep governing forever can afford to let people imagine alternatives. Perhaps this is the true reason for Doctor Who's popularity in Britain. When it screens, millions of people defy the rule of reality and escape together into worlds of possibility, worlds of otherness, dreams of utopia.

With such a well-known programme, I would be surprised if there wasn't some sort of underground trade in bootlegged videos or something similar - but the main question boils down to this:

Is Doctor Who a popular show there? Is there some sort of underground community, or does this seemingly bizaare restriction inhibit fandom there?

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    This question might not be on topic, and might be better asked on Movies.SE Nov 14, 2013 at 18:24
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    This question is about fandom. While it intersects with other topics like politics, and variations in various nation's laws, it's still about a science fiction fandom.
    – user1027
    Nov 14, 2013 at 18:47
  • huffingtonpost.com/social/jarods/… uproxx.com/gammasquad/2011/04/… China doesn't ban it, it's just "discouraged".
    – ike
    Nov 14, 2013 at 20:12
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    @ike Note: I actually stated the line in the article: "a verbal warning that was seen as tantamount to an official ban." Tantamount to != an an outright ban, but it is close enough for comparison. Nov 14, 2013 at 20:24
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    Note that the forming of popularity and fandom abroad can be pretty unpredictable in general. Some shows unexpectedly achieve much greater popuplarity in specific foreign markets than at home, while other, originally very successful ones, are virtually unknown. For example, Doctor Who is virtually unknown in Germany because until very recently it never ran on TV - not due to censorship, I'm pretty sure. Nov 14, 2013 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


I doubt the time travel restriction has any substantial effect on the Chinese fandom. The first seven series of modern Doctor Who are available streaming within China.

For a sense on the state of Doctor Who fandom in China, it might be useful to look at Tieba, a Chinese website somewhat similar to what reddit is in the United States.

Here's the Tieba Doctor Who page.

Even if you can't read Chinese, it's pretty clear that this social media stream is getting something like two new posts every minute, and those posts themselves are being "liked". There's fan art, fanfic, a thread about a fan gushing over a newly-arrived sonic screwdriver. So I think that's good evidence that there is a substantial fandom in China, laughable government policies notwithstanding.

One post I found particularly amusing has the original poster asking "Why isn't the 50th anniversary episode being shown in movie theaters? I bet it would sell a lot of tickets!" with the response "It is being shown in 3D theaters in 75 different countries, just not in the Heavenly Dynasty." ("Heavenly Dynasty", by the way, is Chinese Internet slang. It's a sarcastic way to refer to the People's Republic of China or specifically their government.)

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