We all know of Jeremy Bentham the social reformer, the campaigner against slavery, the champion of the rights of women, the advocate of animal rights, of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and the orginator of the philosophical school of utilitarianism – ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’.
But what often gets overlooked is that, whilst he was doing all these things, he was also writing for Doctor Who Weekly. Whilst he would spend most of the day developing the principles of government and civil liberty, during the evenings he would put all that aside to write up synopses of early William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton adventures and compile ‘Fact Files’ for such august luminaries of the silver screen as Jackie Lane and Richard Franklin.
Sometimes, inevitably, his two roles would become confused. Who can forget the edition of Doctor Who Weekly where the ‘Matrix Data Bank’ included a critique of the work of John Stuart Mill? Or when, in his ‘Fragment on Government’, he broke off from a discussion on the merits of free trade to answer an inquiry from the ubiquitous Graeme Bassett of Grimsby to identify all the monsters seen in flashback in The Mind of Evil?
The influence of Jeremy Bentham on Doctor Who fandom is immeasurable. Without his nurturing influence, it wouldn’t be what it is today – yes, it’s all his fault. Remember that next time you’re passing his stuffed remains in the cloisters of University College, London. That’s why Doctor Who fan gatherings were called Panopticons; not, as you might suspect, as a reference to the capitol of the Time Lords, but as a tribute to his concept of a prison where the prisoners feel they are being constantly stared at. Which, having been to a couple of conventions, is a pretty accurate description.