Reconstructing the errors from television history [Blog post]

Harmes, Marcus (2016) Reconstructing the errors from television history [Blog post]. CST Online, 30 June 2016.

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‘Billy Fluff’ is a moment in Doctor Who from 1963 to 1966 when William Hartnell, the lead actor playing the Doctor, ‘fluffs’ or blows one of his lines. Some are legendary, including ‘anti-radiation gloves’ and ‘cinders floating about in Spain’.

But a collection of them on YouTube is only six minutes long. Given that Hartnell appeared for three years and the show ran nearly all year in that time, that is not actually a great deal of dialogue. Nor are all of them in the YouTube collection actual ‘fluffed’ lines. His declaration ‘this is a madhouse, it’s all full of Arabs’ may not be politically correct, but it is not garbled either.

One issue with the Billy Fluffs is that pointing them out could be tasteless, given suggestions his health was declining, as suggested on the fan site The TARDIS Data Core. Another is that the notion of the ‘Billy Fluff’ trivialises Hartnell and brings a highly professional actor’s professionalism into question.

I’m far from being the first to call out the notion of the Billy Fluff. A column by the ‘Watcher’ in Doctor Who Magazine some years ago pointed instead to his immense ability to perform before the cameras and other commentators point out the focus on them is unfair.

But chances are that people who have seen a Hartnell episode might not have seen any other example of an early 1960s drama production made in the same circumstances. Once viewed in context, there seems even less reason to single out a fluffed line as a ‘Billy Fluff’.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Blog post available at supplied URL.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Open Access College (1 Jul 2013 - 7 Jun 2020)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Open Access College (1 Jul 2013 - 7 Jun 2020)
Date Deposited: 16 May 2017 05:29
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2021 01:34
Uncontrolled Keywords: Doctor Who (television program); television production
Fields of Research (2008): 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media > 190204 Film and Television
Fields of Research (2020): 36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3605 Screen and digital media > 360505 Screen media
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing

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