Classical monsters in new Doctor Who fan fiction

Amanda Potter

Open University, United Kingdom

[0.1] Abstract—Although a number of classic Doctor Who episodes featured story lines and characters drawn from Greek myth, no new Who episodes based on Greek myth appeared until seasons 5 and 6, in 2010 and 2011. These episodes featured Pandora's box, the Minotaur, and a Siren. They all use the mythical monster or artifact outside of its ancient Greek context, and I argue that the mythical monsters were additions to earlier story ideas. I compare this with the treatment of the myths of the Minotaur and the Sirens in five stories posted to between 2008 and 2013. These stories all engage with classical myths, and the longest, "Lure of the Sirens," even engages with different versions of the myth of the Sirens. In this article I discuss how the writers use the classical myths within their stories, and how the myths fit in with the primary aims of the writers, for example in developing romantic relationships between characters.

[0.2] Keywords—Greek myth; Minotaur; Sirens; Theseus

Potter, Amanda. 2016. "Classical Monsters in New Doctor Who Fan Fiction." In "The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work," edited by Ika Willis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 21.

1. Introduction: New Who and Greek myth

[1.1] Story lines and characters from Greek myth have been borrowed by classic Doctor Who writers repeatedly, though infrequently. The first story to do so was "The Myth Makers" serial (1965), from the third season of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. "The Myth Makers" was based on the story of the Trojan War, which it treated as a historical event to which the Doctor and his companions time-traveled. "The Myth Makers" has been referred to by some critics as a "historical" serial, with features in common with other early historical serials such as "Marco Polo" (1964), "The Aztecs" (1964), and "The Romans" (1964) (Kilburn 2007; Keen 2010a, 2010b). Later serials featuring story lines taken from Greek mythology include "The Mind Robber" (1968), "The Time Monster" (1972), "Underworld" (1978), and "The Horns of Nimon" (1979–80). These latter two feature Tom Baker as the Doctor, and shift the stories of Jason and the Argonauts and Theseus and the Minotaur into space.

[1.2] When Doctor Who returned to our television screens, with Russell T. Davies as showrunner, after a 15-year hiatus, the mix of historical episodes alongside episodes set in space returned (note 1), although as Lisa Kerrigan has commented, the historical settings in the first season tended to be used as "background" rather than being placed at the heart of the story (2010, 149–50). The Doctor Who spin-off series included episodes based on Greek myth: Torchwood included "Greeks Bearing Gifts" (1.7, 2006), based loosely on the story of Philoctetes (Potter 2010), and The Sarah Jane Adventures included the two-part episode "The Eye of the Gorgon" (1.3–4, 2007). However, it was not until 2010 that Greek myth overtly returned to Doctor Who, with four episodes in quick succession. The climax of Steven Moffatt's first season as showrunner included the appearance of the Pandorica, a version of Pandora's box, in "The Pandorica Opens" (5.12) and "The Big Bang" (5.13). These episodes were followed in 2011 by "The Curse of the Black Spot" (6.3), featuring a Siren, and "The God Complex" (6.11), featuring a Minotaur and written by Toby Whithouse, who had also written "Greeks Bearing Gifts" for Torchwood.

[1.3] What all these episodes have in common is that they use a monster or (in the case of the Pandorica) an artifact from Greek mythology, but remove it completely from its mythical context. In "The God Complex" an alien creature, which is called a Minotaur, is imprisoned in a maze-like hotel, feeding on people who have strong belief systems, until the Doctor removes this food source and allows the Minotaur to die. In "The Curse of the Black Spot" a Siren appears and takes people from a pirate ship when they are injured or sick. The pirate crew, the Doctor, and his companions initially believe that she is preying on the weak. Later they find out that she is an alien hologram taking the sick and injured to her spaceship to be treated. In "The Pandorica Opens" (5.12) and "The Big Bang" (5.13) the Pandorica is a trap conceived by the Doctor's enemies on the basis of his companion Amy's memory of the story of Pandora's box, her favorite story in childhood.

[1.4] None of these episodes engage directly with the ancient sources of the myths; the monsters and artifact are convenient plot devices. In "Heartbreak Hotel," a 2011 episode of Doctor Who Confidential, writer Whithouse explains that the initial idea for "The God Complex" was developed out of Steven Moffatt's suggestion that "the Doctor and Amy are stranded in a hotel, and the corridors and rooms keep shifting, so that they're completely lost. When discussing what monster might lurk at the heart of this maze I immediately thought of the Minotaur." Similarly, Steve Thompson, writer of "The Curse of the Black Spot," was asked by Steven Moffatt "to write a pirate episode" (Hickman 2011, 51), and a Siren was only later chosen as a suitable creature for sailors to meet at sea. It is useful to compare the treatment of Greek mythology in these episodes with the treatment of the Gorgon in The Sarah Jane Adventures two-part episode "The Eye of the Gorgon," written for a younger audience. In this story, although the Gorgon is an alien who resides with a community of nuns in modern-day London, Sarah Jane reads the story of the Gorgons from Greek mythology to her young protégée Maria. The tie-in book goes even further in explaining the myth behind the story (Ford 2007). It would seem that an important purpose of "The Eye of the Gorgon" is to educate the young viewers about the myth, a purpose that is missing from the new Who episodes (note 2).

[1.5] As a classicist and a fan of Doctor Who, I was ambivalent about "The Curse of the Black Spot" and "The God Complex." On the one hand I was pleased to see the monsters sympathetically portrayed in them. Particularly refreshing was the portrayal of the Siren in the first; it is often depicted as a femme fatale, but in "The Curse of the Black Spot" the Siren cures sick men rather than luring them to their deaths. And while the Minotaur had been portrayed as a mindless monster to be destroyed in two episodes of classic Who, "The Mind Robber" (1968) and "The Time Monster" (1972), and Minotaurs (Nimons) as a race of (evil) aliens seeking to dominate another planet in "The Horns of Nimon" (1979–80), in "The God Complex" it is a character who wants to stop killing people and die. That these monsters appear in the episodes at all indicates that they are a part of our shared heritage, passed down from Greek mythology via children's books through to film and television. Whithouse states that he "immediately" thought of a Minotaur as a suitable monster to appear in a maze, and the viewer is expected to recognize the monster with little need for explanation, as Amy does in "The God Complex," asking whether it is "a Minotaur, or an alien, or an alien Minotaur?"

[1.6] On the other hand I did not find the mix of ideas in these episodes to work well together, as there was not enough space in each episode to explore any of them fully. In "The God Complex," I felt that more space should have been devoted to the idea of rooms containing one's deepest fears, as well as the parallel between the Doctor and the Minotaur. Similarly, in "Curse of the Black Spot," the lengthy exposition of what the monster was and what she was doing did not provide enough space to fully explore the notion of the Siren as a holographic doctor. The "Curse of the Black Spot" episode of Doctor Who Confidential implies that it was a pirate story that only happened to include a Siren; showrunner Steven Moffatt and members of the crew discuss how it includes all the elements expected in a pirate story: a stowaway, a storm at sea, the black spot (a marker for a pirate chosen to die in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island), walking the plank, and swordfights. This episode of Doctor Who Confidential focuses on the fight choreography and the special effects required to create the storm and only mentions the Siren once, when she makes Amy fall backward, for which the actress needed a stunt double. This Siren in Doctor Who, like the Sirens in Greek mythology, has only a voice to sing, and no voice to speak, which for me somewhat undermined the ostensibly positive representation of a female monster. I realize that I am perhaps hoping for more sophistication than a 45-minute episode of a family show allows, but I was not alone in my reaction to these two episodes.

[1.7] I collected fan reactions to the episodes by posting links to online surveys on Doctor Who fan sites in November 2011, less than two months after "The God Complex" was first broadcast on BBC1 (note 3). Nearly all respondents knew the Greek myths of the Sirens and the Minotaur, and many were, like me, ambivalent about the use of these myths in the episodes. For example, although many fans liked the use of the Minotaur in "The God Complex," some felt, as I did, that the mythical Minotaur was "shoehorned in" and "could have been explored more." Viewers were also ambivalent about the Siren. Many liked the "twist" that she turned out not to be a monster at all, but many also felt that, as one viewer stated, ultimately she was "yet another female character without the ability to speak for herself."

[1.8] I decided to look into whether fan fiction writers had used these monsters from Greek mythology in their stories and, if so, whether they had made the mythic characters more central to their stories than the recent episodes had. This article considers five Doctor Who stories posted on (note 4). One featured the Minotaur and four featured the Sirens. Three of the stories included the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, and the other two included the Eleventh, played by Matt Smith. Four were short works of less than 7,000 words and one was the length of a short novel, with 56,000 words split into 29 chapters. This might seem to be a very small sample compared with the large corpus of Who stories posted on (over 69,000 in September 2015), but a similar search for the Gorgons and the Furies found no stories. Clearly the Minotaur and the Sirens have resonated with at least a few Doctor Who television and fan fiction writers, when other classical monsters have not.

2. A trip back in time to meet the Minotaur

[2.1] "The Maiden and the Minotaur," written by greengirl666 in 2008, differs from the other four stories not only in that it features the Minotaur rather than the Sirens, but also in that it is a "historical" story, like "The Myth Makers." In it, the Doctor travels in time to ancient Crete. (He is clearly the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, since the story takes place after the season 3 finale and describes his blue suit, Tennant's costume, as looking out of place in ancient Crete.) The story includes an original character, the 16-year-old Elphie or Elphis, whose name comes from the Greek elpis, "hope." Readers of fan fiction would tend to see Elphie as a "Mary Sue" character, a representation of the writer, a device sometimes frowned upon by other fan fiction writers and readers when it is used instead of a canonical character (Busse and Hellekson 2006, 11). However, as Ika Willis has argued, a writer can place a Mary Sue character in a subject position not available to the canonical characters (2006). Elphie becomes the Doctor's companion when he finds her injured and bleeding and takes her to the TARDIS to tend to her injuries. At her request he puts the TARDIS on "random" in order to "just see where we turn up."

[2.2] The writer of "The Maiden and the Minotaur" engages directly with the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and in a short story (less than 3,000 words) she includes references to two other myths. She seems to be using the story to display her knowledge of these myths. First Elphie offers to tell the story of King Midas to children who are waiting to be taken to the Minotaur's labyrinth. Then the Doctor tells Elphie the story of Pandora:

[2.3] "Pandora and her husband were given a box by the gods that they had to look after, but never open. Of course curiosity got the better of Pandora and she opened it. All that is wrong poured out of the box. Hate, jealousy, anger, death, old age. But the last thing to leave the box was a tiny silvery butterfly." He pulled out her necklace. There was a tiny silver butterfly on it.

[2.4] "It was Elphis. Hope. They [the children] think that you are a personification of hope."

[2.5] This is a version of the Pandora story familiar from children's books, where hope is often shown as a butterfly (e.g., Alexander 2011, 45). There is no evidence that greengirl666 has looked at ancient sources of the myth of Pandora; indeed, the Doctor's story includes the modern concept of Pandora's box, rather than the pithos (jar) mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days. However, the box would be more familiar to most modern readers of the story, and so perhaps she has deliberately chosen not to refer back to the original but less familiar jar. She is, after all, aware that the Greek word for hope is elpis, although she uses "Elphis," the name of the character, in this passage.

[2.6] The story of Theseus and the Minotaur is changed to offer a more compassionate ending for the creature than appears in ancient sources, such as Ovid's poem Metamorphoses (8.166–82) and the compendium of Greek myths known as Apollodorus' Bibliotheka (1.7–10). As in popular versions of the story, seven boys and seven girls are to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, and one of these boys is Theseus, although he initially gives his name as Ares, that of the god of war. He tells Elphie, "I came here of free will. My father knows I am here and I vowed to kill the Minotaur." The daughter of the king of Crete gives him a ball of string to help him find his way out of the labyrinth, although she is not named as Ariadne. When face to face with the Minotaur in the labyrinth Theseus produces his sword, but the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to stop the Minotaur and talks to it: "Hello, I'm the Doctor. You don't want to eat them. Look at them, all skin and bones. Am I right in thinking that you are not from here? Would you like to go home?" Theseus is surprised by the Doctor's behavior, saying, "It is a monster! I must destroy it!" but the Doctor asks, "And how do you think he sees you, hmm? You don't have to kill everything that you don't understand."

[2.7] Theseus pretends that he has slain the Minotaur and becomes a hero, and the Doctor and Elphie take the Minotaur back to its "desolate home" planet in the TARDIS. Anticipating the sympathetic treatment of the Minotaur in "The God Complex," we find that the Doctor can speak to the Minotaur and that it is a lonely creature that just wants to go home to its family. With the Doctor's intervention, the story can remain the familiar myth of Theseus killing the Minotaur, but the Minotaur can also be saved.

[2.8] Although it is an unsophisticated story probably written by a young and inexperienced writer (it has many grammatical and typographical errors, and the style is not proficient), to me "The Maiden and the Minotaur" is a more satisfying reworking of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur than both the Doctor Who serial "The Horns of Nimon" and the episode "The God Complex." "The Horns of Nimon" resorts to thinly veiled clues to the origin of the story and includes numerous creatures that are not particularly believable as monsters. "The God Complex" uses the Minotaur as a monster, and although our sympathy is engaged the Minotaur is not integral to the story. In "The Maiden and the Minotaur" the sympathetic Minotaur is saved through the intervention of the Doctor, while the original story is simultaneously maintained to be told as we know it today.

3. Sirens from space

[3.1] The writers of the four stories featuring the Sirens—"The Sirens of Titan," "The Volcano of Ignitus," "Songbirds and Sirens," and "Lure of the Sirens"—seem to be more experienced fans than greengirl666; three of them have posted significantly more stories to than she has, and the online profile of the fourth makes clear that she is widely read in fan fiction. "Songbirds and Sirens" is a slightly longer story than "The Maiden and the Minotaur"; its author, who goes by "Prone to Obsession," first posted it in 2009 and updated it in 2011. She indicates to her readers, "I'm not really comfortable with this type of story," as "I mainly do one-shots of fluff," and her reviewers have made some suggestions for improvement, which she has taken up: she "split the last chapter into two parts, hopefully built up a little more dramatic tension at the end here before delving straight into the resolution." This is a good example of collaboration among fan fiction reader/reviewers and writers, and illustrates how to some extent all fan fiction is "work in progress" (Busse and Hellekson 2006, 6–8) that is always growing and never fixed. (Reviewers of "The Maiden and the Minotaur" similarly suggested that its author check for errors and display dialogue more clearly; such comments are meant as encouragement to continue writing and to improve.)

[3.2] "Songbirds and Sirens" features the Tenth Doctor and the canonical characters Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale. Sally Sparrow is thought of by some viewers as a Doctor Who companion who never was, as she only appeared in one episode, "Blink" (2007, 3.10; Den of Geek, "10 Doctor Who Companions That Might Have Been," August 21, 2008, Larry Nightingale was Sally's best friend's brother in "Blink," and the episode ends with Sally and Larry hand in hand and potentially about to embark on a romantic relationship. "Songbirds and Sirens" takes place in Brighton a year and a half after the end of "Blink," and Sally and Larry have been dating all this time. They meet the Doctor unexpectedly on Brighton Pier. This is the first time the three of them have met since "Blink," and as they start to talk they see "three women sitting on the large rocks a few meters out. The women were singing some…ancient…haunting…song…"

[3.3] It transpires that these three women are Sirens (note 5). The Doctor explains, "The La'ameras, what you know as Sirens, crash landed on Earth hundreds of years ago. Went terrorizing, well, Greece, apparently. Then they just disappeared. No trace. It would appear they've fallen through time and landed here." The Siren song affects both Larry and Sally, as the Doctor tells them that the Sirens/La'ameras are able to use their song to "form a psychic link with their…prey," allowing them to control the brain while "feeding off of our brain wave energy." Although these La'ameras appear particularly "vicious" to the Doctor, his initial aim is not to kill them but rather to communicate with them. The Doctor rejects Sally's idea to use earplugs, following the example of Odysseus' use of beeswax in the Odyssey, as the La'ameras "can get inside your head, transmit the song psychically, they don't need literal music." Instead the Doctor uses a bicycle helmet to make "a psychic damper. Like, beeswax, for a psychic song." However, he is unable to enable two-way communication using the helmet, and thinks back to the example of Odysseus, who "didn't use the beeswax. He strapped himself to the mast, but he was basically vulnerable." The Doctor removes the helmet and speaks directly to the La'ameras/Sirens, telling them, "I know you crashed, but that doesn't mean you can stay. I can take you home."

[3.4] As in "The Maiden and the Minotaur," the Doctor in this story wants not to kill the monsters, but to take them back to their own time and place. Unlike the Minotaur, the Sirens will not "leave peacefully," but instead "[bare] vicious fangs as they [swim] the few metres to the shore," causing the Doctor to collapse. With the help of a remote control provided by the Doctor, and Sally's instructions from the TARDIS on which buttons to press, Larry manages to destroy the "La'ameras, who were a foot away and ready to lunge forward," but instead "suddenly collaps[e], writhing in agony, then slowly [fall] still." Once revived, the Doctor explains that the remote "magnified the psychic field, reversed it. Drowned them in energy. Burnt up their brains." The story ends with Sally and Larry leaving with the Doctor for further adventures.

[3.5] In this story all three characters work together to save Brighton from the Sirens, and although the Doctor can be seen as an Odysseus figure, allowing himself to hear the Sirens, it is only with the help of his companions that the Sirens can be destroyed. Of the trio it is Sally who remembers the story of Odysseus tying himself to the mast and plugging the ears of his crew with beeswax, and Larry displays the courage to face the Sirens with the remote control, aided by the psychic dampener built into the bicycle helmet and by Sally's instructions, which she reads from a screen in the TARDIS. Unlike Odysseus, the Doctor displays sympathy for the Sirens, while Odysseus is merely curious to hear their song. But ultimately the Sirens/La'ameras in "The Song of the Sirens" will not accept the Doctor's offer of help to get them home, and have to be destroyed. A superior hero on two counts, the Doctor, aided by his companions, first tries to save the Sirens and then causes their destruction, when Odysseus only manages to sail past them without casualties, leaving them to find new victims, or to die because they have been passed by (Murgatroyd 2007, 47).

[3.6] "The Volcano of Ignitus," written by 101sophist, is a 7,000-word story featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Clara, and was posted to in 2013. The writer states that the story "was created by my friend and I" and so is a collaborative work. Although 101sophist has posted only one other story on, she is clearly an experienced reader of fan fiction, listing 169 favorite stories and 94 favorite authors on her profile page, where she states that she loves "fangirling." In this story the Doctor intends to take Clara on a sightseeing tour on board a submarine, "through a boiling ocean to a mildly active volcano." On their way to the submarine Clara is tricked into wanting to swim in what seems like a calm sea, but the Doctor points out that this is an illusion intended to lure her to her death. Clara sees "the scariest thing she has ever seen" in the water, a creature with "shiny, transparent skin, fanged teeth, and webbed hands and feet," and the Doctor explains that this is a Siren. They meet a young human soldier who tells them that submarine tours have been stopped and the area is under quarantine, as the Sirens have been killing people. The soldier explains that "if you hear them singing it is too late for you." Clara remembers reading about the Sirens in the Odyssey at school and is keen to know whether these creatures, who turn out to be called the Sereia, are in fact the Sirens of Greek mythology. She hopes that "they aren't the same thing because hardly anyone can escape them." The Doctor initially tells her that the mythological Sirens do not exist. When she returns to this theme, hoping this time that the creatures will turn out to be Sirens, the Doctor chides her for treating the situation like a "game" featuring "little creatures out of a fairy tale," rather than the reality of events where "people have died" and more "people will die."

[3.7] The Doctor offers to help the soldiers, and he and Clara board the submarine to go to find the Sirens. The submarine is attacked by one of the Sereia, who is shot by Taylor, one of the soldiers. Before it dies it explains that the Sereia will not give up their planet or become slaves to the humans. The Sereia have been killing the humans in order to save themselves, before the humans wipe them out. The Doctor offers to talk to the Sereia to try to come to a peaceful agreement, before the soldiers blow up the volcano in order to destroy them. The Doctor and Clara are taken to the Prime, leader of the Sereia, and the Doctor offers peace with the humans, but the Prime does not believe that the humans would honor this agreement and would rather have the Sereia die with their "freedom" and "pride" intact than risk enslavement by the humans. The Doctor is also unconvinced that the humans would treat the Sereia honorably should they agree to peace. As he says to Clara, "It's better if they all die now than later, imprisoned and dying a slow death." The Doctor and Clara escape as the volcano is destroyed, and along with it all the Sereia; he tells her that the "great Sereia race" has become "another group of creatures I couldn't save." But Clara tells him that he is a "hero" because he tried to help the Sereia, who "chose not to listen." As in "Songbirds and Sirens," the Doctor only allows the Sirens to be destroyed when they do not agree to a peaceful solution. However, we have sympathy for the Sereia, as their home has been taken over by the humans who have tried to enslave them, and—like the Sereia and the Doctor—we are unsure whether the peace offered by the humans would have been true peace or imprisonment and enslavement.

[3.8] In this story, Clara's knowledge of Greek mythology does not help her and the Doctor to either save or defeat the Sirens, as it does in "Songbirds and Sirens." It turns out to be irrelevant, in a story that focuses on the cruelty of a war between humans and other species, which the humans think of as "beasts" rather than the "sentient, intelligent" beings that they are, and on the danger a life with the Doctor poses to companions and friends. The Doctor thinks back to people he has been unable to save, like Rita, who is taken by the Minotaur in "The God Complex," and Astrid, who sacrifices herself in "Voyage of the Damned" (2007). The story includes a flashback to Tegan, the companion of a previous incarnation of the Doctor, who chose to leave him because "a lot of good people died" and she had "become sick of it." The Doctor is worried about putting Clara in constant danger, as he has done with so many women before her, and tells her that traveling with him "isn't always going to be fun." But at the end of the story she hugs him, reminding him that he is a hero. He tells her, "Clara Oswin Oswald, you never stop surprising me," and both the Doctor and readers of the story realize that this "newest companion" is here to stay.

[3.9] "Sirens of Titan" is the shortest of the stories, with less than 2,000 words, and its author, tasty-kate, describes it as "a bit of a songfic" (it's based on the lyrics of the Art in Manila song "Time Gets Us All") but "with plot." Posted in 2010, it features the Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith, and his companion Amy Pond. The context of the story is the romantic relationship between the Doctor and Amy, which is more than hinted at in canon (in "Flesh and Stone" [5.5], first broadcast two months before tasty-kate posted her story, Amy attempts to seduce the Doctor on the night before her wedding). They have arrived on Titan, in the Chvolaps galaxy, to see and hear the Sirens. The Doctor tells Amy,

[3.10] Sirens are creatures that you've probably heard [of] from mythical tales, yet they're slightly different from what you've read about. They have a humanoid-like figure yet instead of wings that come out of their backs like a bee's, their extensions are connected to what we consider our forearms and biceps. They are a sexless being, being neither female nor male and do not speak, more or less, except to sing…Sirens only sing when they have a Muse. These Muses can be any living being, yet they won't sing for anyone. They're psychic creatures that take an imprint of your unconscious and form a song on [the] spot. It will be a completely unique song and one you will have never heard, nor will ever hear again.

[3.11] Hearing the Siren's song is not always a pleasurable experience; the Doctor tells Amy that "some cite it to be therapeutic while others wish they never were sung to." Amy first encounters a Siren singing to an alien of a different species of "pain and horrors"; the Siren is turning red like blood, and causes the alien to collapse when the song is finished. Amy becomes concerned that she might become the subject of a Siren's song: "Not only could her deepest, darkest memories or secrets be thrust out in front of her, anyone who would be around would be there to witness it…including the Doctor."

[3.12] However, when she is confronted by a Siren Amy stands her ground, as she initially cannot think of anything that she would rather keep hidden. But then "she felt something tug inside her mind which she wrote off as the Siren gaining access to her memories, and then at her heart. Oh. Right. There was that bit." To Amy's discomfort, the Siren sings a song of Amy's love for the Doctor, thinly veiled by the words of the song, that is heard by the Doctor and other passers-by. When the song is over the Doctor declines a song of his own, and back on the TARDIS "Amy supposed the memory of the song would be filed under the 'Things We Don't Talk About' folder," a record of "her and the Doctor's not-relationship," which she would perhaps talk about with him "another day."

[3.13] In this story, as in "The Volcano of Ignitus," the Greek mythological background has little, if any, relevance. The only similarity between the Sirens of Greek mythology and the Sirens of Titan is that they both sing. In "Sirens of Titan" the Sirens are a plot device to allow Amy to reflect on her relationship with the Doctor, using song lyrics that resonate with the writer: lyrics about time, and one kiss, and moving on to another relationship, as Amy has with her fiancé Rory. The story is classified by the writer as Romance/Sci-Fi, and in its focus on the relationship between the Doctor and his companion it has more in common with "The Volcano of Ignitus," which is classified as Sci-Fi/Hurt/Comfort, than it does with "The Maiden and the Minotaur" and "Songbirds and Sirens," which are classified as Adventure. Although the Siren in this story bears much less resemblance to the Sirens of Greek mythology than do the La'ameras in "Songbirds and Sirens," or even the Sereia in "The Volcano of Ignitus," the figure of a female who lures a man to his death seems to be a useful character for a writer like tasty-kate, who, like many writers of fan fiction, is primarily interested in relationships between characters (Pugh 2004).

[3.14] The longest story of the five, "Lure of the Sirens," was started in 2010 and completed in 2011, and also focuses on a romantic relationship between characters from the series. The main relationship of focus is that of Rose and the Tenth Doctor, although the character of Jack Harkness is also featured. This is the only story of the five I analyzed that is rated M (suitable for mature teens and adults); the others are rated K+ (some content may not be suitable for young children) or T (contains content not suitable for children). The M rating denotes adult themes, including sex scenes between Rose and the Doctor. In her author's notes to various chapters, reddwarfaddict teases the reader as to whether there really is any "TenRose" content or whether she is, as she protests, "entirely innocent" of writing such material, and—for example—Rose is "asleep and simply snuggled up to him, like any half-asleep woman would."

[3.15] The story begins with Rose, the Doctor, and Jack taking a holiday: "a boat cruise, just the three of them, on the beautiful island of Cha'po on the planet Kail." The trio sail into a storm and hear "a beautiful piece of music emanating from across the ocean." Jack wants to follow the music, and when the Doctor tries to stop him, fearing that Jack is under some sort of "hypnotic control," Jack shoots him in the leg. Rose knocks Jack out, and he is conveniently unconscious throughout the hurt/comfort episode that follows, beginning with Rose tending to the Doctor's wound (on hurt/comfort, see Busse and Hellekson 2006, 10–11, and Green, Jenkins, and Jenkins 2006, 84–85). Meanwhile the Doctor reveals to Rose that he has heard about music like this before, "something that's only been written about on Earth." He explains,

[3.16] "Greek Mythology. Nothing's too concrete, but the most common story is that the Sirens were three sea nymphs who lived on an island in the middle of the sea, playing beautiful music that lured unknowing sailors to the Sirens' island and to their deaths."

[3.17] "So we're caught in the middle of a myth?" She got the bullet out, and began to work on bandaging the wound up.

[3.18] He shrugged. "Like you say, it's just a myth. But that doesn't mean it didn't stem from somewhere. Something real from this planet itself that's somehow echoed across the Universe and straight into Earth's history."

[3.19] TenRose, a romantic and sexual relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, is one of the main purposes of the story, and Jack could easily become superfluous or create an inconvenient potential love triangle. Therefore the author has him break through the side of the ship as soon as he regains consciousness and swim toward the sound of the Sirens. He is killed by a shark-like Kailan Leviathan and, although he is immortal, he takes some time to revive. Meanwhile the Doctor and Rose have plenty of time alone to share intimate moments swimming for shore and drying their clothes on the island where they are shipwrecked. Once he has revived, Jack must be tied to a tree to prevent him from following the Sirens' music again. However, released from the tree when the Sirens stop singing, Jack soon needs to save Rose and the Doctor from the "widowmakers," the native bears, dying and reviving a few times while his wounded companions get away. This provides the opportunity for more hurt/comfort for the Doctor and Rose without Jack.

[3.20] The Doctor, Rose, and Jack are found by local villagers. The Doctor spends time convalescing, recovering from the bullet wound inflicted unintentionally by Jack, and he and Rose declare their love for one another. Rose is already expecting a happy ending, as she has met a future version of the Doctor and their children. They find that the male villagers are kept in a "holding area" at night to prevent them from following the Siren's song, and Jack and the Doctor need to be detained with them, as now the Doctor is also being affected. In his wish to follow the music the Doctor hurts Rose, and to prevent this happening again they are "bonded"; the Doctor tells Rose, "We'll always be a part of each other, and we'll know what the other's feeling." This bonding process is followed by a lot of sex. However, overnight the men break out of the holding area, and although Rose saves the Doctor, Jack and the other men leave to follow the Siren's song. The Doctor decides to go after them, and Rose accompanies him. On the way the Doctor explains the myth of the Sirens to Rose:

[3.21] According to Greek Mythology, and believe me there are a million different versions, but my favourite story is that they were human handmaidens of the Goddess of Spring Bounty, Persephone. She was abducted by Hades as an adolescent, dragged to the Underworld in order for her to be his Queen because he had a bit of a crush on her. Persephone's Mother, Demeter, the Goddess of Bountiful Harvest, was so worried for Persephone she began a massive search, and the Sirens joined in. They prayed for wings to help the search, and the gods granted their wish, turning them into half-human half-birds. But they gave up and settled on an island. There they played their enchanting music, luring unsuspecting sailors to a messy death on the rocks."

[3.22] The story of the Sirens' transformation into birds can be found in Ovid's Metamorphoses (5.552–62), where the poet conjectures that the maidens might have prayed for wings to help search for their mistress Proserpina. In the Latin compendium of myths known as Hyginus' Fabulae (141) the Sirens are turned into winged creatures as a punishment for not helping Proserpina, and in Apollonius' Argonautica (4.896-99) we are told that they were attendants to Persephone and are now part girl, part bird, but no detail is given as to how or why this transformation occurred.

[3.23] Reddwarfaddict goes on to relate the more well-known stories of Odysseus, who saved his crew from the Sirens, and Orpheus, who helped the Argonauts avoid them (Odyssey 12.39–55, 12.158–200; Argonautica 4.891–920; Bibliotheka 1.9.25; Fabulae 14.27; see Murgatroyd 2007, 44–56).

[3.24] "Don't suppose it mentions how to beat them?" Rose wondered, tentatively grinning.

[3.25] "Well…" The Doctor thought for a moment, lips pursed. "There are two stories of people that passed them by. Orpheus, and later Odysseus. Luckily Orpheus was very good at hammering out a tune himself, so he was able to drown out the Siren's music with his own so his crew weren't lured. Odysseus sailed by a bit later, ordering his men to stuff their ears with wax and tie him to the mast, and not to let him go no matter what he said because he was intrigued to hear what the song sounded like. They made it out of hearing range. The Sirens were so distraught that someone had heard their music but passed them by that they drowned themselves." He looked [at] her, [and] gave a half shrug. "Well, that's one of the versions anyway."

[3.26] The writer displays an understanding that Greek myths exist in many different versions. Fans are often used to working with multiple versions of stories in different media created across extended time periods (note 6). In Doctor Who, for example, stories exist in the classic and new television episodes and films and in authorized novels, audiobooks, and comics—as well as, of course, in fan fiction. In displaying the Doctor's knowledge of multiple versions of the story of the Sirens, the story also displays the writer's. Then the Doctor turns to perhaps the most well-known source of the myth, the story of Odysseus, as his inspiration. He instructs Rose to use his sonic screwdriver to make him temporarily deaf, before they enter the "the extravagant temple-like construct" that is home to the Sirens. These Sirens are winged "humanoid women as the top half" and "with the bottom half the legs of birds with claws for feet." They are blue in color, and blind.

[3.27] The Doctor is held captive and apart from Rose for some time, and is bitten by a Siren and turns partially into one. As he has failed to communicate with the Sirens, he eventually uses music to attract their attention. This could be seen as an inversion of the Orpheus story, using music to attract rather than drown out the Siren song, but the Doctor uses a recording of the band Cheeky Girls on Rose's iPod rather than the lyre, like Orpheus. He finds out that the Sirens crash-landed on Kaila, and the females were separated from their male soulmates. The females sang to attract the males, but the males were too far away to hear. The song instead had a "side effect," attracting other males, including the Doctor, Jack, and the men of the native population. The Doctor helps the female Sirens by recording and playing their song throughout the planet to find the males, and the Siren couples are reunited. Finally the Doctor takes a pregnant Rose on a flight while he still has his Siren wings.

[3.28] "Lure of the Sirens" has attracted over 200 reviews, with some reviewers commenting repeatedly as they read further. Readers express their praise for the story, and some specifically mention the use of mythology, liking that the Sirens turn out "to be good after all." However, it is the humor and plot twists that most readers comment on. Many have enjoyed reddwarfaddict's other stories; since 2006 she has posted over 60 stories featuring the Tenth Doctor to

[3.29] Reddwarfaddict has displayed a comprehensive knowledge of the myth she has chosen to base her story on. Of course her story is by far the longest of the four, giving her greater space to explore the myth of the Sirens as well as the TenRose relationship, including Rose's pregnancy and glimpses of their future and their children. She explains that she loves TenRose and babies, and she incorporates both of these into "Lure of the Sirens." The Sirens are sympathetic characters who want to find their soulmates, while the Doctor and Rose discover that they too are each other's soulmate. As in greengirl666's simpler story "The Maiden and the Minotaur," the Doctor is able to help the stranded alien creatures, who turn out not to be monsters after all. In tasty-kate's "Sirens of Titan" the Sirens are not monsters, but a race of aliens with unusual telepathic powers. In Prone to Obsession's story "Songbirds and Sirens" the La'ameras/Sirens do turn out to be monsters who have to be destroyed, but the Doctor does so only reluctantly, first trying to help send them home. And in "The Volcano of Ignitus" the Sereia/Sirens are killers, but they have been driven to this by human persecution, and again the Doctor tries to save them. This trend of making creatures from Greek mythology more sympathetic echoes the Doctor Who episodes "The God Complex" and "The Curse of the Black Spot," and new Who has done so with other monsters as well, including the most iconic monster of the Doctor Who mythos, the Dalek, in "Dalek" (1.6, 2007). The fan fiction writers I discuss here, particularly tasty-kate and reddwarfaddict, are interested in writing about the romantic relationships between characters and use the Sirens of Greek mythology to help explore these relationships. Greek mythology has, of course, been used by writers to explore relationships from the earliest ancient sources onward. When asked to defend the study of fan fiction, I have half-jokingly suggested that Shakespeare wrote Ovid fan fiction. There is also a large body of online fan fiction based primarily on mythology, rather than on modern texts like Doctor Who, and I have argued elsewhere that Madeline Miller's 2011 novel The Song of Achilles, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, is Iliad fan fiction (Potter 2015, 228).

4. Conclusion

[4.1] Fan fiction writers can have more space to explore the creatures of Greek mythology than the commercial writers for Doctor Who, who have only the length of a 45-minute episode. In a world of "work in progress," with no writing deadline or production schedule to meet, fan fiction writers can choose to write as little or as much as they like. Yet, irrespective of story length, to a greater or lesser degree each of the five fan fiction writers I discuss here has chosen to explicitly ground her story in the world of Greek mythology, in a way that the television writers have not. 101Sophist, Prone to Obsession, and reddwarfaddict specifically mention the Odyssey or Odysseus; greengirl666 refers to a number of stories from Greek mythology; and tasty-kate brings together two concepts from Greek mythology, the muse who encourages the artist and the Siren who sings. I would suggest that they have used the myths as a starting point to create their own stories about the Doctor and his companions, while the television writers have used them to fill a gap, the need for a monster within a predetermined story about, for example, a hotel or a pirate ship. This strategy is used by other long-running series that need a monster of the week, and whose writers raid the cultural archives to supply this need. Examples include the US series Charmed (1998–2006) and Supernatural (2005–), which have episodes featuring Furies and Amazons, respectively, as well as other monsters such as vampires and werewolves. As Dunstan Lowe has found, "symbols from the classical tradition are often decontextualized, and freely mixed with elements from other cultures or from fantasy" in video games and in popular media more generally, and creators, viewers, and players can choose to "reject or invert cultural canons and hierarchies, but—first and foremost—they are free not to recognise them in the first place" (2009, 85). Lowe provides an example of the use of Medusa in the Castlevania series of games, which are "primarily inspired by gothic horror" (85).

[4.2] Two Doctor Who stories from season 15, "Underworld" (1978) and "The Horns of Nimon" (1979–80), are built around the myths, but rely on audience members having "certain privileged information" that enables them to identify the character of Jackson in "Underworld" with Jason and that of Seth in "The Horns of Nimon" with Theseus (Tulloch and Alvarado 1983, 146). Producers Graham Williams and John Nathan-Turner would disagree with this claim; Williams, who was series producer for "Underworld" and "The Horns of Nimon" believes that that "[Underworld] as a story, I think it stands on its own," while Nathan-Turner, who replaced Williams as series producer, thinks that making "a sort of in-joke of the whole thing" and relying on "a small percentage of the audience" picking up that "Underworld" is a retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts is "not very clever at all" (Tulloch and Alvarado 1983, 146). I tend to agree with Nathan-Turner, and find that using myth in this way results in less entertaining episodes. At the other end of the spectrum, "The Curse of the Black Spot" and "The God Complex" do not rely on the audience having prior knowledge about the mythical monsters in the episodes, any more than a player of Castlevania needs to know the story of Medusa. But personally, as a classicist and a fan, I find the stories created by the fan fiction writers more interesting than the episodes in the way that they reuse and reinvent the classical monsters, putting them at the heart of the stories, while providing enough context for readers unfamiliar with the myths to understand where they have come from. And since Doctor Who, like so much fan fiction, can be described as a work in progress, with over 50 years so far of new writers telling new stories of new Doctors, then in the future we may find that classical myths are reinvented in new and exciting ways, both onscreen and in fan fiction.

5. Notes

1. A number of historical periods have been featured, including the Roman Empire, 16th-century Venice, 18th-century France, Shakespearean London, and Victorian and World War II Britain.

2. Doctor Who was initially conceived as having an "educational brief," but this soon lapsed in favor of pure entertainment (O'Mahony 2007, 61). On the use of new Who material on the Internet for educational purposes, see Evans 2013.

3. The surveys can be found at and

4. I found these stories by searching for Doctor Who stories containing the word "Siren," "Sirens," or "Minotaur," and discarding results that were unfinished, that were crossovers with unrelated properties, or that rewrote existing episodes rather than describing original adventures.

5. Although Homer gives the number of the Sirens as two, it is not surprising to have three represented. Three Sirens are named in Apollodorus' Bibliotheka (7.18) and in Hyginus' Fabulae, Theogony 30, although the accounts give them different names. Supernatural female characters in Greek mythology often appear in threes, such as the Fates, the Graeae, and the Gorgons, and in later sources the Furies. The Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Ulysses" (2.19) also presents three Sirens.

6. I found in my doctoral research that fans of Xena: Warrior Princess and Charmed tended to be more aware that myths exist in different versions than were my control group of nonfan, nonclassicist viewers, who tended to believe that there must be one true version of each myth.

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