Alison McLachlan

Alison examined the relationship between chaos theory and narrative complexity in television dramas, to inform the story and structure of her own TV series.

PhD awarded 2019

Alison has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Film from University of Auckland, a BA (hons) from Victoria University of Wellington, and a Masters in Creative Writing from the IIML. She was awarded the David Carson-Parker Embassy Prize in 2013 for her MA script – a television drama titled The Staceys.

Alison writes: 'For my project I looked at the relationship between chaos theory and TV narratives. Chaos theory is the study of non-linear dynamics, which examines the idea that hidden within the unpredictability of chaotic systems are deep structures of order, and that hidden within structures of order are random and unpredictable systems. Complex systems often rely upon an underlying order and, in turn, very simple or small systems can be the cause of complex behaviours or events.

'I see parallels between chaos theory and TV narratives, in that a television series as a whole can be seen as a single and cohesive structure or frame that contains progressively smaller frames and structures – seasons, episodes, acts, and multiple plot-lines and character arcs that interweave, collide, and sometimes never meet or even end – all of which are then "reassembled" through the process of reception and interpretation.

'For my creative component I wrote three separate TV series, each adhering to a central idea in chaos theory that the sensitive dependence of initial conditions are an inescapable consequence of the way small scales intertwine with large. [1] In each project I placed the "initial condition" at different points in the narratives so as to explore and emphasise the multitude of story-telling possibilities in television.'

[1] Gleick, J. Chaos: The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable. London: Vintage, 1998.