Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (4.85 MB)

Same but Different: Chaos and TV Drama Narratives

Download (4.85 MB)
posted on 2021-12-07, 12:13 authored by McLachlan, Alison

Complexity is a term that is now commonly used when discussing TV serial dramas and the way that, in recent years, creators and producers of this narrative form have embraced innovative and challenging strategies to tell their stories. As a result, it is also often argued that all TV serial dramas are strikingly different from one another; one of the few things that contemporary TV serial dramas have in common is their employment of complex narrative strategies. However, in this thesis, I argue that—while serial dramas are different from one another in many ways—they are also all the same at a fundamental level.  In order to examine the fundamental narrative components that all serial dramas employ, I use chaos as a framework. Chaos is a branch of mathematics and science which examines systems that display unpredictable behaviour that is actually determined by deep structures of order and stability. At its most basic level, chaos corresponds with the way in which serial dramas are both complex and simple at the same time; beneath the complexity of serial dramas are fundamental building blocks that are used to generate innovative, challenging and unpredictable narratives.  I apply the findings from my critical examination of chaos and TV drama narratives to the creation of my own TV projects, which employ the inherent structures and patterns of TV drama narratives in a way that produces innovative and complex stories. In doing so, I intend to highlight the potential of serial dramas to be endlessly creative yet consistently the same.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Media Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

International Institute of Modern Letters

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Duncum, Ken; de Bruin, Joost