Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Sun Oct 28, 2018 2:42 am

"Rosa" is the strongest of the three Chibnall/Whittaker Doctor Who episodes so far. As this episode aired, I saw a lot of reaction on Twitter, from non-Doctor Who fans, which assumed that an episode about Rosa Parks was by nature an exercise in extreme bad taste. A lot of vomit emojis, and people saying they would rather poke their own eyes out than watch this. It felt at times like they'd mistaken Doctor Who for Rick and Morty.

Part of the original premise of Doctor Who in 1963 was that the characters would travel through time and make history come alive for the young viewers. The historical episodes, which involved no monsters and science fiction elements apart from the main cast, were a major part of the show when it starred William Hartnell's Doctor. By today's standards these were usually better episodes than the often ropey science fiction stories, as the cast and crew were familiar with producing period drama. However they were less popular with young audiences. This type of story was dropped from the show entirely as Patrick Troughton took over the part. The show focused on The Doctor fighting monsters, and from that point on, any story which had a period setting would also include sci-fi and monster elements (except maybe Black Orchid).

The Russell T. Davies era in 2005 introduced the "Celebrity Historical," in which The Doctor and company meet someone famous from history, and also fight a monster of some kind. The first involved Charles Dickens and the ghostly Gelth. The series didn't really do this sort of thing in the 70s and 80s, but it was a staple of the revived series to feature well-known figures like Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare. The Steven Moffat series did this most notably with Vincent Van Gogh, in the well-received Vincent and the Doctor - a more serious story which focused less on the monster of the week than on Van Gogh's struggle with mental illness.

Even with "Vincent and the Doctor" in mind, "Rosa" feels like something new for the revived series. I said of the Chibnall series so far that it's often lacked the cartoony fun of previous Doctor Who, but has worked surprisingly well as more subdued, serious drama. It does walk the edge of bad taste that our heroes are there with Rosa Parks on the bus, and get caught up in all kinds of shenanigans as well as the growing civil rights movement of 1955. But I can't imagine Doctor Who handling it any other way. The point is that we see these events through the lead characters' eyes, and that this makes history come alive for young viewers, as in the original concept for the show.

What feels fresh and new, because it hits like a ton of bricks, is what the episode is about - racism. Ryan and Yaz have to deal with being threatened by white people in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama. They have to hide from police, and Ryan's life is clearly in danger - something that the episode could have done more with. Although this would be way darker than Doctor Who is supposed to get. And it already is. There is no monster here, which would probably have been too silly. There is a time traveling villain from the future, who is meddling with the events of the bus boycott.The episode gets a little silly with the TARDIS crew very openly scheming how to get time back on track and make history happen as it should. One wonders how Rosa Parks and James Blake didn't catch on to what was happening, or overhear. But the villain's presence does help the story, as he's openly a white supremacist, and reminds us in an otherwise hopeful episode that this kind of racism hasn't gone away. These moments where Ryan and Yaz have to deal with being called racial slurs, or threatened, are very gutsy for Doctor Who, and work a lot better than the actual moment on the bus at the end of the episode.

Yaz reminds us that things do get better, citing the election of Barack Obama, but this rings hollow considering that we know this was directly followed by the openly racist Presidency of Donald Trump. Bill Clinton's honoring of Rosa Parks is also cited but not Clinton's own issues with mass incarceration. The episode is still a lot more nuanced about American politics, and American racism, than I would expect from a British series. There aren't even any truly bad American accents from the actors. Vinette Robinson, who previously appeared in Chiball's "42," is believable and empathetic as Rosa Parks.

If the 1963 Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, could go back in time to roughly its own era of 1963 (or indeed London 1965), you might get something like "Rosa." The Hartnell series also began with a four-person TARDIS team, although since this was 1963, some of their stories now come off as based on outdated and bigoted assumptions in their own right. "The Aztecs" suggests that there was something inherently evil about some of (not all of) the native Aztecs which led to their destruction, while saying nothing about the Europeans who murdered the native peoples of the Americas over centuries.

History books, especially for children, have often downplayed Rosa Parks' activism, sometimes saying that she refused to stand on the bus because she was "tired" or her "feet hurt." This episode gets the events closer to correct than that. It does portray Rosa Parks as a principled activist who made a clear decision to act, and portrays her as part of a group of activists including Martin Luther King Jr., to the delight of a starstruck Ryan, in one of the episode's best scenes. But the episode doesn't portray the bus boycott as something planned in advance, which is unfortunate, and would also undo a lot of the episode's story, and its thesis that small events can have a great impact on history. I think that's a good thesis, as it empowers young people to change the future by changing the present. The ending of the episode becomes a bit messy and rushed. It does allow us to see the beginning of the bus boycott through the eyes of The Doctor and friends, but that's four people, who have been meddling with events in a very obvious way up to this point. I can't help but feel that this scene would have been better with less (or even none) of the main cast present, or if they'd kept more silent. It muddies the waters of simply observing this part of history. A pop song plays, we get back to the TARDIS with The Doctor summing things up, and the episode ends pretty quickly, leaving us wanting more.

"Rosa" does give all the characters something to do. I've worried about this set of companions. There are a lot of them and they're a little bland. But Ryan, Yaz and Graham have strong character moments this week, which they didn't last week, and it gives more insight into what their characters are really about. It's also something you couldn't have done with a white TARDIS crew. Jodie's Doctor stands out a little less than she has - her scenes feel talky. But that's also us getting used to taking her performance for granted. She does a good job standing up to the villain of the week as well.

It was a very gutsy move taking on racism and the American Civil Rights movement. The result is a surprisingly vivid episode which works better as "serious drama" than Doctor Who usually has. It doesn't feel sugarcoated beyond The Doctor's presence generally, and for it to have gone farther than it did would probably have been inappropriate for Doctor Who. The closest comparison is "Vincent and the Doctor," and that's a very good sign. People who hadn't watched the episode were concerned about the possible "bad taste," and certainly this subject matter does set the bar high and require a more sensitive take. "Rosa" doesn't get all the way there, but gets farther than we would expect from Doctor Who. It's blunt in a way which might really teach younger viewers something.

There is a danger in this sort of episode to portray racism as something in the past. For older viewers, we're watching our society regress right now. "Rosa" doesn't get an A+ for this, but it doesn't fail the class either. Its time-travelling villain from Stormcage might as well be someone from our era, but he also suggests - all too briefly - that the fight for civil rights had vast influence on the future, which is even more important. It's an episode that suggests that ordinary people can change history - like Ryan, Yaz and Graham, or like the show's viewers. And it's a hopeful episode throughout, portraying the fight for civil rights as a long and difficult struggle, one where Rosa Parks was eventually honored for her bravery. Martin Luther King Jr. paraphrased Theodore Parker when he said "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." That's hard to believe in our current political climate, but it is something young people need to believe if they're going to change the future.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:12 pm

Doctor Who: Spiders In the UK -- This is our first straightforward "monster" episode this series, apart from parts of the first episode, and it acquits itself nicely, showing that Chibnall can pull off a "monster of the week." The choice to focus on people's fear of spiders is low-hanging fruit for a horror piece, and the episode wrings the expected scares out of the subject matter. It should scare kids and arachnophobes nicely. I was reminded a little of the Sarah Jane Adventures story which exploited fear of clowns. This year of the show really does feel like a Russell T Davies creation filtered through a more "adult drama" lens.

The silliest thing we get here is the sort-of villain, an American real estate tycoon who is described as a rival and parody of Donald Trump. No attempt is made to make the character as embarrassing and bizarre as Donald Trump actually is, so apart from a few lines of dialogue we simply get the sort of "mildly evil businessman" character that we're used to in fiction and real life. The character is more clearly seen as a critique or parody of America in general, as it currently is. The character's idea of "good business" doesn't include any concern for public safety, cutting corners that create the episode's problem. (I suppose this is spoiler territory but there's no alien interference here. The episode comes up with a pseudo-scientific explanation for the extra-large spiders.) The businessman ensures his own safety with a high-tech panic room, and thinks a gun is the answer to everything. It's a bit heavy-handed, especially the line about "fire and fury." It's also a contrast to The Doctor, who seeks a humane and non-murdery solution.

At this point, in the fourth episode, the series is still establishing the TARDIS Team and how they relate to one another, and the episode spends time on their decision to join The Doctor rather than fully resolve the spider situation, and the curiously mutagenic properties of the hotel site. A 70s episode might have blown up the toxic site at the end, but we're expected to assume that The Doctor's more humane plan was enough. I'd have been happier if she also did something about the abandoned mining tunnels below.

The TARDIS Team all get a few little moments to be charming, and despite the complaints about using Grace's death to propel the story, it's nice that Graham's grief is still a key motivation four episodes into the series. We meet Yaz's family, who are just barely entertaining enough that we don't feel we're wasting our time. And in an episode that references Donald Trump, it's nice that one of our heroes appears to be a Pakistani Sunni Muslim (note the decoration as Yaz leaves at the end). Last week's episode suggested that Ryan and Yaz could become a couple, while this episode doesn't, and instead suggests the same about ... Yaz and The Doctor. I'll take that as a joke but some of the fans won't.

We also see more of the Time Vortex, as it looks in this era, and the CGI is gorgeous.

So far this series has been really solid. It's not beating the viewer over the head with how stunningly clever and brilliant it is, but we've had enough of that for now. It has a more subdued tone which gives it the feel of a more adult drama. Not standing out as much as the series has, but also consistently delivering what we expect from Doctor Who. This series avoids falling into some of the traps of its predecessors while establishing a grounded tone.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Nov 05, 2018 2:08 am

Doctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum by Chris Chibnall.

Easily the worst episode of the year so far. Not exactly bad, but just sort of dramatically inert. The CGI alien is too cute to be a believable threat, and Jodie Whittaker and the cast seem to be reacting to an entirely different creature design. Then there's a bloodless male pregnancy. The episode looks good, set on a spaceship with sets and futuristic fashion trends that seem to recall 60s stories like The Ice Warriors. But it appears to have been conceived as a cheaper episode. Almost the whole thing is set aboard the ship set. There is a sense of peril but it's hard to care too much about anything that's happening here. The episode plays out in a fairly obvious way without delivering anything too interesting or unexpected in terms of character. It's just sort of ... there.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Oliver Judd » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:04 pm

It's been a pretty flavourless run of episodes.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:58 pm

Doctor Who: "Demons of the Punjab" by Vinay Patel. After a weak episode last week, and an only decent one the week before, this is the best of the six episodes aired so far. Like the other standout episode "Rosa," the episode tackles bigotry, set in 1947 at the newly-drawn border between India and Pakistan, hinting at the violence that Partition led to.

It's a very emotional episode, as Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) meets her own grandmother and gets caught up in events, not unlike in Russell T. Davies' episode Father's Day. Indeed our four travelers get very entangled in the lives of these two families, making themselves part of the story to an almost absurd degree - also a problem that "Rosa" had, as an episode.

What struck me, besides the Genuine Adult Drama of the piece (GAD), was that this team of TARDIS travelers is now absolutely working very well together, about as well as they're ever going to. They have a great chemistry, which has built up over the past few episodes. It helps that Yaz takes center stage here, and that Ryan doesn't have another scene about missing his dad. Graham gets a few scenes where he gets to be charming and it feels like the writing plays to the cast's strengths. The Doctor gets to do sciency stuff and deal awkwardly with her current gender, and the alien of the week is memorably designed with batlike heas, looking not unlike Hordak from the Evil Horde.

The guest cast perform memorably, tackling very dark territory for Doctor Who. Although, even more so than with Rosa, the larger cultural issues at play are not dwelt on, and the role of the British in colonizing the controlling Indian culture is barely mentioned at all. But then, as portrayed here, this is a small, family story, where the larger issues of World Wars, national borders, and forced separation of races are forces of nature too large for those caught up in them to control.

Unlike some of the episodes this year, this is a confident piece of television that knows exactly what it's doing and what it wants to be, and it's one episode this year I'd point to that really works and makes what it's pulling off look easy.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:27 am

Doctor Who "Kerblam!" -- Another good episode from the season 11 team, as The Doctor receives a package - a fez, presumably ordered during Matt Smith's tenure - leading the TARDIS crew to go undercover at the biggest retailer in its galaxy. "Kerblam!" is a satire of Amazon.com, complete with miserable working conditions and an apparently crumbling society to match.

It feels like the episode is going to be a pointed satire of the current state of capitalism generally, as the setting seems to be a dystopia set after machines have replaced humans in most jobs, and humans are really struggling. However, the episode doesn't go into great detail about that, and never gets there, dealing with things on a company level rather than a societal one. In the real world, there's a discussion to be had about whether replacing human workers with automation can be a good thing, resulting in leisure time as long as the human jobless are cared for. But in a hyper-capitalist society with profit as the only motive that doesn't happen, and that seems to be what we get here. As the Doctor says, the system isn't necessarily the problem, it's how people use it.

That rings a little hollow when the System really is the problem, so much of the time. This story could have (and arguably should have) gone fully anti-capitalist, having depicted a world where people seem miserable at work, and without work - an automated system oiled by the human lives it wastes. Instead it's happy to just make sure the packages get there on time. Maybe the writer just couldn't imagine a future like what the Tumblr kids call "fully automated gay luxury space communism" - even though that would fit in with Doctor Who.

Right-wing viewers have been furious at the series this year, saying it's been taken over by leftie progressive PC SJW politics. By that they mean it stars a woman, and people of color exist in its universe. This episode makes that even more laughable, since the episode's politics aren't "leftie" enough to really make sense. Arguably it's a more right-wing episode coming out in favor of the giant capitalist company - although I think this may be reading too much into a fairly standard Doctor Who plot.

The story itself feels like a mashup of the classic Tom Baker stories The Robots of Death (robots of death), The Sun Makers (critique of capitalism) and perhaps, half-jokingly, The Ark In Space. It's straightforwardly "Doctor Who" and that's fine. Its plot was probably dictated less by politics than by trying to be a story in that mold (Robots of Death especially). But that does mean that my favorite stories so far this year have dealt with political issues (racism, colonialism, Donald Trump) without actually going into Britain's complicity in any of this and demanding progressive solutions that go beyond maintaining the current status quo. This makes the show both more and less revolutionary-minded than it's been in the past. The Doctor and friends were known for starting rebellions which brought down entire planets on the drop of a hat. Stories as early as The Space Museum come to mind. Whether by accident or choice, this year's stories go deeper into the reasons why revolutions happen, without giving us the satisfaction of one.

Jodie Whittaker is at her Doctory best when dealing with Kerblam's management, commanding respect immediately without needing to put on a show about it. Bradley Walsh continues to be interesting as Graham. When he's talking to younger actors, it feels like there's 58 years of life experience in what he's not saying, and what he carefully chooses to say when he's turning on the charm. Tosin Cole's Ryan Sinclair gets some story points about his disability and his past as a retail worker, which works. And Mandip Gill as Yaz has a few chances to be empathetic.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Fri Nov 23, 2018 5:01 pm

Happy 55th birthday to Doctor Who, premiering in 1963 with William Hartnell as The Doctor, and continuing today with Jodie Whittaker as the (13th) Doctor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-JXjmXOsPE

We made it! London 1965! I'm not a huge fan of using "epic music" over the Hartnell era, but the above trailer still captures something of the cosy feel of those stories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZiaN6jtX2s
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:24 am

Doctor Who: The Witchfinders, written by Joy Wilkinson.

In the history of Doctor Who we've had three stories both written and directed by women. The last was Barbara Clegg's Enlightenment in 1983, an unusual story which stands out from its era and is easily one of the best of the 80s.

The Witchfinders is a very solid tale, and you might say it succeeds as a traditional Doctor Who story more than any other this year. I've seen someone on Twitter call it the best so far and I can't concur with that, but this is a good opportunity to look at what's really been happening with Doctor Who this year overall.

Chris Chibnall as showrunner has brought us a Doctor Who which functions better as Genuine Adult Drama (GAD) than the Davies and Moffat eras did. You can feel the influence of Davies, but they've shaved his trademark silliness off the whole thing for a more muted feel to the proceedings. This is paired with an anamorphic desaturated feature-film look to the visuals. At times the series even feels bland and flavorless, but at its best we feel the weight of the adult concepts the TARDIS team are faced with - American racism in "Rosa" and the British-sparked conflict between Muslims and Hindus in "Demons of the Punjab."

The Witch trials of the King James era are a weighty, depressing subject, and it seems a little bit of a shame to bring traditional Doctor Who alien monsters into it.

To the episode's credit, it goes full horror movie with this. There's some CGI but it's mostly makeup straight out of a zombie film - specifically the Evil Dead series. It feels too scary for kids, and Doctor Who should occasionally feel like that.

And oh, let's talk about King James. Russell T. Davies established the traditional of the "celebrity historical" where The Doctor meets a well known historical (or sometimes fictional) personage, often played by a recognizable guest-star actor. So here's Alan Cumming, a big-name actor coming in to play his part as an absolute lark. Openly gay and affecting a comical upper-class Scottish accent of some kind, he's a delight throughout, whether flirting with Ryan or trying to learn The Doctor's secrets. The half-comedic performance does undermine him a bit as a threat, but it's nice to see a guest actor having fun with a part. Cumming is a smart enough actor to never go fully over the top with it, pitching his performance at the right level so that it doesn't break the scene.

The three companions have been reliably good, but not in a showy or cartoonish way. They only occasionally get standout moments. There's a lot of humor and energy to Jodie Whittaker's performance as The Doctor, which is not unlike David Tennant's popular Doctor, but it often feels like that energy is muted by everything else around her, as if she's acting in a tank of water.

The Witchfinders is the first episode to show The Doctor struggling to get anyone to take her seriously, due to her gender. King James doesn't recognize her as being in charge, and she's sentenced as a witch and drowned. I'm glad an episode dealt with this, but it also speaks to a fundamental, and peculiar, powerlessness inherent to Jodie Whittaker's version of The Doctor.

In the 60s-80s series, it was common for The Doctor to be mistrusted by everyone at the beginning of a story, and locked up until he could prove his worth. Jon Pertwee's Doctor spends much of Frontier in Space going from one prison cell to another.

The faster-paced post-2005 series rightly dispensed with that as padding they didn't have time for. Psychic Paper was introduced to give The Doctor credentials and credibility at the beginning of a story, along with other tricks often involving the Sonic Screwdriver - which by this point is an all-purpose tool but can also be used for its traditional purpose of opening locks to get The Doctor - and the writer - out of a dead end.

The Psychic Paper fails The Doctor in this one, as King James doesn't respect a woman's authority. It was usually easy for The Doctor, as played by Eccleston, Tennant, Smith or Capaldi, to talk his way into a position of authority, and Whittaker's Doctor managed that in her first scene. But increasingly it's become apparent that The Doctor is not doing an amazing job of solving every problem in an episode like an all-powerful God, or kid's TV hero. The Davies and Moffat eras often wanted to show you how amazing and powerful The Doctor is. This Doctor keeps ending up with endings in which some immediate threat has been vanquished, but larger societal problems linger, and people we care about are dead.

Last week's episode, Kerblam!, set up an apparently dystopic capitalist future, where an Amazon-like retailer had replaced 90% of employees with automation, and was required by law to keep a 10% human workforce. The employed workers were treated like machines, and were miserable, and the unemployed were apparently living in even greater misery and poverty. The episode couldn't, or wouldn't, imagine an automated future where the unemployed are cared for. Capitalism can't imagine that either. The Doctor sees that misery and doesn't do much to help. She solves the immediate problem that is killing workers, so that the company can keep on running, more or less as it did before.

This has been something of a running theme. The Doctor doesn't fix anything for citizens of this galaxy at large. The Doctor can't improve the racism of 20th Century America, only observe it and make sure that Rosa Parks' protest happens as scheduled. You could say the same about the border dispute tearing India apart in 1947. History isn't changed, only observed and mourned, and the role of the colonizing British in creating his situation is not dealt with in any overt way.

Grace dies in the course of The Doctor's first adventure. The Doctor feeds the dangerous Pting, calming it for awhile, but sets it loose afterward. We never see The Doctor deal with the giant spiders or, more importantly, the toxic waste that created them. That waste was itself the product of deregulation under the laissez-faire rule of Chris Noth's Robertson, an uber-capitalist narcissist psychopath who is compared to Trump (though not as vile). The Doctor and Ryan are seen to trap the large spiders for a natural death, but what happens after that is not dealt with onscreen. Instead we get this companion team officially joining The Doctor in the TARDIS.

In every episode this year, we witness a very messed-up situation, often caused by some intersection of capitalism and racism. But it's not a situation The Doctor can fix by the end of the episode. She can only mitigate the stranger, monster-based elements, the threat that they're facing immediately in the moment. She removes whatever is gumming up the gears of progress so that the actual horrors of the society in question can continue unchallenged. Of course in the more historically-based episodes it's too much to ask that The Doctor Solve Everything, in capital letters. Is she supposed to solve racism? But the more fantasy-based episodes like Kerblam! have much less excuse.

It's telling, I think, that these episodes overall are better at dealing with America's failures than Britain's. The Doctor is powerless to deliver a truly happy ending, or even to show she's trying for one, and I wonder if that's intentional or due to a lack of political consciousness on the part of the writers and showrunner.

This year on Halloween, the leftist Youtube channel Philosophy Tube did a piece about the horrors of the witch trials, and how they were used to break the power that women had in a feudal agricultural society, including traditional medicine, and how this led to modern capitalism. He covered the same material on Twitter, and I'll link to that here.

https://twitter.com/PhilosophyTube/stat ... 4813536256
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmk47kh7fiE

"The Witch-Hunt is classic Divide and Rule: paint women as dangerous so the new proletariat are busy fighting 'witches' instead of joining together and fighting the rich. There are massive rollbacks of women's rights … Records were often kept of how much land or money was seized from them, but not how many were murdered."

It's an interesting take on just how bloody the transition to an industrial capitalist society was, and how the people and their "old ways" had to be broken for this to happen. It was a means of controlling women's options, and the options of the average worker, something that's still relevant to today's society. In some ways we still live, today, in the cages that the witch-hunters built. Today's politicians like Mike Pence are just witch-hunters in different clothes. And that's something this Doctor Who story doesn't deal with.

I've mentioned this, but when the Rosa Parks story was announced, I saw a lot of people on Twitter, who aren't Doctor Who fans, assuming that a Doctor Who take on Rosa Parks would by nature have to be a disgusting exercise in tastelessness. Maybe they thought The Doctor would be taking on some kind of Racism Monster.

Apart from introducing The Doctor and a villain into the proceedings, "Rosa," as an episode, was tastefully done. While it didn't show clearly that Rosa Parks planned her protest beforehand, it did show that Parks was an activist who planned her actions alongside others (including Dr. King), which is more than many history books do.

But their fears were not unfounded. It's common for pop culture to create extended and elaborate metaphors about bigotry as if they're making some grand statement, but also reinforce that bigotry as somehow justified along with it.

In Disney's Zootopia, there are classes of predator and prey animals, and the predators are discriminated against and find it difficult to get ahead in society. This is a metaphor about racism, but it would be entirely justified for a rabbit to be afraid of a fox. In the wild, a "predator" would eat the "prey" animal. If this is truly taken as a metaphor for white racism against black people in America, it's an offensive one. Race is a social construct, and racism as we know it was created to enforce slavery. It established people with dark skin of African descent as an underclass, to exploit in order to grease the wheels of capitalism in the centuries before the Civil War (and afterward, if we're being quite honest). Black people and white people are genetically identical, and without the shadow of slavery (created by the rich to enrich themselves) would have identical rights. Foxes and rabbits are not genetically identical. One is likely to eat the other.

In the X-Men series, mutants are feared and shunned by society. They have superpowers from birth, and are genuinely extremely powerful and potentially dangerous. So if the public fears them, that's actually entirely justified. The mutants are different from "normal" humans and could assert their power in very dangerous ways if they wanted. Wolverine is virtually an immortal with knives for hands. Phoenix could easily destroy the earth. The endless comics, TV series and films featuring the X-Men have positioned Xavier and Magneto as the "Dr. King" and "Malcolm X" of their story, in that Xavier wants mutants to have equal rights and is more palatable to the mainstream, while Magneto is "too radical." But this is an offensive metaphor when you break it down. Of course neither Xavier nor Magneto are black Americans. Both Dr. King and Malcolm X were considered extreme radicals in their time, and they agreed on many concepts. Dr. King spoke out for worker's rights generally, and for class consciousness. He was murdered for his beliefs. Magneto has magnet powers and runs a club called "The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants" which seeks to dominate over humanity. He's a bad guy who does bad things and constantly emperils the world in general. Comparing him to a 60s civil rights leader is an offensive metaphor, unless you accept that the X-Men series just wants to touch on the history of bigotry in America as subtext without accepting everything that comes with it, which is fair enough. It's not a history lesson. But like almost all sci-fi stories, it makes no sense without our understanding of how black people and other groups have been marginalized in America, but makes the story about white people instead, like a cartoon fox played by Jason Bateman.

The history of slavery, oppression, bigotry, Nazism, fascism, and so on is the subtextual backstory for pretty much all sci-fi media. So many villains are based on the Nazis, but this rarely takes into account the racist ideology behind fascism. Hitler came to power after Germany's economy had collapsed, partly due to the Great War. The average worker was living in hopeless poverty, and either they were going to develop class consciousness and tear down capitalism, asserting their rights as a worker, or they were going to need someone to blame. Hitler gave them someone to blame. He rounded up the socialists, communists and Marxists who were preaching against capitalism. He blamed it all on the Jewish people, who traditionally had been excluded from many professions and were often involved in banking. It was apparently easy to make up conspiracy theories about them Actually Being in Charge of Everything. He rounded up the LGBT people, burned gay and trans literature. He targeted the Romani "gypsies" who had been marginalized for centuries.

There was no logical underpinning behind this. There never really is, with racism. Hitler only wanted power, and he saw that the people had lost faith in the world, with capitalism and their government. They were being oppressed by economic depression, and had a general unfocused rage. He used that anger and directed it toward groups that were already marginalized in some way. He distracted the people and consolidated his power by giving them something to hate. He slaughtered six million Jewish people in an apparent bid to wipe an entire religion off the face of the Earth - the religion which gave us Christianity, for that matter.

Since the 80s, Capitalism and greed has gone unchecked by any desire to actually help people and have a functioning society. After George W. Bush's trillion-dollar wars for oil, the economy has crashed and not really gotten better. People are noticing. The rich are getting obscenely so, as if they're being gifted the equivalent of a brand new car every few seconds. The poor are begging for scraps. There is a general unfocused rage. Donald Trump, a fake billionaire, has gotten a large chunk of America to blame it on non-white minorities, such as people from Mexico. This is what Hitler did.

I've gotten way off topic, but for a reason. The people who burned witches in the 17th century and thereabouts were not actually killing people who had any magical powers. They were murdering their neighbors, and consciously or not it helped the world change. The world's economy was changing. Land was being seized. Power was shifting. People were losing rights and property they had previously been entitled to, as part of a series of steps which led to factory work in the 19th century. They killed women to kill off the old ways.

And I'm watching a rather good Doctor Who episode about that, about killing witches to "fight the powers of Satan," and it turns out that in this episode they actually have good reason to be killing off their neighbors, or to fear the powers of Satan, because there's actually some evil alien stuff going on, and it's infecting people and raising people from the dead and it all looks very scary and supernatural. If you're in the mood to be offended it does feel a little like a Witch Trial but with Actual Witchcraft, portraying the witch-hunters as absurd and awful but also somewhat vindicated by the events of the story, not unlike our X-Men and Zootopia examples.

So it's a good Doctor Who yarn, but as a metaphor it doesn't even get started. The episode isn't that interested in the larger societal issues at play here, although it does deal with sexism, which covers a lot of that territory in a general sense. It largely focuses on female characters (except for King James), and both the writer and director are women, for the third time in Doctor Who history.

And that's been due to sexism. There haven't been a ton of women writing Doctor Who, or directing it (despite the big-name appeal of Tank Girl director Rachel Talalay). And that's a problem.

And it's a problem the show has temporarily solved, by hiring women for this week only. The larger cultural problem remains. And the show keeps fighting for diversity, this year. British writer Malorie Blackman OBE handled "Rosa" with real sensitivity. And Vinay Patel handled "Demons of the Punjab" with full awareness of its historical background. Between them they've probably delivered the two best episodes this year. Indeed these have all stood above the episodes credited to Chris Chibnall.

The diversity this year has been welcome, as it's resulted in some good television. But like The Doctor's actions in these episodes it's just a band-aid placed over any larger cultural issues. She can stop the problem of the week, but she really can't fix everything. Which is fine. Realistic, even, which fits the tone of this year in general. My question is, does she want to fix everything? Are The Doctor and her writers socially aware enough to use these larger issues responsibly? So far, in terms of social consciousness, this year's Doctor Who raises a lot of questions it can't actually answer. Not in a way which satisfies the kids, or the adults - for different reasons.

It's still very good television, and I'll give it points for asking some of these questions in the first place.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:45 am

Twice Upon a Time: In which Steven Moffat, often accused of sexism, accuses the Original Doctor Who of being sexist because he's decided to write him that way, and where Capaldi's Doctor, knowing he's about to become a woman, spends twenty minutes telling himself what The Doctor Should Be Like Actually, mansplaining himself to death. Where he just doesn't want to get off the stage. Where they remake bits of First Doctor story The Tenth Planet but don't use it for more than a few seconds. Where there is no real threat, no monster, no actual meeting up with past companions. It's like Monster A Go-Go. Capaldi's got the chops and I should be excited for this version of The First Doctor as well. It should be great, but mainly I just wanted the Moffat era to be over with, generally.
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Re: Through Time & Space: The Doctor Who Thread

Postby Garrett Gilchrist » Mon Nov 26, 2018 1:17 am

http://tygerbug.tumblr.com/post/1805102 ... confidence

(Davies/Moffat/Chibnall)
Doctor Who’s confidence level varies somewhat between showrunners

TENNANT:
I'm king megashit from fuck mountain
I'm 9 trillion years old
i banged your mom
I'm gonna save every living thing in this galaxy
anyone got a problem with that?
fuck you

SMITH:
The writer and I have just done something extremely clever which I'm not going to explain but it was clever and amazing and totally makes sense. You should just take our word for it and be sexually attracted to us. It was TIME. I changed TIME. All of TIME. The TIME OF THE DOCTOR. Wow, the writer and I are so brilliant it makes you horny. With a short skirt and a long sweater and you're like a sexy jewel thief from Batman. I'm not sexist, you're sexist. The ghost of Bill Hartnell is sexist

WHITTAKER:
Racism, huh? Well, I can't solve racism. Looks like your car's got a flat tire, though? I can probably fix that, if that's okay with you? You'll get to work on time. You hate your job? Sorry to hear that. Oh hey, there were a bunch of nasty creatures here but we stopped like one of them, and only two of us died. It'll probably be fine, these things usually work themselves out eventually. Well, gotta go
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