the Disillusioned kid: A Satire A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Satire A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Contrary to what you might think from looking at the manistream media or this blog, shit doesn't stop going down just because it's Christmas. There's various things which are worthy of comment here: the CBI's decision to government plans to extend maternity and paid paternity leave; the ongoing nightmare in Iraq; Ginmar's tips on how to stop rape (via); the succesful (and thankfully arrest-free) carol service in Parliament Square; the anniversary of the Asian tsunami and the importance of local communities as opposed to NGOs and government agencies in relief efforts; and Israeli plans to extablish a "buffer zone" in Northern Gaza. All of these are important. All could be a blog post in themselves. But I'm not going to write about any of them. No, I'm gonna write about Doctor Who.

The Christmas Invasion, which went out in the UK on Christmas Day, attracted 9.4 million viewers, second only to Eastenders and with good reason. I generally think that "family entertainment" is a dirty word (words?), little more than a synonym for insipid, mindnumbing or simply crap. Doctor Who, under the guidance of producer and writer Russel T. Davies (a big-time Whovian himself) has actually managed to blend something the kids will like, with interesting stories, well developed characters, genuinely funny jokes and a darker edge. The Christmas Invasion saw the Doctor save the world with a cup of tea and a satsuma for chrissakes, all while wearing pyjamas ("very Arthur Dent"). How many other shows could get away with that? Let alone do it with so much panache?

The bulk of the story isn't really what I want to talk about here, however. I've tried doing reviews before and I'm crap at it. Rather, what I'm interested in is the episode's anti-war message. This emerges in a twist which Davies throws in at the end. The Doctor has vanquished the Sycorax leader and convinced the alien scavengers to return to whence they came. Nevertheless, British PM Harriet Jones (previously seen in the Aliens of London/World War III two-parter and again played by Penelope Wilton) gives the order to the shady Torchwood (who are going to get their own spin-off series starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Hartness) to destroy the alien ship with a big Death Star-esque space gun, much to the Doctor's disgust. This unexpected turn adds another dimension to Jones who has hitherto appeared to be one of the good-guys, even dismissing demands from the US President that he be allowed to take control of the Sycorax situation with an off-the-cuff remark that she wasn't going to let him turn this into a war.

Various bloggers have compared Jones' decision to Thatcher's sinking of the Belgrano and there are clearly parallels, but I'm not sure this is what Davies is trying to get at. When the Doctor challenges Jones about what she has done here response is instructive. She points to the threat the Sycorax (or perhaps another species they come into contact with) may pose at some undetermined point in the future, even if at the present time they aren't a danger. This echoes the doctrine of "pre-emptive war" (which should more properly have been called "preventive war") espoused by the Blair and Bush regimes as a justification for the invasion of Iraq. There is no question in the Doctor's mind that Jones' actions constitute murder and who are we to question the conclusions of our hero?

In the old Doctor Who, Jones' decision might well be forgotten by the next week, but the new series doesn't seem to work like that. Davies seems interested in making the Doctor face up to the consequences of his actions. This raises the intriguing possibility that blowing up the Sycorax ship might well come back and bite the Earth on its collective butt in an example of interstellar "blowback". The Sycorax leader made an ambiguous reference to an "armada" which we never saw, perhaps they won't take so well to their bretheren being blown to (snow-like) smithereens. Maybe this'll form the backdrop to the Torchwood series? If either of these predictions materialises you can put money on the warmongers getting all hot under the collar about the BBC's "indoctrination" of the nation's youth, particularly if anyone has the audacity to draw parallels with 7/7. Fuck 'em. I'll be watching.

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