Viewing posts tagged 50th anniversary countdown

Afterword

Wow, letters in the title.  That feels so last month.

But, this being Doctor-Who-Boxing-Day, normal service has been resumed.  So, until I do my threatened anti-50, in which I count Doctor Who's political fails in minus numbers, we're back to titles which utilise the alphabet.

I'm only half joking about the anti-50.  I had my doubts and worries all along about the whole concept of the anniversary countdown.  It seemed churlish to include bits of Doctor Who that I hate, of which there are plenty.  I mean, if you can't be positive on the big birthday...  Besides, the whole concept of the Jubilee originates as an apocalyptic and insurrectionary notion in ancient Jewish resistance to Roman power, a carnival of the oppressed... so it's supposed to be a radical celebration.  On the other hand, relentless positivity just isn't what this blog does (as you'll have noticed).  There's plenty of writing out there (some of it very good) focusing solely on what's great about the show.  From the standpoint of 'social justice Who fandom' (which, I'm delighted to learn from tumblr ...

1

What can I do but cheat?

Three moments, not in chronological order.


1

Barbara Wright is in a junkyard.  She walks into a Police Box.  She's in a large, brightly lit control room.

This can happen on screen because of the cut.  The material conditions of TV production, manifested as a splicing together of two recorded moments into the appearance of one fluid event, makes this possible.  We have "discovered television".  We can put huge buildings inside small boxes.  We can put Narnia inside the wardrobe; Wonderland inside the rabbit hole.  The quintessential trait of British fantastic literature for kids - the eccentric relationship of impossible spaces - can be made visual.

Doctor Who's very nature as storytelling is utterly bound up with the limits of the material conditions of television production.  So much so that living on that limit became its raison d'etre.  Its development has always been inextricably connected with what can materially be done, and how it is done.  And what it has done has always developed what it wants to be able to do next.  As I've said elsewhere, 'The Space Museum' pushes ...

2

"Go on, tell them," says Jacko to Sean. 

"Tell them what? I'll tell them nothing. They're not people like us, they're just a bunch of sardines."

The fish people in the water below do not like this.

"You heard me," jeers Sean, "Cold-blooded fishes. You haven't got a drop of good red blood in your body."

They don't like that either.  They've been surgically altered by the regime of Professor Zaroff, an old Nazi scientist who was employed by the Western powers before he disappeared (it's implicit) and who is now running the underwater city of Atlantis (the Nazis were obsessed with Atlantis).  He has forcibly turned an army of his workers into fish, complete with gills and fins and big round eyes, so that they can do the underwater jobs.  (They just don't make mad scientists like Zaroff any more.)

"A flatfish from Galway would have more guts in them than that bunch!" Sean continues.  Oh yeah, I forgot to say... Sean's Irish, hence his "gift of the gab" (sigh).

The fish people start throwing things at him.

"All right, all right, all right," laughs ...

3

"Not so much of that oatmeal, girl," says Meg to one of the kitchen drudges, "It's only pikemen we're feeding, not horses."

They're in Irongron's castle, somewhere in the century or so following the Norman Conquest.  Sarah is undercover, cooking Irongron's stew.

"Don't the guards on the gate get stew?" she asks, wanting to know in which pots to drop the Doctor's knock-out potion.

"What, meat for those common creatures? I should say not. They'll have oatmeal the same as the rest of us, and lusty enough they are on that. So you watch yourself if ever you take out that skillet."

So class is, perhaps, a more fundamental division than gender, but gender oppression brings its own particular problems.

"I'm not afraid of men. They don't own the world."

Well, they kind-of do... but Sarah isn't discussing actual property relations.  She's talking about the way the world should work, with no one group 'owning' it.

"Why should women always have to cook and carry for them?" she demands.

"What else should we do?" asks Meg.

"Stand up for ourselves. Tell the men you're tired ...

4

"Don't get any ambitious ideas," says Castellan Spandrell to his prisoner.

"I just wanted to check it was the same staser," says the Doctor, examing the weapon used to assassinate the President of the High Council of Time Lords. "You see that symbol at the end of the corridor?"

The Doctor indicates a huge Seal of Rassilon.

"What about it?" asks Spandrell.

"You try and hit it," says the Doctor, handing Spandrell the staser.

"That's the kind of vandalism we're always running the Shabogans in for," grumbles Spandrell.

Spandrell is, basically, the Chief of Police in the Time Lord Capitol.  As such, the Doctor is his prisoner, having been caught holding a rifle in a gallery near the spot where the President was gunned down.

We never see any Shabogans.   The reference is never explained.  It just seems to be part of a Gallifreyan policeman's job to arrest people called 'Shabogans' for vandalism.  But let's not pass over this too quickly.  There is regular crime here?  There are hooligans running around the corridors of the Capitol of the Time Lords of Gallifrey? 

Well, yes, of course.

The Time ...

5

"I know it sounds mad," says Martha, "but when the Doctor became human, he took the alien part of himself and he stored it inside the watch. It's not really a watch, it just looks like a watch."

"And 'alien' means 'not from abroad', I take it," enquires the frankly incredulous Joan.

"The man you call John Smith... he was born on another world."

"A different species."

"Yeah."

Joan is a sensible woman from 1913 and she's not having any of this nonsense.

"Then tell me," she presses, "in this fairy tale, who are you?"

"Just a friend. I'm not... I mean, you haven't got a rival, as much as I might... Just his friend."

"And human, I take it?"

She humouring the deranged girl.  As John said earlier, it must be culture shock.  Someone from a less developed culture trying and failing to understand the scientific romances of an ordinary school teacher... an ordinary school teacher, by the way, with whom she is far too familiar.

"Human," confirms Martha, "Don't worry. And more than that: I just don't follow him around. I'm training to be a doctor. Not an alien ...

6

"I have in my hand a piece of paper," says Mr Stevens, CEO of Global Chemicals, echoing Chamberlain in unconscious admission that his promises of a profitable truce in the class war will turn out to be worthless, "which will mean a great deal to all of you. Wealth in our time!"

The ex-miners, crowded around the gates of the closed pit, are unimpressed.

"When the National Coal Board were forced to close the pit last year..." Stevens begins.

"It were a shame, that was!" heckles one of the workers, in Ignorant Yokel Speak.

"No, my friends," says Stevens chummily, presenting himself as one of them, "we must not be bitter. We must face the facts."

Note the 'we'; the most abused word in political discourse.  As in 'we're all in this together'.

"Coal is a dying industry," asserts Stevens.

The miners shout "Rubbish! Rubbish!"

When it happens in reality, the idea that the mines had to shut because they were unprofitable will be rubbish.  Mining was always subsidised.  

"Oil is our future now and the government agrees with me. They have not only given us the go-ahead for our plans, they have promised us money ...

7

The Doctor has refused Enlightenment.  Turlough is nonchalantly (rather too nonchalantly) picking at his fingernails when the White Guardian offers him a share.

"It's a diamond," he says, staring at the massive, glowing crystal, "The size!  It could buy a galaxy. I can have that?"

The White Guardian tells him he can.

"I would point out," interjects the Black Guardian, "that under the terms of our agreement, it is mine... unless, of course, you wish to surrender something else in its place. The Doctor is in your debt for his life. Give me the Doctor, and you can have this," he indicates the crystal, "the TARDIS, whatever you wish."

Turlough is evidently extremely tempted.  He has to struggle with himself.  When he shoves it towards the Black Guardian, it couldn't be more obvious that he is angry and disappointed with the choice he feels have has to make.

"Here," he shouts petulantly, burying his face, "take it!"

Even so, he does make that choice.

The Black Guardian bursts into flames and vanishes, gurgling and screaming.

"Light destroys the dark," comments the White Guardian.  "I think you will find your contract terminated," he tells ...

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