Viewing posts tagged dialectics

"Being without becoming" - Disjointed Thoughts on Dialectics and the Third Doctor, Part 1

"Being without becoming [is] an ontological absurdity" says the Doctor in 'The Time Monster'.

He's talking about time, about the fact that time is - by definition - a process of change.  Time is what entropy looks like to those of us in the midst of it.  Entropy increases, thus time's arrow goes forward.  'Becoming' is just a way of saying 'change'.  Everything is always in the process of becoming something else.  Every apple is in the process of becoming a rotten apple, or an eaten apple, or seeds resown.  'Ontology' is the fancy name used by philosophers to mean the study of what it means for things to exist, to be real.  The Doctor is saying: "the idea of things being frozen in time is inherently absurd because things that don't change effectively don't exist".

Though, of course, in 'The Time Monster', things and people do get frozen in time.  The story shows us something happening which has already been established as impossible.  It's almost as if we are being explicitly invited to read the story metaphorically.

This is something that doesn't quite happen in 'The ...

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 ...

16

The Doctor is confusing an angel to death.

Light came to our world to count and quantify all life, to create a set and definitive catalogue.  Light sent its Survey out into the world to sample each form.  But our world corrupted the Survey with the delicious possibilities of evolution.  Light was locked away so the Survey could inherit the Earth.  It became a Victorian gentleman, a man of property.  It enacted a ruthless Darwinian takeover of the house above Light's ship.  A colonizing mission.  A merger and acquisition.  This being Victorian England, the wife and daughter and maids came with the house like fixtures and fitting.  The Survey locked its secrets away, just like any Victorian gentleman, and set about dreaming of empire.  It adopted the cultural logic of its new society and new position: the ideology of 'the survival of the fittest'... meaning, supposedly, the dominance of the best.  With its inbuilt assumptions about the place of 'lesser races' and 'lower orders' and women, Victorian social-Darwinism was perfect for the Survey's purposes, as it shed its insectile and reptilian skins and became Josiah, the pink ...

Monkey Business

On 'Ghost Light'.


Let's leave aside the aesthetic beauty of the production, with its pattern of oppositions - light and dark, day and night, madness and sanity, stone and wood, feminine and masculine, dead and alive - which alternate until they start to bleed into each other and mingle until we are left with no certainties.

Let's leave aside the willfully abstruse script; the wonderful way it is deliberately constructed as a jewelled puzzle box; something to be studied and pondered and interpreted rather than just passively enjoyed.

Let's leave aside the scrumptious bevy of literary references, sly self-referencing jokes, puns, double meanings, allusions... all of which show an intense and highly self-conscious (though not glib) awareness and playfulness with language, text, genre and storytelling tradition.  You want an example?  How about the use of the word "wicked", which - with wonderful irony - appears in both the Victorian usage and as 80s teenspeak.  It's the last word of the story - the last word spoken by the Doctor in the last-filmed story of the classic series.  And when the Doctor uses it to describe Ace, he sounds like a Victorian moralist (of times past or present ...

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