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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

42 Comments

  1. Matt M
    October 15, 2015 @ 5:46 am

    what with revulsion being the proper attitude to anyone wanting to subjugate themselves to you in any context other than mutually-consenting power-exchange

    To be fair that’s how I actually read the Tivolians, especially after Before the Flood. I mean they actively go around soliciting for people to invade them and carry instruments of oppression. Not planet of the slaves but planet of the subs. And yes in sci-fi you can do that without any form of social realism because it’s not real and by authorial fiat that’s how it works, though I suppose the wider question is “why would you want to do that?” (The answer is ‘because its funny lol’)

    On the subject of the Dominators, I find it difficult to get too riled up by it as it’s such a boring story, and the anti-pacifism parts get mired with the fact that the Dulkians are also clearly anti-science/logic/anything, unless the writers are trying to say that pacifists are all literally delusional and think the rest of the world is as happy-clappy as them (which… maybe they do!)

    Wow. The Dominators should take over the Tivolians. Everyone will be happy then!

    Reply

    • Jack Graham
      October 15, 2015 @ 6:28 am

      Yeah, that’s a point actually. They are consenting, aren’t they. I think the point I’d want to make is that there’s a serious problem depicting an entire society as consenting to miliutary/political oppression, rather than an individual consenting to a lifestyle. It’s a false equivalence. But I need to address and expand that issue. One to remember for the rewrite. Cheers.

      Reply

      • Ross
        October 16, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

        I never really felt convinced by the whole “Consensually submissive by nature / want to be subjugated / afraid of being in control” angle, to the point that I’m not even sure it’s intentional. All I really got from the Tivolians we’ve seen so far is “Despicable cowards”. Certainly, I didn’t get it at all from The God Complex. I can sort of understand it being there this time with Prentis “shopping around” for a conquerer, but it didn’t feel to me like they gave it enough attention to elevate it beyond a joke. Add to that his reference to his people’s submissiveness basically annoying conquerers into abandoning the place and it seemed to me like what they were going for was more that they were passive-aggressive than submissive.

        Reply

    • SpaceSquid
      October 15, 2015 @ 7:08 am

      Two things that complicate the consenting issue though is that the episode clearly doesn’t take the angle that it’s none of our business what the Tivolians choose to do with themselves, and the colossal problems inherent in confusing the idea of conditional consent in some cases with assuming total consent in all cases. Reframing the funeral directors comments about his ship having “instruments for his oppression” or whatever the line was in sexual terms rather than political terms (i.e. the Orion slave girl problem rather than the larger Tivolian problem Jack discusses above) immediately demonstrates how appalling generalisations about a group can be made worse, not mitigated, by finding specific examples of people from that group who actually fit the generalisation (particularly in fiction, of course). The intent isn’t to see the group as a collection of individuals, it’s to use the traits of that individual to justify not having to think of the other x million people in that group as any different.

      Really, in those terms, it’s pretty nauseating to think of an entire alien species about which other species are quite happy saying “They ALL want it, don’t worry”.

      Reply

      • Citizen_Alan
        October 15, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

        In my head-canon (which I’ve been forced to rely upon because otherwise the entire concept of the Tivolians is too stupid for words), the Tivolians are actually a clever species that has somehow figured out how to weaponize pacificism through some sort of nonsensical technology or psychic power that compels invading races to act as benevolent dictators so long as the Tivolians maintain a pretense of aggressive obsequiousness. It’s stupid (and almost certainly gives Whithouse more credit than he deserves) but it amuses me to think of Tivolians privately chortling to themselves as they contemplate the succession of invading races who have bankrupted themselves building infrastructure for their race before finally giving up and letting some new race of suckers invade the planet and mercifully take it away from them.

        Reply

        • ferret
          October 15, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

          That’s pretty hilarious, and side-steps a lot of the problems. However, given the two Tivolians we’ve met it seems to have affected their society deeply over the generations. Perhaps they chortled away at first, but now they’ve become – what’s the prison term for when you’ve been in so long you can’t cope outside? – ah yes: institutionalised.

          Reply

  2. SpaceSquid
    October 15, 2015 @ 5:49 am

    I’m glad you mentioned the white man’s burden; I can’t think of the Tivolians without imagining them reading that poem and wishing Kipling was alive and well and with easy access to an interstellar craft packed with union flags.

    Reply

  3. Laurence Price
    October 15, 2015 @ 7:07 am

    I find the whole question of how far we can consent to harm quite interesting… My legal knowledge is shaky in the extreme, but I seem to remember there’s a basic principle of civil law- volenti non fit injuria- no injury occurs to someone who is willing. So if you ask for a scrap merchant to take away your old car you can’t run down the road shouting “stop thief!”. Or, alternatively, if Mr Jones freely pays someone to spank him every Thursday evening for his own gratification, he can’t then complain that he’s then suffered mild bruising to his bottom. He’s a grown up, he’s weighed up that injury and the pleasure, and he can no more complain about the results that I can when I woke up with a hangover on Monday morning after drinking a bottle of wine on Sunday night.

    But this principle has an important caveat; it’s tempered by the idea that for the good of society, you can’t consent to anything that would constitute grievous bodily harm. So even if you were into serious BDSM and asked for someone (say) to hammer a nail into you, the hammerer would still be civilly liable and subject to criminal prosecution. I seem to remember that R v Brown [1993] is a particularly eye-watering case on this point… 😮 http://www.lawnix.com/cases/r-brown.html

    So there are a few options for how we view the Tivolians. In seeking enslavement, are the Tivolians treating freedom as an inconvenience, like the broken down car on the drive, and their enslavers as the helpful local mechanics? Or do we see them as willing subs, weighing up a minor detriment for the greater pleasure of being slaves, like Mr Jones and his Thursday night spanking? Or, most troublingly, do we see them as deeply disordered, as the law treats the people in the R v Brown case who wanted to be seriously physically abused?

    I worry that for a fairly cheap gag, Saturday’s episode danced between the second and third options- laughing at the subbiness of Prentis while reinforcing a bit of moral superiority of “isn’t it good that we aren’t like these weirdos from the Planet of the Slaves?”. And I fear that’s not too many steps away from the “Get off my lawn, hippy kids!” attitude shown in The Dominators…

    Shame. I really liked the first episode; I loved the Classic Who done right vibe. And Cass was such a great character. But my recurring thought throughout Before the Flood was “please don’t let this be a let down…”… Ah well, some you win, some you lose.

    Reply

    • SeeingI
      October 15, 2015 @ 11:30 am

      A disappointing lack of juicy details, but lines like “Society must be protected against a cult of violence which presents the danger of the proselytisation and corruption of young men and the potential for the infliction of serious personal injury” make me feel there is more than a whiff of homophobia in this ruling, and I wonder how it would be ruled in a more permissive environment.

      There is a big sub-culture of fat fetishists. I wonder how it would play out if, after a few years in that lifestyle, the feedee developed diabetes and sued the feeder over it?

      Reply

      • Laurence Price
        October 16, 2015 @ 6:41 am

        Yes, you’re right that there’s more than a whiff of homophobia in the Brown judgment. And it dates from the days when the age of consent was significantly higher for male homosexual sex than for heterosexual sex, with all the associated “Think of the Childen!” rhetoric… urgh.

        Re fat fetishists contracting diabetes- I suppose the argument might be that the feeder had some sort of duty of care to ensure that the feedee didn’t contract any illnesses as a result of being fed? But it’s a very different situation from (say) getting food poisoning from an undercooked chicken in a restaurant. I think that since diabetes falls beneath the bar of serious physical harm exemplified by wounding or GBH, it might still come under the principle of volenti non fit injuria… Especially as it could be argued that contracting diabetes was a virtual certainty if you were to be regularly overfed.

        So, the Tivolians!

        Reply

      • plutoniumboss
        October 16, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

        It’s easy to turn around and claim a evening’s worth of BDSM fun was non-consensual rape or assault. That’s a nightmare of every dom. You may recall that “Ungrateful German Man” meme, the guy who sued a hooker for asphyxiating him with her boobs.

        It’s not so easy to prove that I forced-fed you Big Macs for a year.

        If it’s going to court, the feedee would have to pull the trigger. And that means inviting all the embarrassment and media coverage. And after all that, having to prove that the feeder is more culpable. That alone would be enough to scare off any attorney. Am I on the hook for letting my lymphatic wife smoke? or for…

        … wait, are we talking about homophobia?

        (There’s also a split between gainers and feeders. I’m part-Arab, so chubby chasing is kind of in my genes. Feederism ranks up there with cannibalism and pedophilia, in my view. If you want to post a fic about it, fine, but it shouldn’t be condoned.)

        Reply

  4. areanimator
    October 15, 2015 @ 7:25 am

    The Doctor’s own origins as a benevolent White male imperialist savior figure make him a poor candidate for being the Tivolians’ worst nightmare. Sure, he’s clearly left some of that behind, but “the Doctor is the good imperialist fighting off the bad imperialists” is still a premise at the core of many new series episodes.

    Reply

  5. Riggio
    October 15, 2015 @ 7:55 am

    Your reading of the Dulcians – staid, unimaginative older generation unable to adjust to the new conditions that require the young to organize resistance – is a wonderful attempt to redeem the story. And I think there’s something similar to be done with the Tivolians.

    In some of the spare passages of my own blogging about Before the Flood, I’ve thought about my own redemptive reading for the Tivolians. Your own post made me think of expanding it.

    Imagine a reasonably calm, relatively pacifist people who’d just like to be left alone. But their planet is in a dense part of the galaxy, and politically, they’re surrounded by 40-50 expansionist, imperialist-minded star empires all fighting each other for dominance and territory. Tivolia becomes a planet handed over as a disputed in dozens of empire vs empire wars. They never have time between conquests to build a sadly conventional path to resist conquest, becoming an interstellar empire themselves.

    So they find a strategy of resistance. Welcome your occupiers. Let them march in and take over the government. They’ll have better things to do than mess with your internal society because they have other galactic empires to fight. Meanwhile, become so annoying in your supplication that actually staying in the seat of Tivolia’s government is more trouble than you want to deal with. Maybe they’ll be so irritated that they’ll even develop a distaste for empire.

    Passive-aggressive resistance. Top from the bottom.

    Reply

    • Froborr
      October 15, 2015 @ 9:38 am

      This is MUCH funnier than the Tivolians as presented.

      Reply

    • taiey
      October 15, 2015 @ 9:37 pm

      My headcanon exactly.
      With the addendum that people chosen to go off-world are the ones best capable of playing the role to the hilt.

      Reply

  6. EvilBug
    October 15, 2015 @ 10:31 am

    Characterization through racial profiling is a pretty lazy device and often produces ridiculous results. Although I can partially explain Tivolian mindset as being unable to develop homebrew government and relying on foreign invaders to manage their affairs. This isn’t exactly unheard of, legends have it ancient Slavic people asked Vikings to rule over them, although they were invited peacefully.

    As far as I’m concerned about pacifism, it has one fundamental flaw. If you are a pacifist, you turn control of your life and death over to your enemy. Maybe they decide to spare you maybe you can convince them, but you have no say in it. In a world filled with unfeeling killing machines that is Whoniverse, it’s a particularly absurd attitude.

    Reply

  7. Simon
    October 15, 2015 @ 11:08 am

    Tivolians are Space Rats (very aware that dehumanisation of a humanoid alien species is an Bad Thing). They consume their conqueror’s detritus. Unobtrusive but ever-present laboratory specimens in service to the Greater Good of whomever is subjugating them. The Tivolian anthem: “Glory To [insert name here]”. They submit to their overlords as a survival trait.

    Reply

  8. SeeingI
    October 15, 2015 @ 11:39 am

    I’d be interested in hearing your take on Rob Shearman’s “Jubilee” in light of this essay. I don’t know if you’d heard it, but it’s quite different, much more grotesque, pointed and darkly funny than the TV version (which is no knock on “Dalek;” it’s for a different medium and had different functions to fulfill). The reason I find it so apropos to the discussion of the Tivolians is that every single character in it (save Evelyn) seems motivated by an absolute refusal to take responsibility for their own actions, and indeed they spend all their time denying their free will and demanding orders from those above them. This is true on the personal as well as the overall political level. Does this fall under your same critique? Anyway, just throwing that out there for consideration.

    Also, FFS, this Catchpa is the worst I’ve ever seen. 6 tries, now!

    Reply

    • SpaceSquid
      October 15, 2015 @ 11:46 am

      Thank Gods it’s not just me. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to recognise capitalised Latin letters, but this place has seriously had me questioning myself.

      Reply

      • SeeingI
        October 15, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

        I know. I’m imagining some crap short film where an AI realizes it’s not human because of a Catchpa. There’d be Coldplay or some shit on the soundtrack.

        Reply

      • EvilBug
        October 15, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

        It didn’t accept until I typed it in ALL CAPS. Stupid thing

        Reply

  9. John Seavey
    October 15, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    Whoof. Lot to take in there. Lot to agree with, a little to disagree with. In specific, I think you’re being reductionist on the scene in ‘The Daleks’ where Ian disrupts the Thal commitment to pacifism–it needs to be read in context of Ian’s conviction in the previous scene that this is an actively immoral act, that he is asking Thals to defy their entire way of life and destroying their civilization as they know it for purely selfish reasons. Ian is disgusted with himself in that scene, and I don’t think that can be overstated in any reading of that sequence.

    I do think that what people are looking for when they want a “happy slave” race is an examination of the question of whether slavery has an inherent wrongness to it regardless of the opinions of the enslaved, or if it is wrong because it is involuntary and exploitative. It’s roughly the same question that Douglas Adams asked humorously with the Dish of the Day–is it still wrong to eat meat if the meat wants to be eaten? I don’t think it’s ever been explored well, primarily because far more people make the serious argument that slaves want to be enslaved than that cows want to be steak, and so it’s difficult to discuss it without becoming an apologist for exploitation, and I certainly don’t think the Tivolians are a good case study. But I think that’s where the urge comes from.

    Reply

    • EvilBug
      October 15, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

      If people want to be slaves, what’s wrong with enslaving them? Unless you think they deserve to suffer. And, I guess, some socio-economic reasons can be brought up.

      Slavery apologists used this argument because this argument is valid, although it’s currently assumed it’s not true. In fictional context if it is self-evidently true, what’s wrong with it?

      Reply

      • evilsoup
        October 15, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

        Off the top of my head, two objections:

        1. What if they change their mind?

        2. People are products of the societies that produce them. Is it just a coincidence that some people want to be slaves and other want to be masters? Is it acceptable to raise some people to want to be slaves?

        Reply

      • Jack Graham
        October 15, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

        The fictional representation carries connotations for the real world.

        Reply

      • Lambda
        October 15, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

        What does it actually mean to “enslave” people who want to be slaves. Telling people to do things isn’t enslavement, they can ignore you if they choose. Nothing is needed to make these people who want to be slaves obey you, because they want to do what you tell them. The only case in which “enslaving” them becomes a meaningful action is if they later decide they don’t want to do what you tell them any more, but they now have no power to just walk off. In which case, no, they don’t want to be slaves.

        A consensual slave is no different to someone just willingly doing what they’re told all the time.

        Reply

  10. numinousnimon
    October 15, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

    Thanks. This sums up brilliantly all the things that bother me about the tivolians.

    Reply

  11. Lambda
    October 15, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

    What I was hoping for with the ood was an examination of the possibility of humanity creating willing slave intelligences, (most obviously AI, but organic technology might prove superior,) by a kind of artificial evolution; creating an environment where some kind of human-pleasing was the key to survival and/or reproduction, and developing the technology like that. This seems likely to result in an intelligence utterly unfamiliar to us.

    It’s obviously not relevant to anything which exists in the present day or the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually happening in a couple of decades, and I’m not sure what to think about it, so some science fiction about it would be helpful for cogitation. (Plus all sorts of fascinating angles emerge on various other matters, stuff like what consciousness is.) The closest thing I can think of in fiction I’m familiar with is Kryten from Red Dwarf and his delight in laundry, and obviously, that’s played for comedy. Conventional robots tend to just have slightly modified human-like intelligences. (Unsurprising since the human audience needs to be able to relate to them, of course.)

    (And I’m not convinced that Planet of the Ood does a very good job of being an anti-slavery story anyway, which is the other half of the disappointment. Having the Doctor apologise after the “cheap shot” line rather defangs it, what would be wrong with just letting it hang uncomfortably? And having introduced real-world slavery through the notion of sweatshops, being a slightly more subtle form of slavery working through the violence inherent to unbalanced property relations and so on, its slavery ends up looking nothing like an average viewer’s notion of places where cheap clothes get made, which just casts it as the kind of thing which doesn’t happen any more. And having the Doctor and Donna thanked for just listening doesn’t seem like a very good way of avoiding the “white saviours are what stops slavery” problem, since the viewer at home who is just listening has now been thanked and doesn’t have to do anything. It seems like it’s trying to make good points, but is too afraid of alienating its audience to actually do it. (Although the usefulness of introducing this to children is a good point.)

    I love the way From the New World tackles the issue. It’s like one of those productions where Jack will point out how the antagonists actually have by far the better points, except the show secretly agrees, only ever presents them as bad from a “human” perspective, never an objective one, and reveals the truth behind it all at the end. The viewer is given a fair chance to identify slavery which is “hidden in plain sight” in a similar way to how it’s hidden for modern Westerners, before learning just who they are and how they’re actually treated. But it does have a whole series to play with, so not really a fair comparison.)

    Reply

  12. evilsoup
    October 15, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

    revulsion being the proper attitude to anyone wanting to subjugate themselves to you in any context other than mutually-consenting power-exchange play

    Why is there an exception there? If the idea of your sexual partner wanting to subjugate themselves to you doesn’t fill you with revulsion (or at least worry), I don’t think that says anything good about you.

    Reply

    • Jack Graham
      October 15, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

      Well I’m specifically talking about play.

      Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      October 15, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

      I admit, I tend to think the burden of proof rests on someone who wants to criticize people’s sex lives to establish harm, so I’d kind of want to turn the question around: why is this a domain you don’t think should be an exception?

      For my part, my strong understanding is that there’s a pretty firm consensus that using sex to explore power relations can be done in a psychologically healthy and fulfilling way.

      Reply

  13. Citizen_Alan
    October 15, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

    “All those Doctor Who fans who were disappointed by the way the Ood were depicted in ‘Planet of the Ood’, and who wanted them to be a race of happy slaves, will be happy now that Toby Whithouse has provided them with the Tivolians.”

    I suppose it’s possible I fit into this category, although I certainly am not pleased with the incredibly pointless Tivolians. Some context might be nice though. Prior to PotO, the only story in which the Ood appeared was the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit two-parter in which they are explicitly described as a slave race with no purpose but to serve. The guy who /gave/ that brief description seemed to have no idea where they originally came from, and my understanding of the Ood at that time was that they were a genetically engineered servant race that humans had somehow stumbled across and claimed for themselves. The Doctor himself never seemed to be even slightly bothered by the enslavement of the Ood at that point.

    Now personally, I thought the idea of a genetically engineered slave race that somehow fell into the human race’s hands was interesting because it raised the issue of what are one’s ethical duties towards a creature that is inherently incapable of desiring a state of non-servitude. It’s interesting to me that Jack compares them to droids, because in TIP/SP, they’re basically treated like fleshy robots, and if the Ood HAD been robots, no one would have given a shit about a bunch of them falling into a black hole. And speaking of droids, should it affect one’s views about droids that we actually SEE C3PO constructed out of spare parts by a 10-year-old child? And still look upon him as a poor slave deserving of his freedom instead of an oddly shaped communications tool that has a really advanced user interface? Or to put that another way, how many more advances should I expect from my IPhone before I have to start respecting Siri’s autonomy and negotiate with her about what her wages should be?

    To me, the Ood weren’t droids so much as equivalents to the house elves from Harry Potter and the Alpha Primitives from Marvel’s The Inhumans. Both of them are biological constructs. The former have individual identities but the latter are a clone species. Both were created in the ancient history of the current societies they serve. Both actively desire to serve (Dobby notwithstanding), become distraught at the thought of freedom, and apparently will weaken and die if prevented from serving. With those factors in mind, I thought the ethical implications of the Ood as a genetically engineered slave race and how humans should treat them might yield some interesting stories.

    Then, PotO actually aired, and all that went out the window. Instead, the Ood were a species that evolved naturally (if implausibly) and were enslaved by an EVIL CORPORATION run by EVIL HUMANS who held the species hostage by keeping the Ood’s GIANT RACE BRAIN in a vat and shocking it with electrodes.

    In short, I was disappointed with PotO not because I didn’t get my “happy slave race” or whatever, but because I thought it was a fucking stupid episode that ruined the Ood as a concept.

    Reply

  14. Jack Graham
    October 15, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

    I can confirm that, when I wrote about fans who were unhappy with the portrayal of the Ood, I wasn’t thinking of anyone who has (so far) posted a comment under this article. 🙂

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      October 15, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

      Yeah, you have to remember, poor Jack was active on GallifreyBase through much of the Davies era.

      Reply

  15. Tales to Enrage
    October 15, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

    As an American, I have a specific resonance against the argument for happy slaves, that of the Lost Cause rhetoric in the American South. It didn’t start with the Civil War-there’s plenty of slaveholders who wrote about how they treated their slaves well and they were happy, so there you abolitionist busybodies-but there was a LOT of literature and early movies created about how THIS plantation had happy slaves, and really they were doing fine before this whole Northern War started and wrecked the joint. Anyone who pines for the Antebellum South here in the US is at best unaware of the poisonous source of such ideas, or at worst willfully ignorant and enthusiastically spreading the idea.

    Reply

    • Citizen_Alan
      October 15, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

      Good God, Yes! I live in North Mississippi, and if I ever go on a murderous killing spree, it will be because one person too many has said in my presence that antebellum slaves were treated well and that the REAL cause of the war was Northern tariffs and crap like that .HAAAAATE!

      Reply

  16. Nat
    October 15, 2015 @ 11:30 pm

    “The concept of the happy slave has been treated in SF. Rather extensively actually. …I’m happy to accept that it’s possible to want to see such a depiction without having sinister motives (though I admit to finding it hard to think of quite how). However, there’s something inherently worrying to me about it.”

    You’ve just described dog ownership, according to most people who prefer dogs to cats as pets. And the discomfort of being the owner is a large part of why I’ve never had a pet dog, and likely never will. Timothy Ferris had a fascinating bit about that in The Mind’s Sky, using dogs and humans as an analogy for humans and paternalistic benevolent aliens. He used the metaphor of “personal gods” rather than “owners”, but I think the general analysis stands up to it.

    And if you don’t find the notion of domestic dogs and their owners discomforting, I put to you that there is a model for the happy slave that you are comfortable with.

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    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      October 15, 2015 @ 11:43 pm

      I’m not sure slavery without consciousness is a meaningful concept.

      Reply

  17. UrsulaL
    October 16, 2015 @ 12:24 pm

    World leaders in the 1930s get a bad rap for having negotiated with Hitler. But really, it is only in retrospect that we know that Hitler was a Hitler. And we know that only because great effort was made to reach a peaceful alternative to the European part of WWII, and Hitler showed who and what he was.

    But since then, I think the lesson learned has been a dangerous one. The problem with “don’t negotiate with a Hitler” is that it is quite hard to tell, in advance, what leader will be a Hitler. Not just in ideology, but in effectively carrying it out.

    And “we have to go to war, because we can’t negotiate with a Hitler!” can (and has) be used to justify any war, however pointless it turns out to be, often with worse results than what the so-called Hitler was actually doing that was used to justify the war.

    “Give peace a chance” seems the sensible option. Try diplomacy, and negotiation, and even giving in to some demands at the negotiating table (because if you refuse to give in to anything, it isn’t really negotiating), and see if it works. But it is hard to document. Who knows how many wars have been averted by successful diplomacy?

    Reply

  18. David Anderson
    October 16, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

    Another person who thought that the Ood worked better in Impossible Planet.
    I think they worked because they made one morally uncomfortable. That is, they raised the questions of how slaves are represented by slave owners as willing, the questions of how people internalise ideology, and similar questions, without providing their own answers. As with a lot of sf, they cast light on reality by showing reality as it is not.
    The problem I think with Planet of the Ood isn’t so much that it shows a slave rebellion, but that it starts out by presenting it as a mystery about whether the society is unjust and then triumphantly keeps proclaiming that it is really unjust. (I keep thinking of Phil’s essay on Song of Megaptera as the contrast case, where the question of whether space whaling is morally wrong is answered immediately in the negative, freeing the episode up to do other things.)
    And ‘we freed the slaves’ is, along with opposing Hitler, one of the things the UK national ideology prides itself on. Which the UK did end the Atlantic slave trade, but it’s hardly as morally clear cut as that, and anyway the UK went on to use it to justify imperial land grabs. So a story about, no slavery is bad, has a rather too cosy relationship with UK national ideology.
    In this context the Doctor’s sweatshop comment comes over as a bit of a sixth form debating society point, rather than any serious critique, especially as Donna says so. At this point in the Davies-era it’s been established that the companion and Doctor have moral roles. The Doctor take the big morally ambiguous consequentialist decisions that somebody has to take – the dirty hands roles; the companion takes on the angel in the house role of moral principles and compassion uncompromised by dirty decisions. So on this question the moral logic of the Davies-era is clear: Donna isn’t really morally compromised by sweatshop labour, because she’s the companion and the companion isn’t morally compromised,

    Reply

  19. LordRiven
    October 17, 2015 @ 1:10 am

    The ‘robots are slaves” argument only works if you accept robots as sentient. To my mind Data is sentient, C-3PO and R2-D2 are not. To wit: if you erased Data’s memory banks and rebooted him, he would no longer be the entity known as Data: his thoughts, feelings, experiences – everything that made him the evolving creature we know him to be – would be lost. The entity that would then live its life would then form a new personality: imagine Data raised by Vulcans, or Klingons, or other species with different priorities than humans.

    C3PO and R2D2, however, are merely software in endearing casing. Both have their memories wiped, both experience no change in personality. They have no characters arcs in six movies: R2D2 and C3PO in the Phantom Menace are emotionally identical to themselves in The Return of the Jedi (and, undoubtedly, the Force Awakens. R2D2 is spunky and independent, C-3PO is a worrywart. Their program might be unique, making R2D2 different from all other R2 models, and 3PO distinct from all protocol droids, but singular programming does not sentience equate. They are tools – chatty tools – but not entities in-and-of-themselves. That’s anthropomorphism on our part (aided and abetted by the script, of course.)

    Reply

  20. John
    October 19, 2015 @ 10:31 am

    Surely the fact that we’ve so far only seen working-class (petit-bourgeois if you like) Tivolians is telling. What if a predilection for being oppressed wasn’t inherent in the species (how could it be, really?) but instilled by the leading classes (who, for pragmatic or corrupt reasons perhaps, have found it convenient) as a form of false consciousness?

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