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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.

13 Comments

  1. Peeeeeeet
    November 17, 2018 @ 11:51 am

    Great stuff, probably the best take I’ve seen so far.

    I’m still mulling over this episode, but to me, the issue with the Thijarians (and this may anticipate what you’re going to say about metaphor) is that an idea central to events like Remembrance Sunday is that old Santayana line about those who do not remember the mistake of the past being condemned to repeat them. That makes some sense for us, since being reminded of the horrors may make us a little less likely to repeat them, but it doesn’t apply to the Thijarians, because they’re MO doesn’t have consequences – they came, they witnessed, they moved onto the next. It’s interesting that in the previous episode, the Doctor explicitly asks to join in the (religious) funeral ceremony, and here she officiates at a wedding, but at the end of this episode, the Thijarians stand between her (and the other representatives of post-colonial Britain) and the horror, effectively shielding them (and the viewer) from the very thing they are witnessing, even though, as you pointed out, the Doctor instinctively joins in with their ceremonial gestures earlier. How much more in character for Thirteen (and perhaps also a better pay-off for Graham’s earlier ignorance), if she had requested that they join in the witnessing? Yes, it would still present a Doctor who in the face of overwhelming tragedy can do nothing to prevent it, but it would at least be an acknowledgement that ignorance – whether deliberate or accidental – is even worse.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, I vastly prefer the approach taken here and in Rosa to that of Fires of Pompeii, where not just passivity but actual culpability was seemingly absolved by a breaking of the rules deliberately tiny enough to slip under the radar. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I loathed that.

    Reply

  2. Kate Orman
    November 17, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

    So much here that’s thought-provoking and challenging that’s embarrassing that I suspect “The technology of travel is basic to both SF and to imperialism.” is what’s going to write itself into my brain.

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  3. TomeDeaf
    November 17, 2018 @ 3:07 pm

    Superb job, Jack. Have forwarded to several friends – should be required reading after watching the episode!

    (I was particularly touched to hear you say that you thought this episode would be far better viewing for children in school than any number of documentaries – one of the aspects of the Chibnall era I am most enjoying is that, for all its faults, it is encouraging parents to have conversations about this stuff with their children, and for all our cynicism I’d say that in so doing it is legitimately a social good.)

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    • TomeDeaf
      November 17, 2018 @ 3:07 pm

      • say on the podcast, that is.

      Reply

  4. Ozyman.Jones
    November 18, 2018 @ 6:01 am

    Thank you for this piece. Informative, passionate and, I’d guess, well informed.

    And it reinforces my contention that Doctor Who should stay the hell away from real-world, modern political/historical stories. Reality is way too layered, nuanced and inter-sectional for a show of Doctor Who’s scope to cover in any meaningful way.

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  5. Kaan Vural
    November 18, 2018 @ 8:45 am

    The treatment of the Partition is very meaningful, as Jack just demonstrated; it’s just held back from certain kinds of meaning because it’s liberal entertainment.

    A show whose central visual feature is a portal to faerie implicitly has one foot in the real world. The story of otherworldly beings bearing witness to a historical injustice, far from being the kind of story Doctor Who shouldn’t attempt, is slap bang at the heart of what it’s about.

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  6. kevin merchant
    November 18, 2018 @ 11:54 am

    I really like your analyses Jack

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  7. Rodolfo Piskorski
    November 19, 2018 @ 12:20 am

    I, too, thought that the Thijarians were meant to symbolise the redeemed British imperialists, who are now nice guys who commemorate the dead on Remembrance Sunday.

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  8. Simon Blake
    November 19, 2018 @ 11:09 am

    “an accidental satire of the limitations of milquetoast liberalism”

    How sure are you that it is accidental? One or two stories like this would be accidental. By now it has risen to the level of policy.

    Watching “Kerblam” I joked to my wife before it even started that the robots from the trailer were DEFINITELY not going to be the big bad, because the only permissible villains in Who these days are straight white men. And then it turned out that no, the robots weren’t the villains, not even the System was a villain, or even the execs sorta-running it – no, the System (Amazon, or more broadly capitalist consumerism) was the VICTIM. Of a straight white man.

    Chibby Who is a deliberate satire of hand-wringing diversity-quota SJW liberalism. It’s no longer possible for me to see it any other way.

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  9. UrsulaL
    November 19, 2018 @ 11:23 pm

    The politics of partition were even more complex than that. Because India was not a unified nation before the British, and it was not a unified polity under the British. Before the British the Mughal Empire was the largest nation within India, but much of the south (the part where my mother’s family is from) was independent.

    During British rule, parts of India were ruled directly by the British. But other parts, the “princely states” had local monarchs who ruled semi-independently.

    I found a nice set of historical maps here, for those who are interested:

    https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/this-video-beautifully-illustrates-the-history-of-india-from-2800-bc-to-2016_-255787.html

    Independence didn’t just separate India and Pakistan, it also forced those princely states into joining one or the other, and the local rulers to give up their power and autonomy in favor of centralized rule and democracy. This had its own fallout, most notably in Kashmir, whose ruler tried to gain independence, playing India and Pakistan off each other, with violent consequences that still haven’t completely settled down.

    The history of Hyderabad State is also an interesting example of this phenomenon.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyderabad_State

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    • Jack Graham
      November 19, 2018 @ 11:43 pm

      You’re right, of course, that it is extremely complicated, and I have tried to put across the gist without sounding as if I’m claiming to say everything there is to say. I wouldn’t claim to be anything but a presumptuous novice amateur autodidact on the subject of Indian history, although I’ve tried to get my facts right.

      Tharoor’s book contains an argument – in Chapter 2 – that, while not a unified nation before the British came, India had a distinctness, a “cultural and geographical unity” going back a long way in time, and an “impulsion towards unity” that shows itself repeatedly in Indian history.

      Thanks for the interesting comment.

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      • UrsulaL
        November 20, 2018 @ 12:04 am

        Nothing wrong with what you wrote!

        It’s more just an excuse to geek out on the history a bit.

        Just trying to unify British India and the princely states would have been difficult. Trying to simultaneously unify and partition the territory, while also establishing a new form of government, added considerably more room for things to go wrong.

        There is still notably regional tension, such as the linguistic issues surrounding the government. English as a national language has issues, but people in the South feel (justifiably) discriminated against with Hindi as the second national language, since not having it as their first language puts them at a disadvantage compared to people from the north.

        Reply

  10. 5tephe
    November 19, 2018 @ 11:39 pm

    So glad you have expanded on your thoughts about the silences in the podcast, Jack. This was a really good read, and one of the best discussions of the episode I’ve seen anywhere. Can’t wait for the promised “next time”.

    Reply

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