Everyone is down a mine.
(Incidentally, it’s funny how often Doctor Who in the 70s and 80s keeps coming back to mines. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with the fact that coal mining was a key industry in British economic life during these decades, miners were among the most powerful unionised workers in the 70s, and the 80s saw the calculated destruction of the miners’ unions and their industry by the Tory government. Oh ho no.)
Anyway. As I say, everyone – the Doctor, Romana, K9, Adrasta, Organon and a giant green blob called Erato – is down a mine. And things are coming to a head. (Head. Pit-head. Geddit? Never mind. It doesn’t really work anyway.)
Yes, so anyway… Erato is, as I say, a giant green blob.
“Erato came here fifteen years ago to propose a trading agreement,” says the Doctor, while everyone else still reels from the revelation that the blob has a name, a mind and the ability to talk. “Tythonus is a planet rich in metallic ores and minerals….”
There’s an interlude here where the Doctor and Adrasta have a little argument about the fact that the Doctor is checking his facts by asking an electric dog.
“…the Tythonions exist on ingesting chlorophyll,” the Doctor continues, “Large quantities of it, judging by their size. Now, there’s a superabundance of planet life on Chloris, so…”
“So Erato came here to offer you metal in return for chlorophyll!” finishes Romana.
“Right. But who was the first person he met?”
“The person who held the monopoly of metal here,” supplies Organon in response to the Doctor’s rhetorical question.
He means Adrasta, by the way.
“Right,” agrees the Doctor, “And did she put the welfare of her struggling people above her own petty power? No. She tipped the ambassador into a pit and threw astrologers at him.”
If you don’t know what that last bit means, well I’m sorry… I have limited space and no inclination to explain. What are you doing reading this blog anyway, if you’re not the sort of person who has already seen the DVD at least 412 times?
What Erato didn’t reckon on was the fact that he was a character in a story being written in Britain in the late 70s, when British society was laying to rest the last vestiges of the leftover radicalism of the 60s and just starting to be transformed by the crumbling of the post-war social democratic consensus and the rise of neoliberalism… By coming to a feudal society that existed in such a story, Erato was coming to a place where feudalism was a stand-in for protectionism and backwardness and all sorts of other Bad Things that hindered free trade. So Bad Things were likely to happen to him.
The funny thing is… this story actually sort-of tallies with the Marxist view of history. Marxism thinks historical change happens for all sorts of reasons, but one fundamental reason is the moment when the developing forces of production (how societies reproduce themselves by making what they need) come into conflict with the social superstructure (how relationships in society are arranged).…