Monday, 24 September 2012
Don't Try And Win Me Over With Basic Maths
There's something painfully, aggravatingly ironic in writing this post after a Doctor Who episode in which everyone's favourite Time Lord (after Drax, obviously) insists that humanity learns from its myriad mistakes. If nothing else, after the flap that broke out following Mark Gatiss' "The Unquiet Dead" - even if that was kicked off by Lawrence Miles, a man so outspoken in fandom he makes Ian Levine look like Ian Martyr - you'd think the show would be a little more careful about how it handles immigration.
Chris Chibnall is not a very good writer. He has written some good stuff (I have very little bad to say about "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"), but his best work isn't nearly impressive enough to justify risking getting his worst work, which is very, very bad indeed. The two seasons of Torchwood he helmed were, in order, utterly fucking atrocious, and just about bearable so long as it was mocking its first series, which was utterly fucking atrocious. Prior to "Dinosaurs..." his absolute career peak as regards the Whoniverse was "42", which was competent rather than impressive, and I seem to be in the distinct minority giving it even that much praise.
But there's a difference between failing to write a good Doctor Who script, and actually having no idea what Doctor Who is supposed to be in the first place. So here's a hint: if a massive but apparently entirely benign influx of alien matter arrives on Earth, the Doctor will not immediately buy into the idea that they're dangerous. Fuck that. Fuck that with a ten-foot sonic screwdriver. This is a character who when played by Jon Pertwee - an actor with no little backstage clout who under which the Doctor was more authoritarian and downright Tory as he's been in any period throughout the show's run - spent several episodes of his second story being told a race of subterranean reptiles were murdering humans only to try to shake the hand of the first Silurian he met. The Doctor is the ultimate deterrent. He is not a weapon for UNIT to point at things they've yet to understand.
Miles' key objection to "The Unquiet Dead" was that the Doctor, initially friendly towards the Gelth, admits that Rose was right to be unthinkingly xenophobic, because on this one occasion that kind of knee-jerk bigotry happened to be correct. Had JM Keynes still been alive, he'd have gone round to Gatiss' house and personally punched him in the face for that. "Innocent until proven guilty" does not become a stupid principle once it turns out someone is, in fact guilty. Keynes understood that. The law understands that. The Doctor understands that, except that Chibnall thinks the Doctor would wish he'd burned every single alien interloper before he'd actually discovered their malign intent.
I mean, sure, I've watched enough film and TV to know that cubes are rarely good news:
but allowing the Doctor to buy into our provincial xenophobia implicitly justifies it - and if a story has a Godlike alien operating under a clear principle unchallenged by anyone or anything, then that's at least an implicit justification - and that misses the point of the series by several light years.
The Doctor spends a year on Earth, ignoring all the other possible adventures he could have, all the other people he could save, because he's worried an influx of confusing alien artifice might turn out to be bad news for his British friends. Roll that around your head for a while. Then add in the idea that the cubes were clever enough to pretend to be benign for a while because people would hope for and assume the best until it was time for the dark-skinned interlopers to show their true nature.
Fuck, as I may have said above, that.
Also: suggesting someone from south of Lincolnshire was responsible for Yorkshire pudding? That's the most racist racism of all, right there. For shame!