Don’t tell me the Rules

Doctor Who is not science fiction.

I like science fiction. David Brin in Existence introduces talking crystals from Space, but explains what they are, what they are for, and how their makers are motivated to create them. He hints at a billion-year history of our galaxy and the interaction of different species, and the different artificially intelligent machines they create. All of it hangs together. I have no difficulty with suspending disbelief. The book also posits possible developments of the internet by the mid-21st century, and the effects of a great increase of inequalities in wealth. He even has an action scene where the hero thwarts an imminent terrorist threat, by exerting reason on diverse clues. I read it twice. The first time it seemed turgid, unnecessarily complex and drawn out. Her emotional reactions barely figure.

When a dalek eye-stalk emerges from a human forehead, it is magic rather than technology. The music changes, the face changes, the stalk grows. I happen to like the dramatic timing, it does not just appear, but does not try to milk the horror of the change too much for my taste. Then a woman overcomes her dalek implant by force of personality, egged on by The Doctor.

This makes no rational sense at all. We learned in an earlier episode that people died when so converted, and were zombified tools. Arguably, it makes no dramatic sense: everything is horrible, and then by magic everything is OK. It makes wonderful emotional sense: the strength of a human spirit triumphs over oppression and control.

Doctor Who makes sense as myth. In The Time of the Doctor, he is able to resurrect his people simply by uttering his own name, but refuses to do so. He stands between his people, on the other side of a Crack in Time, and massed species previously seen as monsters or villains, now protecting our universe from the Time Lords. There are Goodies and Baddies here, but the former Goodies are made into baddies. Well, there are no Good or Bad people, only good or bad actions- perhaps not even that.

Generally, the Doctor arrives in a bad situation and makes it Better, but here he was unable to do so, merely to preserve the stand-off, and age to death over three hundred years. And then it all became all right: the Time Lords, who had wanted resurrection in “our Universe”, relinquished their demand and freed the Doctor, also resetting him to live another thousand years- which is OK because an episode thirty years ago said they could. The end was self-sacrifice by the tarnished ex-good guys, which delighted me.

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