Doctor Who has always been a part of my life as it has shown me how to live life in a positive way. The science fiction of the show is only one half of it’s appeal to me. One aspect of it is it’s political philosophy that has shone through the different political eras of the time. A typical sci-fi show gives us escapism, taking us out of our lives and into a fantasy world. But there is little escapism in this current series. Which is interesting because at the moment we have a new Doctor that has regenerated into a different gender.
I remember watching the public showing of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor. It was a very big surprise for me and took me aghast. For a long time I had seen the idea of a female Doctor as messing around with a serious show and respected character. Some fans across the world became upset and cross with many thinking the BBC has ruined it with political correctness. But I don’t see it that way.
This is my attempt to make a reasonable and logical understanding of this political nature of the show. I don’t appreciate politically correct meddling of entertainment. It ruins the artistic credibility of the show and represents a stupefying of the audience for the sake of the broadcaster’s own agenda. In the case of Doctor Who it’s not a politically correctness of the show when you consider the philosophy of the programme.
This is a highly rated science fiction show that is a staple of the BBC that is a public institution in the nation’s consciousness. As a story about a time travelling alien on TV it has been explored in many creative ways with endless possibilities and an unlimited format. I have seen plenty of examples of these in my time as a Doctor Who geek. Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor is a branch out into a new possibility that explores more about what we can expect of the Time Lord and the themes of the show.
The 13th Doctor’s new companions are a mix of different characters that resemble the kind of classic companions from William Hartnell’s era. There is an Asian policewoman called Yaz, a cancer survivor called Graham and a black dyspraxia man called Ryan. Very diverse from a broadcaster with a liberal agenda to make the show appeal to all kinds of people. As an autistic person I have taken a shine to Ryan with his dyspraxia. It reminds me of the time when I got excited about the Good Doctor showing an autistic man in a position of power and demonstrating a disabled person in a positive and proactive way. Ryan has got a lot to show in his time with the Doctor and I hope that through positive thinking his dyspraxia is shown as not being a limiting factor in his ability to work on problems that they encounter.
This may be a good opportunity for Doctor Who fans with disabilities like dyspraxia and autism to be shown that despite their physical or neurological impairments they may be useful to a Time Lord. I use my autism in a positive way and I think the Doctor could use my talents because I have a good mental imagery processing ability, I can establish patterns in a situation with a challenge, I am very keenly observant and I have a way of building a working routine in an efficient manner.
But now let’s take a look at the political nature of the show from another angle. Political themes in Doctor Who have actually been in the show since it’s very beginnings. As a character the Doctor has a good strong set of morals and guides people to a better way of living. Taking sides with the rebels as they battle against injustice. Some of these stories are based on actual events that have taken place in the times they were written. Here are some examples from some classic era stories.
Curse of Peladon
Peladon was an alien planet that was engulfed in political turmoil. In this story the Peladon King was negotiating his planet’s admission to the Galactic Federation to allow for a peaceful union to bring economic prosperity to Peladon. A alien delegation was on the warpath to sabotage the proceedings. Coincidently this story went out in 1973 when the UK was admitted to the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union.
Monsters of Peladon
Two years later the Doctor returned when Peladon was in the midst of political and social unrest. It’s miners were on strike and about to fight back against the Royal family. The Doctor reasoned with the queen to get them a better way of life. Surprisingly this was when there was a constant state of fighting between the unions and the government for pay rises and conditions. The trade union movement was always shutting the country down whenever they wanted something.
The Green Death
This is one of Doctor Who’s best episodes for me. It was written on commission by the producer Berry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks over a discussion about environmental issues. The story covers topics such as ecology issues, big corporations fighting against the green movement to get bigger profits, toxic waste spills and their devastation like making maggots grow to hundreds of times their normal size! It was around this point in time that the Green Party and Greenpeace was formed.
This story is a satire on taxation. It was written by Robert Holmes when he was in debt to the Inland Revenue and made real life caricatures out of all the people in this story. There is a tax collector who executes people that can’t pay, a society of underground dwellers hiding from them, a government with too many economists and it ends in a fightback against the corporation. So there is some happiness at the end.
The Happiness Patrol
This story is like a cross between Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Spitting Image with a tyrannical leader based on Margaret Thatcher. The story is set on a planet where people are not allowed to be miserable. Everyone has to be happy even with their lack of wealth or prosperity. Anyone who is miserable is killed. The leader Helen A was played by Shelia Hancock, an actress who hated Thatcher with a passion and channelled her rhetoric into the character.
So you think Doctor Who is being weaponised by the BBC. It hasn’t been doing it just now as it’s biased against the current political climate. It’s been a drama that tackles the political climate for generations.