Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Angry Face of Doctor Who

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Texts from the Tardis is an ongoing Doctor Who rewatch  in which we compare the reactions and analysis of a first time viewer (Peter) to a long-time Whovian (Andy).

Episode 6: DalekDW E6 When do they leave earth

Peter: So the Doctor doesn’t know why they landed where they did, but at least this time it’s not the Doctor’s fault with the steering!

Andy: That’s true! Apparently some signal drew the Tardis off course, and so they landed in 2012, Utah. (Although I’m not sure it matters if it’s set in Utah since they are 53 stories underground.)

So is that robot in the case that the Doctor talks to a reference to the classic Doctor Who series?

Indeed! I won’t spoil you more, but several old nemeses make an appearance on the show. Case in point: the Daleks.  

“Your race is dead! You all burned, all of you, ten million ships on fire, the entire Dalek race wiped out in one second!”

“You lie!”

“I watched it happen! I made it happen!”

“You destroyed us?”

“I had no choice.”

“And what of the Time Lords?”

“Dead. They burned with you. The end of the last great Time War. Everyone lost.”

“And the coward survived.”

“Oh, and I got your little signal. ‘Help me, poor little thing.’ But there’s no one else coming ‘cause there’s no one else left.”

“I am alone in the universe.”


“We are the same.”

So the Doctor just freaked his shit in this episode, which is a whole new side of him that I honestly didn’t see coming!

I love the Doctor for his rage.

The Doctor is usually very careful to control his emotions. His wit and charm are so often used to deflect questions and keep people at arm’s length. But occasionally something happens that catches him off guard, and the walls come down. We’ve seen how much he cares for Rose already, and how far he’s willing to go to be a hero, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen a darker side to his emotional depths.

I think the Doctor’s anger says something important about the way the Doctor loves people. The Doctor admires people who live with their whole hearts. Nothing is more important to the Doctor than that people should be free to follow their own path in life. He has a deep, visceral hatred for the Daleks because they oppose that. His anger is scary, but I find it to be a deeply relatable flaw, because it comes from the same place as his love.

I knew that he survived an epic war, but I can’t believe a robot set him off! It’s just a robot! Its suction cup thingy doesn’t even look that dangerous!

Boy was I wrong.
Boy was I wrong.

DW E6 Hasn't hurt anyoneI related to Rose a whole lot in this episode. All I kept thinking is that the robot hasn’t hurt anyone so far! And even when it did, it only hurt its jailers, who were torturing it. But before that happened it was just like the Doctor! The lone survivor of an unimaginably tragic war trying to find its place now that all the rest is gone.

I feel like maybe you missed the part of this episode where the Doctor explained the prime directive of the Dalek race: EXTERMINATE!

Don’t you see it’s all gone? Everything you were, everything you stood for?”

“Then what should I do?”

“All right then, if you want orders, follow this one: kill yourself.”

“The Daleks must survive!”

“The Daleks have failed! Why don’t you finish the job and make the Daleks extinct? Rid the universe of your filth? Why don’t you just DIE?!”

“You would make a good Dalek.”

I mean, clearly this episode is written in such a way that the audience is supposed to feel some sympathy for the Dalek, and there are a number of parallels between the Dalek and the Doctor, but…this is an alien race whose sole purpose is to wipe out all life that is not Dalek. That’s why it commits suicide at the end, once the Doctor reveals that absorbing Rose’s DNA has mutated it. It is so dedicated to its mission that it will kill itself for the sin of not being Dalek.

Yeah that was confusing. Until the Dalek opened up it’s case, I assumed that because they had programmed orders that they were AI or something along those lines. I’m not sure how I feel about it being an organic being living inside a metal case.

I just found it to be a very sympathetic being. And Rose does too as shown by her attempts to connect with it on a personal level. She even goes so far as to give it a comforting pat, which admittedly didn’t go so well, but it’s the gesture that counts.

“I won’t let you do this!”

“That thing killed hundreds of people!”

“It’s not the one pointing the gun at me.”

“I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to end it! The Daleks destroyed my home, my people, I’ve got nothing left!”

“It couldn’t kill van Statten, it couldn’t kill me, it’s changing. What about you, Doctor? What are you changing into?”

These three scenes between the Doctor and the Dalek are all incredibly poignant, but it’s this third one that solidifies this episode’s place as the best one we’ve watched so far. The Doctor saw himself pushed to violence just like the Dalek. I don’t know what things were like during the war. But I do know that rarely does only one side commit atrocities. So I can only assume that even if the Time Lords were on the “right” side of that war that they bear at least some responsibility for the resulting destruction.

So I am definitely speaking with the benefit of future knowledge, but I just can’t agree with you here, Pete. All we know at this point is that the Daleks want to exterminate literally all life. I can’t make the leap to assume that the Time Lords must have also done horrible things just because they were fighting them.

DW E6 Dalek with an existential crisisI really came around on this episode. Not only was the story compelling, but there were a lot of great secondary characters in this episode. First, Anna-Louise Plowman shows up as Diana! I find it totally hilarious that she is faking an American accent for this (British) show when on Stargate she played Isis, who was a British character on an American show.

Then there was that rich collector, whose name I can’t even remember, has such a douchey face.

Henry van Statten?

Yeah, that guy. Request permission to rename him Doucheface McSmarmy?

Request granted.

And I’m sorry, but I’m in love with this Dalek now. It’s like a stray cat that follows you home. Can we keep him? Requesting permission to name him. He looks like a Cornelious.

Yeah, that thing is sleeping in your room.

The one character I didn’t like was Adam. Please tell me they aren’t bringing doofy science guy with them?

I don’t want to alarm anyone but…he’s in the Tardis.  

This kid is the real stray cat that follows you home.

Episode 7: The Long Game

Alright Pete, you finally got your wish, we are going super far into the future. And we are on a spaceship!

DW E7 ArchitectureWell, the architecture might look like it’s around the year 200,000. Really though, it looks more like how 1985 thought the year 2000 would look like.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super pleased that they went back to the future.

I love getting glimpses of what humanity thinks the future is going to look like. It always makes me laugh when they show us slightly-more-advanced versions of today’s technology rather than imagining something completely new. The TV waiter in Back to the Future II didn’t even have flatscreen technology, let alone the internet. And think about how much cell phones alone have changed the way we live. Why don’t we have more room in our futures for new things?

Not all writers can be Gene Roddenberry.

Like did you see the “credit” that they used to pay for things in the food court? This was made in 2005 when Apple Pay and Google Wallet and things like that hadn’t even been invented yet. You’d never see something like that made today.

Their food court could use a little work, but their brain computers are on point.

Damn straight. The idea of the human brain interfacing with a computer isn’t exactly unique, but what they do with it in this episode is really interesting.

The idea of having a computer in your brain that can literally absorb knowledge from outside sources is unreal. It’s like that scene in The Matrix when Neo first experiences the training programs.

A little, yes! They never really clarify in this episode whether or not the computer chips people install actually store memory, but that seems like a safe assumption to me. Although I imagine that this kind of technology in the future will store information in the cloud.

Big “BUT” alert…could something like that ever truly be safe? Show me a world where knowledge is absorbed and not learned and I will show you a world of really smart dumb people. Show me a world where you can program a human brain and I’ll show you a world where someone is programming them for their own personal gains.DW E7 Up to no good

I’d like to argue with you about whether or not it matters how information is acquired: it’s actually called external memory and it’s a thing that predates technology. (Like how your mom always reminds you of your grandparents’ birthdays.) Functionally, accessing information from a computer chip is no different than learning it yourself.

Critical thinking now, that’s the important skill. See: Adam.

So I already couldn’t stand Adam from the last episode, but I do think his inclusion from a storytelling perspective was good. He existed to show us precisely why you don’t bring doofy science kids along for the ride. I had a feeling he would fuck something up, and I had to groan out loud when Rose gave him the keys to the Tardis. What was she thinking?DW E7 Kid was trouble

The concept reminds me of a short film that stumble upon sent me to and the show Dollhouse. Which are both great and terrible at the same time. But i thoroughly enjoyed them. There is a specific scene from season one that really resonates with me where victor(a “doll”) is talking to Agent Paul Ballard.

The technology exists”

“So, someone made a monkey tango. Right? Doesn’t mean its being used on people”

“It does. It means that.”

And I’m actually totally with Paul on this one. It does mean that.

Which brings me to the short film i mentioned earlier called Sight.

Trigger warnings for video. “Brilliant but disturbing” is the apt description on Youtube.

At the end of the day you are always going to have to trust someone with your entire mind, for one reason or another, and in 200,000 years(according to the show, not even then.) we might actually be able to but not today. And as much as I would fawn over the abilities it would give me, I could never bring myself to install one in my own brain. Even if I do want to know kung fu.

I think the real danger here is the role the “news” plays in this episode. Yes, they were being manipulated by evil aliens, but a news monopoly of any kind would be almost as dangerous for the same reasons: it means people aren’t getting the information they need in order to govern themselves.

This was also the first time we learned about the rules of time travel in this particular universe. (Tangent: I love learning how different they can be! Are we dealing with a singular timeline that is immutable, like Lost? Or are we dealing with one timeline that is constantly shifting, like in Primer? Does it have course correction? Or safety features of any kind? Can you blink yourself out of existence? Can you repeatedly change the same event erasing all the previous iterations of it. So many questions.)

Apparently the Doctor hates cleaning up so he’s going to leave. Double take! He just said everything is way off track! But apparently space/time does have course correction and things will fix themselves in no time. That’s a relief. For a second I thought he was going to trust the now unshackled sheeple to reverse nearly a century’s worth of negative progress with no help at all.

I’ll just be over here making no facial expressions at all.

Please do not spoil Peter in the comments!

Dear Readers,

Every episode of Doctor Who seems to bring with it an interesting and fun ethical dilemma. As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, we do take a fair amount of pleasure in debating these dilemmas. This week, We (Andy and Peter) would like to invite you (The Readers) to join in the debate! You can let us know your thoughts in the comment section, and feel free to be as brief or as long winded as you desire. Thanks ahead of time to all of our readers. Even if you don’t comment =)


Question of the Week: Would you get a chip implanted in your brain if you could? Why or why not?

Images courtesy of BBC, and Warner Bros.

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