I’ve found the eleventh series of Dr Who a bit of a struggle to watch at times. It’s nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman, it’s that she seems to have regenerated not only with an alien womb, but also with a renewed sense of hyper politically correct preachy moralism, hell-bent on offering us up a sermon on the importance of minority rights and other moral issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I ‘get it’ and I even broadly support the aim of using a prime-time show, watched by millions of children worldwide, to raise awareness of dyspraxia, bust stereotypes about Pakistani females, provide us with a potted history lesson on Rosa Parks and proselytize about pacifist means of tackling violence, but there’s just something a bit too obvious, and a bit too preachy about the way this new series does all of that.
It never used to be like this: Dr Who used to be solid sci-fi, underpinned by the lonely, chaotic (rather than ‘moral’) character of the Dr, and at times it even got VERY dark, as with the penultimate episode of season nine: ‘Heaven Sent’ in which, following the death of his companion, Clara, the Dr gets trapped in a castle, living out the same horrific cycle of events for billions of years: the really sick twist being that it was other Time Lords who ‘tricked’ him into ending up being there.
I just cannot see this kind of ‘horror’ featuring in this latest incarnation.Maybe it’s the fault of the new writing team – Steven Moffat’s moved on, and it seems that the new team has a new OTT politically correct agenda for the Doctor on Sunday evenings. Anyway, to emphasise my point, below are a few examples of preachy moralising from the latest series of Dr Who…
Episode 1 – In which the Doctor struggles to fit her gaggle of new minority side-kicks into her Tardis.
When I were a lad, there was one side kick + the ultracool K9, now we’ve got THREE sidekicks, all ticking at least two ‘minority’ boxes.
- Yasmin Khan, an identifiably British Pakistani (usually, knowing this series, she’s probably of Indian heritage or elsewhere) name, a Police officer, and a very independent one at that.
- Ryan Sinclair – a black male suffering from dyspraxia, signified by his relatives mentioning it and by the fact that he’s ‘struggling to ride his bike’ at two points in the episode.
- The final sidekick is a white working-class older male, the working classness signified by his being a bus driver, Graham O’Brien, note the Irish surname to ram in yet another minority reference.
To make it even more unreal, as the series develops there’s a hint of a romance possibility emerging between Yasmin and Ryan, which is just about the most unlikely ethnicity pairing in the UK.
Now I’m all for stereotype busting and minority inclusion, but, trust me, watch episode one, and you’ll see how cringe it is. Desperate even – it’s non-stop unrealism, all the way through to Ryan ‘trying to ride his bike’ in honour of his dead Grandma at the end of the episode.
Episode two: The Ghost Monument
Actually this episode isn’t too preachy compared to the others, but there is a very cringe moment where Ryan the dyspraxic has to go down a ladder, and the episode seems to halt while the Dr gives him instructions about how to overcome his clumsiness… the lesson clearly being ‘be patient with your clumsy class mates, there may a reason for their clumsiness’.
There’s also a moment in which Ryan runs around shooting some robot soldiers, like in ‘Call of Duty’, but of course they all ‘reboot’ and so the Doctor gets to preach about ‘guns not being the answer’, and how it’s ‘better to outsmart them’.
In fairness I can forgive this sort of moralising, because it amuses me just how much this is going to annoy some gun-toting Americans watching the episode with their kids.
Episode three: Rosa..
In which the team go back in time and meet Rosa Parks, and foil a history changing plot by a White Racist to stop her refusing to give up her seat.
I actually really enjoyed this episode, and I can forgive the writers the history lesson, but again it’s the cringe: towards the end of the episode, the Dr who gives a mini-lecture on Rosa Parks’ legacy, accompanied my ‘magnificent mood’ music.
Ongoing cringe themes of the first half of the series….
Graham’s partner died in episode one, so ‘dealing with death’ has been one ongoing theme, and Ryan was deserted by his dad when he was younger and his coming to terms with this is another ongoing theme. Over the first four episodes, I’d say there’s a good 20 mins of very fast-forwardable footage where these two characters process their emotions about their tough life circumstances, and that’s quite a chunk of airtime dealing with emotional issues – nearly 10%!
There are some upsides….
Episode 4: Arachnids in the UK wasn’t too preachy, and seemed to finally get on with developing a through-plot for the series, and one of the ‘bad-guys’ is a Donald Trump clone, and I do quite appreciate this dig. Again, I would love to see the reaction of those gun-toting Americans!
The internal revamp of the Tardis is cool but TBH the squeaky clean bright and white interior would have suited the new lame ass tone of Dr Who better than its new alien-organic look.
The Doctor has battled hundreds of enemies over billions of years of time, saving the earth from destruction on several occasions, and entertaining millions of people in the process. However, having survived the likes of the Daleks, The Master, and The Cybermen, she’s finally been brought down by the great scourge of 21st century political correctness. She may well still be alive, but she’s completely lost his edge.
As I see it the Doctor as I new him is no more….I used to really enjoy the sense that the Dr was a tragically lonely character with a ‘dark and sinister past’, who was closer to ‘chaos’, beyond good and evil if you like, rather than the simple force for moral good which she (now he is a woman?) seems to have turned into in her present incarnation.
And the final irony: you would have thought that of all the beings in the universe, the most likely candidate to have a relativistic perspective on things, and to fully appreciate the fact that morality is a social construct, dependent on location and historical context, that person would have to be a Time Lord.
Just not according to the BBC: the Doctor’s universal moral code seems to be perfectly in-tune with that of early 21st century Britain, ‘naturally’!
This post was written for educational purposes.
Dr Who: Heaven Sent – https://dvd-fever.co.uk/heaven-sent-doctor-who-series-9-episode-11-the-dvdfever-review/
Dr Who – cast – https://www.doctorwho.tv/#_
Enid Blyton – https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/book-details.php?id=2388&title=Five+on+a+Climbing+Holiday+(No.+68)
Lesson on Rosa – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bpwm2m/doctor-who-series-11-3-rosa