Sunday, 19 April 2009
Dr Who's Army Recruitment role in Planet of the Dead
Trust me. I'm a Doctor!
Reviews at A Very Public Sociologist and Harpy Marx cover the Dr Who Easter special so I'm spared that particular chore. But I will add my alarm that, as we slip silently into Surveillance Britain, even this innocent series, beloved of our childhood, has been inducted into the government's Planet Paranoia.
Maybe I'm being a sensitive flower, but just as our armed forces ratchet up horror after horror in illegal wars, and our police are revealed to relish stormtrooper tactics in matters of democratic protest, it seems our media are ushering us into an era where we are militarised drones.
We are all Morlocks and Eloi now.
It's bad enough when Army Recruitment ads are styled as shoot-'em-up video games to attract a generation whose lights have dimmed through a life at the computer. I got to the end of Doom II! it's potent stuff. (And, incidentally, said to have been originally used as combat training for US soldiers.) I still remember travelling through the West End after an all-nighter, and noticing that the buildings looked not quite real. I suppressed my own urge to go up and hit the space-bar but not before checking for Revenants and other non-humans — in this dimension, that means everyone.
I loved it. I loved the feeling of unreality, defamiliarising your old environment and giving you a new vista from which to explore the real world.
But I could tell the difference, Philip K Dickian head-fuckery aside. I knew concrete reality with live human beings occupying their own universes was the default mode, and that my existence is more than a binary life-or-death, good-versus-evil struggle decided at the point of a gun.
The media, however, is changing the terrain. Seismic shifts are going undetected. The BBC Easter Special, like the wheedling witch and her gingerbread house, like the wolf in the red-hooded granny disguise, like every other con artist throughout history, is out to devour you.
The latest episode uses a trusted figure, David Tennant as the Doctor, to tell kids to join the army, or as it is incarnated here, the Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). An army, mind you, made up of characters who are prepared to kill their scientific dissidents. Okay, it WAS Lee Evans (and therefore vaguely understandable) and not Dr David Kelly, but mitigating circumstances notwithstanding, homicidal behaviour legitimised by a uniform is being further naturalised in the culture.
Once our heroes have returned to Earth aboard the flying Routemaster bus (I hope they got permission from the Ministry of Thoughtcrime to film it), the Doctor encourages the two young male passengers, Nathan and Barclay, who happen to be of squaddie age, to join UNIT, the very force whose incompetence and dependence on expediency to the exclusion of the softer human qualities, almost led to disaster. We've already seen what terminal measures they are prepared to take with anyone who follows their conscience when the female officer threatens to shoot the scientist who doesn't immediately obey her order.
Is that Dr Who's Easter special message? The meek don't inherit the earth, they go silently and uncomplainingly to their fate.
This stuff isn't playing to adults who can more or less fend for themselves; it's going out to children whose worldview and sense of self is still malleable. The social model being presented to them as normality is a worrying one where you kill people instead of making things to keep our way of life going. As if this is how things are and was ever thus, even in the world of the imagination.
And that's what I call evil.