Just Peace: Ambitious Politics in Doctor Who

Spec Doctor Who
Illustration by Stephanie Gao

Yes, in this post I will be discussing specific scenes. Yes, there will be spoilers.

Doctor Who is an awesome show; you don’t need me to tell you that. Full of action, sci-fi, and a dash of romance, it has captivated viewers over many generations. Even if you aren’t interested in any of these aspects of the show—which I honestly can’t imagine to be the case—Doctor Who also provides a different angle of interest. It is a clever show that uses elements from history and gestures towards real world political tensions with relevance and tact.

At the heart of the show lies the figure of the Doctor: a powerful, mostly benevolent, and ageless (no, really, the production team has messed up the details of his age frequently) Time Lord. The Doctor is arguably the most important symbol created by the franchise. He roams freely across the universe, engaging in conflict with various malevolent alien species and humans who seek to do harm to others.

One of the Doctor’s most formidable enemies is also one the show’s greatest political statements. The Daleks are aliens that see themselves as a superior race and seek to exterminate other species. They originated in the 60s, borne out of a decade where the tensions of World War II were still resonant and frightening. The characterization of the Daleks as having an ideology comparable to Nazism allows the viewers to breathe a sigh of relief when the Doctor destroys them to protect humanity. Confrontation between the Doctor and the Daleks also represents the destruction of one ideology at the hands of another. This political statement that has its roots in the Cold War, and the strong message that the United Kingdom wanted to send to potential aggressors.

Vigilantism often falls within the patch of grey between clearly defined categories of good and bad. Though the Doctor doles out justice without authorization, he mostly manages to lean closer to the good. Before the Doctor condemns the villainous groups, he listens to eyewitness accounts of the horrors committed and uses historical and factual evidence. He also attempts to rehabilitate the villains before using irreversible force, as seen in his actions in the season 4 finale, “Journey’s End”, where he attempts to engage the Daleks in dialogue before blowing up their spaceship.

The Doctor is representative of the reality of how politics can and often does play out. Even in our world, states with more power and resources engage in treaties of protection with states lacking in these things, similar to how the Doctor offers protection to alien or human societies and the universe as a whole. Before engaging in combat or war, the Doctor insists that every measure be taken to minimize causalities and engage in peaceful mediation. The aforementioned episode was written in 2008, a time of fierce combat in the Middle East, which the United Kingdom, through NATO, participated in.

Doctor Who is also highly political in its treatment of sex and race. It features Captain Jack, a multi-sexual character with varying interests, and Martha Jones, a black female character who challenges viewers to face Britain’s troubling racist past when the character journeys to the Victorian era and encounters an obvious lack of basic human respect, to say the least. Doctor Who brings issues of race and sexual identity to the forefront when it features these characters in important roles within the Doctor’s life and allows for positive discourse on their unique qualities through the Doctor’s unquestioned acceptance of them.

While watching the show, I’ve often been fascinated by the nature of this fictional world. It depicts a version of our world that is resilient, as it is constantly assailed by species beyond human understanding, and yet manages to maintain its dignity, hope, and the will to fight. In light of the recent attacks on societies by terrorist and extremist groups, these are qualities that we should adopt and remember as our own. While I’ve seen no evidence of the Doctor being present in our world, may the political ideals of justice and peace that he embodies live and thrive.

-Contributed by Molly Cong

Advertisements

One thought on “Just Peace: Ambitious Politics in Doctor Who

  1. What I find most interesting (at least in my own experience through the interactions with others) is that Martha Jones was not so easily accepted as a companion. Personally, it takes me a while to get used to a new companion when I have grown so attached to the older ones (the same goes for the new incarnations of the Doctor).

    I didn’t realize that until now actually that the reason why I was so reluctant to accept Martha as a new companion was because the Doctor didn’t. Martha is a brilliant individual but unlike all the other companions like Rose, Donna, Amy, Rory, or even Clara, Martha didn’t feel right. There was always something that was holding back. Of course, we had Martha confront the Doctor about this and of how he was still so hung up on Rose; but that was simply not fair on her or the viewers. Here we had our first female black companion and she was placed in a position where she had to fight for her validity. She had to unfairly take on tasks that will get the Doctor to notice her or to recognize her as an individual human being and not some ghost of a person or a replacement.

    It is only over the years that I have begun to truly appreciate and respect Martha Jones for who she really is. She did not settle for being anybody’s second fiddle. Rather, she created her own identity not just on Earth, but in multiple universes and multiple timelines. She has saved the Doctor from near annihilation numerous times and she did it all not because she was told to or requested to but because she can. And this makes her truly stand out.

    Martha Jones is a woman who existed before the Doctor came into her life, has maintained an identity while he was in her life, and has continued on living long after he was gone. She is a woman who lives outside of the Doctor and that is what makes her so brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s