SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Moral Choices, And Politics (Real Present and Fictional Future)

On Saturday night the BBC aired what very well might turn out to be the first part of this year’s Steven Moffat story to win the Hugo award while in the United States BBC America aired Doctor Who’s second episode of the season. Spoilers will be limited to discussion through the second episode, with comments on the third and fourth episodes limited to general comments which have been widely publicized.

Steven Moffat seemed to use The Beast Below to make as statement that he was not going to radically change Doctor Who. The premise was far more like one Russell T. Davies would have used than what we have seen in the Moffat episodes. The episode had many good ideas but the story did not entirely work. The show is far better enjoyed for the advancement of the relationship between The Doctor and his new companion, Amy Pond. Both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan did an excellent job of supporting the episode regardless of its flaws.

The episode began with The Doctor lecturing Amy about observing everything around her and ended with Amy, instead of The Doctor, figuring out the solution by seeing something which even The Doctor missed. Along the way The Doctor even threatened to take Amy back home. Meanwhile Amy was surprised to see herself listed in the computer (now at age 1306) but disappointed to find that her marital status was “information unavailable.”

The episode did have brief moments of terror with the Smilers which do show one way in which the writing style of Moffat differs from that of Davies.  The Doctor faced a moral dilemma which had him saying he would have to find a new name because he would would not be The Doctor anymore after doing what he thought was the only solution.  Fortunately he is spared by Amy figuring out something he missed, providing a preferable solution. Matt Smith’s Doctor was also able to discuss his past, and the Timelords, without showing the angst of David Tennant’s doctor:

The Doctor: “The computer doesn’t accept me as human.”
Amy: “Why not?” (The Doctor just looks at her.) “Well, you look human.”
The Doctor: “No, you look Time Lord. We came first.”
Amy: “So there are other Time Lords, yeah?”
The Doctor: “No. There were, but there aren’t… Just me now. Long story. It was a bad day. Bad stuff happened. And you know what, I’d love to forget it all, every last bit of it. But I don’t. Not ever.”

The episode even managed to sneak in a comment on the current election campaign in the U.K. Ethically questionable decisions were made by the future U.K. government but there is a perverse manner of achieving the consent of the governed. Inside a voting booth citizens are told the truth, and then given the choice to protest or forget.

This provided Moffat the opportunity to write in the warning,  “Once every five years everyone chooses to forget what they have learned. That’s democracy.” Moffat is not only speaking of the situation on Starship U.K. but of the current political situation where a show source put it more bluntly: “This almost echoes what Labour has been saying about how people should not forget what they learned in the 80s. They think the Tories will drag the country down again and it looks like the Doctor feels the same.”

American viewers can also relate to this as a disturbing number of Americans currently plan to vote Republican this fall, forgetting that the problems they are concerned about were caused by the Republicans not very long ago.

Criticism of conservatives is not unique for either Doctor Who or for Steven Moffat. Moffat had mocked conservatives in his BBC comedy, Coupling. Both Moffat and his predecessor Russell T. Davies have warned against the Tories winning. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant has been backing the Labour Party.

The episode ended with a lead-in to the following weeks episode with Winston Churchill calling The Doctor and previews showing Britain’s new weapon–Daleks. Meanwhile the crack in the universe was shown again. Victory of the Daleks, written by Mark Gatiss, is the only episode to air so far which was not written by Steven Moffat. This week’s episode, The Time of Angels, is the fist of a two part episode written by Steven Moffat. The episode has Moffat returning to two of his additions to the Doctor Who universe, the Wheeping Angels of Blink and River Song, who may or may not some day be The Doctor’s wife.

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