So awhile ago I wrote a post in response to some nasty criticism of the show, Doctor Who, on the Daily Breakfast podcast. (I used to listen to said podcast religiously, but just got out of the habit.) The podcast link in the original post got changed when they changed their database. The correct link to the response in the podcast that provoked my rant on Doctor Who and Catholic social justice is here.
Now there will be spoilers. If you aren’t current on Doctor Who to the episode that aired yesterday (“Planet of the Ood”) or last season and you don’t want things spoiled, you really don’t want to read any further.
Still here? Sure? There are gonna be spoilers. Big ones.
I mean it.
So. The criticism was that it wasn’t a good “family” show because of a five second kiss between Captain Jack and the Doctor. Now, this was the most unsexy kiss ever in the franchise. The characters were, in all likelihood, going to their deaths at the tentacles of daleks. If you want sexy kisses, go watch Torchwood.
Time after time (pardon the pun), there are strong pro-life themes in Doctor Who, and I’m not just talking about what passes as “pro-life” in some circles. For instance, in the weakest of the episodes in season 3, the Doctor offers to help save the daleks at the end of “Evolution of the Daleks,” a race that almost wiped out his. Then at the end of “Partners in Crime,” the Doctor makes the statement about the alien Adipose children that they’re just kids and can’t help where they come from. (They come from people’s fat and were harvested off of humans.) In “Planet of the Ood,” the Doctor and Donna (who I think seriously rocks as a companion) save a race from slavery (the Ood’s situation echoing the Holocaust or Exodus–ironic, since it aired yesterday, during Passover.) Not to mention in the same episode a line by the Doctor snarking at humans in our century for the use of slave labor in clothing. (At which Donna snarks back, asking if he takes humans along to feel morally superior. She injects a lot of humility into the show.)
And did I mention the fact that an ongoing theme of the series is that violence never solves anything? The times when violence is used, it backfires miserably at the Doctor. (“Resurrection of the Daleks” or the ongoing story arc relating to the destruction of his planet at the end of the Time War.) And if Doctor Who isn’t a good family show, then I guess it doesn’t matter that the Doctor defeats the Master (a long-term nemesis from the Jon Pertwee years) by forgiving him.
The times in which someone dies, or someone gets punished, it’s usually because there’s no other alternative. The Family in “Human Nature” gets punished in such a way that they can’t ever harm others. The Racnoss were offered a chance to live somewhere else peacefully, but brought destruction upon themselves (see also violence causing violence.) In every case I can think of since the series restarted in 2005, the Doctor either gives the bad guys a chance to leave or he offers to help them.
(As an aside, I subscribe to the view of the Time Lords in the Big Finish Audios: they aren’t corrupt bureaucrats, but more evolved beings, who’re a lot like Tolkien’s elves: world-weary and just want to be left alone by lesser-evolved races. In the Big Finish Audios, they’re mostly peaceful, do hold life to be sacred, but also are forced into making extremely difficult decisions–even at the sacrifice of their own lives–to keep time lines intact.)
My sci-fi heroes uphold Catholic social justice. How cool is that? (I’d love to see an episode with Dorothy Day or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin–would be a good excuse to have a period episode in 1920’s China. I think an encounter with the Doctor would explain a lot of the trippiness and cosmic orientation of a lot of Teilhard’s writings.)