Monday, October 5, 2015

Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something that's beyond their pay grade and the doctor swoops in to save them

In the third episode of Doctor Who airing just this weekend on BBC America entitled "Under the Lake," the Doctor comes face-to-face with ghosts. Now, I'm not an expert on Doctor Who, but from what I've gathered in the episodes that I have watched the Doctor does not believe in ghosts. Every time they've appeared before in the past, there has always been some explanation. "Aliens" is one of my "go to" answers, but essentially..."things that behave like ghosts" have always been explained away as being something else.

In "Under the Lake" it looks like we're getting genuine disembodied spirits, albeit, those that are being used by an alien life force to form some kind of a "soul transmitter." The signal gets stronger as people die because their souls are harvested for the alien broadcast. The sinister implications of such technology lead to at least one question: if a transmitter is designed to broadcast coordinates into outer space through using human souls, how can this (at all) be good for humanity? Naturally, the doctor is the one that comes up with the solution, but I have to wait until next week to see how the stunning cliffhanger resolves itself.

Yet, this brings me to a small point I want to make: I think Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something weird and even horrifying and something that they cannot explain. Into this scenario the Doctor inexplicably appears and helps them suss out what's really going on and then provides solutions.

The history of Doctor Who is replete with examples of this kind of plotting: the weeping angels are one such example. There was also the artificial flesh episode that struck me as particularly memorable. Maybe its something similar to how George R.R. Martin sees the concept of evil: that being there really isn't "evil" per se. Rather we perceive "evil" because it goes against our self interest. In these Doctor Who episodes in which people encounter something horrifying, there is always some twist...some reason for the creatures to be doing what they're doing. It could be as simple as survival, but the reveal always has something to do with understanding that which previously was a mystery. And once the understanding happens, the monster ceases to be so scary.


  1. I'll have to take your word on that.

  2. Sounds like most fears, doesn't it?
    And sorry, just never got into Dr. Who. Not my thing.

  3. It sounds like a good plot set up for them to keep making more episodes.

  4. I've long questioned the concepts of good and evil, and it seems this program does the same.

    What did you think of the season finale to "Fear the Walking Dead?"

    1. I liked it. I thought the apocalypse was done way better in six episodes than the Strain managed to do in two years. I'm interested to see how the show diverges from the regular Walking Dead. The guy the group is shacked up with has a lot of resources including what looks like a mega-yacht. I can't think of a better place to ride out the apocalypse and fall of civilization.

  5. Some day I need to sit and watch a Dr Who marathon.

    I enjoyed Fear The Walking Dead too. Be cool to have the next season from the Yacht. I've enjoyed watching these episodes; I couldn't get into The Strain, only watched the first couple episodes.

    Can't wait for Sunday, and the new season of TWD. Perhaps Rick will become sane again, now that it looks like he will have to fight zombie hordes again. And those W guys. He does best with an actual human nemesis. I'll cry a long long time if they shoot Daryl!!

  6. If they keep doing these cliffhanger episodes, I'll have to watch every other week. And watch both episodes at once. Two two-parters in a row! Come on, Doctor Who!

  7. I'm afraid I never got into Doctor Who, even though my nephew adored that show -- it's been on forever, hasn't it? I do like your points about evil, but then the show you and I both love that gets into this topic is Sleepy Hollow, which is back on for the season AND I MISSED IT! But this Thursday I'll definitely catch it.

  8. I haven't watched Doctor Who in a long, long time. But. BUT, I have finally watched the first season of TWD. It's good, still freaks me out (stupid zombies) and I don't like the scenes when kids are involved. And yes, I watch it while peaking out from under a blanket my mother knitted for me. Carl survives the gunshot wound, right? :P