Imagination Connoisseur, Nigel Lowrey, thinks science fiction’s role as a genre capable of meaningful exploration of current social issues is eroding.
Hi, Rob, Viceroy of Verisimilitude and Accruer of Appellations!
I first came to your YouTube somewhere when the episodes still numbered in the teens, having bounced over from the John Campea Show. I enjoy both your perspective and industry knowledge but also see my own pop culture passions reflected back at me from yourself and the community in general.
I’ve wanted to contribute many times but could never find an angle that felt worthwhile and not self-indulgent (I was considering a diatribe about my love for the comics medium). However, I caught an episode of Nerdrotic (only the second video of his I watched and have decided the channel’s not for me) that sparked a query in my mind that meandering thoughts of lightsabres, super powers and Wally Wood have not been able to swat aside.
So, Nerdrotic’s video was regarding the zero Rotten Tomatoes score for the latest Doctor Who, leading him to express his thoughts on the SJW slant of the series killing interest in the show. While his thoughts could have been toxic, I generally agreed with him that the show has lost its way. I grew up on Tom Baker’s Doctor and followed it until the end of Davison’s run, but have watched it religiously since its return with Christopher Ecclestone.
The show has had its ups and downs but for me the high points were the first two season of Matt Smith’s run: he is firmly my favourite incarnation of the Doctor. I was against the race or gender swapping of the character as the Doctor has always been an alien portrayed as an eccentric Brit.
As a traditionalist in general (I understand the reasons why, but even as a kid, it always annoyed the hell out of me that Alan Napier was cast as Alfred when he was the spitting image of Jim Aparo’s Commissioner Gordon and the same thing bugged me when the actor playing Eddie Thawne was the spitting image of Barry Allen, Grant Gustin not so much), moving away from those essential traits seemed a corruption of the character, despite the potential being worked into the mythos. However, once they revealed Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor, I resigned myself to the decision and quickly accepted her as the new Doctor.
Then, her first season began and it wasn’t great. There were various reasons that I won’t go into but the current season has got even worse. The last two episodes have picked up a bit but my query started bubbling away a few weeks ago when I considered dropping the show but feeling sorry for Jodie as she isn’t being given the chance to act in any substantial way. She has no emotional depth to play with as all of her scenes are info dumps and plot exposition, which must be frustrating as an actor.
But my query slowly formed when I realized something …
Science Fiction is based on allegory. So why is it that Doctor Who is failing so badly from a storytelling perspective?
Star Trek back in the 60s was famed for tackling numerous social issues such as racism, overpopulation, war and the general human condition, stories which led to the show becoming an iconic IP that still works today. Shows such as The Twilight Zone also dealt with social commentary in an entertaining way and even more modern shows such as Buffy worked so well as they framed universal high school experiences through the lens of allegory.
Angel losing his soul and dumping Buffy after taking her virginity was a pain so many girls have experienced by hooking up with the wrong sort of guy interested in sex more than their lover.
All of these shows trod a line that sometimes worked better than non-fantasy series as their imaginative angle wasn’t merely representation of an issue but a new perspective added through entertainment.
Cut to the current Doctor Who, which is now literally “Wait For The Issue Of The Week.”
I watched this week’s episode wondering where the polemic was coming from, only to watch an episode that had a very tenuously linked mental health awareness tagged on to the end. The absolute worst offending episode came a few weeks ago regarding global warming and climate change when the episode ended with the Doctor angrily screaming at her companions (thereby essentially screaming at the audience) about how we are about to devastate the planet.
I have no problem with a problem-of-the-week show but it’s kinda becoming Masters of the Universe, with a little moralising thrown in for the audience at the end.
I feel the writers have little or no genre appreciation or experience and are starting with an issue or message they want to clumsily extol than generating an interesting story idea with social commentary crafted inside. So Rob, why do you think Dr. Who is failing to tell engaging stories that successfully explore these subjects?
Thanks for your time and I’m off to go back to my hardcover Locke and Key graphic novels after enjoying the new Netflix adaptation this weekend…
– Nigel L.