I’m rewatching the first series of the new Doctor Who with an eye toward looking where the show has gone since.
Ah, TV as pap to keep the masses complacent and not-revolting at the abysmal state of, you know, everything… Why does bread-and-circuses taking the form of game shows and ritual “reality” humiliation sound so familiar? And is there something ironic to be found in the fact that fully 10 percent of the British population — and more than one-third of the people tuned in to U.K. TV at that moment — viewed this episode on its initial broadcast? Can we take it as a potentially good thing that some of that massive audience may have let the pointed satire of this episode sink in?
(It worth noting, too, that Doctor Who often gets the kind of ratings that only the Super Bowl gets in the U.S. Ten percent of the population/more than a 33 percent share is the stuff of very rare programming in North America, not the stuff of early-Saturday-evening drama…)
And yet, even the Doctor is not immune to goofy TV:
“Half the world’s too fat and half the world’s too thin, and you lot just watch telly… The human race: brainless sheep, being fed on a diet of– Mind you, have they still got that programme where three people have to live with a bear?” –the Doctor
“Oh, Bear With Me! I love that one!” –Lynda
“And me.” –the Doctor
I mean: Yes. Even the silliest shit can be compelling, even as part of your brain is going, No, no, I cannot watch this crap. I don’t want to watch this crap… Ooo, look, kittens! It’s like junk food: even as your brain insists it’s bad for you, your body simply cannot resist the chemically induced yumminess of it.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s a bad thing. But it’s a definite thing, an undeniable thing, and the fact that the Doctor is not impervious to it makes him more sort of “human” in a different way than all the sort-of yes-he’s-a-falliable-person stuff the new incarnation of Doctor Who had done to this point.
Okay, so it’s a century after “The Long Game,” and the Doctor learns that he has screwed up yet again. Everything he did to shut down the alien influence over planet Earth via its media a hundred years back turned out to be the wrong thing — the news networks shut off, and there was chaos. I guess even bad, distorted news is better than none at all. There are still rumors of things hidden under the transmissions, and, sure enough, it turns out that the Daleks have been “watching and shaping the Earth” for “so many years” — they were behind the Jagrafess, and they’re still there. Why? Well…. don’t ask. The Daleks are just evil, okay? It’s never really clear what the Daleks hope to achieve by subverting Earth’s development, beyond royally pissing off the Doctor. But maybe that’s enough…
Really, though, all that’s going on here is about the Doctor, and how he interacts with those Earth creatures he loves so much… especially if they’re female. I love how the Doctor is moved to lie about Lynda’s reputation among viewers of whatever incarnation of Big Brother this is: “You’re nice. You’re sweet. Everybody thinks you’re sweet.” He has no idea how people see her, and really has no reason to be nice to her. Except… he’s sweet on her right from the moment he meets her. They like each other. She flirts with him, unabashedly, and he with her:
“I could come with ya…” –Lynda
“Maybe ya could.” –the Doctor (with a grin)
“I wouldn’t get in the way…” –Lynda
“I wouldn’t mind if ya did — not a bad idea, Lynda-with-a-y.” –the Doctor (with an even bigger grin)
Ooo, flirting. Again, it’s the Doctor as a man like we never saw him before.
Lynda would have been a great companion to him. She certainly would have rocked Rose out of her bizarre complacency toward him.
Random thoughts on “Bad Wolf”:
• I love how totally bored the Doctor is, at first, by all this telly nonsense:
I always thought that he’d be completely uninterested by most TV and movies, actually — his own real life is more than exciting enough, thank you very much. But I do, for some reason, see him scarfing down a bowl of Cheerios and hooting away at Looney Tunes and Animaniacs on Saturday-morning TV…
• Bad Wolf Watch:
The “Bad Wolf corporation” is running this incarnation of Satellite 5? Interesting…
• When the computer tells the Doctor in the Diary Room (see image at the top of this post), “Please do not swear,” I swear that, no matter how many times I actually see this episode, I totally expect him to say, “You have got to be fucking kidding.” I mean, they could have bleeped out his swearing, which would have been even funnier than it they didn’t bleep his swearing, but that would have been the perfect moment, if the one time the Doctor does swear is the one moment when he is explicitly forbidden to do so. That would have been so him.
• “The Doctor wouldn’t just leave me,” Rose complains. Oh, but he would, honey — you just don’t know him well enough yet. Wait till you meet Sarah Jane Smith in “School Reunion” and discover what he’s really like…
• So, Sony survives in the 201st century?
Well, I guess if Big Brother endures, that’s not a stretch…
• What Not to Wear trivia: I went to high school with one of the hosts of the American version of the show, Clinton Kelly. We were drama-club (I was a fan, not a participant) and homeroom buds (J-for-Johanson, K-for-Kelly… we were always assigned seats near each other, which was great, cuz Clint was cool then, too), and before he was telling people what not to wear, I did some work for him in recent years as a writer when he was working as an editor. I could tell you things about Clint, but I won’t…
• So, Torchwood is a “famous old-Earth institute,” is it? Did its secrecy get so compromised later on that it became famous (or infamous)?
• President Schwarzenegger? Oh, we laugh now, but just you wait…
• Oh, Jack:
Is it really that much fun to fondle a Playmobile robot, or can you just not help yourself?
• Speaking of Jack… John Barrowman really is a waste of manflesh, isn’t he:
*sigh* What a shame. I mean, it’s nice for all the gay boys, I guess, but what about us straight girls?
• Oo, a Face of Boe reference…
• Okay, so Jack has a key to the TARDIS:
And he knows something of the Doctor’s anatomy (“Two hearts — that’s him”). And we get definite confirmation here that the Doctor and Rose and Jack have had adventures that we haven’t seen: they went from Raxacoricofallapatorius to Kyoto, Japan in 1336, from which they “only just escaped.” As far as I’m concerned, there’s every reason to believe that there’s lots of stuff that the three of them went through between the time of their initial meeting and their separation to come in the next episode. (Jack went shopping at Topshop in Cardiff, too: that must have happened between when he hooked up with the Doctor in 1941 and now, and we didn’t see that, either.)
• Great quotes:
“Believe it or not, all I’m after is a quiet life.” –the Doctor (I don’t believe it)
(next: Episode 13: “The Parting of the Ways”)