Friday, August 22, 2014

Doctor Who--"World War Three"

One of the drawbacks of viewing and reviewing a show that has already aired in the United Kingdom year ago is that it is impossible to have avoided certain spoilers. Therefore there are always some preconceived notions of what to expect. I’m just talking about the silliness of the farting Slitheen or the silly Benny Hill chase routine between Rose, her mother and one of the Slitheen through 10 Downing Street, even though I have myself humming “Yaketyy Sax” during the whole thing. The big deal I the blatant parallels to current US foreign policy ramped up to appeal to large anti-Bush sentiment in the British audience. What can you expect from Russel T. Davies, the man who gave us Queer As Folk?

Let’s be fair with this. Davies is mixing policies regarding the general war on terror with the war in Iraq and missing the mark, as many creative types protesting the conflict have. Last episode, the alien space ship crashing into Big Ben was meant to symbolize the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The rest of the plot--causing a war to profit business interests, a WMD justification for war on false pretenses, even the idea that a fictitious mother ship can deploy weapons in 45 seconds like the claim Iraq could do the same in 45 minutes--was a blatant play on US Iraq war policy. I don’t mind that, to be honest. Look back on movies from the ‘40’s and television shows and movies from the ‘60’s with an eye towards the reflections of the attitudes of the time period.

It does bug me that Davies is making a connection between 9/11 and Iraq in a conspiratorial way rather than what it is Think of it in terms of World War II. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, yet the Americans emphasized the war against the Nazis because they were a bigger threat. The Japanese were brutal, no doubt, but they had planned to fight a war of attrition against the US. At no point did they ever think they could conquer US forces, just cause enough losses for us to give up the fight. The atomic bomb desperately changed the equation. On the other hand, the Nazis were on the verge of defeating the United Kingdom and seizing the oil fields and bread basket of the Soviet Union. They were a powerful, organized threat to world security. Al Qaeda is scattered to the wind and has resorted to backpack bombs on buses. Iraq was still a serious war mongering state. To claim a conspiracy leading to war either now or in 1941 is absurd.

To be fair yet again, the equation has changed for the British as well. Five hundred British nationalists died in the World Trade Center. It was the bloodiest day in their history since the Blitz. The British population wholeheartedly supported the invasion of Afghanistan. They turned a corner on Iraq for whatever reason, but this episode was filmed months before the London bombings of July 7, 2005 when the British got a wake up call that terrorism is alive, well, and in their backyard. I doubt the Brits have hanged their mind about Amrican tactics, but not our intent. Anyway. Rant over about that.

The Slitheen aren’t an invasion force. They are a family of merchant who want to start a nuclear war on Earth to irradiate the planet, then sell the pieces as fuel. The alens are Halliburton, the fuel is oil. Get the picture? The Slitheen, posing as the British government want the UN to give them access to the UK’s nuclear codes to attack the fictitious mother ship before it destroys Earth. The Doctor figures the only way to stop them is to fire a missile at Downing Street with the help of Mickey the hacker. Mickey manages to break into the government computers with one password. Talented guy, he is. Suspension of disbelief, I have.

The episode ends with an argument familiar to comic book enthusiasts like me. Rose has to decide if she wants to continue with the Doctor. Roe’s mother is worried about Rose’s safety. The Doctor pauses for a moment when her mother asks him if he can guarantee Rose’s safety. He appears to be contemplating why he needs a companion in his travels. Truth is there is no logical reason beyond dramatic necessity of the story. Comic fans have debating the issue for decades with Batman and Robin. Why does a man put a 14-15 year old child in constant danger? The answr is to appeal to a young audience while creating a supporting cast. But there is no good answer, and the Doctor doesn’t offer one here. Rose enters the TARDIS and that’s pretty much it.

I thought thi was an aveage episode. Preachy, without much action. I’m not alone in that opinion, but next week, by all accounts, marks a turning point in the season for the better. One word: Daleks.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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