Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Doctor Who's unjew influence

By Danny Nicol,
University of Westminster

Doctor Who began in 1963, less than two decades after the Nazi holocaust had been brought to an end.   Yet the programme’s earlier years reflect an alarming degree of anti-Jewish stereotyping on the part of postwar British society.

Julius Silverstein, anxious to keep his hands on his collection
In “The Web of Fear” (1968) we meet Julius Silverstein, a central European Jew who owns the sole surviving robot Yeti, a menace which the Doctor had encountered in his earlier adventure “The Abominable Snowmen” (1967).   Julius’ friend Professor Travers implores him to part with the Yeti, on the grounds that a control unit sphere has gone missing and is in danger of reactivating the Yeti.   But Julius is so obsessed by his material possessions that he is impervious to reason.  “You vont to rob me…nobody destroys Julius Silverstein’s collection!  Nobody!  The Yeti is mine!”   Julius’ excessive materialism costs him his life, when his precious Yeti is reanimated – and kills him.

The stereotyping involved in Julius Silverstein's character wouldn’t be so bad were it a one-off.  Alas, in “The Creature from the Pit” (1979) we meet a Jew from outer space. This is the bandit leader Torvin, who is performed as Charles Dickens’ Fagin (he variously calls his colleagues “my lovely boys!”, “my beautiful boys!” and ultimately “my rich boys!”).   Torvin lives on the planet Chloris which is rich in vegetation but has scant metal, a material which therefore obsesses him: “metal, metal, metal: I’ll put my trust in this solid metal!”    He sees people (such as the Doctor’s companion Romana) largely in terms of their monetary worth.  He also proves himself entirely self-serving, having to be repeatedly reminded by his gang that he should be fighting for their collective wealth not just his own.   Once again his materialism proves fatal, yet even Torvin’s last, comic, words are materialistic: as he dies he admires the metal of the blade with which he has been stabbed.

Torvin admires some metal
It is a great pity that Doctor Who’s crude anti-Jewish racism prevented the programme from engaging properly with the Jewish story.   By contrast, in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode “Duet” (1993) a space station has a visitor who seemingly ran a forced labour camp in which one alien species persecuted and perpetrated genocide against another alien species.  The episode raises mature issues of responsibility and of the distinction between justice and vengeance which were highly relevant in the quest for Nazi war criminals.   It is not too late for contemporary Doctor Who to atone for its past stereotyping by treating these issues seriously.  

Saturday, 4 June 2016

"Everyone who isn't an American, drop your gun!"

By Danny Nicol
University of Westminster

“A Town Called Mercy” (2012) is a Doctor Who adventure set in an American frontier town in the nineteenth century.  In it, the Doctor forces an alien war criminal, Jex - at gunpoint - to face a cyborg called The Gunslinger who intends to kill him.  The Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond, grabs another gun, and threatens to shoot the Doctor if he continues to do this, arguing “When did killing someone become an option?  … We can’t be like him, we’ve got to be better than him!”  After Amy hamfistedly allows her weapon to discharge into the air the town’s sheriff, Isaac, hollers: “Everyone who isn’t an American, drop your gun!”
The Doctor points his gun at Jex

Doctor Who isn’t just science fiction.  Since 1963 the programme has also strived to define Britishness as part of the British Broadcasting Commission’s mission to contribute to a sense of national identity.  According to Jean Seaton the BBC must sort out what the nation is, expressing worries about the British whilst trumpeting their virtues (“The BBC and Metabolising Britishness” in Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright (eds) Britishness: Perspectives on the British Question, Wiley-Blackheath 2009).

In this regard the show repeatedly defines Britishness by what Britishness is not.  Here, it pokes fun at the American “Other” and more specifically at American gun culture, as encapsulated in the US Constitution's Second Amendment

Many British people find the “right to bear arms” shocking and puzzling.   In our own country, horror at the Hungerford massacre of 1987 and the Dunblane school massacre of 1996 led to immediate gun control legislation.  With scant public dissent Britain’s sovereign Parliament, which can famously “make or unmake any law whatsoever” unimpeded by a written constitution, clamped down on gun ownership without delay.

Hands up!  The Doctor is confronted by American gunpower
in the Oval Office, in "The Impossible Astronaut"
Cocking a snook at the Americans is, however, nothing new for Doctor Who.   In “The Impossible Astronaut”/ “Day of the Moon” (2011) British brainpower is rather pointed counterposed to American firepower in the context of an adventure featuring President Nixon.   In “The Christmas Invasion” (2005) the British Prime Minister Harriet Jones instructs that the President of the United States be told that he is not her boss.  And “The Sound of Drums”/ “Last of the Time Lords” (2007) features an arrogant US President-elect being assassinated at the behest of the Master.

In an essay entitled “Tardis at the OK Corral”, Nicholas J. Cull argues that post-war Britain’s relationship with the United States is a pervasive theme both in terms of the old-show Doctor Who’s rise and fall and as a regular passing reference within its storyline.  The show had to engage with fears of American domination and American-style capitalism.  Cull contends that the triumph of brains over brawn in the Doctor’s adventures signifies the British belief that we can keep muddling through without John Wayne style gunpower (John Cook and Peter Wright (eds) British Science Fiction Television IB Tauris, 2006).  These themes are evident in “The Tenth Planet” (1966) and “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (1967). 

Bombastic American General Cutler tries to reason with an
early Cyberman in "The Tenth Planet"
However, one must observe a degree of British humbug.  In “A Town Called Mercy” the Doctor (a Time Lord, not a human, but definitively coded as British) does actually use a gun, as does Amy, though neither kills anyone.  Recurring companion Professor River Song (also coded as British) relishes firearms, not least in “Day of the Moon”.   Moreover the Doctor can resort to weapons of mass destruction as he does in destroying Skaro in “Remembrance of the Daleks” (1988) or a Cyberfleet in “A Good Man Goes to War” (2011).  And as Davros, creator of the Daleks, observes in “Journey’s End” (2008) the Doctor can fashion his companions into weapons, transforming them into murderers (for instance Rose Tyler destroys a multitude of Daleks in “The Parting of the Ways” (2005)).  The uneasy notion that the British are actually just as aggressive as their American cousins has been a persistent undercurrent of the post-2005 show, reflecting the country’s rather-frequent interventions in other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  If Amy’s comment had been directed towards the Americans – “we can’t be like them, we’ve got to be better than them” – then perhaps Doctor Who sometimes serves to remind us that the British and the Americans are not so different from each other.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Terrorism of the Zygons

by Danny Nicol
University of Westminster

The Zygons in their true form
In “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” (2015) the Doctor and companion Clara encounter the Zygons, shape-shifting aliens who settled on Earth in the wake of the events chronicled in the show’s 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” (2013).  They take human form and live out their lives peacefully on Earth in human guise, and are particularly concentrated within the United Kingdom

The plot involves a group of Zygons which becomes “radicalised” and kills the existing Zygon leadership.  Its grievance appears to be that Zygons want “the right to be themselves”. 

The story’s pervasive theme is encapsulated in an argument which the Doctor makes to his friend Kate Stewart of UNIT, the Unified Intelligence Taskforce: “Isn’t there a solution which doesn’t involve bombing everyone? … This is a splinter group.  The rest of the Zygons, the vast majority, they want to live in peace.  You start bombing them, you’ll radicalise the lot.  That’s exactly what the splinter group wants.”
UNIT's Kate Stewart favours the military solution

The Doctor’s anti-war stance turns “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” into rather a sharp political satire.  It was broadcast around the time that the British House of Commons was deciding whether to bomb Syria as part of Britain’s efforts against the so-called Islamic State group.   The idea that bombing would win recruits to the extremist group was a major argument against intervention.  But the Syria bombing was of course no flash in the pan: it followed British military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, which were likewise none-too-successful in ending conflict.  One can therefore view “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” as a satire on the country’s foreign policy as a whole. 

Ultimately the Doctor prevents UNIT from using “Sullivan gas” which would kill the Zygons, and, with some impressive anti-war rhetoric, he manages to convince the leader of the rebel Zygons to accept the way of peace.   He reinstates his friend Osgood and her Zygon counterpart as guardians of the peace, with the tantalising suggestion that “the Osgoods” are neither human nor Zygon but somehow a hybrid between the two species.
The Osgoods: human and Zygon defenders of the peace

The flaw in the story is that conflicts don't tend to end this way.  Usually the side which has a grievance obtains some concessions, even if these concessions are far removed from what they originally sought.  An example would be the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, which craves a united Ireland but settled for a power-sharing constitution in Northern Ireland as the price for peace.  “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” falls down somewhat because it does not interrogate the Zygons’ grievance, nor does the Doctor offer them anything beyond the status quo ante, not even a fig leaf.   

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Women-only TARDIS: Imagining the Adventures of Clara and Ashildr

By Danny Nicol
University of Westminster

In “new-show” Doctor Who, travelling with the Doctor comes at a high price.  For the (male) Doctor, the adventures in time and space go on and on; for the (mainly female) companions they usually end in tears.  Since Doctor Who’s return in 2005 the Doctor’s women have suffered a variety of unfortunate fates: Rose Tyler is banished to an alternative Universe and builds a career at its Torchwood institute, yet is repeatedly depicted as morose.  She is eventually palmed off with an unstable Doctor-substitute.  Donna Noble is depoliticised by the Doctor erasing her memories of their adventures in time and space, returning to her former world of gossip and weddings.  Amy Pond, along with husband Rory, is zapped back in time to an unliberating 1930s America from whence she cannot return.  Only Martha Jones controls her own destiny.  Weary of the Time Lord not requiting her love, she dumps the Doctor, cheers up, and takes advantage of her extraterrestrial experiences to build herself a career within UNIT.  Even Martha’s exit is undercut by the one-sidedness of her love for the Doctor, yet at least she leaves on her own terms and visibly recovers.  Martha apart, gloomy exits have been the order of the day. 

These departures undoubtedly make the new show “more emotional” than the old show.  We need our hankies more.  But this emotionality comes at a price.  Doctor Who’s gender politics have never been marvellous: the show’s template was normally male dominant hero, female subordinate companion.  But in the new show the departures of the companions have been persistently unfavourable to the women characters, while the man – the Doctor - bounces back.  It’s a rather disturbing pattern.

Doctor Who’s anti-women tendency seemed taken to its logical conclusion with the killing-off of companion Clara Oswald in “Face the Raven” (2015).  Why bother giving the Doctor’s women dismal futures when you can kill them.  Thankfully the 2015 series finale “Hell Bent” revised this departure.   Plucked out of time and space by the Time Lords as she is about to be killed, she eventually makes off in a stolen Tardis with a woman companion, Ashildr (otherwise known as Me, Lady Me and Mayor Me). 

This twist in the plot won’t generate a spin-off, as far as I know.  However, imagining The Adventures of Clara and Ashildr can provide useful insights into Doctor Who.  There might be several interesting differences between such a spin-off and “traditional” Doctor Who, some of which bear on Doctor Who’s politics.

First, The Adventures of Clara and Ashildr would remove the dead hand of Doctor Who’s gender narrative – dominant male, subordinate female.  Clara and Ashildr are both women, and both have diverse experience.  Breaking the mould would make for a more interesting tension.  In this regard it is intriguing that, whilst Ashildr (an immortal) may have the wisdom of years, it is Clara who pushes the lever which sets their TARDIS off on its travels, and does so with a jolt clearly reminiscent the Doctor abducting his first two companions, Ian and Barbara, in the show's very first episode ("An Unearthly Child" (1963)).  For good measure, Clara has already claimed to be bisexual, boasting of a relationship with Jane Austen, so there is the possibility of a romantic entanglement between the women (as there was between two men, Captain Jack and Ianto, in the spin-off Torchwood).  And what if the ladies acquired a male companion?  What if that male companion were to be “helpless damsel-in-distress type”, forever screaming at monsters?  What if he tended to wander off, get into trouble and have to be rescued by Clara and Ashildr?   It might be telling to turn Doctor Who’s traditions on their head. 

Secondly, Clara and Ashildr, whatever their background, do not enjoy the Doctor’s encyclopaedic knowledge of time, space and monsters.  This is signalled in “Hell Bent” by Ashildr having to consult the TARDIS manual.  A little less knowledge might be a good thing.  Doctor Who’s early years were marked by a sense of wonderment as the Doctor met beings, including the Daleks, of whom he was wholly unaware.  The show’s original producer Verity Lambert complained that, as the years went by, the Doctor increasingly possessed “this awful thing of knowing everything and being right about everything”. (J Tulloch and M Alvarado, Doctor Who the Unfolding Text. New York: St Martins Press, 1983, 130). 

Thirdly, what would actually be the point of Clara’s and Ashildr’s travels?  Would it be one long holiday?  In Doctor Who’s earliest days the main object was to return Ian and Barbara to their own time and planet.  Some say that it was during “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (1964) that the Doctor first articulated his mission to fight evil.   But this has led to many adventures where his choices have been questionable and his actions brutal.   The show has had a patchy record in questioning and interrogating these choices and actions: sometimes stories have done so; sometimes the Doctor’s virtue is simply taken as read.   Perhaps Clara and Ashildr, without the Doctor’s masculine and aristocratic authority, and with each accountable to the other, might have more sustained disagreements about the rightness or wrongness of their deeds in time and space.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Ashildr, the law that prevailed

By David Yuratich,
School of Law,
Royal Holloway University of London

I have been struck that much of the iconography associated with Ashildr raises, to my mind at least, comparisons with the idea and practice of the law.  This emphasises the argument I have made previously that the Doctor's adventures can be read as not only taking place in time and space, but also within the law; for the Twelfth Doctor at least, his adventures are shaped by a third force.  In this post I will explain why Ashildr can be said to represent 'the law' and make some brief and incomplete observations about this.

1. The Woman Who Lived.

In The Woman Who Lived, we are shown Ashildr's study.  It is filled with hundreds of her thick and bound diaries containing her vast life story.  This imagery is familiar to lawyers and law students.  For those who have not had the pleasure, the law reports, in which decided cases are published, are thick bound volumes.  Within these we find not just reports of what happened in those cases; we find binding precedent, persuasive statements, notable and notorious historical events, disagreement and dissent over fundamental principles, interpretations of legislation, and the evolution of the common law.  Ashildr's journals are not unlike the law reports.  Coincidentally they contain '800 years of adventure' - the legal database Westlaw contains case reports dating back a similar amount of time, to at least 1219 (albeit the accuracy and quality of many early reports is generally accepted to be poor).  We are told that Ashildr's diaries contain memories too numerous for her to remember, that they tell the story of her life, that some parts have been ripped out because they were too painful.  Similarly, the development of the common law is marked by decisions that have been half-forgotten and re-discovered, and by law that has been developed and re-developed.
The wisdom of the common law:
Ashildr sits in front of her diaries

Of course, these observations may well be a sign that it's been a very long term and that I should take a break from work (some of my students would no doubt agree).  The imagery is important though, because of Ashildr’s role in Series 9.  Steven Moffat has said that her immortality was intended to provide her with a perspective on events shaped by the whole of history.  She is a character 'who will know better than he [the Doctor] does' (see here at around 50 seconds).  The law is also supposed to know better than we do - or at least, it defines the boundaries in which we are required to act. 

2. Face The Raven, face the law.

A criticism that is often (not always) levelled at the law is that it undervalues the human element: law can translate nuanced issues into black-letter doctrine.  A famous example of this is the ‘twitter joke trial', where a joke made on twitter led to a conviction, quashed on appeal, for sending a menacing message via a public electronic communication network.  Of course, for each argument that the law has been a blunt object, there are examples of it being drafted or interpreted widely so individual circumstances may be properly considered; this is most evident in human rights law, where for example Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires judges to read statutes widely, in so far as it is possible to do so without acting inconsistently with a fundamental feature of that statute, so that individual rights may be upheld (for more on what the European Convention on Human Rights requires see

Ashildr highlights both sides of the law in Face The Raven.  She is the mayor of a trap street that is essentially a refugee camp for aliens.  She uses her position to protect her residents from the outside world and from each other.  Under her watch, they all appear human and are treated as equals in a society governed by law.  Ashildr's haven invites comparisons with the rule of law - when understood as the idea that everyone is entitled to equality and dignity under the law - and human rights law, particularly its role in protecting minorities.

A less positive imagination of the law she represents is also evident in this episode.  The plot revolves
The rule of the common law:
Ashildr governs the trap street
around Rigsy, accused by Ashildr of a murder he says he did not commit.  He has been sentenced to death and will die when a 'chronolock' tattoo on his neck reaches zero, unless the Doctor can prove his innocence.  Clara, essentially acting as Rigsy's lawyer, spots a loophole.  She decides to game things by transferring the chronolock from Rigsy to herself, surmising that this will remove him from harm's way without any negative consequences for her, since she is under Ashildr's protection.  Clara is wrong.  Her idea, borne of an unselfish desire to help Rigsy and a sense of justice for the falsely accused, falls foul of the black-letter of the law.  It turns out that the chronolock can only be passed on or removed once, and Clara is doomed.  It doesn't matter that she is innocent, or that she acted out of good motives.  Here we see how the law can (I stress not always) reduce complex situations to a simple matter of whether your actions fall within a narrowly-defined legal schematic. 
More widely than this, when Clara's actions are compared to the Doctor's, two models of being a lawyer become evident.  Unlike Clara, the Doctor helps Rigsy solely by trying to prove his innocence.  His approach seems preferable, since it is motivated by a pursuit of the truth rather than a linguistic game.  But like Clara, the Doctor also faces negative consequences.  In finding out what is really going on, he is trapped.  Rigsy was framed so that the Doctor would visit the trap street, try to prove Rigsy’s innocence, and ultimately be captured by Ashildr to be sent to the Time Lords.  Like Clara, the Doctor’s engagement with the legal process in the trap street is a negative representation of the legal process: damned if you do and damned if you don’t, always at the mercy of legal logic.

3. Hell Bent (on bending the law).

Our final visit to Ashildr comes in Hell Bent. She meets the Doctor at the end of time itself, having outlived everything – a vision of an eternal, natural law.  Throughout Series 9 she has set clear rules within which the Doctor and Clara must act, with Face The Raven just one example.  Hell Bent shows the culmination of this as the Doctor realises he must part from Clara, a realisation he comes to following a dialogue with Ashildr.  She – the law – makes him realise that his travels with Clara are dangerous, universe-threatening in fact, and must cease.  Within this set of rules established by Ashildr, the Doctor seeks the most just solution he can think of: a memory wipe process where either his or Clara’s memories will be destroyed, without either knowing whose.  This is not unlike Dworkin’s approach to how judges decide ‘hard cases’, using principles of justice to seek the best solution within the law when there is no clear or easy answer.  The Doctor loses his memories but achieves his goal: he is separated from Clara and Ashildr’s demands are satisfied.

The justice of the common law:
Ashildr and Clara embark on new adventures
Ashildr’s role does not end here.  Clara, whose memories remain, has an opportunity to seek a solution to her own problems: the fact that she is supposed to return to the trap street where she must ultimately die, and her loss of the Doctor.  This time she identifies a loophole that is acceptable to Ashildr.  Clara realises that although she is ultimately destined to die in the trap street, she can traverse the Universe forever until she chooses to return there.  Unlike in Face The Raven, the Doctor and Clara’s legal arguments are allowed to succeed, albeit Clara gets the ‘best’ result, with her memories intact and an eternity of space and time to explore.  The tables are thereby turned, with the law ultimately benefitting Clara’s black-letter approach rather than the Doctor’s full-blooded pursuit for the just outcome.

All of this is because of Ashildr, who represents how the supposedly timeless social structure of the law determines the boundaries in which we, and the Doctor, live our lives.  She is neither adversary nor friend to the Doctor: she represents a dispassionate law that governs his adventures.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

"School Reunion": Are the Krillitanes really the British in disguise?

By Danny Nicol,
University of Westminster

It seems a matter of consensus among Doctor Who scholars that one of Doctor Who’s authorial purposes is to represent and to fashion British national identity.  In this regard “School Reunion” (2006) is the first Doctor Who story in which a black British character, Mickey Smith, becomes a companion of the Doctor, albeit not for long.  Mickey is the on-off boyfriend of the Doctor’s beloved (white British) companion Rose Tyler.  His promotion to the role of companion is encouraged by the well-loved companion of yore Sarah Jane Smith, who quips that there should always be a Smith in the Tardis.   Sarah Jane thereby creates a sense of shared identity and continuity, tempering and easing the welcome transition from the long series of all-white companions.  Mickey’s inclusion, swiftly followed by Martha Jones’ longer period as companion, helped to emphasise Doctor Who’s commitment to racial diversity as a fundamental characteristic of Britishness.

Perhaps it is no coincidence, too, that the Doctor’s enemies in this adventure are the Krillitanes, a composite race.   Significantly they are led by an apparently human headteacher played by Anthony Stewart Head, an actor who represented Britishness par excellence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  However, the Krillitanes turn out to be shape-shifting, horrifying bat-like creatures.  They are, we are told, an amalgam of the races they have conquered.  But they take on physical aspects as well, cherry-picking the best qualities of their colonised. 

Graham Sleight has argued that Doctor Who’s portrayal of monsters is a kind of moral parable: the Doctor opposes not merely the monsters but the values that they represent. (The Doctor’s Monsters (London: IB Tauris, 2012), 2).  But in the case of the Krillitanes they embody a favourable British trait – their mixed heritage is their source of strength.  They mingled, just as the British have mingled in terms of heredity and culture alike.  Hybridisation is a recurring theme in Doctor Who, not least in the 2015 series.  But being a hybrid is usually depicted as a good thing.  The value which the Doctor opposes in “School Reunion” is that the Krillitanes have deployed their hybrid strength to conquer rather than for living peacefully.  But are the British so different?  Doctor Who storylines often echo the British Empire, not always favourably (“The Mutants” (1972), “Kinda” (1982)).  More recently the show has satirised the country’s somewhat endless interventions in the Middle East, not least poking fun at Tony Blair’s notorious “45 minutes” claim in “Aliens of London”/“World War Three” (2005), and the Doctor’s trenchant criticism of bombing campaigns in “The Zygon Invasion”/“The Zygon Inversion” (2015).   It is one of Doctor Who’s strengths that sometimes the monstrous turn out to be ourselves. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Wilson, WOTAN and the white heat of technocracy

By Danny Nicol
University of Westminster

The period during which Doctor Who has been broadcast has been characterised by a “rise of the unelected” – the growth of appointed commissions, banks and courts which decide political policy without the worry of having to stand for re-election.  In this context politics is seen as a technocratic “fix”.   It has little to do with class interests: rather, it’s all a complicated matter of detailed, technical policy.  With their special knowledge the experts can be trusted to solve the country’s problems.

Technocracy came to the fore modestly in the early days of Doctor Who when Harold Wilson’s Labour government eschewed socialism in favour of managing “the white heat of technology” through a National Economic Development Council.  Since then, unelected bodies have been doing a roaring trade: the European Commission, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, the Office of Budget Responsibility, the little-known panels of the World Trade Organisation, the Eurozone troika with its preference for technocratic national governments…   For some, technocracy is a matter of pride, with Tony Blair in 1997 promising a “government without ideology”.

The Doctor (William Hartnell) encounters WOTAN
The rise of the unelected is presaged by two early Doctor Who adventures which imagine computers running the world.  In “The War Machines” (1966) the government builds a powerful computer called WOTAN (Will Operating Thought ANalogue) in what is now the British Telecom Tower.  A senior civil servant Sir Charles Summer asserts that “no one operates WOTAN…the computer is merely a brain which thinks logically without any political ends.  It is pure thought…it is our servant.”  In the end, WOTAN hypnotises the staff operating it, and goes about trying to eliminate humans from the planet. 

“The Ice Warriors” (1967) introduces a species of Martians whom we meet several times in subsequent adventures.  But the beauty of the story is that the monsters are not the real enemy: the world is run by a Great World Computer.  The humans in the story are led by Leader Clent who says “you know how efficient our civilisation is, thanks to the direction of the Great World Computer.”  Yet we’re told that the Computer’s guidance has reduced the number of plants on the planet so that land can be used for house-building.  No plants, no carbon dioxide, no spring.  A new Ice Age has established itself.  Clent’s robotic deference towards the Computer is startling in its disconnect and denial: the World Computer has destroyed the Earth’s climate, yet is praised as the font of an efficient civilisation! 

Leader Clent and his assistant Miss Garrett
 defer to the Great Computer
We’re told that the Computer’s principle is that all decisions, all actions must be impartial and must conform to the common good – again, familiar technocratic rhetoric.  Opponents of the Computer’s rule are regarded as “scavengers” and are deported.  One critical voice is the rebel scientist Penley, who argues that the Computer isn’t designed to take risks, but that risk-taking is the basis of man’s progress.  The humans eventually come to realise that the World Computer’s top priority it is own survival.

In today’s world technocracy is alive and well, as shown by the likelihood that the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will enable corporations to challenge the policies of democratically-elected governments in secret courts.   Doctor Who deserves credit for using the computer metaphor to challenge uncritical claims that technocracy is an impartial form of governance dedicated to the common good.