Doctor Who Season 12 theme: Smack-in-the-face-with-2x4-lecturing

; Date: February 3, 2020

Tags: Doctor Who »»»» Doctor Who Season 12

The episode Praxeus was rollicking good fun, with scary bits, funny bits, and an intriguing puzzle to solve. But at least twice The Doctor turned to the audience to deliver a lecture about Plastics. That wouldn't be so bad, but that's happened in nearly every episode so far this season, and it's beginning to get on my nerves.
Smack us in the face with a 2x4? Source - BBC

Yes, humanity is doing some stupid things to the planet. Yes, we are shooting ourselves in the foot in many ways, by continuing to use gasoline for driving, by using all kinds of plastic gadgets that are used once and thrown away, and on and on and on. Yes, it is a dangerous thing, and it seems like most people are sleepwalking themselves off a cliff that they don't know is there. Yes, to that and much more.

Doctor Who has always had preachy ideas about the dangers of technologies or political systems. We would have monsters that ate polluted air who were addicting humans on polluting the air, or evil corporations spewing poisons that killed people or created mutated creatures, and so on. But it was never so blatant as in Season 12.

Maybe the problem is lazy writing? In every previous instance the warnings were a natural part of the story. In The Green Death the evil mind controlling computer caused poisons to be emitted that mutated bugs into human killing menaces, until the nature loving hippies down the road developed a cure from mushrooms. Clearly we were warned, in the episode, about the dangers of industrialists but the warning occurred in the natural flow of the story.

Skyfall and Skyfall 2

In the season opener, we had an ultra-powerful technology company based in Silicon Valley, where the CEO was unveiling a new product. In the product announcement he blatantly told the audience ... (my paraphrasing)

Thank you for carrying our gadgets, and using our websites, because it has given us so much information about you.

The impact of this lecture was immediately lost because of what happened immediately afterward, namely The Master's evil plot to enslave humanity. But... let's not mince words here. This character directly lectured us about the dangers of giving information to the Tech Companies, and warning us about how much control those tech companies now have over our lives.

There's been any number of episodes where technology created problems. For example the many episodes with a gigantic computer hatching evil plans. In The War Machines, a computer was hypnotizing people and ordering them to build machines that would then be sent rampaging around London to kill humans. Every Cyberman story is about machines erasing human emotions. The clearest example was The Bells of St. John where "WiFi" was being used to suck people into a gigantic computer for some nefarious plan.

It's not new for Doctor Who to warn about the risks of technology. It's new for Doctor Who to blatantly lecture us.

Orphan 55

The crew accidentally got teleported to a holiday park where a nefarious "virus" was infecting the computer systems, that was able to then zap itself into humans. But then as the story developed we learned the holiday park was built on an "Orphan" planet. Orphan planets are ones where the occupants did such a bad job with their planet, that it was no longer habitable. Hence, the phrase "Orphan Planet" means a planet where the original inhabitants had to leave.

ANd, as the story developed further, we learned the planet Orphan 55 was in fact Earth -- our planet -- the one we live on. How did we find this out? The access tunnel they walked through was found to be a metro tunnel for the Novosibirsk Metro System, among other clues, finally confirmed by the general manager of the holiday park.

All that resulted in The Doctor lecturing us about the danger of what we today are doing to the planet around us.

Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror

I don't recall an explicit lecture delivered to the audience in this episode. There was potential on two fronts:

  1. Technology development is sometimes risky causing deaths to the workers involved, eventually leading to safety systems developments after a sufficient number of people have been killed or maimed
  2. Sometimes inventors like Nikola Tesla are screwed over by industrialists and end up not getting the recognition or other rewards they deserve.

Fugitive of the Judoon

Again, I don't recall an explicit lecture delivered to the audience. They were too busy blowing our minds with the whole new Doctor incarnation.

Praxeus

The story synopsis was - a culture on another planet was dying, and for some reason needed to experiment with a virus that liked plastic. Given the large quantity of plastic on Planet Earth, especially in the oceans, that culture sent a scientific mission to experiment here rather than on their home world. The goal being to develop a cure for this virus, to save their species.

But... something went awry. The birds were angry. The birds were full of plastic. People were blowing into smithereens because of the virus. It was very crazy.

But the plastic in the birds and the plastic everywhere ... gave The Doctor an excuse to launch into a lecture about plastic and the environment.

Yes of course this is a big problem. Lots of wildlife is choking to death on the plastic that is filling the ocean. It is completely nutso, and the root cause is that we have so many products around us made of plastic, and those products are use-once-and-throw-away things. We go to a restaurant and are given plastic forks and the only thing you can do is put the plastic utensils into the trash. It's nuts.

But -- surely the show runners can come up with a better way of telling us how nuts this is without it being a lecture.

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.