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Monday, September 12, 2011

Doctor Who is Fantasy, not Science Fiction

Can we all agree that Doctor Who is about fantasy, not science? The things it's about transcend the rules of the natural world. It's not about scientific principles or technological premises. It pretty much fulfills the axiom "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Now look, I'm no Doctor Who expert. I've seen the first season of the reboot (Christopher Eccleston) and part of the second (David Tennant). I've never seen anything science fiction with a space/timeship that spends so little time in space and so little deviation from Earth's 19th and 20th century.

The Doctor is a wizard. He can die and come back to life.  That sonic screwdriver? It's a magic wand. It does everything. It locks doors, turns off computers, knocks out people, destroys things, charges batteries, scans things, lights things on fire, cuts, lights things up. The only thing missing is a shout of "Wingardium Leviosa!" Its functions are never explained, its method of operation never touched on. It's magic.

Regeneration? Magic. Exactly how is that supposed to work? Is there any concept of death for Time Lords? If it was a time thing I might understand, but life does not and cannot work that way. The TARDIS? Magic. Seems to go wherever it wants. I've never seen such a dangerous instrument piloted so badly. Psychic paper?  Do I need to say it?

And half the episodes have nothing to do with science. They're rooted in fantasy. Werewolves, ghosts in the machine, portals through a fireplace, gargoyles, ghosts with Charles Dickens, clockwork robots, more ghosts. The ones that do deal with science have such bad science that it's impossible not to notice.

In "New Earth" they discover a hospital with thousands of capsules full of humans that are infected with "everything". What? Everything? Yeah, that's how they explain it. Every disease. Ever. And they're all still alive. But the only way to get infected is to touch them. Apparently, "every disease" does not include anything airborne. But one touch and you shrivel up and die immediately.

So the Doctor cures them all. How? He pours every bottle of the hospital's IV fluids on himself, then touches the infected. They touch others and spread the "cure". Yeah. That's how medical science works.

And then on the episode I'm on now, they're facing the devil. The DEVIL. How am I supposed to take this as anything but fantasy? You're fighting the DEVIL.

Daleks? Sure, they're kinda scientific. Cybermen? Yeah, not much fantasy about them. They both run on batteries. But really, you gotta spend a little time out of England. I don't care that the series takes the turns it does, but for God's sake, don't call it science fiction if there's no science.

And if I have angered you, please enjoy this acapella version of the theme song.



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