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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Doctor Who

Doctor Who "Bigger on the inside..."

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Old January 1 2014, 11:39 PM   #151
MacLeod
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Many shows follow a formula, it's what you do with that formula. Perhaps part of the reason for DW's longevity is that it changes the formula a bit every few years. With a new Doctor, Companions, showrunner etc...
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Old January 2 2014, 09:15 AM   #152
Sci
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Ubik wrote: View Post
I think that (recent) Doctor Who's absolute refusal to take itself seriously is a large part of the problem.
No. First off, the show being mostly light-hearted and primarily written for children is not the same as "refusing to take itself seriously."

I mean, heck, we just got off of an episode hinging on the question of whether or not the Doctor did the right thing by committing genocide against the Time Lords. "Vincent and the Doctor" was a serious look at the relationship between clinical depression and creativity. "The Doctor's Wife" was one of the most romantic -- and tragic -- stories the show's ever done. "The Beast Below" was a wonderful piece of political commentary. Even episodes like "The Lodger" or "The Power of Three" have some beautiful moments -- the Doctor's "why are you still here?" speech to Craig, for instance.

And all this is perfectly compatible with being a children's show, and with taking itself seriously. Because light and optimism are also important; we need these kinds of stories in our culture. And because the thing that marks its primary audience as children is not a lack of sophistication per se -- it's that the show, when it addressed dark or complicated topics, addresses them from a place of emotional safety. That's why "Vincent and the Doctor" ends with reassurance rather than utter despair, for instance.

The point is not that the show can't take it self seriously, or can't go to dark places, or can't do complexity. The point is that the show is not meant for us. It is meant for families and children and adults (and hopefully those adults' inner children). This is not NYPD Blue or Game of Thrones, and it shouldn't be. It's that, if the show goes to these places, it has to do so in a manner that is truthful, yet also creates an emotionally safe space for the children in the audience, and does not defy its primary creative conceits, its primary storytelling goal of telling fantastical adventure stories for the young and the young at heart.

It is only since Moffatt has been show-runner that, as Sci says, twisty-fun-action-madcap-adventure seems the show's raison-d'etre.
I don't actually agree with that; I think that Doctor Who mixes its fun-madcap aspects with darker and more sophisticated aspects, but that it has been primarily a relatively light, optimistic, fantastical superhero adventure story since "Rose" aired in 2005. This was true in the RTD era -- there were just as many "Partners in Crime" and "The Shakespeare Code"-type episodes back then as there are now. And I consider that feature, not a bug. Doctor Who should not be for us the adults; we shouldn't be stealing the kids' superhero show. Doctor Who is not and should not be Battlestar Galactica.

The show is extremely popular, yes, but it will never, ever get the respect of an X-Files, or a Deep Space Nine, or a Battlestar Galactica, or a (first few seasons of) Lost, or any of the best science fiction shows in memory, if it doesn't gain the courage to be serious, to be adult,
Again, I consider this a feature, not a bug. I watch Doctor Who because it creates an intersection between my adult tastes and my inner child; I don't want the show to be "adult."
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Old January 2 2014, 10:51 AM   #153
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Professor Zoom wrote: View Post
Timewalker wrote: View Post
I completely agree with you that featuring a non-white incarnation of the Doctor, and how he would cope social reactions to his perceived "race," would be a fascinating avenue of storytelling.
It would be interesting on Earth, but to aliens, it wouldn't matter what color skin the Doctor had - he'd simply be alien, and when you're talking about species of vastly differing physical traits, skin color all by itself seems pretty irrelevant.
Yes, but aliens aren't real--as far as we know. But human are. And skin color does still seem pretty relevant to people. So, why not have an avenue to tell stories that might have more depth than riding a dinosaur on a spaceship.

And having a African Doctor or an Asian Doctor doesn't mean EVERY story has to be about race. It however does open the possibility.
I'd be interested in seeing The Doctor being played by an Asian or African actor, however I doubt anyone who is making the show now, or in the future, would actually tell a story about The Doctor being a different ethnicity. It would just be another case of "coloured-blind" story telling; much like Guinevere (played by Angel Coulby) on Merlin.
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Old January 2 2014, 01:37 PM   #154
Ubik
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Sci wrote: View Post
Ubik wrote: View Post
I think that (recent) Doctor Who's absolute refusal to take itself seriously is a large part of the problem.
No. First off, the show being mostly light-hearted and primarily written for children is not the same as "refusing to take itself seriously."

I mean, heck, we just got off of an episode hinging on the question of whether or not the Doctor did the right thing by committing genocide against the Time Lords. "Vincent and the Doctor" was a serious look at the relationship between clinical depression and creativity. "The Doctor's Wife" was one of the most romantic -- and tragic -- stories the show's ever done. "The Beast Below" was a wonderful piece of political commentary. Even episodes like "The Lodger" or "The Power of Three" have some beautiful moments -- the Doctor's "why are you still here?" speech to Craig, for instance.

And all this is perfectly compatible with being a children's show, and with taking itself seriously. Because light and optimism are also important; we need these kinds of stories in our culture. And because the thing that marks its primary audience as children is not a lack of sophistication per se -- it's that the show, when it addressed dark or complicated topics, addresses them from a place of emotional safety. That's why "Vincent and the Doctor" ends with reassurance rather than utter despair, for instance.

The point is not that the show can't take it self seriously, or can't go to dark places, or can't do complexity. The point is that the show is not meant for us. It is meant for families and children and adults (and hopefully those adults' inner children). This is not NYPD Blue or Game of Thrones, and it shouldn't be. It's that, if the show goes to these places, it has to do so in a manner that is truthful, yet also creates an emotionally safe space for the children in the audience, and does not defy its primary creative conceits, its primary storytelling goal of telling fantastical adventure stories for the young and the young at heart.

It is only since Moffatt has been show-runner that, as Sci says, twisty-fun-action-madcap-adventure seems the show's raison-d'etre.
I don't actually agree with that; I think that Doctor Who mixes its fun-madcap aspects with darker and more sophisticated aspects, but that it has been primarily a relatively light, optimistic, fantastical superhero adventure story since "Rose" aired in 2005. This was true in the RTD era -- there were just as many "Partners in Crime" and "The Shakespeare Code"-type episodes back then as there are now. And I consider that feature, not a bug. Doctor Who should not be for us the adults; we shouldn't be stealing the kids' superhero show. Doctor Who is not and should not be Battlestar Galactica.

The show is extremely popular, yes, but it will never, ever get the respect of an X-Files, or a Deep Space Nine, or a Battlestar Galactica, or a (first few seasons of) Lost, or any of the best science fiction shows in memory, if it doesn't gain the courage to be serious, to be adult,
Again, I consider this a feature, not a bug. I watch Doctor Who because it creates an intersection between my adult tastes and my inner child; I don't want the show to be "adult."
I agree with much of what you say, and, in fact, I believe what you say applies to most of Doctor Who over the last 50 years. There have been times, of course, where that balance between good, honest storytelling and "place of emotional safety for kids" has tipped very much one way or the other. Jon Pertwee's first season is far more adult than child-friendly or safe, Tom Baker's Douglas Adams years are far more kiddy and less "truthful", Davison's years are largely without childlike wonder or humour, and I think Russell Davies managed an almost-perfect balance between the two. My own personal sensibilities are that, if the show must tip that balance one way or the other, I would much rather it tip towards real, more adult science fiction and less kiddy-madcap-nonsense. If it must tip - but, as I say, I think it is precisely that balance, when captured, that makes the show so unique, and different from the other great sf shows I mentioned.

I appreciate your examples from the Moffatt era to prove that even recently, the show manages that balance, but of course it's no coincidence that you happened to mention pretty much the best episodes of the last 4 years (The Doctor's Wife, Vincent and the Doctor, and the 50th Anniversary special.) Most of the rest of the time over the last few years, and here is the point I guess I'm trying to make, I have felt the balance tip waaaay too much toward madcap silliness at the expense of honest characterization, truthful storytelling, or complex thematic analysis. I don't honestly believe that Moffatt takes the show very seriously. I don't believe Matt Smith's performance is real characterization. I have many reasons for why I believe this.

But now I feel I'm sabotaging a thread about race in Doctor Who, so perhaps that is a debate we should save for another day/thread....
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Old January 2 2014, 02:16 PM   #155
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

I think there is a middle ground between avoiding outright the time periods when a Doctor "of color" would have additional problems and facing the issue of race head on. Walking around "like you own the place" really does change the way people respond to you. Authoritative people in a crisis situation(and most episodes are exactly that) are hard to dismiss on racial grounds, at least in the moment.

Imagine a scene like this:

COLONIAL DICKFACE:Who in the blazes you think you are? Do you truly expect me to take orders from an African in a top-hat?

THE DOCTOR: You know, I thought the hat might be a bit much. If it gets your feet moving I'm about as African as I am an Eskimo. <They stare blankly> I'm a two-thousand year old alien from another planet, with a keen interest in getting out of here before those very European men kill us all in very painful ways. Can we go now?

COLONIAL DUDEBRO: You hear that old boy? Not African at all.

COLONIAL DICKFACE: Yes, well, of course, well why didn't you say so earlier, Doctor? Lead on.

Then off on to the adventure, a couple lines establish that yes it is a factor but that it is a stupid and laughable factor.
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Old January 2 2014, 03:14 PM   #156
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

That would get tiring if they had to do it every episode, though.
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Old January 2 2014, 03:50 PM   #157
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

How often would it really come up? When was the last historical episode even? The Paternoster Gang episodes I wouldn't really count as I can't imagine a black or asian Doctor being anywhere near as notable as a Lizard woman, her wife and her alien sidekick, so the only one from last season would probably be "Mercy" and the season before it you might have a remark or two in the 60s America stuff. I can't recall too many episodes overall that were set in times and places where racism is particularly inextricable from the setting.
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Old January 2 2014, 04:28 PM   #158
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Why would it have to be every episode, though? European history is a small fraction of human history. If anything, Doctor Who has spent too little time exploring the history of Asia or Africa or the pre-Columbian Americas. And consider that in something like "The Aztecs," the all-white TARDIS crew was as out of place as a Native American Doctor would be at the Battle of Hastings. In something like that or "Marco Polo," or something set in medieval India, say, a black Doctor would be just as out of place as a white Doctor. And of course in anything set in the future or in space, it wouldn't make any difference.

And I read once that racism in European civilization didn't really become that bad, relatively speaking, until the slave trade and plantation agriculture became institutionalized and it was socially and economically convenient to dehumanize Africans, the better to justify enslaving them. Before then, they were just one more category of exotic foreigner. There was a degree of xenophobia, to be sure -- Othello makes that clear enough -- but the same play also makes it clear that Africans could hold positions of status and authority in European society, and could marry European women, even if there was disapproval from some about such marriages.

The problem is that the racism of the early film and television era created a perception of European history as being lily-white, devoid of ethnic diversity, when the truth is that there were Africans living in continental Europe and Britain as far back as the Roman Empire, when people from all over the empire were drafted as soldiers and shipped wherever troops were needed. So the presence of black characters in shows like the 2006 Robin Hood or Merlin isn't as anachronistic as we'd think. They would've been uncommon, but they were there.
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Old January 2 2014, 05:23 PM   #159
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

For the record, I'm Asian and consider myself Canadian before being Asian, as I'm sure much of the Doctor Who watching public would be British before being white / black / asian / what have you, or at least that's what the attitude is. RTD wanted the show to be BRITISH, and that comes across to the average viewer far more than it being a white / black / whatever show. It extends to ethnic content, too - I'm sure as heck never going to expect Doctor Who to feature a Bollywood dance number because they're trying to appease the billion-plus people of Indian descent out there; I'm expecting a Bollywood number because it would be COOL.

Not once have I wished for a black or asian Doctor or companion, I've only ever hoped for a GOOD Doctor or companion. If Patterson Joseph or Rain becomes a future cast member in whatever capacity, I wouldn't give a crap unless they couldn't act the part. Perhaps this attitude pegs this minority as a minority (sic), but I think this Trekkian idealism is what most broad-spectrum sci-fi goes for. I'm content with that, and for each and every Doctor from now till the day I die to be white, as long as he's awesome at it.

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Old January 2 2014, 06:44 PM   #160
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Ubik wrote: View Post
I appreciate your examples from the Moffatt era to prove that even recently, the show manages that balance, but of course it's no coincidence that you happened to mention pretty much the best episodes of the last 4 years (The Doctor's Wife, Vincent and the Doctor, and the 50th Anniversary special.) Most of the rest of the time over the last few years, and here is the point I guess I'm trying to make, I have felt the balance tip waaaay too much toward madcap silliness at the expense of honest characterization, truthful storytelling, or complex thematic analysis. I don't honestly believe that Moffatt takes the show very seriously. I don't believe Matt Smith's performance is real characterization. I have many reasons for why I believe this.

But now I feel I'm sabotaging a thread about race in Doctor Who, so perhaps that is a debate we should save for another day/thread....
I don't think this is fair. There's also, for example the already-mentioned The Beast Below, which is madcap but also deals with our willingness to turn a blind eye to exploitation, The Girl Who Waited about abandonment and bitterness, The God Complex about the nature of fear and faith and features Amy losing her faith in the Doctor, A Town Called Mercy about terrible crimes and fresh starts, The Rings of Akhaten about the power of memory and storytelling.
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Old January 2 2014, 10:49 PM   #161
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Re: Has Doctor Who become too white?

Mark_Nguyen wrote: View Post
I'm expecting a Bollywood number because it would be COOL.

Mark
That would be cool, the Vaudvillian dance number in The Evolutiuon Of The Daleks was one reason why I liked that story. A noir styled black and white ep. would be interesting too, I've love to see the reaction of a modern day audience to black and white ep. done on purpose.
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