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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 December 31 2012, 06:23 PM   #1
Count Zero
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The Doctor and Mao Zedong

So, in The Mind of Evil The Doctor not only demonstrates his knowledge of Chinese but also claims that he knows Mao personally and that Mao offered him to call him Zedong, a fact the Doctor seems to be proud of.

Obviously, this also raises some ethical questions but mostly I started wondering when in Mao's life the Doctor met him and which Doctor it was. Was that ever expanded upon in the show or in tie-in fiction? Also, what are your thoughts on the matter?

As it is the Third Doctor saying these things while he's still in exile on Earth, it must have been one of his predecessors. My money is on the First Doctor sometime before we meet him. In the early serials he seems to be less concerned about objectionable behaviour in the ethical department and he's on record saying the French revolution era is his favourite. So, a visit to revolutionary China sounds like something he could have done.
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Old January 1 2013, 02:43 AM   #2
Nick Ryder
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

This is something that I've always wondered - before we "caught up" with the First Doctor - he was already pretty much well known in the universe and had this really full life, adventures that he had and people he met - and that was still his "first" form?

Or did he just age like 800 years in past 50 years?

Plus considering that Mao's time wasn't THAT far before the 63 debut of Dr. Who... it's an interesting character flaw/trait the Doctor used to sympathize/admire/befriend tyrants...
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Old January 1 2013, 03:06 AM   #3
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

Nick Ryder wrote: View Post
This is something that I've always wondered - before we "caught up" with the First Doctor - he was already pretty much well known in the universe and had this really full life, adventures that he had and people he met - and that was still his "first" form?
The show makes it clear on several occasions that the First Doctor we see really is the First Doctor. Since he has a granddaughter travelling with him it stands to reason that he's already lived a full life when we first meet him. Also, Susan says they've been travelling around in the TARDIS for a long time.
The age of the Doctor is a rather controversial point because the show isn't very consistent about it. If you believe the Third Doctor's claim that he's been a scientist for thousands of years (well, he stops himself after saying thousands) it would make the First Doctor even older.


Nick Ryder wrote: View Post
Plus considering that Mao's time wasn't THAT far before the 63 debut of Dr. Who... it's an interesting character flaw/trait the Doctor used to sympathize/admire/befriend tyrants...
Yes, I found it a bit weird for the Third Doctor to be kinda proud of it - in the same story where he chastises the UK for still having a nerve gas warhead, no less. On the other hand, it does kind of fit that incarnation's boisterous side.

The revolution of 1911 would be an interesting setting for a Doctor Who story so I was wondering whether there was a book or short story about the Doctor meeting Mao.
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Old January 1 2013, 05:32 AM   #4
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

The tragedy of Mao Zedong is that he started out with such idealism and benevolent intentions. He fought to free his people from oppression, both by the brutal Nationalist government and by the Japanese invaders, and he succeeded. He envisioned creating a utopia where everyone was free and equal, where everyone took responsibility for their own behavior and their own morality and everyone worked together to keep society working smoothly. And when he started out, he understood that it was supposed to be a long-term process, one that would take generations to unfold. Marxist theory was that a civilization had to go through numerous stages before finally achieving true stateless communism. (In practice, we've never actually had a communist society, since all the nations run by so-called Communist parties have stalled at the socialist-dictatorship phase, since of course the fatal flaw in Marxist theory is that it naively assumes an authoritarian state can be trusted to bring about its own dissolution.)

But the problem was, he got older. He became aware of his mortality, and got impatient to see his goals achieved within his lifetime, so he tried to force China to go through the evolutionary stages faster with the Great Leap Forward, and in so doing he inflicted horrible atrocities on the country and betrayed just about everything he'd originally stood for.

So maybe the Doctor knew Mao at an earlier point in his life, when he was still an idealist and a liberator. And thus he knew that there were qualities to admire in the man, and reasons to take pride in having known him. The thing about history is, there are few people you can really cubbyhole in the "good" or "evil" column. There are some pretty unambiguous monsters like Hitler or Pol Pot (though even Hitler was kind to animals), and some pretty saintly sorts like Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, but most important historical figures are somewhere between the extremes. As a rule, the greater your capacity for good, the greater your capacity for harm as well. Some people, a lot of people, do both over the course of their lives.

I think you can draw a comparison with how the Doctor sees humanity as a whole. He's aware of our darker side, of the great evil and cruelty and hate we're often capable of, and he rarely hesitates to call us on it and chastise us for it. Yet he continues to cherish and admire humanity because of the great goodness and creativity and love we're also capable of. So if he can forgive us as a species despite all our collective atrocities, it stands to reason that he can still see the good in individuals who've done horrible things. And we've seen that he is capable of that kind of forgiveness on the individual level; he stayed friends with the Brigadier despite what the latter did to the Silurians, and stayed friends with Leela even though she kept ignoring his no-killing rule. He's pretty much a hate the sin, love the sinner kind of guy, unless the sinner is a Dalek.


As for the Doctor's age, Moffat's on record as believing that the Doctor doesn't even remember how old he is and just makes up numbers as a convenience. After all, when you travel through time itself, how do you keep track of such things? And which world's calendar do you base the calculation on? The whole business of keeping track of how much subjective time has elapsed since your birth probably seems like a quaint and parochial custom from a Time Lord's perspective. So any old number will do.

It stands to reason, though, that the First Doctor lived a very long time compared to his other incarnations, because he was the only Doctor to "die" of old age. All the others have had their lives cut short because they died from violence, or were forced to regenerate in the Second Doctor's case. And if it's true that Eleven aged 200 years while eluding the prophecy of his death, yet didn't look any older at 1100 than he had at 900, then that suggests something about how slowly Gallifreyans age. Along with the fact that Romana was 139 when we first met her and looked like a woman in her late 20s.

I've always figured the First Doctor lived so much longer because he spent most of his life on Gallifrey. He didn't steal the TARDIS until he was already a grandfather -- although admittedly if you live for centuries, that point could be reached quite early in your lifespan, depending on whether sexual maturation is commensurately slower. And before he met Ian and Barbara, he was evidently less inclined to be heroic or intervene in other people's problems, so he wouldn't have been purposely risking his life as much.
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Old January 1 2013, 05:47 AM   #5
Nick Ryder
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

I guess that makes sense - although he really did live quite the full life then - it IS kind of interesting how in some ways he's gotten younger as he's gone through his regenerations.

-- As for the Mao thing - never actually thought of it that way - but yeah you're right. He's also known for seeing things in people that even they don't quite see
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Old January 2 2013, 12:54 AM   #6
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

The book, at least, has the Doctor claim to have been with Mao at the start of The Long March, which isn't that early, but far enough back for the Doctor to seem him as an idealist as Christopher suggests (and if we assume it's the first Doctor - bizarre as the thought of that incarnation walking across China is - then we're in an era where the Doctor didn't necessarily know that much about Earth history and what the people he met would end up as).
Also... the Doctor could easily name drop Nixon... he got on with him, a few years before Watergate, so it's all relative (as in Nixon was an appalling crook, but not a mass murderer).
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Old January 2 2013, 01:42 AM   #7
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

diankra wrote: View Post
and if we assume it's the first Doctor - bizarre as the thought of that incarnation walking across China is
He travelled a fair distance across China in "Marco Polo," though I don't think he was on foot for most of it.

And I daresay there are a lot of people in Vietnam who would have a different perspective on whether Nixon's policies (among other presidents') resulted in mass murder.
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Old January 2 2013, 05:24 AM   #8
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

You could say the same about Churchill and Dresden. We don't really want to open that can of worms, do we?
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Old January 2 2013, 05:30 AM   #9
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

^Like I said, few world leaders in history can be reduced to all good or all bad. Even in Doctor Who, there is nuance. (You know who Harriet Jones was, right?)
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Old January 2 2013, 07:02 PM   #10
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

Christopher wrote: View Post
diankra wrote: View Post
and if we assume it's the first Doctor - bizarre as the thought of that incarnation walking across China is
He travelled a fair distance across China in "Marco Polo," though I don't think he was on foot for most of it.

And I daresay there are a lot of people in Vietnam who would have a different perspective on whether Nixon's policies (among other presidents') resulted in mass murder.
The Doctor very quickly whines his way into getting himself carried in a wagon or litter. When he's forced to use a horse, he makes such a fuss about his arthritis that he instantly wins the sympathy of fellow sufferer Kublai Khan.
Yes, I did think about mentioning Nixon and Vietnam, but decided it might lead into Neutral Zone discussions. Thinking about the wider point of the Doctor's dodgy acquaintances, he does have a habit of helping people just because they're on the run from nasty guards, and then leaving them in charge without wondering how they'll handle power. Peter Purves, when he started going to conventions, said he wouldn't mind coming back for a story where the Doctor revisits the planet where Steven was left, only to find he's become a worse tyrant than the people he replaced...
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Old January 2 2013, 07:42 PM   #11
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

diankra wrote: View Post
Yes, I did think about mentioning Nixon and Vietnam, but decided it might lead into Neutral Zone discussions.
After all these decades?

Besides, my point was decidedly nonpartisan: that there's probably no such thing as a government leader who doesn't have some blood on his or her hands, whether intentionally or through tragic missteps.


Peter Purves, when he started going to conventions, said he wouldn't mind coming back for a story where the Doctor revisits the planet where Steven was left, only to find he's become a worse tyrant than the people he replaced...
Oh, that would've been a cool story.
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Old January 2 2013, 08:45 PM   #12
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

Nick Ryder wrote: View Post
This is something that I've always wondered - before we "caught up" with the First Doctor - he was already pretty much well known in the universe and had this really full life, adventures that he had and people he met - and that was still his "first" form?

Or did he just age like 800 years in past 50 years?

Plus considering that Mao's time wasn't THAT far before the 63 debut of Dr. Who... it's an interesting character flaw/trait the Doctor used to sympathize/admire/befriend tyrants...
The TV series only rarely suggests that the First Doctor is well known. The Daleks only pursue him after he has beaten them twice. There are a few mentions of planets he has already been and The Savages where he is already known on that planet but that's about it.

The Doctor being famous and influential comes later.
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Old January 2 2013, 09:30 PM   #13
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

VDCNI wrote: View Post
Nick Ryder wrote: View Post
This is something that I've always wondered - before we "caught up" with the First Doctor - he was already pretty much well known in the universe and had this really full life, adventures that he had and people he met - and that was still his "first" form?

Or did he just age like 800 years in past 50 years?

Plus considering that Mao's time wasn't THAT far before the 63 debut of Dr. Who... it's an interesting character flaw/trait the Doctor used to sympathize/admire/befriend tyrants...
The TV series only rarely suggests that the First Doctor is well known. The Daleks only pursue him after he has beaten them twice. There are a few mentions of planets he has already been and The Savages where he is already known on that planet but that's about it.

The Doctor being famous and influential comes later.
I hope the new series will continue with the Doctor being unknown. Even with a million years and a time machine, you could only get around to an infinitesimally small part of the universe. This business of the Doctor being recognized all over high heaven just seems like an awfully small universe.
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Old January 2 2013, 09:49 PM   #14
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

I think that the licence of the times can be invoked in this case. Mao was nothing if not an exceptional self-publicist, and many westerners in the sixties and seventies saw him as a man of the people, maybe even an inspiration for the civil rights movement in the US. The extent of the depredations that he had heaped upon his own people was largely unknown even within China, never mind outside it. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's landmark 2005 book Mao: The Unknown Story has arguably blown the lid off of Mao's most heinous crimes, but it's a lid that would have been pretty tightly shut when The Mind Of Evil was written for TV.

(Also, the episode can be interpreted as referencing a strictly Whoniverse version of Mao, as is the case with its Churchill and its Hitler. The UNIT stories were supposedly set some seven or so years in the future, placing the story after Mao's real-life death in 1976, but in TMOE he's referenced as China's current leader.)
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Old January 3 2013, 01:01 AM   #15
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Re: The Doctor and Mao Zedong

Wereghost wrote: View Post
I think that the licence of the times can be invoked in this case. Mao was nothing if not an exceptional self-publicist, and many westerners in the sixties and seventies saw him as a man of the people, [SNIP], but it's a lid that would have been pretty tightly shut when The Mind Of Evil was written for TV.
That's an interesting point, as The Mind of Evil's writer, Don Houghton, was married to Pik-Sen Lim (who plays the Chinese captain Chin-Lee in the story), so you'd imagine he'd have slightly more knowledge of the situation in China, via his in-laws, than the average UK writer (or armchair marxist, like fellow Pertwee writer Mac Hulke). ISTR that she was from a Hong Kong Chinese family, but don't quote me on that...

As for the UNIT dating.. I'm not going there... mainly because I'm also a late-dating person, and have got a sore throat from shouting at friends who favour the early-dating theories!
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