07 March 2013

The Doctor Diaries II.5-6: “The Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”

What Makes Us Human?

This two-episode story continued to fulfill my desire for thoughtful stories without silly aliens. And here's my thought for the day: the popularity of Doctor Who seems to undermine any stereotypes of our times as ironic, skeptical, or nihilistic. These are classic tales of good triumphing over bad. They are simple stories of right and wrong. They do have some added complications—in these episodes, the Doctor had to decide whether killing millions of innocent people in an agonizing death by emotional torture was justified, to prevent them from killing all the rest of the innocent people in the universe. And he decided he had to do it. This came right after Mickey stopped somebody from murdering a guard, saying that if they did, they would be as bad as their enemies.

So I am not saying these stories are without moral complexity. I'm merely observing that they argue against an age of irony, cynicism, and meaninglessness by placing their characters firmly in a traditional ethical realm. Good and bad are usually pretty clear, or only as difficult as choosing a lesser evil over a greater one. It is always good to choose good and to be good; there is no anti-moral message about destruction being inevitable and therefore the best path to choose or anything like that.

And other traditional values are espoused, too: family, loyalty, love.

There are some common, timeless questions, too, about what makes us human. Do our emotions set us apart from animals or from machines? Or is it our imagination that makes us unique? Or our creativity? Or our ability to suffer? When do we become too dependent on our own technologies, or when do we become interimplicated in their own designs?

So, there are some thoughts for today. Now further up and further in!

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