09 March 2013

The Doctor Diaries II.7: "The Idiot's Lantern"

The Doctor and The Pedestrian

The main theme of this episode is to revitalize early fears about television. But note the brilliance of the narrative conventions of this show: time travel enables these stories to re-energize old fears by going back into the time when such fears were new and of immediate relevance. The time travel to 1953 takes the viewer back into a time when TV was brand new, thus taking our 21st century knowledge about what has happened since and layering this on to real and imagined cultural conditions from the 50s. Then the story cycles back, in our minds, applying the theme anew to the fears of our own time, such as our concerns about television/film violence; unreal social and personal expectations fostered by "reality" tv; the internet's negative effects on attention, deep reading, and education; addictions to social media; interpersonal implications of the digital community; the dangers of multitasking; addictions to email or texting; etc. So by making the old new, the old then makes the current visible again. 

This made me think about the analogous fears in the 1950s and their representation in literature. The two prime examples are the short story "The Pedestrian"  and the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. These works bring fears about Tv to life as well, at the very moment when TV was becoming popular. 

See what fiction can do? 

Now, before I move on, I want to babble a little bit more about the Doctor before I sign off. I find that I am waiting for several topics to be covered somewhere in the show. Here's a list: 

- I am impatient to see what domestic life is like in the Tardis. Where do Rose and the Doctor sleep? Do they take meals together? Who cooks? Do they sit and have homely kinds of conversations over dinner? What was it like when Mickey was there? Where does Rose get all her clothes? 
- I am waiting for the series to develop its METAPHYSICS. Does the Doctor believe in the soul? Does he know God? Does he have experience of heaven and hell? (The next episode, "Impossible Planet," touches on these questions). The Doctor is always--well, nearly always--fighting to save people's physical lives, as if bodily death is the worst evil. But I have seen two exceptions to this already. One was in "School Reunion," when he was horrified to discover that the aliens were using not only the children's bodies, but also their souls. There's also a moment in season 5 when he tells Amy that the angels "can only kill you," but the Crack in the Universe can "erase you, make it so that you were never born."   
- ok, just two for now. 

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