Zygons…Schmygons…


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I would like to say that I made a special effort to get up early on a Sunday morning for this but even for me on a sunny Sunday  morning, 9AM is comfortably civilised…

I only vaguely remember the first Doctor, William Hartnell, but grew up with the Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and, to a lesser extent, Tom Baker takes on the role. I guess it would have been midway through the Tom Baker era that I grew up and gave up such childhood tales in favour of adult things like girls and beer…I remember think that the Doctors after Tom Baker’s #4 were quite silly and frivolous and the monsters pale in the face of the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen and Abominable Snowmen…

So now, fifty years on, where are we? The Doctor is now a major exploitable franchise being worked for all it is worth. I was a latecomer to the revitalised Doctor in the mid-2000s…I equated it with my memories of silliness and frivolity and that might never have changed if I hadn’t stopped over with friends on my way back from a trip to the UK and they were watching the finale of the Christopher Ecclestone series and I hooked drawn back into the world of the Doctor. I still haven’t seen any of that series bar the finale but loved the David Tennant era with companions Rose, Martha and Donna. I thought that that era ended well but have been unimpressed totally with the much more commercially-exploited Matt Smith era where the fez, fish fingers and custard, and the whole Amy Pond thing just left me cold – mercifully the BBC resisted the temptation to thrash the Pond thing any further in the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, that screened globally this morning…

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may not wish to read past this point…you have been warned…

There were too many cutesy distractions in this 75 minute special…although the multiple Doctor thing has been done before, there was no real sense of drama of impending threat in this story and what there might have been was continually eroded away by the Morecombe and Wise style of repartee between the Tennant and Smith Doctors: if the intention was to play the 50th for laughs, then the story should have reflected this…

The Zygons were never amongst the great or scariest of Doctor Who aliens…barely Second XI, if that…what value they added to this story is tenuous at best and resolution of this part of the plot really only seemed like a loose vehicle to enable the Tennant and Smith Doctors to work off each other. Take the Zygons out of the story, and you essentially have…the same story, just shorter – I’d be keen to see a Zygon-less bootleg version of The Day of the Doctor…

The time wasted on the Zygons could have been employed much more effectively to further develop the thirteen Doctor concept and the ultimate destruction of Gallifrey – an apparently pivotal event that the Smith Doctor regularly angsts about – we seem to have forgotten that the Tennant Doctor committed genocide on a universal level against the Daleks in his final series and that this has never been mentioned since. That may be because the Daleks have become like British Paints and ‘keep on keepin’ on‘ and so never did quite get genocided…

One of the things that I liked about the Tennant series was that it was all about hope, where the Smith era has been characterised by alternate frivolity and angst. It is revealed this morning that it was the (John) Hurt Doctor that pushed the button on Gallifrey as the only way to end the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks. Hurt’s depiction of the dilemma of sacrificing to few to save the many is very well done and if maintained, would have made this special an epic…unfortunate the writers succumbed to contemporary niceness and introduce an unlikely hope-based solution in which everyone (less the Daleks) gets to live happily ever after…

Although, yes, this is only a TV special and science-fiction at that, this is symptomatic of a malaise that seems to be affecting us more and more, a distancing from the realities of the world in favour of a cloud cuckooo vunderland where there are no harsh dilemmas and everything always turns out alright on the day. Sometimes  there are no real winners, just maybe lesser losers, where hard decisions have to be made…as much I may diss the Fulda Gapists that long for a return to the less complex days of conventional conflicts, one thing that those dinosaurs knew was the use of force as an instrument of, not so much national power, but of national survival…where the needs of the few are outweighed by the needs of the many.

This is not just in the sense of wielding the big nuclear stick but also in how even tactical actions are conducted where it may be necessary to risk one element in order to enable or save a larger formation, to employ area weapons to neutralise greater threats like air defence structures, or the growing spectre of accidental or deliberate release of bio-chem weapons…and sometimes civilians and other non-combatants get caught in the middle of all this and become part of ‘the few’…

…that war can be conducted in clean surgical manner is the ongoing Myth of Desert Storm that fails to take into account that there has not been a major force on force conflict since Vietnam and the October War in the early seventies…this myth ignores cold hard realities and results is military generations that are not capable of considering the hard issues and making those hardest calls where there are no winners…just lesser losers…ultimately it is NOT all about ‘the people’ but achieving national objectives…

So this morning we were presented, in the end, a happy happy joy joy ending instead of the deeper darker theme implied in the original idea…hope is nice but sometimes you have to be prepared to get down and dirty and make those tough decisions when hope is not enough…

With the (finally) demise of the Smith Doctor, the ball is now in the 13th Doctor’s court to restore some of the drama to the Doctorverse and dispel the silliness and frivolity that have been allowed to, Seeds of Doom-like run amok and dominate the ‘verse…

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