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 Post subject: Doctor Who is not Science Fiction
PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 4:16 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
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Location: Sydney, Australia
The new (post 2000) episodes of "Doctor Who" have driven a point home to me. That point is that Doctor Who is not science fiction. It has science fiction elements, and can easily be mistaken for science fiction, but it's really not about *science* in any significant sense.

Doctor Who, especially in its current incarnation, is basically a fairy tale. It's not a *nice* fairy tale: it's more the gruesome variety that used to be the norm before Disney turned everything into sparkles and rainbows. One could also describe it as "space fantasy", and this would be a more accurate turn of phrase than "science fiction".

Some readers will agree with this viewpoint immediately. In fact, some will accuse me of mental slowness for taking so long to come to this realisation. Others will want an argument in support of the position. I'll provide such an argument next time I have a moment to spare on the subject. Meanwhile, the floor is open to anyone who wants to throw in their two cents worth.


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 Post subject: Technology and Magic
PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 8:27 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:57 am
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Arthur C. Clarke quotably quipped that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. One might say that Doctor Who is a story that embraces this idea to the full, but I think there are certain laws of physics that can't be broken without also breaking belief that real science is at work. The Doctor is a very knowledgeable and highly rationalistic person, almost invariably comprehending things in terms of physical laws and technology, yet some of the phenomena he encounters seem truly magical and lawless.

Take, for example, "The Idiot's Lantern", in which the evil enemy, "The Wire", operating through television sets, sucks the very personality out of people. So far so good: technology which is indistinguishable from magic. In doing so, however, it also blanks out the facial features of the person: no eyes, nose, or mouth. This is fantasy: one's face, as an embodiment of one's personal identity, is stripped away. The problem is that it overlooks the immense practical problems, not the least of which is the fact that the victim is physically incapable of breathing. If this were science fiction, that would be a major defect (in the absence of a good explanation).


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