The Doctor and Martha land the TARDIS onboard a cargo ship that is going to crash into a sun in 42 minutes; exciting, huh? One of the crew, named Korwin, has been infected with a parasite that causes his body temperature to skyrocket to an impossible level. He slowly picks off the crew one by one by burning them to death with heat escaping from his eyes. During this time, the Doctor realizes that the captain ordered the crew to mine energy from the sun. In an attempt to save Martha from Korwin, the Doctor becomes infected with the same parasite and realizes that the parasite is part of the sun from which the captain mined energy, making the sun a living thing.
Doctor (Infected): “You mined that sun, scooped its surface for cheap fuel. You should’ve scanned for life…that sun’s alive—a living organism. They scooped out its heart and used it for fuel, and now it’s screaming!
Cpt. McDonnell: “What do you mean? How can a sun be alive?” (to Martha) “Why is he saying that?”
Doctor (Infected): “Because it’s living in me. Humans! You grab whatever’s nearest and you bleed it dry! Aah! You should have scanned!”
Cpt. McDonnell: “It takes too long. We’d be caught. Fusion scoops are illegal.”
The sun is desperate to get the parts of itself back that are still remaining in the ship’s fuel tanks. The crew is able to vent the fuel back into space and so cure the Doctor and save themselves.
Episodes like this are one of the reasons for my love affair with science fiction. Writer, Chris Chibnall is able to create both a unique moral/ethical issue and one that is eerily familiar. It is unlikely that humans are going to discover that oil, coal, water, sunlight or nuclear energy have been sentient beings all this time and so using a sentient being as an energy source is a unique problem found in science fiction, one where, once again, life is payment for energy. However, if we assume that the sun found in “42” is a metaphor for the environment itself, then this narrative becomes an exercise in personification. The environment is speaking up for itself and fighting back, which is a common characteristic for an energy narrative. So think of it this way, if the earth could speak about fracking, deepwater drilling and climate change, what would it say?
Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation, nature fights back, corporate ruthlessness, nomadic existence.