Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe. How Do You Melt a Forest?

This episode happens to be another example of sentient environment being threatened by the universe’s expanding needs for fuel. It’s Christmas and the Doctor has taken it upon himself to cheer up a 1940s wartime family. As a special present for Christmas day (literally wrapped in a box and tied with a bow), the Doctor intends to take the family to Androzani, where there are naturally occurring Christmas trees (ornaments and all!). However, the family gets a bit too curious about the giant present in their living room and the little boy opens it early. The Doctor, big sister, Lily, and mother Madge, all follow Cyril into Androzani one by one. The Doctor realizes that there is definitely something that is upsetting the trees, and Madge runs into three miners during her search for her children. The miners tell her that the forest is about to be harvested for fuel and that the surface of the planet has been evacuated for the incoming acid rain.

Madge: “I’m looking for my children.”

Miner 1: “There’s nobody else in this forest. There can’t be.”

Miner 2: “Well, she found a way in, maybe her kids did too.”

Miner 3: “Then God help them.”

Madge: “Why do you say that?”

Madge: “Why did you say God help my children?”

Miner 3: “This forest is about to be harvested.”

Madge: “Harvested?”

Miner 3: “Androzani trees: greatest fuel source ever. The entire area is being melted down for battery fluid.”

Madge: “Melted down? How do you melt a forest?”

Miner 3: “Acid rain. The satellites are in position. Anyone still out there in five minutes is going to burn.”

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Lily find Cyril in a mysterious house in the middle of the forest. The house contains animate wooden figures of a king and a queen. They also discover that the souls of the forest are evacuating the trees and surrounding the house. Madge is able to reach Lily, Cyril and the Doctor just in time. Upon Madge’s arrival the house reveals itself to be a space/timeship that requires a mother to pilot it. Madge absorbs all of the souls of the forest and pilots the ship to earth where the souls are able to disperse among the trees.

Sadly, the trees do not actually fight back in this episode but the episode does still contain several aspects of an energy narrative. First, a weaker force is subjugated by a stronger force because they have a energy resource, namely the trees are destroyed by the miners. Second, there is a life for energy exchange. The trees are sentient beings and they have to die for the miners to receive their energy. Third, the miners are unable or unwilling to shut down the acid rain process to save Madge and her children. Thus, they once again justify the exchange of life for energy.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation, nature fights back, corporate ruthlessness, nomadic existence.

Doctor Who: 42. Humans! You Grab Whatever’s Nearest and You Bleed it Dry!

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.

Doctor Who: An Army of Ghosts. Let’s Make It Bigger!

Like in “The Impossible Planet” in “An Army of Ghosts” we see human beings going to great and dangerous lengths just to procure an independent energy source. In this case, Britain’s alien intelligence agency, Torchwood, opened up a spatial disturbance in an attempt to harness a massive energy source. After they opened up the disturbance a mysterious sphere comes through the disturbance and ghost-like figures appear all over the earth.

 

Doctor: “So you find the breach, probe it, the sphere comes through, 600 feet above London. Bam! It leaves a hole in the fabric of reality, and that hole, you think ‘Oh. Shall we leave it alone? Shall we back off? Shall we play it safe?’ Nah you think ‘Let’s make it bigger!’”

Yvonne Hartman (Head of Torchwood, London): “It’s a massive source of energy. If we can harness that power, we need never depend on the Middle East again. Britain will become truly independent.”

 The sphere contains an army of Daleks and the ghost-like figures are actually Cybermen trying to cross over from an alternate universe. AND it just so happens that the Daleks and the Cybermen are two of the Doctor’s most notorious enemies, who then begin a battle over the earth.

Obviously the Doctor saves the day as he always does but the point of the narrative is the same, a small group of people risk not only their lives but the lives of the entire planet in an attempt at developing a cheap and independent energy resource that they know nothing about. The energy crisis needs a solution but that solution is not worth risking the lives of the people that want to use the energy in the first place.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, environmental degradation, political oppression.

Doctor Who: The Impossible Planet. We could revolutionize modern science. We could use it to fuel the Empire. Or start a war…

The Doctor and Rose travel into humanity’s future and discover a space station that is sitting on top of an “impossible planet”. The planet is orbiting a black hole without falling in. The team of scientists in the space station discovered that a power source deep inside the planet is causing the planet to counteract the black hole’s gravity, in addition to creating a gravity funnel, which allows for a spaceship to safely travel to and land on the planet’s surface without being pulled into the black hole. The scientists are drilling down into the planet to learn about the energy source so that they could potentially harvest the source and use it to power the Human Empire.

Chief Science Officer: “We could revolutionize modern science.”

Chief Security Officer: “We could use it to fuel the Empire.”

Doctor: “Or start a war…”

 

The humans in this narrative intentionally put themselves in a dangerous situation in order to research and potentially harvest a power source, because this power source is potentially worth their lives. Here again, is an example of the life and energy equivalency in energy narratives. In addition to putting themselves in danger, the scientists are using a race called the Ood to do the drilling. According to the scientists, the Ood presented themselves to the humans and asked to serve them saying that that is their desired purpose in life. While, we never see the crew members abuse the Ood, they tend to treat them like cattle as a result of their convenient racism.

Of course, the power source is something much more dangerous that it appears. The humans discover that it can never be harvested and only some of them make it off the planet with their lives, which is more than can be said for the Ood.

Energy narrative characteristics found in this episode: life= energy, religious element, political oppression, convenient racism.

The Sale of the Century: Doctor Who: World War Three

 

Doctor Who Introduction

Doctor Who is a British television series that was first created in 1963 and was revitalized in 2005. The series follows a humanoid alien called the Doctor, who travels through time and space in this ship called the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space). The Doctor can travel anywhere in space and time and therefore he meets several technologically advanced aliens including future humans. These aliens all require various types of energy to fuel their space travels as well as their everyday planetary needs.

 The Sale of the Century: Doctor Who: World War Three

 In this episode, the Doctor discovers that a group of aliens, called the Slitheen, have been occupying Downing Street, disguised as members of Parliament. The Slitheen reveal that they wish to start a nuclear war on earth so that the planet becomes so radioactive that they can destroy it and sell chunks of the planet as fuel for space travelers:

Doctor: “You get the codes, you release the missiles, but not into space because there’s nothing there. You attack every other country on earth; they retaliate; fight back. World War Three—whole planet gets nuked.”

Slitheen Leader: “And we can sit through it safe in our spaceship, waiting in the Thames; not crashed, just parked, barely two minutes away.”

Harriet Jones: “You’ll destroy the planet, this beautiful place, what for?”

Doctor: “Profit, that’s what the signal is, beaming into space, an advert.”

Slitheen Leader: “’Sale of the Century.’ We reduce the earth to molten slag, then sell it, piece by piece. Radioactive chunks capable of powering every cut-price star liner and budget cargo ship. There’s a recession out there, Doctor, people are buying cheap. This rock becomes raw fuel.”

Doctor: “At the cost of five billion lives.”

Slitheen Leader: “Hmmm. Bargain.”

Human life is a bargain. This episode of Doctor Who also contains the life and energy equivalency similar to many of the narratives I have written about of late. The Slitheen happen to be the stronger force in this narrative since they have the technological advantage. The Slitheen view the lives of the weaker force as expendable, and the weaker force, led by the Doctor, revolts against the stronger force and overthrows it. Revolution is also one of the common characteristics of energy narratives.