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.
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.
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.