Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Down to earth with a bump

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fiction is never about the future: it is always a satire or a parable of the present, but Doctor Who and Cold Lazarus should be consigned to the past

The longest-running satire on television has got to be Doctor Who (Monday, BBC1). Since the 1960s, the Doctor has been an eerily accurate mirror of the prime minister. It started with William Hartnell, who just was Harold Macmillan - a distant, bad-tempered Latin beak, a one-universe patrician in an astrakhan hat. Then we got Patrick Troughton, a shifty, smiley, twisting, insincere Wilson. Margaret Thatcher. started. - as the conviction time lord, Jon Pertwee. Remember the bonkers hair and all those teeth and her unnatural unfrothing enthusiasm and the unhealthy attraction for smooth, sycophantic amen? That oleaginous Brigadier was Cecil Parkinson. Thatcher in her later elective incarnations became Tom Baker: out of control, with mad, rolling eyes and a metal dog (Norman Tebbit).

Then there was the Who Who, the Doctor Who nobody can remember. The completely forgettable, bland, blank Who: John Major. Paul McGann is the Tony Blair of doctors, a touchy-feely, caring time traveller who kisses girls and has two hearts, one on the left and one on the right, so he can hold his hand to his chest and swear anything to anyone

It is a timeless truth that science fiction is never actually about the future: it is always a satire or a parable of the present. Usually a pretty fascist and xenophobic view of the present. The creatures from outer space almost remind one of the Germans or the Welsh. The story of a people or crew surrounded and threatened by evil, uncomprehending outsiders and a menacing blackness is -a stock science-fiction device. You can zap an alien without any residual guilt. I predict a re-emergence of the genre as our involvement with Europe gets worse.

Doctor Who has a legion of little- England acolytes. He may be a time lord, but his zeitgeist is firmly anchored to 1950s playgrounds. He's a Bakelite and Spam. spaceman. Just pause for a moment and think how desperately appalling it would be to have a son who was a seriously lifelong Doctor Who fan, a 40-year-old man-child in an aran tank top. A little chap who sits in the attic with lots of old bog rolls and a torch, going doo-dum-dooda-dum and begging his aunties to knit him 40ft scarves. These fans make-Trekkies look sophisticated and cultured. Who acolytes (I don't know what their collective noun is: I can't think of an improvement on W hos)had been nervously nibbling their Daleks, worrying that the latest incarnation of the Doctor Would ruin their parochial universe. Mightn't American movie production values kill the essential Blue Peter "Here's an alien I made earlier" charm of the series? Would it all be, "Do you feel lucky, cyberman?", "Hasta la vista, Davros"? Would a tartan-trousered Robocop step out of the old police box?

Well, huge sighs of relief all round. You can relax and enjoy the new Who. It's all just the same as it always was simply dreadful. The acting is straight from World of Leather, the dialogue front MFI, the plot .... hell, what plot? I have yet to see a film that was so quite as nature intended, unencumbered by the restrictive foundation garments of narrative.

This film is in the grand tradition of Doctor Who. where the stories meander frenetically but aimlessly. Dead ends and cuts-de-sac are instantly resolved by bits of toy-box technology. "Quickly, quickly, the Maruvian Globspanner. No, not that one that's Jethro Tull"s seed drill. Don't they teach you anything?'

"Stand back. I have Valhalla's boff-boff on a stick in my pocket. and it's printed to go off.

The sets may not have vibrated quite so much in the American version, but they were still essentially the same sackcloth and cardboard. Here are two small nuggets of dialogue I rescued from the ashes and would like to share with you.

At tine point, gamely screaming at a wind machine. Paul McGann repeatedly shouts: "Who am I, who am I?" Quite obviously, McGann is a fellow dyslexic and inadvertently read the line back to front. The other is such a complete joy. I think I'll make it my thought for the week. The baddie metaphysically grunts "Life is wasted on the living."

Caption: Freezing frame: Albert Finney is crygenically challenged In Cold Lazarus, where no hoary, ancient, futuristic cliché was left unsucked. And Paul McGann, a Tony Blair of Doctor Who — a touchy-feely, caring time traveller who kisses girls and has two hearts

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gill, AA (1996-06-02). Down to earth with a bump. The Sunday Times p. sec. 10, p. 2.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gill, AA. "Down to earth with a bump." The Sunday Times [add city] 1996-06-02, sec. 10, p. 2. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gill, AA. "Down to earth with a bump." The Sunday Times, edition, sec., 1996-06-02
  • Turabian: Gill, AA. "Down to earth with a bump." The Sunday Times, 1996-06-02, section, sec. 10, p. 2 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Down to earth with a bump | url= | work=The Sunday Times | pages=sec. 10, p. 2 | date=1996-06-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 January 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Down to earth with a bump | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 January 2021}}</ref>