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A waste of time and space

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There is nothing wrong with science fiction, Leo McKinstry (2006)

2006-04-12 Times.jpg



I HAVE ALWAYS regarded any adult Star Trek enthusiast as a sad individual who makes up for the mundanity of his real life by inhabiting an imaginary one. For me, the stereotypical Trekkie is a local authority filing clerk who likes to pretend he is a muscle-bound Captain Kirk, defeating aliens and casting lascivious glances at his mini-skirted, knee-length booted assistant, Lieutenant Uhura.

For, years we in Britain had our own home-grown, humble version of Star Trek, in the form of the faintly absurd Dr Who, which was, thank goodness, taken off the air in 1989 after almost three decades. It had its pathetic band of adult followers who got together at conventions to discuss time travel or Daleks. Fortunately, this kind of social inadequate was generally kept out of public view, except for the occasional appearance on breakfast television dressed as a sea monster.

Yet, after a reassuring absence of 16 years, Dr Who returned to our screens in 2005 and proved a ratings hit, attracting more than ten million viewers. What was once little more than a children's series had suddenly become the linchpin of the BBC's drama schedule. The new Dr Who, which returns to our screens on Saturday, has not only vast popular appeal but has also attracted praise from normally sane critics. One even said that the recent success of Dr Who proves that we are living in a "golden age" of drama.

This flood of adulation prompts me to doubt whether we are living in a grown-up country. In its first incarnation, Dr Who was rightly seen as a bit of frivolity for youngsters. But now, in 21st-century Britain, it is treated as a serious work of creative genius.

Yet as far as I can see, nothing has changed. Dr Who remains a cartoon time traveller with a glamorous assistant, fighting alien enemies. This is juvenile fare. It is telling that the modern prince of baby-men, the squeaky-voiced David Beckham, is so hooked that he has never missed an episode and even owns a book of Dr Who scripts.

There is nothing wrong with science fiction. H. G. Wells and Ray Bradbury provided thought-provoking commentaries on the nature of mankind or terrifying visions of the future. But the lame Dr Who is difficult. As with the adult enthusiasm for Harry Potter, the hysterical following for Dr Who is yet another indicator of how infantile we have become.

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  • APA 6th ed.: McKinstry, Leo (2006-04-12). A waste of time and space. The Times p. 20.
  • MLA 7th ed.: McKinstry, Leo. "A waste of time and space." The Times [add city] 2006-04-12, 20. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: McKinstry, Leo. "A waste of time and space." The Times, edition, sec., 2006-04-12
  • Turabian: McKinstry, Leo. "A waste of time and space." The Times, 2006-04-12, section, 20 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A waste of time and space | url= | work=The Times | pages=20 | date=2006-04-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=A waste of time and space | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 July 2024}}</ref>