Saturday, September 26, 2015

from The New Yorker, Doctor Who as a summation of Western liberalism and conservative in general but of British culture in particular

I read somewhere that the show has a peculiar appeal to the middle-aged, the people who are old enough to have reached the top of where ever they're going and to see that not everyone "made it" and not everyone "will", and also recognizing that it's in some sense going to be "downhill" from here. You do the best you can, but recognize it probably isn't going to be enough.

Well ... maybe that makes Doctor Who a parable of Western civilization as a whole?
“Doctor Who” is, unavoidably, a product of mid-twentieth-century debates about Britain’s role in the world as its empire unravelled. It is also one of the stranger means by which British culture has reckoned with the horrors of the Second World War, the apocalyptic doomsaying of the Cold War, and the lasting madness of twenty-first-century terrorism. Superman, who first appeared in 1938, thwarted gangsters and thugs and criminal masterminds. But Doctor Who, created in the postwar, postcolonial, atomic age, inherited the agony of helplessness: he believes he can use his power to travel through time and space to undo unspeakable slaughter, only to find that, very often, he cannot. “Imagine you were in Pompeii and you tried to save them but in doing so you make it happen,” he says, trying to explain to a woman who is about to die in a nuclear explosion that he is powerless to prevent it. “Everything I do just makes it happen.” (He tries anyway. Moments after he saves her life, she kills herself.)
“Doctor Who” is a chronicle of the impossibility of rescue. Yet it contains within it both a liberal fantasy about the heroism of the West in opposing atrocity and a conservative politics of self-congratulation, which, in the end, amount to the same thing. “You act like such a radical,” an alien said to the Doctor, not long ago, “and yet all you want to do is preserve the old order.”
Bear in mind, I haven't actually seen the show, but you don't need to have seen the show to get the pre-nuclear post-nuclear stuff. 

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