Sunday, February 14, 2010

The real death of the Doctor

A little told story about the sad tail end of the initial twenty-five-year run of "Doctor Who" -- the Sylvester McCoy years, with which I am completely unfamiliar.

“The idea of bringing politics into Doctor Who was deliberate, but we had to do it very quietly and certainly didn’t shout about it,” said McCoy.

“We were a group of politically motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do. At the time Doctor Who used satire to put political messages out there in the way they used to do in places like Czechoslovakia. Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered.


The following year Cartmel (the series script editor at the time) wrote an emotive speech for the Doctor about the evils of nuclear weapons. It borrowed heavily from material obtained from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was a persistent thorn in the side of the government.

A spin-off Doctor Who children’s novel called Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma, which was published under licence by the BBC in 1987, featured a despotic villain called Rehctaht — Thatcher spelt backwards.

Sophie Aldred, who played Ace, the Doctor’s feminist companion, said a shared contempt for right-wing ideology had inspired “a real bonding process” for cast and crew.

1 comment:

Muffy St. Bernard said...

The Cartmel years are full of great (if WAAAAAY over-complicated and rushed) socio-political statements about Armageddon and imperialism. I've never heard it said outright before, though.

A similar thing happened during the Pertwee years, when producer Barry Letts made explicit the Doctor's pacifism, ecology, and counter-culture sensibility...instead of just "saving people in trouble" he was fighting money-grubbing corporations who were wreaking havoc on the environment, and also -- for the first time -- locking horns with UNIT's "Blow it up, ask questions later" approach.

Check out "The Silurians" (where he accuses the Brigadier of genocide) and "The Green Death," complete with hippies growing fungus as an alternative food source. Barry Letts was Mr. Zen indeed.