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By gareth
Membership Days
#89495
Shocking news - the people who made Doctor Who in the late eighties weren't big fans of Margaret Thatcher. I know the Daily Mail has always been stuck in the past, but now it seems as though they're filing news reports that are twenty years old.

Anyway, dreadful article is here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250940/BBC-scriptwriters-tried-use-Doctor-Who-bring-Margaret-Thatcher.html

I wrote about the story on my blog http://p0pvulture.blogspot.com/2010/02/someone-call-doctor.html reproduced below:

Someone call the Doctor

When it comes to significant cultural landmarks, Sylvester McCoy's tenure as the seventh incarnation of Doctor Who is right up there with Glenn Medeiros and So Haunt Me. And yet, despite the fact that his own family must need flash cards to remind them who he is, he's hitting the headlines today for his legacy as the eponymous Timelord.

It turns out that Sylvester's time in the stripy scarf and blue phone box was laden with powerful political subtext, since it occurred during Margaret Thatcher's reign of terror. According to a revelatory article in today's Mail (only twenty years out-of-date) there was a vast liberal conspiracy within the BBC, that felt it could topple the Iron Lady with a weekly science fiction show that relied upon a special effects cupboard filled with egg-boxes and glitter gel.

Margaret Thatcher made a number of enemies during her 11 years at Number 10, including miners, teachers, nurses, children, gays, the Irish and the whole of Argentina. So it's hardly surprising that the artistic community felt compelled to speak out about her ruthlessness - indeed, she's made appearances in more songs than the lyric "Put your hands up in the air, wave 'em around like you just don't care".

1980s Doctor Who Script Editor Andrew Cartmel remains unapologetic about his contribution to the world of science fiction, telling the Sunday Times that "My exact words were, 'I'd like to overthrow the government'. I was very angry about the social injustice in Britain under Thatcher and I'm delighted that came into the show. Critics, media pundits and politicians didn't pick up on what we were doing. Nobody really noticed or cared."

The thing is, if anyone had noticed the anti-Maggie sentiment running through the show, it's unlikely that they would have been particularly surprised. Science Fiction has always been the ideal platform for exploring political ideologies and social tensions, as Avatar and Caprica are currently demonstrating.

Sylvester McCoy has also weighed in on the subject, saying "Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered. The idea of bringing politics into Doctor Who was deliberate. We were a group of politically motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do."

The Mail, however, disagrees, describing the 'Tardis revolution' as "propaganda to undermine the Tory prime minister". Particularly offensive to their delicate sensibilities was Sheila Hancock's portrayal of Helen A, "a vicious and egotistical alien ruler who banned outward displays of unhappiness among her downtrodden people and used a secret police to oppress dissidents". So nothing like the woman who triggered the poll tax riots, eviscerated the NHS and banned teachers from discussing homosexuality with troubled students.

By the end of the eighties, Doctor Who was scoring the same kind of ratings as an Open University broadcast on conversational Polish, and it was cancelled soon after.

So there's a delicious irony in the fact that now the Doctor is more popular than ever. Especially since the resurgence in his popularity is largely thanks to the work of Russell T Davies, an out gay man who was characterised as a second class citizen by the Tories' ludicrous Clause 28.

If there's one things that sci-fi has taught us, it's that the underdog will always rise up and overthrow the evil Empire.
By Lord Brett
Membership Days Posts
#89500
gareth wrote:
By the end of the eighties, Doctor Who was scoring the same kind of ratings as an Open University broadcast on conversational Polish, and it was cancelled soon after.


To be fair, Sylvester McCoy's tenure as Dr Who began as an absolute train wreck and ended with some thoughtful episodes which were well done within their budgetary limitations. His second season contained the episode referenced in the article, The Happiness Patrol, which was a fascinatingly flawed piece of work whose anti-Thatcher tone was bleeding obvious on first broadcast.

Remebrance of the Daleks and Curse of Fenric are miles better though. I know this isn't the right forum, but the Dr Who production team were performing sodding miracles at the time considering their budget and the BBC's lack of interest in their own show.
 
By Admirable Chrichton
Membership Days Membership Days
#89504
There's an honourable tradition of Sci fi TV shows tackling thorny issues by analagy, and getting away with it(sci fi is after all just aload of bozos dressed up in tin foil after all, isn't it?). Star Trek the Next Generation did an episode called "Who Watches the Watchers" which was probably the most blatent promotion of anti-thiest secularism ever shown on prime time US telly. This is at least 15 years before anyone outside of science had heard the name Richard Dawkins. I don't think any evangelicals have ever brought this episode up as "proof" of a liberal conspiracy.
By gareth
Membership Days
#89515
I agree with both of you, and apologise to any Doctor Who fans who thought I was being needlessly glib about a show that managed to beat the limitations of its budget with creative storytelling and ingenuity.

Admirable Chrichton - I agree with you wholeheartedly, and would have made that point a little more thoroughly, but had already written something along similar lines back in November, linked here if you're interested: http://p0pvulture.blogspot.com/2009/11/its-mans-world-even-in-space.html
 
By LuciusAR
Membership Days
#89520
There's an honourable tradition of Sci fi TV shows tackling thorny issues by analagy, and getting away with it(sci fi is after all just aload of bozos dressed up in tin foil after all, isn't it?). Star Trek the Next Generation did an episode called "Who Watches the Watchers" which was probably the most blatent promotion of anti-thiest secularism ever shown on prime time US telly. This is at least 15 years before anyone outside of science had heard the name Richard Dawkins. I don't think any evangelicals have ever brought this episode up as "proof" of a liberal conspiracy.


Indeed another great example of this is the 90's Sci-Fi show Babylon 5, which in mainstream circles is still practicaly unheard of, yet amongst sci-fi fans is held in very high regard. It managed to tackle countless difficult issues in it's time and also had quite possibly the best story arc I've ever seen from a television show. All this despite the fact it's budget was shoestring compared to Star Trek.

I'm sure Mr Mordon will be with me on this one. :wink:
 
By Mr Mordon
Membership Days Membership Days Posts
#89524
LuciusAR wrote:
There's an honourable tradition of Sci fi TV shows tackling thorny issues by analagy, and getting away with it(sci fi is after all just aload of bozos dressed up in tin foil after all, isn't it?). Star Trek the Next Generation did an episode called "Who Watches the Watchers" which was probably the most blatent promotion of anti-thiest secularism ever shown on prime time US telly. This is at least 15 years before anyone outside of science had heard the name Richard Dawkins. I don't think any evangelicals have ever brought this episode up as "proof" of a liberal conspiracy.


Indeed another great example of this is the 90's Sci-Fi show Babylon 5, which in mainstream circles is still practicaly unheard of, yet amongst sci-fi fans is held in very high regard. It managed to tackle countless difficult issues in it's time and also had quite possibly the best story arc I've ever seen from a television show. All this despite the fact it's budget was shoestring compared to Star Trek.

I'm sure Mr Mordon will be with me on this one. :wink:


Oh yes

Since i have no decent TV or any internet at home at the moment i have been reminding myself how great that show was throught the medium of DVD.

Just think how much more complete it would have been if WB hadn't decided to pull the plug after season four forcing the story arc to be short stopped thus making the TNT funded season 5 a bit iffy
:?
 
By ACG
Membership Days Posts
#95989
cocking hell, this show is nearly 50 years old and the mail still haven't grasped the basic point of it.


gahhh!
But it has already drawn complaints from some about the miniskirts worn by the Doctor's leggy assistant Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan.

that was you you bellends!
 
By ACG
Membership Days Posts
#96082
so what you mean is "has anyone thought about making it appeal to people who don't like dr who"?

there was michael grade i guess.
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