Short thoughts on Doctor Who disc by disc (Originally published May 2012)
Tonight’s soundtrack: Naked Raygun, “Strange Days”
Sometimes, after a night of bad dreams brought on by staying up late reading poor translations of French film ‘zines, Doctor Who wakes up and thinks it’s a science fiction show. <<eye roll>>
What’s worse is when this happens in the 80s and the show doubles down on this delusion, figuring itself just a couple of haircuts away from cyberpunk. It’s like waking up with an earring, deciding that makes you a pirate, then chopping off your hand to make room for the hook. Not only are the results painful, but now you’ll never convince the BBC you can play a sunburst Strat like you could.
The ideas behind Paradise Towers look great on paper (i.e., when they’re still a J.G. Ballard book), and the singular strength of Doctor Who is that it can be a different show every week1, but youth riot cannibal dystopia world-building requires commitment. That means you get everyone on board before you start. You make sure the death machines seem slightly deadly. Maybe let the bad guy know that even if he looks like it, he shouldn’t play Gumby Hitler. Convince the lighting guys to give this one a break. And if the reality is that you just don’t have enough budget or control to achieve a consistent tone…?
Then you don’t try cyberpunk until you do.
You’re Doctor Who! You could do anything! You’re not science fiction; you’re just Fiction! Snap out of it - remember who you are.
1 Change is its watchword; No blood runs in a Time Lord’s veins, but only mercury.a
a Why do I write things like that? Who the hell do I think I am?