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More on Russell T Davies, from an interview in the latest Doctor Who Magazine: he reiterates his fondness for “reality television” shows like Big Brother, and compares those who do not like them to people who take a dislike to prose. This, of course, is patently a false comparison, prose being more comparable to, say, colour in television, and reality TV being more comparable to, say, “chick-lit” novels. (No offence to those who like the books in question, or, indeed, to those who avidly watch Big Brother. I may disagree with you on a matter of taste, but you have as much right to your taste as I to mine.)

I dislike reality television. I don’t find “reality” that fascinating, and if I did I would not be watching television in the first place: I’d be out watching my neighbour mowing his lawn, or an old lady crossing the road. I have any amount of reality at my disposal without having to get it from the goggle box. But of course what these shows purvey is not reality at all, but an artificially heightened illusion of reality which has all the appeal of a soap opera without the need to go to the expense of writers, actors, and all the other professional people who are employed when television has to tell a story, rather than merely passing a signal through as a colon passes used food. And that is the real reason why I despise reality TV, and why I am disappointed that RTD does not feel the same: the more of this cheap rubbish the programme makers can get away with, the fewer actual writers and actors they will feel the need to employ, the less genuine comedy and drama will be broadcast and the less likely I am to win a BAFTA. (Okay, joking about the last bit.)

He also reiterates his antipathy towards stories that do not involve Earth and humans. I remember his earlier remark on the subject: “The Zogs of planet Zog are threatened by the Zog-monster—who cares?” Well, the short answer is that we do, if we are human beings with any shred of compassion and the writers and actors have done their work properly. It’s possible that he’s simply acknowledging that neither he nor any of his team is up to the job of making us care about anyone too different from us. I think he’s wrong, but that’s just me.

But it’s a worrying train of thought, if taken to its logical conclusion. Who cares about aliens, they aren’t human. Who cares about people in the far future, they aren’t born yet. Who cares about people in the far past, they’re dead. Who cares about people in Australia, or America, or France, they’re foreign. And we end up with the TARDIS anchored permanently in London, and the Doctor sitting on the counter top in Jackie’s flat eating baked beans out of a tin and listening to Rose and Jackie arguing about whose turn it is to take the bin out. There could be a selection of Jackie’s friends, played by members of the public, and viewers could vote them out week by week. Doctor Who as reality TV—the show that part of RTD would probably love to write.

Fortunately, part of RTD is also a fanboy, and hopefully it will remind him one day that one of the central themes of DW as it used to be was that the things are also people, and being different doesn’t make you unworthy of human (or Time Lord) compassion, and that maybe it’s good for people to realise that the universe doesn’t necessarily revolve around us.


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September 2017

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