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Doctor Who and the Overthrow of the Thatcher Goverment
February 16, 2010 5:50 PM   Subscribe

"My exact words were: I’d like to overthrow the government. I was a young firebrand and I wanted to answer honestly. I was very angry about the social injustice in Britain under Thatcher and I’m delighted that came into the show." - former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel on the shows 80s political stance. Terrance Dicks and Andrew Cartmel on Newsnight. Meanwhile former Doctor David Tennant gives his veiws on the Master-like characteristics of Tory leader David Cameron.
posted by Artw (39 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
More Who news here.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2010


Also regardless of political intent Doctor Who from around that time was bloody awful, but not quite as awful as this.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sylvester McCoy, the actor who played Doctor Who for two years in the 1980s, has revealed that left-wing scriptwriters hired by the BBC wrote propaganda into the plots in an attempt to undermine Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

Uhhhhhh...so this is a Rupert Murdoch publication we're reading from over here, I take it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


a dance single that sounds not unlike two Cybermen mid-coitus

If there's a Rule 34 demonstration here, I beg of you, in the name of everything decent, do not link to it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:02 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


revealed that left-wing scriptwriters hired by the BBC wrote propaganda into the plots in an attempt to undermine Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

Don't you think she looks tired?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:04 PM on February 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


Uhhhhhh...so this is a Rupert Murdoch publication we're reading from over here, I take it?

Well, yeah, they do kind of say it as if as if it was a bad thing...
posted by Artw at 6:04 PM on February 16, 2010


I've never seen Dr. Who, but my friends who watch it assure me that this picture is pretty amusing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:05 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not as funny as this: CYBERMAN DISCO!

(Me, I'm a fan of the Tenth Planet design. Weird bandage wrapped techno-zombie beets crappy robot anyday)
posted by Artw at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2010


I'm not sure I understand this - I've just had a quick flick through Mao's On Protracted War and nowhere does he mention low-budget sci-fi as a key weapon in the life-or-death-struggle with the forces of reaction. Longest-serving PM since Lord Salisbury, wasn't it?
posted by Abiezer at 6:25 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You just missed the famous Mao quote, "Power comes from the end of a sonic screwdriver."
posted by Babblesort at 6:31 PM on February 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Don't you think she looks tired?

Maybe it's just the timing, but the most effective political slam by a Who product would probably be Children of Earth - there was something really rather zeitgeist capturing about it's depiction of a an untrustworthy and basically useless government coming at the point when Gordon Brown's popularity was utterly collapsing.
posted by Artw at 6:40 PM on February 16, 2010


Comparing themselves to Czechoslovak dissidents? Tsk tsk, boys. Much as I love Doctor Who, it was (and is) a silly science fiction show. Hardly Darkness at Noon, is it?
posted by orrnyereg at 6:41 PM on February 16, 2010


Comparing themselves to Czechoslovak dissidents? Tsk tsk, boys. Much as I love Doctor Who, it was (and is) a silly science fiction show. Hardly Darkness at Noon, is it?

Oh, I wouldn't underestimate the power of something people watch for fun. One solid episode of a medical drama that shows what can happen to, say, a cancer patient without health insurance is probably much more effective at getting across the need for national health care than any number of documentaries that say the exact same thing only with, like, facts and stuff like that.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:51 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dr Who was always political in some episodes. A lot of sci-fi and fantasy is.

There is heaps of anti-war stuff in many episodes. Beneath the Surface is all about the Cold War. The Daleks are a parable for the Nazis on and so on.

That it was done particularly heavily handedly when the series got axed is not a surprise.

But really, the image of young writers going out to 'bring down the government' by writing Dr Who episodes is more like the People's Poet from the Young Ones.
posted by sien at 6:57 PM on February 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Everyone knows it was vintage Frank Zappa that brought down the communist regime in Czechoslovia.

Bringing down Thatcher with McCoy era who is like trying to bring down Hitler with the jazz noodlings of Zappa's later years.
posted by Artw at 7:04 PM on February 16, 2010


But really, the image of young writers going out to 'bring down the government' by writing Dr Who episodes is more like the People's Poet from the Young Ones.

"Exterminate the gay, black bastards, exterminate!"
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:05 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bringing down Thatcher with McCoy era who is like trying to bring down Hitler with the jazz noodlings of Zappa's later years.

By the time the Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy episodes were airing in the US, I was a young firebrand who wanted to spend his weekends chasing girls. Hence, the original Who kinda ended for me after Peter Davison. I have since managed to watch one story each from the following two Doctors (via the magic of Netflix Instant), and I was struck by how kinda weirdly cynical it got -- the Baker story (the title of which I can't remember, but it involved some mad scientist at one point trying to turn Peri into some kind of furry fetish fantasy or something) could almost have been a 2000AD piece with its incredibly pessimistic take on the media and voter indifference. (I'm not saying it was offbase or anything, mind you.) The McCoy story was "Ghostlight," which...man, maybe it had a political agenda, I sure couldn't tell you, because it made no goddamned sense at all. I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't enjoy it, but I couldn't begin to explain what the fuck happened in it, and I really strongly suspect neither could anyone involved in making it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:13 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh. See, your die-hard Who apologist will tell you that Ghostlight made perfect sense and your brain is wrong. I'm inclined to disagree with them, though it had some really cool elements and was a bit of a missed opportunity.
posted by Artw at 7:23 PM on February 16, 2010


Heh. See, your die-hard Who apologist will tell you that Ghostlight made perfect sense and your brain is wrong. I'm inclined to disagree with them, though it had some really cool elements and was a bit of a missed opportunity.

I did really appreciate that it took three episodes (seriously? three episodes? back in the day, they were almost never shorter than four) and just crammed like a half a season of ideas into them. I figure this may have been because at that point they weren't sure whether they'd get to do any more episodes at all, but still.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:27 PM on February 16, 2010


....Okay, I'm a card-carrying member of the David Tennant Is My Secret Pretend Boyfriend Club, but I still really, really don't get why they bothered to devote an entire BBC news article to "Here's his political opinions."

Not that celebrities don't deserve to have opinions, I'm just questioning whether a celebrity having a political opinion is enough for an article on those merits alone.

No matter how cute that celebrity is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The plot thickens with the story that Christopher Eccleston may take on Hazel Blears in the UK Election. Blears is the politician most resembling a Dalek.
posted by quarsan at 10:56 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Second favourite in the poll was New Order's Peter Hook who does loads for the city

This could be quite a race.
posted by Artw at 11:29 PM on February 16, 2010


This brings back memories of all the crap poetry and pea-brained 'satire' you used to have to put up with because it was meant as a searing indictment of Thatcher's Britain.
posted by Phanx at 1:28 AM on February 17, 2010


But really, the image of young writers going out to 'bring down the government' by writing Dr Who episodes is more like the People's Poet from the Young Ones.

What do you think you're doing, pig?
Do you really give a fig, pig?
And what's your favourite sort of gig, pig?
Barry Manilow
Or the black and white minstrel show?
posted by Sutekh at 1:42 AM on February 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


If I could remake any pre-cancellation Who story it'd be Remembrance of the Daleks. I love the concept and I love the idea of what the Doctor does to them. Sadly, it sounded a lot better when t'other half described it to me than it actually was. And it's been retconned out, or basically ignored, by Russell "HUMANS!humansHUMANS!" Davies, so meh.

I just wanna have an actually scary Ace running around with an atomic baseball bat.

your die-hard Who apologist will tell you that Ghostlight made perfect sense and your brain is wrong

I think Ghostlight was the point where I deleted the folder returned the DVD...
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:00 AM on February 17, 2010


The experience of going on Newsnight to talk about Doctor Who:
I watched the show later, of course; I appeared for maybe ten seconds, saying one thing: that UK SF was all left-wing, but US SF all militaristic and right-wing, 'think of Star Wars and Galactica or even Star Trek.' There was a quick shaky close up of my eyes, of the sort that encourages viewers to append the adjective 'mad' to the organs of sight in question. I certainly wasn't quoted out of context, except in the sense that the context was 'fifteen rambly minutes of chat about SF and politics' and the quote was a few seconds; although I came over as a bit of a knob, for all that. Slightly too fuzzy-brained after all day teaching to be able to give crisply formed soundbites. Gavin Esslar then chatted with in-studio guests, one Doctor Who Screenwriter and one 'Conservative Central Office Science Fiction Expert' (which made it sound, nicely, like a Tory staff post). At one point Esslar said 'Adam Roberts says all American SF is right-wing, but that's surely not right: what about Avatar?' And the two guests agreed.
posted by ninebelow at 2:51 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


your die-hard Who apologist will tell you that Ghostlight made perfect sense and your brain is wrong

Ghostlight makes perfect sense if you watch it three times with all the DVD commentaries!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:17 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I found McCoy as the Doctor so unbelievably annoying that he completely drowned out the script. In some regards that's no bad thing, as I seem to recall a lot of the episodes of that era to be fairly crappily scripted. When I think back now I don't really remember anything specific about those episodes, political or otherwise. All I get is a lingering dislike of McCoy.

I do find it ironic, though, that this criticism of the ham-handed political commentary in some old Doctor Who episodes is itself clearly a ham-handed attempt at political commentary of the opposing view. (As well as another predictable dig at the BBC from a Murdoch organ).
posted by Jakey at 4:26 AM on February 17, 2010


I watched the Newsnight report when it went out and was intrigued by the ex-Tory MP Tim Collins who they brought on at the end for the discussion, as he displayed an insane level of sf nerdom (ie more than me). I had never heard of the guy before and thought either he's frighteningly really into it or he's been extremely well briefed. Checking him out on wikipedia it appears to be the former:

... he jokingly stated that the Cybermen were more convincing when the Conservatives were in power. He was also reported to have read The Dying Days in one sitting on the night of the 1997 General Election so that he could claim to have read the whole New Adventures series whilst the Conservatives were in government.


Thank god he never got into real power or within six months of him being a minister we would have had the police force replaced with roving bands of Daleks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:26 AM on February 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to threadjack this into a favorite doctor discussion, but I always thought that McCoy got the short end of the stick due to some of the utterly terribly scripts they were working with at the time. By the time the final season rolled around they finally seemed to get their bearings with stories like Curse of Fenric and even Survival. But for every Curse of Fenric, there was a missed opportunity, such as Battlefield, Ghostlight, and then some truly horrid crap such as Delta and the Bannermen.

*sigh*
posted by tgrundke at 4:54 AM on February 17, 2010


I agree. I love the cold, distant way McCoy played the Doctor, and if they'd got to the Lungbarrow stuff (or whatever the Lungbarrow stuff would have been if it hadn't been relegated to the books) I think he would have played it beautifully. It's such a shame he was short-changed with bad scripts and miserly budgets.

/spits at the BBC
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:12 AM on February 17, 2010


I'm gonna go ultranerd here and reference one of the Big Finish audios, but Spare Parts, a 5th doctor story set during the last days of true humans on Mondas, is one of the best and more interesting Cybermen stories that are out there. The RTD Cybermen are pretty dull and uninteresting by comparison.
posted by Artw at 7:07 AM on February 17, 2010


Intermittently I've been going back and watching, via DVD rental, some of the classic stories Tom Baker that I can barely remember because I was too young at the time or some of the tale end stories because I'd just about given up and missed them. The latter have not aged well. Even most of the 'classic' McCoy stories are pretty bloody rotten with terrible acting, cheap-o special effects, poor filming/editing and godawful synth music. It's not real wonder they killed it off. I've got a lot of issues with new Who but at least, although it's largely written by fans, it's aimed at the general public, unlike the McCoy stuff which seemed to be by fans for hard-core fans only.

Still even a grump like me's inner fan can't help feeling a little sad it got killed off before they played out the 'Ace becomes a Time Lord' story
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:46 AM on February 17, 2010


What's odd about this story is Who's bashing of Thatcher was oh so mild compared to what Spitting Image ever did. Though they also managed to make no impact on getting rid of her. In fact one MP reckons he felt so sorry for her in one scene he changed his mind and changed his vote on some vital issue and kept the old witch in for a bit longer.

But I suppose it was the BBC so it ripe for Tory attack. Old Auntie will be lucky to survive the Cameronbot.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:49 AM on February 17, 2010


....Okay, I'm a card-carrying member of the David Tennant Is My Secret Pretend Boyfriend Club, but I still really, really don't get why they bothered to devote an entire BBC news article to "Here's his political opinions."

It is because the Beeb's domestic reporters prefer to investigate without leaving the office and he was probably already in the building for something else.
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


so this is a Rupert Murdoch publication we're reading from over here, I take it?

The comments on that article in the Times are pretty disturbing...

e.g. "Dr Who surports the multiculture anti white raceism of NuLabour"

"If only the Conservatives had the guts to take a broom to the trendy BBC Lefties, all of them high on the hog on taxpayers money."

"The arrogance of these parasites - paid for out of compulsory taxation to bloody well preach to their betters"

"the last thing poor old battered Britain needed was this evil empire of ignoramuses.They should have all been rounded up and shot.In fact it is not too late to do it now."

Then again, if you egg people on to hate anyone on the left, the way the Murdoch media do, it isn't terribly unsurprising if you start attracting some thoroughly nasty individuals in your comment threads...
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:09 AM on February 18, 2010


Well, to be fair newspaper comments sections trend crazy and illiterate across the board.
posted by Artw at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2010


Well, to be fair newspaper comments sections trend crazy and illiterate across the board.

Yes, that's true. The Guardian ones leave a lot to be desired too!
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:30 AM on February 19, 2010


Tim Collins was my MP. He turned the second safest Conservative seat in the nation into a Liberal gain. Cameron has put him on his A list of preferred candidates. He's also credited with being the inspiration behind Harry Enfield's 'Tory Boy' caricature.
posted by quarsan at 9:40 PM on February 25, 2010


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