Moon Eggs
November 5, 2014 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Um, a lot of these (all?) are more like "Doctor Who stories that take a scientific idea one of the writers heard and totally misinterpret it until it would make any real scientist cringe." I mean, it takes some chutzpah to make fun of "Moon Eggs" but hold up "the Invisible Enemy" as having any "real science" in it.
posted by rikschell at 1:16 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I mean, I love Doctor Who, but you're never going to get hard science out of it. It pays more lip service to science than Star Wars, I guess, but it hardly ever bothers to get the details right.
posted by rikschell at 1:17 PM on November 5, 2014

They forgot to mention that the colorful Dalek runway presentation in Victory of the Daleks was inspired by an iPod nano product rollout.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:27 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think if you are watching Doctor Who for the science, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. On the other hand, if you want Magic Trees, well, that is something the Doctor can do for you.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

So, wait, Doctor Who scripts aren't submitted for peer review in the appropriate journals?
posted by sobarel at 1:39 PM on November 5, 2014

Pace Kit "Cybermen"/"Doomwatch" Pedler, Sydney Newman's original notes to Doctor Who served as reliable guidelines for the classic programme:
Evidently, Dr. Who's "machine" fulfils mary of the functions of conventional Science Fiction gimmicks. But we are not writing Science Fiction. We shall provide scientific explanations too, sometimes, but we shall not bend over backwards to do so, if we decide to achieve credibility by other means. Neither are we writing fantasy: the events have got to be credible to the three ordinary people who are our main characters, and they are sharp-witted enough to spot a phoney. I think the writer's safeguard here will be, if he remembers that he is writing for an audience aged fourteen... the most difficult, critical, even sophisticated, audience there is, for TV. In brief, avoid the limitations of any label and use the best in any style or category, as it suits us, so long as it works in our medium.
The new series has taken an even more liberal approach to the show, however.

Incidentally, a recently published interview with Terry Nation reveals some further insights into his creation of the Daleks and their ability to scare (when done right):
So what was the nature of the Daleks? You must have based them on a real person or a number of real people, did you?

I can’t isolate one character. But I suppose you could say the Nazis. The one recurring dream I have – once or twice a year it comes to me – is that I’m driving a car very quickly and the windscreen is a bit murky. The sun comes onto it and it becomes totally opaque. I’m still hurtling forwards at incredible speed and there’s nothing I can see or do and I can’t stop the car. That’s my recurring nightmare and it’s very simply solved by psychologists who say you’re heading for your future. You don’t know what your future is. However much you plead with somebody to save you from this situation, everybody you turn to turns out to be one of ‘Them’. And there’s nobody left – You are the lone guy.

The Daleks are all of ‘Them’ and they represent for so many people so many different things, but they all see them as government, as officialdom, as that unhearing, unthinking, blanked-out face of authority that will destroy you because it wants to destroy you. I believe in that now – I’ve directed them more that way over the years.
There was a bit of this in the new series' episode "Into the Dalek", so here's hoping that someone at Nu Who has picked up on this.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:40 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's actually the transformation from initial idea to something strange that I find most interesting here - So for The 10th Planet, say, you've got Kit Pedlar coming in to do something about prosthetics and cyborgs and it's all within the remit to do something educational for the kiddies, then what pops out the other side has that but also an upside down version of Planet Earth that somehow drains all of the real Earths energy. So many of the early ones are like that, this glorious weird mix.

Of course, at some point the material going in stops being so much science or history and starts being tropes, which can give similar results but is all a bit more familiar and less strange.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm actually quite a fan of how the Moon Eggs episode completely fails to tech the tech and do all the handwaving necessary to dress the episode up as "sciencey" - maybe something about semidimensional creatures out of phase, so it builds it's shell out of block transfer computation using it's huge brain, or some bollocks like that.

But nope, straight up moon eggs.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

You people are just complaining about the science because you haven't met the Doctor and seen how weird the world can be. neither, mind you. This is a silly article; DW is based on real science the same way Lifetime movies are based on true stories.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2014

I love the end of Pyramids of Mars. Usually the Doctor can't just jump back in time 2 minutes to fix a mistake because of reasons. But this time, the Doctor fails to stop the villain and says, "But wait! It will take two minutes for the signal to get from Mars to Earth! We can use the Tardis to get there first!" As if jumping from Mars to Earth instantly is different from traveling back in time 2 minutes.
posted by straight at 2:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of course, at some point the material going in stops being so much science or history and starts being tropes, which can give similar results but is all a bit more familiar and less strange.

Following early Doctor Who's fairly elastic "rubber science", the next phase in this evolution of writing for sci-fi TV is ST:TNG's sciencey-sounding "treknobabble", which was basically just "science consultants" coming in to work as script doctors. Eventually, this lead to an assembly-line system that was science fiction in name only, as Ron Moore describes:
"It was so mechanical that we had science consultants who would just come up with the words for us and we'd just write 'tech' in the script. You know, Picard would say 'Commander La Forge, tech the tech to the warp drive.' I'm serious. If you look at those scripts, you'll see that."

Moore then went on to describe how a typical script might read before the science consultants did their thing:
La Forge: "Captain, the tech is overteching."

Picard: "Well, route the auxiliary tech to the tech, Mr. La Forge."

La Forge: "No, Captain. Captain, I've tried to tech the tech, and it won't

Picard: "Well, then we're doomed."
"And then Data pops up and says, 'Captain, there is a theory that if you tech the other tech ... '" Moore said. "It's a rhythm and it's a structure, and the words are meaningless. It's not about anything except just sort of going through this dance of how they tech their way out of it."
The current stage, as we all know and some of us love, is the TOTAL BOLLOCKS OVERDRIVE of Russell T. Davies's Nu Who.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

You know who else wrote stories loosely based on science concepts he read about that one time?

Michael Crichton.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:54 PM on November 5, 2014

Stones of Blood is totally real y'all!

(Gah, can we just refrain from Io9 listicles already?)
posted by Catblack at 6:50 PM on November 5, 2014

Beanplating the science in Doctor Who is like beanplating the history in Doctor Who: it just makes you unhappy. (Says the woman who couldn't get into Vampires of Venice at all for reasons of setting and failed historical verisimilitude.)
posted by immlass at 8:59 PM on November 5, 2014

I knew there was a reason I prefer Old Who.

It's speculative, people. It doesn't have to be accurate: it just has to be open.
posted by glasseyes at 8:42 AM on November 6, 2014

As I said before in a similar context, "It's narrative causality all the way down."
posted by mikelieman at 3:29 AM on November 7, 2014

« Older Meet Stinger: Soccer's most subversive mascot   |   The other side of diversity Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments