CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO - Season Five Overview: Part 3



SEASON FIVE: “The First Duty Of A Revolutionary Is To Get Away With It” - Part Three

(c) 2009 Frank Collins. If you wish to quote from this article please ask the author's permission.

Talking ‘bout a revolution
Beyond the continual replay of the ‘base under siege’ formula throughout Season Five, it’s interesting to note a number of other themes weaving through the stories. Enemy Of The World, for example, reflects on the notion of the ‘global village’, as coined by media theorist Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan’s 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' (1962), describes how sophisticated satellite telecommunications networks (the offshoot of the epic space race between the Cold War superpowers) had now enveloped the world in a vast "cosmic membrane." With time and distance as no hindrance, the emergence of the "information age" fostered a new global consciousness. "We can now live, not just amphibiously in divided and distinguished worlds," McLuhan wrote, "but pluralistically in many worlds and cultures simultaneously".

The experience of history itself was revolutionised through telecommunications and international events could be experienced locally, and they could be experienced now. The idea of instantaneous communication is one that permeates much of the Troughton era of Doctor Who, reaching an apotheosis in The Seeds Of Death with continent and Earth-Moon hopping achieved in seconds via T-Mat. Through television and satellite transmissions the key events of the 1960s: Vietnam, the Civil Rights struggle, assassinations, the construction of the Berlin Wall; crashed against the rise of the counter-culture. The decade is underpinned by disillusionment (starting with the death of Kennedy) and also a sense of renewed hope for the future. Rampant consumerism, the strain upon the environment, racial and sexual inequalities, the giddy escalation of technological progress could still be countered by the communal belief in the possibility of changing the world for the better. McLuhan’s idea that technology could enable people to interact and live on a global scale within a society feverishly attempting to square the circle on flamboyant cultural over-indulgence and a disturbing event such as the Vietnam War is summed up by the Our World satellite broadcast which is now famously remembered for the debut of The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ as the War raged thousands of miles away. A less politically charged sense of globalism is also something that the series had been toying with since The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase, with their mixed race personnel, that would find its apotheosis in The Enemy Of the World and The Wheel In Space.


Above: License to thrill - 'The Enemy Of The World'

With The Enemy Of The World we find the series reflecting on this clashing of ideologies and then framing it within a Bondian subtext. It’s easy to dismiss the Bond like trappings to the story – Salamander with his underground bunkers, trained assassins etc – but it and the Bondmania of the 1960s does sum up many of the concerns of the day. As Drew Moniot argues in 'James Bond And America In The Sixties', the Bond films appealed to European and American audiences because the films did tap into the mood of disillusionment that audiences had with the corporate state. In a climate of increasing state control, epitomised in the films perhaps both by the way SPECTRE sought to remove the rights of the individual through the application of super-technologies, and by the corporate nature of the British Secret Service itself, Bond signifies a maverick figure, bending the accepted rules and becoming something of a licenced Angry Young Man. In this atypical Doctor Who story, the plot shifts from Australia, to Malawi and to Europe, there are assassination attempts on the Doctor, and Salamander is for all the world, a pastiche of Blofeld, engineering volcanoes and the weather whilst promising to put an end to world hunger. The story touches on other vital concerns about the environment and the Cold War. Salamander has convinced a gaggle of scientists that the planet has been irradiated after a war and that he’s the man to help them return to a revitalised planet. All this subterfuge and paranoia takes place within a futuristic environment of Paco Rabanne jumpsuits, PVC suits straight out of The Avengers and state of the art hovercraft and helicopters.
Logic games
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Above: Deep frozen Boolean logic available now

A paranoid fear of technology, echoed in the subtext about the dangerous and relatively new exploration for North Sea Oil in Fury From The Deep and the advancing Ice Age of The Ice Warriors, were at the top of the agenda in the 1960s after the formation in 1968 of The Club Of Rome. A think tank put together by Italian industrialist, Aurelio Peccei, and a Scots scientist, Alexander King, The Club Of Rome aimed to tackle problems and future trends at both the local and global levels. They wanted to try to understand what was happening culturally, financially, socially and ecologically, and then to mobilise thinking people everywhere to take action to build a saner and more sustainable world. They highlighted an explicit link between economic growth and the consequences for the environment.

In The Ice Warriors the discovery of the Martians in the glacier is the backdrop to a very human story about the clash between man and technology. This becomes a bit of an obsession with the series during Season Five and it seizes upon the tried and trusted critical science fiction tropes of the relationship between man and machines. Fears about automation, cybernetics and machines fueled concerned debate in the 1960s and the divisions between machine and organism, and the nature of human intelligence in the light of such developments, were all on the agenda. The human condition was now being measured within the context of computers, systems theory, cybernetics, electronic battlefields, hydrogen bombs and man-made threats to the environment.

The Tenth Planet, concluding Hartnell’s era, marks something of a sea change in the way Doctor Who addressed these concerns because the series was then being influenced and written by its very own scientific adviser, Dr. Kit Pedler, then the head of the electron microscopy department at the Institute Of Opthalmology, University Of London. He was hired by Innes Lloyd to inject more hard science into the stories for Doctor Who and began this contribution with The War Machines, and formed a lasting partnership with story editor Gerry Davis. Pedler’s influence is at its keenest in the mid-1960s and ranges from those iconic symbols of technological schadenfreude, the Cybermen, to concerns about computer intelligence and the interaction between man, machine and the natural environment. These concerns reverberate through Season Five. It’s bookended by two Cybermen stories that each deal with machine intelligence and logic.


Above: Zoe could be so irritating

The Tomb Of The Cybermen couches its fear of dehumanising technology within real world Boolean logic, a complete system for logical operations. Boolean logic has many applications in electronics, computer hardware and software, and is the base of digital electronics. Pedler was suggesting Klieg’s desire, as one of The Brotherhood of Logicians, to emulate the Cybermen's emotional bypass, was in tune with society’s concerns about machine domination. The Cybermen not only symbolised a potential extension of organ replacement therapy but also highlighted the place of the human within an automated, technologically dominated capitalist world. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm deplored the notion that the only man fit for survival in modern capitalist society was an “automation, the alienated man” (Fromm 1965/6). Herbert Marcuse, in his widely read 'One Dimensional Man', criticised technological rationality as a form of control and domination (Marcuse 1964). The Tomb Of The Cybermen and The Wheel In Space explore these themes wherein the human characters confronted by the Cybermen are offered a behavioural choice, either embracing what it means to be an irrational human, or seeking the logical perfection which at its extreme means conversion into a Cyberman.

The Wheel In Space, and forgive the pun, puts a slightly different spin on this with the introduction of Zoe Herriot, a parapsychology librarian, and an interesting piece of character development makes her highly trained in maths and logic but bemoaning the fact that her training has turned her into something like a robot, or a machine, while leaving her short on emotional experience. This is a young woman who has identified the dehumanising effects of an environment devoid of nurturing and emotional engagement. To her, the Doctor and Jamie represent the possibilities of life beyond not just the slavery of a technologically advanced human society but also the rejection of the inhumanity of the Cybermen.


Above: A whole new meaning to the Cold War

In The Ice Warriors the relationship between men and machines is epitomised by the triangle of Penley, Leader Clent and the computer controlling the Ioniser. Clent is a slave to the Ioniser, to technology, whereas Penley is very much depicted as a hippy drop-out and along with Storr represents the human need for instinct and the ability to leap beyond machine logic to find a solution to the dual problems of controlling the ice floes and defeating the Ice Warriors. The Ice Warriors, along with much of the series output in the mid-1960s, is all about the idea of survival born out of strategical analysis. This represents a huge shift in the late 1950s and early 1960s that was taking place in the debate over how emotion and reason were used by both man and machine in decision making within the escalating Cold War.

The schism between Penley, Clent and the Ioniser is perhaps best summed up by Ulric Neisser in his 1963 paper ‘The Imitation of Man by Machine’ - “If machines really thought as men do, there would be no more reason to fear them than to fear men. But computer intelligence is indeed “inhuman”: it does not grow, has no emotional basis, and is shallowly motivated. These defects do not matter in technical applications, where the criteria of successful problem solving are relatively simple. They become extremely important if the computer is used to make social decisions, for there our criteria of adequacy are as subtle as multiply motivated human thinking itself.” Particular stories such as The Ice Warriors, The Tomb Of the Cybermen and The Wheel In Space wrestle with the way essential emotional human qualities survive in a world dominated or threatened by logical machine intelligences.

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