Monday, August 31, 2009
What started as a reasonable little action romp involving a conflict between bushy faced colonists and impossibly coiffured mining corporation employees sort of takes a bizarre turn into cheap pantomime once the story moves inside the ancient primitive city.
Most Malcolm Hulke stories serve to highlight the differences between various sides in a conflict and how each side could equally be judged right or wrong in their views. Colony in Space is, at its heart, a land claim story set in the Wild West. The colonists are the settlers of the 1800's, looking to move west into them thar hills and make a home for themselves. IMC are the cruel mining and/or oil corporation, looking to set up shop on the same land and rape it of its resources. The primitives are the Native Americans - once powerful, once holders of the land, now resorted to bartering for food in exchange for not attacking the settlers.
One could really look at this story as Doctor Who's response to aboriginal rights. The primitives used to have a great and wonderful civilization, but now mainly practiced less ambitious pursuits like throwing each other into pits and practicing telepathy. They are treated with nothing but disrespect throughout this entire story by all who come into contact with them. The colonists consider them dangerous annoyances, willing to exchange food with them in return for their leniency. IMC barely considers them relevant. Most shocking is the behaviour of The Doctor towards them. It's worth noting that one of the few actives the primitives wage against any outsiders is when they attack The Doctor in Episode Two (an attack that The Doctor is not as keen to dissuade as he is to fend them off without any attempt at diplomacy). In Episode Five, he alerts The Master to a native perched atop a cliff. The Masters blasts the native with his laser gun, an act that doesn't even earn the slightest bit of remorse from The Doctor.
Most troubling is the remarkable act of self sacrifice the leader of the primitives offers when he directs The Doctor to operate the city's self destruct mechanism in order to destroy the Doomsday Weapon. In doing so, the explosion destroys the entire underground city and all its inhabitants, including (presuambly, through psychic link) those primitives who were outside of the city at the time of the explosion. The Doctor thanks the leader for his compassion for laying down their lives - laying down their lives so that others, who have only lived on the planet for slightly over a year can grow and prosper, no longer having to worry about having to feed the primitives, nor worry now about feeding themselves. Judging by this, one wonders if The Doctor would have tried to convince Montezuma in 1521 to allow Cortez and his Spanish army to have the run of the Mayan Peninsula by laying down their lives and accept conquest.
Given the inspiration of Colony in Space as a whole, though (land claim westerns from the 1930s and 1940s), a more direct connection could be made to Native Americans and their place in North American society, which, according to this story, is this: Native Americans were once a valued and noble race, but are now little more than a nuisance, and it would probably be better if they all left (or died) so that the white man can set up his towns and cities and live in peace without ever being threatened or bothered by the indigenous population again.
What a disturbing viewpoint the programme takes during this story, especially given the fact that, up until now, The Doctor has been seen to champion the cause of rights and justice. Here, both he and Malcolm Hulke let us down by not seeing, or not choosing to see, all sides of the issue.
Posted by Steven at 3:07 PM