Sunday, June 26, 2005

WMD and Doctor Who?

This, my first real post, will deal with what might be considered a rather silly topic: Doctor Who as Anti-War Propaganda. 
It seems that two of the recent episodes of the new and highly profiled thirteen-part BBC science fiction series, Doctor Who, served as a mouthpiece for the movement against the war in Iraq. A respected public service channel like the BBC should not be promoting a particular political agenda, but the episodes Aliens of London and World War Three did just that. Instead of a couple of hours of harmless television entertainment about strange aliens and space travel, we were served a wild storyline insinuating that the English government deliberately lied about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Very disappointing, indeed. Bad politics and bad judgement by the BBC producers. A short synopsis of the storyline will probably be helpful to understand the reasons for my criticism:

A spaceship crashes directly into Big Ben, but manages to make an emergency landing on the Thames outside the Parliament. Inside the vessel, the body of what is thought to be a wounded alien is discovered. The people of Earth are divided. They either celebrate or fear this sudden arrival of a strange creature from outer space. Strangely, the English Prime Minister and the rest of his cabinet ministers are nowhere to be found. Is it a case, we wonder, of ‘first contact’ or inter-galactic terrorism?

Does this scene ring any bells?

It turns out that the destruction of Big Ben was part of an elaborate plan to destroy Earth and the entire human race. The alien found inside the spacecraft turns out not to be really alien, but just an advanced gene-modified pig. The real extra terrestrials are the evil Slitheen, a family of big, smelly, green, and baby-faced monsters with long claws and hanging bellies [Slitheen is their family name]. We find out that the Slitheen have eliminated the Prime Minister and most of his staff. Moreover, they have assumed the identities of fat people in powerful positions, and are now wearing perfect human body-suits. Thus, they manage to pass for real human beings, and very soon they control the government as well as the Metropolitan police force.

The Neo-Con syndicate in the flesh...

Now, by cunningly spinning a web of lies about the intentions of the poor gene-modified pig as well as fabricating a story about alien ‘Massive Weapons of Destruction’, the Slitheen successfully persuade the delegates of the United Nations to pass a resolution that will give them the power to start a nuclear war on the blue planet. Why would the Slitheen do that? Well, they want to annihilate mankind and sell what is left of earth as radioactive fuel to the highest bidder of the galaxy. For that purpose they transmit, from a spacecraft hidden deep in the North Sea, an advertisement signal to prospective buyers throughout the Milky Way. Of course, it all goes terribly wrong for the slitheen, and the human race is saved in the end…

Yes, pigs can fly!

Yes, it is all there: Weapons of mass destruction, the passing of a United Nations resolution based on fictitious intelligence-data, a deadly war for mere profit, and anti-American slander. I was watching in disbelief. Was the new Doctor Who really endorsing extreme conspiracy theories, the kind of allegations usually found in the more radical editorial columns of leftist newspapers like The Daily Mirror and The Guardian? To begin with, I thought I might be wrong, that I was too suspicious of the BBC. So, I decided to watch the two episodes again, and this time I remembered to write down some of the more problematic parts of the dialogue.

Since the attack on the World Trade Centre, the internet has been haunted by a host of strange people peddling their damning conspiracy theories. Ever so often, we read that the Bush administration must somehow have been involved in the attacks. However, it is usually the Israeli government and the Mossad that is held responsible for orchestrating the vile murders of the thousands of innocent victims. The conspiracy-mongers maintain that only sophisticated agencies like the CIA or Mossad would have had the resources and expertise necessary to execute such a complex task to perfection. It is exactly the same kind of suspicion that prompts Doctor Who to suspect that the gene-modified pig could not be the real mastermind behind the attack on Big Ben and pose a threat to Earth.

The Doctor: “It’s just too perfect!”

In true anti-Zionist style, we hear the sceptic female backbencher thinking aloud: “Aliens are faking aliens!” Like Mossad faking Al Qaeda!? The only difference between the wild internet accusations and the various sentiments expressed in the two Doctor Who episodes in question is that it turns out the Doctor and his friends were right to be suspicious.

The advisor, the Slitheen, and the backbencher!

We are also treated to the usual complaints about ‘scare-mongering’ tactics, suggesting that there is no real terrorist threat.

Female Backbencher: “They put the entire planet on red alert!?”

A real leftist cliché, the female backbencher is worth mention. She is introduced as Harriet Jones of Flydale North constituency, an MP who appears to be a slim version of Claire Short. This woman is very interested in the plight of cottage hospitals, and eager to present her case for the Prime Minister. Indeed, she seems to be the only white politician in the two episodes who is serious, honourable, and hard-working. The rest are either dead, of what appears to be Asian ethnic background, or fat and evil extra terrestrials in disguise. At the end of the World War Three instalment, we find it is her fate to become the Prime Minister, elected for three consecutive terms, and, as the Doctor puts it, “to become the architect of Britain’s Golden Age!” Is she not the embodiment of the true leftist or Liberal Democrat ideal?

Remember the innumerable anti-war placards protesting that the invasion of Iraq was all about oil? We hear the same opinion expressed by the Doctor. Is it a mere coincidence? Hardly:

The Doctor: “A massive diversion ... It’s not a diversion, it’s a trap! … They are out to make money!”

Female Backbencher: “Gold, oil, water?”

Yes, ‘it is all about oil’, is it not? If it is not Halliburton and their foul brethren, then it is the bloody Slitheen. 
It is no secret that the anti-war movement truly adore the United Nations. The United Nations is their answer to all evil in this world. Forget about the ‘Oil-for-food’ scandal, mass rapes by UN soldiers, the Rwanda infamy, the Darfur indignity. The list of errors is very long and bitterly shameful. No matter, to the anti-war crowd the United Nations cannot do anything wrong. The writer of our two Doctor Who episodes betray his unquestioning loyalty to Kofi Annan and his pale blue bureaucrats by making sure that nuclear weapons only can be deployed after an UN resolution, a rather bizarre notion, but crucial for the development of the story:

Female Backbencher: “The British Isles can’t gain access to atomic weapons without a special resolution from the UN”

Female Side-kick, Rose: “Now, that’s never stopped them!”

Female Backbencher: “Exactly - given our past track-record - and I voted against that, thank you very much! The codes have been taken out of the government’s hands and given to the UN.”

However, the most extraordinary part of the story is the scene where the main Slitheen family member is addressing the United Nations, disguised as the interim Prime Minister:

“Ladies and gentlemen, nations of the world, human kind. The greatest experts in extra terrestrial events came here tonight. They gathered in the common course, but the news I bring now is grave indeed. The experts are dead, murdered [by the Slitheen, of course] right in front of me by alien hands. People of the Earth, heed my words, ‘These visitors do not come in peace!’ Our inspectors have searched the sky above our heads, and they have found massive weapons of destruction, capable of being deployed within forty-five seconds. Our technicians can baffle the alien probes, but not for long. We are facing extinction, unless we strike first! The United Kingdom stands directly beneath the belly of the mother ship. I beg of the United Nations: ‘Pass an emergency resolution! Give us the access codes!’ A nuclear strike at the heart of the beast is our only chance of survival, because from this moment on, it is my solemn duty to inform you: ‘Planet Earth is at war!”

This is obviously a deeply sarcastic and slanderous rewriting of Tony Blair’s speech to the House before the invasion of Iraq. Of course, instead of Weapons of Mass Destruction we have Massive Weapons of Destruction. Instead of a forty-five minute deployment threat we have forty-five seconds. Everything is turned on its head: An evil alien instead of Tony Blair. Not a Prime Minister hoping to liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny, but an impostor bent on destruction. We are informed about a dossier, which is an outrageous lie. It is true wickedness in the name of profit. We are invited to giggle knowingly while recalling how another document was ‘sexed up’.

The dossier is then presented to the unsuspecting and trustful delegates of the United Nations. It is sinister misrepresentation, to put it mildly. Beautiful propaganda! Good thing, the Doctor knows what is going on:

The Doctor: “He is making it up! There are no weapons up there! There’s no threat! He just invented it!”

The Female Backbencher: “Do you think they will believe it?!”

Female side-kick, Rose: “They did last time!”

The Doctor: “They want the whole world panicking, for you lot, you get scared, you lash out!”

Yes, ‘they did last time!’ In this short exchange the screen-writer more than hints that we - a large section of the public - are behaving like mindless sheep, that we are (and have been) too easily bamboozled by the devious Tony Blair and his cronies. According to the same humble screen-writer, the public is also a childishly fearful entity, an entity that needs proper guidance. The producers of BBC entertainment programs probably believe that such vital guidance is most effective if managed by intellectuals, liberal journalists, and leftist pundits.

Marr maneuvering the frame?

Nevertheless, despite all the brave efforts of the Doctor and his side-kick Rose to expose the lies of the Slitheen, the otherwise omniscient United Nations decides to believe the intelligence-data about the Massive Weapons of Destruction. All the honourable delegates are fooled by the alien impostors and they pass the fatal resolution. This is how the media reports on the eve of the event:

BBC Anchor Woman: “It’s midnight here in New York. The United Nations has gathered. England has provided them with absolute proof that the massive weapons of destruction do exist. The Security Council will be making a resolution in a matter of minutes, and once the codes are released, humanity’s first inter-planetary war begins … The Council says: ‘Yes! Release the codes!’”

It reads like an edition of The Today Programme, does it not? Thankfully, the Doctor finally challenges the ruthless Slitheen capitalists:

The Doctor: “You [talking to the aliens] get the codes; release the missiles - but not into space, cos’ there’s nothing there. You attack every other country on Earth; they retaliate, fight back. World War Three! Whole planet gets nuked!”

Female Backbencher: “But you’ll destroy our planet, this beautiful place! What for?!”

The Doctor: “Profit!”

Slitheen Family Member: “There’s a recession out there. Everybody are buying cheap!”

Ah, the profit! Oil, Halliburton, and endless American violent intervention. Yes, all the wild slurs and accusations of the anti-war movement have been included. Well done. Surprisingly, there is no real mention of Slitheen imperialism, as the alleged American desire to rule over foreign countries is one of the most popular agendas of the radical anti-war protestors. However, it is perhaps no coincidence that the Slitheen aliens are presented as a family and not merely as an alien race. Remember, most of the radical chic representatives of the anti-war movement – for example, George Monbiot, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky - consider it legitimate practice to refer to the Bush administration as a ruthlessly authoritarian plutocracy. To be fair, sometimes concepts like hegemony or oligarchy are added to the characterisation, possibly for the sake of nuance. Hence the family of aliens is supposed to be a clever allusion to the nature of the present American government.

The vile Neo-Cons can hardly contain themselves...

Throughout the two episodes, the aliens are shown as war-crazy, greedy, unscrupulous, fat politicians, laughing as Armageddon approaches. Of course, the fact the loathsome capitalist aliens have replaced, what we might assume to be, a more dignified host of British politicians, is a rather crude comment on the American influence on British foreign policy. Watching and listening to the constant parade of unsubtle political innuendo, we know precisely what we are meant to think of these green abominations: That they are like neo-conservatives and capitalists of the real world, right?

Following the customary leftist narrative of victimisation, we find the Slitheen seeking to frame the innocent alien whistle-blower. That is, they attempt to blame the honourable Doctor Who - the hyper-intelligent alien being with the paranoid conspiracy theory who is always right - for being behind their conspiracy. Is it not exactly what Tony Blair and his despicable thugs did to the principled Andrew Gilligan? No? Well, as the female backbencher assures us: “You pass it to the left, first…”

Crass leftist bias is typical of journalists of the mainstream media. It has been so for decades, and it seems that it is something we must try to tolerate. Nevertheless, should we also have to accept that even innocuous entertainment programs like Doctor Who are being transformed into platforms for leftist agendas? It would be sad.

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