Musings on miscommunication and Doctor Who (first Doctor)

Listening to: The Click Five – Good Day
via FoxyTunes

People tend to hear what they want to, and they mishear or ignore what they don’t want to hear.  If more people I knew read my blog, they’d probably assume I’m talking about them.  With that in mind, I can only link to this, and have a chuckle.  Ho, ho, ho.

And making obvious jokes does qualify as lowbrow humour, so don’t let’s indulge in it, thanks.

But really, what prompted this was a particular episode of Doctor Who, from the first Doctor years.  …well, two episodes, actually.  Rather early days, but when it was well enough established.  In point of fact, it’s something I noticed in just about every start of a new arc, but this one drove it home a little more than most.

In the storyline with the Sensorites, Villain McObvious (the show was often simple in its portrayal of antagonists, a tangent I’d quite like to delve into someday), was initially driven by fear.  He refused to believe that humans could be benign, and sought continually to destroy them, and his fear soon mingled with his ambition, resulting in his murderous clamber up the political ranks.  As loathsome as he was, it was really interesting to try and see why he thought he was justified in his actions.  Why he was so angry at his colleagues and superiors for not doing as he wanted, to the point that he perceived them as traitors for taking any course that he was against or did not suggest.

On the less specific side…  Whenever they were faced with a new situation, instead of applying the fact that very strange things happened to them on a quite regular basis, each character initially responded to what was going on in a very similar way.  One of them, often Susan or Barbara, would submit a hypothesis, only to be shut down as suggesting the impossible.  When this dynamic was Doctor v Ian (the former suggesting and the latter challenging), it was almost funny, in a way.

In Planet of Giants, when a fault in the TARDIS resulted in their materialising an inch high, they split up and look about, unaware of just what was wrong.  Barbara and the Doctor come across very similar clues to what Susan and Ian find, and reach the same conclusion (the Doctor suggested it) but at a slightly different speed and a different rate of acceptance.  When Susan tells Ian what must have happened based on the evidence of giant dead insects and a giant box of matches, Ian not only insists that it’s impossible, but he actually takes the stance of firm argument.

This is after a story arc where they mingled quite freely with a race of people who communicated mind to mind by way of natural ability enhanced by an object that looked like a monocle.

It’s part of the formula, I know, but it struck me as funny how often it happened.  They all did it.  The Doctor would say that something that had clearly happened was impossible, and refuse to entertain the possibility–such as when the TARDIS doors opened and Barbara thought something might have gotten in.  This led him to assume that she and Chesterton had attacked him and Susan, and attempted to take control of the ship.

Never mind that they had no clue how to operate the machine, and sabotaging it would do absolutely nothing but harm their ultimate goal of getting back to England in the 60’s.

(in fact, Barbara was wrong, but his countersuggestion was more easily understood as ridiculous from an audience perspective)

In cases such as that one, it’s absurd that not only is the obvious brushed aside as impossible, but the accepted idea is patently absurd.  On the one hand, I rather like that the Doctor is not infallible.  That was one of the best things about the Hartnell years.  He was such a flawed character, and so endearing in it.  He was proud to the point of arrogance, rude and prone to flights of anger and fancy, and very much subject to his own moods.  He could fly into a fit of temper and then apologise with childish sweetness only a few moments later.

The stories that were told were bolder than then ones that came up in the redux or continuation of the Doctor Who series circa 2005.  I’ve really been looking at those rather closely.  Whereas the newer series tended towards specific types of settings–Earth episodes almost always took place in London, or at least, ended up being in London incredibly often–the Hartnell years went out to a variety of settings.

They met Marco Polo, the Sensorites, the Daleks (before they were basically a boring meme that eventually fanboyed the Doctor), and even cavemen and the Aztecs.  A lot of the time, the story-telling was quite, quite flawed, but it was still a bold idea.  The Sensorites was one of the most obviously borked storylines, in that it was clear the writers had not put enough research or varying thoughts into the concept of telepathy.  It was very homebrewed, and they were far too human and contradicted quite a lot of what was stated about them–not in a way that made them look complex, but in a way that made them look inconsistent.  Even so, it was a great idea, and the simple parts of the story, such as the elements of betrayal, power plays, and insanity were very well done.

I enjoy the older series a good deal more, and it isn’t because it’s better so much as it’s not derivative.  That isn’t the fault of the new series.  What is the fault of the new series is its inability to step away from habits, and its tendency to worship the Doctor.  (Rose got a lot of worship as well, but that’s a topic for another day.