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Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

Hector Drummond has some views of the rotting state of popular culture…

Dr Who actually died in 1981, although that fact wasn’t apparent until much later. He died when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson. Davidson was clearly an inferior actor, at least in that role, but Doctor Who fans thought that the show would rise again. Of course it didn’t, with more and more unsuitable actors taking on the role, and the writing got more and more left-wing to the point where even the ordinary viewers could see that the show was essentially about politics rather than science-fiction.

Some Dr Who fans are still very upset that the BBC killed it off in 1989, but the show had become an idiotic waste of money, and had to be put out of its misery. It had become obvious that Dr Who was no more. He was an ex-Doctor.

When Russell T. Davies revived the show in 2005, it seemed like the good Doctor was reborn, especially when the unsuitable Christopher Eccleston was quickly replaced by David Tennant’s more traditional interpretation. But the show went gradually downhill, and then politics started to take over again. The best episode of those years was Blink, the first weeping angels episode, but it was noticeable that that hardly featured the doctor.

I started to gradually lose interest, especially after episodes where the moon turned out to be a giant egg, which made me hide behind the sofa, not in fear but in embarrassment. And when they started to overdo the historic episodes where the doctor turns out to be great buddies with famous historical figures. Plus the new episodes had relationships and romance in them, and that just wasn’t Dr Who. And they messed with things you shouldn’t mess with, like the Neil Gaiman episode where the Tardis turned out to be a madwoman. Oh, and the Doctor turned out to be married to the most annoying woman in the Universe, except perhaps for Polly Toynbee. It’s making me pissed off just recalling this stuff as I’d sort of repressed it.

I vowed not to watch the new series with a female Dr Who. I’m not saying that a female Dr Who couldn’t ever work, but I don’t want to watch a female Dr Who if it’s just been done for the sake of politics, especially seeing as how fed up I had become with the politics in the previous episodes. But my wife was watching last week, and I ended up watching twenty or so minutes of Jodie Whittaker. Who was absolutely abysmal. Dire. As was the rest of the cast. And the writing.

I’m not saying Whittaker is a bad actress. I’m happy to accept that she is great in the right role. Christopher Eccleston, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy are, I’m sure, good actors in the right role, but they weren’t right at all for Doctor Who. Peter Davidson we know is a good actor, but he was no more Doctor Who than Martin Clunes would have been. I’m sure that there are some female actors who could pull off Doctor Who, at least as well as some of the past actors have, but… Whittaker isn’t one of them. It was like a Catherine Tate sketch. In fact, the whole thing was depressingly piss-poor, and I snuck off.

At that point I realised that Doctor Who really had died with Tom Baker’s departure in 1981, thirty seven years ago. Russell T. Davies’s Doctor Who was really just a pastiche, and a vehicle for Davies to do some play-acting, living out a childhood dream while bending the whole thing for his own purposes. Everything since then has been a Weekend at Bernies’ version of Dr Who, with various producers, directors and writers propping up the dead doc for their own — either political or financial — purposes.

I also realised that Dr Who had become like Star Wars: a depressing, ham-fisted, increasingly desperate exercise that has no point except to make money, indulge some big egos, and, increasingly, to push a woke agenda. It’s flogging a dead horse creatively, but it’s very convenient to the people behind it for those reasons. Star Wars, as has now become clear, also died in the 1980s, in 1983 to be precise, at the end of Return of the Jedi. (In fact, before the end, because it actually died when all those cutesy little Ewok bastards crawled out of the undergrowth.)

What has appeared under the Star Wars name for the last thirty-four years is people like George Lucas and JJ Abrams and various others playing the Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman roles, holding up the rotting corpse of the Star Wars’ equivalent of Bernie and pretending everything is great and Bernie’s got at least forty more good years left in him.

But the corpse of Star Wars is starting to smell. And so is Doctor Who’s. But Bernie still has more work to do, so the smell is going to get a lot worse.

30 comments to Fiction that stinks like Bernie…

  • terence patrick hewett

    Always thought DW was rubbish but it was worth watching just to see some real experts at work; William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

  • At what point did children officially get booted from the target audience? Was it during Matt Smith’s tenure or before? That moment had been reached at least by the time the Church of the Papal Mainframe and its leader Tasha Lem were introduced – here they had a villain that adults, much less children, couldn’t comprehend. I never figured out their motivations.

  • The Sage

    when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson.

    Exactly this — the series went downhill when they replaced the Doctor with a vet.

  • James Strong

    The most annoying woman in the universe is Yasmin Alibai Brown, although some support the claim of Anna Soubry to the title.

  • There were of course many ways a Time Lady could have been put at the controls of the Tardis for a series or two that would have been plot-empowering in their own right.

    – The doctor kidnapped or lost and a series of stories tied together by the underlying theme of her finding or rescuing him.

    – The doctor and a Time Lady clashing over some moral crisis (preferably one more real than those “Have I the right to destroy any species – even the Daleks?” fake moral conundrums they so often had) so she takes (steals?) the Tardis for a while, with the stories having an underlying theme of her resolving it her way (perhaps with, perhaps without, a rarely-seen counterpointing doctor trying to resist despite being Tardis-less).

    – His grand-daughter Susan turns up again after all these years and takes over the family business – with interesting backstory and etc..

    – etc., etc.

    By not making anything very useful to the storyline out of the change, they not only display their politics, they also display their lack of talent (and their lack of commitment to the show of course).

  • Mr Ecks

    They could have created a female time lord spin off without pandering to the trannie craze. Of course if it was more leftist shite then it would have stunk as well.

    I don’t think Davidson should get all the blame. He was a bit bland and probably not eccentric enough for the role but the main problem was the increasingly poor writing. That had started in the last few years of Tom Baker’s time. Whitehouse and her anti-violence whinging may be the culprit there –the stories after that seemed more involved, silly and often it was barely comprehensible as to what was going on.

    The revival wasn’t too bad at first. There was the “true romance” crap that should have not been there but there were still a few moments of good TV. The bit at the end of “The Waters of Mars” where Tennant suffers an attack of hubris was a good dramatic moment IMO.

    However the trend was always down and more and more leftist tropes and politics made everything worse. Moffat has form for an initially good flash-in-the pan–the first 6 episodes of Sherlock say–which he then ruins because he has to pander to his own middle class Marxism.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I quite agree. Even the bit about hiding behind the sofa – embarrassment for you, fear of communist propaganda for me. Even the bit about a female doctor. Ten years ago it would have worked. Now it smacks of cowardice.

    For me 1966-1976 represents Doctor Who’s golden era. Almost all the good stuff appears in that period. Of course, there was plenty of communist propaganda in those days – take The Silurians, Frontier in Space or the Green Death for example. But for some reason it was OK. Maybe because the propaganda was always subordinate to the mystery.

    It really lost its way not so much when Davidson took over as when it got shifted from Saturday teatime to weekday primetime. By the way, if you think Baker I was really such a superior actor take a look at The Horns of Nimon some time.

  • Steve Borodin

    I wait for Dr Mohammed Who, in trepidation.

  • I wait for Dr Mohammed Who, in trepidation.

    She wears a hijab. Hijabs are cool.

  • Darrell

    I rather enjoyed the Matt Smith version of the Doctor, in spite of myself. It was a clown show at times. The show became hopelessly PC long before, wallowing in “diversity”, during the Tennant years (when I first started watching again, long after the Tom Baker years). The Amelia Pond/River Song story cycle was pretty good for the most part. And particularly interesting is that of all the actors/actresses over the years, Karen Gillan has moved on to the greatest commercial success. I just think it’s a pity that she’s hardly recognizable, behind all that makeup, as Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (I’ve yet to watch Avengers: Infinity War).

    I vaguely remember when Baker and Lalla Ward left the show to try for fame in Hollywood. It didn’t work out well. And oh, for Mary Tamm as the first Romana! 😀 May she RIP.

  • Michael Jennings

    I don’t think Davidson should get all the blame. He was a bit bland and probably not eccentric enough for the role but the main problem was the increasingly poor writing.

    John-Nathan Turner took over as producer in 1979 for Tom Baker’s final season. Christopher H Bidmead was script editor for that final season, and it was a much more serious show (with much greater knowledge of actual science and technology) than it had been for several seasons before that. (I’m particularly fond of Warrior’s Gate from that season). I don’t think Peter Davison was terrible in the role – he was a somewhat bland Doctor who followed several who had a lot of character, but he was let down by the writing. Bidmead left. His permanent replacement (Eric Saward) was, in my mind, a hack.

    What happened after that was stasis, though. Doctor Who was a program that the BBC establishment had never really liked. Nathan-Turner andSaward were not the best production team that Dr Who had ever had, but in the past that wouldn’t have mattered because they would have doe their jobs for two or three years and move on. The BBC starved the budget of the show and insisted that the production team stay in charge, even when they wanted to move on to other programs. The production team ran out of ideas, had little money, and didn’t want to be there. The results were not great.

  • Mr Ed

    I stopped watching Dr Who aged around 11. I had read a lot of the books, from the original series. I grew up, the BBC did not. The date of death is about right. I can’t say that I noticed any particular Commie propaganda in the original series.

    It seems that now, the BBC sees it as part of its role to create and define popular culture and Dr Who is now part of that, and it has to throw in all its agitprop as well. From what I do see, the BBC cannot do neutral content, anywhere, at any time, on anything. It has to throw in politics, like Soviet TV but with more of other people’s money.

    As one with no TV, I at least can smile at complaints about the BBC’s output, knowing that I pay nothing towards it (apart from when it gets tax money, e.g. via the EU).

  • Runcie Balspune

    I personally liked the Baker-Davidson-Baker era, I don’t think the rot really started until it moved from the rather likeable Vengeance on Varos to when it got to the Trial of a Time Lord (Season 23).

    Some episodes among them were classics, I disliked Pertwee and the “banished to Earth” stories, the real outer space settings were excellent and the odd Dalek/Cyberman story was always a classic, rather than the modern series which tried to jam them into every adventure somehow and makle everything Earth-centric.

    I gave up about halfway through Tennant, I did like some of the first new series, I mean, The Empty Child _was_ a cracking good scary story.

  • John-Nathan Turner took over as producer in 1979 for Tom Baker’s final season. … What happened after that was stasis, though. Doctor Who was a program that the BBC establishment had never really liked. Nathan-Turner … didn’t want to be there. (Michael Jennings, November 11, 2018 at 3:22 pm)

    I expect you are right, but JNT found ways to keep the Dr Who gig interesting to him. Turner and his loathsome partner hunted at Dr Who conventions, though they also sometimes pursued what they called ‘double-barkers’ in the beeb, but always boys who were nobodies AFAIK. Long, long ago, I planned to go to a Dr Who convention, received a warning to avoid Turner from a friend, and flatly refused to believe him. I accepted that one of the Dr Who companions in JNT’s time had been chosen on the alternatively-oriented casting couch – it was kind of obvious – but I recall being just so sure that “the BBC would not do that”, so sure my friend was foolishly believing some far-right/crazy-Christian/homophobic or whatever propaganda. I was not, even back then, some far-left guy who believed every -ist and -phobe accusation, but I still had the “come on let’s be reasonable here” attitude. (As it happened, I had to cancel my plan to go.)

    After forgetting all about it for decades, I recalled that old, old memory with some embarrassment, when, after Saville became a big story, the as-conveniently-dead JNT was finally outed in that sense, with one account from a boy who’d had to hide under a desk to escape him at the beeb, and the unearthing of activities with others at Dr Who conventions that a sotto voce beeboid admission termed “inappropriate behaviour”.

  • Michael Jennings

    Some people are truly awful. Well, it was well known during the final few seasons of Dr Who that JNT had asked the BBC for a different job on multiple occasions during his last few years at Dr Who, and he had been repeatedly refused. Whether that was because he was known to frighten the horses, or because he was known to be an alcoholic (also true) or because he was simply considered a crap producer, I don’t know. (Probably some combination of the three). One certainly got the impression that he and the show were left to go down together, which was what happened. What obviously should have happened is that he should have been sacked and someone young, talented, and relatively inexperienced should have been put in charge – something that had worked repeatedly in the history of the show.

  • >The most annoying woman in the universe is Yasmin Alibai Brown, although some support the claim of Anna Soubry to the title.

    You know, I almost used her instead of Polly. Perhaps I should have, because Polly’s getting a bit old-hat now.

  • David H

    Well said, the end of Tom Baker was the end of Dr Who for me. Similarly the appearance of ewoks did kill star wars.
    Sadly there is a geek demographic that will consume any old tripe if its served up under the name tag of a beloved original of days gone bye.
    Sadly i count many of my friends in that group

  • Gongcult

    Back in the ol’ days of the classic Tom Baker Dr. Who in the US we watched it via PBS(public ? Broadcasting) always 3-4 years behind when the BBC broadcast it! So at the heyday we were behind! Even with The Davidson revitilization(?), it was always out of step…we could live with the cheesy sci-fi production values because there was always something allegorical, daresay
    Philosophical! about the old episodes. But no longer . And now that we get up to date episodes, it IS’NT any better.

  • Roué le Jour

    Niall Kilmartin,
    all excellent suggestions, “The doctor kidnapped or lost…” Would get my vote.

    And while we’re playing fantasy doctors, Jacqui Pierce in full on Servalan mode as the Time Bitch that has to rescue him.

    “What do you do around here, poppet?”
    “Companion? And what does that involve? Exactly?”

  • Andrew Duffin

    The endless perpetuation of what is, at base, a puerile and badly-produced exercise in low-budget prep-school science fiction overlaid with some fashionable left-wing political grandstanding, is quite extraordinary.

    Why on earth do allegedly grownup people still watch this rubbish?

  • Paul Marks

    I am not quite so harsh on Dr Who as the poster is – for example I even liked the episode when the spirit of the Tardis enters a woman. When the P.C. (i.e. Frankfurt School of Marxism) politics took over the show became dreadful – just endless political ranting about Third Wave (i.e. Marxist) feminism and anti racism (with a Marxist spin) and on and on…..Yes – just like “Star Wars” (and Hollywood generally) had just collapsed into Frankfurt School agitprop.

    I agree that the show is now unwatchable – I tried to watch some of the new episodes and just had to turn the station at some points, and most certainly not from fear. I watched only a couple of minutes of last week’s episode – a pregnant man (oh bleep). And I did not watch yesterday’s episode at all – I have given up.

  • Michael Jennings

    Dr Who in the 1970s and 1980s contained lots of political stories. They didn’t all have the same politics, though, and generally, if the politics got in the way of the story, precedence was given tot he story. Neither of those things are true these days, I don’t think.

  • Rob

    when Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davidson.

    I was about 12 years old when this happened. The first story with Peter Davidson was so turdidly dull I never watched it again

  • Runcie Balspune

    @Rob, strange, because Castrovalva is a firm fan favorite and cemented Davidson as a possible worthy successor to Baker, and ending an interconnecting series that started two stories back, so it was aimed at regular fans, the story was complex even by Whovian standards, not a great one to start off with.

  • Nicholas (unlicensed joker) Gray

    It’s a shame that DW didn’t explore different timelines- What would England be like if the Nazis had managed to invade and conquer Britain? DW could have explored these ideas but chose to stick with the idea of one solid reality- no many-branching worlds for them!
    Knock knock!!
    Who’s there?
    Doctor Who?
    Well, if you know who I am, Why haven’t you let me in?

  • It’s a shame that DW didn’t explore different timelines (Nicholas (unlicensed joker) Gray (November 13, 2018 at 6:59 am)

    One of the early Pertwee stories (inferno) did use an alternative timeline. Trying to fix the lock the Time Lords have put on the Tardis, the doctor causes a malfunction and arrives alone, in the latter part of the 20th century, in a UK that had become some kind of national socialist republic back in 1943. His companion and the UNIT staff are all present in the parallel world with similar but national-socialism-influenced characters.

    This was the occasion when the actor playing the brigadier (brigade-leader in the alternative world) gained his reputation for being un-corpse-able. In a key scene, he swings around in his desk chair to reveal he is wearing an eye patch – showing he is the sinister nazified version of himself. In a rehearsal, the three he was to swing round to face quietly donned eye patches – and then dissolved in laughter as the ‘brig’ swung round, stared at them, and carried on the scene dead-pan.

    FAIK, this use of an alternative timeline story in Dr Who may have been the only one.

  • Michael Jennings

    Classic Dr Who contained relatively few stories for which time travel was central to the plot. The TARDIS was a way of getting to the time and location of a story, but it then largely sat there as the story then played out. There are a few exceptions to this, but only a few.

    I think it was mostly a good thing. Too many alternative timelines in a science fictional universe and my head hurts, honestly.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “FAIK, this use of an alternative timeline story in Dr Who may have been the only one.”

    I think there may be several alternative timeline stories, although it’s hard to tell with Dr Who. Consistency always takes second place to the needs of the plot.

    There was ‘Enemy Of The World’ where the Doctor visits what appears to be an alternate history 2018 where someone looking exactly like himself (Salamander) is dictator of the world.

    There was ‘Rise of the Cybermen’, ‘The Age Of Steel’, ‘Army Of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday’, an alternate timeline where Rose’s father didn’t die when she was a child. Rose eventually becomes trapped there.

    ‘Father’s Day’ shows what happens when Rose goes back in time and saves her father’s life, triggering a paradox.

    There’s ‘Turn Left’ that explores what happens when Donna Noble fails to save the Doctor’s life in a battle under the Thames.

    ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ possibly rewrites the history of the Time War. Or maybe that was just amnesia.

    There’s ‘Last Of The Timelords’ where the Master uses the Paradox Machine to bring back Toclafane from the end of the universe to take over the Earth, and imprison the Doctor. When the Paradox Machine is destroyed, history snaps back.

    There are quite a few where the Doctor revisits Earth at times shortly after dramatic world-changing events (like the Dalek invasion in 2150) that nobody seems to remember. And the Daleks, of course, were always a thinly disguised allegory for the Nazis.

    They explore the theme from time to time, but too much over-convoluted time-loop-paradox nonsense confuses the audience, and too blatant continuity breaks both hurt the suspension of belief and are widely regarded as cheap cliches. (Like ending a fantastic story with the line “And then he woke up, and realised it was all a dream.”)

    As for the politics, I’ve got no particular desire to live in a bubble, so I can easily read/watch fiction with politics I don’t like in it. Intellectual diversity broadens the mind! And Dr Who has contributions from a range of political viewpoints. That’s going to include the left, certainly, but there’s also a broad streak of tolerance for differences (even for viewpoints that one despises) while responding to unprovoked aggression with force, which is vaguely (but not ‘in-your-face’) libertarian. Most of the baddies have been authoritarian rather than specifically left/right, including some standing for causes dear to the left. (e.g. in ‘The Sontaran Stratagem’ the baddy is a Green eco-warrior who has distributed a device supposedly to reduce car CO2 emissions to zero, but which turns out to be alien technology designed to poison the atmosphere.) I note there has been no episode set in the near future showing the effects of Global Warming, which seems like an obvious plot line, and the Doctor never mentions it, so I don’t think they’re driven by it. They wouldn’t want to piss off half their audience that way. So I don’t pay too much attention to the complaints of political bias, personally. It is the BBC, after all!

  • Paul Marks

    Michael Jennings is quite right – there was always politics in Dr Who but it was not always politics from the same (Frankfurt School of Marxism) point of view, and the politics did not always dominate the story – as it now does.

    The following is from reading written summations of episodes – as I no longer watch the show.

    Evil corporation dumping toxic waste – and evil American (boo-hiss – American) business owner shooting giant spider (even killing giant spider out to kill people is regarded as evil by “The Doctor”).

    A brave general – of course that general will be female (Third Wave Feminism), if the General was male they would be shown (in modern Dr Who) as evil. Of course – a pregnant man.

    And the last episode – a Hindu man marrying a Muslim woman. Of course the people out to murder the couple are shown as Hindu – not MUSLIM. As Islam is in de facto alliance with the Marxists now (even though Marxism is an atheist and materialist doctrine) against the West and, therefore, must not be shown in a negative light. Of course, after the West is destroyed, Islam and Marxism will turn on each other.