Why Dr. Who Rulz and Star Trek Drools

Love this observation from Radio Free Thulcandra:

Seems to me that Doctor Who is actually the perfect anti-Star Trek in terms of its own political theology.  Rejecting the goopy pomo UN-style cultural marxist imperialism of the Federation, the Doctor embodies the opposite of the Prime Directive.  He ALWAYS interferes, ALWAYS sees in the common personhood of all alien species a requirement of relationship.  He can’t stand apart.  And because he is a Time Lord, he has the best possible aristocratic sense that it is his business to care for the weakest in the universe, to right wrongs.  And he constantly searches for ways to not pull the nuclear option, to avoid genocide even of the Daleks, to quarantine where necessary, but to seek redemption and reintegration of even the most hostile species into the community of creatures.

His superpower isn’t time travel.  It’s the ability to see personhood where it exists; to love the good; and to see it as his business to seek it.

My sentiments exactly.

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  • Doug Sirman

    The undeniable fact that every single episode since Clara came on board sucks out loud and the Dr. resolves every conflict ’cause time travel is magic has no bearing on this.

    • MarylandBill

      Yeah, I am trying to figure that one out. The show has been definitely weaker since the second half of the season got started (though at least the best so far was the latest one.. will be interesting to see the season finale this coming week). Perhaps they over thought this whole replacing Rory and Amy thing. Couldn’t they have just made Clara like companions use to be.. just a woman traveling with the Doctor without trying to instill her character with Earth shattering significance? It was fine to do it with Amy, but if you try to do it with every companion, you are going to spoil the series.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Agreed. I have nothing against Clara. The actress is very likeable. But the writing over the past half-dozen episodes has been very weak. Not up to last season’s standards at all.

        • MarylandBill

          That goes with my feeling. I like Clara, and I think she has some good chemistry with the Doctor. But the writing has been just not there. Its almost like the regular writing team took a vacation after Amy and Rory left.

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            Oh dear. I just watched the episode where Rory dies (I wish they’d kept him around longer, it added a good element to the dialogue and plots). I’d hate to think it starts to go downhill soon.

            • MarylandBill

              In fairness to Rory and Amy, they were around for two and a half seasons; that is more than any other companion since the new series got started.

  • Arrrrghghhhh!H!h!H1! It’s “DOCTOR” Who — D-O-C-T-O-R WHO — never EVER “DR.” Who. Not that I’d ever expect a Str. Wrs. fan to appreciate that!!!

    • Sorry about the outburst. I’m still just a little burned from that Star Wars/Doctor Who incident in Norwich yesterday. I cannot BELIEVE a Star Wars fan would have the audacity to show up for Graham Cole’s autograph! As if the head of the Cybermen would have ANYTHING to do with a cape-wearing space samurai wannabe.
      Star Trek is okay, though. But, for the record, Sisko ALWAYS interfered (and when he didn’t, Major Kira or O’Brien did). So did Janeway.

      • bear

        Heck, SIsko went completely overboard and bterayed everything the federation believed in, for the purpose of saving the Federation in the episode “In the Pale Moonlight.” For some reason, it’s my favourite Star Trek Episode.

        • Yeah, seasons 5 & 6 of DS9 had some of the best, most complex episodes of Trek ever (it was B5’s influence rubbing off on them): “The Ship”, “It’s Only A Paper Moon”. Some pretty heavy stuff.

  • CJ

    Can’t we like both? I hadn’t thought of The Doctor acting with noblesse oblige, but it makes sense. On th other hand, given our current adventures for DemocracyWhiskeySexy, there’s something to be said for non-interference.

  • Not really a Dr. WHO guy…and can’t really comment on the comparisons. But, as a kid, I used to watch Star Trek most every afternoon in syndication. The question you raise in your write up of the Prime Directive is an interesting one. I believe the idea of the Prime Directive is one of unintended consequences.

    I’ll share this from a combox on another site arguing the same points: “It is not to allow Darwinism to reign supreme, but to prevent good intentions from causing unintended and potentially disastrous consequences. The extinction of a species is disastrous, but what if, by introducing a cure, the Enterprise ends up destroying both species by damaging the delicate equilibrium that exists?”

    • MarylandBill

      Its a nice thought, but as the non-interference policy was applied under Picard, it was more a blanket policy. In the first place it seemed to be upgraded to a non-contact policy (not only can we not interfere, but they must not know we exist). In the second it was applied uncritically. Saving a species on a dying planet was just as bad as interfering in a war between two different species. The few times in TNG it was violated, the result was always skewed to vindicate Picard’s non-interference beliefs.

      A final thought, why was it limited to only species that were planet bound? As soon as a culture developed warp drive, even if they were hundreds of years behind the federation in terms of social development, they seemed fair game.

  • Newp Ort

    The Doctor being one person with the oft demonstrated ability to effect positive change, especially in the most dire circumstances, is right to interfere.

    Starfleet being a starfaring civilization, and knowing the tragic history of humanity when civilizations with highly asymmetrical technology levels meet, is right to not interfere. At least until they discover the warp drive.

    • CJ

      The “wait till they get warp drive” thing does make some sense within the context of the show. Basically, with most sapient races needing M-class environments, you’re bound to eventually run into each other once you have the capacity for interstellar travel and start exploring suitable planets. It’s not so much that warp drive makes you special, but it makes inter-species contact inevitable.

  • Pete the Greek

    Sorry, while Star Trek always irked me, Doctor Who didn’t have Maj Kira Nerys.

    • MarylandBill

      And Star Trek never had Sarah Jane Smith. So what is your point?

      • CJ

        My dad had a thing for Tegan ANDUhura. See we CAN all get along!

      • Pete the Greek

        Does Smith have the little wrinkle nose thing? I WIN!! 🙂

        • MarylandBill

          Did Kira ever face the Sontarans, Daleks and Cybermen, all in a row?

      • Not to mention Rose Tyler…

    • Newp Ort

      Yeoman Rand – more like YEEE-OWW, MAN!
      and that hair…
      wait, what the heck?
      how does she…?
      basket weave beehive
      basket weave beehive
      basket weave beehive
      basket weave beehive

  • There’s a difference between personal charitable intervention (a la Doctor Who), and gunboat diplomacy that embroils a government in a quagmire. Doctor Who is like someone who visits Iraq and personally helps out a starving family. The Enterprise is like a U.S. naval vessel that avoids starting a war in Iraq. There’s no contradiction in liking both. Personal charity and foreign policy non-interventionism are two aspects of Christianity: love and peace.

    • To clarify: Star Trek’s Prime Directive, in its original series Sixties context, always seemed like if the first article of the U.S. Constitution was “No Vietnam! We mean it!” which seems like a reasonable thing for a Sixties sci-fi show to put in its utopia.

    • MarylandBill

      The original interpretation of the Prime Directive did seem to have a lot of wiggle room. But by the time they got to the Next Generation, it seemed much more iron clad. More or less like a U.S. Naval vessel being off the coast when a natural disaster strikes and refusing to help out than starting a war in Iraq.

      • That’s a really interesting point. Certainly, a lot of Star Trek episodes seemed to center on cases where following the Prime Directive would lead to some unremedied horror. Nevertheless, I think that “err in favor of nonintervention” is a prudently conservative default, if nothing else. “Never intervene,” does indeed seem to be too categorical, though.

        • MarylandBill

          It just recently occurred to me, (and why just now I am not sure), but the Prime Directive is rooted in moral relativism. Indeed lots of Star Trek stories (especially in the TNG) are rooted in moral relatives. Remember the Prime Directive isn’t just about Starfleet interference, it is about stopping cultural contamination. If I understand it correctly, Starfleet would not only not act, but would prevent independent human agents (like say Christian Missionaries) from also making contact.

          • Jack

            What’s funny is that these relativistic idiots are the ones who are going to bring in a totalitarian state meanwhile they believe they’re preventing one.

    • emmayche

      It always seemed to me – and was reinforced later in ST:TNG and ST:DS9 – that the Prime Directive was in fact the Federation’s backhanded recognition of its own moral bankruptcy. The influence of the “logic above all” Vulcans on early starfaring human civilization (ST:Enterprise) seemed to squelch the until-then-usual reclamation of human morality after a major disaster (the World War III scenario from the ST:First Contact movie and the continuing timeline into ST:Enterprise), providing technical achievement and reason divorced from emotion as the goal of humanity. The later-in-timeline ST series such as DS9 give us a much better perspective, as we see that almost all races have their own religious beliefs which help define them as a people, and that Earth and the Federation are actually crumbling morally from within. (When even the Klingons have a religion, and the Federation doesn’t, you have to wonder.)

      • The assumption in most live action SF (excepting Babylon 5 and Firefly) that Abrahamic religion would apparently no longer exist in the future is always profoundly irritating. Not so much because it’s insulting, as because it’s so unrealistic that it makes suspension of disbelief even more difficult.

        • Noah Doyle

          I really wish someone would pick up Mike Flynn’s ‘Spiral Arm’ books for series/movie treatment. It’s a setting without much surviving of the Abrahamic religions, for reasons that are mostly hidden, at least so far. They’re great reads, but the setting isn’t a nice place.

          ‘The strong do as they will, the weak suffer what they must.’

        • Newp Ort

          I can’t believe we’ll be be taking eye-sighted potshots at enemies around corners and from behind barrels in 200 yrs.

          • Noah Doyle

            I can, and I can believe it’ll be done with something very similar to a Glock, a 1911, an AK or an AR.

    • I always thought the Prime Directive (as seen in Next Gen and DS9, I’ve only seen a little of TOS) was a kind of cheat, a lazy way of avoiding hard decisions. The Federation rightly recognizes that it should not interfere willy-nilly, nor should it automatically impose its own values on others. But somethings are just wrong, like genocide, and should be prevented. And some kind of help is morally obligatory. MarylandBill’s analogy of the U.S. not starting a war v. the U.S. not helping out in a natural disaster is a good way of illustrating the distinction.

    • Jack

      “and foreign policy non-interventionism”
      Since when? Your social-phrenic liberal education?

      • What does “social-phrenic” mean? I assume you’re just calling me a pinko, but is there more content there?

        • ivan_the_mad

          It is doubtful. But I’m confused as to why you’re labeled a pinko for that; Kirk, whom I quote with the pleasing repetition of a broken record, admonishes thus (and references GKC, because it truly is good and pleasant when brothers dwell together):

          Yet still our political theory and our foreign policy are plagued by the delusion of the coming universal ascendancy of American institutions and manners—the American liberal’s conviction, in George Santayana’s phrase, that “the nun must not remain a nun, and China shall not keep its wall.” We forever expect to find liberal, gradualist, middle-of-the-road, temperate, rational, parliamentary-minded political factions—quite like forward-looking Americans, though perhaps not so even-tempered—in China, or Morocco, or Croatia, or Senegal: people who will disavow either “feudalism” or Marxism, behaving as if they had gone to some American state college, if not to Princeton or Vassar. Then we fail to find such people, and grow vexed; but our hopes spring eternal. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Marshal Tito, President Syngman Rhee, Colonel Nasser, fall from our favor; they have strayed from the paths of righteousness; they have not been good Americans. We never are, but always are to be, blessed with some statesman or party, east of Suez, who have enough common sense to install the American Way immediately.

          This fond hope is the illusion of a political universalism. For individuals, as Chesterton said, are happy only when they are their own potty little selves; and this is as true of nations as it is of individuals. To impose the American Constitution upon all the world would not render all world happy; quite to the contrary, our Constitution would work in few lands, and would make most men miserable in short order. States, like men, must find their private paths to order and justice and freedom; and usually those paths are ancient and twisting ways, and their signposts are Tradition and Prescription.

          • Given the context, my friend, I did a double take until I realized you weren’t saying that CAPTAIN Kirk had referenced Chesterton. I was thinking, “How did I miss THAT awesome episode?”

            • ivan_the_mad

              Haha! If only, although I doubt the universe could handle such a combination.

  • CJ

    “God may well have designed the immensity of space as a sort of quarantine against the horrors of what we would inevitably do if we happened on a species weaker than ourselves on other worlds. If you wonder what that might be, ask the black man or the red man.”
    Or the Narns from Babylon 5.

  • Mariana Baca

    The prime directive is stupid (I think part of it is a stand-in for objective morality when they lack one, or a way of creating drama when you technologically outstrip the aliens of the week), but Star Trek is more personally interesting than Doctor Who to me. The Doctor is charming, but the character and his personal relationships I find really hard to relate to, and make little sense if you consider the sort of being the Doctor purports to be. Star Trek posits some sort of equivalency of moral development with technological development which is incorrect, but the personal relationships are more interesting because the people are by in large (with a few exceptions like Q, Trelane, etc) just “people” despite being aliens.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    This may be because Doctor Who is very, very British in his sensibilities, while Trek was very American. The Brits, despite their professed love for modern liberalism, are still pretty monarchist at heart.
    The Doctor himself said it best last season. When a little girl told him: “Help me,” he replied, “Those are two words I NEVER ignore.”
    I love both Doctor Who and Trek. The whole “future utopianism” of Star Trek really hasn’t been a very strong element in Trek since Roddenberry was booted out in the first seasons of Next Gen. The new Trek movies in tone are actually much closer to Star Wars than Star Trek, much to the chagrin of many Trekkies.

    • Newp Ort

      Good point! Time LORD as opposed to James T. Kirk of Riverside, Iowa
      (love the assumption that Iowa has maintained it’s rural Midwest sensibilities in the 23rd century, and after a brutal nuclear war. Then again could be intact because why would you nuke th heck out of Iowa?)

      Perhaps even better, The English Doctor vs Frenchman Capt Jean-Luc Picard.

      • Noah Doyle

        After a nuclear war, everywhere would probably have ‘rural sensibilities’.

  • ivan_the_mad

    This cannot go unanswered! Red shirts, set phasers to kill!

    • MarylandBill

      Should have been more specific… they killed themselves :).

      • ivan_the_mad


  • I’d agree up until the last three seasons. The 11th Doctor is a moral relativist, especially on sexuality.

  • Joe

    A pox upon both your house Trekkies and Whovillians! Star Wars is awesome! Even the “Star Wars Christmas Special” trumps both!

  • Noah Doyle

    Interesting points.

    I was never a fan of RTD’s Doctor. Too much ‘Doctor Good, humans bad’; it felt like RTD was trying to lecture us, not so much entertain. Moffat was better, but even though I like Matt Smith’s Doctor – it just lost something for me as well. I’d love to see a new Trek, something besides Abrams’. It’s fun, just not all that…interesting.

    A Trek thought:

    The Original Series is the mythology of the Federations’ past.
    Enterprise was the messy reality.

    Next Generation is propaganda of the ‘current’ Federation.
    DS9 is the messy reality.

    Voyager – what’s Voyager?

    • Newp Ort

      Lesbian fanfic.

      • Doug Sirman

        Woot! Woot! That gravelly alto, that out-thrust lower jaw! That “make it so,” delivered with far more masculinity that sweet Jean-luc could ever muster! Not to mention a 7-of-9 appliance that came with it’s own double-D cells. Or the half-savage klingon engineer with that marvelously rough forehead. Does her action-figure come with it’s own u-haul trailer and a Subaru Forrester to pull it?

        Wow, the further I take this, the more I realize you may actually be on to something.

        • Newp Ort

          Voyager has an interesting 3rd or 4th degree separation from real life link to our present:

          7 of 9 actress Jeri Ryan is the ex-wife of one time US Senate for IL hopeful Jack Ryan. He was fighting a close race when a judge ordered their divorce records unsealed, and soon the press revealed Jeri’s testimony that he had pressured her on numerous occasions despite her teary-eyed refusals, to attend swinger sex clubs with him.

          Ryan was forced to drop from the race, and his opponent, who had been neck and neck with Ryan, won in a landslide.

          That win put the young rising star US senator Barack Obama in the limelight, and he hasn’t looked back since.

      • Athelstane

        Thread winner.

    • Athelstane

      That’s actually a perceptive take on the Trek series.

      I like to think that Voyager was a bad dream Picard had after too much Romulan Ale at a diplomatic function. Either way, I’m afraid, Trek at its best really was “goopy pomo UN-style cultural marxist imperialism” – where Christianity or any other non-aboriginal human religion cannot even be mentioned, let alone manifested. (At least not after TOS’s “Bread and Circusus,” which looks like a fluke that Roddenberry let slip through now).