Human Souls Trapped in the World Wide Web

I blogged previously about the episode “The Bells of St. John,” but did not dive in detail into its metaphorical treatment of how technology has taken hold of our lives. The idea of souls being uploaded and trapped in a world wide web, and crying out for help, sounds less like Twitter specifically, as per Clara’s joke, and more like the entire internet. We are increasingly entangled and inseparable from our devices – and that isn’t an entirely negative thing. In most cases, we are not merely playing individual games, but are interacting with others, whether viewing their content on YouTube, or playing interactive games, or arguing with people on Facebook.

But we are also letting those people into our lives, and the control that Miss Kizlet exercised over people in the cafe illustrates the power of the internet to move people – for better or worse. People in a cafe may indeed be moved to a revolution and take to the streets as a result of something circulated on Twitter. And if the reason is a good one, we may rejoice. If it is misinformation, however, we feel manipulated.

All technology offers benefits and risks. What did you make of the exploration of those, largely at a symbolic level, in the Doctor Who episode “The Bells of St. John”?

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  • cameronhorsburgh

    I didn’t see too much that hasn’t been covered before—see, for example, ‘The Idiot’s Lantern.’

    However, it was scary how easily Miss Kizlet and her minions were able to take over. People will click on anything—that’s how spam and Facebook advertising work. One could make the case that ‘the Great Intelligence’ is a fairly apt description of Google, Facebook and any of the big data companies that exist to collect our information and distil it for their own purposes.

    It would be interesting to explore folks’ reason for clicking on the wifi button—was it the promise of free internet? Curiosity? Historians in a hundred years’ time might be asking the same questions of us (and presumably doing the same with their analogues of Facebook and Twitter).

    Hmm… I wonder. I suspect we’re going to be seeing this theme come up a fair bit while the Doctor investigates the mystery of Clara. I mean, just how did she become a Dalek?

  • jtownsle

    This is off topic, but…

    If you haven’t seen it already, you might try to find the 1958 British 6-part serial, “Quatermass and the Pit.” I always wondered why previous episodes of Dr. Who had their priests as soldiers. While watching Quatermass last night, the final episode introduces a priest, and the way the story uses the priest as he interacts with the alien character, made me think about the Doctor Who use of priests. Specifically, the idea that, while the show seems to reject the idea of a god and satan, as such, priests/soldiers exist to fight ancient evils which threaten humans. While not the Yahweh/Satan battle that frames the contemporary Christian narrative, priests draw from rituals that ancients used to thwart alien invaders, that we now think about in spiritual terms.