Sci-Fi Dealbreakers

Posted: December 3, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Bastion of all things science fiction, IO9, did a post recently regarding the upcoming swansong of Russell Davies and David Tennant’s iteration of “Doctor Who,” examining past season finales and offering advice for what Davies tropes to avoid.

The long and short of it – avoid Deus Ex Machina like Rose in season 1, insurmountable problems like The Master’s takeover in season 3, and the utter batshit, nonsensical, let’s-bring-every-supporting-character-back-for-one-last-bow-ness of season 4.

These are all very good points, and it’s hard to argue against any of them, except that for reasons I can’t quite place, I totally disagree.

Because at the end of the day, “Doctor Who” is about a guy who travels time and space in a blue box and fixes things with a magic wand. So somehow, the idea of the Doctor gaining superpowers from the Collective Love of Mankind? Well…I kinda like that. This has always felt like a show where wild magical solutions actually make a kind of sense to me.

But on the other hand, the fact that “V” has gone four episodes suggesting that the only resistance is four street-level idiots blowing up a vaccine warehouse, and never once showing how a single government might respond to a worldwide occupation? I mean, not even the fricking CDC or the FDA, when the Visitors offer alien panaceas to all mankind? That is UNCONSCIONABLY STUPID TO ME AND I WILL NOT ACCEPT IT.

That seems unfair of me – even to me. After all, the basic conceit of “V” isn’t “Let’s watch some federal agency hold meetings with aliens.” It’s supposed to be about how average folks (and oh yeah that one turncoat alien) fight off an invasion. Just as the “magic immortal jaunts through the universe” is the central premise of “Doctor Who.” Yet while I have no problem with the latter getting a little too magicky, the idea of the former not taking care of some basic realistic issues frustrates the shit out of me.

Obviously, tone has a lot to do with it. “Doctor Who” has never tried to feel like the world outside our window, even if it dips its toes in the water by adding family drama to the companions. If anything, adding the everyday stuff makes the wonder of getting away from this stupid planet that much more magical.

On the other hand, “V” asks us to imagine what would happen if there were suddenly peace-spouting aliens hovering over all our major cities, but also asks that we not wonder how the government would respond to something like this.

(I imagine it would respond something like the short-lived “Threshold,” which logically posits that there would already be contingency plans in place, even if it did hinge on a team of neurotic scientists babysat by a single, laconic black ops soldier.)

Ultimately, there is a suspension of disbelief required to invest emotion in any science fiction series, which begs the conversation-topic, why is it whatever happens in “Doctor Who” feels more acceptable than whatever happens in “V”?

Or if, in the case of Alasdair Wilkins, the io9 writer who takes Davies to task for his overt whimsicality (and again – nothing he says is wrong, observationally speaking), those things are deal-breakers that would preclude enjoying whatever ludicrous nonsense Davies has planned for the Tennant finale, why can’t belief be suspended for the quirky, quasi-immortal genius in the suit and Chuck Taylors who flies around in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside?

  1. The reason’s in the questions a show asks. Doctor Who, in this iteration, is very much — moreso than any other SF series I can recall — about consequences. What are the consequences when a London shopgirl goes joyriding with a god? What are the consequences of tampering with time? Doctor Who asks, and then answers.

    V, from what I can gather, asks “What are the consequences of nicey-nice lizardfolk taking control of Earth?” Its answer is a clueless shrug.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    So far the answer appears to be “Pretty nice ratings spike for Scott Wolf’s news show.”

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