Me On The Mindless Ones

What was meant to be a post on The Pirate Planet but is mostly about Mary Tamm.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Me On The Mindless Ones

  1. Hal says:

    I’ve posted an appreciative comment on your post at Mindless Ones (along with a few “fascinating” observations), it’s nice to see the lovely and talented Mary commemorated.
    One complaint: the description of the Doctor as “…stinking of privilege” seems out of place, almost as if you had that phrase set and merely sought a place to use it, sorry if that sounds harsh but why if you thought the Doctor “stank” of “privilege” would you want to continue watching him? In “real life” it’s not difficult to ascertain those who stink of privilege as they have no idea how those who are poorer, unhealthier (mentally or physically) or less blessed, feel or suffer, but it is not as easy as saying it’s just “the aristocracy” who can be described as being privileged, if we want to extend the concept of “privilege” beyond a simplistic (or one might say oops “right-on”) one, it’s not merely a matter of class or accent (as you mention, Mary Tamm changed her accent, apparently this is looked down upon…by idiots, “how dare you change yourself” etc). It doesn’t take a genius to point out who the *obviously* privileged are in power at the moment and they *do* conform to the stereotype even as they pretend to understand people’s struggles (worse is the fact that jackanapes believe them, and collaborate in the demonisation of the weak) but it is not the whole story as it overlooks the fact that there are those who resent some others for being “privileged” on the surface tho’ they are assuredly not.
    The Third and Sixth Doctors do bear marks of real “privilege” (tho’ whether they “stink” of it is, perhaps, arguable) but it’s the Tenth and Eleventh who actually are more “privileged” within the show, the Tenth for all his “I’m so sorries” and mockney schtick being particularly smug while both are often blighted with rockstarisms. But, no, I don’t think describing the Doctor as stinking of privilege is fair at all. Ah, well, perhaps the ramblings of an apparent madman won’t make sense to you…

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      No, that makes sense (and it was particularly the third and tenth doctors I was thinking of). What I was trying to get across, possibly not successfully, is that the Doctor (the proper Doctor, not the one in the Welsh series), seems to me to be a character who is immensely privileged but is trying (albeit not always successfully) to get rid of it. A George Orwell or Tony Benn figure — one clearly of the upper classes but making a definite effort to actually understand those who weren’t so lucky.

      Still not sure if I’m getting this across very well — I’ve not been very well the last few days/weeks, and my writing is suffering for it.

  2. Hal says:

    I see what you mean though being an ornery cuss I must respectfully disagree in part at least (I too have fallen to the dreaded lurgy but can’t really blame that if I stray into incomprehensibility ;) ). I think the core of the Doctor as a character is that he is Alien, an Exile (by choice per The War Games’ Secret Origin at least) and a Wanderer; he doesn’t exactly “fit” in any society, but he does have a sense of responsibility tho’ it’s an idiosyncratic, personal one. Being able to travel through Time and Space in his Blue Box is a privilege but part-way into the original Doctor’s era he develops a Cause (although unlike most of the later Doctors he’s less inclined to “get involved” too much in the historicals because of the “sanctity” of elements of Earth History, tho’ all this depended on the particular writer, etc!), now of course this was due to the demands of the series certainly after Ian and Barbara left but it’s very much part of the Doctor that we are familiar with, so there’s an acknowledgment of that “privilege” there I’d argue. Part of what makes the Doctor interesting is his alienness, it must be a strain to do the things he does so occasionally he would balk (sp.?), the Third and Fourth are notable for this, even as the Third under Letts/Dicks is sometimes part-assimilated into the “establishment” (hence the irritating patriarchal attitude, although stories such as Time Warrior undercut it). If one considers the Doctor to be privileged even if aware of it, how could he get rid of that “privilege”? I don’t think he could, the TARDIS, his alienness, his idiosyncrasy, his wit, and his *knowledge* could all, I’d argue, be considered “Benign Privilege”, take them away and he isn’t the Doctor. Sometimes when the Doctor is harsh it isn’t I think misplaced superiority but a Holmes-like inability to suffer fools, it’s notable that the Doctor is not over-impressed by “rank” in fact he mocks it, but I guess we should wonder if he is privileged to do so?
    The comparisons with Orwell and Benn are (cont’d)

  3. Hal says:

    (cont’d) fascinating but don’t quite fit though I see your reasoning. Unlike Benn, the Doctor is not silly enough to pretend to be a “man of the people” because he isn’t, Benn – although not without good intentions – felt that by changing his name to something more proletarian (patronizing in itself) and trying to erase his background (though he was *still* privileged) he became somehow closer to the People, he then stuck close to “radical” or “extreme” ideas even when they were doing more harm than good particularly to the people he felt he now stood for, yet being a Politician to his Bones he never resigned on a principle. Benn helped provide ammunition and succour to those who he opposed and drove away many of the people he, as I say, supposedly cared for, that wilful blindness was actually a product of the “privilege” he had so loudly repudiated so I can see little kinship with the Doctor. Truly, I feel it will always be problematic to compare the Doctor with “real world” figures, while Tony Benn is still pleased with himself for such fripperies as dropping the Wedgwood and despite his intransigence and narcissism empowering the opposition he never really understood that his actions spoke more of privilege then enlightenment, the Doctor never pretends to be other than what he is but still does good yet the differences between this world and Benn’s place in it and the Doctor’s are too great to make comparisons valid, I think. That said I think think of comparisons that could be made between Benn in donkey-jacketed “man of the people” mode and the leather-jacketed fish and chip-guzzling Ninth Doctor but that would admittedly me being pissy about the “don’t worry he’s just like “you”” modern Doctors who I find alienating in a way that I never found the supposedly “posh” Fourth, por example. Sorry, Andrew this is all off the top of my addled head, and Benn gets on my nerves..

  4. lucidfrenzy says:

    WordPress helpfully insisted I log in, then managed to forget my actual post in the meantime. Let’s see if I can remember any of it…

    IMHO, while the Doctor’s toff status may not be politically very credible, it adds a lot to the show in terms of tension and energy.

    As I’ve probably said before around here, the most similar character to the Doctor on TV isn’t the Flash Gordons or the Captain Kirks but Columbo. With both a privileged self-important so-and-so becomes irritated the the presence of this shabby little guy, apparently lacking in social status, the fly in his ointment. And by the time they’ve worked out what an adversary he is it’s too late for them.

    But the fact the Doctor himself comes from privileged stock, from a planet shaped like a public school, is part of what allows him to do this. He knows what he’s up against even as his adversaries aren’t given the same chance.

    So the Doctor’s part nobleman on crusade, part anarchist. What’s more the reincarnations, the many Doctors, the lack of a definitive Doctor, shake up this mixture. Not only does it never resolve into one thing or the other, the proportions are shifting and sliding so much they’re impossible to measure.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly my favourite Doctors tend to be the ones with the anarchist side up. (Troughton, Tom Baker, McCoy, Ecclestone.) But the volatile mixture is not some problem to be explained away. It’s part of the show’s fuel.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Exactly (and this is something I think that the series increasingly gets wrong, with the emphasis on how wonderfully specially special the Doctor is). I was just yesterday trying to tell my brother to watch some Tom Baker Who, actually, as he was raving about both Columbo and the Jeremy Brett Holmes series, and I was saying that Doctor Who, done properly, is a cross between those two.

Comments are closed.