Friday, February 24, 2012

Doctor Who: Boom Town

In episode 11 of season 1 of Doctor Who, entitled "Boom Town," we have the reintroduction of the family Slitheen from the planet Raxicoricofallipatorious (spelling?).

This was a very interesting episode, especially in relation to the Doctor's characterization as a god.  The series has constantly been playing with the idea that the Doctor should be viewed as some sort of god.  The show's background is, of course, not that of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.  It does not suppose one, all powerful God, besides which everything else is part of creation.  Rather, we are closer to ancient polytheistic mythology.  Each alien species might be considered a "god" due to their advanced technology. Yet, the show is always pushing right up against the notion of the Doctor as a god in relation to humanity.  Indeed, the Doctor does fit into such a characterization, especially in this episode.

The episode starts as if it were going to be just boring day.  The Tardis is recharging (didn't know it had to do that) on the space/time rift in Cardiff of Wales that we encountered in 1-3, "The Unquiet Dead."  Captain Jack Harkness has joined the show and is along for the ride.  The Doctor, Rose, and Jack meet up with Mickey (Rose's old boyfriend) in Cardiff for a day on the town while the Tardis recharges.

The day of relaxation is interrupted when the Doctor notices the image of Margaret, the human body suit that contained one of the family Slitheen members from the double episode 1-4/5 "Aliens of London/World War III"  The Doctor knows something is up, and it is.  In the meanitme, Margaret Slitheen has become Mayor of Cardiff and has plans on building a nuclear power plant designed to fail, causing the time rift to implode, allowing Margaret to ride the shockwave on her special surfboard (huh?).  Of course, the Doctor will not let this pass, and with little ado, the Doctor, Rose, Jack, and Mickey are able to apprehend Margaret and take her into custody.  Now comes the real intrigue in the episode.  Margaret's wicked plan seems to be merely an attempt to escape from Earth.  The Doctor offers to return her to her home planet Raxicoricofallipatorious.  The problem: she has been condemned to death on her home planet, to which the Doctor responds: "not my problem."  The Doctor will coolly and without emotion deliver Margaret Slitheen to the justice she so deserves.

Yet, as the episode plays out, the question shifts: is the Doctor as innocent as he seems?  Is he in the moral position to judge.  He carries the responsibility of a god, to judge or not to judge, yet can he play that role? The Doctor is in a position to either condemn to death or extend mercy and life to this known criminal.  This is nowhere more evident than in the Doctor's dinner conversation with Margaret (known to her own people as "blond) Slitheen.

In their conversation over dinner, Margaret (Blond) Slitheen tries to kill the Doctor 3 times separate times, highlighting her murderous tendencies. After describing the type of death that she will endure after she is taken back to her home planet,  the conversation goes as follows:
Doctor: "I don't make the law."
Slitheen: "But you deliver it...."
And a little bit later, Blond Slitheen explains how she had mercy on a person just that day, she had a moment of conscience and resisted the urge to kill them.  The Doctor responds that that is how she justifies her existence, by the fact that from time to time she lets one go, has mercy on one, saves one.
Doctor: "And that's how you live with yourself.  That's how you slaughter millions.  Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind."
Now Blond Slitheen turns the tables.
Blond Slitheen: "Only a killer would know that.  Is that right?  From what I've seen, your funny little happy go lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on because you dare not go back.  Playing with so many people's lives, you might as well be a god.  And you're right Doctor, you're absolutely right, sometimes you let one go."
Back on the Tardis, at the moment of decision, the Doctor opens up the central panel to reveal the heart of the Tardis, the Time Vortex itself.  Upon looking at it, Blond Slitheen is "Reborn."  Contemplating her life and looking at the heart of the Tardis, she regresses to an egg, a restart of her life.  Perhaps the Tardis is the real god, able to extend mercy, forgiveness, and a new life.

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