Thoughts on Dr Who’s 50th

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1.       The BBC knows how to make Dr Who into an event

The BBC’s manipulation of different media to build the show’s brand has become formidable enough to be a subject of academic study: my sister’s degree included her writing an essay on it. The buzz they created around announcing the 11th (or should that now be 12th) Doctor was formidable but for this anniversary they pushed it towards hysteria. Expect mini episodes and the like to become more common from now on and what are essentially program length trailers to become more common.

2.       An Adventure in Time and Space and the Culture Show were sublime

Some of the programmes that made up this barrage of buzz building were excellent. Mark Gattiss’ drama about the beginnings of Dr Who was surprisingly moving but the surprise champion (in my opinion) was Matthew Sweet’s unconventional take on the cultural impact of the show. Both were essentially fans’ loveletters to their childhood televisual loves.

3.  Brian Cox is a superb actor

Playing the renegade head of BBC drama and Dr Who mastermind Sydney Newman he stole just about every scene of an Adventure in Time and Space he was in. Why he’s not mentioned alongside people like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Simon Russell Beale I don’t know.

4. I hadn’t realised quite how primitive TV drama was in 1963

So primitive in fact that it seems to have been more like theatre to a camera rather than a live audience. The early Dr Who serials were apparently shot on a single set, with a strictly rationed number of cuts and only 90mins on that to shoot 30mins of film.

5.       The Doctor may be old but Bruce Forsyth has been around longer
Apparently part of the rational for commissioning Dr Who was to see off the damage being done to the BBC’s Saturday night audiences by Sunday Night at the London Palladium hosted by Bruce Forsyth. What was on immediately before the Day of the Doctor? Strictly Come Dancing hosted by Bruce Forsyth!
6.       The US is learning to love Dr Who
Or part of it is at least. The highbrow American magazines whose website I regularly scour devoted a quite surprising amount of space to it. But I think it’s adoption in America has been a bit like the Killings rise in the UK: something mass market has become bohemian and upmarket in the journey.
*Spoiler Warning: I’m now talking about the Day of the Doctor itself and giving away key plots points*
7. Clara remains a plot point not a proper character
Even now the mystery of who she is has been cleared up, she still seems to only be there to instigate the Doctor to do the things the plot requires. She’s very far from feeling like a rounded character in her own right.
8. Maybe that UNIT scientist with the Tom Baker scarf could replace her
With a new Doctor on the way, we are surely due a new companion? Especially given that the current one is so underwhelming.
If so, based on her short time on screen the new UNIT scientist – apparently called Osgood – would seem like a good choice. She’d be like the fans version of themselves on screen and be quite different from any of the companions since the show returned.

9. It seems rather mean spirited of Christopher Eccleston not to appear
I mean how much would it have taken to show John Hurt regenerating into him? Like a day’s work if that.

10. Moffatt knows how to delight geeks
Zygons, lots of in jokes and TOM BAKER!!!

11. Saving Gallifrey makes NO sense!
Unless I’m missing something this is dumb. Wasn’t the reason the Doctor destroyed the Time Lords in the first place that they had become monsters who wanted to destroy the universe? Wasn’t the 10th (or 11th) Doctor killed trying to stop them from bringing Gallifrey back? Didn’t the mini-episode the BBC released earlier this week say that they were now as bad as Daleks?! Why save them?

A Church bleating about “Christianophobia” – Screwtape’s Dream

Courtesy of Anglican Memes and Humour

Courtesy of Anglican Memes and Humour

In the CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letter, a senior demon writes to his junior that:

Any small coterie bound together by some interest that other men dislike tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration and toward the outer world a great deal of pride and hatred.

Even when the little group exists originally for the enemies own purposes this remains true.  We want the church to be small not only that fewer men may know the enemy but also that acquire the uneasy intensity and defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or clique.

The church itself is of course heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction.

This now seems prophetic. Screwtape would be delighted to see the Christians who’ve become convinced they are victims of Christianophobia.

In one of the first posts on this blog I discussed how a majority of Christians believed themselves to belong to the most discriminated against community in Britain, even though statistics on hate crimes indicated otherwise.

We saw this week a particularly striking example. Premier Radio, a Christian broadcaster, was challenging a ban on airing an advert that read:

Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the workplace. We are concerned to get the most accurate data to inform the public debate. We will then use this data to help make a fairer society. Please visit CCPmagazines.co.uk and report your experiences.

Various lower courts had ruled this fell foul of the ban on political adverts on TV and Radio. Premier appealed claiming that the purpose of the advert was to not to promote a political objective but gather information. The Court of Appeal rejected this because there was an implicit political message within the advert. At no point was it suggested that a non-Christian group in an analogous position would have been treated differently. In fact, the case law on this point was developed in a case involving an animal rights group. However, in their press release relating to the judgement they still labelled this “an attack on freedom of speech for Christians.”

This is just the latest example of how the court cases tangled in the controversy over Christianophobia don’t bear out the idea that the law discriminates against Christians.

What we are hearing in the cry against imagined ‘Christianophobia’ is not a horror of discrimination but a demand for it. It assumes that Christian’s beliefs are legal ‘trump cards.’ So that rather than balancing their rights with other considerations, they should be preeminent. This reached its bizarre apogee with a former Archbishop of Canterbury – albeit George Careydemanding special courts to deal with religiously sensitive cases.

Why I found this dispiriting – and guess Screwtape would be delighted – is that this is not what the Church should be about. Surely its a distraction from its proper role of proclaiming the gospel and fighting for justice. It also seems that demanding special favours for its members will sap its moral authority.