The Twin Dilemma: Earth or In Space?
Does Doctor Who work better on Earth or in space? Patrick and Thomas debate.
‘Where do you want to go, eh? What do you want to see?’
How often do we hear the Doctor say words in that fashion without actually giving them any thought? We have become so accustomed to the Doctor asking his companions where they want to go and what they want so see, that we may have started to lose the actual point of the question. The Doctor isn’t just inviting the new companions but us, the viewers, as well. Where do we want to go? What do we want to see?
In this article, Patrick and I (Thomas) will discuss what stories we prefer. Patrick has opted for adventures on Earth, while I desire to travel the stars. Now, of course, we want both but which type of stories do we prefer?
by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull
The Doctor’s home planet will never be open for debate, we all know it’s Gallifrey: a place often touched on but rarely shown (the revived series of course took a no-nonsense approach and without beating about the bush, showing us an amber oasis situated in a gleaming fishbowl). However in recent years, particularly with the later Doctors, the titular character has adopted Earth as his new home, picking up new friends and a few foes. I adore this hominess and the familiar backdrop provides endless opportunities for the show.
Earth’s history is rich in tragedies, miracles and worldwide events verging on the absurd, and every day fans yearn for the Doctor to take a trip back to our known past and visit famous figures. We can easily relate to seeing celebrities like Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie and even William Shakespeare himself. Sometimes we are introduced to historical figures previously unheard of like Henry Avery or the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. This also helps younger audiences get a better grasp of their planet’s bygone days, and even get an education (unless you’re either: a) French or b) a historian/student studying French history – you hadn’t heard of Madame de Pompadour until The Girl in the Fireplace) from the show.)
The setting of Earth means that all sets are legitimate in some form whether it’s out on location or mocked up in a set, the BBC’s depiction of our planet will always be more accurate than an alien planet. Outdoor shooting (when portraying Earth) can always triumph over faux foreign worlds, because here we can use landmarks (and ultimately boost the popularity of them. For example, Cardiff has now become a major tourist location for fans, all thanks to the new studios situated there and the original home of spinoff, Torchwood) and real places to give continuity.
The Jon Pertwee era had a large chunk of its stories situated on our planet (this was a clever twist in the Second Doctor’s regeneration: exile) and they all worked fantastically. Episodes such as Spearhead from Space and the following Silurian story all had settings on our turf and the latter is very popular amongst fans. On the note of popularity, six out of the ten stories selected as the best in the Doctor Who Magazine poll, ‘The Mighty 200’ are set on Earth. Face it Thomas, Earth is more convenient and ultimately more favoured.
Your opinion Thomas may deem episodes in outer space better but honestly, Earth is where the show began and hopefully, when that tragic day comes… where it ends.
by Thomas Capon.
“All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will – where do you want to start?”
Seriously, Patrick, you have the option of all of time and space, and you choose Earth? As lovely as our home planet is, it is only one small planet amongst billions. There is so much to see, so much to learn about, so much to understand. Earth stories should be few and far between: it’s the stars we want. Why? Because they are new, exciting and full of the unknown.
The main problem, which started with the reboot of Doctor Who in 2005, was the loss of other worlds. Very few episodes of ‘NuWho’ are set on other worlds, the writers preferring to have them set on Earth. I’ll admit that there is quite a bit of pressure to invent another world with a different culture and lifestyles, but the writers of NuWho aren’t stupid or unimaginative. So why are there so few stories based alien planets? Maybe the excuse is that the Doctor has adopted Earth as his new home since the Time War? Maybe he spends so much time there to make up for his absence from his real home: Gallifrey?
Whatever the reasons are, it is time to rediscover other worlds again. After all isn’t that one of the great goals of Doctor Who? To take us into a world of our wildest dreams where there are people made of smoke, civilizations or even song. Our human minds are naturally creative like our maker’s. Why not let them do their function?
We haven’t time to go through all the planets in the classic series but as we have seen some ‘fantastic’ alien planets since the reboot, let’s briefly examine some of them:
- The Ood Sphere: my favorite alien planet. Seriously a world of snow and ice but also a world of song. Maybe the inspiration for this was from the closing lines of the Classic series. Wonderful.
- The Library: once again one of my favorites. A world devoted to books. Truly wonderful!
- Midnight: it would seem Series 4 is the best series for alien planets. Another beautiful, yet deadly, planet.
- Malcassairo: there is something rather disturbing about this wonderful (yes, I’ll get bored of this word at some point) planet in the far future. Maybe it’s the Futurekind who dwell there or maybe it’s the old professor with that mysterious fog watch?
- Alfava Metraxis: While looking similar to Bad Wolf Bay, this planet contained a terrible secret: hundreds of statues with only one head. What’s so terrible about that, you might ask? Well, the former inhabitants of Alfava Metraxis had two heads.
- Apalapucia: A fan favorite. The planet from ‘The Girl Who Waited’. Need I say any more?
We could go on to mention others but I think those examples will have made my point. Alien planets are wonderful and are definitely an important ingredient in making Doctor Who what it is. However, they aren’t the only objects beyond the borders of the ozone layer, let’s examine some spacecrafts:
- The Titanic: probably my favourite (excluding the TARDIS). An amazing idea to have one of Earth’s most famous vessels flying through space. Truly ingenious.
- SMS Madame de Pompadour: The amazing (see I’ve stopped using ‘wonderful’ now) vessel from ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’.
- Satellite 5/The Game Station: The space station used by the Daleks to enslave humanity.
- The Crucible: Speaking of the Daleks, let’s not forget one of their most famous flagships.
- The Prison Ship: Sadly never mentioned by name but this ship was the prison of the Minotaur. A cruel device used to torture a poor being that didn’t want to kill any more.
Once again, there are a lot more which we sadly don’t have the time to mention. But we have enough information for me to continue with my argument: planets and spacecrafts define Doctor Who more than time travel on Earth does. If we want to see people from the present in the Wild West, we don’t need a time traveling alien, we could just go and watch Back to the Future III. Space travel is just as important as time travel in Doctor Who. He can travel through ‘time’ and ‘space’, not just ‘time’.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that the Doctor shouldn’t travel in time. But why should he only ever travel in time while on Earth? He can travel in time on other planets as well as on Earth such as in ‘The Girl Who Waited.’
Stories set outside the Earth also have so much more potential as well for ideas. With Earth based stories, nine out of ten times, it is humanity fighting off an alien invasion. If you extend you’re boundaries then you can have a lot more interesting stories. You can have stories such as Planet of the Ood or The Mutants where humanity are the villains, where it is we who have invaded other planets. This suddenly gives us a different perspective on the universe. Maybe it is sometime humanity who have the more advanced technology?
In the words of the song sung by the Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee):
‘My voyage dissects the course of time
“Who knows?” you say
But are you right?
Who searches deep to find the light
That glows so darkly in the night
Toward that point I guide my flight.’
It’s out there where the best adventures lie. Let’s guide our flight out into the unknown.
So there you have it. No doubt, you have your own views on the question in hand. Post away in the comments. Vote on which of us you thought gave the best or most convincing argument. Challenge us on our reasons for our choices.
We hope that you enjoyed this article and that the opinions on either section are just about divided equally.