Monday 5 April 2010

Stranger danger and car-jacking fire engines

If you're in the UK, the start of the new Dr Who series will not have passed you by unless you live underground, far from the reach of TV waves.

For those of us who used to hide behind the sofa while black-and-white daleks were stumped by stairs and risked their cardboard going soggy in the London fog, the rotating Christmas decoration threatening humanity was a welcome return to 1960s Blue-Peter values. And the plot was a welcome return to the days when a young girl could invite a strange man into her bedroom without wondering whether he was actually a Catholic priest hoping she had a nice brother.

This Dr Who had everything the 1960s did so well - casual racism ('You're Scottish. Fry something.'), complete disregard for the safety of viewers (yep, get a freak with a screwdriver to come into your bedroom late at night, little girl. No harm in that), promotion of crime (nick a fire engine and talk on the phone while driving it), child neglect (where was the aunt in the middle of the night?), and even desertion of good manners (spitting out food someone has cooked for you and you've asked for). Actually, the last of those would not have been tolerated in the 1960s, at least not in my corner of the 60s.

Was there a little splinterette of a moral lesson in this Dr Who? If you let strange men into your bedroom you grow up to be a strippergram? Or was that just sound career advice? If you want to be a strippergram, let strange men into your room... (Incidentally, if you try to nick a fire engine, you get banned from the fire station. I know this as my Big Bint was banned from the fire station for 10 years. The moral of this is - make sure you are successful in nicking the fire engine and you won't be there to be banned.)

Don't get me wrong. I think a healthy spirit of adventure is to be encouraged. I'm with Arthur Ransome - 'better drowned than duffers; if not duffers, won't drown' (
Swallows and Amazons). But it is a little unfair that while Mr Moffat gets to encourage children to whizz around space-time with non-CRB-checked potential paedophiles, children's writers aren't allowed to put a sword in a book because it might encourage violence. So I'm going to have a little strop about it. If we can trust children not to follow the examples of Dr Who and his side-kick, aspirational heroes for many generations (except no-one worthwhile ever wanted to be Sarah-Jane), can't we trust them not to run amok in a fourth-crusade-style sword massacre if we show them pictures of a medieval knight?

If you would like to become the Dr's assistant without risking attack by paedophiles, it's safest to do it on this BBC website instead of at home in your bedroom.


  1. Yes, where WAS that aunt? Incidentally I think there is a difference between a kissogram and a strippergram though I have no experience of either.

    I didn't like the spitting out of food either.

    But I enjoyed the episode on the whole - apart from the massacre of the signature tune.

  2. I suspect the absence of the aunt might be one of those things they either put out there to get fans to chew over and then either annoyingly wrap up too neatly or annoying don't ever explain at all.

    More substantively: spot on about Dr Who being allowed to get away with stuff kids books wouldn't. Perhaps also stuff a fair bit of straight kids tv (Sarah-Jane adventures?) or straight adults (Torchwood??) wouldn't.

  3. I'm with Arthur Ransome too. I feel guilty that I was never allowed to give my kids the same freedoms my parents gave me.

  4. Agree. I think the Doctor Who way is the right way though. This is the safe way to meet danger! And don't get me started on violence being unwelcome in kids' books. Unless death happens with a wand and it doesn't hurt, of course...

  5. Very well said - couldn't agree more.

  6. I was very confused about the aunt... actually thought that she was the old lady who lived in the same house as Jeff, and that Amy had just stayed on living in the first house for some reason...

    (For the last few reasons my default response to any unexplained female in Doctor Who has been 'Is she the Rani?' (seeing as that's the most iconic antagonist they haven't rebooted yet) So far, she never has been...)