Monday, May 16, 2005

Father's Day

While Scotland's Sunday Herald offers classic texts in PDF format, the BBC has made available a number of "rare and acclaimed" Doctor Who novels in online, printer and handheld (sonic screwdriver?) versions.

This Saturday the Doctor ran into a potentially deadly enemy that he has more or less successfully avoided for 42 years - the time travel paradox.

Whether or not they realised it at the time, previous generations of writers for the series, steared clear of making a definitive statement about the nature of time i.e. is there only pathway through spacetime or are there several? Up until now the variety of different scenarios in which the Doctor has run into his old foes had favoured the latter 'many worlds' interpretation.

Now Paul Cornell has come up with a rather bizarre take on what happens when the TARDIS is used to change the 'official' version of time and future writers on the programme may just have to live with it.

Father's Day was watched by 7.4m people, easily seeing off ITV's Celebrity Wrestling, but while the story had it's gripping moments, it was let down by a supporting congregation whose reponse to the end of the world was to be about as animated as the stone giants of Easter Island.

When the TARDIS first appeared on our screens in 1963 the programme-makers thought a time machine would be a perfect way to take young minds on an educational tour of past civilisations. Then Terry Nation created the Daleks and the rest wasn't history...or at least not exclusively so.

The mind-expanding potential of the TARDIS has yet to be entirely dissipated, but if the new series continues to pander to the soapy Eastenders sensibility, missed opportunities like this are bound to reoccur with some frequency. (viz Nietsche's metaphysics of time and the doctrine of eternal recurrence!)

At the very least Cornell might have tried to get across the point that an understanding of time is essential plank in of our understanding of the wider nature of the cosmos. Instead he presented young viewers with a predetermined linear process defended by large, red-eyed flappy things, "like a virus"!

Meanwhile, Enric Folch's Tempus Fugit which I managed to see at last winter's London Sci-Fi Festival is an excellent example of how a clever treatment of time travel and its paradoxes need not be uninclusively cereberal.

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