Mansplainer #5: Why Whovians are Upset and Why It Matters

On August 4th, 2013, the salivating masses of fanatical Whovians tuned in to the much anticipated unveiling of the Twelfth Doctor. The announcement came in the form of a live broadcast televised special hosted by Zoë Ball. I, like many salivating fanatical Whovians, tuned in with equal measures of excitement and apprehention. You see, I’ve been a dovoted fan for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of watching Tom Baker episodes at my grandmother’s house (she had cable). And as a devoted fan, the revival of the series in 2005 has sparked a resurgence in my obsessive fandom. So you get the excitement. But then there’s the apprehension.

Steven Moffat is an undeniably talented writer. His episode “Blink” is one of my favourite episodes of any series, and an accomplished stand-alone horror film in its own right. Weeping Angels creep me the heck out, to the point that, as I will include a picture of one in this post, I will never look at this post again after it’s published. Go ahead, laugh at me. Then send me a picture of a Weeping Angel just to freak me out. You won’t be the first. So we know that Moffat is capable of great writing. He’s also capable of very problematic writing.

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Still a better love story than Twilight

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Star Trek TOS s01e00 The Cage (Pilot)

Probably the most remarkable thing about watching the original pilot that spawned what is undoubtedly the most recognizable and important franchise in science fiction history is not what is different from the series that ensued, but what was already in place.

With some exceptions to the costuming, and a few subtle differences on the bridge, nearly everything about the look and feel of Star Trek was in place from the get-go. From the costumes, to the insignias, the sound effects, and general sense of awe and wonder at space travel, The Cage immerses you in a world which would eventually become familiar.

That said, the differences are fascinating, and we’ll address those shortly.

Probably the first thing I noticed watching The Cage was the quality of the writing. This was something new. There was no analogue to it in its day, other than Wagon Train, but in space. This was the pilot, and therefore a pitch, so the writers pulled out all the stops to immerse you and captivate you right from the start. The opening scene is rife with tension. The bridge crew are on the edge of their seats, on a collision course for… something.

That ‘something’ turns out to be a radio wave. What better way to convey exactly how far in the future the setting is than by presenting the prevalent bastion of communication technology that had reshaped and defined mass media over the previous half-century as being such an obsolete relic that it nearly defies recognition.

That radio wave happens to be a distress signal, which Captain Christopher Pike chooses to ignore.

“Let’s continue on to the Vega colony and take care of our own sick and injured first.”

For an impassioned Star Trek viewer, this move was shocking. It seems to bridge crew would agree, as they exchanged knowing glances. Since when does a Captain of the Enterprise not investigate a distress signal, when there could be survivors? This is perhaps the most un-Star Trek like moment in the episode. It becomes clear very quickly that Christopher Pike is not James T. Kirk.

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