I’ve never watched the series Doctor Who. Tackling decades and decades of past production would be daunting, and I’ve read that the series possesses years’ worth of material which are simply goofy and meandering. Still, I found this essay, part of the September-long 50 Posts About Cyborgs series to be very thought-provoking.
In case you don’t care to read it yourself, here’s as quick a summary as I can make of it: in the Doctor Who mythology, the Daleks, silly-looking cyborgs who are perennially on the verge of conquering the universe, are the descendants of an extremely Nazi-like culture living on a planet embraced by a never-ending war which has proved so damaging to the environment and civilization that life has been reduced to small bands of scavenging soldiers and, hidden away in bunkers, lunatic commanders with grandiose conceptions of final victory. Their leading scientist, already disfigured by the radiation and toxic chemicals blanketing the planet, has a plan for both victory and the survival of the (master) race – genetically modified people will live inside and as a part of the Daleks, which will be mobile, armed bunkers for each individuals, who will go on to be psychotic, child-like robo-Nazis rampaging across the universe, driven completely insane by their permanent bunker mentality.
There is, actually, a reason for me to mention this. In traveling across the country, I passed through a number of areas run down urban and semi-urban areas where all the cars looked better maintained than the homes and stores, and none of the drivers appeared the least bit interested in stopping (I see you, Calumet City.) I found myself thinking that contemporary car culture has a lot of similarities to this bunker mentality. The driver, ensconced in the car, is avoiding an unpleasant environment, both ecologically degraded and post-industrially economically degraded. As in the case of the Daleks, the very tool that is used to avoid the outside world is helping to create the conditions being escaped. The ancestors of the Daleks create new weapons of war to protect themselves from what their previous weapons of war have done to their planet; a transportation network dependent on automobiles is not only a source of pollution, it can precludes having healthy, sustainable urban cores. The proto-Daleks consider themselves a master race; a certain amount of the attraction of cars can be attributed to the ability to separate one’s self from all those who can’t afford their own personal, mobile bunker. At the same time they concerned themselves with purity, the proto-Daleks had to become horrible mutants to in order to form the organic part of the cyborg Daleks. People on Earth, meanwhile, in the attempt to minimize contact with fellow commuters and fellow citizens, damage their health through the stress of traffic and the lack of exercise a car-bound lifestyle often leads to. The popularity of SUV’s, while having thankfully subsided somewhat, could still certainly be seen as a partial militarization of the mobile bunker.
Just a thought. I do not, as of yet, have anywhere further to go with the parallel.
In fact, perhaps I just wanted an excuse to link to Doctorin’ the Tardis, another entry in the KLF‘s late-80s and early-90s quest to turn the cold mechanistic process of hit-making toward bizarre ends.