Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Day the Doctor Overstepped: Doctor Who, the Prime Directive, and the onus of wisdom

"Don't you think she looks tired?"

These are probably the most famous six words in modern sci-fi - the words the Doctor used to bring down a leading politician after she did something... bad.

But first, let's step back a bit.

I'm a fan of the Doctor. I watch it, binge-style, on Netflix, and I've seen every episode they have. I also watched Torchwood, except for the season that took place in the US, cuz that was just too much. I couldn't finish it.

Also, I love the 12th Doctor, Capaldi, and the 3rd Doctor, Pertwee. I find the 4th Doctor grating. Smith was okay. Tennant was really awesome. Eccleston was both brilliant and emo - perfect for the incarnation after the War Doctor and all the suppressed emotional issues inherent there.

So, if you are a fan of Doctor Who, you have now been able to make several judgments about me. If you aren't, I do recommend it.

Let me be clear - I get that the Doctor is ~900 years old during the episode in question (The Christmas Invasion). He is an alien. As a small boy, he peered into the time vortex and saw the strands of all of time, which is likely how he knows what can and cannot be changed ("fixed points", described in "The Fires of Pompeii"). Of all the creatures in the universe to be able to determine if a government body is acting in error, it is the Doctor.

The question is, when does the Doctor's aid and advice cross the line to tyranny?

Those who love sci-fi are familiar with another series, where the main rule of exploration, the Prime Directive, cannot be infringed. In Star Trek, the basis of the Prime Directive is "No interference with the social development of [a] planet."

The Doctor's actions undermined the political career of Harriet Jones in response to her decision to act aggressively for the defense of the Earth. Jones' decision was morally ambiguous, without a doubt.

But what of the Doctor's decision? He took it upon himself to punish an individual for acting as a government agent on a planet not his own, a planet that he, himself, has derided many times as being less capable than his own species. While that judgment may be true, he uses that as a reason to swoop in and save humanity (and many other planets).

That in itself is not necessarily bad. Though it is incredibly patronizing to have a single individual take the safety and security of Earth as his own prerogative, it is even more so when you realize that he gets angry to the point of revenge if the people of Earth try to take control of their safety and security themselves. And even more so when it hits you that the Doctor doesn't even dedicate himself to this task; he just counts on being in the right time and the right place to save everyone.

From the perspective of Harriet Jones, who said " there will come a time when the Doctor cannot protect Earth", the Doctor comes and goes with no rhyme or reason. He shows up and interferes without request or permission from anyone. He denies the people he saves the ability to learn to defend themselves, while also denying them any say in the matter. As shown in Torchwood's 5-episode season 3, Children of Earth, there are times when there are very real dangers to the planet and its people, and the Doctor is not there to save them. While his help is appreciated, it is also unreliable.

Harriet Jones was the Prime Minister of the UK, a global leader and responsible for the lives of the people in her country and, to a lesser degree, those in countries allied with the UK. She was given the opportunity and the ability to stand on her own two feet, to have her country and planet take their safety into their own hands. And she took it.

So the Doctor tore her down.

As beings on a spiritual path, we often encounter those who are on a different level. They are at an earlier stage of growth, experience, or understanding. And we want to swoop in and fix their problems.

But we need to follow our own Prime Directive. We need to allow those who haven't developed as far as we have to catch up, to grow on their own, to experience for themselves.

To control their own destiny.

Don't be the Doctor. Let them solve their own problems. They may mess it up. But it's their right as sentient beings to do so.

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