Features Family of Blood

Published on August 4th, 2014 | by Philip Bates

Commemorating The Great War Centenary Doctor Who Style

It is 100 years since the outbreak of The Great War.

Doctor Who is always a reflection of the times: just look at the Third Doctor era, especially the work of Malcolm Hulke. The concerns of the 1970s were perfectly encapsulated in stories like Doctor Who and the Silurians, Inferno, Frontier in Space and The Green Death. But these are the most obvious examples. Dig deeper and you discover the attitudes of each decade.

War, however, is always on the horizon, and it’s etched across the show. Last year’s Cold War was great at portraying the tense atmosphere of the early 1980s, but also worked as a reflection of the political landscape of the present.

It is a sad fact that human history revolves around conflict and so Doctor Who, too, must deal with it, whether that’s through taking us back in time, like in The Myth Makers, or drawing parallels in the future and on distant planets.

The War Games

It goes further than that, though.

“We Shall Remember Them” isn’t just to remind us not to make the same mistakes again. It’s a mark of respect and Doctor Who, too, should pay tribute to those who gave their lives for us. The principle of the show is, after all, what those brave soldiers fought for, an ideal we all strive for: freedom.

So how should Doctor Who commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War (also known across the water as World War I)?

Naturally, the TARDIS could set down in No Man’s Land. It did once before (sort of) in 1969′s The War Games, and a similar adventure about the atrocities of war could be effective. Equally, a war on a far-away planet could be waged. Perhaps Who could land in an ongoing war: that of Iraq or Afghanistan. It would be an unprecedented move.

The war didn’t just happen in the trenches, though. The war at home would be interesting to depict. What was life like for the Average Joe, knowing that your own countrymen are sacrificing themselves for an uncertain future?

No Man's Land

Then we must consider if a story set in the war’s aftermath could work. There might be four years of remembrance, 2014- 18 will consistently look back at that terrible period, but everyday troubles didn’t end there. And it didn’t begin in 1914 either. Human Nature/ The Family of Blood showed us the consequences of war, as a headmaster showed how ‘noble’ conflict is… but ultimately, that it would end only in death. A deeper look at the lives of people like him, who put on a face and tell of the glories of war but who are deeply affected by it and struggle to move on from all they’ve seen and done, would make for incredible drama. To a lesser extent, The Idiot’s Lantern showed how some struggled to carry on with their lives.

A further storyline could revolve around the Christmas Truce, 100 years ago this December. The Doctor might’ve visited that incredible day in other mediums but never on screen.

Doctor Who doesn’t need to focus on The Great War, but it does need to acknowledge it in my opinion.

The BBC could also do their part. Perhaps the corporation could repeat certain episodes? Genesis of the Daleks took us to a warzone and is loved by fans. It also concludes that, from darkness, comes genuine good. War does have a way of bringing out the best in people, as well as the worst.

The War Games, too, is an option, but the BBC could also turn to Torchwood. To the Last Man was one of the most affecting stories from Series 2 and perfectly exhibits the horror of war.

To the Last Man

However, I can’t think of a greater tribute than the aforementioned Human Nature/The Family of Blood. It’s about bravery and humanity; its conclusion conjures a tear to the eye and brings it all home.

There is a particular quote that sticks in the mind, and it’s not from that Series 3 tale. It’s from Planet of the Daleks: “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, y’know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.”

How do you think Doctor Who should commemorate the Centenary…?

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About the Author

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When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything.




10 Responses to Commemorating The Great War Centenary Doctor Who Style

  1. avatar Really? says:

    This entire idea is offensive. How could repeating Genesis Of the Daleks (in any conceivable way) be seen as a tribute to the fallen of World War 1???


    • Perhaps because it’s about the futility of war.

      Yes, it features a plot that shows us the creator of the Daleks and their birth, but what it is actually about is that war has no point, ends only in death and destruction, and is economically dangerous (high-technology civilizations fighting with machine guns and tin hats).

    • avatar Philip Bates says:

      In any conceivable way? Okay, well, to start with, I’ll quote my article: “It also concludes that, from darkness, comes genuine good. War does have a way of bringing out the best in people, as well as the worst.”

      Genesis is an anti-war story. It portrays trench warfare, and it’s awful. Please read my below comment about my feelings on how stories are used to relate to people.

  2. avatar Philip Bates says:

    I shall write here what I wrote on Facebook…

    Hello everyone.

    Today, I’ve learnt that no matter how well-intentioned an article is, some will always take offence. No offense was intended, and I’m sorry if I offended you – but I stand by my article 100%.

    “Don’t trivialise people dying” doesn’t seem a just argument. Did Human Nature trivialise people dying? No. And what I’m after is a further story that deals with how terrible the war is. Not a fun little romp; something that matters, that strikes a chord. That will be remembered.

    Do novels about the war also trivialise death? No. They make us think, they make us feel – why shouldn’t Doctor Who do the same? Same with Horrible Histories, which made kids interested in the past.

    I get annoyed at “it’s a TV show” arguments because they imply that stories don’t actually matter to us; that TV should be inane and not at all thought-provoking. Yet stories (and TV is just a way of mass dissemination) make us who we are. Without stories, everything is just statistics.

    Stories are how we relate.

    When I was younger, I had to sit through a minute’s silence during which kids laughed and played up, and the only reason a lot of them stayed quiet is because otherwise, they’d get in trouble. It’s a futile gesture – unless it’s in proper respect! Unless you’re thinking about those who died, there’s no point. And the way we make people think is relating events to stories, to people.

    That’s why first-person accounts of wars are so important to us.

    What I really want is for the BBC to replay Human Nature. Some may only think of it as a TV show but it shows more respect and thought to those who fell than a number of the people who just turned off their lights for an hour (which by the way, I don’t think was a useless gesture – as long as there was genuine respect). The fact that I’d thought about my own article also shows more respect than other journalists who just blindly copied out PR spiel about Remembrance services etc..

    The thing about Doctor Who is, it reaches so many people. And if a story about the war makes a child think about that terrible period, there’s no way that’s a bad thing.

    The end of The Family of Blood, by the way, is one of the most affecting pieces of drama I’ve seen. It’s concise and meaningful, beautiful and haunting. So yes, Doctor Who should commemorate the Great War in whatever way it can.

    • avatar Really? says:

      Was the intent of Genesis of the Daleks to pay tribute to the fallen of World War One or was it intended to be a science fiction serial for children that sold DALEKS? You are re-purposing the work of Terry Nation for your own agenda. Stories are indeed how we relate and first person accounts are important. Both of these statements are straw men. Genesis of the Daleks is NOT a first hand account of anything and the fact that stories help us relate is irrelevant to your arguement. Of course stories and films can be tributes – it’s just that Genesis or Human nature are NOT tributes – they are science fiction stories _ one set on SKARO – one set in England. The themes or backgrounds of these works are TENUOUSLY (at best) connected to World War One. YOU are the only PERSON CONNECTING them – that’s what’s offensive.


      • Before commenting further, please consult our comments policy: http://www.kasterborous.com/?p=183382

      • avatar TonyS says:

        Rightly or wrongly (rightly IMO) I also connect both “Genesis of the Daleks” and “Human Nature” with World Wars. Philip is therefore NOT the only person connecting them. I hope you feel less offended now :)

  3. avatar DonnaM says:

    It’s a touchy subject -as proven above- and someone, somewhere, is going to take offence, but what is drama for if it’s not to tell human stories? History is my subject, so I’m firmly in the camp that believes we risk repeating the mistakes of the past by failing to learn from them. Can Doctor Who help that? By making people, especially kids, think about them, of course it can. I believe Human Nature does that beautifully.

    I’ve heard it suggested that a Christmas special that focuses on the 1914 spontaneous truce in the trenches would be a fitting memorial. If it could be done to emphasise the greatness of the human spirit, that amid such carnage men retained their common humanity I think it could be. If it meant the Doctor interfering to bring it about. – no. He might appreciate the one, but I would feel the other trivialised the event.

    It’s such a fine line I wouldn’t blame Steven Moffat for avoiding it completely.

  4. avatar TonyS says:

    Donna M, there are some contributors who you just know will make an intelligent point that adds to and advances the debate. We are fortunate in having several on here- and you are one of them. Yet another excellent and helpful comment.

    Philip, thank you for your article. Well written and argued as always.

    This is why I like being part of this community.

    • avatar DonnaM says:

      Thank you, Tony S, and I would add you to the list of contributors who make this site so enjoyable. There are very few sites that stimulate such a variety of interesting Doctor Who related conversations as Kasterborous.

      Thanks to Philip for raising the subject!

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