Monday, 10 August 2015

TGT Debate - Should There Be More Friendly Aliens?

Last week, we were looking at the time periods that the Doctor visits, discussing whether he should travel more to the past, present or future. A great 50% of voters would like to see the Doctor travel to the future, while 45% wanted to see him in the past and only 5% wanted him to stay in the present. 

This week, we're thinking about the aliens. Throughout his travels through time and space, the Doctor has met a number of different species, but not all of them are friendly. In fact, the majority of aliens that the Doctor encounters turn out to be evil. So, in this week's debate, we're going to discuss whether there should be more friendly aliens in Doctor Who.

"There should be more friendly aliens!" argues Anna
“It’s them aliens again!”
Wilf’s comment is a pretty good summary of almost any episode of Doctor Who. It’s always the aliens who are up to something, and the Doctor has to stop them. But why do the aliens always have to be the bad guys? Sure, the Doctor has some good friends like Vastra or Strax, but in many episodes we’ve seen their races as enemies. It’s very repetitive; despite being given a chance to save themselves, the aliens tend to go ahead with their plans and by doing so, get blown up/beaten by the Doctor. So why can’t we have a species or two of friendly aliens?

If aliens are only shown fitting into their stereotype of trying to take over our world, think about what that teaches us. If we ever do encounter aliens in real life, we’ll assume that they have evil intentions and will shoot them from the sky without a second thought. The Doctor is always shown giving the aliens a chance, even when no one else wants him to, but he won’t always be around. If we’re going to build a reputation for aliens, we should at least make it a balanced one.

Also, if the show had a bit more human/non-human friendship, perhaps it would teach people to be more accepting within their own culture. If we can accept beings from distant planets, surely we can respect citizens from our own world? Seeing something on television can help people see an issue in real life from another perspective, and cause them to respond to it in a different, and hopefully better way.

Of course, there’s the odd dash of humour as well. There could be quite a few laughs added to the show if characters shared jokes about their cultural differences. And not just from a human perspective – the aliens could also point out our quirks. This would bring an extra level of humour to the show, as we don’t often have aliens other than the Doctor around to comment on us the way we comment on them. Also, it could teach us to laugh at ourselves, or see the way we live in a new light.

Overall, having more good aliens would bring about a positive twist to the whole show, opening up new possibilities for stories and characters. Perhaps, instead of having an episode where there is an evil to be defeated, there could simply be some sort of space catastrophe, for which no one but space and time themselves are responsible, which the Doctor can only solve with the help of some alien friends.

"Aliens should be bad!" argues Ben

There’s a tradition in literature that the ‘foreigners’ are often the bad guys. In Sherlock Holmes, for example, the foreigner in any story is immediately treated with suspicion. This stems from wartime, when foreigners were not to be trusted and has become embedded into our subconscious over the years. So when an alien appears in Doctor Who, it makes sense that we treat them with caution. The Doctor often tries to befriend aliens, and indeed we have had our share of good aliens, but more often than not they prove us right and do something down right nasty. 

I think what we need to focus on here is which aliens we’re talking about. The Doctor is an alien and he’s not bad. Humans, to the Doctor at least, are aliens. We’re not too bad either. Therefore we already have our share of good aliens. It is for this reason that we naturally need someone to oppose us and the Doctor. 

If the aliens are not the enemy in stories, this means that the enemy must be human. Of course, there could be no enemy at all, but then where would be the drama in that? So, if the human becomes the main villain of an episode, it kind of defeats the point of being able to travel anywhere in space. Having a human villain just makes it like any other show. Doctor Who can do better than that. 

The main thing that would suffer from having nice aliens is the much loved episode titles. Would you rather watch Terror of the Zygons or Niceness of the Zygons? Would you prefer Attack of the Cybermen or Friendship of the Cybermen? The Ambassadors of Death would become The Ambassadors and The Seeds of Doom would be come The seeds. Nobody’s going to tune in to watch an episode called The Seeds. Doctor Who relies on these tantalising titles to draw people in and promise them a scare. Revealing the name of the alien and making them sound terrifying does this.

Scary aliens is what Doctor Who excels at. Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, Autons, Draconians, Macra, Sontarans, The Great Intelligence, The Weeping Angles, The Silence… the list is endless. Doctor Who does evil aliens so well, so why change that? While I agree that it’s nice to see some good friendly aliens - the Paternoster Gang of course - the majority of aliens in Doctor Who should conform to what we know and turn out to be the bad guys. At the end of the day, it’s what they’re good at.

So, you've heard what we think, but what are your views on the topic? Vote in the poll below and share your opinions in the comments.