Oi! Spaceman: A Podcast

Speculative Fiction, Intersectional Feminism, and Dirty Jokes

Classic Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol

Since I’ve apparently decided to do a little mini-essay with each episode we do now, I figure I owe you a bit to chew on. The advantage to having the extra few weeks to get this episode off the ground (and the fact that I bought the disk) meant that we had the ability to watch the DVD extras, one of which was a thirty-minute documentary that discussed the “political” nature of Doctor Who during the classic run. A documentary that, frankly, I found fairly laughableEpisode 89 Background.png, as it basically ignored the revolutionary politics at the heart of the character in favor of a fairly dull reading of the “ripped from the headlines” stuff from the Pertwee years, and the various sea changes that came with Thatcher and the like.

Which made me think that while Doctor Who is a show that is almost always aggressively political in nature, it’s much less often partisan in some obvious “go vote for such-and-such” kind of way. And that when most people think of “politics,” they’re ultimately thinking of election campaigns, legislation, or a voting booth. Which, sure, the 24-hour news networks treat “political” coverage as that kind of horserace, but it’s certainly not by any stretch the most interesting kind of politics out there. Politics, for me, is simply the word that we use to talk about the interactions, ideological or not, between groups of people in and among societies. Wage theft, cross burnings, transphobia, heteronormativity, et cetera are political issues above and beyond any ballot issue or piece of legislation. They are issues involving human dignity, oppression of viewpoints, and ill-treatment of people who don’t deserve it.

And that’s ultimately what Oi! Spaceman is. A forum to discuss those kinds of issues. (Mostly.) So the Maggie Thatcher impersonation is a “political” issue in that it’s about a public figure, I’m far more interested in what’s going on in other areas: with the gender representation, the treatment of authoritarian rule, the suppression of those who engage in thoughtcrime….

Anyway, if you haven’t heard the episode yet please give it a listen. We’re joined by Josh from The Web of Queer podcast, and it was a really fun conversation that didn’t end when the mikes stopped recording. He was a great guest who I hope will be back sometime. Despite my joke about sexy totalitarianism in the intro. Check it out here. (Direct download.)



2 responses to “Classic Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol

  1. philsandifer May 26, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    One thing that’s always struck me about British anti-Thatcher politics is that it largely transcended the partisan. There was definitely a large chunk of the 1980s where anti-Thatcherism was just a fundamental premise of all halfway decent counterculture in Britain. In that regard, Doctor Who finally getting around to an overt Thatcher parody in 1988 has always read to me as Doctor Who belatedly allying itself with that strain of culture after conspicuously failing to do anything like that under Saward. So it’s less Doctor Who allying itself with Labour than it is allying itself with the Smiths and 2000 AD.


  2. Jack Graham May 27, 2016 at 7:41 am

    There’s a bit in Tulloch and Alvarado’s book ‘Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text’, which was an academic, media studies book about Doctor Who published in the 80s, in which the authors are interviewing Graeme Williams and they ask about the show being political, with reference to ‘The Sun Makers’, and he denies the show is political because it’s not ‘party political’. That’s partly the internal culture of the BBC, of course, but it illustrates the point. The densely political nature of the show could kind-of fly under the radar even of the people making it, because it’s political in a way that is more fundamental than talking about established parties.


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