Defining the non-human: a twist in the tale

Matt Smith's Dr Who
Defining the non-human ?

I’ve written previously about science fiction’s essential truth: defining what it means to be human.

But a recent episode of Dr.Who, ‘Amy’s Choice,’provided a new slant: defining what it means to be a Time Lord. (Warning: a few plot spoilers ahead: for those of a nervous disposition, look away now.)

With the revelation that the Dream Lord was in fact the Doctor himself – the clues were there, in retrospect: who else might know the Doctor’s dreams, and has been with him all the time ? – in fact, the dark side of the Doctor, given voice through psychic pollen that feeds on one’s innermost thoughts, the true thrust of the episode became clear: it was about what it meant to be a Time Lord.

As the Dream Lord himself says: ‘The old man prefers the company of the young.’ He was giving voice to the dark preoccupations lying with the Doctor, about abandoning his companions, never making real friends, losing touch with them ‘once they leave the Tardis’ (and what about poor old Adric, sometime companion to Peter Davison’s incarnation, who left the Tardis not by choice, but by dying ?).

And the dilemma for Amy: does the Doctor really trust her when he hasn’t even told her his name ? The Dream Lord voiced the self-doubts that plague us all when we lie lost awake at night and the demons come knocking…

Here, all those things that are important to defining the human – relationships, trust, friendship – are presented as elements that the Doctor does not, indeed, cannot ever, have.

It seems to suggest the Doctor, as a Gallifreyan, is the opposite of human: his whole existence is diametrically opposed to the human condition. And he even has two hearts.


Posted by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent.  Click here to view his Music Matters blog.

Author: Daniel Harding

Head of Music Performance, University of Kent: pianist, accompanist and conductor: jazz enthusiast.

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