One of the places I go to for Doctor Who reviews that I genuinely trust and admire is Tea With Morbius, run by Matthew Celestis. For his review of The Caretaker, he made some very pointed comments about the issue of how soldiers are presented on Doctor Who, as well as on the issues of race and class involving both the newest character, Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) and other characters of color whom Celestis I think is saying are shown in a bad light.
I think this merits some examination.
I think the best thing to do is to look at Doctor Who pre-Moffat, and in particular pre-12th Doctor, to see that I agree with Celestis in how Doctor Who appears to have a bizarre pathological contempt for soldiers, and worse, which is completely contradictory to what Canon has established.
If we go back to the beginning, we see that the Doctor didn't have this lifetime hatred for soldiers. In fact, while he was a pacifist he had a great deal of respect for the military. We only need to go to the most obvious example: UNIT.
|In a deleted scene, the Doctor |
bitch-slapped the Brigadier.
|Get away from me, you evil baby killer.|
I HATE YOU!
Again, it could be said the reason the Doctor, who 'hates' soldiers, is with UNIT is because they provide him food, clothing, shelter, and scientific equipment. It's clear the Doctor wants to escape, but it isn't because he has an antipathy towards either the Brigadier or people like Sergeant Benton or Captain Yates. He just wants to travel again and it has nothing to do with the military.
Also, if he so wished the Doctor could easily find work somewhere outside the military. He certainly wasn't beholden to UNIT for their largesse. He also quarreled quite openly with UNIT and the Brigadier. In Doctor Who & The Silurians, the Brigadier's act of wiping out the Silurian base infuriated the Doctor, who called it murder. "Typical of the military mind," the Doctor sniffs. "Present them with a new problem, and they start shooting at it". The Doctor and the Brigadier didn't see eye-to-eye on everything (particularly conflict resolution), but underneath that there was a great deal of respect and even affection for the other.
Over the course of their time the Third Doctor and the Brigadier stood up for the other to those who verbally attacked the other. The Brigadier begins trusting the Doctor more and more, even on occasion struggling as to whether his actions might be the right course. The Doctor, for his part, now sees this 'soldier' (whom we are told, he hates the whole lot of them) as an ally and even a friend. One of the best moments of The Daemons is when in Episode Three the Doctor's Companion, Jo Grant, makes some remark about how foolish the Brigadier was being. An angered Doctor sharply addresses his Companion, telling her the Brigadier is under immense pressure with the lives of both the villagers and his men at stake, and reminding her that she is still a serving member of UNIT.
That hardly sounds like the act of someone with a lifelong hatred of soldiers brought about by childhood.
|Didn't Steven Moffat tell you?|
I hate you now, always have, always will.
With Pertwee's regeneration into Tom Baker, UNIT and soldiers in general were far from finished on Doctor Who, though they did diminish in importance. As the Doctor was now more free to move about time and space again, he didn't need UNIT as much. However, whenever the Brigadier needed him, the Doctor would come. Isn't it curious that for someone who apparently had a soldier-phobia instilled in him since he was a wee child, the Doctor got on so well with this 'soldier' that he deliberately sought him out when reading about his retirement in 'tomorrow's Times' (The Five Doctors)?
|I'm supposed to be happy you're dead.|
I think the best example of the idiocy of 'the Doctor hates soldiers' is in Battlefield, the Seventh Doctor story which would mark the last time Nicholas Courtney and The Brigadier would appear in Doctor Who itself. When the Doctor believes the Brigadier to be dead (which I think is what Courtney wanted: a glorious end to the iconic character), the Doctor was visibly devastated. Cradling his friend, he complained to what he thought was his corpse that this was not how he was suppose to die, that the Brigadier was meant to die peacefully in bed.
IF there was again, this total hatred for soldiers, why would he mourn so strongly for someone whose whole identity was wrapped around being a soldier? This isn't like Danny Pink's situation, where he has retired from the Army and is now a civilian (making him an ex-soldier). Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was in the Douglas Macarthur mode: a soldier to his dying day. Yet here the Doctor was, visibly upset at seeing his old friend, the soldier, apparently dead.
The fact that then-Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner couldn't bring himself to actually kill off the Brigadier PRECISELY because the character was so beloved showed then (and now) that far from 'hating soldiers', the Doctor (and Doctor Who fans) LOVE soldiers. I've heard many complaints from Whovians about various Doctors, various Companions, various stories. I've never heard ONE Classic Who fan EVER say anything negative about The Brigadier.
This was a long way of saying that Steven Moffat's rewriting of Canon to show that the Doctor has some hatred for soldiers is rewriting history, and he is blessed in having so many sheep-fans who parrot anything he wishes to go along with this. The Doctor never hated soldiers...up till now, but the question is, 'Why?' and 'Why now?'
Having established that the Doctor has never hated soldiers (though he is at times highly displeased at militarism and the military's quick way with the trigger) I wonder if all this 'The Doctor hates soldiers' business is fair in terms of Danny Pink himself. Given what little we know of him, I think the Doctor's attitude towards Danny is unfair to the point of bigotry.
He's basically an orphan with few if any prospects. If the set-up in the UK is the same as in the States, the military provides a way for lower-to-lower-middle-class men and women to advance in society and get an education. Certainly in the U.S. joining the armed services provides structure in people's lives, a chance to go outside their hometowns, and after their tour, a way to get an education and other benefits. The military, therefore, appears to be a way for Danny to get away from the boys home and get the tools to be a math teacher.
Moreover, as Danny frequently points out, he didn't just 'kill people'. He dug wells. That suggests that his role in the Army was positive. Soldiers, contrary to what Doctor Who writers may think, are not dim-witted killing machines who have no sophistication, education, or souls. We forget that many times the military does positive work. Why would the President send the military to Liberia to fight Ebola (apart from the fact that fighting a contagious disease is a greater threat to the world than something like ISIS)?
The idea that Danny is in some way 'polluted' because of his former military service is beyond unfair. Let's remember, he is a retired soldier. He's not active duty. Why then is the Doctor so obsessed with dismissing him as a 'soldier'? Technically, he even isn't a soldier. This whole 'the Doctor hates soldiers' bit is irrational and unfair to the fans and the character of Danny. However, I realize WHY it is here.
The Doctor hates soldiers now.
Danny Pink, the Doctor's Companion's paramour, is a soldier.
This is bad screenwriting and plotting. It's setting up a conflict that is forced and that won't yield any real results.
Certainly Doctor Who could come up with better ways of bringing conflict in this 'bizarre love triangle'. Why pick on someone for what he did, something that is both perfectly legal and even admirable?
My personal theory is that the Doctor Who writers, all white males and probably from upper-class to upper-middle class backgrounds, have probably never served and know few if any people who have. It's a bit like what film critic Pauline Kael allegedly said after Richard Nixon won a landslide victory. "I don't know how he won. No one I know voted for him". In a similar vein, all these Who writers may be puzzled as to what these foreign creatures called 'soldiers' might do or be like.
All writers bring their life experiences to their work, their worldviews, their biases, fears, and beliefs. Therefore, I can't quite dismiss the idea that some part of either Steven Moffat or those he hired are expressing their ideas about soldiers through the Doctor; this Doctor, going against all his predecessors, believes soldiers couldn't possibly be math teachers and are suited only for Physical Education because soldiers/ex-soldiers don't have the intellect to figure out cosines and the Pythagorean theorem and are only interested in bodybuilding and fitness.
This elitism and snobbery about those who served in the armed services is so out-of-character for the Doctor and really insulting in so many ways. Why does the Doctor think soldiers are so dim-witted, given his long history with them? Why does the Doctor dismiss so brazenly the idea that an ex-soldier could teach at all, let alone teach something as complex as math?
As for the idea that The Caretaker is somehow racist or Doctor Who itself has a race problem, that one is a little trickier. There has been an unfortunate run of black actors who are asked to play characters not particularly bright or annoying or criminal.
Mels in River's Secret Part II (Let's Kill Hitler).
The Maitland siblings in Nightmare in Silver.
Courtney from Kill the Egg.
The Van Baalen brothers in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
Here, I don't think the casting of black actors in these roles reflects some latent racism on Doctor Who. However, I would think that perhaps the casting director(s) would in future, try to cast people of color in more positive roles, more Martha Jones than Angie Maitland.
The idea that the Doctor hates soldiers should be rejected as nonsense. It exists only to force some drama where it is not needed. The idea that Doctor Who has a race problem is not without some merit but on the whole, I think it's just casting bad actors (particularly bad child actors) than any real racism.
Oh, yes, one more thing. So The Doctor hates soldiers, does he?