In Doctor Who 10×05 “Oxygen,” the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie)’s latest adventure had them following a distress call in space. There, they were met with only a handful of survivors — and a lot of space zombies. More importantly, though, they saw one of the most awful consequences of an overly-capitalistic society: The forced deaths of innocents. In yet another excellent episode for Capaldi’s final season, Doctor Who 10×05 explored what happens when we put monetary gain first, even above human life. And after seeing our hero’s reaction to it all, methinks the Doctor would hate the AHCA.
When it comes to our most basic of needs, capitalism is our enemy. Doctor Who 10×05 makes that extremely clear, as the enemy is literally a company that turns our a basic need — oxygen — into a commodity to be sold for profit at “competitive prices.”
When the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole respond to a distress call in space, the last thing they expect to find is a company that holds a monopoly on access to oxygen. But that’s exactly what they do find. The only way to stay alive on this ship is to purchase a suit, most likely at an outlandish price. Otherwise, you’re headed for certain death — and not a pretty one either.
We know how death works in space because, at the beginning of Doctor Who 10×05, the Doctor was kind enough to describe it to his students (us).
So, how does space kill you? I’m glad you asked. The main problem is pressure. There isn’t any. So, don’t hold your breath, for your lungs will explode…
…and it only gets worse from there. But with no oxygen, the body’s natural instinct is kind of to, you know, hold in that precious resource.
The more the Doctor realizes what’s going on with regard to the controlled oxygen supply, the more disgusted he becomes. He makes upset comment after upset comment about “capitalism in space,” culminating with the biggest spilling of truth-tea of all:
Bottom line, where human life has no value at all.
Doctor Who 10×05 was written well before the American government was controlled, in all three branches, by the greedy, old snakes responsible for the AHCA…
…but I can’t help but believe that the Doctor would hate every detail.
Everything’s about enforcing the gross distribution of wealth provided by the supposed “free market” of capitalism. The wealthiest Americans get all the tax breaks, while average people with pre-existing conditions (including having previously been raped or abused) are penalized. Supposedly, this is an improvement on the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of which leave make an estimated 24 million people uninsured.
Valuing money over actual life is gross. For the AHCA, it’s about tax cuts for the wealthy. In Doctor Who 10×05, it’s about forcing people to pay for oxygen suits if they want to breathe, then making those suits murder people. The suits can conduct business on their own, after all, so who needs the people inside of them? Too expensive.
You were just organic components, and you’re no longer efficient. So, you’re being thrown away.
The Doctor’s brilliant move to save the day is convincing the Powers That Be that all of those deaths will be too costly. Not morally — financially. Anyone who would create and sell oxygen suits, then program them to save the oxygen that humans are wasting, is morally bankrupt. Just like anyone who would put tax cuts for the wealthy over sick people’s ability to access medical care.
Nothing like having to choose between keeping a roof over your head and life-saving medication. So much fun.
Perhaps we need the Doctor to come to America and prove to the GOP that more people flooding the emergency rooms equals more people racking up debt that never gets repaid. And this equals less profits for the rich — less chances to truly take advantage. Then again, if these people are completely incapable of seeing that for themselves — through clear-cut evidence and even remembering the not-so-distant past, they’re probably beyond even the Doctor’s help. I mean, they won’t even listen to medical doctors on healthcare, so they’re not likely to listen to a social-justice loving, world-saving alien Doctor either.
Let’s not forget Doctor Who isn’t a racist-friendly series, either.
So, there are actually people out there who are just now waking up to the idea that there’s a strong social justice component of Doctor Who. Following the third episode of series 10, people were actually whining about the series having gone “too far.” That episode seemed to nail home the idea that the Doctor isn’t here for racists — because having genocidal maniacs as his sworn enemies wasn’t enough.
Enter Doctor Who 10×05, showing us that there is more than one kind of racism.
Great. We rescued a racist.
When Bill first saw the blue man, Dahh-Ren, she was taken aback. And he called her on it, as he should have. Bill’s reaction was to recoil when she saw someone different. We all do it, but we all need to work better at not having that reaction. The Doctor, after all, saves people and aliens of all types. Everyone should follow his example and treat all life equally.
For the record, I’m not prejudiced. I’m usually on the receiving end.
What an awkward moment, folks. And Nardole’s “some of my best friends are bluish” was just as unintentionally awful as the whole, “I’m not racist. I have black friends” argument that gets thrown around so casually.
Casual racism is just as bad, and in some ways more complacent and therefore worse, than its more overt forms. Do better, people. The Doctor wants you to.
Doctor Who 10×05’s biggest plot twist.
Unlike the previous episode, Doctor Who 10×05 does not end by adding a new layer of “wtf” to the mystery of the box. Instead, it pulls the rug out from under viewers in a very interesting way. The Doctor “paid the price” for saving Bill: He experienced the vacuum of space for too long, rendering him blind.
Getting back on the TARDIS was supposed to save him. It didn’t.
In the middle of yet another lecture from Nardole, the Doctor repeatedly asked him to stop talking. Paying attention to Peter Capaldi’s mannerisms (he’s so good this season), you’d know that something wasn’t quite right. Was it stress? A headache, perhaps? Just sick of hearing Nardole’s repeated warnings?
The Doctor was not lucky enough for his distress to be caused by any of those things. Instead, we learned that he was permanently blind. Whatever he thought was going to save his eyesight when he returned to the safety of the TARDIS…didn’t.
That leaves so many questions open in terms of what failed and how the Doctor is going to deal with his new disadvantage. If the Doctor can’t see, how much harder will it be for him to keep saving people? How quickly can he adapt and rely on his remaining senses?
Doctor Who 10×05’s ending takes a major risk and sets up some opportunities for really interesting storytelling. My greatest hope is that it takes full advantage of those opportunities and delivers a respectful, yet realistic, depiction of what it’s like for someone who’s used to be able to seeing everything to suddenly be able to see nothing at all.
Additional tidbits from Doctor Who 10×05
- “What if there was never a hack? What if this is just business? Business as usual!” Business as usual…nailed it. Keep spilling that tea, sir.
- “Space: the final frontier.” The Doctor is a Trekkie. I’m screaming.
- “Final because it wants to kill us. Sometimes we forget that — start taking it all for granted. The suits, the spaceships, the little bubbles of safety as they protect us from the void. But the void is always waiting.” Ok but I don’t think that’s how that goes…
- “I will do everything in my power to save all your lives. And when I do, you will spend your lives wondering who I was. Why I helped you.”
- “Haven’t seen my true face in years. Swapped it for this one on the run.” Indeed.
- “Too many rescue ships. That’s a first world problem.” The Doctor had a lot of tea to spill this evening.
- The Doctor and Bill’s hug at the end, followed by Nardole’s awkward joining and line about cuddling. MY HEART.
- How cool was the scene where Bill was “dying?” The slow-mo, the dream/nightmare-like quality of it all, the acting…Awesome.
- Professor Doctor is way, way too gleeful about describing gruesome death. Kind of makes him more lovable, which makes no sense but is true.
- The Doctor with his shades, feet up on the desk, playing with a yo-yo? Totally chill. I was so here for it until I realized why he was wearing the sunglasses.
- “The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, and we show ours by how we respond.” I’m just going to end with that. Going back to the argument about the AHCA, sick people are asking for help. And a lot of people in the U.S. government are showing their true faces by how they respond. Spoiler alert: They’re not pretty.
Make sure to watch the next all-new episode of Doctor Who on BBC America next Saturday, May 20, at 9/8c.
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