Sonic Screwdriver #82
Ah, issue #82, the very first Sonic Screwdriver I edited alone. As it said on the front cover, it was ‘a nice violent issue’!
Doctor Who is full of violent characters. Its drama and action-adventure format obviously calls for conflict, and consequently we must have the warriors to further that conflict. Often it is simple enough to say — and, in Doctor Who, for it to be true! — that the "baddies" are forcing violence upon the "goodies". Of course, more often than not, you have resistance of some type from the "goodies" — an universe filled with planets like Dulkis would be ripe pickings indeed!
The more complex view of who is the aggressor (and indeed, why they are), has been quite prominent in a number of the New Adventure novels. Most obvious perhaps are Timewyrm: Revelation and, later, The Left-Handed Hummingbird (the two of which, incidentally, easily top my list for the best NAs). In Revelation, we have the Wyrm struggling for survival (though the form she is struggling for varies), Chad Boyle the bully, unable to get attention any other way, and Lieutenant Hemmings, who, well indoctrinated, simply knows no other way. Opposing them are the Doctor (who indeed is fighting himself, to the extent that he will inflict a great wound upon, strangle and bind his fifth incarnation) and Ace, whose aggressive instincts threaten to end her very existence.
The Left-Handed Hummingbird, while still looking at the warrior tendencies of the Doctor and Ace (returned from mercenary duty), is also a close look at a culture that glorifies the warrior ethic; live violently and die violently, for it is right to do so. Our culture is busy telling us the opposite: ‘Violence is ugly’ goes the public service announcement. Were the Aztec people evil for living with, and indeed encouraging, a society that organised battles for the sole purpose of creating sacrifices? Are the vast majority of people nowadays evil because they gluttonously eat meat, an act hardly necessary and not all that fair on the animals themselves? (No, actually, I’m not a vegetarian!).
It is, for example, all too easy to simply classify the use of violent methods as a tool, a means to an ends, nothing more. That is how Lieutenant Rupert (oh, call him Anthony if you’re an Exodus fan) Hemmings certainly sees it. He is a great exponent of National Socialism; it is only through violent methods that the "ideal" society can be formed, he believes, and thus what he does is right, by his standards. This brings himself perhaps closest to the Aztecs as mentioned before. In a way, he is the most innocent of the characters I have already mentioned — though, of course, at some earlier stage he made the active choice to fall in with the Nazi ideals.
Chad Boyle is your typical school-yard bully. Maybe here we can refer to that famous quote from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: ‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.’ Boyle is that, really. He fails to communicate and is neglected by his mother. At some stage he realises the benefits of violence — and while this works temporarily, it leaves him all the more isolated. Boyle wants to be needed — it is this the Timewyrm plays on: ‘Chad Boyle had been seduced by the concept of belonging. If things depended on him, if he had a function, he didn’t much care what that function was. He was just obeying orders.’ [Revelation, p. 96] Chad Boyle, like everyone else, fears being alone. He just happens to use violence to avoid it. While he fights for the Timewyrm, she is his friend and provider (that’s not true, of course, but he believes it, and that’s all that matters). As with many bullies, he would quite probably have learnt other, more peaceful, methods of belonging, had the Timewyrm not simply killed him.
For most of the Timewyrm series of four books, Qataka was presented quite simply. She was a straight-out "baddy", with no care for life, and with a lust for power at any cost. This kind of villain is not unusual in Doctor Who — it is the simplest to portray, and the easiest to dispose of. After all, if they’re bad, and incurably bad, isn’t it a Good Thing to dispose of them? Maybe the first hint we get that it will not be that simple is when Hemmings is ejected from the Doctor’s mind. ‘As the Hemmings data flew into the night, the Timewyrm’s claw reached out and plucked a tiny memory. The boy so long ago on his mother’s lap. The darkness closed in as the Wyrm consumed the memory, ate it, understood it, and somehow, perhaps, became saddened at the closeness and necessity of death.’ [Revelation, 138] At the end of the book, she takes up the Doctor’s offer to stop fighting, and to accept existence as Ishtar Hutchings, a human baby, who gets to live a real, if limited, life. So here is the difference between her and her two tools, Hemmings and Boyle. All three used violence to achieve their own goals — but only Qataka was mature enough to see there were other means to achieve her aim of meaningful life.
This brings us to the heroes of the series, Ace and the Doctor. Both, increasingly so with the advent of the New Adventures, are very much warrior figures. The Ace of Revelation bashes just about anything that moves — her later role as a mercenary makes her all the more proficient in it, both as a matter of skill and also the ability to put aside what she is actually doing. It’s so much easier to kill someone if you know you’re not going to be squeamish, or feel guilty. In Revelation, the Timewyrm tries to bring around the destruction of Ace/Dorothy/Dorry/Dotty by destroying her personality. Whenever Boyle confronts her, instinct tells Ace to fight. But that very same survival technique destroys her. It is only when she rejects violence, the childish violence of school, that she can defeat Boyle. Similarly, it is only upon her freeing of the Doctor’s conscience that he can defeat the Timewyrm. For, with his guilt and doubt, he would re-create the Timewyrm forever, and never be free.
Ace at this stage is still very much like her television version, being repelled by violence. Indeed, Warhead, a few stories later, spends the entirety of Chapter 10 on Ace trying to cope with her killing of the Kurdish mercenary Massoud. Jump forward to Hummingbird, when she is battling the Aztec warriors. ‘At these moments, she was a hand inside a glove, and for once the glove wasn’t too tight, but fitted perfectly. A human hand inside the glove of battle, reacting with perfect speed, pure grace. There was no memory, no worries about the future, there was no self-doubt or anger or pain. Taking care of business.’ [The Left-Handed Hummingbird, p. 93] She is, as Revelation was happy to point out, more like Chad Boyle than she realised. Interestingly, the other time the imagery of a hand is used in Hummer, it is when a person is being possessed. Ace is certainly possessed by battle. Is Ace still a "good" person? That, certainly, is a good question.
And the Doctor? Well, he goes around preaching peace, and then plans and executes genocide, several times. It all smacks a bit much of, once again, the ends justifying the means. Sometimes, as in Hummer, we can not tell what is an act of Huitzilin, or what the Doctor might well have done himself, planned in the dead of the night and executed efficiently. As Kate Orman told us in Sonic Screwdriver #80, ‘I was asked specifically to have Ace being excessively violent, and then have the Doctor and Bernice reacting to it’. And yes, Ace is the most visibly violent. But little of it is explicitly planned, but more a product of what she has become. Maybe the Doctor is just the next stage. After all, after a few centuries you get wiser. More efficient. In Revelation, Ace released the Doctor’s conscience. But that may have bound him more effectively than ever. And maybe he just doesn’t want to be restricted that way any more.
Here’s the list of the Doctor Who articles available here
→ A Bit of Adric in All of Us
→ Ace Timeline
→ Cursed References
→ Doctor Who Collectible Card Game FAQ
→ Doctor Who Collectible Card Game Tips
→ Doctor Who in America
→ History of the Daleks
→ History of Doctor Who
→ History of the fanzine Sonic Screwdriver
→ How I Killed a Fanzine (or, What’s an EFG?)
→ Survival the (Con)vention
→ The Doctor and I (First Memories)
→ The Doctor and I (1985 — Move to the USA)
→ The Doctor and I (Organised Fandom? Huh?)
→ The Doctor and I (Doctorin’ Ithaca)
→ The Doctor and I (Back to Melbourne)
→ The Doctor and I (Whovention)
→ The Doctor and I (David, Meet the DWCV)
→ The Doctor and I (Enlightenment)
→ The Doctor and I (The Blankety Blank Era)
→ The Doctor and I (Q Who)
→ The Doctor and I (DWCV Committee, Meet David)
→ The Doctor and I (Whovention II (Control))
→ The Doctor and I (Sonic Screwdriver, Meet David (and Marco and Matthew))
→ The Relative Confusion of The Curse of Fenric
→ What Makes a Warrior?
→ What’s in a Name?
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index
This page last updated by David J Richardson on Mon, 31 Mar 2003.