Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: Destiny Of The Doctor: Hunters of Earth

Destiny of The Doctor: Hunters of Earth

Hunters of Earth

Disappointingly, given the title, this is not the arrival of the much alluded to “Truant Officer”. Rather it is telling a similar story to the one we have already read in Time and Relative. It has enough different elements to make it interesting enough, but to be straight afterwards invites unfavourable comparisons. For whilst Time and Relative can be classed as great, this is merely okay.

Getting the similarities out of the way: The story attempts to use The Doctor and Susan’s alieness to deal with the racism and xenophobia of the early 1960s; Susan makes a close friend at school who betrays her in some way; A threat to London is unearthed but The Doctor stops it by building a device out of things he finds lying around; Susan finds herself alone again apart from her Grandfather.

The style however is very different. With Time and Relative being told from Susan’s diary we get an inside perspective on her feelings of isolation and alieness. By having it in the third person Hunters of Earth lacks the personal touch and we are only able to see the physical effects of violence, not the internal feelings it causes on an everyday level

Whilst they both have targets of real world racism to reflect Susan’s experience, Rosa is not the essential part of the story Malcolm is. Malcolm we are able to learn a lot about, and he ends up becoming the hero in a sense. We do not even know if Rosa survives by the end of the story here, her only narrative purpose is to unsubtly drop the information about the bombs and to allow The Doctor to realise how the device works. Rosa’s actual story is incidental rather than central.

Cedric’s story is different to John and Gillian’s but holds less interest for me. Whilst John and Gillian are genuinely friends of Susan’s, it is hard to see Cedric as such (in spite of his protestations) as he seems perfectly willing to let his uncle blackmail Susan into helping the weapons research. Whilst it may be a genuine (if sudden) turnaround he has from listening to a Bob Dylan album, it still seems ridiculous he would believe Susan would ever want to be friends with him after everything he has done.

And tying the elements together is also done with less elegance. In Time and Relative the ship1 is leaking out and stopping the Cold. Here it is based around the fact that a) four months ago the redevelopment activated the bomb and b) that Susan and The Doctor are believed to have arrived then2, which brings them to Rook and Cedric’s attention. Whilst coincidence does happen, it just feels a little forced.

Further, Hunters of Earth comes across as a touch curmudgeonly. Whilst Time and Relative aimed it’s ire at the old establishment, this seems to be more criticising youth rebellion instead, looking at the chaos of Beatlemania and The Mods and Rockers3. For me, combining the race riots with youth rebellion of the sixties is a further example of an inelegant choice being made which really is largely unnecessary.

Personally, I am also not a big fan of an external influence creating prejudice. It’s a common science fiction trope but to do so seems to mask the truth of the matter, that it is human nature and we should be let off thinking it is someone else. This does go someone way to getting over it by stating that this is merely promoting the pre-existing tribal nature of the people affected but I would have preferred some more didacticisim on the subject.

Whilst I have spent most of this going on about how inferior this is, it should be noted it is not actually bad and there are some elements I do indeed like. Whilst it is still social realism, it goes much more for a gothic\ film-noir feel reflective of its October setting. This gives it a much more intensely creepy atmosphere and helps create a sense of creeping dread as the singal permeates.

It is also nice to get a further build up on Susan’s psychic talents. It still seems to have limited potential so far (with Susan now remembering how it used to be just a parlour game) but she does use it for a useful story purpose. Whilst of course the psychic woman travelling in space is such a standard genre trope, hopefully we will see it developed further in positive ways and not just as the standard hindrance allowing her to be taken over by outside entities.

Perhaps I would have a more positive feel about this if it was placed in a later part of the running order, but to put it here makes it just so underwhelming. Hopefully these stories are not setting up a repetitive pattern as we have seen how it can go in a very different direction in Frayed, and would be good to see more variety going forwards.

1. We are now given the name for it, “Tardis”, albeit without much explanation.

2. Whilst I understand why Susan would say it was four months (as she noted previously, they come from a timeless place and so they lack a concept of time) but it remains to be explained why Rook and Cedric think that is when they arrived. Did the school records get lost in The Cold? Did they attempt to leave and arrive back again a few months later? Are Rook and Cedric just careless?

3. This was a moral panic which I do not believe started until about six months after this story. However, this story is so littered with anachronisms I feel it is necessary to just roll with them.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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