Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: Time and Relative – Part 2

Time and Relative Part 2: The Cold Knights (pp. 61115)

Time and Relative

This part really blurs the lines between fantasy and science fiction. Not in the way we saw on Iwa where the mythic landscape existed in a kind of cyberspace. Whilst the trappings are all science fictional, the journey they go on is very much in the sense of epic fantasy. They have a goal they must reach to save the world from a threat and they must overcome all the threats on their journey and face great loss to do so. But in the end it is the journey itself that is just as important.

At the end Susan thinks that her grandfather sent her out on the journey in order to test the human race, to see their value. Do they deserve survival? Yet this epic is not through dragons’ lairs and castle dungeons but the route of an ordinary girl may take to school. Across railway stations, passing fast-food restaurants and public houses. For it is in these ordinary people on the streets of Shoreditch that the question has to be answered.

And not all of what they see is good. The Haighs represent the worst of humanity we see. For in the moment of crisis their response is to lash out at everyone. It ends up coming down on the most visible symbol of the unlike, which is Malcolm. He knows he has always been treated as an alien but here is treated as an abomination and an unbeliever to be purged from their society. As well as his skin colour being a sign of otherness for The Haighs, his youth is also the problem. For they see the Young as the cause of all their ills. Their specific complaints merit further investigation: “pagan music” which at this time would likely be another way of saying Black influenced; “irrevent ways” complaining that they are not taking dogma as gospel; “provactive clothes”, thereby engaging in slut-shaming; and “rebellious attitudes”, likely meaning daring to question authority. Susan wonders if the crisis changed the way they felt about the world or just allowed them to act as they liked. The evidence I think, unfortunately, points to the latter. We saw in the first part that these attitudes were already present to some extent and the real world has shown time and again that these kind of views are often only thinly hidden. When Gillian dares to point out that she doesn’t agree with an opinion of Mrs. Haigh’s, she is dismissed as a “Horrid girl”, then, when she is, called out on it says she can say what she wants as “It’s a free country.” 1963 is not all that far from 2017.

Captain Brent is not so much awful as deluded. Like many of the older people he cannot cope with the strangeness around him so keeps putting it down to vandalism. Much like what is imprinted on The Doctor’s brain from the people at home, his mind has likely been filled with the view that this is how young people behave and is more likely than the actual truth of The Cold. However, he is still a good person and he chooses in the end to sacrifice himself in order to save Gillian. Not only that, but it is his death that allows Susan to motivate the others to go on.

John and Gillian however, unlike the Haighs, do seem to have been distorted by these events. From everything we know about them, they seem to be kind and accepting of weirdness, but whilst they care about Susan, the knowledge of her otherness changes their attitude. John in the midst of the worry starts throwing accusations at her. Gillian goes one step further and is willing to kill Susan if it will save humanity. Further, in the end, they wish The Doctor could have killed The Cold rather than allowing it to live. John never wanted to drop bombs to start with. Gillian would rather smash up a desk than take revenge on those that hurt her. But when there was a real chance of death, they are still willing to turn on The Other.

It turns out it is Malcolm that represents the best of humanity. As I noted above he has always been treated like an alien himself so perhaps he is able to get a better perspective on the situation. Or possibly it is just his child-like logic which offers the exchange of the Gonk for humanity. In spite of trying to be murdered and being constantly scared, he does not become cruel or cut-off like the others. Whilst it is explicitly the gift of imagination that shows humanity’s uniqueness, I think it also Malcolm’s kindness that demonstrates to The Doctor that humankind is worthy. For his assertion is that there are no aliens only life, is something that Malcolm alone of them seems to understand and is able to demonstrate that there is a superiority to The Cold that sees them as vermin.

And in saving humanity, it seems the Doctor recovers his true self too. As he shatters the conditioning from their home1 he is able to be the rebel he always was once again (even if needing Susan to temper his urges to meddle). He now seems much closer to the jovial figure we saw on Iwa but with both the added belief that he now can interfere and the added fear of “The Truant Officer” who is after them. In many ways he has now become young again, whilst the people at Susan and The Doctor’s home are set in their ways with age, he is now liberated and, it seems, happier than ever.

Unfortunately for Susan the trial has not been a great successful experiment. She has seen so many people die as a result, her only friends can now no longer look at her and she is a lonely outcast once again. This is not the great fairy-tale happy ending but the Tolkienian devastating victory that can only come with great loss. She has not even been able to break through the mind-fog yet and remember home. She is now just as adrift as before and still in exile.

1. The conditioning from Home is clearly ridiculous anyway, saying they must not meddle to save humanity but they have been to humanity’s future and already seen it existing. So either a) they were always going to meddle anyway, b) humanity was going to stop it somehow or c) them landing in London has already affected the Cold and distorted events so surely they would need to fix this.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

One comment

  1. TheScholarlySquid /

    So you’re saying the Haighs represent our lows?

%d bloggers like this: