Among the top items on the BBC news on December 13 was Canada’s announcement that it is withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol. The Beeb played an excerpt of the Minister of Environment Canada, Peter Kent, saying something about how we Canadians wouldn’t be able to drive cars and that meeting our target of a 6% reduction in GHG emissions would be too costly. The following day the Guardian newspaper linked Canada’s withdrawal to the “highly polluting” extraction of oil from the tar sands.
To stop squirming from embarrassment at this conclusion to years of inaction on global warming by Canadian governments, I’ll turn to another top item on the BBC news, this one the day before (December 12). The BBC announced that two lost television episodes of Doctor Who have been recovered.
What is Doctor Who and why is this news? Imagine a television show from the 1960s that you watched regularly, something that brings back your childhood in a snap, like the Friendly Giant or Superman. Then imagine that its content was created by Bob McDonald (Wonderstruck, Quirks and Quarks), but set as a drama, with a hero who is terrifically keen, terribly intelligent and who can regenerate. That should give you some idea of the emotions aroused by a television show that first aired in 1963, continued with eight different doctors until 1996 and then was reborn in 2005. Because the early episodes were on tape, which took up a lot of space and was expensive, the BBC folks erased the shows and reused the tape. Since the second go at Doctor Who is wildly popular and people are demanding the originals, BBC has been searching for the missing episodes. 105 are still missing.
The Doctor is a time lord from the planet Gallifrey. You’d think if you could live outside of time that you’d kick back and read some short stories. Not the Doctor. He hurtles from one crisis to the next, saving planets, species and whole civilizations. And he’s funny while he’s at it. What I love about the Doctor is that he shows up, assesses the scene with a Sherlockian glance, then fixes the broken thingy with a bit of wire and saves the day. The Doctor rattles through space and time in his Tardis, which takes the appearance of a blue police box on landing. Inside it has levers that look remarkably like beer taps, its control panel has an old typewriter worked into it, and it makes this great noise when it starts up. Then there’s his sonic screwdriver and his latest incarnation’s cool bow tie. Oh yes, the bow tie: the 11th Doctor’s outfit sold for thousands of pounds in a charity auction.
Even the bad guys use everyday tools, such as the Daleks that sucked dry someone’s brain with toilet plungers applied to the ears. Compared to the 1960s bad guys in Superman who mainly commit crimes of theft, the bad guys in Doctor Who are far more sinister — they want to take over the world or destroy the earth, or both. The Doctor often succeeds in persuading the human bad guys that they are just confused and to abandon their destructive course. The alien bad guys look scary: the tin man turned evil, the spider-crab monster, the giant worm-like shape-shifter, and the Daleks with their inhuman voice ordering “Exterminate.” They don’t look anything like the environment minister.
More on Doctor Who
More on the tar sands