“My pronouns are the definite article, I am always the Meep,” proclaimed the suspiciously cute alien to a curious, yet compliant, David Tennant on Saturday’s Doctor Who special. It is a sign of the times that such a forgettable line, mouthed by a fluffy extraterrestrial on a children’s science fiction show, ratcheted the British culture wars up to 11. Judging by the reaction on social media, a cameo from Suella Braverman would’ve been received more charitably.
Earlier in the episode Meep, voiced by Miriam Margoles, is shown bonding with non-binary character Rose, played by young trans-identified actor Yasmin Finney. Finney discloses with all the gooey sentiment of Tiny Tim sucking a Werther’s Original that “sometimes I feel like I’m from a different planet”, then saves the world by way of “non-binary” energy.
Triggering what he sees as Middle England has arguably become something of a hobby for Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies (he/him before you ask). And it’s fair to say he has form as an outspoken transgender rights activist, having previously lambasted those seeking to detach the LGB from the T. Indeed, before the 60th anniversary Doctor Who show aired he told a press event he knew there were some people “full of absolute hate and venom and destruction and violence, who would like to see that sort of thing wiped off the screen entirely”. He added: “Shame on you, and good luck to you in your lonely lives.”
It’s hard not to conclude, then, that Davies views the majority of licence fee payers — those who keep him wrapped in luxury beliefs — with contempt. While he might consider himself to be a superior being imparting a message of trans tolerance and pronoun peace to an imperfect universe, others outside the BBC bubble disagree.
No one wants to be one of those reactionary bores who huffs and puffs about a kids’ television show, but it seems fair to ask: what purpose does championing a niche ideology on Britain’s public broadcaster serve? And in whose interests is it?
To Davies and his supporters, the casting of Finney as Rose is a victory for trans representation. And to the kids watching, in particular those with autism, the idea that they can identify out of their loneliness, and out of their sex, will have all the appeal of a must-have Christmas toy. Yet it is a dangerous fantasy, one which too often leads youngsters to bind, medicate and even have surgery to reveal their “authentic selves”. Unlike the fantastical Doctor Who, their bodies will not regenerate.
In science fiction, one sometimes needs to take a quantum leap over black holes, to overlook the flaws in a creative paradigm. Logically Doctor Who doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is as much of a British institution as the BBC itself and it just seems impolite to ask questions. But when Martians begin to moralise, when live political issues are levered in and viewers begin to feel hectored rather than entertained, any goodwill ebbs away.
The only anachronistic tells in Doctor Who are when it ventures into politics, from the Iraq War in 2005 to today’s bullying about trans ideology. It is tempting to wonder whether future audiences of cybermen and cyberwomen might be warned about the offensive and dangerous messages reflective of the time.
As Tom Baker, arguably the best Doctor Who, once said, “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: they don’t alter their views to fit the facts; they alter the facts to fit their views.”
Looking at the hubris of those making decisions at the BBC , it’s tempting to suspect they are both stupid and powerful.