Classic science fiction was about two things: technology and people. As far as I know, “Doctor Who” has always been far more concerned with the latter, preferring a patented “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” brand of science and technology.
Classic Who offered quotes from the Doctor like “I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes, and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” It was about the triumph of “intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”
Classic science fiction romance is about the durability of the human spirit, and the power of human potential. It is about testing the goodness of people, and watching them emerge victorious.
In the regeneration of “Doctor Who,” there have been many wonderful moments carrying on this traditional or romance. What follows in an assembly of the moments when humanity’s strength, courage, and general wonderfulness were embraced by the Doctor, and by “Doctor Who.”
9. “Won’t catch me driving!”
One of the undertones of this odd season 4 two-parter was environmentalism. Atmos became ubiquitous because it let people use cars guilt-free, knowing they weren’t hurting the environment. It was one of those “way too good to be true” things that you’d think we wouldn’t be dumb enough to fall for.
At the end of the episode, after most of the cars on Earth have tried to gas everyone, there’s a scene where Donna’s mother comes home carrying the groceries, and she says “you won’t catch me driving!” When she comes inside, she tells Donna and Wilf that nobody is driving unless they absolutely have to; there are pedestrians and bikers everywhere.
It’s a moment of science fiction romance because it says that, when faced with the consequences of our actions, humans can change. The gas which poisoned the world was a transparent metaphor for pollution, and when faced with the toxic effects of pollution, people changed. We can survive and adapt.
It almost makes you forgive the show for potato-head villains. Almost.
This article was first posted on June 22, 2013