Post by nucleusofswarm on Sept 14, 2019 0:39:17 GMT
Yes yes, a well written character yadda yadda, but let's put that to one side here: how would you feel about there being companions with more pronounced physical/mental disabilities (compared to the less-overt types like the dyspraxia Ryan has) in the franchise? Mobility issues, being on the spectrum, downs syndrome etc. If so/not, what challenges do you see, aside from the immediately obvious ones, about them, and what would your answers be to them?
And not that it should need saying, but just in case, please try not to use demeaning language when discussing people with various conditions, even if you think you're being 'kind' about it. You can disagree or be critical of this notion, without being disengenious.
It could work short-term. I could see two basic approaches:
(1) The Doctor is oblivious to the problem, in a good way, like when the 12th Doctor doesn't notice Clara's age (or at least says he doesn't). I could imagine that the Doctor is well-travelled enough to consider all variations of the human condition to be completely normal.
(2) Have the companion end up in a future setting where there is a successful "treatment" for the condition, and spend time dealing with the morality of categorizing physical differences as things to be "treated". I know, for example, that "curing" deafness often leaves people divided, as there is an entire culture of the deaf and sign language is a language in its own right which builds bonds among the people who share it. Videos that present hearing restoration as a "cure" lead to lively discussions, and I could see a Doctor Who episode tackling that.
"Keeping an open mind is a virtue—but, as the space engineer James Oberg once said, not so open that your brains fall out."--Carl Sagan
Post by eightelements on Sept 14, 2019 2:46:36 GMT
(Looking back at this, I see it is more a commentary on disability in film/TV as a whole.)
As someone with several immediately-obvious and not immediately-obvious disabilities (so, thinking of myself), I doubt it. Not if the disability is ... inconvenient. Writing theory is that you try to avoid that, but maybe it could work in a book. Maybe. But in a visual medium (and given the current culture of the film/TV industry today and how "big" it is)? Not gonna happen.
I think I'll switch to a flood-of-consciousness style here:
*Modern TV/film involves fast-paced action. Doctor Who involves a lot of running away from monsters. Any disability that limits (or outright prevents) that pace will be avoided.
*Doctor Who also fits a lot of superhero tropes. It doesn't quite fit here because the companion is more the sidekick than the superhero, but a disabled primary/secondary character in a Marvel movie? That isn't played for laughs, or sanitise(s) the worst aspects so that any inconvenience can be played as a character quirk? Not gonna happen. (Back to Doctor Who for a second: See the recent discussion on Danny Pink in the 12 Doctor Chronicles set.)
*Not gonna happen because main characters in modern visual media need to look good (or, at least, not be physically disfigured). Also, they need to be strong or have technology/powers etc. that make them strong.
*People don't want to "see that". Heck, I don't want to see it because I don't trust the industry not to play it for laughs or sanitise it. (Thor: Ragnarok, I'm looking at you.)
*Watching a video essay earlier this year I was pointed to three words referring to animated films: Clean, Cute and Marketable. Immediately obvious disabilities break those. They probably also apply to posters. I've joked before about Big Finish caring about who makes it onto their cover artwork, while "actors talking about how they can be anyone" is a common trope in Big Finish interviews.
Back to your actual question about Doctor Who companions...
I should point out that I can see it happening in a Big Finish classic series production, mixing the slower pacing (and higher emphasis on character ... something) with modern sensibilities. However, it is also probably because audio drama is such a small market. (Up to 10,000 sales on their biggest releases, both CD and download?)
I would love to be proven wrong, film and TV industry. Please prove me wrong. But I don't trust you to.
Likewise with enlightenments, I have my own 'disabilities' - that is, more of an issue to others than myself, sadly, and would love to see characterisation broadened out beyond the photogenic and fully able that we see in casting. Representation seems to be met on TV by weather presenters and news correspondents, or 'the one show' contributors, bar the token role for a worthy soap storyline drawing attention to and revolving around a persons disability. A bit patronising to my experience as a viewer. Sadly, in fiction, such roles seem to lend themselves to the salt of the earth character back in the lab, who is good with coding or chemical analysis, but never seen in the field of action. At bit of a broad generalisation maybe, but people with disabilities are all around us in real life. It has be one of the most superficial elements of modern dramas, that everyone has to be pin-up photogenic. Where are all the 'normal' people? Old Tom used to say that he would like a more interesting companion. A bag lady or a talking cabbage! Seeing more interesting people with disabilities cope in situations of peril would add a different dimension from running around and fast talking info-dumps of plot. Seeing people supporting one another can be affirming to watch.
I'd be interested in seeing more. On the psychological side, one of my friends has autism, another has schizophrenia. Their lives are different, but they're no less enriched by their respective experiences and they're good people. It can be perfectly... normal.
But, and I say this as someone with PTSD, I can see the challenges that'd face a writer almost immediately from the outset. Nothing insurmountable, but nontheless, difficult. I can see writers shying away from these kinds of perspectives because they themselves don't have them. A preference to leave that exploration to those who do have those conditions. There's also the time factor, production cycles not allowing for the opportunity to really delve into any of those ideas. That I understand, but the problem there is tragedy of the commons. The desire to avoid misrepresentation leads to having no representation. In the military history of PTSD, a lack of discussion led to a form of shame and this shame led to it being branded as a form of cowardice.
In Doctor Who, the depiction of General Carrington for The Ambassadors of Death ("I had to do it, it was my moral duty.") was unusually progressive for 1970 in an era of villified veterans. Not a power-mad tyrant, but a man broken. Trying to rationalise a terrible accident, the deaths of his friends, the only way he knew how. By treating it as a deliberate attack. In the Vietnam War, contemporaneous at the time, there would have been thousands of men who'd died from appalling chance events as much as calculated enemy action. How one copes with such an event, we can only guess at. However, there's a ray of hope at the end of Ambassadors for Carrington. Arrested and shamed on public television, he tries one more time to convince the Doctor and the Doctor... acknowledges him. "Yes, general. I understand." A decade before John Rambo broke down in tears at the conclusion of First Blood, but no less relevant.
Any positive depiction of a condition will inevitably have to come from a place of understanding. Writers, producers and actors researching and understanding how these lives are lived. From a position of respect, authenticity and wisdom. Like learning the ways of a foreign culture as, in many respects, it can be. Doctor Who is speculative fiction, after all. Why not speculate how people with disabilities would integrate into these situations? If there are authors genuinely interested, there's never been a better technological era to try and find out. Sites, foundations, and so on. Start off small, commit to being authentic, then build up from there.
It always begins in the smallest places.
"Courage isn't a matter of not being frightened you know; It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."
Mobility issues would certainly be tricky for the writers. If you solve it with tech - say, a futuristic robotized frame to fit around limbs that cannot be used or something - then you're not really addressing anything about disability. If you don't solve it with tech, you end up with problems about whether that companion just has to get regularly left in certain places while the rest of the team goes off and does things, or whether you have episodes where there isn't much movement involved, etc. As was already mentioned, there's a lot of movement in this show.