Sunday, April 16, 2006

What I learn from TV SF

To take some ideas in Charity's blog a bit further:

We all believe round here that Dr Who is far superior to Star Trek (which we watch) due to: the stories, the quality of the acting (Patrick Stewart is an outstanding exception), and the issues raised. Dr Who was always about more than a succession of monsters. To be fair, The Original Star Trek did tackle issues. On the other hand, Next Generation rarely got further than Pinocchio. If you want rounded characters, you have to go to the soap Deep Space Nine. Voyager, for all its technical excellence in sets and FX, was an empty shell. Give me wobbly sets any time if the characters and stories are strong (even better when the new Dr Who has managed to marry the stories to good effects.)

So let's compare Dr Who with Star Trek

In New Earth, the Doctor realises something has happened to Rose because "she would care". Both the Doctor and Rose refuse to believe that any life is more important than any other, or that some people's lives or happiness, whoever they are, can be sacrificed without their consent to make others better.

Mr Spock gets a bit of a rough time in Star Trek. His "logical" ideas are continually derided, not only by the other characters, but also - and this is apparent due to the storyline's resolutions - by the writers. The one exception to this, apparent mostly but not only at the end of the second film, is the maxim "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". Which gives rise to some concern. What would be his views on the practices of the New Earth hospital? Was not this almost the exact justification given by the nurses?

This is the old "utilitarianism" philosophy expounded by Bentham, since rejected by most ethicists but still in circulation. Of course, it is relatively easy to construct scenarios in which it appears to be the correct answer, but I reject it (and it is of course easy to construct a reductio ad absurdum counter-argument to challenge it) as not Christian. The message of the Cross is that of the Doctor - every life is worth saving. Happy Easter.

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