Thursday, 5 July 2007

A riposte to the myth of redemptive violence by Virginia

"Why are there no children's writers challenging the myth of redemptive violence?" bemoaned a friend the other day. I didn't have an answer at the time, but on reflection guess the reason is that it is easier to make a more exciting tale if you have weapons and explosions. So I was delighted to see that the season finale of Dr Who, written by Russell T Davies, subverted the genre and did it so well he had me fooled. For those of you who don't watch, the Doctor's arch enemy the Master had enslaved the world,killed millions of people, held him prisoner and tortured him for a year. The Doctor had sent his companion Martha on a long journey across the world, and a hope had arisen that she was the one who would kill the Master. She even showed people a gun she was developing that needed a fourth solution to do the trick.

I was completely suckered by this, thinking, yes they need to do this, it's the only way. So I was bowled over by the revelation that the gun was a set up, what Martha had done was talk to people about who the Doctor was. As the Master sneered, "hope and prayer is that all you've got?", billions of people came together and their joint thoughts broke his network and enabled the Doctor to become free. It was a slightly OTT storyline but as a metaphor for hope in the face of terrible oppression I thought it was a wonderful. And when the Doctor had the Master in his power, he not only forgave him but accepted that it was his responsibility to look after him and redeem him. It wasn't a perfect non-violent ending - the Doctor managed to talk one person out of shooting the Master but someone else got the gun (although being Dr Who this was probably a set up to allow the character to return later). But to have the main part of the story being done like this on a major children's programme was quite extraordinary. And it was great to watch it with the kids.

In a world where too many people want to rush to the gun or the bomb to resolve their problems, we have a responsibility to teach our children there are alternatives. Dr Who has shown it is possible to do this in an entertaining and thought provoking way. Wouldn't it be nice if more writers were brave enough to try it?