Under the Lake: To Protect and Serve?

DOCTOR: They’re not ghosts have been trying to kill you, why haven’t you abandoned the base? 
PRITCHARD: That was my call. We’ve got about a trillion dollars’ worth of mining equipment here. We’re not just going to abandon it What? If it all goes pear-shaped, it’s not them that lose a bonus. 
DOCTOR: It’s okay. I understand. You’re an idiot.

Pritchard, representing Vector Petroleum is the embodiment of human greed. Of course he would make the decision that he and the crew had to stay on the base. As he points out, the equipment is worth trillions of dollars plus he would forfeit any potential bonuses if things were to go wrong. Maybe it is just me, but I have to admit, I really did want him to die. His character was extremely one dimensional and he had no qualms about putting his life or the lives of others in danger for money. When the Doctor is shown the ship and he explains that it is missing some equipment, the look on Pritchard’s face is telling. You can see the gears in his head turning as he imagines the potential worth of said equipment.

PRITCHARD: I imagine they’re pretty valuable. 
DOCTOR: What? 
PRITCHARD: I mean powerful. Those power cells. I imagine they’re pretty powerful. 
DOCTOR: Well, they can zap a vessel from one side of the galaxy to the other, so, you know, take a wild stab in the dark. 
PRITCHARD: And the missing one must still be out there. 
DOCTOR: Yes, well, otherwise.

Pritchard’s greed ends up killing him as he ventures outside the submarine in a vein attempt to find the equipment. When he re-enters the submarine he discovers that for some reason the submarine’s settings have gone from morning to evening and he is confronted with Moran’s ghost, who then drowns him.

Despite the one dimensional portrayal of Pritchard, it is important not to dismiss the importance that greed can play when it comes to encouraging people to risk their own lives or the lives of others.

Cass and the other crew members, wisely value each other’s lives over the equipment and loss of money. Equipment can be replaced and money is useless when one is dead. As a result Cass makes the decision to abandon base.

CLARA: But we’re coming back, aren’t we? 
DOCTOR: Yes, we’re coming back.

The Doctor of course wants to stay. He wants to figure out what exactly is going on. He isn’t motivated by greed but by curiosity, yet he is notorious for allowing his desire to get answers to imperial the lives of others. Cass isn’t having it. She needs to protect her crew. Unfortunately her plan is foiled when they discover that the ghost had called in the rescue team before the crew has the chance to do so themselves. While at this point the Doctor and the crew do not know why the ghosts did that, the Doctor knows that the ghosts have a nefarious reason for doing so. As a result he calls off the rescue team and places the submarine in a quarantine.

Cass’ impulse to abandon the base is understandable. She has a crew to protect, people she has grown to care about and love, and their lives are in danger. If she can protect them, she will. In a similar fashion, law enforcement have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and the lives of others on their force. Many talk about their colleagues as part of their family. Most people, even those not in law enforcement, recognize that police should be able to protect themselves and their colleagues-even if it means the use of deadly force.  And of course family and friends want their loved ones to come home safe after every shift. Yet, is protecting their own lives at the heart of law enforcement? Is that why the institution of policing exists? That is the impression that one gets when one hears the details of shooting after shooting, especially when the victims are unarmed or are armed with a knife, a cane, etc. The officers involved invoke the “I feared for my life” defense. And when the person is unarmed, the officers response is, “I thought he/she was pulling out a gun” and as law enforcement is quick to point out, if an individual officer waits too long to see if the person does have a weapon it might be too late and the officer might not have time to “neutralize the threat.” The officer could be killed. Yet, as those committed to protect and serve the people, (not the State, though in practice, that is often what occurs) shouldn’t we expect them to confirm that the person indeed has a weapon, even if it is at great risk to their own lives?

Later in Under the Lake,  the Doctor begins to out why the ghosts were created.

CASS via LUNN: But why are they beaming out the coordinates? Is it a distress call? 
DOCTOR: It could be. 

Doctor: Or a warning. Might even be a call to arms. It could mean, come here, they’re vulnerable, help yourself. Wait a minute, though. Wait a minuet. Do you know what this means? It means that they’re not a natural phenomenon. It means that someone is deliberately getting people killed, hijacking their souls and turning them into transmitters. 

Eventually the Doctor figures out that for some reason the coordinates are leading back to the church in the underwater and abandoned town:

DOCTOR: Whatever the coordinates are for, it’s in that church. Find that and you’re a hop, skip and a jump to stopping them.

But Bennett points out that they are safe. They could leave the base since the ghosts are trapped. In other words, stopping the ghosts really isn’t their responsibility.

The Doctor acknowledges they have the right to leave, but he also asks them to consider what lies at the heart of their various occupations:

The Doctor points out that Cass, Lunn, and O’ Donnell have chosen careers whose stated mission is to protect and serve. As a result, it is their responsibility to stop the ghosts. Right now the ghosts are trapped, but they know nothing about the strength and capabilities of whoever is creating them. Their first duty is not to get to safety, but to protect others, to find out what is going on and stop it. Their lives matter, but their job description means that they cannot view their own safety as the end all be all.

As of October 18, 2015 The Guardian has recorded 920 people killed since the beginning of the year. To put the numbers in a bit of perspective, on 9/11, 2,977 people were killed. That was 14 years ago. The United States got myriad in two official wars, expanded its surveillance capabilities, and spent billions of dollars trying to track down those who killed 2,997 people through a horrific act of terrorism. If the numbers of shootings the guardian is recording is about normal for police shootings (of course we don’t know because there hasn’t been a comprehensive attempt to tally officer involved shootings) then the amount of people killed by police vastly out number those killed on 9/11, yet change in law enforcement is routinely resisted. Some might argue, “well the people were armed.” But what exactly does that mean? Armed has such a large and wide meaning that it can mean someone pointing a gun and firing at police officers but it can also mean a 17 year old mentally ill girl, with a knife. Or a 70 year old man with a cane (who survives being shot in the chest)

Even disregarding the serious questions that arise by the justice system’s willingness to blindly accept the police officer’s words, especially in cases where no video is present,  one has to wonder what the motivating force in law enforcement is. While many police officers no doubt are good people who desire to help others, with many performing heroic feats, the institution as a whole is based on fear and compliance. Officers are taught to fear each potential citizen and that their lives are always at stake, though it is important to note that police deaths have actually decreased. They are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. This isn’t to say that most police officers want to kill anyone. In fact, killing another person can emotionally devastate a person. But the training that officers undergo, leave serious questions about how law enforcement are trained to view their jobs and the ones they are called to protect.

The Doctor’s speech, manages to convince the crew to stay.

LUNN: Cass says we should go, but everything that happens here is her responsibility now, so she’s going to stay. So I, er, guess I should too. 
O’DONNELL: Well, count me in. Who wants to live forever, anyway? 
BENNETT: Sorry, er, have you gone insane? We can go home. 
(O’Donnell does a one shoulder shrug and grins.)
BENNETT: They’re ghosts, though. How can they be ghosts? Well, at least if I die, you know I really will come back and haunt you all.

If only nice speeches were enough to bring large systematic change. In Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, he extensively quotes former Maryland Cop Neill Franklin who discusses what he believes today’s police force have forgotten about the nature of their jobs:

“I think there are two critical components to policing that cops today have forgotten. Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on other’s rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. But I don’t know how you get police officers today to value those principles again. The ‘us and everybody else’ sentiment is strong today. It’s very, very difficult to change a culture.” (325)

I reject the notion that most police officers are evil or bad. Rather, they are human like the rest of us. With their own fears, dreams, biases, strengths and weaknesses. However, how they are trained impacts how they view their jobs and how they view the citizens they swore to protect.


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