Sleep No More: The Acceptance of State Sponsored Terrorism

PRESENTER: May the Gods look favourably upon us all. Friends. We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity. A golden age of peace, harmony and industry. But every shift must come to an end. Every working day must stop. Of course, we can take stimulants to make that deadline, to keep us propped up through that important meeting. But always, always, sleep claims us in the end. Until now The Morpheus machine concentrates the whole nocturnal experience into one five-minute burst. Now, you can go a whole month without sleep. 

PRESENTER: All the chemical benefits of rest, but freeing up the nights to continue working, working, working. To get the edge on your competitor. To turn that extra profit.
CLARA: That’s insane. That’s horrible!
CHOPRA: Finally, someone who sees it for what it is.
PRESENTER: Leave the Rip Van Winkles behind and become one of a new generation of Wide-Awakes! The future is here. The future is now. Let yourself slip into the arms of Morpheus! 

Advances in technology often go hand in hand with government oppression and exploitation. No, I am not one of those people that condemns every new technological advance as evil and it is important to note that many technological advances and breakthroughs, especially in medicine, have had a positive impact on numerous people. (Though for those that that market and sell such technology, it is often in their best interest to narrow who can receive it based on income.) Other advances, such as social media, encryption, etc has helped those in authoritarian countries find way to bypass government censorship. Yet at the same time advances in technology has provided governments with the ability to spy and monitor millions of people within their own country, but also outside of it. Most technology, with the exception of military weapons, are morally neutral. What determines whether they are “good” or “bad” is the motivation behind their creation and the consequences of their use.

In Sleep No More, the Morpheus pod has two purposes: the first purpose, which is tied with how it is marketed, is to reduce the need for sleep and enable workers to use their extra hours to gain a completive edge over their co-workers or increase their profits. In this case, capitalism and greed are the motivating force for why many people and companies buy and use it. Of course, the pod is marketed as helping to continue the current, “golden age of peace, harmony and industry,” which in any modern, industrialized country is tied to the god of capitalism. May the gods of free market capitalism look favorably upon us indeed.

The other more sinister motive is tied to patient zero and thee creation of what Clara calls. “the Sandmen.”

RASSMUSSEN: I’ve been working on Morpheus for a very long time, Doctor.  I had to start somewhere. Morpheus’s first client. Patient Zero. The ultimate Wide-Awake. Inside there is a man who hasn’t slept in five years. 
DOCTOR: Or what’s left of him. 

It becomes clear as the episode progresses that this second, even more sinister motive lies at the heart of the creation of the Morpheus pod. Of course the Morpheus pod, during its use could have achieved some good. I imagine the tired surgeon performing lifesaving surgery, for example. But the episode doesn’t even hint at such noble motives. As the viewer, even before we know that the sandmen are definitively connected to the Morpheus machine, we have a deep understanding that such a machine is wrong and is ripe for exploitation. Any good is vastly overshadowed by the evil the machine fosters. But that’s because this is a new, freakish machine that we can scarcely imagine. For the rescue team and others in the 38th century it is standard practice. Just like their cloning of grunts who are breed to fight, kill, and die.


The people in the 38th century see such advances as improvements. And it is easy to imagine that most technological advances didn’t occur overnight. The population had years maybe centuries to get used to the idea of growing humans for war or forgoing sleep. Before the cloning of humans, there was probably mass successful cloning of animals. Before forgoing sleep entirely for a month, there were probably smaller advances that enabled people to forgo sleep for a few days. It is this small incremental change in what a society deems normal that can provide governments with the ability to harness to technology for exploitation and destruction. Of course there are good societal changes and uses of technology that should be celebrated, but it is the devious, sinister uses of technology that often go unnoticed.

For instance, the militarization of the American law enforcement has been  steadily increasing while the majority of Americans remained oblivious. Its seeds can be traced to the protests of the 1960s,  it gained traction during the “war on drugs” in the 80s and 90s, and received renewed power after the attacks on 9/11. The protests in Ferguson, in which the police used tanks, pointed assault rifles at protestors, and dressed up as an occupying force which lead the larger American public to wonder, “how the hell did this happen?”



This happened because the government, state, local, and federal police departments  harnessed fear and the majority’s desire for peace and security in order to convince the population and themselves that these tanks, assault rifles, etc were needed. In the 60s, protests rocked America, with some agencies, such as the FBI and local police department feeling as if a time of lawlessness had arrived. The very foundation of American stability and democracy was at stake or so they said. The FBI used this reasoning to justify their illegal use of the latest technology: advances in wiretapping, and recording, as well as infiltrating and entrapping activists. In the 80s and 90s, it was the war on drugs and the wave of crime that threatened to undermine America. We needed harsh sentences and punishment for those using and dealing drugs. Local law enforcement needed to protect themselves from evil, ruthless, drug dealers (and don’t get me wrong, there are some vicious drug dealers. Look at the cartels in Mexico, whose progress and spread can be traced in part, to the US governments, “war on drugs”). America was facing an evil, ruthless enemy and federal, state, and local police needed the latest military gear to protect themselves.

After 9/11 the separation between law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and the military became even more blurred. The NYPD’s war on terror is known for its attempts at gleaning intelligence from Muslims through surveillance and the use of informants, regardless of whether such actions are legal or not.  And of course the San Bernardino shooting, in which the shooters had thin ties to any official terrorist group, as lead to police departments, union leaders, etc defending increased militarization.  Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000

Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000 Americans have been killed by police in 2015 alone. . But the police expect us to fear one set of terrorists, mainly those perpetrated by those who claim to be Muslim, yet we are to ignore state sponsored terrorism in the form of police shootings.

Police militarization didn’t happen overnight. The State worked to ensure that citizens were not fully aware of what was going on in police departments and the state exploited Americans fear of drugs, crime, and terrorism. In a similar way, Rassmussen and patient zero exploited humanity’s greed and desire for more profits. By the 38th century, society had progressed to the point where sleep was viewed as a commodity to be reduced to short five minute spurts once a month and some people were grown for the use of becoming cannon fodder. We find such a thought abhorrent because that hasn’t been our lived experience. Yet many Americans seem to have no problem with American law enforcement turning into an occupying force.



The Zygon Invasion: Falling Into Their Trap

DOCTOR: So, we have a Zygon revolution on our hands. We need to open negotiations.
KATE: I’m not negotiating with them. As far as they’re concerned, everyone’s a traitor. 
CLARA: If you’re not going to negotiate, what are you going to do?
KATE: They’re holed up in this settlement in Turmezistan. It’s where they’ve taken Osgood. I’m going to order Colonel Walsh to bomb it.
DOCTOR: Isn’t there a solution that doesn’t involve bombing everyone?
KATE: The treaty’s been comprehensively violated, Doctor.
DOCTOR: This is a splinter group. The rest of the Zygons, the vast majority, they want to live in peace. You start bombing them, you’ll radicalise the lot. That’s exactly what the splinter group wants.

It’s been 14 years since 9/11 yet it seems as if government leaders keep making the same mistakes over and over again. After 9/11 the United states government, in a desire for revenge rather than justice, hastily went to war in Afghanistan and then two years later, lied to the UN and the American people in an attempt to justify the war in Iraq. Since then American troops, albeit a small number are still stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq is threatening to break up into pieces, and the power vacuum left by the toppling of Saddam Hussein with no suitable replacement, led to extremist groups gaining a foothold in the country. Said extremists were prepared to take advantage of the chaos that followed the Arab Spring, especially in Syria when the regime decided to violently oppress predominately peaceful protesters.

Western response to 9/11 included the torture of numerous prisoners () and the massacre of at least hundreds of thousands of civilians, probably more , as well as to the de-stabilization of already fragile countries who before the invasion in 2001 and 2003 were already wrecked by economic instability and authoritarianism. Yet instead of trying to think of new ways to defeat terrorism, the West continues to deploy the same old tactic: bombing the hell out of the Middle East with little regard for whom we are killing.


After the attacks on 9/11, as well as more recent attacks in Paris, westerners, especially those who have lost a loved one, have asked similar questions over and over again. “Why my loved one? My family member, my best friend did nothing wrong. They weren’t political leaders in charge of foreign policy or military strategists charged with waging war. They were students/doctors/fathers/daughters/mothers etc.” And government leaders have seized on the grief and pain of a wounded nation to instill fear and hostility. America used 9//11 as an excuse to use torture, and the recent Paris attacks are being used as an excuse to shut our doors to refuges who are running form the very terrorists that we helped create and to  expand government surveillance and power.

Daesh and other extremists groups have done and continue to do horrific things. But the West is not innocent of shedding bloodshed.  We claim to be better than Daesh because we believe in liberty and freedom yet we deny people in Guantanamo Bay fair trials and we prey on the vulnerable in America and manufacture terrorist plots in order to stoke the fears of the public. We condemn Daesh’s senseless beheadings, yet we use drones to smash to smithereens young children. We condemn Daesh for treating all Westerners as evil, when we ourselves treat Muslims and others from the Middle East as if they have some gene in their body that when activated turns them into terrorists. We kill kill kill in response to Daesh’s mass killings and we create more and more terrorists. We use our bombs to destroy people’s livelihoods and loved ones and we push them into the hands of Daesh. They risk their lives to escape Daesh and we debate whether or not we should send them back where their only choices are certain death or joining Daesh.

WALSH: We think it’s a Zygon training camp. We never see more than one or two of them outside at any one time. But they always take different shapes, we don’t know how many there really are. We don’t know how they come and go. Whether they go through tunnels, or whether they turn into dogs and run out across the hills.
DOCTOR: So, that’s what we’ll find out.
WALSH: We should have that gas. We should be able to rip them inside out.

In The Zygon Invasion, the Unit characters frequently mention how the Zygons’ ability to change forms makes it extremely difficult to know who is a friend and who is a foe. Families are torn apart. In a similar way, it is feared that “they”- the terrorists, are among us, biding their time until they are given the opportunity to destroy our way of life. In case after case of those joining Daesh, the media presents the person as a normal man or woman before they somehow became radicalized: “They were just your average teenagers…”  Or “she drank and partied like the rest of us…” or “he showed no signs of radicalization.” The fact that Muslim terrorists make up only a small number of domestic terrorists (with white supremacists killing more people than those who claim to be killing in the name of Islam) does not matter. The fact that the refugee screening process in America is so strenuous that it would be difficult and time consuming for a member of Daesh to try to infiltrate them, makes no difference. We are told “They-the evil terrorists could be in our schools or in our local mosques.”

The FBI-whose funding depends on its ability to prove that it is protecting the nation from terrorism-often entraps those who working alone, could not have thought of a workable act of terrorism let alone actually carry it through to fruition. As a result the FBI has no qualms about stating that there are terrorists in every state.  When the enemy could be everywhere, it makes sense to want to bomb the shit out of them. And to be fair, the threat is real, in some places more than others. The fact that large scale terrorist attacks in the West are rare, does not nullify the pain and sorrow of those who happened to have lost a loved one due to one. And it is true that hundreds of Westerners have flocked to Syria to join Daesh.

In The Zygon Invasion, the small group of radical Zygons take advantage of their abilities to shape shift to present themselves as family members of the soldiers before slaughtering them.

HITCHLEY: You’re not my mom.
HITCHLEY’S MUM: Oh, God, you’re going to kill me.
HITCHLEY: Mom, please.
HITCHLEY’S MUM: You are. You’re going to kill me. I love you. I forgive you and I love you.
WALSH: Do it!
HITCHLEY: What proof? 
WALSH: Don’t go in there. You’re going to your death! 
WALSH [OC]: Hitchley, kill it.
HITCHLEY: Let’s go. Over and out, ma’am.
The radical Zygons have killed an untold number of people while holding others hostage. The response to destroy them, to wipe them out makes sense in a world where violence is often the measure of whether or not justice is served. But again and again the Doctor keeps on urging the unit and colonel Walsh not to kill, to not participate in a war that the radical Zygons so desperately want. Why? Because meeting the radical Zygons where they are, does nothing to end the bloodshed. It gives them what they want: death, suffering, and destruction.  The radical Zygons believe that they are being oppressed, that all humans are evil traitors who would kill all Zygons if their true forms were revealed. They want Unit and the military to wage war on them because that would force the other Zygons to fight or be killed. In a similar way, Daesh wants the West to respond with more fire power and to refuse to take in the refugees. Why? Because it fits into their narrative of an uncaring West who hates all Muslims.  Just like after 9/11 Bin Laden wanted to provoke a war with the West, and he got it. The fact that he was later killed and al Qaeda virtually destroyed in Afghanistan, has done nothing to slow down its affiliates in other countries and means very little when a new group, like Daesh takes its place.

We can’t control the actions of Daesh. But we can at least refuse to provide them with even more fodder to stoke their hatred. We can choose to be better. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t want to be better. Our government leaders do not want to think of a different way to contain Daesh. War is too lucrative. The FBI, CIA, and NSA amongst other agencies have been given substantial cash and legal leeway to do whatever they want. The military has seen its already bloated budget expand and even the so called cuts to their budgets, despite what top commanders say, do not in fact harm the military ability to wage war. In fact, even though we spend the most money of any nation on our military, we are still unable to win the wars we wage in the Middle East. Perhaps, 14 years in, it’s time for a new strategy.

The Woman Who Lived: A Plea to Care

DOCTOR: I’ve left you alone too long. I had no idea how much you’d suffered. But I remember the person you used to be. She’s still in there. I can help you find her. 
ASHILDR: Spare me your pity, I’m fine. 
DOCTOR: I think this is just another mask that you wear to protect you from the pain. 
ASHILDR: I think the alternative frightens you, that this is who I’ve become. 
DOCTOR: This is no way to live your life, de-sensitised to the world. 

Like the Doctor, the last time we saw Ashildr, she was an intelligent, compassionate young girl, whose love and belief in her village, as well as her vivid imagination captured the Doctor’s heart and enabled him to find a way to save the village without spilling anymore blood. Furthermore, the Doctor had been given an opportunity to save someone from death. To prevent death from gaining another victory. He said to hell with any laws/rules from the Time Lords that would thwart him from saving lives. He bought joy and hope to a village that had already lost so much. Many people think they would want to have immortality-but the problem with immortality is that you get to not only repeatedly experience the highs and joys of life-but also the utter devastations. Again and again death surrounds you. Again and again you get close to people-only to have them die. Immortality doesn’t grant you extra super powers-other than being able to outlive everyone else-you are still unable to stop all the wars and bloodshed going on around you. Or to stop the diseases that can devastate a village

ASHILDR: My love is dying. It broke my heart when the questions started and I knew I had to leave him. I returned to find an old man who smiles and thinks I am a dream. I am flesh and blood, my love, but all you see is a ghost. 

There are people who don’t give a damn about other people-they are so Self-absorbed that their ability to empathize with another person is nonexistent. Then there are others who care deeply about the wounds of the world and all the pain and suffering, but in order to survive they need to deaden their emotions. Their hearts become hardened.  And those with hard hearts have no qualms about causing other people suffering-whether they deserve it or not. Early in the episode Ashildr basically gloats about her military prowess in the hundred year’s war.

ASHILDR: The Battle of Agincourt. My first stint as a man. No-one will ever know that a mere woman helped end the Hundred Years’ War. 
DOCTOR: You’re immortal, not indestructible. You can be hurt, killed even. 
(He twangs the bowstring.) 
ASHILDR: Ten thousand hours is all it takes to master any skill. Over a hundred thousand hours and you’re the best there’s ever been. I don’t need to be indestructible, I’m superb. You should have seen me. I could shoot six arrows a minute. I got so close to the enemy, I penetrated armour. 
DOCTOR: How many people have you killed? 
ASHILDR: You’ll have to check my diaries. 
DOCTOR: You can’t remember?

The Doctor wants know what happened to her. Where did the girl he knew, go? Yet in reality he knows all too well what happens when one is witness to an unbearable amount of suffering and has no one else to turn too. You can’t help but be effected by a world soaked in misery and oppression. And to lose so many people…at some point one begins to think that not caring is the answer to avoiding pain.

DOCTOR: Oh, Ashildr, daughter of Einarr, what happened to you? 
ASHILDR: You did, Doctor. You happened.                                                                                    DOCTOR: I know you’ve suffered. Your children dying. 
ASHILDR: They would have died anyway. Human life is fleeting. People are mayflies, breeding and dying, repeating the same mistakes. It’s boring. And I’m stuck here, abandoned by the one man who should know what eternity feels like. Who should understand. 

Instead of learning to appreciate life, Ashildr has learned to take it for granted. She views other people-whose lives are so brief, with disdain. For her people are easily interchangeable. All lives follow a similar script-though as individuals we like to think we offer something unique to the world: we are born, a good number of us have kids, and then we die. We suffer and inflict suffering on others. We get overwhelmed with our daily concerns. Ashildr has seen it all and she is disgusted. Humanity never seems to learn. One generation experiences extreme suffering and says, “never again” only for the next generation to come up with new ways to cause misery.

Thankfully, as of right now, immortality seems a long way off. Can you imagine a world filled with the desensitized, angry, self-absorbed Ashildr? Well yes. Even with our finite life span, we humans manage to cut ourselves off from the suffering of others. Americans, how many civilians have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? 100,000, 500,000, a million? More?  No one outside the government knows and I highly doubt those within know as well. Why? Because our nation has decided that those lives don’t matter. I was going to say that our nation has decided that only western lives matter-but even then that’s not true.

How many Americans have been killed by police? The government doesn’t know, and the shootings it does count, are classified as “justifiable shootings.” Why? Because the government and the majority of Americans have said-not explicitly but through the shaping of the legal system-that police lives matter over the lives of poor white, black, and brown bodies. Those shot and killed by police are dismissed as criminal “thugs” even though, America ostensibly believes in presuming innocence until guilty. But police officers are allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner and those who dare condemn those actions are dismissed as “cop-haters.” The only ones keeping somewhat reliable data on police shootings is the Guradian, and even then they rely on people sending in articles and reporting the deaths. And in many cases-all they have to go on are what the police have told the media.

I can go on and on, listing tragic events that are often ignored or are briefly discussed. The various shootings that occur in America on a daily bases. The hundreds of thousands who die all over the world from starvation, civil war, and disease. We-those in positions of leadership and the average person have become desensitized to the suffering of others.

But then, like what happened to Ashildr, something wakes us up. Something jolts us from our stupor reminding us about the brevity of life and how it matters. Ashildr, thinking she would be able to escape this world and go on adventures, kills Sam Swift in order to open up a portal. But like the Doctor warned her, she was just being used by Leandro and his people. Through the portal the spaceships start attacking.

On Friday May 13, Paris was brutally attacked. Over 100 people killed, with hundreds more emotionally and physically injured. People are hearing the news that their loved ones are not coming home.   In Paris, hundreds of families members and friends are finding out that their own small world is crashing. And people thousands of miles away, across the globe are seeking to show our support for France and for the victims. People are allowing the news to touch their hearts. But how will the world react in a few days when the anger has been allowed to fester and set in?

All I can do is ask and pray that we don’t respond in kind. That we don’t allow this brutally attack on western shores to harden our hearts and cause us to inflict even more damage on the civilians of the Middle East, who will bear the brunt of any increased military action. I pray that we don’t hate the millions of refugees fleeing from the terrible situations that we in the West have contributed too. I am asking that we continue to care and that we expand our circle of those lives that we consider worthwhile. I am asking us to mourn, not just for the victims in Paris but to the victims in Africa, in Syria, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc everywhere else where death and destruction is reigning. I’m asking us to care about the poor, broken down cities in America and all across the world. Yes, it is overwhelming. No, as individuals we can’t do everything. But we can care. We can advocate for one or two issues close to our heart, and offer support for those whose passion causes them to focus on different issues. I’m pleading for open hearts.

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.

The Magician’s Apprentice: For the Greater Good?

DOCTOR: If someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you, and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child? 

In Genesis of the Daleks, the Fourth Doctor struggles with whether or not to destroy Davros and the Daleks.  The Daleks have contributed to the deaths of millions of species and they are consumed by hate and the need to destroy. Why not avoid the whole mess by killing them before they have the opportunity to rise and become the murderous class that they were created to be?  While in general, mass genocide is rightfully condemned, surely an exception can be made for the Daleks. Likewise, in the real world, assassinations and torture are generally denounced, but surely they are permissible in the name of national security and in the hopes of avoiding another 9/11?

In The Magician’s Apprentice, the Doctor is forced to confront this ethical dilemma once again. At the beginning of the episode, we see the good ole’ Doctor,  who shows up just in time to help a child who is living in the midst of a long battle and risks being killed by “hand mines.”


But then the boy mentions his name. And the atmosphere changes.

As the viewers, we are left wondering about the Doctor’s final choice. He couldn’t have just left Davros could he, not when he was just a helpless kid, traumatized by war? But then again, if the Doctor did leave him to his fate, who could blame him? Technically he didn’t actively kill the child, he just appears to not have intervened when the kid’s life was in danger. Throughout the episode the Doctor’s “shame” is mentioned quite a bit. And the question is, was the Doctor ashamed for having left Davros to possibly die or did he help the boy, knowing full well that he would go on to create a race of mass murderers? The thought of the Doctor leaving a helpless boy to his fate, makes one uncomfortable, since it seems to go against the values and the very core of the Doctor. Yet, on the other hand, such a choice would be understandable. At least it is a choice that I understand. I mean, to be quite honest, as I was watching the episode and trying to determine whether the Doctor actually left Davros to his fate or somehow came back to help him, I thought to myself that letting Davros save himself was the right choice. In fact, in that situation I wonder, if perhaps actively killing him would have been the more morally right choice. Leaving Davros to his fate still left a “one in a thousand chance of survival” and would have done nothing but fueled any hatred he had developed thorough the trauma of war. (I’m not sure such an action, in and of itself would have turned Davros into the diabolical murderer he would become as an adult, but certainly in combination with an ongoing war, would not have helped matters).

Killing Davros as a boy, would ensure that the Daleks would never be created. It would save the lives of millions of species, and it would prevent the time war from occurring, meaning the Doctor would never have to even be in a position of having to choose whether to massacre his own people in order to save the universe. So much future heartache and pain could be avoided if he just killed Davros.

YOUNG DAVROS: Who are you? I don’t get it. How did you get there?
DOCTOR: From the future.
YOUNG DAVROS: Are you going to save me?
DOCTOR: I’m going to save my friend the only way I can.

I have to admit during that scene, in the spilt second before the “to be continued” sign flashed, I wanted the Doctor to kill Davros. Yes he was a child, but look who he grew up to be. When the fourth doctor asks about whether one would kill a child who one knew could grow up to be a dictator, my impulse is to answer yes. If I could stop Hitler’s genocide of millions of people, (which in turn led to a war which killed millions more and to later political actions that have led to the oppression of people in Palestine) I would do it. Even if it met killing a young Hitler.  Or the same could be said of other people guilty of horrible offenses, Osama bin laden, Syrian President Assad, etc. If one person, even a child has to die in order for millions to live, isn’t it worth it? It’s not like I would be killing a random child, no but rather the child that would go on to oppress and/kill thousands or even millions of other people.

And for the Doctor, the matter isn’t just about an abstract number of millions of lives that could be saved if Davros died young, but in this episode it ostensibly appears as if Missy and Clara have been killed. Clara, his companion, the one who convinced him not to destroy the Time Lords in the Time War and the one who comforted him as a child afraid of the dark. When a loved one is killed, how many times have people said, “I wish I could have prevented that from happening? If I could go back in time I would…” well the Doctor can go back in time. He could prevent his friends’ death from occurring, as well as the millions of other deaths that would take place over the centuries, if he only killed Davros.


I frame it as such an easy solution. Kill the kid who would grow up to be a murderer and everything will be ok. But in the real world, such calculations rarely work out so cleanly. For example, since 9/11, the United States has taken an aggressive “anti-terrorism” stance that involves “prevention” as well as eradication. Now, the US can’t go back in time and prevent 9/11 from occurring or go back in time and kill Osama bin laden in the 1990s, but what the US can do is erode civil liberties in the name of national security. I mean, it’s worth it if another 9/11 could be prevented right? Who cares if the FBI intentionally targets Muslim communities, looking for its most vulnerable members and essentially entraps them into making terroristic plans/and statements? Why should the average citizen worry about massive data collection by intelligence communities, if one is not doing anything wrong, then one has nothing to hide, right? Who cares if one could be put under government surveillance simply for being critical of governmental policies? The government is doing this in order to keep American citizens safe, and if some individuals are hounded and their lives destroyed by the FBI, so be it. If in order to avoid another 9/11 attack, we need to monitor and track our citizens phone calls, web purchases, political statements, what’s the loss of a few liberties in the grand scheme of national security? Who cares if our government tortures a few people or keeps some people indefinitely detained for decades, what’s the lives of a few dozen or hundreds of people when we could be protecting thousands of Americans from a future attack?

Or for a slightly closer analogy of government policy and The Magician’s Apprentice, let’s discuss the CIA’s kill list and targeted assassination program. Should American citizens really be bothered by the fact that our government routinely kills suspected terrorists in other nations, through drone strikes without as much as a trial? Yeah sure, civilians die, including young children, and that is a tragedy, but if we hadn’t killed (name of person) then more deaths would have occurred!

In Doctor Who, the payoff seems clear. Kill young Davros and future pain and suffering can be avoided. But even in the show, the future isn’t completely manipulable. Yes the universe could be made a better place without Davros and the Daleks, or some other destructive power could be unleashed. In that case, the Doctor would have betrayed his values only to have created something worse. In the years since 9/11, the United States government has defended torture, massive government surveillance, the targeting of Muslims and people of color has necessary for protecting America and ending terrorism. Yet are Americans really safer now than they were 14 years ago? And has terrorism in anyway been massively impacted by US counter terrorism policies?  Or in all these years, do all we have to show for compromising our values is an increase in the number of lives destroyed both domestically and abroad by our counter terrorism strategies? Millions of Afghans and Iraqis dead,  thousands of American service members dead or injured, hundreds of people tortured and detained without trial, and thousands of Americans who identify as Muslim or middle eastern (or who simply “look” Muslim or middle eastern, whatever that means) have been criminalized and denied their constitutional rights, for what? Davros believed that he had to create the Daleks for the good of the universe. Is he really anymore delusional then the advocates of current American domestic and foreign counter-terrorism policies?