Saturday, June 02, 2012

On the Isaac Asimov and Doctor Who Heritage in the Science Fiction Tradition

The trend over the last decade in science fiction movies for a focus on action and violence with pretty visuals has gotten me thinking about my own tastes. The latest example of the testosterone-drenched, American-mannered shoot first, ask questions later direction of Marvel's The Avengers has piqued my interest on this topic. i won't get into it about that movie; don't want to spoil and it didn't grab me in any stupendous way.

As an amateur writer, I like to think of science fiction and its trends as a tradition. Producers, consumers and critics of science fiction inherit a heritage and can contribute to it. As with any living tradition, science fiction receives all types of interpretations and has accumulated multiple branches of tradition based on tastes and preferences.

I like o think my tastes and preferences take me down the tradition of Doctor Who and Isaac Asimov. A quote from Asimov's Foundation series sums it up best:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
I forget the exact context of the quote, but I think characters recite it multiple times. Throughout at least the original Foundation trilogy, the main characters solve problems with their minds and often through social manipulation. Rarely did they resort to violence of their own. Kinda sounds like cheating, but you work with what's available.

I had a long gap of not reading Asimov before giving the Foundation series a chance. Even then I only read a couple books from The Galactic Empire series, I, Robot and Robot Dreams. I haven't read the latter two in a long while, but I recollect a lot of ruminating and solving problems with the mind, not through violence or direct confrontation. Challenges presented as insurmountable by violence or direct confrontation kinda makes intellect and the indirect approach the only resort.

The Doctor in Doctor Who might as well follow this dictum from the Foundation series. After nearly fifty years of writers and a character with multiple personalities (not at once) because of regeneration, the Doctor and show has plenty of inconsistencies. Nonetheless, the Doctor generally uses violence as a last resort (even though the latest regeneration resorts to it more often with Daleks).


Even when comfortable with violence, The Doctor has his limits. His people, the Time Lords, sends him to destroy the Daleks at the time of their creation. They are calculated to exterminate the universe. The Doctor pauses, second guesses the course of action then chooses an alternate path because he didn't want to commit genocide. After all, who wants to commit that kind of irony.


To me, violence and direct confrontation gets old and boring. As Irene Adler in the latest BBC show, Sherlock says a couple times, "Brainy is the new sexy."

I also like to think that real intelligence works as a deterrent to violence. Getting injured or killed with other options available just doesn't feel like a good idea. Intelligence in my mind often leads to coming up with options and possibilities. I like to think discouraging violence is a great idea because preventing injuries and killing seems like a great idea, too. And encouraging intelligence, in my mind, makes for a good way to deter violence, and I like how Isaac Asimov and Doctor Who promote intelligence and argue that violence pretty much promotes incompetence and lack of intelligence.

LINKS OF NOTE: Doctor Who, Isaac Asimov, Foundation series, The Galactic Empire series, I, Robot, Robot Dreams, regeneration, Daleks, the Time Lords, Irene Adler, Sherlock

1 comment:

Nick said...

Wonderful post as always. In the tradition of Asimov, making us think! Keep up the great work. -- Nick