No, I’m not talking about the giant egg in space. I’m concerned with the laissez-faire attitude that Doctor Who shows towards space-travel.
In last year’s Kill the Moon, and in previous tales like The Seeds of Death, humanity has grown weary of reaching for the skies. It’s perhaps a common trait in science fiction in general. Heck, even in The Simpsons, NASA sends up ‘ordinary guy’ Homer Simpson in order to interest viewers again.
While this complacency will eventually happen, as a consequence of widespread space travel, it’s not something that will happen any time soon. Major Tim Peake showed us that.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Tim is the first Briton to serve on the International Space Station, his Soyuz craft blasting him into the depths above this morning. He’ll be in the ISS for six months, while the journey to the station will last just six hours.
With a show fronted by The Science of Doctor Who‘s Professor Brian Cox (also The Power of Three), and comedian, Dara O’Brien, the launch from Kazakhstan was screened on BBCOne in front of a packed auditorium. Kids. Sure, some were just there to get on television, but there was something genuine in the enthusiasm and cheers of excitement as Peake gave the camera a thumbs-up – just as he was edging into space.
Doctor Who captures the wonder extremely well. That’s what the show is all about. Forget monsters: even the TARDIS is used to show the otherworldliness that captivates millions of us. Rewind to the start of The Beast Below, and Amy Pond is in space. Floating impossibly in nothingness. And The Runaway Bride, where the Doctor and Donna witness the birth of the Earth.
The Doctor is, at times, an excitable child, and at others, moaning about not being able to see all of time and space as anything noteworthy. He does say that it becomes “a back yard.” But he sees it through the eyes of his companions.
And I think this sums up the mood of the general public, at least to a certain extent.
A good day for any child of the Space Age! Well done #TimPeake
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) December 15, 2015
I was aghast to see so few people bothered by the solar eclipse in March this year. This was a huge, mind-blowing event, yet many didn’t see it at all. Some bothered to look up, most during its peak, and I suppose that’s all you can do. However, there was so little actual excitement. That full-to-brimming glee that most of us have during childhood seeps away until you’re just doing the 9-to-5, going on and on as the world rotates.
Days blur and you miss the important stuff, when the Earth is cast into shadow by two fascinating celestial bodies. But all it takes is a few people who still consider themselves stargazers, who are still amazed by the universe around us, who want to exude this passion so that it infects their peers, the next generation, and even the generation after that.
Doctor Who is a story of wonder, and that’s something we all need. There isn’t a human alive who hasn’t looked up at the stars and wondered. Been blown away. Had their imaginations driven wild by the limitless boundaries of the starscape.
The BBC’s coverage of Tim Peake continues tonight on BBC2 at 7pm, as the rocket connects with the ISS and the wheel turns once more. It’s an incredible thing.
That’s what counts. The number of people alive today that’ll step into space must surely (and sadly) be a small number, but as long as we all keep a sense of perspective and curiosity in our heads and our hearts, we won’t become complacent about something so immense, no single mind can truly grasp it.
All you need are individuals with starlight in their souls.