I binged some Doctor Who this weekend. I had heard a lot about the new Doctor, and how wonderful she was. I was skeptical, but the hype is true, I think: She is a good Doctor for the show. She’s brought hope back to it. Capaldi was a bit dour at times…
More than that, though, I was intrigued by the subject matter and the villains that we’ve already seen so far. It reminded me of something I’d seen about Star Trek and how The Next Generation’s main enemy, the Borg, was perfect for the time in which the show was originally airing. The idea that we can lose our humanity through technology was (and still is) an interesting, yet terrifying premise for a story.
So what do the new Doctor Who villains, the Stenza, say about the problems we face today? And what does any of this have to do with writing?
I promise I’m not going on a political rant (though I had thought I might need to at some point), but I do want to talk a little about the potential of the Stenza and the implications they and at least one other new character have.
First of all, if you didn’t watch the show, the Stenza are a race of aliens that live on a very cold planet, hence being touched by one can kill a person, leaving freezer burn marks on their body. We meet only one, whom the Doctor mispronounces his name as Tim Shaw (see the above GIF). They wear the teeth of their victims in their flesh as tokens of their victory (again, see above), somewhat similar to how some Native American tribes took scalps, yet infinitely scarier when you realize those white bumps aren’t pimples, but teeth…
While initially, it seems the Stenza are a one-off villain species, they come up again in another episode. They are systematically wiping out people, forcing some of them to go into hiding, and we meet two characters who are competing for a prize that is enough to get their families to safety away from the Stenza.
Mass genocide is their thing, and they use weapons that the Doctor specifically says are illegal in most galaxies because they are unnecessarily cruel.
Then, in another episode, we meet a character who has plans to run for president of America in 2020. He’s a wealthy businessman, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions or his company, is only concerned with his own safety and reputation, and shoots first. His only redeeming quality is that he doesn’t like Trump… and yet he is so very much like Trump.
I know England has similar problems with people being anti-immigrant to the point of flat-out racism. Some people dislike other people of a different skin tone because they see them as immigrants… even though their families may have been in England for generations! There is a big movement in both countries (England and the U.S.) to try to be more white. These are ideas that you would think we were passed as a civilization, and yet here they are cropping up again.
The Rosa Parks issue was directly about race, and our antagonist in that episode was very racist, even though he was from very far in our future!
And there’s the key:
Because these characters are fiction, coming from different time periods, different planets, different galaxies, we can talk about tense subjects that are happening in today’s world.
While it is most noticeable in science fiction, I would argue that ALL fiction does this to some extent. Sometimes it’s a big problem, like racism and xenophobia, but sometimes it’s a smaller issue like building self-esteem.
What makes fiction really good and relatable is that the problems facing the protagonists must also be problems that on some level the reader can face or at least recognize as well.
Even in Romance, there’s some hint of a deeper issue. Sometimes it’s something as simple as overcoming loss in order to find love again, and isn’t that a very human thing that most people can recognize and empathize with?
Think about any Nicholas Sparks book or movie. There’s always something bittersweet about them. Someone has to get over a loss, or someone finally finds love only to lose it to tragedy. These are inherently human situations, real-life situations, and that is why his books are so popular. People want to watch someone else experience things they have suffered through or experienced, only to come (usually) to a happier end.
They aren’t popular in spite of making people cry; they’re popular because they make people cry!
So what major problem do you see and want to correct? And how can you take it and make it into something that people want to read?
My NaNoWriMo WIP uses some of my real life dating stories (many you’ve already seen on here), but the Big Problem I’m trying to solve is self-doubt vs. self-worth. My MC doesn’t realize what she’s worth because she’s been torn down by her ex. After receiving a tarot reading that prophesies a reunion and marriage, she decides to transform herself into her ex’s idea of the perfect girl. Along the way, she starts dating to try and make him jealous, but she keeps choosing the wrong guys, guys just like him. Eventually, she realizes what she is really worth and finds true love.
Or that’s the plan as of right now. It could change.
Feel free to leave some info about your WIP down below.
Or if you have questions, feel free to ask those as well.
One of the things I love about the writing community is that we help each other. It’s not as cutthroat as other fields, like music or acting. So, even if you just want to let me know you liked what I had to say, or have some suggestions for how I could make it better, I’d love to see those, too.
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your writing projects!