Diet Soap #200: The Myth of the Doctor

The guest this week is one of my co-editors at the journal Former People Steven A. Michalkow discusses the myth of Doctor Who. Both of us are fans of the show, both of us were excited about the anniversary of the program, and both of us enjoy thinking too much. The conversation covers such subjects as Jung’s notion of myth, Roland Barthes idea of mythology, what it means to be a detective, and the City of Death.

Preparing for this episode I was looking for a nice quote about the Doctor, something that would set the tone for the rest of the episode. While I don’t think I succeeded, I did manage to fine this from Tom Baker:

“It’s funny, in literature no one ever goes to the lavatory.”

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There are several sound clips worth mentioning here at the outset, you’ll here a clip from the Doctor Who episodes “The Pyramind of Mars,” “City of Death,” “Family of Blood,” and the “Day of the Doctor.” You’ll also here a clip from the Columbo episode “A Deadly State of Mind,” a reading of Roland Barthes essay “Einstein’s Brain,” and at the end of the episode you’ll find a conversation with my lovely wife Miriam. Miriam returns for this episode to discuss Laurie Anderson’s song “The Dream Before” and to start what I hope will be a recurring new segment on Diet Soap that I’m calling Miriam’s Art Idea.

Hey Doug, just watched the episode, thought it was great as always. Interesting philosophical and theological themes being discussed, not to mention plenty of Zizek which is always a good thing in my humble opinion, lol. Just to toss my two cents on this subject … I’ve noticed that in a lot of this stuff passing itself off as science fiction, it seems like we can’t help but sneak in these religious/mythical themes into the story somehow. I’ve noticed this in a lot of disaster-end-of-the-world type movies where, on the surface you have a science fiction premises (ex. humans dicking around with cloning technology thus unleashing resurrected dinosaurs that proceed in eating said humans.) but ultimately there’s a kind of conservative religious message behind it. I see this in giant monster movies. On the surface its Humans have messed with nature and this weird beast or creature has been born that runs around smashing crap. But the underlying message basically seems to be another version of Noah’s Arch or Babel. Humans have pissed off god or mother earth or some other kind of higher cosmic authority and thus the forces of the cosmos have decided to punish humanity for its arrogance usually in the form of a giant monster, a super-storm or disaster, a zombie outbreak, cloned dinosaurs, whatever. Same thing seems to go for stuff like Doctor Who and even Star Trek. I don’t really know what that says other than in a weird way were actually a way more religious society then we think. It’s like we secretly need to believe in some cosmic authority in a way. We need to believe in a universe where there’s some rhyme or reason to it and that the cosmos can ensure justice in some way. I guess this is what Zizek means when he says today’s ecology movement acts like the new opium of the people. It’s not really facing the blunt reality of all these environmental problems; it’s desiring some kind of stability and meaning it our relationship to nature. These science fiction films don’t seem to be really about speculating or exploring themes about science, technology, future societal forms and their effect on humanity. It seems like they’re more interested in seeking a kind of meaning in this particular epoch in history that were living in right now. Not sure if you’ve noticed this too.

To this day, the Chinese still use pearl powder as a skin whitener and
a cosmetic, as do many other people around the world.
Burn three pieces of charcoal in a metal container, and place three medium size garlic cloves on top
of them. It helps us understand the world and our lives in it in ways that go beyond
the physical.


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