As any true fan of the series knows, Dr Who is not a science fiction programme for kids. It’s a social realist documentary combined with a religious experience. But now, woe, woe and thrice woe, we must sacrifice John Barrowman to the Sisterhood of Karn (which, to be fair, could be a win-win), Scotland’s chances of independence have been sucked into the Rift in the Space Time Continuum that lurks beneath Cardiff. It’s keeping me awake at night. Curse you Project Fear!
The most fearful of all futures awaits us. Esconced in a secret underground hideout – which bears a startling resemblance to a quarry in Wales – the evil genius Master Eck, ruler of the Cybernatrons, will be able to manage a feat that even the combined forces of the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels were unable to achieve: creating a dominion where even the Doctor cannot tread.
Although the Doctor can cross space and time, can voyage to galaxies beyond the reach of the most powerful telescope, slips easily between one dimension and another, and can travel from the Big Bang to the end of the Universe, Project Fear insists that he won’t be able to cross the border into Scotland if we become independent. It will knacker the spacetime regulatory thingy in the Tardis, and the Gallifreyan RAC won’t go to an indy Scotland on account of the extra paperwork.
So said Ruth Davidson, High Queen of the Lizard People, as she addressed a nation cowering in terror behind the sofa, watching from between their fingers. Scottish Tories have been trapped in a time vortex for decades now, so you’d think she’d be a credible witness.
Wise Earthlings should heed her counsel, she used to be a presenter on the Gallifreyan version of Reporting Scotland – featuring Dalek exterrrminashuns, cute Schrodinger’s kittens, and fitba. Because no matter where you go in time or space you can never escape interminable reporting about 22 millionaires ruining a perfectly good lawn. It’s one of those immutable laws of physics, like the one that says you can give one billion Johann Lamonts one billion typewriters but even after one billion years they still won’t have managed to construct a sentence that makes any sense.
Thankfully this latest scare story is definitely not bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and you don’t need a sonic screwdriver to deconstruct it. It’s just a load of Ood pish even less plausible than an episode of Made in Chelsea starring Johann Lamont and Wullie Rennie. Which isn’t very intergalactic superheroey time traveller at all, but that’s what comes of confusing Ruth Davidson with the Tardis’s Data Core.
The argument appears to go that because we’ll not be a part of the UK, we’ll no longer get BBC programmes. We’ll get rubbish Scottish programmes instead of the BBC’s rubbish interspersed with the occasional wee gem. While I’m prepared to concede that the great majority of telly output is indeed pish, and will remain so after Scottish independence, it’s unclear why Ruth believes that Scottish telly will be incapable of producing the occasional wee gem of its own. She’s a proud Scot but, not proud enough to think there’s anyone Scottish capable of producing a hauf watchable telly show. Like, oh I dunno, Steven Moffat who produces Dr Who.
In any case, it is already established in the Canon of Doctor Who, in an episode penned by the very same Mr Moffat, that Scotland will become an independent nation. In the episode The Beast Below Amy Pond is trapped on a spaceship carrying the population of the UK to humanity’s new home on the other side the Milky Way. Earth had been ruined by idiotic governments with nuclear weapons. (We’re not pointing any fingers because that would just be rude.) With typical UK efficiency the space ship’s engines had died the death of a thousand austerity cuts. In part because they’d used the same design as the latest submarines based at Faslane.
Amy was asked by another passenger what she was doing there when she had a Scottish accent. Amy asked why shouldn’t she be there, and where were all the Scottish people anyway. “Oh,” replied the passenger, “they’ve got their own ship.” One with engines that worked.
The programme is almost as old as I am, the first Doctor I can remember was Patrick Troughton. The best was Tom Baker, and I will strangle anyone who says otherwise with a multicoloured scarf.
This devotee of Dr Who, while cheerfully admitting to being a saddo git who really needs to get out more, has never missed an episode since. Even – and I’m not proud of this – the ones with Sylvester McCoy. My weekly religious experience has taken place every Saturday evening the programme was on, uninterrupted except by dogs jumping on the sofa and partners who unreasonably insist on speaking when you are communing with the Muse of Gallifrey.
Worshipping at the shrine of the Tardis took place without fail, despite the fact we spent a decade and a half living in Spain, courtesy of a satellite dish perched on our roof and a generic satellite decoder giving access to the entire gamut of free to air UK broadcasting – all without a licence fee or a satellite telly subscription.
Scotland is a lot closer to England than Spain, Scottish residents would not require the 2 metre dish we had, which allowed us to contact passing Sontaran Battlecruisers as well as watching the BBC, alongside an impressive range of Nigerian soap operas and shopping channels selling sonic kitchen appliances. A Sky satellite dish (already installed in many homes) and a 30 quid generic satellite decoder, or a slightly more expensive Freesat decoder, and the job is done. No need to take out a Sky subscription or to find a way of resolving temporal paradoxes. And as an added bonus it inverts the polarity of the fear beams from Planet Westminsteron.
So here are the possible scenarios:
We get a reformed BBC, Scotland and rUK both contributing. BBC Scotland gets proper autonomy and a national channel. We pay the same licence fee. And we still get Dr Who.
We get an independent Scottish Broadcasting Corporation which co-operates with the BBC on programme making and shares programmes. We pay the same licence fee. And we still get Dr Who.
We get an independent SBC that the BBC will not co-operate with, instead the SBC buys popular programmes from the BBC on the international TV market. Meanwhile it can sell its own popular TV shows on the international market too. We pay the same licence fee. And we still get Dr Who.
Or there will be no SBC because the new Scottish government won’t be able to organise one, for the usual reasons of weeness, poverty and stupidity. We install a satellite dish, get a cheap decoder, pay no licence fee. And we still get Dr Who.
So even in the absolute worst case scenario depicted by Project Fear, and even assuming that the BBC boycotted the new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation and refused to sell it any programming, we’d still be able to watch Dr Who and the entire range of UK free to air broadcasting. No subscription fees, no licence fee required. The total one off cost comes to considerably less than a single annual UK licence fee.
This makes Project Fear’s latest scare story all the more bizarre, because even if their outrageous lie did come to pass, we’d still get all the telly we wanted, and it would cost us less than we have to pay just now.
Even Doctor Who’s famously huge intellect would struggle to wrap itself around the logic of that one.