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Cyber-punks, Doctor Who, and Blissful Ignorance

October 17, 2010

In the spirit of Halper and Muzzio’s essay, we spent part of a discussion section commenting on the prevalence of a theme of truth vs. ignorance in film (mostly sci-fi).

We mentioned films early as 1927, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and as recent as Spielberg’s Minority Report and even Dinsey’s WALL-E. We discussed that film has a reputation for questioning whether utopian life is a life worth living – especially when the utopia has a secret to hide.  The idea of blissful ignorance is rejected by Hollywood.

Well, here’s another example comparing The Matrix and an episode of the latest season of the Doctor Who reboot, entitled “The Beast Below.”


We all know The Matrix.  Neo gets unplugged and he’s in THE FUTURE where humanity lives underground, basically in a submarine, under the constant threat, and in complete and total fear of, machines.  At some point in their lives, each of the central cast decided to become unplugged, choosing to live in a world of fear rather than accepting the lie of the Matrix.

So it all comes down to one question, asked by a big intimidating dude in a shady building, after basically just being kidnapped by a bunch of cyber-punk weirdos wearing super-reflective sunglasses, even though it’s night-time.

The blue pill or the red pill?  Take the red pill, and life stays the same.  You wake up in the morning, go to work, have family and friends, and just live.  The blue pill is the truth.  The lies are removed and you are unplugged.  Of course, Neo chooses the blue pill.  And we’re behind him; we would take the blue pill, too, because the truth is what makes life worth living.


“The Beast Below” paints a different picture of human-kind.  Set in the distant future, “The Beast” finds our heroes aboard the Starship UK (the show is British), propelled through space – the Earth was forcibly evacuated due to solar flare activity – with the entire population of Great Britain aboard.  The Doctor, a meddlesome fellow, realizes that the ship has no apparent means of propulsion (the engines are off) but the ship is moving through space, nonetheless.  In his attempt to solve the mystery, The Doctor stumbles upon a lie centuries old, perpetrated by every citizen.

Doctor Who asks a very simple question: do we dissent, or do we consent?  If faced with a horrible truth, would we choose to forget, remaining ignorant, or announce the truth?  For centuries, the citizens of the Starship UK, including the Queen, Liz X (read as Liz Ten) chose to forget what they learn about the nature of the ship’s propulsion.

The only one who does not is The Doctor, the hero, the man that we admire most.  And we are inclined to agree with his: truth is important.  We would never allow these things to happen.  But would we?  Would we chose to live in a lie, or uncover the truth, no matter how horrible?

Are we living vicariously through our heroes?  Do we admire them because they do what we cannot, or because we imagine that our own actions and moral discrepancies align with theirs?

Are we learning from those who we admire, or are we allowing their actions as a substitute for our own?

  1. Dani Weinberg permalink
    October 20, 2010 12:32 AM

    I think that we would all like to say that we would want to know the truth, no matter the consequences. However, I think that subconsciously, many would rather live in blissful ignorance than in fear with knowledge of the truth. Also, I think that at times, it is better for society when some people don’t know everything. It would just cause utter chaos if everyone knew everything at all times. Furthermore, in many cases, there are many truths or non at all. And in these cases each person must find their own truths to align themselves with, to follow until the end. Because what else is there to do. In many cases, I think truth is perception.

    To answer some of the questions posed by the author, I think we do live vicariously through our heroes. Whether we would do what they did or not, they are the ones that did whatever made them a hero and thus we admire them. For their bravery, cunning, strength, etc., we hope to be able to act like them if ever faced with a tough choice or a difficult task. We admire them because they did what we didn’t.

  2. Taylor Fields permalink
    October 20, 2010 6:29 PM

    Your allusion to the matrix reminds me of a similar parallel- good and evil. You summarized:

    “The blue pill or the red pill? Take the red pill, and life stays the same. You wake up in the morning, go to work, have family and friends, and just live. The blue pill is the truth. The lies are removed and you are unplugged. Of course, Neo chooses the blue pill. And we’re behind him; we would take the blue pill, too, because the truth is what makes life worth living.”

    Remind anyone else of Genesis? Eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Hebrew translation Tree of Conciousness) and be introduced to the truth of the world, the evil in the world. To be innocent, as Adam and Eve were pre-satan/snake/apple catastrophe was by the Bible’s definition ‘good’. The Bible defines good as innocence and evil as consciousness. The fall of man occurs when Adam and Eve are like God, are concious, are ‘evil’. The matrix marks a similar parallel. To live innocently in the matrix is to accept (or for most to simply be) innocent, be good citizens. To choose the blue pill and escape the matrix is to be introduced to truth, introduced to evil, to become conscious.

    • Valerie Juan permalink
      October 20, 2010 10:36 PM

      In response to Taylor’s comment, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to draw a parallel between Adam and Eve and the tree of good and evil, and Neo’s decision to take the blue pill in “The Matrix.”
      My intention isn’t to be all preachy, but in my studies of Biblical history, I noticed that Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the fruit from the tree was fueled by temptation and a rebellious spirit. Eve was tempted by the snake, and Adam was convinced by Eve to disobey God’s only command. Their decision was not one of forgoing a meaningless, monotonous lifestyle; on the contrary, the sinful nature of man was revealed. Adam and Eve’s world was a paradise– a utopia created by God himself. Furthermore, there was only one being in control of all situations: God. God gave them the option of free will, and the option to achieve consciousness (although that would only occur through their own mistake.)
      On the contrary, Neo’s decision to take the blue pill was to escape a world of blind following, and to emerge into a supposedly “better” world where he would be able to see the truth. That ultimately paints him as a hero, albeit a somewhat tragic hero as his responsibility is to join the forces fighting the machines to free mankind.
      Ultimately, I must strongly disagree with Taylor’s assessment that “The Bible defines good as innocence and evil as consciousness.” The Bible in no way says this. Good is much more than innocence, it is choosing the morally righteous decision, decided through obedience in God and an awareness of others. And evil is much more than consciousness; it is the understanding of right and wrong, and choosing the morally wrong decision. Consciousness, in and of itself, is not evil at all.

  3. Mr. Anderson permalink
    May 21, 2011 9:23 AM

    “Of course, Neo chooses the blue pill” — Actually he takes the red pill……

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