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The rules for this little game are simple. If the TARDIS lands on a far off planet and there’s no sense of timescale between there and the here and now, it doesn’t count as a futuristic story. That planet could just as easily exists thousands of years in Earth’s past, before humans had even learned to hit stuff with things.
However, if there are descendents of the human race there, or there has been evidence of human involvement, then it’s clearly a story set in mankind’s future and it’s eligable. And if there’s a moral we can extract about how we live today, so much the better.
So, here are five shuffles of a pack of space tarot cards, five eerie predictions of what may be to come, if we don’t buck our ideas up.
The Ice Warriors (1967)
It’s the year 3000, a mere hop, skip and jump into the future compared to the rest of the tales in this list, and yet everything is unrecogniseably different. There’s about to be a second ice age, for starters, caused by a dramatic drop in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, due to the extinction of plant life. And buried deep within the ice, a new race of frozen rotters waits, ready to invade, save for the interference of the Second Doctor and his friends. Is that what you want, global warming conspiracy theorists? Well, think on then.
And the moral of this story is: don’t kill all the plants.
The Beast Below (2010)
The opposite problem has befallen the Earth in this sorry tale. Deadly solar flares have reached across the dark void of space and left the humans little choice but to evacuate on giant space cities. The Eleventh Doctor and Amy arrive on the British one, which has ’50s classrooms for kids, and Queen Liz 10. However all is not as it seems, as it turns out Britain rides on the back of a star whale, and is torturing it to make it go where they want it to. Imperial rule on the back of the suffering of a ‘lesser’ creature eh? Sounds familiar.
And the moral of this story is: a properly working society is a collaboration, not an exploitation.
The Sontaran Experiment (1975)
Meanwhile, back on an abandoned Earth (and let’s just go ahead and assume it’s the same timeline, with the solar flares, for the sake of neatness), the Fourth Doctor arrived with Sarah Jane and Harry, only to discover a tiny band of astronauts in raggedy uniforms, and a very neat, very hostile Sontaran called Styre who plans to bring down an invasion force. Quite why he would want to, given that there’s no one there, is anyone’s guess, but the Doctor sorted it all out in the end.
And the moral of this story is: when moving to a new area, be nice to the people you meet, and they’ll be nice to you.
The End of the World (2005)
Remember those solar flares? Well it’s 500 billion years from now, and the sun is expanding, as indeed it will, and the Earth is about to be consumed. There’s no one on the planet, but there is a spaceship full of rich people, including a vertical leather trampoline called Cassandra, who claims to be the last human. The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler thwart her plans to extort money from the other guests using robotic spiders, then make her explode by letting her skin dry up.
And the moral of this story is: true beauty comes from within, and needs no surgical assistance.
It’s the year 100 trillion. There are humans on a planet called Malcassairo, but they’re leaving, this time headed for a place called Utopia. The Tenth Doctor arrives with Martha and Captain Jack, and helps a scientist called Professor Yana sort out the rockets. What happens next is bad news for humanity at large, as Professor Yana turns out to be the Master, and his plan for humanity involves making everyone into flying death orbs called the Toclafane, the rotten stinker.
And the moral of this story is: don’t go looking for utopia, it’s rubbish.
For an inside look at the Doctor’s time travels, check out The Timey Wimey of Doctor Who, BBC AMERICA’s original special premiering this Saturday (August 18) at 9/8c.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic