When it comes to telling stories set in other worlds, with alien races and curious events, really good ideas are at a premium, and most of the best ones say something about human history and our fears about the future. So it’s understandable that common themes would emerge within science fiction brands, even the really big ones like Doctor Who and Star Wars.
That’s not to say anyone is copying from anyone else, it’s simply a case of finding imaginative ways to address certain situations, and if there turn out to be similarities along the way, that’s just the nature of storytelling.
Here’s a few examples:
Both Doctor Who and Star Wars are blessed with an army of identical clone soldiers whose only job is to obey, without pausing to consider the ramifications of their actions. They’re susceptible to mind control (particularly when looking for droids) but are otherwise incorruptible. If the Stormtroopers were a little shorter and had fewer fingers, they’d be Sontarans, and if they were more like angry octopuses, they’d be Daleks.
Cute little android pets
Doctor Who has K9, the Star Wars universe has R2-D2. In both instances their job is to provide robotic backup when required, and to inject a note of levity to proceedings for the rest of the time. So K9 is a slightly bossy dog-shaped robot, and R2-D2 is a willful and insubordinate dustbin on legs (sometimes two, sometimes three). In times of trouble, you couldn’t wish for a more loyal companion. Either of them.
Polite robotic humanoids
Strictly speaking, there’s no similarity between C-3PO and the Cybermen. He’s an android, made entirely from synthetic and metallic parts, and they are cyborgs (there’s human stuff inside). Mind you, Luke Skywalker has a robot hand, which is presumably how the Cybermen got started. And there were golden robotic serving droids in “Voyage of the Damned,” which were a design throwback to the Fourth Doctor adventure “The Robots of Death,” and in both cases there were golden humanoids talking with servile English accents.
Space guns are all very well. In fact, they’re invaluable in some situations (remember what Han Solo had to say about blasters?), but a true traveler in the wild outlands of space also needs something portable and handy for close combat and maybe opening locked doors. In Star Wars, that’s the lightsaber, as recreated by generations of children using a simple flashlight. In Doctor Who it’s the sonic screwdriver, as recreated by generations of children using a penlight.
Mystical races with special powers
The Time Lords are a lofty people with a technology base that borders on magic. They have the customs and traditions of an ancient and proud race, they are the guardians of the time vortex and they have pledged not to interfere in the affairs of others. They also have two hearts and can regenerate when they die. While maintaining key points around customs and traditions and occasional bursts of loftiness (Yoda excepted), the Star Wars twist on this is that anyone can become a Jedi Knight; there are no physiological barriers to entry, and because it’s an order trained in battle as well as diplomacy, they’re not hidden away from society. Also, when they die they are one with the Force, so they can send messages, but they’re no longer part of the corporeal universe. A bit like Danny Pink.
The black-clad rotter who is the inverse of the hero
This is a thing that comes straight out of cowboy movies. You have a hero, and you have a villain. And they’re basically the same person except they’ve taken different choices in their lives and one of them prefers a darker wardrobe. In Star Wars, Darth Vader’s outfit is a result of some appalling injuries, and in Doctor Who, the Master just seems to like black. Although Missy’s opting for purple nowadays. In any case, they’re simply too charismatic to kill off forever and too antagonistic to be allowed to live. What to do?
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