Sunday, 15 January 2012

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

' Ever since the Industrial Revolution, Man has polluted his planet, until now his only home. Not only has Man ruined his own environment, he has made life impossible for other living creatures. Seventy-five species of animals were made extinct in the first seventy-five years of this century. Others are threatened. The Giant Lemurs of Madagascar may soon suffer the same fate as the King Kangaroos of Australia-'

... Man is the only animal to prey on his own species. As society breaks down, armed gangsters take over. In America, with fifty murders a day, law-abiding citizens live behind electrified fences to keep criminals out. In the City of London another type of criminal exists. Property developers have destroyed-'

... The conveyor-belt system of mass production brings drudgery to the workers. Their natural creative drive is stifled. They are slaves to the machines. Working in continuous noise, unable to speak to their fellow workers, they are brutalised... '

... the brutalisation of millions of people extends from the factories to the buildings in which they live. To accommodate an ever increasing population vast tenement blocks are thrown up in our cities, providing no sense of community for the unfortunates who dwell in them. Gone is the concept of the village... '

(Re-education Room, snippets from re-education film, Invasion of the Dinosaurs)

"Invasion of the Dinosaurs" has just been released on DVD. It's the Jon Pertwee story where Central London has been evacuated due to a mysterious outburst of dinosaurs, appearing and disappearing; being a "Doctor Who" story, this is to do with the manipulation of time, scooping up dinosaurs from the past.

"My belief is that the people responsible for bringing these creatures into the present want to clear London of its population. They have some vast project that can only be carried out in a deserted London."

As the Doctor notes, the dinosaurs are just part of a bigger plan - to clear the area, and "roll back" time on earth to before mankind was settled, so that the people remaining hidden in London (and in the "safe zone") will be free to take humanity and direct history along different lines.

Not all people would agree with this, and a number have been duped into believing that instead they are going to a "New Earth". The novelisation by the writer of the story, Malcolm Hulke, makes their reasoning very clear:

'We are on our way to New Earth, a small planet similar to Earth but at an earlier stage of development.' 'You've been in suspended animation for three months,' Adam informed her. 'But it will all come back to you when you fully recover. New Earth is still pure, undefiled by the evil of Man's technology. There is air that is still clean to breathe, and a simple pastoral people, innocent and unspoiled. It will be our task to guide them so that the evils developed on Earth shall not be repeated.'

Sarah screwed up her face, and pretended that she couldn't remember what he meant. 'My memory still isn't very good, Mark. How will we live?' 'We shall found a settlement. We have seed, tools, and enough provisions to keep us going for a year. We'll be like the Pilgrim Fathers who went to America.' 'What about the present inhabitants of the planet? I don't think the Red Indians liked the Pilgrim Fathers very much. Maybe these people won't like us.' 'We shall treat them kindly and decently,' Mark insisted. 'We'll guide them, and make sure they don't make the same mistakes that were made on Earth.' 'What mistakes?' 'Surely you know. Factories and mines that destroy the landscape. Explosives of all kinds that kill and maim. Cars and aeroplanes that pollute the atmosphere.'

Ruth and Adam appeared from the direction of the main living quarters. 'Finding it interesting?' Adam asked Sarah. 'Very. Mark's just reminding me about all the awful things humans have done to ruin Earth.' She turned back to the young athlete. 'But what about medicine and education? Surely they were good things.' Ruth laughed. 'Compared with its evils, the benefits of technological civilisation are very few.' Adam took up the argument. 'Supermarkets, colour television, plastic cups. But what are they all worth?'

'Finding it interesting?' Adam asked Sarah. 'Very. Mark's just reminding me about all the awful things humans have done to ruin Earth.' She turned back to the young athlete. 'But what about medicine and education? Surely they were good things.' Ruth laughed. 'Compared with its evils, the benefits of technological civilisation are very few.' Adam took up the argument. 'Supermarkets, colour television, plastic cups. But what are they all worth?' 'They make life comfortable for a lot of people.' Adam, ignoring Sarah's reply, continued: 'We shall take the good, but leave the evil behind.' 'And who decides which is which?' 'It's all so obvious.' Adam's eyes began to look like those of a prophet who was in personal communication with God.

'But don't you think that people have a right to choose the kind of life they want?' Sarah blurted out. Ruth looked at her a little sternly. 'People on Earth were allowed to choose-and see what kind of a world they made! Moral degradation, permissiveness, cheating, lying, cruelty!' Ruth's one-sided attitude angered Sarah. 'There is also a lot of love and kindness and honesty! Didn't you ever notice those things on Earth?' Ruth's mouth set into hard lines. 'You mustn't say such things!'

And that is very much the story of Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It is a story about fanaticism, in a good cause, but fanaticism none the less. The writer Malcolm Hulke had come across in the 1970s a number of people concerned with the environment, and environmental issues, but also found that also attracted people who were extremely fanatical about their aims.

The people trying to change history in Invasion of the Dinosaurs see the earth heading towards catastrophe, and the normal mechanism for changing matters are too slow, so they take matters into their own hands. Anyone who disagrees with then has to be "re-educated" so that they can see what is right, because there can be only one right way.

'I quite agree,' added Ruth. 'She'll have to go to the Reminder Room.' Sarah backed away. 'What's that?' Adam gripped her arm firmly. 'You are in desperate need of re-education.' 'Don't worry, child,' said Ruth, taking Sarah's other arm. 'Very soon you will have returned to our point of view-about everything.'

The key sentence - as script editor Terrance Dicks points out in a documentary on the show - is "You mustn't say such things" And from there, with the re-education room, it is not a very distant step to "You mustn't think such things."

Now there are indeed major environmental issues which need to be tackled. But I've also observed how people who do take Green Issues seriously, if not as committed as some environmentalists, get labelled as "heretics". With regard to Climate Change, I've seen this with Dr Judith Curry, where her position, taking perhaps a slightly less committed approach to the interpretation of the evidence, led to her being labelled a "heretic".

It is an extraordinary term to find in scientific debate, and denotes more a pattern of belief in those who denigrate her in this way than her own position. What is happening is very akin to religious belief when that becomes fanatical, when the very best hopes are corrupted into a fascist theocracy. It can be seen in a strident tone, a determination to always have the final word, an inability to discuss, but instead to bludgeon one's opponent with mountains of "facts".

The sad thing is that there is a real problem with the way our world is run, but the way the fanatical presentation of these matters is done will in fact alienate people who would otherwise be sympathetic. As the Doctor says to Grover: "Look, I understand your ideals. In many ways I sympathise with them. But this is not the way to go about it, you know." The problems haven't gone away, but shouting at people is not the way to be heard.

In the 1970s, there was also a TV series called Doomwatch, which presented environmental issues in a dramatised form. There was not always a "right answer", although there often were wrong ones, usually caused by people cutting corners, putting profit above people etc. But in many ways that was the right way to approach the matter. When Charles Dickens was concerned about the poor, he was about to write a tract about the squalid conditions, but changed his mind and wrote Christmas Carol. That tale is still told; it gets into the minds of people far more than a plain tract would have done. A parable is often the way to tell a truth that is not confrontational but gets over the barriers and pre-conceptions people have. Using a verbal megaphone to blast away at everyone is the complete opposite, and no one will in fact end up listening because all they can hear is noise.

The story of "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" has a lot to say about the wrong way to promote environmental issues. In fact, the dinosaurs are not just the monsters from the Jurassic, but those people who cannot adapt their message by listening to the response they have from other people. They talk at, not talk to, and they don't listen. That is the dinosaur still within our midst, and sadly, it probably won't go away.

The Doctor : "It's not the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real cause of pollution, Brigadier. It's simply greed."

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Your every thought mirrors what I just can't put into words but can relate to. Thanks Tony :-)