I recently studied a module entitled “Fictionalised Politics” based on the representation of politics and politicians in fiction. During one of the tasks, my team came first in the class, with a presentation on Dr. Who and the representation of Tony Blair in the form of the Master. It’s hosted here on the University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations blog Ballots and Bullets. My prize…
“All these years, all these disasters, he’s finally gone.”
The final words of Dr Who, after his encounter with Tony Blair… or rather, Harold Saxon.
Elected on a landslide, to huge popular support, and yet with no one quite understanding why they voted for him… who are we describing?
Are we talking about 1997’s wave of Blairmania, or a 2007 episode of Dr Who – or both? Russel T. Davies’ “The Sound of Drums” and “Last of the Timelords” satirised Blair through the creation of the Doctor’s greatest nemesis, the Master.
Elements of Blair can be seen, such as his Presidential style of government. He doesn’t make use of his Cabinet, eventually murdering them, similar – at least metaphorically – to Blair’s micromanaging. While Saxon doesn’t have the Gallagher brothers endorsing him, he does get Ann Widdecombe and McFly – just as cool.
Saxon also has his version of Blair’s “babes” – although now the floating, metallic Toclafane, who pose and do his bidding. He enjoys the odd public display of affection with his wife, especially when the cameras are rolling. He tells the women around him to “stand there and look gorgeous”.
Like in Love, Actually, the relationship with America’s President is parodied. While in real life Blair would never have actually murdered President Bush, no matter how much some may have enjoyed seeing that on BBC News (indeed, one IMDb commenter said “Oh, and I got the pleasure of seeing the US President being disintegrated – just what the present incumbent, George Dubbya, deserves for what he has wrought on this earth.”, Prime Minister Saxon has no such qualms.
He murders the President, shortly before declaring war on the Universe.
His war on the Universe, to be carried out with his “massive weapons of destruction”, which can be deployed in an eerily familiar 45 seconds, even seems to reference the flip-side of Blair’s most defining moment – the war in Iraq.
Ultimately, the most ringing endorsement of their similarity is the populism that brought them to power. Saxon uses the Archangel network, to hypnotise the populace into voting for him, distract them from his lack of policy, and get himself into power. Blair just had his spin doctors.
Even John Simm based his character on “a bit of Caligula and a bit of Tony Blair” – a frightening combination on-screen. Down to his body language, the portrayal is uncanny – the poses, the bridged fingers, and that grin, there’s no denying it was based on Blair.
These episodes bookended Blair resigning, on the 27th of June and may well mean that Blair will always be remembered as the Time Lord’s nemesis, particularly by the young children who comprise its viewership. At the time, Blair was experiencing a huge amount of public disillusionment, in the wake of the Iraq war.
The spell broken, his network destroyed, he fell from grace.
Do these episodes highlight that the public were hypnotised in 1997? Or were they just good episodes of Dr Who? How much is up to audience interpretation? What does this say about Blair, the British voters and the power of fiction ?
It is crucial to understand these questions and the interplay between fiction and politics if we are truly to understand either.
Politics seemingly runs through our entire culture, even insinuating itself into episodes of Dr Who, which add to the social commentary on our Prime Minister. Perhaps such cultural references were even strong enough to topple him – he resigned between episodes.
Coincidence or the power of politicised fiction?