Doctor Who 12.4 – Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror

Victoria Walker enjoyed this fun critique of innovative and consumer capitalism

Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, or Nicky’s Night Terrors (as I shall like to call it) was an interesting departure from last week’s Orphan 55. Nikola Tesla is a good choice of historical subject, as he is someone whom the Doctor would probably want to meet (as is clear in the episode itself). It also continues the educational tradition Chris Chibnall’s era is reviving, which I am not adverse to.

Writer Nina Metivier crafts an excellent dialectic between Edison and Tesla, which extends well into a statement on capitalism and the concept of ownership. This is then extended to a natural conclusion with the far more advanced Skithra. When considering this as an analogy for the economy, the Skithra are indispensable. 

Proponents of capitalism will argue that free markets drive innovation and that a great businessman (like Edison was) deserves his capital through the resources he uses to help his workers develop things for him. One may argue that Edison is an excellent example of the best of capitalism. He certainly enabled great innovation and had the business acumen to bring in revenue. As Edison says in the episode: “anyone can have ideas, I make them happen,” a capitalist may argue that capitalism brings innovation to the masses at a good price.

One can take it further, extrapolating Edison’s accumulation of capital through ownership to the current state of the free market. In today’s economy, money is not made through innovation, but through the ownership of the most stuff. This is seen most easily through the housing markets. The Skithra are a very direct representation of this, not creating, much less inventing, a single thing for themselves, only taking and leaving devastation in their wake. They suck the galaxy dry. They are also not a stable species, relying on the innovation and work of others to get by. They prop up their military society (as is the best way I can describe it) through stealing in order to gain ownership of items, rather than innovating themselves. One could consider this analogous to hostile takeovers of businesses, and a tendency to monopoly, however at that point I feel I am reaching too far.

Unlike Ed Hime with Orphan 55, Metivier trusts her audience will pick up on her themes and does not see the need to drive them home with a rather obtuse speech at the end. Brave, considering environmental themes are far more digestible and obvious than those of economic theory. That’s not to say that the Edison-Tesla dialectic is new, or innovative. It is one that has been permeating our culture for the last decade or so, as any reader of The Oatmeal can attest. The innovation comes from the use of science fiction to extend very obviously to the modern market (or perhaps rather beyond it.)

Metivier has created a wonderfully meaningful and fun episode. Besides my pseudo-intellectual take on the whole thing I genuinely really enjoyed watching it, despite the usual complaints regarding silence and camera work. The narrative strikes just the right balance between serious and tongue in cheek silliness. I don’t take the Skithra very seriously, but for all intents and purposes, I don’t think you’re meant to. 

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