The Guardian’s Gareth McClean recently posted an item on the possibility of the BBC’s Doctor Who filming one of it’s upcoming 2009 specials in Dubai. I don’t like the sound of that, to be honest. No, it’s nothing to do with Who continuity or anything so anal. I’m not a massive Doctor Who fan, actually. This is about human rights, or the lack thereof, in the ‘Fantasy Island’ of the Gulf. And I’m not alone in this. Gareth agrees with me:
Picture the scene: the Tardis materialises in a windswept desert under a blistering sun and the Doctor steps out on to an undulating dune. Beyond the sands, there is a glittering capital full of futuristic skyscrapers, extravagant edifices and peoples from all over the planet in pursuit of pleasure in the metropolis’s plentiful fun palaces. But there is a sinister side to this sparkling city. It is built on slave labour, at an enormous ecological cost, and some of its population is criminalised just for being who they are.
Moreover, it is ruled by a rich-as-Croesus dynasty unwilling to give its people that most basic of rights – the vote – while its police and judiciary are no strangers to excessive force and Kafka-esque machinations. In short, it’s just the sort of place that the Doctor – the moral, courageous Doctor with his beliefs in equality and justice and difference – would find cause to fight for right and justice.
Right? Wrong. For this is not the plot of an episode of Doctor Who (though there are echoes of Planet of the Ood.) Rather it is the story of an episode of Doctor Who – one of the upcoming specials that will serve as David Tennant’s swansong before Matt Smith takes on the timelord’s mantle. For the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to film some of said special in Dubai.
In case you were wondering which Dubai Gareth is referring to, he clarifies:
That’s the Dubai that isn’t a democracy. Dubai with its dubious human rights record, appalling treatment of migrant workers and flagrant disregard for the environment. Dubai, where you can be arrested for being gay and jailed for up to 10 years. To that list, you can now add – because you can be sure the emirate’s tourist board will – Dubai: location for BBC1 hit drama Doctor Who. Come! Bring your children!
Now I don’t want to get all “Daily Mail” here, but my Licence Fee pays towards to the BBC’s upkeep. If this was SKY, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid – Murdoch’s boys would film Big Brother drop-outs nailing their own scrotums to a plank of wood if they thought it would be watched (and if probably would!). This is the BBC and I – perhaps naively – expect more of them. I have to ask – what is so unique about the landscape of Dubai that couldn’t be found in a less repressive and thoroughly stomach-churning little regime?
Come on BBC – film this uplifting and optimistic programme in a location that sits well with the Doctor Who ethos. Unless you’re planning on getting Davod Tennant to organise a workers’ revolution while he’s there?