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Monday, September 1, 2014

Malcolm Hulke on Dragons & Distrust: Part 1

The Draconian Ambassador to Earth

What causes two nations to go to war? Sometimes, the decision may be traced to a clear aggressor, a government that wishes to exploit another country's resources. But often, the reasons are more complicated, and only emerge in the years or decades following the conflict. It is the latter situation that British author Malcolm Hulke explores in his 1970s Doctor Who story "Frontier In Space." 

As the Doctor and his companion Jo travel through the time-space continuum, the TARDIS materializes in the path of a spaceship. By quickly adjusting the controls, the Doctor lands inside the ship's cargo hold instead. He sets about trying to get his bearings: what century they've landed in, and the region of space they are traveling through. He quickly discovers that the freighter belongs to the Earth interstellar empire of the twenty-sixth century. This ship is transporting flour, and other foodstuffs, from colony worlds where it is grown, to feed the hungry population of Earth. 

When Jo hears a strange sound, she looks out a porthole to see another spaceship approaching. She hears clunks against the outer hull as the other ship docks with the Earth vessel. Weapons begin to burn through the door. The Human crew rush into the cargo hold to defend their vessels against the pirates attempting to board their vessel. Then Ogrons, a tall, powerfully-built simian race of mercenaries, burn through the outer door. The Human crew shout "Dragons!" and reach for their guns. Amid the ensuing firefight, the Doctor is shot, and Jo screams as he slumps onto the deck.

When the Doctor recovers, Jo tells him that all the flour and other foodstuffs have been stolen. Oh, and the Ogrons also took the TARDIS. Then the Human crew wake up, and lock the Doctor and Joe in a holding cell.

While the two great empires of Draconia and Earth once fought an interstellar war, they have enjoyed a period of peace. Until recently, that is. This attack on the Earth spaceship is only the latest in a series of raids by "Dragons," an unflattering nickname the Humans apply to Draconians. On Earth, the World President questions the Doctor and Jo, whom she suspects are Draconian agents. The Doctor and Jo claim some third party is trying to set the two empires against each other. Jo describes the hypnotic sound she heard before each attack, which caused the Human crew saw their attackers as Draconians. 

The Earth president has trouble believing their story. She has never heard of the Ogrons, a race whose members hire themselves out as mercenaries. She finds the idea of their tiny spaceship (the TARDIS) materializing inside an Earth vessel preposterous. And then there's the testimony of the Human crew, who saw Dragons invade their ship. She decides that the Doctor and Jo must be Draconian agents, who somehow coordinated the pirate raid on the freighter. She orders for them to be locked up, and wonders what she can do to prevent Earth from entering into another war. Draconian pirate attacks have disrupted the population's food supply. Members of the Senate, responding to worldwide riots and demonstrations, have added their voices to the military. It seems as if every person on Earth, aside from herself, wants her to declare war. She wishes that she could believe the Doctor and Jo's story. 

This growing interstellar conflict is hardly one-sided. Draconian ships have been raided too. When their crews returned to Draconia, they testified that Humans had attacked them and stolen their cargo. The citizens of Draconia also rely on regular grain shipments to supplement their overstretched resources. Given the testimony of those aboard raided Draconian vessels, and lacking any proof of the Doctor's story, the Draconian Ambassador believes that Earth's claims about their own ships being attacked are complete fictions. This places him in a delicate position, as he is not only the Draconian Ambassador to Earth, but also a son of the Draconian Emperor. He knows his citizens back home are demanding his father take action. He fears that if the Draconian Empire doesn't declare war on Earth soon, the nobles of the court and the military may find a way to cast his father off the throne.

It's a situation that neither side can allow to continue. War seems inevitable, unless the Doctor and Jo can find a way to stop it. But how can they? The Doctor and Jo hold no valid credentials, and the President's most trusted advisors point to a mountain of evidence to remind her why she must declare war on the Draconians. The President would like to believe the Doctor and Jo, but how can she? Isn't her desire for Peace merely wishful thinking? 

It's a dilemma no one should have to face. Should she believe her friends and advisors, and declare war on the Draconians? Or should she believe the story of complete strangers, who urge her to believe in Peace a little longer, and investigate their claims? All of us face times when we must decide to believe in friendships or sever them. We must choose between isolating others, or continuing to believe in them, and thus keep them in our lives. What we do in those situations shape our futures. So what do you think the Earth President should do? What would you do in her situation?

Dragon Dave

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