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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Doctor Who & Vampire Bats in the House of Lords

This post is Part 7 in a series on the Doctor Who story "State Of Decay" by Terrance Dicks.

Naturally, the Doctor and his companion Romana cannot stand by and allow Vampire Lords to continue to oppress their subjects. Nor can they allow their new friend Adric to become the Chosen One, and be transformed into a vampire. So the Doctor studies the history of the Time Lords in his TARDIS, to learn how the Time Lords once defeated a great race of Space Vampires. Unfortunately, the Vampire Lords capture Romana while she attempts to rescue Adric, and they decided to sacrifice her to the Great One, the last of the great Space Vampires, as it awakens from its sleep beneath the Tower. 

Naturally, it's up to the Doctor to use his knowledge and wits to destroy the last Space Vampire, as well as the three Vampire Lords, before they kill Romana, or Adric joins their number.

You'd better move quick, Doctor. A vampire bat, one of the subjects of the vampire Lords, is already sucking away at Romana's neck!

According to Nicholas Pegg, who prepared the Information Text for the BBC DVD release of "State Of Decay," the way the bats bite Romana, and even the Doctor at one point, really got under some viewers' skin. Several influential organizations, including the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, complained about the portrayal of bloodsucking bats to the BBC. The issue even reached the British House of Lords. On December 4, 1980, Lord Melchett asked if Her Majesty's Government would order the Nature Conservancy Council to enlighten the BBC as to the "damage likely to be done to bats in this country, if they are portrayed as harmful to human beings as they were in a recent episode of Doctor Who." As he stood in the red-upholstered chamber of the Palace of Westminster, he went on to note that "All species of British bats are beneficial to human beings, and are now known to be drastically declining in numbers." 

A Fruit Bat awakens from its slumber at
Disney's Animal Kingdom
in Orlando, Florida.

All of this seems like an over-reaction to me. I mean, it's just an innocuous, little Doctor Who story, right? Of course, the problem with being an official is that you begin to think you always have to conduct business through official channels. Instead of these environmentalists writing letters to the BBC, or making speeches in the House of Lords, what they should have done was simply ring up author Terrance Dicks, point these facts out to him, and ask him nicely not to write any more vampire stories with bats in them. Ever again. I'm sure Terrance Dicks would have taken such well-intended, constructive criticism on board. I mean, look how well he got on with Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead!

In his Information Text, Nicholas Pegg goes on to note that, as Vampire Bats only live in Central and South America, this means all kinds of European bats are harmless. With all due respect to Mr Pegg, I feel I must respectfully disagree. We should always be on guard against anything that can harm us, and all bats are not created equal. Has he never heard of the games of Rounders, British Baseball, or Cricket, all of which are played with hard, wooden bats? Has he never heard of British American Tobacco, or BAT, whose product has been deemed so hazardous to human health that the British government has banned its advertisement? I mean, really! Talk about an over-reaction!

Dragon Dave

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