Questions of Progress: Scary Sci-Fi Hits and the Sacrificial Human Body

dr who one
The Doctor and Madame de Pompadour

Well, it happened.  I finally sat down to watch an episode of Doctor Who –an episode that Michael promised me was horrific enough to write about for my blog.  And he was correct about that. The episode under examination, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” was at least moderately unnerving—I’ve seen scarier, of course, but it was pretty unsettling—but what excited me the most about the episode was the connection to other science fiction classics it provoked.  I have become interested, to that end, in a prevalent motif that I see in contemporary/semi-contemporary science fiction: the fear of sacrificial embodiment.  So what exactly do I mean by that?  In a lot of contemporary science fiction, we’re afraid that our physical bodies will be sacrificed as vehicles to further technological progress.  Underlying that fear, I think, is a perceived incongruence between the so-called “natural” body and the man-made technology that runs off it.  But, to further explain my point, let me delve into three science fiction works that elucidate it: Doctor Who’s “The Girl in the Fire Place,” the popular classic The Matrix, and Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Merits.”

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 Questions of Progress: Scary Sci-Fi Hits and the Sacrificial Human Body