In Gridlock, Russell T. Davies has written a Swiftian Satire of the increasingly dysfunctional British transport system. Having spent a great deal of time travelling (or not) up and down the motorway system of late, I found that this episode resonated with my own driving experiences, and yes, I’ve felt like I’ve been having kittens at times as well! On the one hand is the fear that when we enter the ‘fast lane’ we risk being crushed or mangled to death in some horrible pile up, symbolized by the lurking threat of the monstrous Macra. On the other is the dread of wasting the best years of our lives sitting in our stationary or very slow moving vehicles as we wait out yet another snarl-up. All of this is presided over by a government that seems to have lost the ability to intervene to rescue us.

It’s unfortunate that in order to enjoy RTD’s satire you just have to turn a blind eye to all his flawed logic and science, together with the odd plot hole. The greatest ‘flaw’ is that we see a human society that is meant to be over five billion years in the future (that’s longer than all life has existed on Earth so far) yet it looks and behaves more like one that is anything between a few hundred to a few thousand years in the future. This criticism might seem a bit like finding fault with Jonathan Swift for having talking horses in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, but I think that a knowledgeable science fiction writer could have made the same point and still avoided the logic flaws.

The story itself had all the flavour of a Virgin New Adventure novel and it was wonderful to see the Macra make their first appearance since The Macra Terror, though disappointing to actually ‘see’ so little of them, even though they played only a subsidiary role in the story.

Overall this story was a hit, if a bit of a rushed one as usual. It’s just a pity we can’t have the episodic format back.


    Ian McNicholas

    April 16, 2007

    I agree with the comments about flawed science – the gaping hole in this weeks episode was the vehicles, which had systems capable of perfectly recycling air and human waste for re-use, but not the belching exhaust fumes of the engine. Possibly a freudian slip by RTD, suggesting he may have fallen for the government’s air tax (sorry – carbon footprint) propaganda. Incidentally, has anyone else realised that a totally carbon neutral lifestyle is going to be VERY BORING – even beer has a carbon footprint (come to think of it even breathing has a carbon footprint….)


    April 16, 2007

    Astounding! Tony Blair’s fault again. That first paragraph can be summed up as: “I want to drive when I want, where I want, as fast as I want, and sod the rest of you”. Don’t worry, I’m sure that nice Mr Cameron will promise to build a motorway just for you.

    As for the story I think the exhaust may have been something other than CO2 to affect the doctor that quickly. In fact it could have been engineered in order to keep the population IN their cars, otherwise they would fall down and be chomped.

    The idea of putting a whole population onto a road (and moving very slowly) in order to save them all is found in one of Peter Hamilton’s books as well.


    April 16, 2007

    Strange theagingfanboy, I didn??????t think that I came across like Jeremy Clarkson? I have to get to work. The only way I can do this is by using a car. If I could walk, cycle or use an intergrated public transport system I would. I tried to catch the bus into Cardiff recently only to have the bus drive past because it was full. I then had to phone my wife who collect me in the car (as well as the other stranded passenger at the bus stop) and have her take me into the city for my appointment. Succesive governments of all political persuasions have totally failed to give us the modern intergrated transport system that we so desperatly need. I don??????t like travelling on the motorway, in fact I nearly didn??????t take the job because of it, but I have to pay the bills like the vast majority of people who, I??????m sure, do not want to be there either. Perhaps you have the luxary of good public transport links, many of us don??????t, and it is the government that needs to change things. That??????s what it??????s there for after all and that, I think, is in part what Russell T. Davies was saying in Gridlock. I was just agreeing with him.


    April 16, 2007

    The “flaw” in the timeline might have been to keep it consistant with other storylines from previous episodes.
    It occurs that no-one, in their right mind at least, would want to be stuck in congested traffic. The obvious solution would be to eliminate the rush hour. The most straight forward method to do this, it seems to me, is to remove the cause of the rush hour – people needing to get into work at the same time. The government could do this relatively simply I think, by giving tax incentives to businesses which stagger their start time/finish time for staff. Smaller businesses which can have more flexibility would benefit, as would organisations with shift workers.
    The government must be aware of this, of course, but they don’t wish to upset business or discourage trade in any way, so they make the problem ours, talking about carbon footprints, which have little effect on the environment…
    JMHO – Anyone agree/disagree?

    Sue Burnett

    April 16, 2007

    I love this blog – I learn so much on here!

    So, to combine Ian’s and agingfanboy’s arguments, the London Marathon can be summed up as: ??????I want to run when I want, where I want, as fast as I want, and sod the rest of you.??????


    April 16, 2007

    I wonder which expends more co2; the power required by your telly while watching, or the co2 from a quick jog?

    Ian McNicholas

    April 16, 2007

    Speaking of carbon footprints, if the government really believed global warming was caused by CO2, surely they would have cancelled the London Marathon – all those athletes puffing their way around a 23 mile course breathing out CO2 all the way……yes folks, a carbon neutral lifestyle is going to be very boring – basically you have to lie in bed all day breathing very shallowly…but it’s a good excuse for lots of nice new taxes..


    April 16, 2007

    I really liked this post. Can I copy it to my site? Thank you in advance.

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