Degeneration & Evolution explored through
The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and Doctor Who
1. Charles, Alec. “War Without End?: Utopia, the Family, and the Post-9/11 World in Russell T. Davies’s ‘Doctor Who’.” Science Fiction Studies 35.3 (2008): 450-465.
Charles examines the motivation behind Davies’s as he helms the reboot of “Doctor Who” in contemporary 21st century. Charles argues that SF media has always reflected modern society, as evidenced by the 1953 movie version of “The War of the Worlds” and the 1960 movie version of “The Time Machine”. Charles compares the early years of “Doctor Who” as characterized by a longing for the days of British imperial dominance, while Davies’s “Doctor Who” has a moral and political agenda. Davies’s storytelling is motivated by human relationships as well as humanity’s relationship to the universe. Charles discussion of Davies’s view on utopias and dystopias is key to my argument about how modern SF understands the inevitability of degeneration.
2. Eisenstein, Alex. “The Time Machine and the End of Man”. Science Fiction Studies 3.2 (1976): 161-165.
Eisenstein describes Wells preoccupation with the evolution of Man and His potential for a more intelligent life as evidenced in The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Eisenstein discusses Robert Philmus’s idea that Wells focus on Darwinian theories is accentuated by elements of degeneration and regression. However, Eisenstein points out that Philmus misses the point that Wells believed in these as relative terms only, not as a literal future of humans reverting back to primitive creatures. Eisenstein goes on to discuss the ending of The Time Machine and how what the Time Traveller experiences is Wells’s expression of the ultimate horror of ultimate degeneration: a giant polyp with no face whose only ambition is to eat. Eisenstein’s argument will help my exploration of how Wells investigates the idea of degeneration and the possible forms it will take on.
3. Keep, Christopher. “H.G. Wells and the End of the Body.” Victorian Review 23.2 (1997): 232-243.
Keep reflects on how the internet has pushed us into a virtual world and how it will change us on an evolutionary scale as we see the possibility to leave behind our corporeal shells and continue on with our minds. Keep connects these views of evolutionary theory and dualism to those found in Wells’s scientific romances. Keep explores Wells’s background and influences from the teachings of Thomas Henry Huxley and how these led him to believe that the body must be separated from the mind in order for humanity to evolve, as evidenced by his description of the Martians in The War of the Worlds. However, Keep argues that we must not forget the important aspects of our bodies in the formation and production of knowledge as the body is also vital for communication and cognition. This article will enhance the connection of Wells’s evolutionary views with a contemporary model and I will use this to express how it can be seen throughout “Doctor Who”.
4. Lankester, Edwin Ray. Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism. London: Macmillan, 1880.
Lankester’s article gives a scientific point of view of how degeneration exists and how it is thought to possibly prevent it. Lankester gives brief definitions of degeneration as well as elaboration in terms of the “animal machine”. Lankester describes the new perfection of work made possible through elaboration, which may have inspired Wells’s stories. Lankester describes how evolution and degeneration are mutually connected and gives examples throughout human history of progress as well as retrogression. Lankester pointedly states that the white races of Europe are still under the influence of the general laws of evolution and that it is possible for this society to degenerate into a “contented life of material enjoyment accompanied by ignorance and superstition”. Lankester concludes that society must use the power of science, the Knowledge of Causes, to control destiny and avoid degeneration. This article would have had obvious influences on Wells and I will discuss these influences as identified throughout The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.
5. Larsen, Kristine. “ ‘They hate each other’s chromosomes’: Eugenics and the Shifting Racial Identity of the Daleks.” Doctor Who and Race. Ed. Lindy Orthia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. 233-250.
Larsen comments on the historical context of eugenics/genocide and how “Doctor Who” approaches these sensitive topics as countless times the Doctor has the chance to destroy the Daleks. Larsen points out that the Doctor does not want to become like the Daleks so he must instead watch as the Daleks continually kill other species. Larsen describes how “Doctor Who” explores the threat of genocide and how even the human race makes this threat. Larsen’s main argument is that there is a little bit of a Dalek factor inside humans and that we sometimes lose our human factor, making us more appealing to the Daleks. Larsen’s article will help my connection of degeneration and evolution displayed in “Doctor Who”.
6. McCarthy, Patrick A. “Heart of Darkness and the Early Novels of H.G. Wells: Evolution, Anarchy, Entropy.” Journal of Modern Literature 13.1 (1986): 37-60.
McCarthy investigates the relationship behind the inspiration of Wells’s The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and his other works, on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. McCarthy explores both Conrad and Wells’s work but the argument he makes is that the influence of Darwinian evolutionary theories on Wells led to significant impacts on Conrad, who read much of Wells’s works and even began a friendly correspondence with Wells. The article explores how Wells integrated the idea of degeneration and evolutionary possibility into his novels, thus supporting my idea of how Wells’s view of progression varies drastically from that seen in “Doctor Who”.
7. Morris, Karen. “Degeneracy In Wells’s The War of the Worlds.” Journal of The Georgia Philological Association 1 (2006): 108-119.
Morris argues that Wells used The War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Time Machine to impress on the Victorian British society how the expanding British Imperialism will eventually lead to degeneration but that through eugenics, a Utopia could be possible via strengthened blood lines. Wells believed that humans should strive to be like the unemotional and highly intelligent Martians so that a future Utopia could exist. However, Wells likens the Martians to an imperialistic force and further encourages the idea that degeneration could happen even to the seemingly highest on the evolutionary chain, as evidenced by the fact that the Martians eventually died from tainted blood. Morris explains that Wells used these novels to inform his Victorian readers that degeneracy should be feared as a possible outcome and that the purity and health of man’s genetic blood lines must be maintained. This article will be vital to me as I explore the idea of degeneration found throughout The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine as well as Wells’s motivation behind this social commentary.
8. Wells, H.G. “Zoological Retrogression.” Gentleman’s Magazine 271 (1891): 246-253.
Wells works in this article to impact a change in the Victorian readers’ minds from the unfounded optimism in regards to evolution by countering with examples of degeneration within species from historical contexts. From a biological perspective, Wells utilizes the simple concept that within biological advancement there is almost always an essential complement and in this case the evolutionary antithesis is found in degradation. Wells discusses examples of rapid progress that is often followed by rapid extinction, which the Victorian readers may have related to the contemporary post-Industrial Revolution England. This article is an example of Wells’s non-fiction work that is an obvious source of many of his story lines for his scientific romances, and how he explores what degradation may look like for the future of man.