The 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, has had the great fortune of excellent storytelling and acting. More importantly, Smith has helped with a significant bow tie Renascence.
Who Doesn’t Love Dinosaurs & Spaceships?
The episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship also provides an opportunity to discuss issues in criminal law.
On a simple matter of principle, many geeks have dreamed of saying “dinosaurs” and “spaceship” in the same sentence for decades.
The legal issues involve the Doctor not just leaving the villain die, but outright causing his death. In short, the Doctor left a tracking device for incoming missiles on the villain’s spaceship to blow up the villain’s ship.
What did the bad guy do to deserve such a fate?
First, the villain’s name was Solomon. He came across a “Space Ark” that advanced reptiles (the Silurians or homo reptilia) used to escape Earth 65 million years ago before the mass extinction event killed off nearly all life on Earth (which in Dr. Who was caused by Cyberman controlled space freighter crashing into Earth, killing the 5th Doctor’s companion Adric in Earthshock). The Ark contained many species of dinosaurs and Silurians in suspended animation.
Recognizing the profit he could make from the dinosaurs, Solomon had his two robots wake up a limited number of Silurians at a time and then execute them by ejecting them into space.
The two words that best describe Solomon are “greed” and “cruelty.”
In the penultimate face-off with the Doctor, Solomon had one of his robots kill a triceratops to prove his intentions to escape with Queen Nefertiti (longer story on how she was there). There is a very sweet scene with the Doctor gently comforting the dying creature as it closes its eyes for the last time.
Juris Doctor Who
From a legal perspective, was the Doctor justified in 1) leaving a tracking device on Solomon’s spaceship and 2) leaving Solomon to die?
The tracking device would have been justified under the “Necessity Defense.” The “Necessity Defense” under Common Law generally requires the following:
(1) the defendant acted to avoid a significant risk of harm;
(2) no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and
(3) the harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law.
Additionally, California (and other states) allow the use of force under the following circumstances:
Any necessary force may be used to protect from wrongful injury the person or property of oneself, or of a wife, husband, child, parent, or other relative, or member of one’s family, or of a ward, servant, master, or guest.
Cal Civ Code § 50
Applying Common Law and the California Civil Code, we can establish the following:
The Doctor acted to avoid the “Space Ark” from being destroyed by missiles by placing the tracking device on Solomon’s ship. The alternative was for everyone, including the dinosaurs, to be destroyed.
There was no other lawful means to escape the incoming missiles. While the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, fitting nearly 50 species of dinosaurs onboard in a matter of minutes would not be possible.
Placing the tracking device on Solomon’s ship avoided the greater harm of the Ark with everyone onboard from being killed.
The trickier issue is leaving Solomon to die. Solomon had murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of Silurians in cold blood. He has also threatened the Doctor and his traveling companions, including having one shot by a robot and the attempted kidnapping of another. Looking at California’s law permitting a person to protect themselves or a “guest” from wrongful injury with any necessary force, would the law allow leaving Solomon to die?
Given the timing of the incoming missiles and the danger Solomon had posed, the answer is likely yes. However, there is grey area, since Solomon was defeated and knocked to the deck when the Doctor transported off Solomon’s ship to use it as a decoy.
Furthermore, while there is no duty to rescue, there is an exception for when a person creates a hazardous situation.
Missiles being directed to Solomon’s ship thanks to a tracking device likely would count in the world of torts, but given the necessity of the situation (could the Doctor carry the evil man who liked to murder Silurians in under 5 seconds?), leaving him was justified.
However, if Solomon could be saved, wouldn’t it be better to convict him for his crimes instead of an instant execution?
Regardless of the legal issues presented, it highlights two important lessons for villains:
1) Never fight a man in a bow tie;
2) Never kill a triceratops and think you will escape.