I watch a lot of Doctor Who (as is my wont), and every once and a while I catch an episode here or there that I missed on first run. It’s almost always a treat to fill in the gaps that I have in the newer series, and as much as I like Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston, for me it doesn’t get better than David Tennant in a pair of vintage 3D specs getting yelled at by Catherine Tate, so when BBC America ran The Runaway Bride this morning I was filled with glee.
Or at least I was until the Big Bad Evil Guy was revealed. Now I’m going to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but considering it was the Doctor Who Christmas episode six fucking years ago the statute of limitations is run on this one.
Still here? Good. Now, the monster in the rubber suit this episode was a creature called the Empress of the Racnoss, the supposedly last surviving member of a hyperintelligent (and hyper-violent) arachnoid race that had been thought to have been eradicated way back in galactic history. The Empress, which in true alien fashion, was the Doctor Who version of the xenomorph queen from Aliens if she had grown up in Staines, judging by the accent.
I know where you’re going with this, based on the title of this blog post, but this isn’t about Russell T Davies ripping off the Alien movies for his BBEG for this episode. There’s a kind of passing resemblance here in that they’re both (literally) alien queens, but the Empress is able to communicate, doesn’t bleed acid, and doesn’t reproduce via face-rape. Well, she might; it’s really not covered in the episode. Besides, she’s got a big red spider ass.
What I was more struck by was the similarities between the Racnoss and a race of aliens that appears in the Mass Effect trilogy called the Rachni. Despite the obvious similarity in their name, the Rachni are a race of supposedly extinct insectoid aliens that were wiped out in a large-scale galactic war thousand of years ago and feature a hive-based society with a Queen at the top of the food chain; the similarities are rather telling.
I’m not going to sit here and accuse the BioWare writing team that was responsible for the Mass Effect series of plagiarism; they catch enough flak for the way ME3 ended, and I’ve already written about that extensively anyway. I will say that it’s pretty fucking obvious that a team responsible for writing a massive, sprawling space opera have to be a bunch of giant fucking nerds to begin with, so it’s more than possible there were some Doctor Who fanatics on staff during the latter days of 2006 when the first Mass Effect game was still under development, as it was published in November of 2007.
Could it be a case of parallel evolution? Possibly – in the same way that The Hunger Games and Battle Royale were developed independently of one another but still have highly similar tropes and themes. However, my money is on the idea that BioWare’s original Mass Effect team were paying an homage to the Doctor Who episode that preceded it, even though there’s a lot of evidence that there were some shady practices when it comes to “borrowing” from other media to fill in the gaps in the Mass Effect series. It’s really less of an accusatory finger than it is just me noticing something that’s a bit of a stretch to be a complete coincidence, especially with BioWare’s track record.
What do you think? Is it completely coincidental or is there a bit of sincere flattery going on here?