Keeping a sense of reality

I collected DC comics for a few years, and with every new batch of writers there would be some who, in my view, lacked a sense of proportion. I remember an issue of the Justice League of America in which a robot turned up that combined all of the group’s superpowers, so was stronger than any of them. They found some way to defeat it, in the end, but the whole thing just felt manipulative, and made the universe seem less real. If you could make a robot as strong as Superman, why weren’t people doing it every day? It’s like if a Star Trek episode had the Federation go to war with the Klingons, fight a low-budget battle, then Picard patch it all up and it’s forgotten by the next week. Or, outside of sci-fi, if Peggy from Eastenders got shot, had to have her heart restarted in the ambulance, then recovered and was back behind the bar by the end of the episode. Within the context of the universe, the story is too big and important to be just just another throwaway plot. This also doesn’t work as a narrative structure, because when you do want something big and dramatic to happen, there are no reserves you can reach into, and as such the viewer/reader just doesn’t care so much. The universe is cheapened by massive concepts.

Much as I’m enjoying Doctor Who, when you have the Tardis *die* at the beginning of an episode, and the Doctor claim that it’s gone for good, you expect it to matter. Then when the Doctor fixes it five minutes later via a deus ex machina, it feels hacky and disappointing. Why go so large? Weren’t there any other plot devices to get into a parallel universe? I had the same feeling when a group of schoolchildren were being programmed to break an equation, the result of which would allow complete control over all reality. If such a thing exists in that universe, why doesn’t it matter more? I know it’s not a serious programme, but this niggles when everything else is so good.