A Pathetic Bunch of Tin Soldiers (Earthshock)

(147 comments)

"What do you mean our redesign is bad? Look at his!"
It’s March 8, 1982. Tight Fit are still sleeping with a lion, and continue to do so all story. Fun Boy Three and Bananarama, ABC, and Iron Maiden also chart. So that’s all terribly exciting, isn’t it. Let’s try the news - the US starts its embargo against Libya. That will end well, I’m sure. Mary Whitehouse’s attempt to prosecute the play The Romans in Britain for obscenity goes down in flames when it turns out that the witness who claims to have seen a penis on stage could not possibly have actually done so, proving a delightfully high profile defeat for Whitehouse. Also, syzygy!

While on television we have Earthshock. A story I’ve been hemming and hawing over what to do with almost since this blog started, hoping that watching it would in some sense clarify things. It didn’t really. This is, for me, one of the most inscrutable of Doctor Who stories. No, the thing that really clarified what to say about this story was actually doing revisions on the Troughton book (I just did my revisions to The Wheel in Space last night, and I have the first round of copy-edits in on the Season 4 material. I still need to do the extra entries, however - currently looking at The Prison in Space, Heart of TARDIS, and Twilight of the Gods. Anyone have a strong recommendation for a fourth?) and rereading what I’d written about the base under siege era.

The bulk of my writing on that subject focused on the way in which the base under siege became formulaic and boring, and it did. But a second strand that crops up throughout the entries is a process of contextualizing the stories in the changing tastes of Doctor Who fandom. This is, admittedly, an issue through large swaths of the blog, and it’s one that’s obviously growing in importance in this era. But redoing the Troughton entries reminded me vividly of the large faction of fandom who considered the base under siege format to be the absolute pinnacle of the series.

I did not much like that section of fandom when covering the Troughton era. And back in the Kinda entry I remarked, with some venom, that the crux of what was wrong with Doctor Who in the 1980s is that it took a section of fandom seriously. And this story is the flip side of it. Kinda was at the bottom of the Season 19 poll. Earthshock was at the top, and is still, broadly speaking, regarded as the best episode of its season. And this gets straight at what’s a bit tricky with Earthshock, which is that it’s tailor made for the crowd that thinks that bases under siege are the be-all and end-all of Doctor Who.

For the most part, Earthshock is an astonishingly straightforward story. Cybermen attack Earth. Twice. The pleasures it offers are straightforward pleasures. There are Cybermen. There are gun battles. Things explode. It is a story that operates under the complete and unfaltering confidence that having action sequences involving classic Doctor Who monsters is inherently worthwhile television.

Given that premise, Earthshock is, if nothing else, as good as Doctor Who ever got at this. Over the entire run of Doctor Who, including the classic “monster” era of Troughton and the “Action by Havoc” era of Pertwee, this is the best the series did at a straight action story. It moves at a brisk pace, has reasonably competent action sequences throughout, and has a pair of genuinely striking moments with the surprise appearance of the Cybermen and the death of Adric. It makes the clever decision to take the base under siege format - traditionally a six episode structure - and break it down to two linked two-parters so that the action actually moves at a real clip. If what you like about Doctor Who is its action sequences then this is rightly your favorite story. Even if that’s not what you like about Doctor Who, there’s admittedly a kind of infectious fun to this one. It’s sheer glee at reenacting various iconic Cybermen moments is catchy. Lawrence Miles describes it in About Time as a guilty pleasure, and he’s absolutely right. If you’re a Doctor Who fan who is capable of being invested in the fact that the Cybermen are reappearing then this story is a real hoot.

The problem is that so much of fandom seems unaware of the “guilty” part of guilty pleasures. The stereotypical social awkwardness of the science fiction fan occasionally, in the case of Doctor Who, spills over into an odd aesthetic awkwardness. Put another way, people are inexplicably of the belief that the faults of this story are more excusable than those of Kinda when it comes to showing Doctor Who to a general audience. This is very strange. Kinda has two major problems, both of which center on its conclusion. The first is that the conclusion is emotionally vacant, the second is that the conclusion focuses on a terrible giant snake. But as problems go, this second one is an interesting one. First of all, the superficially obvious problem that the snake is rubbish helpfully distracts from the scripting problem underneath it.

But second, and this is particularly key, there’s actually something fun about a dodgy giant snake. For all that people mock the bad effects of Doctor Who it’s genuinely easy for fans or non-fans to get a kick out of them. Science fiction is established enough that poor effects are part of its charm. And this was true by 1982. The purpose of special effects is often their visibility - the question of “how did they do that.” And thus a bad effect still fits into the basic grammar of special effects. It’s just an effect in which the question of “how did they do that” is all too answerable. And so a good story with terrible effects is not only something that the general public is more than capable of accepting, it’s something they actually can generally be counted on a perverse enjoyment of. There’s a camp glee to a bad effect. (I’ve long thought that a brilliant piece of science fiction television would be to take top notch scriptwriters and then just produce their scripts on an appalling shoestring budget with good actors and competent directors who are just unabashedly directing men in rubber suits, glove puppets, and wire models.)

Whereas Earthshock is frankly nearly impossible to love if you’re not a Doctor Who fan.

Consider, for instance, the much vaunted episode one cliffhanger. Remember that a key part of the appeal of this cliffhanger is that the return of the Cybermen was a genuine surprise and that nobody knew it was coming. Then look at how it’s actually done. The Doctor refers to whoever is controlling the android, then we cut to the people controlling the android as one of them shouts “Destroy them! Destroy them at once!” And, of course, the people controlling them are Cybermen.

But this is never actually stated. I mean, it’s not a huge botch - the Cybermen are well known villains that a fair portion of the audience legitimately would have recognized. But the impact of that cliffhanger depends 100% on the fact that the audience is going to recognize the Cybermen and care that they’re back. To anyone who is not at least a casual Doctor Who fan the cliffhanger looks like the people controlling the androids are, in fact, more androids. And yet people seriously believe this is somehow more appealing to people than a story where the only problem is a poorly done giant snake.

But there’s a larger issue at play here - one that gets back to the sorts of comparisons we dealt with back in the bemusing Space: 1999/I Claudius entry. And that’s that the BBC is not exactly great at doing space action-adventure. Earthshock is by far the most competent that the classic series ever got at imitating Aliens and Star Wars, but this is not exactly what you’d call an accomplishment in the grand scheme of the genre. The BBC just can’t do this sort of thing all that well. This manages “not a disaster,” which is a tremendous accomplishment for the BBC, but the fact of the matter is that if in 1982 you’re pitching the major appeal of Doctor Who as space marines then it’s pretty tough to account for why anybody would prefer Doctor Who to other things on the market.

The best account that presents itself is one of nostalgia - that this is Britain’s great contribution to science fiction television and so is rightly beloved on those grounds. And so we bring the Cybermen back because they’re the monsters that people remember from their childhoods. And we do space action because that’s what science fiction is these days, and it’s what Doctor Who did so well in the Troughton and Pertwee eras.

Ironically, of course, it’s John Nathan-Turner’s own maxim that dooms him here. The memory cheats. Not in the sense he used it - which was to suggest that old Doctor Who wasn’t as good as people remembered it being - but in the sense that people don’t remember why something was good years after they watched it. Yes, the scene of Cybermen bursting out of their tombs in Tomb of the Cybermen was absolutely fantastic, but it turns out to have been one of about three good moments in the entire story. It stuck in the memory, sure, but it wasn’t the heart and soul of the series, it was just the bit that stayed with you a decade later.

This is the biggest problem with the “monsters” model of Doctor Who. The sad truth of the matter is that Doctor Who was never all that good at monster action. Over the course of its nearly fifty years it has had some gloriously brilliant monsters, but most of them were the product of a particularly good BBC design team or of particularly inventive writing. The Daleks are good because Raymond Cusick hit the things out of the park. The Weeping Angels are good because they’re a quintessentially British version of a J-Horror monster. But the fact of the matter is that the Ice Warriors didn’t come back because green lizard-men from Mars are a good idea, they came back because the costumes were bloody expensive and had to be justified by re-use. And when the costumes wore out the Ice Warriors were never seen again, and with good reason: they were dumb.

This, more than anything, is responsible for the sort of sad and pathetic status of Doctor Who fans. It’s not, as with most genre fans, that they liked something unpopular. Doctor Who has, even at its lowest moments, enjoyed a measure of genuine respect in Britain. It’s telling that “Doctorin’ the TARDIS,” KLF’s gloriously trashy Doctor Who themed single, hit number one during the Cartmel years at the absolute lowest ebb of the series actual popularity. Even in the worst days of the 1980s the series enjoyed genuine theoretical popularity. No, the sad thing about Doctor Who fans has always been what they liked about Doctor Who. It’s always been that they genuinely thought the series was about its monsters and its thrills.

And at the end of the day this is where I have to just draw an aesthetic line. Because I’m on the other side of that debate. I couldn’t care less about the series as an action serial and the points where it becomes one are the ones that interest me the least. For me Doctor Who is interesting because of its inventiveness, and while I can get a guilty thrill out of mimicry of other popular texts of the time I cannot invest myself in the idea that it’s what Doctor Who is for. Doctor Who isn’t a chameleon just so it can consistently fail to distinguish itself in any meaningful sense from anything else around it. In this regard the two Saward scripts in Season Nineteen are in many ways my least favorite of the set - and I even include Time-Flight in that assessment. It’s not that The Visitation and Earthshock have no ambitions other than entertainment - that’s something I’ll never really fault Doctor Who for. It’s that they have no ambitions other than recreating other things. There is no spark or creativity anywhere in them. Can I enjoy them? Yes. Absolutely. But I cannot bring myself to love either of them. They have next to none of the animating spark that I genuinely love about Doctor Who.

But in the case of Earthshock I’ll push that critique one step further. Earthshock has the unfortunate distinction of airing two weeks before the Falklands War breaks out. I am not actually going to cover the Falklands War in massive depth - I have a different Pop Between Realities post planned in the next season gap. But its a soberingly problematic moment in British history. There’s not really a way around the sense that the war was, if not wholly motivated by the fact that there would have to be an election soon, at least firmly conducted with one eye on the polls. The Argentinian side - a fading military dictatorship in desperate need of a propaganda coup - was certainly no better, but the sudden reversion to raw militaristic jingoism in the UK was genuinely chilling, doubly so because it worked so well in the 1983 general election. Similarly, those inclined to despise Rupert Murdoch and The Sun have little evidence substantially better than the paper’s war coverage and reflexive support of the Thatcher government.

So to see Doctor Who, two weeks before the war broke out, running a story in which even the Doctor ends up as an action hero wrestling a Cyberman and rubbing gold into its chest plate before Nyssa guns it down and where the main supporting good guys are just space marines with big guns is... dismaying. In the worst days of the UNIT era there was at least a sense of tension between the Doctor and UNIT. Pertwee’s sort of drag action man, the camp sensibility of UNIT, and the fact that Pertwee even at his worst had at least some visible tension with authority figures all cut against the myriad of problems introduced.

Because the fact of the matter is that the military is, by definition, a tool of establishment power that prioritizes brute force and is organized according to an authoritarian focus on conformity for its own sake. There’s no way for the military to be anything else. This isn’t a statement of pacifist belief or anything along those lines - it’s simply an acknowledgment of how an organization like the military needs to function. And thus the Doctor - mercurial, anarchistic, and intellectual - is at the core of his concept at least mildly hostile to the military. That doesn’t mean the Doctor is a pacifist. That doesn’t mean the Doctor must always oppose the military. But it does mean that using Doctor Who to blindly and uncritically valorize the military is deeply problematic.

I don’t want this observation to be read as a critique of Saward’s politics. In his next scripts he displays considerably more skepticism towards the military, and one gets the sense that he grasped the problems of this story in hindsight. But the fact remains - on a fundamental, ethical level someone who loves the bulk of Doctor Who ought to have some problems with this story. If you’re the sort of person who likes Doctor Who then, quite frankly, you really should be the sort of person who likes subversive and mercurial play on and around a concept more than you like militaristic action.

There are two other things to talk about with this story. One I’m going to punt to Monday when I do the exact Big Finish audio everybody has been assuming I’m going to do ever since I started doing Pop Between Realities posts. The other is the death of Adric. This gets back to the sort of running theme of this entry, which is that fandom has a very warped sense of what works in television. The death of Adric is, for the sort of orthodox fandom that heralds the return of the Cybermen as inherently worthwhile, one of the great moments of drama in the series and a triumphant confirmation of how John Nathan-Turner has discarded the silliness of the Graham Williams era and become a serious program again.

It is difficult to take this even remotely seriously. Part of this is because Adric was a crappy character. But what’s remarkable is how little effort was even expended on trying to make his death work dramatically. He doesn’t die heroically in any way, shape, or form. He dies because he runs into a crashing spaceship to prove that he’s clever. His last words, “now I’ll never know if I was right,” are so outlandishly smug that it is impossible to even figure out what Saward thought he was doing with them. And on top of that Adric gets an extra heaping of annoying scenes in the first episode that work towards setting up a voluntary departure and, on the side, reminding everyone of why they hate him.

But this gets at a larger issue, which is that there’s an overt cynicism to the entire thing. It’s not just that killing a companion is obviously a bit of a stunt, it’s that they consciously picked the companion that was going to be least missed. If you’re going to have the Doctor fail and have a companion die, fine. It’s probably something worth doing every couple of decades just to forcibly broaden the possible horizons of what Doctor Who can do. And while the tragic departures of Rose and Donna are in every sense better versions of killing a companion, the fact of the matter is that it remains an effective way of increasing dramatic tension. The Doctor will save the day, yes, but there’s a possibility of an egregious price to be paid.

But to do it with the companion that is going to have the least emotional impact is just cheap. If you want to go down that route, do it in a way that’s going to matter to the audience. What we get here isn’t drama. It’s the hollow shell of drama - a major character death, a silent credit sequence, a few minutes of horrified and morose main characters at the tail end of this and the start of Time-Flight, and then everybody - the audience included - moves on. It’s not one of the most dramatic sequences of the 1980s. It’s a cheap sham designed to look like drama. It’s a sequence designed to rile up controversy - the exact sort of death scene that would be created by an executive who believes that art should “soothe, not distract.” It’s there to make people watching the show feel like they’re watching serious drama without making any effort at being serious drama. Just like the supposed emotional plot arcs all season have been the hollow shells of character drama instead of actual character drama.

So, fine. Thrill at the reasonably well-done action sequences. Enjoy the hell out of Davison and Sutton’s acting around Adric’s death, which really is, in both cases, damn good. Even enjoy the ridiculous macho posturing of David Banks as Cyber Leader if you want. Take your guilty pleasure from it. Fine.

At the end of the day, this is Doctor Who for people who read The Sun, two weeks before it becomes horrifyingly clear what that really means.

Comments

Scott 5 years, 4 months ago

"What we get here isn’t drama. It’s the hollow shell of drama - a major character death, a silent credit sequence, a few minutes of horrified and morose main characters at the tail end of this and the start of Time-Flight, and then everybody - the audience included - moves on."

You've hit exactly why I can't stand the silent credit sequence at the end of Episode Four. I mean, okay, the "Doctor Who" theme might not strike the right note of pathos for the moment either, but they're clearly trying to provoke an audience of people, of whom it's fair to say most probably didn't like the character anyway, to suddenly forget that this was a character they spent most of his time on the show actively hating and suddenly start wailing with grief. It's either shameless emotional manipulation, a complete failure to read the audience, or both.

I'm not saying they should have played it as everyone cheering that he died (although God knows I wanted to), but Christ, they didn't have to ladle it on with a spoon, either.

Shameless showing of age, though -- I was born on the day Episode 3 was broadcast. How's THAT for significant world events?

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

When you're a blood-thirsty (or, to be more charitable, action-oriented) eight-year-old, there's little more thrilling than Davison's three base-under-siege stories. I loved Star Wars, and would go on to love Return Of The Jedi and Temple Of Doom. Monsters, laser guns, killing. Spaceships blowing up. Nothing finer. Watching these stories at the time, they definitely succeeded on that level, Resurrection Of The Daleks in particular, but Earthshock too.

And killing off Adric chimes differently when you're little. He didn't annoy me, I didn't really have the emotional equipment to judge TV characters as annoying or otherwise back then, he was just one of the goodies and was therefore expected to survive. I still remember lying in bed afterwards, completely shocked, picturing him dead, his pyjamas all ragged and bloody (for some reason). And the following day, my school was abuzz. One kid had a newspaper cutting, which seemed to me to be reporting Adric's death as if it was real (I think it was the first realisation for me that grown-up newspapers could be a bit crap and pathetic).

And rewatching Adric stories, there's still an eerie pang of him being the doomed one, offsetting his annoyingness a little. Only a little, mind.

But viewing these three base-under-siege stories as an adult, they don't really work. Earthshock is fine, but the idea of it being an all-time classic is somewhat mystifying. Mind you, Genesis and Remembrance's status as absolute classics also mystify me, especially the latter. It frustrates me no end when people say, "I have a friend who's never seen Doctor Who, which story would you recommend I start with?" and fans say, "It HAS to be Genesis or Remembrance!". Genesis has some nice moments, but it also has long stretches of tedium, obvious padding, Terry Nation characterisation (ie. none at all), and generally isn't really great television. You really have to care about the origins of the Daleks, and not be put off by clunking Nazism parallels. Remembrance even more so - any success relies on the audience really buying into Dalek and Doctor Who continuity. Without that, it's pretty inept.

In other words, I think a lot of fans struggle to differentiate between inherent quality as television, and their own personal response to something, their own baggage that they bring to the show.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

"It's either shameless emotional manipulation, a complete failure to read the audience, or both."

Reminds me a bit of Tennant/Davies' 'World Tour' at the climax of RTD's tenure of producer (I can't be bothered looking up the episode title)... you can imagine Davies thinking, "This'll get 'em welling up", when really it just came as a shameless self-love-in.

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Alex Wilcock 5 years, 4 months ago

I’d say that the reveal at the end of Part One is still quite exciting for non-fans – not ‘knowing’ the monster doesn’t rob it of being the kind of ‘monster reveal’ that episodes one have been riffing off since the beginning of the series – though its praise to the skies among fandom illustrates how both many fans and Saward learned the wrong lesson from praise for JNT’s most similar earlier cliffhanger, Part Three of The Keeper of Traken. For fans, that revealed the Master; but that was just a bonus moment immediately before the actual cliffhanger which, for every viewer, marked a major step in the plot. In Earthshock, the reveal is just a reveal, even if you recognise the monster (and ‘recognising the monster’ is more problematic here than the fan reaction suggests, as Earthshock almost entirely changes the nature of the Cybermen, but that’s another story).

I still think it’s a little harsh to say “Whereas Earthshock is frankly nearly impossible to love if you’re not a Doctor Who fan”, though. I’m sure a case could be made for any Who story on those grounds; this was excitingly made, for TV, and Star Wars wasn’t on telly every week. I still think the sound design, for example, both music and ‘special sound’, is peculiarly effective in creating an atmosphere (and something that could compete more cheaply than the visuals).

I’m with you on the celebration of militarism, though. After making the Doctor hold a gun and be mostly redundant at the climax of his previous story, here Saward steps up both elements: as I’ve written in my own Earthshock piece with the subtitle of “When Macho Wins, the Doctor Loses”, the Doctor needs a bunch of big super-troopers to help him here, which may explain why he loses the argument with, er, a big super-trooper who ‘threatens his girl’. As many others have said, it appears that Saward simply can’t understand the idea of a hero who doesn’t look to violence first, and thinks he’s a helpless wuss. I have a harsher critique of the sexual dynamics of the Doctor killing the Cyberleader than you do, too.

I’m glad you’re one of the few reviewers who’s not stomped on Beryl Reid, too. For me, she’s the story’s saving grace, undermining the machismo with a perfectly Who-ish piece of casting alongside the likes of a tubby, balding James Dean in The Dominators and Bernard Cribbins as Luke Skywalker.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

I think you're misreading the role of the Falklands war here, in two ways.

Politically, you're making the mistake of reading an eventual consequence of the war (boost to the Tories, Thatcher re-elected) into the motivation for fighting it. Any plausible British Government would have much the same military response to such an invasion, for compelling strategic reasons. The UK has lots and lots of small but terribly important bits of rock around the world, and if it shows itself unwilling to defend them if invaded, it stands to lose the lot.

As far as having "one eye on the election" is concerned, this is implausible. The fact that the UK won the Falklands War is obscuring here the fact that it was seriously touch and go. A little less covert assistance from the French, a few more Exocets hitting home, and Thatcher could have been going into the election as the author of a bloody and humiliating defeat. That's not the kind of risk you take for electoral purposes.

The second misreading is that there's a Doctor Who connection that I think you've missed. You rightly highlight the vile jingoism of the Murdoch red-tops, but the other side of the coin is that the BBC resolutely declined to play the jingo card. This got a lot of Tories very riled - they were particularly exercised about the way the BBC referred to "British forces" rather than "our boys" or whatever. This kicks off the modern Tory antipathy towards the BBC - even now there is a substantial strand of Tory politics that regards the BBC as an enemy. Later on in the eighties, this leads to the Tory government trying to shake up, reform and cut down to size the BBC, imposing new and alien styles of management. This will have consequences for Doctor Who all too soon.

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Tony B 5 years, 4 months ago

"(I’ve long thought that a brilliant piece of science fiction television would be to take top notch scriptwriters and then just produce their scripts on an appalling shoestring budget with good actors and competent directors who are just unabashedly directing men in rubber suits, glove puppets, and wire models.)"

See the entry on Sapphire and Steel

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Totally agree about Beryl Reid. I suspect she seems (slightly) less out of place if you don't have all the other associations she brings for British people of my age or older (for me it's presenting The Mooncat Show and being the old Trotskyite in the wheelchair in The Beiderbecke Tapes). She is, of course, absolutely brilliant, but I can understand why a section of fandom has a problem with any celebrity casting.

(Though in fact I can't think of a *bad* piece of celebrity casting in the classic series, other than Bonnie Langford, and the problems with Mel went much further than the actor. Ken Dodd, Alexei Sayle, Nicholas Parsons and so on did exactly what the part required.)

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

+1 on Beryl Reid. The casting actually makes up for the fact that the script doesn't give her much of a character -- her line readings are so unique that she really stands out. And Saward handles her pretty well too, including giving her a walk-on-stage entrance (rather than just cutting to her) that's dramatic but not overplayed.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

But what’s remarkable is how little effort was even expended on trying to make his death work dramatically. He doesn’t die heroically in any way, shape, or form. He dies because he runs into a crashing spaceship to prove that he’s clever. His last words, “now I’ll never know if I was right,” are so outlandishly smug that it is impossible to even figure out what Saward thought he was doing with them

Yeah, I don't agree with this. What Adric's doing here is getting carried away with the exhilaration of solving a problem to the extent that he forgets what's going on around him. It's the ultimate nerd fantasy -- he essentially gets killed for being too good at programming. But it's also an appropriate way for him to be sent out: getting caught up in understanding the situation, solving the problem, and rescuing everyone is what the Doctor's meant to do. Finally, after ten stories of being the smart but always-wrong understudy, Adric gets to be the Doctor at last, and it kills him. "I'll never know if I was right" covers all the other things he'll never know. He'll never know if he could have been right again and again. He'll never know if he could have been an equal with the Doctor, or the star of his own life. He'll never know what he would have been as a grownup.

Yes, it's arrogant. But it's also genuinely sad, and I think Saward got this one just right.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

It had a lot of emotional impact for me, more than killing Nyssa or Tegan would have done. Partly because as a boy I identified more with Adric, partly because he was the one who *would* make a horrible mistake and die by accident.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

Re bad celebrity casting: Chloe Ashcroft isn't great; Richard Briers is bad in episode 4. Paul Darrow is awful, but it's not clear that he was a celeb rather than a jobbing sf actor. Other than that I agree. You could even argue that the problem with celebrity casting was that it wasn't over the top enough; a lot of the time the celebs got to play solid supporting characters who could have been played by anyone (eg Nerys Hughes), and it was all too infrequent that they got to have star-eclipsing scenery-chewing villain parts; Richard Briers is really the only example I can think of.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think we can say Saward handled her especially well though. Wasn't she written as a man, and only cast as a woman by Grimwade? I think if the actor had been a typical male Space Marine type, the entrance would be pretty cliched.

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Jon Cole 5 years, 4 months ago

The Falklands is also a handy excuse for the Left to avoid answering quite why their policies were rejected in the following election

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

One other thing about the Falklands War is that, TBH, it's actually the right thing to do to react aggressively to an act of aggression against a population that firmly does not want to be ruled by the invaders.

Iain, I think one eye on the election is a plausible statement; no matter what the facts on the ground, Thatcher would have been inclined to overrate the extent to which she had right on her side, overrate the extent to which that would matter in getting allies, and underrate the Argentinian junta as opponents. I think she expected an easy victory. So I think she expected going to war to be popular (because she thought it was the right thing), and took victory for granted.

But I like your point about how this was a major breach between the BBC and the Conservatives, which led to Andrew Cartmel at his job interview obviously thinking that saying he'd like to "bring down the government" with the show it would be an idea that would fall on receptive ears.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Re: slebs - I don't remember Chloe Ashcroft at all - had to google to see which one she was in, and even then didn't remember anything about her part.
PAUL! DA! RROW! is terrible, but he's terrible in precisely the way the part requires. Had he shown less contempt for the role, Timelash would have been even worse.
Briers... yes, he's a bit rubbish in episode four, but there are deeper problems with that production (though it still works far better than Timelash or Resurrection)

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, good point. I feel like in general Grimwade's directorial contributions are unfairly neglected: Full Circle is an astonishingly polished debut; the editing in this story, especially episode 1, is amazing; and he often gets great performances.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't know that it's 'genuinely sad', but it's definitely *exactly* what Adric actually would have as his last words...

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

And remember that in pretty much every story where she's not asleep Nyssa has been the mini-Doctor of the companions, so when he finally gets a chance to show off it's not surprising Adric goes a bit wild.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

I think Grimwade is underrated as a director because he was so awful as a writer. But yes, as a director he was very good - not quite up there with the Canfields or Maloneys, but at the top of the second tier, certainly.

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Jon Cole 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think that the eight year old me was terribly sad at the loss of Adric, but it was certainly momentous - it certainly got talked about in the playground the following day. Of course Adric lasts in the series about as long as Nyssa who was also unceremoniously dumped, and at least I could properly remember what happened in Earthshock as opposed to the chronic embarrassed disappointment that greeted Terminus' release on video.

One of the things that struck me about Earthshock on some later viewing was that it was much more a story about Tegan than it was about Adric - indeed to my eyes Janet Fielding has spent the season becoming the proper/dominant companion, whereas Adric has just been written and played as an annoying oik and Nyssa does a bit of science - usually in the background when she does anything at all.

Its a bit of a pity that the production crew couldn't take the sketchy characteristics they had given to the 3 supporting cast and done something better with it - after all there are plenty of older stories that manage with 4 companions (or lots of UNIT characters) and ones that manage to craft likeable characters out of a small supply of material.

But then again, to the 8 year old me, it was pretty much perfect as it was with its inconvenient relatives locked in attics, cybermen welded into doorways, Richard Todd turning from authority figure to childlike grand parent, and greek philosophers turning out to be robots.

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John Callaghan 5 years, 4 months ago

A great essay, Philip, and I agree with your comments about bleak 'n' gritty action adventure Who and the good stuff.

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PMcD 5 years, 4 months ago

I've finally got up to date with this excellent blog!

Earthshock was the first 'proper' Cyber story I saw, on video in the mid-90s at some point. I'd seen them in the Five Doctors, so knew that they were considered an important monster. But in terms of my Doctor Who knowledge I was probably in the same position as a young fan when Earthshock was 1st broadcast - knowledge of them as being part of the heritage of the show's history without having much 1st hand experience of them.

So I think your point that this is a story for fans rather than casual viewers is really very perceptive. I think it should be even more specific, it's designed for fans who can remember the Cybermen's heyday in the 60s. I mean the 1st cliffhanger still works if you're aware of them, but it's quite a superficial thrill. It doesn't work twice. And these Cybermen don't live up to everything you think you know the Cybermen are meant to be; they're just robots, aren't they? And very emotional ones at that, with all their gloating and boasting about how emotionless they are they're a bit silly. They look good, but frankly the black androids in episode one are much more interesting on every level. They're certainly more menacing; the Cybermen are upstaged by them hugely in my opinion! A story with them would be much creepier and potentially grittier. But the story has to have the Cybermen because the whole point of Earthshock is to have Cybermen in it. It has nothing else to say.

As an action story, when I was younger and more easily impressed by dumb things like lasers, I thought Resurrection of the Daleks was a better action story; the plot is even more ridiculous than Eartshock's but I think both stories are aiming to please the viewer by giving shiny set pieces... and I think the set pieces in Ressurection at least look better. And the Daleks in Resurrection feel genuinely menacing, in a way that I don't think the Cybermen in Earthshock are.

But the direction is very good, and I think it's fair to say that the pacing is smart enough to carry you along through all the flaws in the plot. The occasional story like this is fair enough, it's only later on in the series' history that the majority of stories became like this...

And I actually really liked Beryl Reid's Captain in this. She's certainly the only non-regular human character that sticks in the memory more than 5 minutes after those embarrassing silent credits roll... :)

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Scott 5 years, 4 months ago

I think you're thinking of "The End of Time", there. Sorry to remind you. :-)

And yeah, that was a bit of a self-indulgent over-egging of the emotional pudding there as well, really (IMO of course) -- although I suppose to be fair to RTD, at least people actually LIKED the Tenth Doctor and were sorry to see him go. More than I imagine were probably weeping into their chips over Adric, anyway. In a sense, he's giving the public (or a fairly significant -- or at least loud -- section at least) what they want, even he's getting a bit insufferable about it as well.

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Jack Graham 5 years, 4 months ago

Can't really fault Phil's analysis of 'Earthshock'.

On the subject of the Falklands... Thatcher's popularity spiked during the war but research has shown that the government gained relatively little support from the conflict, and even that was short lived. Thatcher would've have won the following election anyway, owing to a recovery in the global economy and the splitting of the anti-Thatcher vote by the SDP (spit).

And she almost certainly did go into the war with an eye on the polls because there are few credible alternative explanations. Britain didn't need the Malvinas. They were costly to keep and conferred little-to-no geopolitical advantage. The government was proposing leasing them back to Argentina anyway.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

'Any plausible British Government would have much the same military response to such an invasion, for compelling strategic reasons.' Er...yes, as long as they thought it would be an election winner. If not, I doubt it. Nobody ever really went to war for the sake of British sovereignty, or any other abstract concept.

'The UK has lots and lots of small but terribly important bits of rock around the world,' Er...important, why? 'and if it shows itself unwilling to defend them if invaded, it stands to lose the lot.' Er...why? Which bit of strategically important rock is likely to be invaded, and by whom?

Honestly, I think Philip hit the nail right on the head.
And, let's not forget that it was from it's Falklands war coverage that The Sun cast itself as the kingmaker in British politics.

You are right about the Tories going after the BBC, although you're missing a distinction between BBC News editorial policy and BBC Drama editorial policy.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

What the article actually says is, 'one eye on the polls', and that's certainly true, but no more than the head of government in a democracy always has one eye on the polls about everything. Yes, Thatcher went into the Falklands thinking that she was so obviously in the right that she could not help but triumph and the peopel would see how right she was and reward her with the chance to do more things, but that's how Thatcher went into everything, election year or no (and it's exactly that which eventually led to her downfall, of course).

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, Michael Foot's Labour party might not have gone to war over the Falklands, but he did say plausible British government.

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Mike Russell 5 years, 4 months ago

No, Phil, "everyone" didn't hate Adric, and only a military mindset would insist that everyone else share your hate. :p

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Except that the SDP didn't 'split the anti-Thatcher vote' - polls at the time showed that voters for the Alliance were at least as likely to have a second preference for the Tories as Labour (and of course if we had a halfway sane electoral system then 'splitting' shouldn't be an issue anyway). Had it come down to a straight fight between the Tories and Labour, the Tories would have ended up with an increased majority, even though Labour would have had more seats than they got in 1983.

If any party was damaged by the SDP it wasn't Labour, but the Liberal Party, who were forced by partnering with the SDP into giving up many of the target seats that they'd been working in for decades, and were viewed as junior partners by the press despite their being by far the more organised campaigners.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

Entering into Thatcher's mind is a difficult and unpleasant prospect. It is evident that she thought a military response was the right thing to do, and quite plausible that she was more confident of victory than the people around her. However, I really doubt she thought it would be easy: the professional military assessments ranged from "difficult" to "impossible", and this would have been made quite plain to her.

I guess I reject the idea that the war was fought for short-term political reasons because I can't imagine that Thatcher would have taken a different decision if the next election was four years away, or if her party had been riding high in the polls. The reasons for war were political of course - aren't they all? - but here it is the strategic politics of international relations, not the tactical politics of general elections.

As for why these bits of rock around the world are important, they tend to have crucial military bases on them which are vital in enabling UK (and indeed US) force projection. Ascension Island, for example, was critical to the Falklands Campaign itself, while Diego Garcia played an important role in the more recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The importance of the Falklands themselves is rather more complex, relating to a range of British interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctica.

As to "who might invade them?" - well, a the time the Soviet Union was watching the Falklands conflict very closely indeed, in order to assess what capability the UK had to project force unaided. I can't say precisely what they might have done if the UK had proved unable to defend its overseas territories, but certainly encouraging a proxy to "do an Argentina" on some other UK territory that the Soviets found particularly bothersome seems like a plausible enough response.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Actually Foot tried to attack Thatcher from the right on the issue, saying she wasn't backing up her words with action. The Labour party have never really been one to back down from a good solid war.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think the distinction between BBC News and BBC Drama is important here. The changes to management culture instigated by the Conservative government may have been encouraged by one, but they affected both.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Iain, I read David as alluding to the Monocled Mutineer controversy, and saying it was BBC Drama, rather than News, that provoked the Tories. I could be wrong though

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EclecticDave 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes, you pretty much said what I was going to say about Adric - the character's flaws definitely are something one only notices as an adult. As an eleven year old when this first went out, I distinctly remember liking Adric, even envying his lightning-calculator skill.

I even remember vaguely wondering if as an Alzarian he might be able to survive the crash! Partly because on the previous episode we were given a reminder of his unique biology by the speed of his recovery from an injured ankle.

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Jack Graham 5 years, 4 months ago

The SDP split the anti-Thatcher vote AND the Tory-sympathetic vote. But you're right to correct me. Hasty, off-the-cuff typing to one side (my bad), the SDP did split the vote three ways - including, as you imply, seriously eating into the Tory vote in places - but the Tories were on the ups anyway at that time, owing to (to a great extent) macroeconomic factors. My basic point remains. It wasn't the Falklands wot won it for Thatcher, though she did get a temporary boost out of it (as she probably hoped).

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Surely if you're considering leasing some islands, that's even more reason to take exception to the people you were going to lease them to (and so charge rent for them) simply moving in and occupying them?

Otherwise you can never lease any island ever again, because as soon as you even hint that you might be up for it, the people to whom you are proposing the lease know that you won't bother to defend them and so they can just move in.

The government simply had to defend the Falklands: there was no other choice that didn't simply involve Britain effectively declaring that it had no ability or willingness to use its armed forces for anything other than direct defence of its own shores.

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Jack Graham 5 years, 4 months ago

Yep. Thatcher would probably have had to resign, having handed Argentina an opening by which to snatch back territory. Instead she was forced to try to turn it to her advantage. A squabble over worthless territory and her credibility. Worth going to war over? No possible diplomatic solutions?

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

Along the lines Jack suggests, I don't think the statements "Thatcher had to do something" and "a military response was the only possible response" are equivalent at all.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

Right, but she had to be prepared for a military response, and it was fairly clear the other side weren't backing down.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I suppose it's not so much the idea of RTD giving the Tenth Doctor getting a teary send-off that irked, so much as RTD giving himself a teary send-off. It was self-indulgent like no other regeneration, and just felt like "Oh God, I'm so amazing". There could have been many otherways of saying goodbye to Tennant, without taking days out of the regeneration process to drag him round all Rusty's best bits.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

On the other hand, there'd never been a regeneration like that before - an enormously popular Doctor and the creative team that had relaunched the series both moving on simultaneously in a special episode. Was it self-indulgent? Oh, yes, of course it was, but I also think it was an honest acknowledgment of the grammar of that particular TV moment. Doctor Who had never been an auteur television show before, despite Nathan-Turner's best efforts to the contrary. But Davies was working in a context where the superstar writer is a thing that exists. I think that fact, combined with the grammar of the television event, made it work even if it was starkly different from other regenerations. (And was it, really? The Doctor's Reward was no longer than The Doctor's Car Chase in Planet of the Spiders, and frankly more entertaining.)

If nothing else, it was a massive favor to Moffat, who is spared any pressure to bring back any of Davies's characters. And, in hindsight, a wonderful final scene for Lis Sladen in Doctor Who.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Planet Of The Spiders sounds to me *exactly* like "an enormously popular Doctor and the creative team that had relaunched the series both moving on simultaneously"... Yes, Barry Letts stayed on for one more story, but it's pretty damn close.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

Sure, but Letts wasn't also a household name. That's the big switch, to me. I'm far more willing to forgive Russell T. Davies, whose departure was actually an event for a non-trivial portion of the audience, than I am Letts, who was essentially anonymous. I mean, the entire paratext of The End of Time/The Eleventh Hour was based on "and now a whole new era of Doctor Who begins with a new logo, new creative team, new Doctor, new companion, new everything." The Doctor's Reward was part and parcel of that - an active tying off of everything from the Davies era. I think taking it out of the context of the designed television event that it was is unfair to it. Yes, it's terribly self-indulgent watched on its own, but it was never meant to be. It's the same argument that defends large swaths of the show in the 1960s, really.

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Green Christian 5 years, 4 months ago

On the question of whether the 1983 result was primarily because of the Falklands or the SDP, it was unquestionably because of the SDP. The SDP vote came primarily from former Labour voters, and if Labour hadn't drifted so far left that the SDP's founders felt they had to split off into a new party, then it's likely that those voters wouldn't have deserted them to such a large extent.

And it's worth noting that Thatcher could have waited another year before calling the election. The main impact of the Falklands War on the election was the timing.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

The Falklands conflict stands out as the last war in which governments were able to control the television image. It was the last redoubt of the spoken word and the photograph, and news reports were probably much better argued because of this. The BBC actually published a book of transcripts from its radio and television correspondents, entitled "I counted them all out and I counted them all back", a talismanic phrase from a report by Brian Hanrahan, the BBC TV news reporter. There's no doubt in my mind that the BBC war reports were pro-British. Fair, not jingoistic at all, but pro-British.

So far as the war itself went, Mrs Thatcher was unlikely to have been advised that victory would be easy (and, although Port Stanley was eventually liberated by the correspondent of the Evening Standard, victory wasn't easy, even after the Argentinian navy had been neutered by the sinking of the Belgrano).

Of course the British Government had one eye on the polls - politicians have to - but to have surrendered the islands or following the invasion to have continued with negotiations over the islands' future would not only have meant surrendering foreign policy credibility in general, it would have meant the loss of Gibraltar.

Aside from the purely British issues, Gibraltar was important in the Cold War because it controls Western access to the Mediterranean. Spain was just about to join NATO but was not yet entirely stable, a failed military coup having coincided with the last episode of "The Visitation".

In this instance, I am inclined to agree with Mrs T that There Was No Alternative. The only other conceivable alternative available to a Conservative government would have been - and perhaps Thatcher could have carried this off if it had appealed to her - to use the invasion as an excuse for accelerating the "managed decay" of the British Empire into an insular armed neutrality.

This post might well have been longer, but Iain Coleman has mentioned just about everything else I might have put down, except for the question whether John Nott's plans to cut the size of the Royal Navy encouraged Argentina to think Britain could not or would not reconquer the islands.

Oh, and at school, in our class's mock General Election the following year, the winners were a coalition between the SDP/Liberal Alliance and a Fascist Junta. Bring on 2010...

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Stephen 5 years, 4 months ago

As regards suggestions for the second Doctor book, how about The Indestructible Man, for the incredibly thinly disguised Gerry Anderson crossover? It's not my favourite of the options (that would be either The Murder Game or Dreams of Empire), but it offers an awful lot to write about.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

Ooh, very tempting, especially since I've been debating off and on whether I should add a Gerry Anderson Pop Between Realities entry. Two birds, one stone.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

It's likely that Thatcher would have called the election in 1983 anyway. Governments only ever hang on for the full five years if they think they're probably going to lose.

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Dr. Happypants 5 years, 4 months ago

"there was no other choice that didn't simply involve Britain effectively declaring that it had no ability or willingness to use its armed forces for anything other than direct defence of its own shores."

...You say that as if it would be a bad thing? Surely, if recent world history has taught us anything, it's that "politically realistic" people should under no circumstances be trusted with armed forces.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 4 months ago

Green Christian - you're simply wrong on the facts. More than half the support for the Alliance came from people who'd voted Liberal in the 1979 election, so the "SDP vote came primarily from former Labour voters" is nonsense. Another quarter of the vote came from people who'd voted Liberal in the 1974 elections, but had drifted from them to the Tories thanks to the combination of the Thorpe scandal, the Liberals propping up the disastrous fag-end of the Callaghan government, and Thatcher's use of Liberal economic rhetoric during her first election campaign.

Throughout the 1970s and early 80s, the Liberals had been consistently getting around fifteen to twenty percent of the vote (the same core Liberal vote that remains with the Liberal Democrats to this day, more or less). The addition of the SDP brought that up to twenty-five percent, so only 20-25% of the total Alliance vote can be attributed to the SDP *at all*.

Add to that the fact that the SDP's rhetoric was firmly centrist, and that they were deliberately targetting moderates from both sides, and what we can say is that if *EVERY SINGLE NEW VOTER BROUGHT IN BY THE SDP TO THE ALLIANCE* had voted Labour instead, then Labour would *still* have been ten percent behind the Tories on election day. But the actual opinion polls at the time, as I said, showed that about half the new SDP supporters would prefer the Tories to Labour anyway. The SDP's whole campaign - their whole reason for existence - was to pull moderates from both sides.

Note that twenty incumbent SDP MPs lost their seats, and the SDP only won six seats to the Liberals' seventeen at the election. That about reflects the actual popularity of the two parties at the time - about a quarter of the Alliance vote was for the SDP and three-quarters for the Liberals. The SDP simply didn't make a significant difference, despite Labour's desperate attempts to blame anyone but themselves.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

As an American, I think the biggest effect of the Falklands War on us was that it resulted in a wave of public support for the government in power ... which led the Reagan Administration to concluded (probably rightly) that patriotism and jingoism will lead to a boost in domestic popularity for a war-time president so long as the war is successfully concluded very quickly. Or to put that another way, without the Falklands War, it is possible that Grenada would not have happened.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

Agreed. There were times I hated Adric, times I quite liked him, and times where I actually felt sorry for him because I really did feel like people were picking on him. I made a comment back in the discussion of "Kinda" but it was late in the day and I don't think anyone saw it so I'll rehash. There is a scene in Episode 1 where the Doctor harangues Adric rather viciously for accidentally activating the mech suit simply by closing the door, because Adric didn't understand the technology he was mucking about with. This is at most five minutes after the Doctor is directly responsible for putting Tegan into a trance and thereby unleashing the Mara because he childishly started playing with the wind chimes and he too didn't understand the technology he was mucking about with. But after quite literally screaming at Adric, the Doctor never acknowledges his own mistake even when it is pointed out by Karuna.

Also, for the most part, all the times I hated Adric were times where he was written to be irrationally petulant (i.e. the out-of-the-blue misogyny of "Four to Doomsday"). It's not like Waterhouse had the option of simply not saying all the hateful stupid lines written for his character.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

He dies because he runs into a crashing spaceship to prove that he’s clever.

In his defense, he dies because he runs into a crashing spaceship because he thinks that his cleverness is the only thing that can save the human race from annihilation. It's not like he knew that the crashing space ship was going to kill the dinosaurs.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

It's not like Waterhouse had the option of simply not saying all the hateful stupid lines written for his character

He could have said something to the production team, but I suspect that he thought the lines were gritty or ironic...

There is a scene in Episode 1 where the Doctor harangues Adric rather viciously for accidentally activating the mech suit simply by closing the door

Watching Four to Doomsday and the Visitation again (sadly too late to contribute to the threads on those stories) I was struck by how grumpy and irritable Davison is, at least in those early stories. People comment on how the companions didn't seem to be having fun, but the Doctor doesn't seem to be having fun either.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

Two things jump out at me from "Earthshock" that I haven't seen mentioned:

1. For me, this was the episode where I just completely lost faith in the Fifth Doctor. Not because Adric died on his watch but for what happened before that. Specifically, the scene with the Cyberleader in which the Doctor is completely unable to defend human emotions as having intrinsic value.

Cyberleader: "You have compassion for your friend, so by threatening your friend, I can compel your obedience and even force you to hand your TARDIS over to your enemies. Emotions make you weak."

Doctor: "Oh, yeah? Well, have you ever enjoyed the smell of fresh cut flowers or the sight of a pretty rainbow in the sky?"

Me: "WTF?!?!?!"

2. In the entry for "Logopolis," I referred to Tegan as the living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect and no where is it as obvious as here. Tegan arrogantly insists on accompanying the Space Marines even though she has absolutely no combat experience whatsoever and has never even fired a gun. And what happens? Within five minutes she's captured without ever firing a shot and then delivered to the Cyberleader, who, delighted that he has two hostages, taunts the Doctor over the fact that he can now leave Adric behind to die and still enforce the Doctor's compliance!

Oh, and 3. "Now, I'll never know if I was right." The boy believed that he had solved the mathematical equation that would save the human race but the console was destroyed before he could enter it. In other words, he died believing that he had failed to save the human race because he wasn't fast enough to solve a math problem, the only thing aside from picking locks that he had ever been considered good at. I understand that Adric provokes strong reactions, but I think dismissing his last words as "smug" requires you to let your personal feelings about the character completely overwhelm the context in which those words were uttered. YMMV.

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Green Christian 5 years, 4 months ago

What I meant to say was that the increased Alliance vote came primarily from former Labour voters. Labour's vote went down by 9.7 points, the Tories went down by 1.5 and the Alliance went up by 11.6. No other party had a significant vote share.

There are three ways those figures could make sense. The first is that the increased Alliance vote came primarily from Labour supporters. The second is that the fall in turnout was overwhelmingly due to Labour voters staying away. The third is that there was a very large swing directly from Labour to the Tories, but a larger swing from the Tories to the SDP. I think that my version of events makes a lot more sense of the actual vote than yours, but if you've solid evidence for either of the other two scenarios then please do share it.

Also, Labour's weakness in the early 1980s was the reason the SDP formed in the first place, it's hugely problematic to consider them as separate effects because you can't have one without the other.

Incidentally, I really couldn't care less to what degree Labour should have blamed themselves. I am not, and never have been, a member of their party and I have no interest in defending them, or intervening in their internal arguments.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

If only Saward had been able to hire Thomas Trahene to write "Earthshock".

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BerserkRL 5 years, 4 months ago

"I don’t like the military, but I have so many friends in it. I say I do not kill, but then I exterminate thousands."

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BerserkRL 5 years, 4 months ago

Phil,

Because the fact of the matter is that the military is, by definition, a tool of establishment power that prioritizes brute force and is organized according to an authoritarian focus on conformity for its own sake. There’s no way for the military to be anything else.

The anarchist militias in the Spanish civil war weren't organised that way, and gave a pretty good account of themselves. (Admittedly they lost, but so did their more hierarchical republican counterparts.)

SK,

The government simply had to defend the Falklands: there was no other choice that didn't simply involve Britain effectively declaring that it had no ability or willingness to use its armed forces for anything other than direct defence of its own shores.

Which would be bad because ...?

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

The increased Alliance vote came primarily from people who had voted Labour in 1979, yes, but that's not the same as saying they would have been Labour voters in 1983. If people had been forced to vote only Labour or Conservative, the Conservatives would probably have won by a huge margin -- that's the point that Andrew's making with his figures.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

If anything, though, I think your contextualizing of the line makes Adric seem more self-centred. He's let the human race be wiped out, but all he can think about is whether he was right or not? The right line there would be more like "I could have saved all those people. If I'd just been a bit more clever."

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Green Christian 5 years, 4 months ago

Which is why I said you can't easily separate Labour's problems in 1983 from the existence of the SDP. If the SDP hadn't existed, Labour would almost certainly have been fighting the election on a very different (and more centrist) platform, and - as a result - would almost certainly have retained far more of those voters. The Tories might still have won, but probably nowhere near as comprehensively.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

It's also worth noting that the Argentinian failure in the Falklands War led to the collapse of the Galtieri dictatorship and the end of military interference in Argentine politics.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

That's possible. Perhaps David will clarify.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

The Cold War context is very important here, as you indicate (and as I vaguely alluded). The UK was a key member of the Atlantic alliance. It is of course very hard to say what the eventual consequences would be of the UK demonstrating a lack of military capability during the last real peak of Cold War tension, but I wouldn't bet on them being good.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure what you mean by "recent word history". Are you perhaps suggesting that the Iraq invasion was undertaken by politically realistic people? That would be a novel assertion.

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick entirely?

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

I didn't watch it on its own, though. I watched it at the time of transmission, and haven't seen it since - so my *only* experience of it is in context.

I can see why he did it, but I can conceive of many more dignified ways of bowing out of a tenure, and as a display of self-love it was pretty startling.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

It wasn't about how clever he was, though, it was about the cyberman shooting the console. The fact is, he might easily have been right - neither he nor we will ever know.

It's called subtext. "I could have saved all those people" doesn't wash as dialogue, it's too on the nose. "Now I'll never know if I was right" has layers of meaning - in the context it's used here, its primary meaning is, "Oh god, I'm just about to die". Secondary is probably, "I didn't save all those people". And only third is its literal meaning. It's actually an example of good Saward writing.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

The proof of the pudding, of course, being Waterhouse's line reading, which is definitely, "Oh God, I'm just about to die".

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Adam Riggio 5 years, 4 months ago

Granted, I wasn't alive to see this unfold in person, but Thatcher's marching to war in the Falklands in election season strikes me as akin to the Americans, Iranians, and Israelis all beating their war drums in the leadup to their elections in late 2012 to galvanize their population behind them. This is one of the few cases where the Eruditorum has a parallel with the Daily Show.

The fact is, it's difficult to speculate about the motivations of Thatcher and her cabinet leading up to the Falklands War. They could have been thinking along lines about protecting their outpost colony islands that were strategically important to the Cold War. They may have had their eyes on stirring up jingoistic nationalism leading up to an election. It might have been the case that the domestic opposition to Thatcher was too ineffectual or fragmented to have much of a chance in the election. They might have been sensibly worried about an unpredictable conflict, or been as blindly certain of victory as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld invading Iraq, then lucky enough to have been right.

We'll never know for sure, because we can't get inside their heads. Thatcher's leadership is a key element of the Eruditorum's political narrative, though. And as far as her actions play a role in his narrative, I want to see what that narrative reveals. Of course no account of reality is entirely comprehensive of everything. The point is that an account reveals something one hadn't noticed before.

I do find it interesting that the comments have grown more controversial as the events of the blog cover more of the adult lives of the regular readers.

And I find SK's platitudes far too simplistic. After spending my 20s watching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I'm frankly a little tired of those excuses that there was no other alternative but all-out war. I haven't trusted him since his pedantic and petty 'eleventh doctor' vs 'Eleven' rant in the comments for Black Orchid, which I'm still not sure was intended ironically or not.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

He could have said something to the production team, but I suspect that he thought the lines were gritty or ironic...

Maybe. I never got to read his book. My perspective is, perhaps, skewed by the fact that I watched the Davison episodes around the same time that ST:TNG debuted, and I remember Wil Wheaton talking about how he begged the writers to not make Wesley so ... Wesley, but the production team honestly seemed to think they were writing the character so as to make him beloved by the fan-base (when Wheaton himself knew perfectly well how much the character was reviled by ST fans).

And then, of course, there's also the fact that in two more seasons, JNT will build on the "success" of Adric by making the Doctor himself unwatchably obnoxious.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

"Thatcher's marching to war in the Falklands in election season strikes me as akin to the Americans, Iranians, and Israelis all beating their war drums in the leadup to their elections in late 2012 to galvanize their population behind them."

Is this a typo or a prophecy? For what it's worth, Obama just gave a pro-diplomacy speech at the AIPAC convention followed by a very strong statement condemning war-mongering by the GOP candidates. (Granted, he didn't say war-mongering, because he is much more diplomatic than I am.)

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David Anderson 5 years, 4 months ago

I find myself agreeing with both points of view. I think that if it's ever morally permissible to go to war it was permissible to go to war over the Falklands - the grounds were defence of one's own citizens against annexation by a foreign power and it was done without killing enemy civilians. One the other hand, I believe the evidence is that Thatcher was culpably insincere in her attempts to find a non-military solution, and that she did deliberately exploit the war for electoral purposes and encouraged jingoism. (Aside from the BBC, the Church of England was another institution that annoyed her by being insufficiently jingoistic.)

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inkdestroyedmybrush 5 years, 4 months ago

so many good comments, so i'll add mine.

Watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crucade for the boat scene. Now, we know that Spielberg and Lucas can go just about anywhere and shoot anything, but they choose to culminate the final fight scene on the boat as an obvious homage to the old cliffhanger serials even down to set. Its obviously a set, with calls of "water left!" and "Water right!" and a black back drop. And it completely works. We love Indiana Jones and the whole intro with River Phoenix is so well done that we don't give a damn that its not a real boat. So there you do. The best Doctor Who's could have been done, and have been done, on a shoestring budget and still worked as triumphs of the imagination.

Now Earthshock: guilty pleasure is fine here, although it doesn't stand up to repeated viewings since Davison is so ineffectual. He's not nearly as clever as Troughton and it bugs the hell out of me that he pisses and moans and can't stand up to the cybermen any better rhetorically than he does. I don't want him to be the action hero all the time, but occasionally isn't a terrible thing. If he believes that evil must be defeated, sometimes action is called for. After all, it is a lot less fun for the audience if the same damn resolution is used each week. Its hard to credibly write your way out of huge invading alien armies each and every week without sometimes resorting to a UNIT.

I guess that i have to sum Earthshock as Davison's Doctor not rising to the occasion. And its not a failure of the actor, who could absolutely pull it off, but of the writing.

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David Anderson 5 years, 4 months ago

With regards to grounds for despising the Sun, I think its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster wins easily.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

A key distinction is that the Falklands War was not a war of choice (at least, not on the part of the UK). British territory was, to the government's surprise, invaded militarily. That's very different to "banging the war drums" as you put it.

And it is also worth bearing in mind that the Falklands War was a military campaign with limited, realistic (albeit difficult) goals. It was about pushing Argentinian forces off the islands they had invaded, not about regime change, "liberal interventionism" or changing the geopolitical map. (It did in fact result in regime change, but that was a happy unintended consequence.)

And we could also note that the civilian casualties in the Falklands War (three, all British) are at least a factor of 100,000 less than in our more recent war.

I spent my thirties watching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I marched against the latter, and stood for election on a platform opposed to it. I still think the military response in the Falklands was the right call. I note that no one in this thread has yet outlined a credible alternative response.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

“I’ve long thought that a brilliant piece of science fiction television would be to take top notch scriptwriters and then just produce their scripts on an appalling shoestring budget with good actors and competent directors who are just unabashedly directing men in rubber suits, glove puppets, and wire models.”

Oh, like the Graham Williams era then? ;-) Sorry, low-hanging fruit and dead horse and all that, but I just couldn't resist.

On to “Earthshock”:

I think your spirited analysis is absolutely spot-on and I found the politics debate in the comments really enlightening. Historiography always fascinates me: I eat this kind of thing up. I'm afraid I don't have anything to add on that front myself, so I'll leave that discussion in more capable hands. What I will do though is finally pay the devil his due and live up to my promise of at long last exorcising my thoughts on Adric.

I'm not going to repeat the same stock criticisms of Adric; That he's written to be an annoying prat, that he's a misogynist, that he's a peril monkey, that Waterhouse is a crap actor, none of that. No-My problems with Adric are far simpler and far more basic than any of that (though all of that may be true). Back when we were still bouncing around E-Space, I made a bit of a scene and made the claim that my biggest problem with Adric is that I find him to be an inherently problematic and anti-feminist character, especially in the context of Season 18. Now's finally the time to clarify what I meant by that.

In Season 17, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward (helped, no doubt, by their blossoming romance) played their characters very much like intergalactic honeymooners, jet-setting around the universe on a cosmic road trip. Come Season 18 and John Nathan-Turner's attempt to separate himself as much as possible from the Williams era, one of the very first things he does it saddle the surrogate honeymooners with a surrogate son to ream them in. It's extremely difficult, I feel, to argue this was not the intention looking at what was said in interviews and promotional material at the time and the way “Full Circle”plays out. Indeed, many of my fellow commenters have talked about Adric and Tom Baker's Doctor having a father/son relationship and praised the execution of this onscreen and unfortunately here I have to firmly disagree.

(Cont'd)

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

It's not that giving The Doctor a surrogate son is an inherently bad idea, it's that the surrogate son shows up with the Doctor/Romana team that really bothers me. Because of the way Season 17 played out, I can't shake the feeling Adric's entire character is in a sense punishing The Doctor and Romana for their flirtatious adventuring the previous year (indeed my esteemed colleague WM Keith likens the Season 17/18 split to a wild party and the hangover the next day). If Adric is the Doctor and Romana's surrogate son, it's not hard to make the cognitive leap from that to “loose women” and people making “the biggest mistakes of their lives”.

In the US there was a famous sitcom called Frasier that spun-off of the equally famous sitcom Cheers. In it there was a character named Roz, known for her independent, free love lifestyle. Midway through the show, and as a result of executive meddling, she was given an unplanned pregnancy (which she naturally carried to term) as part of a story arc to force her to “settle down”. Roz's fate is symptomatic of a larger, uglier trend in our society where a sexually active man is “manly” a “badass” a “player” or a “stud”, but a sexually active woman ought to be ashamed of herself, because, of course, women aren't supposed to enjoy sex, be independent or have control of their bodies. I bring up Frasier because, in my eyes, the creation of Adric in Season 18 and him being placed with the Doctor/Romana team is little different than what happened to Roz. Female sexuality and independence are immoral things to be discouraged: A woman's priority should be her children, not her own body or life. Knowing Eric Saward and Terrance Dudley turned Adric from implicitly sexist to overtly misogynistic just makes it all the more deplorable.

I don't think I'm too off-base in making this claim. After all, Doctor Who in the early 1980s was definitely getting more conservative-not necessarily politically, but definitely in terms of how it was made: The pandering to the hardcore fanbase “Earthshock” embodies so well is but one example. Given how there was a huge concern when the youthful Peter Davison was cast that he would get “too friendly” with his female co-stars (thus the strict no hugging, no kissing rule and the entire character of Turlough) it seems to be screamingly obvious that the creative team circa 1981-2 wanted to get as far away from the flirtatious banter of Season 17 as possible.

(cont'd)

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

I know a lot of you looked up to Adric as children because he was an awkward teenage boy who was great at math and science and a lot of you related to that. I cannot deny those feelings and am incapable of taking them away from you. All I can say is that he was never a role model of mine and that was never something that connected with me. I'm sorry, but Adric to me means something very different and altogether more sinister and I can't read him any other way but as an embodiment of the constant vilification of women's independence and freedom to control their own bodies. THAT is why I hate Adric, why I always have hated Adric and why I will always hate Adric.

I'll admit Adric maybe didn't get the best possible exit. I'm never in favour of killing off characters: I think that more often than not it's a cheap ploy to artificially drum up cheap dramatic tension that always winds up feeling hollow and unsatisfying when it's all over (see also Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation). I'm generally of the mind that if you can give a character a dignified arc that doesn't end in their sudden death, than you should do that (I actually really like the idea some of you have been bouncing around that Adric should have fallen from grace and joined The Master). All that being said, it's hard for me not to be happy to see the back of him, one way or the other.

On a completely unrelated note Phil, on the subject of additional material for the Troughton book: I know I've brought it up before, but I'd still really like to hear your take on that BBC Book by Colin Brake “The Colony of Lies” featuring Patrick Troughton's Doctor meeting Sylvester McCoy's. Despite it being a multi-Doctor book, it's told primarily from the perspective of Troughton, Jamie and Zoe so I think it would fit in well in this volume.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

I echo this.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

"Roz's fate is symptomatic of a larger, uglier trend in our society where a sexually active man is “manly” a “badass” a “player” or a “stud”, but a sexually active woman ought to be ashamed of herself, because, of course, women aren't supposed to enjoy sex, be independent or have control of their bodies."

I agree with this - see also the eventual fates of the leads at the end of the Sex In The City TV show (as opposed to the movie versions) - but I think it's a bit of a stretch to level this at Adric and Doctor Who in general.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

Totally -- and as I said above I actually think it's just the right line, but that Alan's context hurts it rather than helping it.

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Dr. Happypants 5 years, 4 months ago

"Politically realistic" in the sense that, in the US at least, if you go running for public office saying things like "Maybe we shouldn't go around the world fighting unnecessary wars in places that we don't belong" the very first thing the leaders of both our parties and their lickspittles in the media will say is that you're not "realistic".

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

In reply to Adam Riggio, in a representative democracy like the UK, or like the three you mention, the USA, Israel and Iran, it is always election season.

Don't be fooled by your experiences of post-2001 warmongering. Life was simpler in 1982. There was no need for sanctions, inspections, resolutions, or sexing-up. All it took to start a war was a platoon of soldiers from a totalitarian state, disguised as scrap merchants and armed with their country's flag.

Both Argentina and the UK have arguable claims for ownership of the Falklands. Either of which is a better claim, in fact, than the Coalition of the Willing had or will ever have for invading Iraq or Iran.

I blame the penguins.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

Going back to "Earthshock" itself, I think the revelation of - Cybermen! - in the Part 1 cliffhanger would have meant more to the ordinary non-Who fan than Philip suggests. I think the general public was pretty au fait with the image of Cybermen as one of the two Big Doctor Who Monsters.

Never mind that the Cybermen costumes were so useless that they had to invent a different "android" for the early parts of the story which required a modicum of agility on the part of the monster.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

I'll post this here as this is where it seems to have gone.

I wasn't referring to 'The Monocled Mutineer', which was later in the 80's.

I'd agree with Iain on the point that BBC News coverage of the Falklands War 'kicks off the modern Tory antipathy towards the BBC'.

I'd emphasise the 'modern' as there are aspects of British government which have been suspicious of the BBC ever since the corporation's foundation.

But, Iain, you seem to be saying in your earlier post that Philip has misread the BBC as pro-militaristic whereas it was not jingoistic enough (for some Tories) and it was, by implication, anti-militaristic.

What I meant was that BBC News editorial policy is not the same as BBC Drama editorial policy.

This can be seen in 1982, where 'Earthshock', uncritical of militarism, contrasts with BBC New's independant coverage of the Falklands War.

If the editorial policies were the same, we would have to read 'Earthshock' as being a critique of militarism, which it is impossible to do.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

'Any plausible British Government would have much the same military response to such an invasion, for compelling strategic reasons. The UK has lots and lots of small but terribly important bits of rock around the world, and if it shows itself unwilling to defend them if invaded, it stands to lose the lot.'

What dismays me about your post is that this was the sum total of knowledge for some newspaper readers in the UK in the debrief of the Falklands War.

And that nearly 30 years later, it still persists.

The modern history of Diego Garcia is truly shocking. The UK bought it from Mauritius for the use of the US military, in return for which the UK government (a Labour one, at that) got a discount on Polaris missiles.

It's still difficult to say why protecting the Falklands was strategically important - hence, I suspect a different reason.

Who might invade? The Soviets? Please! I doubt it, even back then. And these days? Which countries invade any more?

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

I wouldn't say I "looked up to Adric." I thought a father-son relationship could be an interesting idea that had never been done before. Or since, for that matter. Turlough was too close in age to the Fifth Doctor for such a relationship to work, and every subsequent male to enter the TARDIS -- Adam, Jack, Mickey and Rory -- does so explicitly as a romantic rival that comes between the Doctor and his female companion.

And I'll be the first to admit that Waterhouse was not a great actor and his part was horribly written. But I find it difficult to credit the idea that Adric was brought in specifically to "tie down" the Doctor and Romana as a way of desexualizing them. Adric and Romana only overlapped for three episodes, really only two with him as a TARDIS companion rather than as just another "guest star." And anyway, IIRC, Ward and Baker were already on the rocks by that season and a lot of that flirtatiousness would have been gone, I think, regardless of whether Adric was there or not.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

I think it is tough to describe the season during the transmission of which they got married as a season where they were on the rocks.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 4 months ago

A key distinction is that the Falklands War was not a war of choice

Unless the decisionmakers have somehow been turned into Cybermen, every war is a war or choice.

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Adam Riggio 5 years, 4 months ago

And I consider it a great testament to Peter Davison's acting ability that he could deliver the line about "Eating a well-prepared meal!" with a straight face.

Iain: Good show on Iraq, confrère.

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Elkins 5 years, 4 months ago

*I* laughed, Dr. Happypants.

It's rather a relief, though, in a way, to see that your bit of black humor wasn't instantly understood by the non-USians. It's nice to receive some reassurance that the crazytalk which characterizes our political discourse hasn't yet become an international pandemic.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

Tough, but entirely accurate. It's rather baffling that they got married after their time on show, since they were already fighting constantly during its run.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

Baffling, but perfectly normal human behaviour.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

Should that be "every war is a war of choice" or "every war is a war on choice"? Because it's true that the inhabitants of the islands had no choice at all.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm currently rewatching Planet of Fire and TBH I don't think it's fair to call Grimwade awful as a writer either. His scripts lack a certain spark but have a lot of virtues. Both Mawdryn Undead and Planet of Fire have good high-concept ideas, and Planet of Fire has a lot of well-constructed scenes where the balance of power shifts. If he'd had Bob Holmes to give his dialogue a polish I think he'd be much more fondly remembered.

NB: I am not intending in any way to defend Time-Flight.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

No irony whatsoever. I honestly hate the stupid habit of using cardinal numbers as if they were names for different incarnations of the Doctor.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Hang on... I can see Adric being a punishment on the Doctor and Romana for havign too much fun, but I can't understand why he's sexistly a punishment on the woman while the man's philandering ways are encouraged.

Surely Adric is even more a punishment on the Doctor for having too much fun with Romana, than he is on Romana? After all, she only has to put up with him for two stories; the Doctor gets saddled with him right up until now.

It's not Romana who's being punished: it's the Doctor. 'You're having too much fun with your companion, so you know what? Have this one instead, see how much fun you have. Oh, and look out for the Ozzie too, you'll love her.'

By contract Romana gets rewarded by being allowed to continue her responsibility-free life and never having to go back to Gallifrey at all. Also, she doesn't have to stick around with Adric.

So I don't understand how it can be sexist if it's punishing the man, not the woman...

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and 'Doctor' takes a capital in this context as it's a proper noun.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

But, Iain, you seem to be saying in your earlier post that Philip has misread the BBC as pro-militaristic

No, that's not what I was saying at all. Sorry for any confusion. I probably was too loose in using the term "misreading".

I was really just trying to point out a Falklands - Doctor Who connection that Philip had missed: that the political blowback on the BBC (arising from its admirably jingo-free coverage) would go on to have an effect on Doctor Who, due to the resulting changes in BBC management.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 4 months ago

Why is it so difficult to understand why the UK would want to hang on to the Falklands?

There's the obvious issue of oil - not so easy to get at as the North Sea oil reserves, but it's clear that, as time goes on, these are only going to become more important. Some exploratory drilling has being going on for the last couple of years. This is no doubt entirely unrelated to the ramping up of Argentinian rhetoric over the islands.

Perhaps less obvious, but of greater significance, is that the Falklands is the crucial UK gateway to the British Antarctic Territory - large chunks of which are also claimed by Argentina and Chile. The Antarctic Treaty sets aside all territorial claims provided the continent is not permanently settled, and used only for scientific research - but this treaty won't last for ever. There's a big slice of a continent at stake here, with all the buried natural resources it contains, and the UK is hardly going to give that up easily.

[Back when I used to work at the British Antarctic Survey, one of my colleagues led an atmospheric science mission down south. This involved firing some quite impressive-looking rockets into the middle atmosphere, and recording the data they sent back. There was a last-minute change to the launch trajectory, when they realised they were about to launch the rockets in the direction of an Argentinian research station, and might inadvertently start another war.]

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

I will remind people that 'all wars are wars of choice' when I annex Hawaii.

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Abigail Brady 5 years, 4 months ago

The obvious knock-ons were the negotiations with the PRC over Hong Kong, and the Spanish claim on Gibraltar. Surrendering the Falklands makes an intellectual defence of Gibraltar that much harder.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

@ Iain Coleman

Your argument about oil has a certain force to it in 2012 but this was not the case in 1982. After WWII, various British governments sought ways to cede the islands to Argentina.

Also, I would have thought that trying to defend bringing oil from the other side of the world is quite difficult when you've just shut a load of coal mines at home.

[Nice anecdote btw.]

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Spacewarp 5 years, 4 months ago

@ Philip

Agree. The 10th Doctor's "Farewell Tour" could be seen as self-congratulatory, self-indulgent, over-sentimental piece of back-slappery, but I'm sure that if it had fallen on a major Dr Who Anniversary then it would have been soundly applauded. In fact it does seem similar to what a lot of fans seem to be writing on their forum wish-lists for the 50th!

I watched the 10th Anniversary when it was broadcast and that often is seen as self-indulgent fanwank completely sacrificing a half-way decent story, but hell it was 3 Doctors! And while we're at it, what was the point of that "Time Crash" rubbish eh? Just because both David Tennant and Steven Moffat's favourite Doctor was Peter Davison! Pshaww!!

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree that in 1982 no-one in government believed that the Falklands had vast mineral resources. In 2012 everyone is interested in South Atlantic oil, hence the current round of sabre-rattling.

As for your second point, you don't have to bring the oil to Britain. You just have to sell it. And we import vast quantities of coal now that the mines have closed.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

@ Abigail Brady

Both of them are different cases. If Spain had invaded Gibraltar in 1982 it would have been difficult for them to then join the EU. There's also good reason to think that the PRC viewed Hong Kong as problematic. So surrendering the Falklands might have made negotiations harder, but not impossible.

More to the point though, I wouldn't like to try to argue against their strategic importance for British governments. Whereas with the Falkland Islands, I just don't see it.

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Matthew Blanchette 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, a well-prepared meal, judging by his appearance, is probably what Saward values most... ;-)

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Who says a facist government following a military coup (not unthinkable in a country that had only been a democracy for four years) would have cared about joining the EEC?

As for the strategic importance, well, firstly there's the strategic importance of showing that you are prepared to defend even the farthest reaches of your territory with successful use of force. That sends a clear message that you will definitely respond to infringements on territories nearer home.

Imagine trying to discipline a class: if you let one child get away with something because there's no compelling reason to have the fight then and there, the next one will push it a little farther, the nxt a little farther, and so on... far better to show you are serious at the first infringement of the rules, however minor. Only then can order be maintained.

Directly, of course, there's the Antarctic claims Dr Coleman has mentioned: it is true that oil wasn't a big issue in 1982, not least because nobody knew that there was any oil anywhere near the Falklands (that discovery may well be what's provoked Argentina's latest silliness), but the unknown, possibly rich, resources of a big chunk of an unexplored continent are not something to give up lightly.

Perhaps most important, though, is the principle of the thing. People can't just get away with invading bits of British sovereign territory. That's just a no-go. Indeed, it is possible that had the Argentinians hung on, a British government might have ceded them the islands, in return for some consideration, assurances about the population, etc.

But just because you are eventually prepared to give somethign to someone, down the line, does not mean that you allow them to just take it now. Indeed it makes it all the more imperative that you do not let them just take it, because, as mentioned, if you don't uphold the principle that the islands are British unless and until the British government disposes of them, then British sovereignty means nothing and you invite anyone with whom you might enter negotiations in future over some British sovereign territory to assume you don't care about defending them and simply invade.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

As Tommy Cooper, formerly British television's foremost fez-wearer, used to say, "It's not the principle. It's the money."

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

What does it matter, though? It's just a TV show. Getting worked up about that sort of pointless detail just plays into the "angry geek" stereotype, which Doctor Who fans need like a hole in the head.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

I think a lot of this is a result of Lalla Ward's abrupt departure after the so-called E-Space Trilogy, and to my memory it was rather abrupt. "Warrior's Gate" was not the original script pegged for that slot: The original story was going to be a Gallifreyan political thriller dealing with the fallout of the Doctor's actions after the Key to Time arc and him and Adric being framed for Romana's (faked) assassination. The plan I believe changed at the last minute at least in part because of Lalla Ward announcing her resignation.

I think John Nathan-Turner and Chris Bidmead had always intended the Doctor/Romana/Adric team to last awhile, and the fact that it only lasted 2 1/2 serials is due mostly to Ward's rapid exit and working around that. So yes, in what transpires onscreen Romana does get a dignified exit and The Doctor winds up saddled with Adric (although this also raises the almost as nasty dramatic specter of mothers abandoning their children, but that's a stretch even for me to argue) but the original intent of the character and the team still seems pretty clear to me. Adric still seems symptomatic of JNT doing everything he possibly can to distance himself from the Graham Williams era to the point he's ignoring what was good about it as well as what was bad about it and isn't above creating a loaded and problematic character so long as it's a reaction against his predecessor. Actually, "reactionary" is a word I would use to describe a lot about Doctor Who at this point in its history.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

The other side of this that, unfortunately, due to sexist gender norms in our society, the woman is far more likely to be "punished" in a situation like this than the man because women are seen as passive caregivers. A man can go off and live his life of independent adventuring, but a woman is discouraged from doing so especially if children are involved. Taken in that context, the fact that Lalla Ward's abrupt departure allowed Bidmead to give her "Warrior's Gate" and The Doctor wound up stuck with Adric is a happy accident given the circumstances.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, now that all the liberals and socialists who comment on this blog have outed ourselves as heart-of-oak, roast-beef, flag-waving patriotic Britons, let's hope we can move on to something completely different for Friday. A new age of concord, perhaps?

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WGPJosh 5 years, 4 months ago

Hm-Not so sure I'd identify with that particular statement myself.

I am, however, genuinely looking forward to time travelling Concordes and The Great Khalid. Friday should be extremely entertaining.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

It's always puzzled me why revealing cybermen is a particularly interesting cliffhanger. It's Doctor Who, where else are you likely to see them? I know it had been a while, but as twists go...

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 4 months ago

Incidentally, is the first time this blog has hit a meaningful anniversary of itself (ie. being posted 30 years to the day since of the broadcast of episode 1)?

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Scott 5 years, 4 months ago

@ Spacewarp

To be fair, celebrating the series and it's legacy as a whole and celebrating what are, ultimately, the contributions of one person (or a relatively small handful at least) to that series are a little bit different; while both aren't exactly free from self-indulgence, the former is at least including and acknowledging everything and everyone that came before, where the latter can very easily look more like self-satisfied "aren't-I-simply-AMAZING" ego-tripping; essentially, "The Three Doctors" and "Time Crash" are more about how great the entire series and those who have worked on it has been up to that point, where That Bit in "The End of Time" tends (again, for me at least) to come off more about how great RTD is, which makes "The End of Time" seem a bit more insufferable, since it basically looks like RTD's going to all this trouble just to pat himself on the back about how brilliant he and what he's done is. At least in "Time Crash" Ten's speech to Five isn't just about how brilliant Ten himself is.

I mean, I can certainly see Philip's logic above, and this particular pat-on-the-back certainly isn't undeserved (at least not entirely) by any means, but that doesn't mean it doesn't grate a little bit.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

@ SK

'Who says a facist government following a military coup (not unthinkable in a country that had only been a democracy for four years) would have cared about joining the EEC?'

In reality though, the rebels were defeated the year before and, evidently, Spain did care about joining the EEC.

'As for the strategic importance, well, firstly there's the strategic importance of showing that you are prepared to defend even the farthest reaches of your territory with successful use of force. That sends a clear message that you will definitely respond to infringements on territories nearer home.'

I think you're stretching the meaning of strategic importance. I think you mean something like 'of ideological value'. If military bases could be physically built on words, on messages, governments wouldn't need to go around buying up atolls, and the like.

'Imagine trying to discipline a class: if you let one child get away with something because there's no compelling reason to have the fight then and there, the next one will push it a little farther, the nxt a little farther, and so on... far better to show you are serious at the first infringement of the rules, however minor. Only then can order be maintained.'

Unfortunately, in international relations as in the classroom, you cannot control everything that happens. As it turns out, people can be so 'mercurial, anarchistic, and intellectual'. More often than not in the classroom you have to let somethings go, in order to achieve other goals. If you spend the whole of the class time disciplining belligerent children, you will never finish what you set out to teach. Imagine that for a whole year; or even a whole career!

'Directly, of course, there's the Antarctic claims Dr Coleman has mentioned: it is true that oil wasn't a big issue in 1982, not least because nobody knew that there was any oil anywhere near the Falklands (that discovery may well be what's provoked Argentina's latest silliness), but the unknown, possibly rich, resources of a big chunk of an unexplored continent are not something to give up lightly.'

My point is that nobody knew anything about any reserves of the black gold in 1982, and so oil that can't be any reason why the Falklands were strategically important back then. I agree with the blog entry, the government went to war 'if not wholly motivated by the fact that there would have to be an election soon, at least firmly conducted with one eye on the polls.' The other eye was on what was going on at home; a war abroad might hopefully distract from domestic issues. The other eye was on who-knows-what, but Tories back then had three eyes.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

@SK

'Perhaps most important, though, is the principle of the thing. People can't just get away with invading bits of British sovereign territory. That's just a no-go.'

I think you do mean something like 'of ideological value'. Principles and politics, oil and water... well, as they say, that's a whole other debate.

'Indeed, it is possible that had the Argentinians hung on, a British government might have ceded them the islands, in return for some consideration, assurances about the population, etc.

But just because you are eventually prepared to give somethign to someone, down the line, does not mean that you allow them to just take it now. Indeed it makes it all the more imperative that you do not let them just take it, because, as mentioned, if you don't uphold the principle that the islands are British unless and until the British government disposes of them, then British sovereignty means nothing and you invite anyone with whom you might enter negotiations in future over some British sovereign territory to assume you don't care about defending them and simply invade.'

But the Argentinian junta precisely thought that the British government didn't care about defending them and, for their own reasons, they invaded. The British government then had a choice; defend the islands with force, enter into diplomacy, or just let them go. You have to ask why they chose the first option over, say, the second. It's not enough to keep on repeating the mantras of thirty years ago.

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David Bateman 5 years, 4 months ago

OK. Thanks for making that clear. Now, I see.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

Okay, my bad. I could have sworn that Baker and Ward got married the previous season and broke up sometime during this one (which makes sense given both her abrupt departure and the on-set acrimony).

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Abigail Brady 5 years, 4 months ago

OTOH, it can be used well. In "Human Resources" the reveal of the Cybermen is a *fantastic* cliffhanger, as it completely changes everything we thought we knew about the story.

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PsiTrey 5 years, 4 months ago

You know...my issue with Earthshock is that it has nothing to do with the concept of the Cybermen. Now, with the military presence, imagine Earthshock but with Sontarans instead. That would make sense, and the Cyberleader's gung-ho attitude would work so much better.

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David Anderson 5 years, 4 months ago

Unless I've missed something, although Earthshock is number 19 on the DWM poll nobody commenting on this blog is at all inclined to defend it from Philip's kicking.
I suspect this says something about the section of fandom attracted to the blog. Is there much overlap between fans who think Earthshock is a classic and fans who think, say, Ghost Light is a classic?

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

I'll take the bait. I think Earthshock is, for the most part, a well-constructed story that's exciting to watch and has a fairly straight-forward plot. "The Cybermen want to destroy Earth in order to prevent humans from galvanizing a resistance to them. When their bomb plot fails, their fallback plan is to blow it up with a starship crash. The good guys stop them." Phil's primary complaints about it -- that it embraces violent militarism which is not in keeping with the show's heritage and that it's primary audience is the fan-industrial complex -- are ideological objections rather than complaints about the story as, well, a story.

Now, compare that with the plot from, say, Time-Flight. "The Master escaped from Castrovalva ... somehow ... and just happened to land in the Pleistocene era right next to a crashed ship carrying the gestalt remains of a psychic species. The Master wants to steal the gestalt to power his TARDIS, but he can't figure out how to break through a stone wall. So he steals Concorde airliners from millions of years in the future and hypnotizes the passengers into being slave labor to break down the wall, all the while skillfully disguised as an Arabian sorcerer for no reason whatsoever. Oh, and the gestalt aliens have a multiple personality problem, but luckily, the evil side can be repelled by the TARDIS crew thinking positively. Oh, and there are these things called plasmatons who are made out of bubble wrap and who do ... stuff."

As for Ghost Light, I thought it was a flawed masterpiece that I had to watch three times to fully get and which would have massively benefited by a fourth episode.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 4 months ago

SK,

I honestly hate the stupid habit of using cardinal numbers as if they were names for different incarnations of the Doctor.

Ah yes, just as I'm horrified by your shocking habit of using the initials "SK" rather than your full name. Maybe it saves time, but what is convenience in the face of Truth?

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

More often than not in the classroom you have to let somethings go, in order to achieve other goals. If you spend the whole of the class time disciplining belligerent children, you will never finish what you set out to teach.

No no, other way around. Establish early on that any infractions of discipline will be dealt with harshly, and you never have to let anything go. It's only if you go easy at the start that you have to spend the whole time disciplining belligerent children (or letting them disrupt everything) and so never get anything done.

Mostly, though, I don't understand the idea that, The British government then had a choice; defend the islands with force, enter into diplomacy, or just let them go.

The third was not an option, for all the reasons described: the Antarctic claim, the invitation it gives future aggressors to push Britain's resolve on other matters.

The second I don't understand at all. What diplomacy can you enter into with someone who has just invaded your territory? What incentive have they to enter into diplomacy? The only possible incentive they would have is if you have a credible threat of force but at the time nobody believed that the UK had a credible threat of force. The only way to establish that was to mount a successful invasion. Anything else, and the Argentinians have no reason to enter into any diplomacy at all: they can just ignore all British protests, motion in the UN etc, and continue to claim sovereignty.

So as the third option was out of the question, and the second was simply non-existent, the first option -- establish the credibility of Britain's military threat by successfully retaking the islands -- was the only realistic one.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Indeed; Dr Sandifer's main objection to 'Earthshock', the reason he sees it as some sort of revolting affront to Doctor Who rather than simply a slightly disappointing shallow action runaround (but far from the most disappointing 'old monster return' story -- 'The Sontaran Strategem', anyone?), seems to be that the Falklands war was the wrong thing for the UK to do.

Which, you know, it wasn't. So that's rubbish.

Take that vitriol away and what we're left with is a perfectly serviceable piece of action-oriented Doctor Who. It even does have a character-based climax: as many have pointed out, Adric's death proceeds directly from his character. The story goes out of its way to re-establish Adric: reminding the audience that though he looks human, he's an alien, and not only that but an alien from a different universe; and banging home that his central dilemma is that he wants to prove himself to be the best.

This is a very soap-opera thing: when the staff for, eg, Eastenders create a new character, they make sure to give them a Driving Need. If a character every achieves their Driving Need, they are written out of the programme, as there are no more stories to tell about them. And it's something that has previously been absent from Doctor Who: Jo, Sarah and Leela didn't have Driving Needs: they were essentially static characters. Romana developed one just in time to be written out. Adric is the first companion to be conceived with a soap-like Driving Need that is not resolved in his introduction story, that is supposed to drive the character through subsequent stories.

Now of course it doesn't work out like that and his Need tends to get forgotten about as he becomes the cypher that Doctor Who stories tend to require companions to be, especially when there's three of them. But it makes perfect dramatic sense for that Need to be what leads him, ultimately, to his doom. So the story spends three episodes reminding the audience what Adric wants -- to show how he can play with the big boys, how he has A Talent -- and that finally pays off when his desire to prove himself is what drives him to ignore the Doctor and try to save everybody.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

It's not dramatically cheap. It's not 'sham drama'. The 'extra heaping of annoying scenes in the first episode' are there to remind the audience what it is that Adric wants, and what it is that the other characters keep denying him. That he doesn't die heroically is part of the point, what makes his death so tragic. His last words are so utterly perfect for the character that they simply couldn't have been anything else; to say that 'it is impossible to even figure out what Saward thought he was doing with them' is simply to refuse to engage imaginatively with the character at all, but then, if you've already decided that the story is Evil because of the Falklands then perhaps at that point you are just wishing for it to be over and empathy is the last thing on your mind.

Yes, Adric's an insufferably annoying character. But he's not just there to be annoying, as some shallow characters are: his annoyingness springs from a deeper character than possibly any companion before in the history of the programme. It's the first attempt to make a companion who is a character rather than a plot-cypher with an attitude. That they decided to explore this area first by coming up with an annoying character was... misguided, but is actually not an uncommon mistake writers make: they come up with a character they find fascinating because of their flaws, forgetting that those flaws which they find fascinating to write are exactly the kind that they would leave not only the room or party but the country to avoid in a real person.

But Adric was a character with depth, with goals that didn't just involve 'staying alive' or 'solving the plot', and those goals led him directly to his tragic end.

And if that's not real drama, I don't know what is.

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David Anderson 5 years, 4 months ago

I think that, even granted that the Falklands War was the right thing to do at the time, there were right and wrong ways for the UK to behave to itself during the War. And jingoism was the wrong way to behave. The fact that you've just won a limited war convincingly should not of itself be a reason to grant a government that was suffering in the polls because of its economic policy a landslide election.

As regards ideological objections, the program features as its protagonist a nomadic sufficiently advanced alien who doesn't carry a weapon. That of itself has ideological implications. But they're also aesthetic implications: one of the things the program has to do to keep going is that in every story it has to vindicate the Doctor's decision not to carry a weapon.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Well, it does until Tennant takes over, at which point he starts carrying a weapon.

And as discussed, the public didn't grant the government a landslide because of the Falklands, they granted them a landslide because there was no alternative. Have you never heard of the longest suicide note in history?

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

To be accurate, the public granted the government a plurality, and the electoral system turned it into a landslide.

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William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree. It's not fantastically well executed, but it's clear what it's trying to do and if you approach it sympathetically it certainly works dramatically. Considering the work Phil puts in to find redemptive readings of most stories, I felt he could have done more to illuminate this one.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

Adric isn't the first companion whose departure refers to their debut (that would be Ian and Barbara, though actually I can't think of any examples between them and Romana) but he is the first companion whose debut gives them an animating inner life which then resolves itself in their debut (Romana's debut gives no clue of any aspect of the character that might reasonably be said to lead to her decision not to return to Gallifrey).

Surely, if you're trying to track the evolution of Doctor Who towards modern series TV drama, that makes him a landmark character?

The programme will continue to try to do this off and on, with greater or lesser degrees of success: Nyssa's compassion motivates her to leave in 'Terminus', but Tegan's abrupt departure has nothing to do with her debut (then again, she didn't really get much of an inner life even in her debut: it may have semed like 'wanting to get back home' was a motivation, but the key is that Adric and Nyssa had inner goals that weren't directly related to travelling in the TARDIS. They were characters (albeit not very well realised ones) who happened to find themselves in the TARDIS; Tegan was entirely defined by her relationship with the TARDIS. No wonder she couldn't cope with being left in the twentieth century!)

Turloguh's problem is that his Driving Need (to escape, first from Earth and then from the Black Guardian) is resolved before his departure, meaning that even though his departure story fills in his background, it's dramatically empty. It's like the production team hit on the idea that the departure story should finally resolve the character's story, but didn't quite work out that this means resolving the character, not just revealling a bit of background. A smarter (or possibly, less rushed) production team would have set up some inner ambiguity in Turlough towards his home planet that could have driven both his decision to join with the Guardian and his future behaviour, and meant that his decision to return home was an important acceptance of who he really is and to accept responsibility, contrasting him with the Doctor. Instead it's just, 'Oh, you've been pardoned, you can go home now, yay.'

Peri, then, is a step backwards, with no dramatic goal given in her debut and so her departure has nothing to play off. Mel is a step even farther back, without even a shred of character in her debut and so her departure is just randomly deciding to hop off with Glitz. It's not until Ace that we get a companion who was planned with her entire story in mind (at least in Ian Brigg's mind) before she ever appears on screen. Such a pity we never got to see it end (of course, we got a version of it in the New Adventures, but that wasn't the original plan).

The new series struggles with this as well: with Rose it works quite well, as her inner goal is to be more than her sales assistant life enables her to be. She is shown a glimpse of that travelling with the Doctor: and her departure resolves the story by finally allowing her to become 'Earth Defender' but at the cost of losing the father-figure who helped her become the person who can defend other-Earth.

Martha and Catherine Tate, on the other hand, fare less well. As for Amy? Well, we'll have to see...

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BerserkRL 5 years, 4 months ago

The absence of alternatives is itself a symptom.

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SK 5 years, 4 months ago

The absence of alternatives is reality. You can't just wish yourself into a world where the Argentinians would have voluntarily agreed to engage in diplomacy.

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Alan 5 years, 4 months ago

I will reiterate one final point about Adric's death which people seem to overlook (and at this point, I'm probably shouting into the void since it's Monday and everyone has moved on from "Earthshock"): Adric DID save the human race! It's easy to get caught up in the idea of Adric suffering a tragic, pointless death, but the fact is, he did solve the first two of the three logic codes, which the other characters on the scene asserted was impossible, and in doing so, he caused the freighter to time-jump. Had he known that the time-jumping freighter was supposed to have crashed in that era, he would have left with the rest of the crew, but he didn't. In fact, since he wasn't even in the area when the Doctor explained about the dinosaurs dying from a colossal explosion, he didn't even have the chance to deduce it. I really is unfair, IMO, to attack Adric for "smugness" when he succeeded rather heroically where the Doctor himself failed.

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Henry R. Kujawa 5 years, 2 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"the superficially obvious problem that the snake is rubbish helpfully distracts from the scripting problem underneath it."

Gee, isn't that like the whole of "ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN"??


Scott:
"it's fair to say most probably didn't like the character anyway"

I found him incredibly annoying in every single scene n tis entire story. Like when The Doctor's trying to do something desperately urgent and incredibly complex, and he KEEPS interrupting with "Can't you just tell me what you're doing?" Or how he keeps getting in everyone's face, really loudly, including The Cyberleader. How did he ever live long enough to die at the end?


Exploding Eye:
""I have a friend who's never seen Doctor Who, which story would you recommend I start with?"

You could try my choices: "THE ANDROID INVASION", or, "INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D."


Andrew Hickey:
"PAUL! DA! RROW! is terrible, but he's terrible in precisely the way the part requires. Had he shown less contempt for the role, Timelash would have been even worse."

I think what bothers me the most about his character is, he spends the entire story sucking up to the monster, trying to kill The Doctor, and really enjoying himself while doing it, until, abruptly, he realized his own planet will be destroyed, and then, suddenly, he does a 180 turn and tries to "do the right thing", in a very arrogant, egotistical fashion, as if it's all about HIM, and promptly gets killed for it. Idiot.


Alan:
"Tegan arrogantly insists on accompanying the Space Marines even though she has absolutely no combat experience whatsoever and has never even fired a gun. And what happens? Within five minutes she's captured without ever firing a shot and then delivered to the Cyberleader, who, delighted that he has two hostages, taunts the Doctor over the fact that he can now leave Adric behind to die and still enforce the Doctor's compliance!"

Another story where I'd have been much happier if both Adric and Tegan had never been regulars on the show at all.


WGPJosh:
"I know a lot of you looked up to Adric as children because he was an awkward teenage boy who was great at math and science and a lot of you related to that."

NO. I looked up to Will Robinson on LOST IN SPACE. And I still do. He was a NICE kid. and he had the family I always wished I did. (Well, except for the weird "uncle".)

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Henry R. Kujawa 5 years, 2 months ago

WGPJosh:
"The plan I believe changed at the last minute at least in part because of Lalla Ward announcing her resignation."

I'm afraid your memory incorrect here. It was JNT's intention from the beginning to GET RID OF Romana, and K-9, and the Sonic Screwdriver, and 6-parters, and humor, and Dudley Simpson. And then Tom Baker was inspired to QUIT, which may have been what he hoped, anyway.

So the long-term plan, if there was one at all, would have been Tom Baker & Adric, which, if you watch "TRAKEN", could have worked. But then Baker decided to quit, and a replacement had to be found at a very late moment, and JNT didn't even bnother having a search, he just hired a guy from another show he'd already worked on. Lazy, and nepotism. And clearly, the Peter Davison-Adric team NEVER worked.

"SEALED ORDERS" failed to happen because of problems the writer was having, not because Lalla Ward decided to quit. It was INTENDED to be her swan song! Let's not keep this sort of confusion going a moment longer.


PsiTrey:
"You know...my issue with Earthshock is that it has nothing to do with the concept of the Cybermen. Now, with the military presence, imagine Earthshock but with Sontarans instead. That would make sense, and the Cyberleader's gung-ho attitude would work so much better."

LOVE it!!! Isn't it sad that the entire JNT era evokes so many far-better ideas from fans than what actually got broadcast?


Now, a couple of points... HOW can Cybermen possibly trail the TARDIS' flight-path thru hyperspace? WHEN did they first see the TARDIS to recognize it later? And doesn't "REVENGE" take place many centuries after this one?

I thought James Warwick was top-notch as Commander Scott. Once he realized The Doctor was on his side, he was perfectly reasonable the rest of the story. He really reminded me of a 26th-Century version of The Brigadier! And after looking him up a the IMDB... damn. I never connected him in any way at all with his role on PARTNERS IN CRIME (a really FUN show!!).

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 2 months ago

I have trouble calling the casting of Peter Davison - a quite skilled actor - lazy nepotism. Nobody read for Sherlock other than Benedict Cumberbatch either, and yet I'm hard-pressed to complain about that casting. Davison was a recognizable television star and a strong actor who was nevertheless a radical departure from Tom Baker. This is, I think, exactly what the part required following Baker's departure.

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Kat42 5 years ago

I have to say I agree with your take on why one should love Doctor Who. I mean I don't think anyone should be told why they should love something, but personally, having come at it from a time when even the most modern visual effects would end up looking dated, I could never get why some effects mattered more than others. If you are planning on watching Doctor Who in the first place, don't you just go into it expecting things to look bad? I never got the hiding behind the sofa thing, I was rarely ever scared by anything on Doctor Who, I was inspired by it, or just enjoyed laughinng at it. I also absolutely love your idea of a show full of great minds working on a shoe string budget! I absolutely want to see that! Though it would have to be genuine to get the full effect. I've certainly seen enough things where people actively try to make things look bad as an homage to older movies and those are entertaining, but your idea sounds like it could be much more interesting.

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David Gerard 3 years, 7 months ago

I thought this described Blake's 7 reasonably well. Remember that it got the left-over sets from Doctor Who.

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Andrew Bowman 3 years, 2 months ago

Is Paradise Towers deliberately being referred to as "episode four"? If so, why?

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Ed Azad 2 years, 10 months ago

"Warriors of the Deep" at least had the Doctor showing some gumption when situations called for it. "Time-Flight" had some good bits: a naff Langoliers plot, commercial jet pilots "flying" the TARDIS, and an intriguing (if underutilized) anti-heroic aliens.

The references to "Tomb" run on too long and frankly become desperate. Everybody's motivations change from moment to moment, which is deadly considering that this is building on the Doctor's relationship with Adric. And Adric's denouement is both telegraphed and oblique. You can see the railroad tracks being nailed down as the character speeds toward his fruitless demise, even causing Lt. Scott to have a brain fart and release hold of his arm. Seeing Adric mentally count down the seconds to the doors closing and thinking "PSYCHE" as he hops through them is pretty bad.

In my opinion, Earthshock belongs in a league of half-hearted nostalgia tours specials along with Dimensions in Time and a Fix With Sontarans. If taken as a staight Doctor Who episode, it may well be Davison's worst ever.

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William Silvia 2 years, 5 months ago

If I died without knowing whether or not I had succeeded at the last thing I set out to do in my life, I'd be upset that I never got to know if I was right or not, too. I'd be extremely hesitant to call that "smug".

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orfeo 10 months, 3 weeks ago

"there’s an overt cynicism to the entire thing."

And there's a lot of cynicism in your post. Sometimes, Mr Sandifer, you are an absolute killjoy.

Liking the aspects of Dr Who that you do does not mean that it's necessary to come down like a tonne of bricks on stories that do not fit that mould. Once again you trot your surprisingly loose definition of "base" under "siege", and in passing you acknowledge that this the best the series ever got at an action story.

You could have left it at that. Instead, you feel the need to criticise Earthshock for not doing the things you want Doctor Who stories to do. Instead of praising it for achieving its own goals well, you damn it for not achieving your goals.

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