A Split in the Skin of the World (The End of Time, Part Two)

(153 comments)

The lengths people will go to in order to get License to Kill
written out of canon...
A bombed out husk of imagined Londons, all the dead and abandoned futures piled up alongside each other. All the things that could have been, united by their shared experience of a moment where it became obvious that they actually never could be. Futures that have run out, been spent, boiled away to ruins, our cultural memento moris, reminding us all of the looming and inevitable death that is nostalgia. “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. I don’t want to go.”

It is tempting to end on a more positive note. It is not as though I don’t enjoy The End of Time, or the Davies era. I quite love both. Really, I do.

But the Davies era has long since ended. We have parted the ways, and faced doomsday. We have seen the journey end and long since seen the next Doctor. We’ve praised it, buried it, critiqued it, and disinterred it several times to do it all again. And now we have The End of Time, an ending so absolute that it does not so much cut off the Davies era as it cuts off the abstract possibility of anything. With the Davies era refusing so spectacularly to die, few other options seem to exist but cutting off the very possibility of time’s advancement. End everything and you might just manage to kill it off too. 

If, in fact, there’s even any time left to have. By this point the contours of the last Davies episode are self-evident. It is going too far to suggest that all of Davies’s season finales (and this clearly counts) are the same, but there is a structure to them: a whirling mass of conceptual quotes, flipping channels endlessly until it resolves by declaring the permanence of Doctor Who as a narrative fixture. A regeneration story is going to be no different. A shell game - where in the narrative is the trap that kills the Doctor? Inevitably, the point will not be what kills the Doctor but the fact of his ongoing narrative role: a story that never ends. The justification for this lack of resolution will, as always, be populism. Doctor Who is loved, so it is not cancelled.

Underneath all of this, very low in the mix, is a very different sort of story. In every season after the first, the most interesting moment in terms of Davies’s own scripts has been the inevitable spiky and difficult story - the one where Davies stops trying to be quite so populist and throws something a bit ugly and unnerving on the screen. (And the only reason this can’t be said of the first season is that practically every Davies episode that season does it.) Love and Monsters, Gridlock, and Midnight are all cases where one can see a very different sort of Davies: an angry one clearly considerably more skeptical and cynical about the world. Even in the specials season this exists, as Davies finally has time to tackle Torchwood properly and delivers Children of Earth

Deep within The End of Time there’s this sort of story. There’s an angry joke running through it about Barack Obama and the prospect of ending the recession, with Tommo’s bitter line about how any solution won’t reach folks like him and Ginger. The Master “deletes” the plan, but this seems in practice astonishingly unfeasible (surely the plan is, you know, written down somewhere). And yet there is no evidence that the plan ever pans out. Or, perhaps, it pans out as it really did - inadequate half measures. The prospect of saving the world from a crisis of late capitalism via what Tommo describes as “some big financial scheme” is, after all, absurd on the face of it. It always was. 

But much as Davies wants to write working class drama for the post-Great Recession age, he doesn’t. The glimpse of Donna and Shaun’s marriage that Wilf provides speaks volumes: “He's on minimum wage, she's earning tuppence, so all they can afford is a tiny little flat. And then sometimes I see this look on her face, like she's so sad, but she can't remember why.” All the escape from the drudgery of the world, the promise initially offered by Rose and its triumphant explosion of the dead-end shop in favor of a universe of terror and wonder, finally collapsed. There is nothing but scraping by and an inescapable sorrow for futures that never were. But Davies can’t end there. No matter how much he adds that approach into the buildup, there’s still the populist end to reckon with.

“Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long,” the Doctor says at one point, and we’re meant to disagree. And yet why? When the Doctor puts the principle of not being willing to shoot someone over the fate of all of humanity, what are we meant to do with him? For the second time in the Davies era, the Doctor’s vain insistence on not being the one to pull the trigger is set to become the doom of humanity. We are all to be the Master, our worst impulses, the rot that sets in as the universe finally goes black, and the Doctor refuses to save us because of a moral point centering entirely on the question of propelling pieces of metal at high speeds via a controlled explosion at the base of a rifled barrel. 

Even at the end, the question is arbitrary. Somehow shooting a diamond and consigning Rassilon to death in the hell of the Time War is acceptable, but shooting Rassilon himself is not. Letting the Master walk into the Time War is acceptable, putting a bullet in him is not. Apparently “how the Master started” has everything to do with projectiles and nothing to do with an actual system of ethics. Wilf’s military service renders him noble, but the use of a gun is wrong. There is no substance to this, just a mess of would-be principles masquerading as a moral. 

What we have, in other words, is the substitution of any reasoned system for one of ideology. The Spectacle writ large: “what appears is good; what is good appears.” The consideration of material reality is beside the point, rendering poverty and the inescapable totality of the Great Recession nothing more than one more image that happens to be on the channel between Time Lords hurling lightning at each other and June Whitfield. Hooray. 

 For what, though? What is the ultimate act of evil and horror that underlies this story? What is the sprawling plot, worse even than the Master, that the Doctor dies to stop? It is a scheme on the part of the Time Lords to “ascend to become creatures of consciousness alone. Free of these bodies, free of time, and cause and effect, while creation itself ceases to be.” And yet what is wrong about this? The Lords of Time undone, removed from time itself, causality itself unwound, while creation is finally allowed to go. We do, after all, know the fate of all things: the Master showed us that back in Last of the Time Lords. There’s only blackness and the final crumbling of humanity into decay and rot. Not just oblivion, but a dark so hellish that it turns us all into monsters. 

And the Doctor opts to consign us to this. The Time Lords offer at last to shatter the lens of history, to free us of a fixed endpoint and let us at least have the oblivion of creation itself being unmade. It is death, yes, but not the death the Master offers - the annihilation of humanity in favor of his vision. It is a simple death. A real death. One that opts to walk away from a universe bounded on each end by inconceivable horrors; by devils at the start and finish. But the Doctor says no, insisting instead on nailing the universe to the rotting corpse of history once again.

The story must go on, after all. And to do that, its hero must be a feckless narcissist who endlessly spares only a few. Who preaches to others about how “Every now and then, a little victim's spared because she smiled, because he's got freckles, because they begged. And that's how you live with yourself. That's how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind.” 

And so he is. He’ll let one old man live. He’ll let one woman struggling with poverty win the lottery and thus become one of the lucky few whose social mobility provides moral justification for the poverty of the rest. One mother gets her son scooped from in front of a car, one broken hearted man meets a pretty boy, and yes, one shop girl gets to see the heights of the universe.

But the rest of us? We remain yoked to the wheel of history. Dead Time Lords are, after all, still Lords. The death of the author does not free us from the tyranny of the text. This is the odd horror of Davies’s atheistic universe. He is so determined to unseat every god and give us a universe where after death there’s nothing at all, and yet he insists on the absolute fixity of history. Absent any god the fixed points in time where what happens must always happen are the ordering principles. And it is forbidden to rewrite those. And so the ultimate sin within the Davies era stands revealed: deviation from the prescribed arc of history. Because the world loves Doctor Who, and so Doctor Who can only reassure the world that its love is justified. And thus the sense of history and memory upon which the world’s psyche rests must never be disrupted. It must never change. Even if the Lords of Time die, their vision and laws must be respected and upheld. Consider one of the earliest consequences of their death that the Davies era declared: there are no longer even any alternate realities to speak of. There is only this singular vision: the arc of history.

That arc, of course, is written within late capitalist Britain. There is no other alternative. The arc of history is not some alien concept - some Enemy with a new and inexpressible vision of history. It is the ideology of capitalism. Davies is open about it - billions of years in the future, there is still just early 21st century humanity with funny skin colors. The same social system echoes throughout eternity. And within it, everyone has to “get by” and muddle through a hostile and painful world. A lucky handful will be elevated, and life on the bottom for Tommo and Binro and all the rest will remain unchanged. There is no way out. There is no alternative. Revolution is not permitted - only small, tiny acts of kindness whose mercy is inevitably twisted into a defense of the status quo. The only thing absent is mercury.

And so we get the nightmarish final image of the Davies era, so twisted by its own hubris that it is mistaken as a reward. The Davies era has always existed within television. And its final sequence is, in effect, channel surfing - short clips of various television shows and premises. Except that the Master’s scheme has come off again, only this time it’s not that everyone has become the Master, but that every television show has become Doctor Who. Every story can be a Doctor Who story, and Doctor Who never ends, and so at last the inevitable happens: Doctor Who becomes the only thing on television. 

This is the dank hell of the neverending adventure. To sustain such a narrative there must always be the suffering of the world in which the adventure is crafted. There can be no posthuman ascension, no moment of blinding mercury that shatters the world and lets it change. Putrefaction is never allowed to end. Instead history will rot and fester and the story will uphold its degradations just so that its hero can, every week, save a tiny fraction of infinity. There is no ending. There is no release. Nothing ever changes except the iconography. Because change is death, and the show refuses death. This is the true mantra of the Davies era - the awful consequence of the narrative never being allowed to collapse. Doctor Who has emboited the whole of existence, and has then chosen to be stuck in one single form - a box of late capitalist authority. Its sole function has become to police a single vision of history. Time cannot be rewritten. Not one line. 

It is January 1st, 2010. “Killing in the Name” has been killed off by the X Factor track it was made to try to block. Nothing of substance has changed in the charts. A blue moon and a lunar eclipse occur on the same day. There is no news to speak of. 

Doctor Who has stayed on television.


History marches on.

Comments

Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

Not even read this yet - but oh man what an exciting day! Just got the signed Hartnell book in the post (WOW!); and your post for the End of Time Pt 2, and Josh Marfelder's essay for Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Vaka Rangi are up online at the same time! What a morning of reading ahead of with these two essays and the joy of your blog in glorious book form Phil, for me to linger over and enjoy.

A good day - and to boot I have been given a paid day off of work.

http://vakarangi.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/its-only-human-in-thy-image-star-trek.html

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Bennett 3 years, 7 months ago

"Inevitably, the point will not be what kills the Doctor but the fact of his ongoing narrative role"

Just out of interest, I'd like to treat the question of what kills the Doctor as if it was the point...if only because the rest of your essay is so comprehensive that it fills its critical Universe and leaves no other space for me to comment. In fact, I'm going to take the liberty one step further and suggest that the real question is who kills the Doctor - because there's a game afoot here, a mystery to be solved. Let's gather the suspects in our 'mind parlour' and Poirot our way through them.

Our first suspect - looming over our parlour with the gravitational pull of forty years of history - is the Time Lords. This Doctor was always defined by their absence; the presence of just one was enough to completely destabilise his narrative and shrivel his character into non-existence. But this time, they do not lay a gloved finger upon him. Gallifrey rises and falls, but fails to turn the tide. The Doctor survives. The Doctor wins.

With the planet-in-the-room passed, the moving finger points to Wilf. He was there at the scene of the crime, and was apparently instrumental in the Doctor's death. The Doctor himself even seems to think so, proclaiming "You were always this". But look into those old, sad eyes. This man wouldn't kill our Doctor. Not even by accident.

For the third suspect, let us turn to the evidence of the podcast commentary where Davies points to the technician Wilf liberates and says "You killed the Doctor. You. I'm going to give him a name. His name is Trevor...Adamson. The Doctor dies because of Trevor Adamson". There you go. J'accuse.

However, one can't quite shift the smell of herring. And there's one witness testimony still to consider. The testimony of the victim. Though the Doctor clearly dies in the Naismith Mansion, curled up in agony, that is not the end of his story. He remains in the narrative as a spectral, distant figure - as the ghost at the feast. But who is he haunting?

The ghost at the feast comes to haunt his killer. But most of the people he visits were absent from his final days and thus absent from our parlour. If he's not haunting them, there can only be one other person he is haunting. He is haunting Russell T Davies.

He haunts the characters Davies failed to do justice. He haunts the hedonistic excess that gutted Torchwood and its leading man. He haunts the child series Davies regretted not keeping as close an eye on. He haunts a writer who rewrites the stories of another in the name of Doctor Who. And then he returns to the Powell Estate to haunt Davies' very beginnings, to close the loop and have his death weigh heavily upon the whole of Davies' tenure.

Let's turn back to the scene of the crime. It is hard to think of a death trap as transparent as the Vinvocci glass case. It is ridiculously clumsy and inept in its construction as a plot device - from the lingering shot in Part One that highlights its arcane operation, to the logical leap of believing that the Vinvocci would design a system that vented poisonous radiation directly onto its operator rather than, say, into a separate glass container.

But perhaps this blatancy is the point of the exercise, the truth of it all. Five minutes before, the Doctor was literally invulnerable - surviving a fall that would kill a normal man, that had even killed him before. But he cannot survive the writer, whose pen sweeps in mercilessly the moment his character has lived too long and abruptly ends his life.

Perhaps this was the plan all along; why Davies said that he would never have done the gap year if Tennant's Doctor was going to live on. It was a year-long scheme to make it seem like a natural death. To set up audience expectation as an alibi and the lovable Wilf as a scapegoat.

And having done the deed, Davies does what any murderer would do - he hides the body and escapes to a new life.

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Bennett 3 years, 7 months ago

Whoa. That was longer than I intended it to be. Apologies. One of these days, I'm going to have to learn how to be succinct.

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mengu 3 years, 7 months ago

This is awesome. And yet all the awe is slightly undercut by noticing just how thoroughly -- "[t]here can be no posthuman ascension, no moment of blinding mercury that shatters the world and lets it change" -- the set up for series 5 is made.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

"Time cannot be rewritten" - well let's see what happens to that then.

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Chris 3 years, 7 months ago

"It is January 1st, 2010... A blue moon and a lunar eclipse occur on the same day."

Wait, what? My brain refuses to accept these statements.

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lanceparkin 3 years, 7 months ago

"When the Doctor puts the principle of not being willing to shoot someone over the fate of all of humanity, what are we meant to do with him? For the second time in the Davies era, the Doctor’s vain insistence on not being the one to pull the trigger is set to become the doom of humanity."

It's not vanity. Perhaps this is a cultural difference, either because of the cultural difference guns have in the UK compared with the US, or just because the conventions of action-adventures are more violent in the US, but I think you're misunderstanding the Doctor's objection. It's not 'pulling the trigger', it's that he is being presented with a solution where violence is resolved with violence. The issue is one of being manipulated into perpetuating a cycle of violence. If you look at the descriptions of the Time War, that's what the Time War literally was - endless, repetitive, death and rebirth to die again.

The Doctor's instinct, which is correct, is that there's a way to actually end it, and that it isn't by killing someone.

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Anton B 3 years, 7 months ago

Ah yes the death of the Doctor, the ultimate narrative collapse, the cliffhanger without a even a cliff to hang off. Our most hubristic of Doctors who, we will learn retrospectively, loves himself so much and hates change even more that he even wastes a regeneration to stay the same, finally goes; complaining that he doesn't want to. And so now we must have Moffat and his dark twisted adult games wrapped up in bright children's birthday wrapping paper. Matt Smith with his gawky Frank Spencer meets Mork from Ork routine, River Snog and the Ponds. The wibbly wobbly Pandorica at the end of the universe and its timey wimey Big Bang beginning rebooting again and again while the TARDIS brings sexy back.

It all seems so inevitable now. The giddy giraffe dance toward death, rebirth, Capaldi and the resurrection of the Time Lords.

Every era kills the thing it loves - the previous Doctor. The ultimate regeneration episode would be the perfect grandfather paradox - The Doctor crossing his own time stream and murdering himself.


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Jarl 3 years, 7 months ago

Death By The Author, by Roland Barthes and Agatha Christie.

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Alex Antonijevic 3 years, 7 months ago

And despite everything that happens, he's still not ginger.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 7 months ago

Something something Valeyard something something seventh killed the sixth something something oh no not again

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Prole Hole 3 years, 7 months ago

To be honest that's how it played out to me as well, a sort-of 21st century "there should have been a better way" when presented with the fact that violence only begat more violence. Not the vanity of someone unprepared to pull the trigger himself but the idea that there should be a solution that doesn't require the trigger to be pulled at all.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 7 months ago

It will take me a bit to absorb this. But I would point out a couple of what appear to me to be errors.

One, the Master doesn't delete Obama's plan - he deletes the financial crisis itself, by suddenly giving every single person on Earth the same collective interest.

And two, "Rise of the Cybermen" never says that there are no more alternate realities, only that it's harder to access them without the Time Lords. "The universe became that much less kind," the Doctor says. So the Time Lords are in the paradoxical position of both guarding the arc of our history, and facilitating access to other histories as well.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 7 months ago

And the solution is always some deus ex machina that provides a fantasy solution with no moral culpability on anyone's part (yes I know the term is overused, but what else would you call is Bad Wolf Rose emerging from the TARDIS, or the Time Lords appearing from some white void?). But you can't really argue that Rose destroying the Daleks with magical fairy dust is actually less violent than destroying them with a delta wave (even if Earth escapes being collateral damage) or that sending the Time Lords back into hell (just like Meat Loaf!) by shooting a diamond is really that much less violent than doing it by shooting a diamond (and really, wouldn't Rassilon regenerate after being shot anyway?). In both cases, it seems like it's the optics of the thing that are being elided, not the actual result.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 7 months ago

So, compare the Time Lords' plan (to destroy all of creation & become extra-dimensional godlike consciousnesses) with the Daleks' plan (to destroy all of creation & lord it over a static infinity of subatomic particles). Back in your Journey's End post you invoked "trolley problem" moral reasoning to save us all from the Daleks, but here it seems you posit it's better we all just die and get it over with rather than be condemned to live in a world where a socialist utopia will apparently never be achieved.

When I saw The Second Coming after the new series was announced, I was greatly disturbed by RTD's notion that it's better to live without God but just continue shopping, and that sense of moral hollowness never left his version of Doctor Who, but at least in that scenario we still get to live, and laugh, and love, and have a bit of fun, rather than allow god-like beings to just wipe us out preemptively because we'll never live up to the ideal.

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Anton B 3 years, 7 months ago

Well quite. Each season deconstructs the last. This is why a consistent and canonical Whoniverse is not only impossible but undesirable.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 7 months ago

Wow... that was really depressing. I was expecting a little uplift at the end, like that fresh and enticing breeze that would keep me excited for the next four months once Tennant finally regenerated into Smith after his painful mope-finale. :-(

...but, then again, we won't even be getting a simulacrum of that 4-month period, will we? You're just going to go right into "The Eleventh Hour" on Friday, without even a break. That's not how it felt.

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Anton B 3 years, 7 months ago

Which is why the next season (however they decide to number it) with Capaldi finding the new Doctor will be interesting as it's not the end of the Moffat era. There'll be some hangover and linkage I suspect. Clara of course but I wouldn't rule out some timey wimey shenanigans from the Eleventh, perhaps leaving himself a message on that reconnected telephone that was so heavily signposted in TotD or at least a TARDIS instruction manual.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

I think there's some law of interpretation such that the more unusual a weapon is the more it lends itself to metaphorical readings. Using a gun to kill someone, if given symbolic freight, is just an endorsement of using guns to kill people or of some concomitant. Thus in Resurrection of the Daleks, when the Doctor doesn't shoot Davros that reads as the Doctor's failure to live up to the macho values of the eighties action hero, and all its concomitants. Whereas using a sword, or a stake, or a juryrigged technobabble device implies some adherence to some other scale of values. So shooting Rassilon means endorsing shooting people as a way of solving problems; shooting something else, even if functionally identical in its results, means endorsing finding less simplistic solutions. Hanging around waiting for some deus ex machina to turn up symbolises at least a rejection of the politician's fallacy. (Something must be done. Military intervention / banning the offending item / etc is something. Therefore military intervention / banning / etc must be done.)

Doctor Who like Buffy has the problem of being a fundamentally anti-macho show with monsters. Both are ideologically committed to being against simple kill-the-bad-guy solutions, while operating within a set up where ostensibly there are bad guys and the only solution is to kill them. Buffy killing vampires with a stake can be obviously a metaphor; Buffy killing a demon with a rocket launcher comes a bit closer to shooting solves problems.

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Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

There's a magnificent one-two punch in the master's deletion of the financial crisis, in that your immediate reaction is that it is silly and goofy to pretend you can just make the financial crisis go away by declaring it to not exist.... And then you try to figure out why you can't just declare the financial crisis to not exist.

(Warning: May lead to the sudden and world-shattering realization that the entire economy is, at a fundamental level, an extremely complicated farce that only exists because everyone agrees to act as if it does)

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jane 3 years, 7 months ago

The Reward is nothing less than the classic Homecoming described by those who've survived a Near-Death Experience. As such, the sequence becomes not a moral point so much as a spiritual point -- it's in our personal relationships that we'll find (indeed, create) true meaning in the absurd existential universe. It's apt, of course, for the Doctor is having a near-death experience.

And of course, this poses a problem for political ideologies. On the one hand, it's anathema to capitalism, which is rooted in the individual, shorn of responsibility for anyone else. On the other, and while socialism and collectivism are theoretically concerned with other people and at the very least must hold themselves up to the standard of compassion, the Homecoming (the Reward) is very personal and can only come about through the particulars of actual enacted relationships, not an abstract population.

Really, the frames of politics and morality aren't the right windows for viewing this experience. This experience is beyond good and evil. It doesn't serve as social commentary. It's meant to do what Andrei Tarkovsky, one of the world's greatest filmmakers and critical theorists, said: "The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul..."

But how can we fully prepare for death without, you know, actually dying? Again, I turn to religion -- not because I'm particularly religious (I'm rather polyphrenic on the matter) but because so many spiritual traditions and especially mythologies around the world have the "death of the ego" at their center. This "death" is a subjective experience, not a literal one, though it's typically presented in literal terms, and it's inevitably followed by a resurrection (for the ego always comes back, like a seven-headed Hydra).

In this respect Doctor Who is well-positioned to serve as Mythology, the sort of mythology that explores the internal cycle of Life, Death, Rebirth. It's also very interesting that The End of Time (a title that points to death) brings back the Time Lords specifically to address the theme of Ascension. Rassilon's version is, of course, entirely misdirected -- it involves not the death of the ego, but of everything around it. It's juxtaposed with the Master's "ascension" of having his ego live on in every human being. Against these two misconceptions, the Doctor's ascension positively shines. First there's the rebellion of his ego, but when that ego is put aside in self-sacrifice, the Reward opens up before him. And, yes, the ego really doesn't want to go, but don't worry, because a new one will emerge from the void left behind, not unlike the emergence of the Universe from the great nothingness of the beginning.

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jane 3 years, 7 months ago

A few days ago Phil said 11th Hour comes the week of the 24th. Presumably there's a pop between realities or something of that ilk, so that the moment will be prepared for.

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Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

Not necessarily; if memory serves, there's usually been at least one "Pop Between Realities" post in between the ending of one Doctor's era and the beginning of another's. Given the complete spring-clean behind the scenes (new Doctor, new companion, new showrunner, pretty much new everything) it would seem logical to have at least one to set the scene, as it were.

Although of course, technically the new Doctor's era began in the last sixty seconds of "The End of Time" (quite literally; didn't RTD say that that last scene was actually written uncredited by Steven Moffat?) so anything goes, I suppose...

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Blueshift 3 years, 7 months ago

> The Master “deletes” the plan, but this seems in practice astonishingly unfeasible (surely the plan is, you know, written down somewhere)

I thought the Master just handwaved away the whole recession as it was a made-up problem anyway, and as he was now everyone, it ceased to be an issue.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

I was just going to post the same thing! It's a day of treats in the blogosphere.

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Jesse Smith 3 years, 7 months ago

My take on the whole "and the Doctor consigns us to this" thing is that it is meant to be viewed the same as the ending of The End of the World. Yes, everybody dies eventually. Yes, one day the Earth will be destroyed. Even the Universe may one day fizzle out into entropic heat death.

But not today. There're so many wonderful things left to do before then.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 7 months ago

Compare and contrast that sentiment with the ending of The Doctor's Daughter. "Make this the foundation of your society: a man who never would."

Rather than angrily execute Cobb in retaliation for killing Jenny, he simply has him imprisoned. He'll stand trial. He'll be forgotten. His power will fade, and he will die an old man, perhaps one who will eventually understand why what he did was wrong. The society will grow up. Become civilized.

One can read Rose's Bad Wolf as the rise of feminism finally sweeping through and wiping away the old engrained hatreds that have festered in the world since, well, forever. One can read the Master transforming himself into everyone on the planet as each of us carrying within themselves a secret hatred and greed that we may not show others, but that sometimes comes out even when we don't want it too. But while we can read the Doctor shooting the Master in the head with a revolver as something else, it's also pretty straightforwardly one man shooting another to kill him in a way that those other two things aren't.

Just as in the real world magical deus ex machina solutions don't happen, neither do magical super villains who cannot be locked away without the possibility of parole. In the US, it costs more to execute a prisoner than it does to execute them. States with the death penalty show no appreciable decrease in crime rates. Sure, the instinctive animal part of the brain might enjoy the idea, but the civilized human being? Surely we're better than that.

Citations: https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~vwang/ps374/tyree.pdf
https://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/teaching_aids/books_articles/JLpaper.pdf

Of course, on the other hand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzmnPs64K74

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 7 months ago

In keeping with the timey-wimey nature, I'm half expecting Phil to begin the Smith era with "The Time of Angels" (Matt's first filmed episode).

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 7 months ago

There's just so much to tackle in this one epic-length story. It could fill an entire book chapter!

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

We've drifted a bit from Phil's point: Killing the Master or Rassilon with the gun is philosophically no different from sending them back to die at the hands of the War Doctor using the Moment. One is more pleasing to the viewer, more esoteric, but in the end they're still dead. I never thought I'd catch myself saying this, but there isn't a moral difference, just an aesthetic one. The Tenth Doctor doesn't want any more blood on his hands if he can help it. He sends them back to the war with a gun shot and they die. Humanity is saved. Except in one version of events he cannot transfer culpability for the act of taking those lives to the Daleks or a past regeneration.

Spoilers: How can it cost more to execute a man than to execute him? I think one of those should be incarcerate. Really in a perfect would, it would be rehabilitate.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

That realization is one I came to a while ago, and it holds true for almost all social constructs (binary gendering is a particularly good example). Trying to explain that to people is the tricky part.

Seeing I: Doesn't the Master unite us by drawing on the darkest parts of us (him)? All that does is put off the crisis by introducing an external threat. Afterwards, when everyone returns to normal, they still have to deal with the fact that there IS a financial crisis, and there is no longer a solution.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 7 months ago

No, the Master doesn't unite us, he destroys us utterly. The financial crisis is deleted because everybody on the planet is literally replaced with a copy of the Master, all of whom (we assume) agree to work in total cooperation for the exact same goals, in total obedience to the "original" leader, and who no longer have the same difference of opinions, desires, needs, etc that (are one cause of) economic competition for resources in the real world.

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jane 3 years, 7 months ago

Shooting a diamond is shooting a symbol. It sets in motion a kind of narrative collapse. In this particular case, it's a symbol of a misbegotten plan for Ascension, for which a Diamond is particularly apt (and which is someone foreshadowed by the episode of Midnight).

It may not be materially different in terms of the outcome, but it's still a very different action than shooting a man in the head. It's more than an aesthetic, because the Doctor isn't taking out not just the Time Lords, as if they were bad people according to his personal judgment, he's taking them out with their own devices and passing judgment on their particular philosophy.

And, I dunno, it's saying that the means are just as important as the ends. It matters because performing different actions (even if they have the same ends) will nonetheless make you a different person.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

But that doesn't follow; If we were destroyed utterly, how do Donna and Wilf survive? And what follows? We're wiped away and put into this world of conformity, but we all come back. And then the crisis returns. The crisis is never deleted, it just is put off.

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John Binns 3 years, 7 months ago

I think it was Davies who described Doctor Who as 'fundamentally optimistic', which I guess it is, but he isn't. That seems consistent with a finale that rejects the Time Lords' form of nirvana (as surely any Doctor would - without reality, there can be no fiction), but visibly struggles with the idea that material social progress is positive, possible, and worth fighting for. The content of Davies' writing is cynical about humanity's good points and future prospects, and the process of his story editing seems dogmatic and egocentric (all stories yield to him as the ultimate author - or rather, nearly all stories). He was fantastic, and he (part of him, perhaps) didn't want to go. Tennant's long regeneration(s) show his reluctance, despite what he knows to be inevitable, to give in to change and renewal, and so it's natural and fitting that it feels uncomfortable: by this stage, Davies' dominance and pessimism is fundamentally incompatible with the nature of the programme he brought back to us. When the moment comes, he marks it by abruptly and uncharacteristically quitting the narrative entirely, and so before the credits roll, he's gone; it's another man (mysterious, as yet, even to himself) that walks away in his place. Davies and Tennant's Doctor Who, brilliant as it was, had to surrender to change, and die. That, as so many times before, is what ensures that Doctor Who will return.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

The thing is, there is still a reading where he passes judgement on their philosophy, by shooting Rassilon. He's using a work of human engineering to strike down the architect of the entire timelord society. He's turning his back on a flawed ascension with a fake prophet and passing judgement in favour of a people who can change. The Doctor is still a man willing to kill for what he believes in. It's just more honest about that.

The old means and ends thing kind of rings hollow for me when you're killing people.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 7 months ago

Because this discussion is about what The Master does to humanity as a whole, erasing our individuality to make our entirely species a literal manifestation of his single personality and will. That's how the financial crisis is "resolved:" the differences in interest that are expressed in a globalized marketplace of commerce are replaced with a single will.

Donna isn't affected by the Vinvocci device because after the events of Journey's End, she's no longer fully human, but part Time Lord. As for Wilf, he's stuck in the magic box that protects him from the effects of the device's transformative wave.

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thepoparena.com 3 years, 7 months ago

Eh, except he's doing that reverse chronology River Song episodes thing, so expect Eleventh Hour -> The Beast Below -> Victory of the Daleks -> Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

My guess for Friday: Outside the Government - K-9

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 7 months ago

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 7 months ago

I'd say that the fundamental optimism of RTD lies in his embrace of the present as a place to achieve your goals and overcome your current situation through the transformative force of your will. This is what Phil describes as Davies' hedonism, which in my essay on this optimism in 2010's Doctor Who and Philosophy saw best exemplified in The Last of the Time Lords. The Doctor doesn't defeat The Master by giving the Toclafane humans of the far future any hope for a better existence. The future remains the heat death of the universe — as Eccleston's Doctor said, everything has its time and everything dies. That defeat lies in the ability of billions of humans to join together in a single present moment to change the circumstances of their world. A collective statement of belief in Doctor Who fundamentally changes their world as it is now.

The pessimism of Davies lies in his belief that some events cannot change, that particular pivotal moments in the arc of history must be maintained as they are. This is the message of The Waters of Mars: that tragedies from which a brighter future unfolds must remain in place. Adelaide Brooke must die mysteriously, in relation to the destruction of Bowie Base One to inspire humanity to explore the stars; Pompeii and its population must die to save Earth from being destroyed by the Pyroviles (and maintain the pivotal place for humanity in the future of the galaxy instead of turning us into another Io during the Roman Empire); Jack Harkness must murder his grandson to save us from enslavement by The 456.

The Doctor's greatness, for Davies, is his ability to rise morally above the necessary tragedies of history's development through his trauma and existential remorse. Davies and Moffat both ended the eras of their (so far) definitive Doctor with the re-emergence of the Time War from its shadowy existence. This tragic dimension of Davies' conception of the Doctor's nobility is why he ultimately reinforces the terror of that war. He condemns all of Gallifrey because of Rassilon's insane scheme to transcend reality by destroying it. In that sense, as far as the ordinary people of Gallifrey are concerned, Rassilon has still won. I see little evidence that those regular folk and soldiers we saw slugging out the last gasp of the Time War in The Day of the Doctor were going to ascend with Rassilon and the High Council. All Tennant's Doctor could do were damn them to death at his own hands instead of Rassilon's, for the sake of the wider universe.

Tennant's Doctor (and the Doctor as far as Davies is concerned) could never wash the blood from his hands. Smith's, on the other hand . . .

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

One of the silliest things about this silly, silly story is that it completely ignores the global ramifications of its own denouement. Even assuming no one remembered being the Master, there's still video footage of it. Hell, even if there were no video evidence, there's still the fact that everyone on the planet simultaneously lost twelve hours or so during Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, which would be enough to cause a global panic even before a giant planet appears poised to knock us out of orbit and then disappears again. (As Gallifrey came into view, all I could think of was Invader Zim yelling "Slowing to Squishing Speed!")

Also, the Master's scheme would never have worked. Forget about "no more financial crisis because everyone would have had a common purpose." You'll never persuade me that for a brief period, there were literally millions of Masters cheerfully working as plumbers, garbage collectors and sewer inspectors for the Greater Good of the Master Race. I'd give it about three days before every single Master with a crap job started a scheme to take over the world for himself.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

The point I took from Second Coming was that it was better to accept that "this is the only life you live so try to live a good one" as opposed to "there'll be pie in the sky when you die." From an atheistic perspective, the fact that humans have spent thousands of years killing each other (and are still doing so) largely because of religious disagreements that can't be resolved absent the Creator deigning to prove his existence irrefutably and then telling us exactly what he wants us to do is maddening. This is particularly true in America, where the Right twists itself into knots to Jesus, despite all his words to the contrary, doesn't want his followers to do anything at all about the plight of the poor and instead maximize the profits of the wealthiest individuals.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

The Doctor doesn't defeat The Master by giving the Toclafane humans of the far future any hope for a better existence.

Interestingly, TEoTpt2 actually did give me hope for the Toclafane humans. Per Rassilon, organic beings can, by transforming into beings of pure thought, transcend the destruction of the universe itself. If the humans at the end of the universe knew that, perhaps that is what Utopia was: the waystation where the last humans were scraped clean of all their negative impulses so that they can enter the next universe purified. The Toclafane are not the final expression of humanity. They are the dross that is left behind when humanity ascends.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't know what's coming Friday, but I really hope it's "The End of Time Part 3 -- The Glorious Revolution" which is devoted solely to the 60 second tag with Matt Smith, the only part of the entire 2-parter I enjoyed.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

I think a lot of good points have been made here about the narrative (if not the material) difference between shooting a person to cause death and shooting a thing to cause...whatever being in the time war is.

Another perspective on the purported cowardice and hypocrisy of Ten's "I never would": he's not perfect. Of course he's not. He's used guns in the past (see that YouTube clip Spoilers Below posted). His moral reasoning isn't always perfect. He's not a god, he's a sentient being like the rest of us. Are his actions sometimes hypocritical? Sure. We all contradict ourselves sometimes. What's interesting is why.

On a related note: I never have a problem with Cybermen who seem to display more emotion than they claim to possess. Trying to eliminate one's emotions from one's organic brain doesn't imply that one always succeeds. I have more of a problem with stories where Cybermen seem to be destroyed by contact with emotion (though even those are explicable) than I do with stories where David Banks is clearly relishing something. Organic beings are not simple, consistent robots.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

I must say that while I absolutely did not like The End of Time, I was surprised Phil to see it described as a sort of existential horror, like The King In Yellow reimagined as children's programming. I would say this two-parter is easily the worst thing RTD has written that didn't have farting aliens in it, but then at the end, he put in a cameo of a farting alien. So I guess I'll just say it's the worst RTD episode that doesn't have implied concrete fellatio (which was an episode you really liked, so let's just agree to disagree).

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Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

The Master is far too narcisistic for one The Master to do anything that would hurt The Master, even another The Master.

What I'm saying is, the reason there wouldn't be Master Sewer Inspectors Inspecting Sewers For The Master Race is that there are probably entire contintents devoted to the Master doing exactly what many UNIT officers would've suggested he ought to do back in the 70s (Or was that the 80s?) if they were less couth.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years, 7 months ago

The Master is also far too self-destructive for this solution to work longer than three episodes...

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John 3 years, 7 months ago

God, the reverse chronology river song thing is too clever by at least four fifths. Still not as annoying as the Logopolis entry though, I guess.

So we'll get "Angels Take Manhattan" in place of "Pandorica Opens," then "Time of Angels" instead of "Impossible Astronaut," then "Pandorica Opens" instead of "A Good Man Goes to War," then "A Good Man Goes to War" instead of "Let's Kill Hitler," "Impossible Astronaut" instead of Wedding of River Song (or does Impossible Astronaut happen for River after A Good Man Goes to War? I've no idea), Wedding of River Song instead of Angels Take Manhattan, and Let's Kill Hitler instead of Name of the Doctor?

I don't see any possible reason why any of this is a good idea, or why it helps us better understand the Moffat era of the show.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Whether Alan or Ross is correctly predicting which way this will go, it does suggest that if the Master were to crop up again, the best way to foil him would be to clone him.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 7 months ago

Theonlyspiral: Ack, you're right. The second "execute" should be "incarcerate". And in a better world "rehabilitate", you're totally, absolutely right.

From a purely plot level, though, there is one other problem: if you shoot Rassilon, he'll simply regenerate into Pierce Brosnan. It wouldn't end the problem at all. If these are the highest of Time Lords, they can hand out new sets of regenerations as they please. No reason to assume they haven't already granted them to themselves, if necessary. We've already seen Sylvester McCoy survive being pumped full of lead at the hands of an LA street gang. Why would Wilf's antique revolver do any more complete and final of a job?

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

By "Name of the Doctor" I'd completely lost track of River's chronology. I imagine my own confusion there is in some way analogous to the confusion I was supposed to have suffered as a tween when I watched "Attack of the Cybermen" without having seen "The Tenth Planet" or "Tomb of the Cybermen."

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liminal fruitbat 3 years, 7 months ago

First there's the rebellion of his ego, but when that ego is put aside in self-sacrifice, the Reward opens up before him.

I'm not sure this works (at least, it really doesn't work for me) because the Reward doesn't open up before him. He opens it. He flies the TARDIS to all his old friends. A moment of grace like this is supposed to be given, not taken, and this entire sequence comes across far more as "I don't want to go" than as "It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for" - it poisons the regeneration itself, wounding the TARDIS and almost coming across as a spiteful attack on his next life.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Funny -- that might have been my least favorite part (and I really didn't like the rest of it much). It's strange that every post-regeneration scene in the new series has left me recoiling in horror from the new face and its forced, unfunny comedy, while in the old series I feel immense relief and optimism every time, even if I really liked the previous Doctor. It doesn't help that Capaldi has essentially the very same post-regen beats in "Time" as Smith does in "End of Time," only they're written and performed even more lazily.

That said, while I didn't much like "The Christmas Invasion" either (it took me several more episodes to fully warm to Tennant), like everyone else in the world I adored "The Eleventh Hour," so I'm hoping Capaldi's first episode is more like the latter.

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xen trilus 3 years, 7 months ago

I think it's too early to say how Phil is ordering the River episodes (I don't believe he's been forthcoming about it yet?)

Say, he might not be going by reverse chronology but by reverse episode release date. The reverse of OUR experience of River, rather than the reverse of River's life. Which would make the Library the final River entry. That, at least to me, seems infinitely more fitting than any alternative.
Following this structure, in place of Time of Angels we'd have The Angels Take Manhattan, which would at least make a bit of sense as both, er, feature Angels. Not sure where we go after that though.

Or, or or or, Phil could simply not use any chronological order at all. After all, it's not like River's chronology in-series follows a straight line, forwards or backwards.
Pandorica counts as a River story and you know Phil is going to go all out for that one, seeing as he's cited it as the best Doctor Who story ever. So I can't see him haphazardly bunging it somewhere in series 6 just for the sake of a predetermined pattern. Maybe more likely is that he will choose the locations that seem most appropriate.

I still think the Library entry will be last though. Hopefully it will make sense of this whole scheme, and also make my head explode.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

What I liked about Matt's intro is that, after several hours of petulant drudgery (and how utterly proper was it that Ten's last words were a childish whine), the new guy actually laughed out loud in delight over the fact that his ship was crashing. Finally, traveling through all of space and time promised to be fun again instead of just providing new places for the Doctor to brood.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

I suppose the Brosnan Rassilon would hopefully experience some regeneration sickness during which he wanders the corridors of his TARDIS mumbling about cellos and wolf whistling at everyone he meets, or calling people "Felix" and "Mayday," or looking for his "Ashton Mahtin." In this vulnerable state his plan might fall into disarray long enough for people to feed "Tomorrow Never Dies," "The World Is Not Enough," "Die Another Day," and fuck, why not "Goldeneye" too, to the Nightmare Child and maybe just speed him on toward his new cycle of regenerations beginning with Daniel Craig (more the Chris Eccleston of Bonds than the Peter Capaldi, but no analogy is perfect).

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Triturus 3 years, 7 months ago

And the Doctor opts to consign us to this. The Time Lords offer at last to shatter the lens of history, to free us of a fixed endpoint and let us at least have the oblivion of creation itself being unmade. It is death, yes, but ... a simple death. A real death. One that opts to walk away from a universe bounded on each end by inconceivable horrors; by devils at the start and finish. But the Doctor says no, insisting instead on nailing the universe to the rotting corpse of history once again.

I'm struggling with the idea that this is a failing on the Doctor's part. If someone knew for a fact that I was going to die horribly and painfully in 40 years time, I'd still prefer it if they didn't smother me in my sleep tonight.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

That aspect was nice, yes. I wish it had been more distinct from Ten's manic glee at being born -- at the time, I thought "oh, great, he's going to play him just like Tennant." I had no inkling from that introduction that Smith would go on to at least tie Tom Baker as my favorite Doctor. But I guess there's something to be said for the element of surprise.

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BatmanAoD 3 years, 7 months ago

"It is going too far to suggest that all of Davies’s season finales (and this clearly counts) are the same, but there is a structure to them: a whirling mass of conceptual quotes, flipping channels endlessly until it resolves by declaring the permanence of Doctor Who as a narrative fixture.... Inevitably, the point will not be what kills the Doctor['s] ongoing narrative role: a story that never ends. The justification for this lack of resolution will, as always, be populism. Doctor Who is loved, so it is not cancelled."

....suddenly I appreciate The Big Bang even more.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

I LIKED the Logopolis entry.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 7 months ago

xen trilus is closest to right.

Though I'll make sense of the scheme right now: for an era of Doctor Who that is so invested in non-chronological storytelling, non-chronological criticism seems appropriate. The Moffat era, to my mind, begs to be read in light of the juxtapositions opened by non-chronologically tackling episodes. It's an era that I think needs to have its end looked at alongside its beginning and vice versa.

The fact that it has a character who is explicitly non-chronological simply gives an easy vehicle for a way of talking about the era that's all but required anyway.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 7 months ago

You're never going to sell me on the idea of things that exist beyond politics.

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xen trilus 3 years, 7 months ago

I've never been particularly fond of Smith's first scene (it really overeggs things), but in hindsight, anything that follows up The End of Time with the implication that life and Doctor Who actually WILL go on, and even have fun in the process, deserves some level of applause.

I also quite enjoy Capaldi's for the long stare at Clara and the amnesia.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

So I should say that I enjoyed this entry just about as much as I enjoyed the one for Part One. I'm trying to decide whether I'm disappointed or pleased that Phil declined to address many of the more controversial (and riper for discussion) elements of the story:

* the Master's Harry Potter-esque method of resurrection;
* the discussion of the Untempered Schism ritual;
* the rebirth of Rassilon, last seen (in an obscure TV special that no one watched nor could be expected to remember) turning Time Lords into wall decorations for seeking immortality;
* the revelation that the Master is bad only because the Time Lords gave him an earworm when he was little;
* the Doctor's new Wile E. Coyote-like ability to survive injuries in his tenth incarnation that would have killed his fourth (see also "42," "Evolution of the Daleks," and probably several more I'm forgetting);
* and, of course, That Woman.

On that last point, it occurs to me that That Woman is a bit like Tasha Lem: both are mysterious figures who appear without preamble in regeneration episodes, appear to have some history to the Doctor which is and probably will remain entirely unexplained, and make no real sense unless we assume them to actually be figures from the Doctor's past on the slimmest of clues and absolutely no logical justification.

Personally I look forward to being eventually liberated from causality and turned into static nothingness. But I do still have a fair amount of hedonism to take care of before Sutekh or anyone else brings his gift of death, so I hope it's a few more decades hence at the very least.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Really? I'm not sure it's all that different. Certainly "The Wedding of River Song" seems to consist of "a whirling mass of conceptual quotes," while "The Big Bang" seems to assert that Doctor Who is remembered, so it is not cancelled, and in "Time of the Doctor" Clara seems to think (though she could of course be dead wrong) that the Time Lords love the Doctor and accordingly save him.

If you're saying that "The Big Bang" does this sort of thing with more elegance, style, and grace than usual, I'd be inclined to agree.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

To clarify: "unless we assume them to actually be figures we already know from the Doctor's past"

Specifically, Susan and River, respectively. Or, I guess, the Doctor's mom.

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Whittso 3 years, 7 months ago

Brilliant comment Bennett!

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Whittso 3 years, 7 months ago

This was dark, and bitter, and funny, like RTD's writing at it's best. Well done Phil.

On a sadder note, Last War in Albion fans may want to know Steve Moore has died.
http://strangeattractor.co.uk/further/steve-moore-1949-2014/

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Whittso 3 years, 7 months ago

I strongly agree with Lance and others. The means so matter and there is real moral weight to the Doctor's concern with violent actions. I was rather saddened when Phil took this line way back in Bad Wolf, but at least he's consistent.

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Whittso 3 years, 7 months ago

Gah. Do matter, not so matter

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 7 months ago

You're never going to sell me on the idea of things that exist beyond politics.

Eppur si muove.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

When Davies does it, it's about how Doctor Who works. When Moffat does it, it's done so as to float ideas about whether life works like that as well. There's a line somewhere in the blog between Pertwee and Tom Baker that the Pertwee era has the Doctor fighting social issues and the Hinchcliffe era has him fighting ideas. The Moffat era has the Doctor fighting ideas again, and so metafictional concerns fit into its storytelling. But the Davies' era would like to have the villains represent more social and political issues, and so the metafictional concerns come over as authorial heavy-handedness.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

There is room for a Time Can Be Rewritten entry that points out that neither Delgado nor Ainsley are playing a character who is being driven mad by the bass line of the Doctor Who theme.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

When Davies does it, it's about how Doctor Who works. When Moffat does it, it's done so as to float ideas about whether life works like that as well.

That sounds like it's probably supportable, but I'm not sure I know what you'd point to to support it. Could you connect the dots that led you to that picture?

There's a line somewhere in the blog between Pertwee and Tom Baker that the Pertwee era has the Doctor fighting social issues and the Hinchcliffe era has him fighting ideas

I confess I haven't read as many of the Pertwee-era entries as I should have yet -- I tend to read past entries until after I rewatch the episodes, and I've been saving a lot of Pertwees for those grilled-cheese-and-soup rainy days (of which we have very few in California). This sounds a little like saying that the Pertwee and Davies eras have political concerns and that the Hinchcliffe and Moffat eras don't, which again sounds plausible to me, but seems to contradict a debate taking place above. I don't think that makes it false, but it does make it interesting.

I'm honestly not sure whether I prefer a Doctor Who that tries (however clumsily) to engage with issues like environmental destruction, economic oppression, and the effect of technology on human lives, or a Doctor Who that tries (however glibly) to engage with questions like what part of us lives on in other people's memories, whether we can redeem ourselves from a life partially lived in (let's call it) error, and whether we are who we were raised to be or who we have chosen to be. I guess I like both an awful lot, and I don't feel right lauding one over the other.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Just as McGann is the only one playing a half-human Time Lord? :) Seriously, bring it on! I'd love that.

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BatmanAoD 3 years, 7 months ago

I think the key distinction between End of Time that's highlighted by the quote I pulled out is that End of Time (and Davies' other finales) emphasize populist solutions, while Big Bang responds by focusing on the Doctor's influence on the life of a single person. The Doctor is worth keeping around in the universe because Amy can't and won't forget him. There's more to be said, obviously, about the contrasts here (for instance, what could be more antithetical to the end of time itself as the universe-creating big bang?), but I'm sure Phil will do a better job of doing so than I can.

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BatmanAoD 3 years, 7 months ago

Er, key distinction between End of Time and The Big Bang. Sorry, typing on a smartphone here.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

You're kind of selling me more on RTD/JG's finales with that distinction. :) But I appreciate the elaboration!

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BatmanAoD 3 years, 7 months ago

Really? Interesting. I guess I just find the "If I have improved just one person's life, then it has all been worthwhile" ethos much more appealing than that of "I am worthy to be kept (televisually) immortal because I'm popular."

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jane 3 years, 7 months ago

It opens up for him internally -- because until he's ready to lay himself down for Wilf, he's raging on and on about what he "could have done," all hubris and ego, and not a jot of thought towards anyone else.

And, after all, the whole Specials year has rather featured the Doctor eschewing relationships. (Just think -- his reward could have been so much bigger had he not shut out other people.) The conclusion that *this* is what's important isn't chosen by him, it comes to him, and only upon the realization of his imminent death -- a death that comes about in self-sacrifice for another person, a person with whom he has a relationship. And sure, he has to seize it: he has to be an active participant in claiming the Reward, just like we have to be active participants in building our relationships.

This conception of Grace (as being co-created, as opposed to something that's handed down from on high) even has a political dimension. On the one hand, it denies that Grace must come from an external Authority. On the other, it shows that it can't just be mustered up at the level of the atomized individual -- which implicitly signals connection and interdependence; it's both personal and social.

Again, as Tarkovsky says, this is preparation for death. What's going to matter the most in that final moment -- what will be remembered? Relationships, which are the crucible of love. And yet, honestly, in the moment of death, we really don't want to go.

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ferret 3 years, 7 months ago

Davies and Moffat both ended the eras of their (so far) definitive Doctor with the re-emergence of the Time War from its shadowy existence.

Ecclestone as well, considering his regeneration was caused defeating the Emperor Dalek, escapee of the Time War and recreator of the Dalek Race. Even Hurt's Doctor is offed at the conclusion of his efforts in the Time War, and McGann's within it - that's 5 of the Doctor's lives claimed by the Time War!

Hang on, make that 6: even Tennants "wasted" regeneration in Journey's End is down to a fresh-from-the-time-war Davros creation of a whole new race of Daleks (and, interestingly, their plan is little different to Rassilons).

6 compared to the 7 non-Time War regeneration events. That's pretty major. I wonder Capaldi's eventual end will come at a point where we have enough distance from the Time War for it not to play a part?

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

I think there's a distinction between saying that there are no things that exist beyond politics and saying that there is nothing except politics. Furthermore, there's a distinction between 'politics' as managed conflict for the control of a society's formal power structures, and 'politics' as the art of living together as a society generally.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

The obvious quote is 'we're all stories in the end.' Where the scope of 'we' could be 'we fictional characters' or 'all people' or suggesting some sort of sense in which all character is in a broad sense fictional.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Oh sure, but I find "the world's salvation rests in large groups of people deciding to choose hope, optimism, and positive action over despair and xenophobia" much more appealing than "the universe may have been nearly destroyed by the heedless bravado of one being, but we're happy to see that being return because he happens to be a grown woman's childhood imaginary friend."

That's the take your use of the word "populist" made me think of. I don't think it's more valid than yours, but I don't think it's less.

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ferret 3 years, 7 months ago

the Master is bad only because the Time Lords gave him an earworm when he was little

I've been tempted to respond to this every time you bring it up, and go into the real and serious accounts of mental debilitation and psychosis casually linked with life-long tinnitus, phantom noises and aural hallucinations... but the way you phrase it is too funny, I laugh every time I read it and lose any inclination to try at counter-point.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

:) I don't mean to trivialize it (and actually I hadn't realized I'd brought it up that often -- memory like a...what was it?). Even a garden-variety earworm is enough to make me a little edgy, and I can't imagine living with something more permanent.

I'm not even sure I personally at this moment think that's a flaw of the story -- I brought it up as a controversial point, not one I have serious and abiding objections to. I guess if your (RTD's) objective is to suggest that he's a potentially good person driven to (let's say) psychosis by the interference of an unscrupulous authority, if nothing else it's a good way to represent that with a specific symbol. If you think of the Master as the avatar of ultimate evil within the series, this might seem to diminish him awfully and forgive him undeservedly. If you think of him as an individual, as I try to think of the Doctor and probably should think of the Master, it's not so bad.

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rpundurs 3 years, 7 months ago

So let me get this straight... your complaint about the RTD era is that there's not enough material social progress? In a show that bends over backwards to change the status quo on gay & lesbian issues? The RTD future is vaguely capitalistic for the same reason the Na'vi in Avatar have breasts even though they're cats: because it's made for humans. Why are people in the 51st century basically the same as 21st? Because it's a 21st century TV show made for 21st century viewers.

For all your careful attention to who topped the charts each week, you seem to very selectively apply the notion that Doctor Who is a "thing that happened in history." You give *decades* of the show a pass for their depictions of vague sci-fi futures under benevolent quasi-socialist "controllers" where gender roles are as rigidly enforced as the 1960s UK, while RTD shows us a future where the tyranny of the gender binary is broken and it's not good enough for you. I'm stunned that this is coming from someone with your depth of knowledge of trans issues.

So if alchemy is material social progress, I don't know how you can defend Moffat. The hallmark of his writing is that everything is always, in the end, put back on the shelf exactly the way we found it. You want to talk about mercury perverted to defend the status quo? Good grief, if no one told us, we'd never know the difference between life on one side of the Pandorica or the other!

Now you've made explicit what your bone is with RTD, I can disagree categorically. I'd wager that if Moffat had pulled the "fake regeneration" bit with Smith, you'd have called it an aversion of narrative collapse via the transgression of Doctor Who's own narrative conventions or something of that nature.

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Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

I note now that there is at the least a strong implication if not outright confirmation in Day of the Doctor that the Doctor/the Moment go back in time and plant their own version of The Big Secret Idea He Will Use To Get Gallifrey Out of the Time War in the young Doctor's mind exactly the same way Rassilon does to The Master

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 7 months ago

It would be quite a mistake to read this post out of the context of everything else I've said about the Davies era, or as my last and definitive statement on the era. It's not at all, and I say as much. Nor is this my only complaint about the Davies era.

What it is, however, is the theme I want in focus as I make the transition to the Moffat era.

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BatmanAoD 3 years, 7 months ago

I do like the "hope, optimism, and positive action over despair" theme.

In Big Bang, though, was the universe really "nearly destroyed by the heedless bravado of one being"? It's been a while since I've seen it, but I thought the threat to the universe was the exploding TARDIS, which wasn't the Doctor's fault.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

I think you're right, but I'm exaggerating the spin to try and illustrate my point of view. :)

Fact is, even though "The Big Bang" left me really confused and kind of disengaged emotionally as a result, I did generally like it: http://encyclops.com/the-big-bang/

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rpundurs 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad I'm not the only person on Earth who thought Capaldi's introduction was a shameless and ersatz knockoff of Smith's.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 7 months ago

"I'm glad I'm not the only person on Earth who thought Capaldi's introduction was a shameless and ersatz knockoff of Smith's."

Don't worry, you're not alone. I'm just surprised (but glad) the "ginger" gag didn't make another appearance.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 7 months ago

I was sold on Matt Smith as the Doctor from the very first seconds of his appearance on screen. Before he even says a word, he comes out of the blazing light of regeneration and pulls this clownish look of surprised bafflement. As an acting choice it is totally out of left field, and yet utterly appropriate and amusing all at the same time. That's when I knew this young man would be an excellent Doctor.

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rpundurs 3 years, 7 months ago

Everything else you've said about the Davies era is quite literally enough to fill a book, so it's possible I missed something.

Hopefully your meaning will become clear as you run down the Time of the Moffat. I'll be reading.

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Galadriel 3 years, 7 months ago

Brilliant

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Galadriel 3 years, 7 months ago

I totally agree with encyclops

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

the Master's Harry Potter-esque method of resurrection

I suppose I could have tolerated a naked Master emerging from a cauldron like Voldemort if there had been some kind of build up. Instead, within the first ten minutes, we got that silly Prison Warden woman who didn't even bother to give her own name but who was otherwise dripping with clunky plot exposition about how the Master, in the six months or so that he was busy taking over the British government, also found time to start a religious cult loyal to him even after death. Luckily, Lucy Saxon can chew scenery almost as well as anyone else in this silly story, so she got to shout at naked John Simms about how she has formed her own secret conspiracy to counter the Master's secret conspiracy, the existence of which seemed a complete surprise to her thirty seconds earlier. Oh, and HER secret conspiracy, which she formed despite the handicap of being a solitary confinement prisoner in a secret government prison, was able to reverse engineer Time Lord rejuvenation technology and deliver a counter-agent to her via a loyal prison guard who just happened to be assigned to guard her during the Master's rebirth. Sadly, the McGuffin potion didn't kill the Master, it just made him return as a Chinese Hopping Vampire instead of a Time Lord.

Things got dumber from there.

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ferret 3 years, 7 months ago

It's incredible how bad some (most?) of the ideas in "The End of Time" came out when reading about them being formed in "The Writers Tale".

RTD liked the idea of The Master, proud Time Lord and former Prime Minister of Britain brought low and on the run - hiding out in public toilets to dye his hair blonde, wearing whatever dirty clothes he can find, self-loathingly eating the homeless to survive.

Sounds great. Instead we got comedy-jumping-skeleton speed-eating a turkey, who cracked wise when he ate people. I appreciate ideas sometimes have to be toned down, but this should have just been dropped.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 7 months ago

I wouldn't rule out some timey wimey shenanigans from the Eleventh, perhaps leaving himself a message on that reconnected telephone

Isn't this "speculation" something that's already been established in set reports?

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5tephe 3 years, 7 months ago

I wholeheartedly agree with Jane on this one.

And can't help but feel that this post of Phil's is being way too hard on Russell's world view: judging it as an ultimate failure because it couldn't reconcile mercurial socialist anarchism with having to tell a linear story involving time travel, and ALSO have your time-travellers NOT save Pompeii.

But what television series, made as they are inside the very belly of the capitalist beast, can possibly do so? All cop dramas, medical dramas, law dramas, super hero stories... they all founder on the rocks of the fact that our world is a corrupt and flawed place, history is bloody and mindless, and our fictional heroes can't fix that. So when they come back next week, the world has to remain fundamentally unchanged.

I think the moral choice the Doctor makes here is entirely right. There is no worth in being a practical rational philosophist. You can do the maths, and come to the bizarre conclusion that shooting Rassilon is the same as sending him back to the Time War, but it is not ethically the same thing. And in no world will you ever convince me that because the Doctor has shown that he is subject to rules, and therefore cannot wave his magic screwdriver and institute a worldwide socialist paradise, that he is actually being cruel leaving us to wait out existence to the descent into the heat death of the universe.

He is handing us back the opportunity to explore all the trillions of worlds and years between now and then, and to dance with every being we meet along the way.

You draw too long a bow today, Phil.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 7 months ago

it's anathema to capitalism, which is rooted in the individual, shorn of responsibility for anyone else

Following Gary Chartier's distinction:

If by "capitalism" you mean "capitalism-1," then capitalism is indeed rooted in the individual, but in an egalitarian-network way that embodies rather than negates responsibiity for others.

If by "capitalism" you mean "capitalism-2" or "capitalism-3," then capitalism, far from being rooted in the individual, consists in the subjection of the individual to a privileged power elite.

There is no form of capitalism that is both rooted in the individual and shorn of responsibility for others.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

The hallmark of [Moffat's] writing is that everything is always, in the end, put back on the shelf exactly the way we found it.

An interesting turn of phrase, and one that ties into a theme I expect to spend a lot of time discussing during the Matt Smith era. Basically, I think Moffat's single biggest problem as the producer of Doctor Who (with the possible exception of "is he or isn't he a misogynist" question that will also be discussed) is that he is what TV Tropes would call an Ascended Fanboy. Basically, Moffat talks a lot about how he started preparing for his current job at the age of 11, and it shows. Although the writing is obviously gifted, if you look underneath the hood, you will find stories that feel like fanfiction written by a geeky teenager who wants to impose his anorak tendencies on the show. IOW, Ian Levine but with talent. That's why we get reimaginings of nearly forgotten monsters like the Ice Warriors, hideously overcomplicated time paradox storylines that would appeal to a science nerd fascinated by the implications of time travel never explored in Classic DW, and, perhaps worst of all, fanwanky episodes like Journey to the Center of the Tardis, which, by Moffat's own admission, only existed because he was unhappy with the last two episodes of The Invasion of Time. Which, I was too, but I didn't go to the extreme length of becoming the producer of the show just to correct it. :)

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John 3 years, 7 months ago

Isn't Mark Gatiss to blame (or credit) for the Ice Warriors' return? The story going around is that Moffat always thought the Ice Warriors were rubbish, but then Gatiss pitched him the story for Cold War and he thought it sounded good so he let him go ahead with it.

You might blame Moffat for the Silurians, I suppose, and the Great Intelligence (although he pointedly refused to bring back the Yeti).

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Sean Case 3 years, 7 months ago

Did the Reward sequence objectively happen, or did the Doctor dream it? Because the Doctor randomly pairing off acquaintances in his head bothers me less than the show runner doing it in continuity as a stunt.

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Bennett 3 years, 7 months ago

Did the Reward sequence objectively happen, or did the Doctor dream it?

The Doctor seems to confirm that it did really happen in the Davies-penned Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, while also revealing that he staved off his regeneration long enough to visit all of his old companions (including, one imagines, a large smouldering crater in the Cretaceous period)

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dirkmalcolm.com 3 years, 7 months ago

I keep trying to come up with an in-story reason why the Doctor keeps thinking it's a good idea to put the TARDIS in flight just before regenerating. I got nuthin'.

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dirkmalcolm.com 3 years, 7 months ago

My knee-jerk reaction is always that Moffat has used classic series monsters less than RTD actually. Then I stop and work out that that isn't true. I think it's because there are less of the monster run-around 2-parters and he's used the Daleks (relatively) sparingly.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

I make it 20 Davies episodes with classic series monsters, including Cybus cybermen, macra and the Master; and 15 Moffat episodes, including Pandorica/ Big Bang and a Good Man Goes to War. And in the Moffat era it's not clear when it's bringing back a classic series monster or a Davies-era monster. Further I'd say there are five Davies-era stories where the point of the story is that it's bringing back a classic villain (Dalek, Rise of the Cybermen, Utopia, Sontaran Stratagem, Stolen Earth); and only two Moffat stories (Hungry Earth, Cold War): that the villain in Snowmen is the Great Intelligence is a punchline, not a premise, and Day of the Doctor isn't really about bringing back the zygons.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

It's true that the Tenth Doctor survives injuries that would have killed the Fourth, but then the Fourth survives injuries that would have killed the Sixth.

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John Binns 3 years, 7 months ago

Remember that the Troughton Doctor said the renewal process was part of the TARDIS. Maybe the TARDIS being 'in flight' assists the process somehow? If so, interesting that all the regenerations we know about are assisted in some way (by Cho-Je, the Sisterhood, the TARDIS, the Time Lords, or the Watcher) except McCoy-McGann. Perhaps that's why he turned out half-human?!

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dirkmalcolm.com 3 years, 7 months ago

Newborn panda cubs survive injuries that would have killed the Sixth.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

Y'know without intending to be fawning or any such thing, I do actually feel lucky having writing around at this time from the likes of Phil, Josh and Jack that meets the range of ideas that my head and heart have been exploring. I may get off my back and write myself one at some point. Got a mad work schedule just now!

I had some thoughts in response to Josh's that were written just before you posted your article Phil, and they actually port well over to here. I liked the feeling that I was seeming to think in the same vein as you. As a spoken word performer, I am inspired by the idea that stories are alive and can change. They are morphed to suit personalities, contexts, landscapes and in relation to this blog - moments in time.

No teller in my view can really tell a single story the same way, even from moment-to-moment. It's not really possible as I think each teller has to find their own sense of meaning in each story, and this changes over time as the tale becomes alive in them. We can re-story our tales of our personal and collective histories, and they can be brought to life and renewed (in part that is what Doctor Who represents for me).

When stories become immutable fixed points, life ends.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

"The Master's Harry Potter-esque method of resurrection"

I am pretty good with this actually and have a fun way of framing it in my head - I think that the Master is taking the mickey out of them all with the Harry Potter stuff, and just acting to hook in the stupid, gullible little humans. Even the bits with the Books of Saxon and the anti-potion - which really in my head does no harm to him, he just plays at it doing so. So maybe he wove together some techno plan under what we see and the reason he is so messed up is just cos the process was so messed up. Just a playful thought in my head!

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

the entire economy is, at a fundamental level, an extremely complicated farce that only exists because everyone agrees to act as if it does

Other things that only exist because we agree to act as if they do: justice, freedom, family, friendship, morality, culture, language, history, love... My point being, just because something only exists in our imaginations doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't exist or isn't important or we would be better off without it.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

I adored the Logopolis entry, I think it's one of Phil's best. Remember, this isn't about "helping us understand episodes"--Phil's been quite clear it's not an episode guide. This is literary criticism, which is about exploring novel approaches to a text, not necessarily making the text clearer or easier.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

If the humans at the end of the universe knew that, perhaps that is what Utopia was: the waystation where the last humans were scraped clean of all their negative impulses so that they can enter the next universe purified.

Ugh, what a horrible thought. Humans don't *have* positive impulses, goodness arises from channeling so-called "negative impulses" to good ends. A humanity with no negative impulses is a humanity that does nothing, forever; it's cultural heat-death.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

Am with you Froborr & Theonlyspiral - The Logopolis essay is my absolute favourite. I am a lover of the Blog and Phil's writing because it is not review based, that can only go so far, and never to the places that the Eruditorum touches. And yeah, I never come here to have the texts dissected for me so I can easily understand them, but because I look forwards having revealed to me new ways of approaching their meaning.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

My personal pointless speculation is that regeneration involves plucking an alternate possible Doctor who didn't die out of the Time Vortex and overwriting the dying Doctor with this other one (while merging their memories somehow). That's why the new Doctor so frequently seems to be a response to the flaws of the previous Doctor, and why being in the TARDIS in flight helps.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

Am I the only person who actually really liked Cold War?

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

Froborr: Nah, lots of people did. I "actually kind of liked it": http://encyclops.com/cold-war/

David Anderson: To be fair, you can only "bring back a classic villain" once. :)

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

I think you're a little harsh on Davies here. We're in 2010 by this point; the dream of material social progress is clearly over. The bastards won long ago, and there is nothing more but the long slow decline into the dark, the cultural heat-death. Nothing is ever going to get better ever again, and Doctor Who has to be pure escapism, could never have been anything else. It was foolish to think otherwise.

Enter the Moffat, blithely unconcerned with material social progress, and just wanting to play in other worlds because the one we actually live in isn't any fun anymore.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure I can agree. Consider if we wrote it this way...

"We're in 1981 by this point; the dream of material social progress is clearly over. The bastards won long ago, and there is nothing more but the long slow decline into the dark, the cultural heat-death. Nothing is ever going to get better ever again, and Doctor Who has to be pure escapism, could never have been anything else. It was foolish to think otherwise.

"Enter the Nathan-Turner, blithely unconcerned with material social progress, and just wanting to play in other worlds because the one we actually live in isn't any fun anymore."

...and I think you'll understand what I mean.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

I disagree entirely; The Idea that we could transcend the tyranny of flesh to something better is a hopeful idea. Mankind as we exist right now is not an endpoint; this too shall pass. The idea the we could pass judgement on what comes next after ascension is kind of silly.

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Whittso 3 years, 7 months ago

Terrifyingly I think you might have supported Froborr's case, rather than undermined it. In some senses I think you can say that the elites that made a grab for power in the eighties have achieved sufficient dominance that they are just seen as part of the ways things are now.

In other senses less so. So bring on a change in perspective and a new way of seeing the world.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

I LOVED Cold War Froborr.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

The world we live in now is unquestionably better to live in than one 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 30 years ago...hell 15 years ago. The dream of Material Social Progress isn't dead. It's a process, something that must be worked on and improved upon. New challenges rise and they need solutions. Cultural heat death? Tosh.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes, but Chartier's distinction is rubbish; those are the stages in the evolution of a capitalist system. Any system of free exchange between individuals, in the absence of strong external pressures to the contrary, will result in the accumulation of wealth by a few, initially because of a luckier-than-average starting position or skill, but eventually just because wealth has gravity, leading inevitably to rule of the market by those few. If there is a state, the rule of the market will eventually enable those few to capture said state and rule it as well; in the absence of a state, they become the de facto state. Capitalism, in other words, is rooted in the individual with power and cares nothing for the individual without power.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

We are not spirits trapped in bodies; we are bodies that dream they have spirits. The "tyranny of the flesh" is human existence; what we are, physically, is what we are: meat. (If that offends you, then you are undervaluing meat.)

We of course can become something else, but to imagine that that something else can somehow shed our faults without losing our virtues is the utmost foolishness, since it imagines that faults and virtues exist independently of one another, rather than being the same trait in different circumstances.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

Or you are overvaluing meat. It is a component part of the experience it is to be human, but I would argue it is not the greater. I believe there is more to humanity than the illusions of meat.

Could it also be that ascension means to not have traits in abundance that are harmful? To not have a zest for life that descends to gluttony? to not have dedication that descends to stubbornness? Perhaps ascension is balance. Equilibrium. Harmony.

None of which necessarily calls for physical existence as we know it to continue.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

Whittso's first paragraph, basically. Nothing in what Spoiler Below said isn't true; we've been fucked for decades.

Theonlyspiral: How is the world better than it was in 2000? Gay people can get married in a lot more places. That's it. That's the only social progress of the last 15 years. Which is undeniably great, and in isolation would be grounds for celebration, but meanwhile women's rights have been targeted in a massive backlash across the first world, especially in the U.S., the first refugee crisis (out of many more to come) directly attributable to global warming is occurring in Bangladesh, private citizens are subject to more government surveillance than at any prior point in history, it is now de facto legal to shoot black people whenever you feel like it across most of the American South and Southwest, austerity measures continue to clamp down across Europe, corporations continue to have more and more rights while private citizens have fewer and fewer, the Christian equivalent to the Taliban is increasing its grip on large portions of the world's strongest military power, and the Crimea is once again at the center of an incident that's one bad call away from erupting into pan-European war.

We live in a world of shit ruled by bastards. Hope is for children's programs; all that is left to us is stubbornness and the futile determination to at least make some noise on the way down.

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John Binns 3 years, 7 months ago

Reminding ourselves of the difference between history (in which events occur and are then written about) and fiction (in which the writing comes first), perhaps the point is that ontologically speaking, Davies seems committed to primacy of an immutable and rather unhappy history ('a universe bounded on each end by inconceivable horrors'), while Doctor Who itself (and Moffat's version particularly) is the archetypal sentient fiction, a storytelling device that constantly rewrites itself. Interesting that the Doctor we first saw was someone whose beginning and end point were unknown, but who seemed to regard interference as forbidden (The Daleks) and history as an immutable force (The Aztecs). The first crack in that picture came with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and that peculiar, ostensibly misdelivered line, 'What we're seeing here is about the middle history of the Daleks'. Since then, the unfolding text of Doctor Who and the Daleks has been matched by the unravelling of rules about how their stories are written; in other words, the more we appear to discover, the less we seem to know, and the more we are moved to invent. Speaking of which, on the subject of which regenerations were caused by the Time War, here's a thought: do we really know how the Time War started? Davies suggested it was Genesis of the Daleks, but wasn't there an earlier story in which the Doctor completely wiped out the Daleks, before they even left Skaro?

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

The United States is not the be all and end all of the world firstly.

We have a black President, legalized majiuana (which is a step on the material social progress) a set of legislation that helps people get health care significantly easier, there have been significant advances in terms of treatment of disease (dementia springs to mind), you have spontaneously organized leftist protest spinging up, toppling of tyrannical regimes by the people, major steps in terms of aboriginal affairs (in some countries), mainstream recognition (if not acceptance) of Transgender people, mainstream acceptance of bi-racial couples, significant growth in representation in non-whites and non-males, more access to information and ability to collaborate and share that information than ever before.

We live in a world where an adult man can crowdfund not one, but two books of criticism about a children's television program regards the adventures of pastel horses.

We live in a flawed world. Things get better, some get worse, but as a trend things are looking up. While there's life, there is hope. The fight isn't over, but it's definitely not lost.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 7 months ago

Froborr has the right of it here.

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

I personally adored Cold War. Due to the fact that the year it was flagged up as being set in was 1983, for me it felt like kind of a response to that era, especially Warriors of the Deep, even though that's a year out. WotD comes up because Cold War pitches up with an underwater story - but this time it does the lighting and the mood right, and 'another way' is found this time.

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John 3 years, 7 months ago

Surely the purpose of literary criticism is to explicate and illuminate texts.That's not the same thing as being a "review site" or an "episode guide," but I think it's still reasonable to say it's about helping us "understand episodes."

In terms of Logopolis, or whatever, YMMV, of course, but I don't really care for the posts with stylistic experiments. I find them to be a lot of showboating that mostly distracts attention away from what is often very interesting content.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

I am well aware the U.S. is not the entirety of the world, which is why I mentioned several examples of how shitty things are in the rest of the world, too.

"We have a black President,"

Who, other than his color, would have fit right in in the 1981 Republican Congressional caucus.

"legalized majiuana (which is a step on the material social progress)"

How, precisely? The controls on it are so strict as to make it unusable even for most medical purposes, and the recreational drugs are irrevelant to material social progress.

"a set of legislation that helps people get health care significantly easier"

While continuing the enrichment and entrenchment of the corporations whose prioritization of profits over service created the U.S.ian healthcare crisis in the first place

"there have been significant advances in terms of treatment of disease (dementia springs to mind)"

I'll grant this.

"you have spontaneously organized leftist protest spinging up"

And accomplishing just as much as it did in the 60s, which is to say, jack and shit

"toppling of tyrannical regimes by the people"

As usual, most of those followed by the establishment of new tyrannical regimes, c.f. Egypt

"major steps in terms of aboriginal affairs (in some countries),"

I'll grant this on the grounds I don't know anything about it.

"mainstream recognition (if not acceptance) of Transgender people,"

Call me when the trans* murder rate starts to fall, until then, it's rather dramatically missing the "material" part

"mainstream acceptance of bi-racial couples"

Which we already had more than 15 years ago

"significant growth in representation in non-whites and non-males,"

Which is irrelevant if they can't prevent (or in some cases actively support) legislation that privileges white males

"more access to information and ability to collaborate and share that information than ever before."

Add "mis" in front of both instances of "information" and it's still just as true. If there's one thing the Internet has proved, it's that in a free marketplace of ideas, conspiracy theories easily beat genuine facts and good ideas.

"We live in a world where an adult man can crowdfund not one, but two books of criticism about a children's television program regards the adventures of pastel horses."

Which is great, and I appreciate it a great deal, but it is also pure escapism.

"We live in a flawed world. Things get better, some get worse, but as a trend things are looking up."

Seriously. Look up what's happening in Bangladesh, and think about what happens in a couple decades when that's Manhattan. Things are most assuredly not looking up.

"While there's life, there is hope."

No, actually, the one thing always to be found wherever there's life is death. All hopes are always dashed in the end.

The only sensible thing to do is to acknowledge that nothing worth doing is actually possible, and the only moral thing to do is to keep doing it anyway.

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Froborr 3 years, 7 months ago

Well, no, not physical existence as we know it, perhaps, but physical existence in some sense. We could upload ourselves into computers that run simulations of our brains, but the computers would still exist physically, and the simulation would be a simulation of the functions of meat.

As for the rest of your comment, let's take as given that gluttony is bad and results from an excess of zest for life. What does "excess" mean except too much for a given circumstance? For any given amount of zest for life, it's possible to construct a scenario where it's too much, and therefore the only way to entirely eliminate gluttony is to eliminate the zest for life. Which is exactly my point.

Equilibrium and harmony are overrated and boring. Chaos and dissent are much more fun.

I judge your post-ascension world, find it deeply creepy, and choose not to pursue it.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 7 months ago

A look at the 2013 UN Millennium Goals report paints a less pessimistic picture. Global poverty has been halved, 2 billion more people have access to improved sources of drinking water, diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis have been significantly reduced, saving many millions of lives, and there have been many other improvements to the lives of the poorest people in the world thanks to concerted international effort.

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Anton B 3 years, 7 months ago

I admit I have seen location shots of Jenna Coleman and Capaldi talking on mobiles but no actual plot or script details. Have you heard something BerserkRL? Actually no spoilers please. I prefer to wait.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

To clarify, the Toclafane are presented as being utterly corrupted and insane. They have come back in time for the express purpose of brutally exterminating their own ancestors "because it's fun." They are as bad, if not worse than the Daleks. I am willing to accept, for the purposes of a fictional narrative at least, that evil is something that is distinct from good and to hypothesize that separating the good from the evil and leaving the latter beyond would be a responsible thing for the last humans to do before moving on to the next universe. YMMV.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

that the villain in Snowmen is the Great Intelligence is a punchline, not a premise,

Disagree. I think the Great Intelligence is actually the only interesting thing about the Troughton Yeti stories. I'm just disappointed that he/it was reduced to being such a angsty whiner in Name of the Doctor after being genuinely frightening in Bells of St. John.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

I thought Cold War had some interesting ideas but was ultimately flawed, although part of what made it flawed was the mishandled "Clara's mystery" which was why most of season 7b was flawed. To be fair, it was one of the less flawed stories of 7b.

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ferret 3 years, 7 months ago

do we really know how the Time War started? Davies suggested it was Genesis of the Daleks, but wasn't there an earlier story in which the Doctor completely wiped out the Daleks, before they even left Skaro?

You're thinking of Troughton's "Evil of the Daleks". It's definitely a contender for an early Time War event, but not just for the Doctors actions.

It's unusual in that the Daleks do not just stumble across the Doctor: they are on Skaro at an unknown future year, they somehow know the Doctor is in 1960s London and force Time Travelers from 1860s Canterbury to kidnap him. Interestingly the Daleks use but have no compulsion about destroying the Victorian's Time Machine: either they already have Time Travel or have learned enough from the machine they are confident in building their own.

Their aim is for the Doctor to create a weaponised "Dalek Factor steam" and have him spread it throughout Earths history - converting humans to Daleks (an early version of the Asylum of the Daleks/Time of the Doctor nanite conversion system).

It's hard to know if the Daleks desire to spread the Dalek Factor is an act of an already-in-progress Time War, or if the Doctor starting a Dalek Civil War (by the widespread creation of Human Factor Daleks on Skaro) kicks the whole thing off.

Considering the Daleks blasé attitude to Time Travel and their desire to spread Dalek Factor to at least their human opponents throughout history, my revisionist feeling is that the Daleks here are already engaged in the Time War - even if the Doctor is perhaps unaware of it.

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John Binns 3 years, 7 months ago

I was thinking of the first Dalek serial in fact, though no doubt there are many contenders. Incidentally, that serial is referred to as a 'legend' in Planet of the Daleks (which, if dialogue in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and Frontier in Space is to be believed, is set long before it) by none other than Bernard Horsfall, of Land of Fiction fame. ;)

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

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Daru 3 years, 7 months ago

@ John - Like your use of the word "illuminate". For me illumination would not simply be about understanding a text or episode, but about opening oneself to surprising new insights that reach both my head and heart. I don't think that it's unreasonable for you to say the above, but for me there are other layers I enjoy (in posts such as Logopolis) that, where I don't seek to get my understanding of an episode clarified, but where I immerse myself in Phil's writing when he takes the themes of a story (or the wider show) and uses them to create what I regard as works of art.

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Spoilers Below 3 years, 7 months ago

Again, I disagree. You could quite easily make a case that any particular time period in history has been the worst time to be a alive, and that humanity has not/will never recover from it.

The social movement that has made more concrete progress in the Western world, and is quickly spreading its tendrils throughout the rest of the planet faster than the entrenched oligarchy can tamp it down, and has done more for concrete measurable social progress in the past 50 years or so than has been accomplished in the preceding 2000. That the slowly dying forces of the old way of doing things are making a lot of noise and desperately clinging to the shred of hope that their way of life will be passed down and live on is only to be expected. It doesn't make their deaths from old age any less inevitable, regardless of how much money or land or whatever else they try to grab on to. Alchemy takes a long time; it was the work of many entire lives, not something one could bang out in an afternoon. Simply because it isn't done yet doesn't mean it isn't happening, and doesn't mean that the gains that have occurred are meaningless. The stuff has to bake; you can't just shove the raw dough in your mouth and complain about the taste and consistency. It sucks that we can't go faster, no doubt, but would e.g. armed revolution actually work, let alone make things go faster?

Hell, the very fact that we're talking about gay rights at all in the US on a national level, let alone that a large segment of the populace is all for them (majority of the younger set) and is passing legislation to protect them, would have been inconceivable back in 1981. No question I'd prefer it was accelerated, but someone who won't take half a loaf of bread because they can't get the whole has never been starving, as the aphorism goes.

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John Nor 3 years, 6 months ago

"This is Not a Review Blog" as you say and I enjoyed reading that, even if it wasn't actually much about "The End of Time".

Not sure if "The End of Time" is emblematic of the "cynical" strand of RTD's writings, (which would seem to be the general thrust of what you're saying).

"The End of Time" is one of my faves - it has "silly" Meglos-style Doctor Who with its cactus aliens, and "dark" Doctor Who with the hoodie Master roaming the waste lands - and the continuation of the "dark" plotline of the Doctor becoming evermore Master-like.

That he ultimately rejects that and goes out with an Androzani-style act of selflessness isn't very "cynical" though, it's still Doctor Who.

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