Do You Think Anybody Votes For Sweet? (Vengeance on Varos)

(33 comments)

Stuff it, Governor. I want to get back to Mass Effect. I'm
about to kill off the Quarians.
It’s January 19th, 1985. Foreigner has decided that they are less interested in knowing whether it’s Christmas and that they’d rather know what love is, asking the question for both weeks of this story. Both Prince and King also chart, along with Tears for Fears and the gorgeously named Strawberry Switchblade. In real news, Ronald Reagan is sworn in for his second term. British Telecom announces that it will be phasing out red phoneboxes, relegating them to the same scrapheap as the Police Box (or at least trying to). A House of Lords debate is televised for the first time, and, three days after the end of this story, Thatcher is denied an honorary degree by Oxford University.

Vengeance on Varos is for the most part the easiest to like story of Season 22. This is not to say it is the best - the redemptive reading of The Two Doctors presents a story that is probably superior to this one. But where The Two Doctors is prickly and difficult, liking Vengeance on Varos requires only a basic ability to deal with satire and black comedy of the sort that ought be trivial for anyone reading this blog.

There is, of course, a negative reading to be had of the story in which it is simply an extended bit of nasty sadism and torture porn. But unlike something like Warriors of the Deep or Resurrection of the Daleks, the embedded critique of the story’s own violence is given some serious teeth. From the start this story is solid on the fact that the Varosian’s love of extravagant and sadistic executions is wrong.

But what makes Vengeance on Varos interesting, especially within the context of our chosen theme of the Colin Baker era as an exorcism. Here the story is overtly built around television as a medium, with active effort taken to make the broadcasts look and feel like the BBC. Tat Wood observes that the fanfare for the governor is a dead-ringer for BBC home video, and the interactive “home voting” aspect would have been recognizable as a close cousin to the interactive television offered by Ceefax at the time.

More broadly, we’re at a point in the history of television where the link between television and pornography is growing. A thread that’s been absent for a few posts is the  rise of the VCR, which means that television is no longer simply a broadcast medium but a medium of storage and replaying. Which means, of course, that it’s possible to have pornography on it. In practice, of course, most of the pornography that could actually be obtained barely deserved the name - a motley of soft-core titillations. More common were cheap, dirty, and violent movies. But because the video market was mostly unregulated at first and major studios feared piracy, there was a flood of lurid schlock as all manner of grindhouse cinema wound its way onto the market. The term “video nasties” was bandied about a lot in the tabloids, and there was a good old-fashioned moral panic.

So buzzing around in the culture was the idea that the television had, in effect, become an all-you-can-watch buffet of sex and violence. See also Max Headroom, as this story is the closest Doctor Who comes to playing on that field. So Vengeance on Varos is a television program in which several of the characters appear on a television program and in which the audience repeatedly watches people watching television. And it frequently makes clever little cuts between these levels so that events move from being watched by diegetic characters to being watched by the audience. The best moment of this, and a strong candidate for best cliffhanger of the classic series to boot, is the end of episode one. The cliffhanger is a fairly standard bit - the Doctor is hallucinating himself to death - but instead of ending on the Doctor’s danger we cut back to the control booth and the Governor watching the Doctor die before saying “and cut it... there” as we sting our way to the starfield. Martin Jarvis, in other words, is directing the diegetic television program only to have his direction taken up by the real one. It’s glorious.

But despite the program obviously engaging in self-critique the script also stubbornly doesn’t give up on engaging in the very behavior it critiques. It’s hard to blame the story for this, though. Last story the Doctor was shooting at Cybermen. Before that he was strangling Peri. Not long before that was firing guns at Daleks. In two stories he’ll kill someone with cyanide and make a lame joke about it. So when the Doctor, in this story, starts laying death traps and making fun of people for burning to death in acid vats (Though it’s not true, as some people claim, that the Doctor pushes someone into an acid vat. He just, you know. Tries to. Followed by someone else pulling him in.) it’s not exactly an aberration. The series is clearly engaging in the exact behavior it critiques and daring the audience to draw some sort of line.

(While writing this someone just made a comment on GallifreyBase about some of my use of jargon, and specifically mentioned confusion on “diegetic.” A free primer. The term originates from discussions of music in film. Diegetic music is music the characters can hear, non-diegetic music is music the characters can’t. More broadly, then, diegetic is an adjective meaning “happening within the world of the story.” Other variations include “extra-diegetic” [material from outside of the story, but typically impacting the story in a way that isn’t quite covered by “non-diegetic” - for instance, the idea that previous regenerations of the Doctor have seniority over the current one is justified by extra-diegetic concerns] and “meta-diegetic” [within the world of the story but affecting the outside world - forth wall breaks and the like]. When we get to the Big Finish Audio Scherzo I’ll also get to coin the term “hyper-diegetic,” and I, being a ludicrous geek, am quite looking forward to that.)

There’s an added dimension to this, however, that is often overlooked. If we accept Tat Wood’s observation that this story is in part a response to the “video nasties” moral panic then there are two enormously salient facts. The first is that the moral crusade against this “filth” was led by none other than our old friend Mary Whitehouse. The second is that among the things released on video around when this story aired were three pieces of Doctor Who - Revenge of the Cybermen, The Brain of Morbius, and The Pyramids of Mars. In other words, three stories from the teatime brutality for tots era of the program. So when the program wades into a critique of television and violence here it does so in a way that, distantly, implicates its own history.

Indeed, we said way back at the end of the Hinchcliffe era that the run-in with Mary Whitehouse started the chain of decisions that brought the program down. Williams was forced to swing the pendulum back hard away from horror and towards comedy, and Nathan-Turner in turn reacted against that, trying to win back the fans alienated by Williams. And here we are today, seven years of reactions against Mary Whitehouse, and we’re finally actually getting around to the obvious one, which is to do a Doctor Who story about it.

In one sense, of course, this is just the program sauntering up to a fight years too late, roaring that it’s ready to take Mary Whitehouse on long after she’s moved on to other things. It’s not even doing it directly - there’s no Mary Whitehouse figure here. If anything Vengeance on Varos risks being accused of allying itself with Whitehouse. The accusation would be utterly off-base, of course. What’s actually going on is that the program is showing that there’s a distinction between torture porn and art, and it’s not based on how violent the art is. Vengeance on Varos needs to be sick and nasty to work - it has deep roots in the avant garde theatrical tradition of Brecht and Artaud. But it’s turning those tools in a critique of dumb violence, and it’s doing so with no shortage of sharpness.

A better description, then, would be that this is a program that has grown up and is returning to an old demon with newfound perspective. This isn’t Doctor Who going and facing its schoolyard bully of seven years ago, it’s Doctor Who reflecting on its past and the legacy of that past. It’s Doctor Who looking at the question of “teatime brutality for tots” - and back in its good old Saturday viewing slot too - and saying “OK, who does benefit from a violent and sensational media.”

The answer, it seems, is the right. Vengeance on Varos once again embroils itself in the imagery and symbolism of the mining strike, this time with evil corporate overlords cheating the miners of Varos. But this goes beyond a cliched “evil corporate overlords sure are evil” bit of didacticism. Indeed, it goes further than the “everyone is to blame” position of Caves of Androzani. Had this been a Davison story, and thus not poisoned by the negative associations of the Colin Baker years, there’s a fair case to be made that this would be an even more popular story than Androzani.

Here we get a story in which the system that exploits the miners is shown to be all-encompassing. The televised executions, the almost hilariously crap rebels, the political system, and Sil’s scam are all interrelated forms of oppression - a mutually supporting system. Everyone is to blame, but not in a cynical “because they’re all corrupt bastards” way, which is, let’s be honest, all Androzani really got at. I mean, Androzani is great, but here we have a system in which visibly noble men and women - the Governor, Arak, and Etta, most notably - are made to act against their own interests and blind themselves to the fact that there’s an alternative.

But in amidst all of this there’s still something tentative here. Part of this is clearly deliberate, and is indeed part of what’s so clever about the story - the decision to end on Arak and Etta having no idea what to do with their newfound future is a delightful bit of ambiguity that keeps this story from falling into the opposite trap of Holmes’s utter cynicism, acknowledging the fact that the system of corruptions responsible for Varos was based on humans even as it exploited them, and that the next system may well be just as bad. In many ways it echoes the old complaints of The War Games - the fact that the Doctor leaves planets in a post-revolution haze and doesn’t bother to put any work into making sure the revolution comes out well.

But more than that, there’s an uncertainty about the program itself. Because Vengeance on Varos is constantly implicating the show in its own critique it’s never quite clear whether or not it views itself as part of the problem - nor, indeed, whether it’s simply being part of the problem. The fact that the Doctor is involved in much of the violence of the story brings it very close to the bit of the Hinchcliffe era that most supported Whitehouse, namely Seeds of Doom. And more broadly, there’s always a lurking sense that the tail is wagging the dog here - that the fact that there’s a larger moral and political point to be made is being used to justify the violence of the story, as opposed to the story justifying the level of violence.

But this continues the exorcism theme that I’m increasingly staking the Colin Baker years on. The stories this season all, in their own ways, amount to the program taking stock of its own weaknesses. Not correcting them, at least for now, but acknowledging them and facing them. Vengeance on Varos ends on an unsettling note in which it’s not at all clear whether the preceding ninety minutes actually stood up to their own critique. Given that the previous story would have failed unambiguously, it’s difficult to call this ambivalence a fault.

Comments

Matt Sharp 5 years, 5 months ago

'and the gorgeously named Strawberry Switchblade.'

Not just gorgeously named - the tall red haired one had a profound effect on my eleven year old self during their Top of the Pops appearance...

I'd completely forgotten that. To YouTube!

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 5 months ago

This story is a grower. I didn't think much to it when I was 10, probably because I didn't want to have to think about the implications of violence, I just wanted nice bloodless laser battles and monsters. But it is a clever and thought-provoking story when you're older and can appreciate the themes more.

Watching the Strawberry Switchblade TOTP video - one of those performances that shows a guitarist, with no guitar on the soundtrack. She ends up flourishing sarcastically during the instrumental break. Ah, the 80s.

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David Anderson 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't think that it would ever be as popular as Caves of Androzani even with Davison. It's a story about complicity in watching violence that is playing about with being complicit in watching violence. The audience can rise above Androzani in a way that it can't rise above Varos. If the program is going to give us ninety minutes that may not stand up to their own critique at least it doesn't try to claim that it does.
When Davison is given a line like 'Let's bring a little light into the Myrka's life' he reads it as the Doctor's black humour while desperate. That sanitises it a bit. Colin Baker on the other hand reads those kinds of lines as just as unpleasant as they actually are. The Doctor isn't a foothold from which we can disassociate ourselves from what we're watching.

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Dougie 5 years, 5 months ago

I had wondered if, when dealing with Brechtian Alienation in "Varos", you'd reference the 1982 BBC production of "Baal" starring David Bowie. Brecht was a big deal when I was at University from 81-85. Speaking of weird tv from the mid-to-late 80s, will you revisit Channel 4's Brond or the equally-forgotten Zastrozzi?

As for Strawberry Switchblade, I queued up to ask them to autograph their 12-inch single. This was in the old Virgin Records shop in Glasgow's Union Street- which was Goth before there was Goth. ( I mean the youth culture movement not the Chancellor, naturally).

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Gnaeus 5 years, 5 months ago

David Anderson, that surely is not a weakness on the part of Varos, but a strength. Drama does not exist to make people feel good about themselves, and encouraging questioning and self-examination is surely a plus for any piece of fiction.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

Which makes Varos a better piece of TV than Androzani (and I do think it is) but also makes it likely to be less popular (which is what David said). People don't *like* questioning and self-examination, in general -- and in particular, Doctor Who fans as a group tend to like clear-cut cases of goodies and baddies over anything more complex.

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David Anderson 5 years, 5 months ago

I meant it as a strength.
Well, it's better I suppose for a program that's criticising complicity in violence to have a solution to the problem of avoiding that complicity itself. But it's better to confess to not having a solution than to have a fake solution. And in episodes like Warriors of the Deep and Resurrection of the Daleks the Doctor is a fake solution.

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

Vengeance on Varos casts itself as a commentary on video nasties, but it draws a lot of its structure from video games: it's a series of levels, facing off against a different peril each time. It refers to Manic Miner as much as it refers to Mary Whitehouse.

Looking at it this way, it wouldn't fit as a Davison episode so much as it would fit as a Christopher Ecclestone episode. Imagine if they'd got someone with Russell T Davies's energy to write the action sequences and pretty much any one of the new series directors to direct them. That would be a story people would remember. It certainly makes a more coherent critique of mass media culture -- showing it as actively nasty, rather than just deadening -- than The Long Game or Bad Wolf does.

“OK, who does benefit from a violent and sensational media.” The answer, it seems, is the right.

I'd say one of the interesting things about Varos is it answers this with the more accurate and more grown-up "established interests", rather than "the right" as such.

First: In the UK, it was easy to see an equivalence between the Soviet Union, where state-run TV pumped out propaganda, and the US, where the networks put out shows that would appall any self-respective Doctor Who fan and the government didn't care enough about quality to do anything about it, and see bad, exploitative, cynical TV as a general tool for keeping the population distracted and under control, rather than a tool of the left or right in particular. (In this comparison, of course, the UK comes out as "just right", with the license fee and the requirement that radio stations broadcast as certain amount of news).

Second: The resolution to the planet being exploited is not Galactic!Revolution! but a correction of an information asymmetry in the market that allows Varos to escape its monopsony relationship with the purchaser and participate in the market fully (albeit with a monopoly itself -- and of course companies with a monopoly are ones that can most afford to share profits, so it's implied that things are probably going to go well; the story is relatively sophisticated economically but not quite up to tackling the resource curse).

This isn't a review comment thread, but rewatching it recently I was struck by how weak the beginning and resolution are compared to the rest of it. The shocking thing about the sequence where the TARDIS runs out of plot-devicium is how quickly the Doctor gives up -- another hint, perhaps, that this Doctor is actually bipolar. The shocking thing about the resolution is that they clearly decided to edit out the scene where the Doctor feeds stupid pills to the baddies, which is the only thing that would explain their decision to walk en masse into the cave of poisonous vines.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 5 months ago

I definitely like Varos more than Androzani these days; the latter I find overrated, it doesn't have an awful lot going on beyond good production values. Varos is uncomfortable viewing - like its sequel, Mindwarp, it's one of the few Who stories to hit a tone of unrelenting nightmarishness.

In fact, Season 22 is one of the most consistently nightmarish seasons - the cannibalism and violence of Two Doctors, and the cannibalism and body horror of Revelation Of The Daleks. A clear 50% of the stories have pretty challenging themes combined with claustrophobic levels of violence. The more I think about it, the more season 22 grows on me. Only Mark Of The Rani is barely entertaining - two of the show's dullest villains - but the rest actually have plenty to recommend them, even if it is (in the case of Timelash) all the wrong things.

Revelation Of The Daleks is the last of the classic series that I really really like on its own terms.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

The problem is that the 50% that are challenging in some way (Varos, Two Doctors, Revelation) are alternated with a continuity wank-fest, a story by Pip & Jane Baker with people pretending to be Geordies, and Timelash.

Had Season 22 been as short as every later series of the 80s -- having a four-part Varos and Revelation and a six-part Two Doctors would actually take it to one episode more than the rest of Colin Baker and McCoy's series -- then it would be regarded as one of the greats, but there's just too much terrible filler.

I suspect actually that what turned the show's quality round more than anything else, even more than Saward leaving, was just not having to commission so many scripts.

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

Considering that Silver Nemesis was one of the four best scripts they had in 1988, you may have a point. (Note though that 14 episodes is exactly the length of the other seasons even though 13 is the "natural" length)

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 5 months ago

Andrew - agree completely, Season 22 could have been a classic with half the material (and a different costume).

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

You're right, of course. Don't know why I thought they were 13...

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Tommy 5 years, 5 months ago

"Vengeance on Varos is for the most part the easiest to like story of Season 22."

Oh.... I take it my favourite Colin story and the one that almost singly redeems the 80's for me, Revelation of the Daleks won't be getting much love then? :(

For me the main message of Vengeance on Varos is about the farce of the prison system. That it's supposed to be a place of 'rehabilitation' for criminals, and yet Varos shows how it not only further brutalises criminals and breeds spiritual decay, it actually brutalises the guards and wardens who work there too. And in such a way that now this prison planet has birthed several generations in this environment who have all experienced the same brutalising environment.

It could almost be seen as a microcosm for Season 21 and 22's worldview of a universe that's become a haven for violent souls. But as one other reviewer put it (on the Malcassairo blog), this isn't a typical Doctor Who story where a bunch of tyrants happen to a world, these vile people didn't happen to Varos, it's Varos that happened to them.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, I'm quite fond of The Two Doctors in its way as well. But I think Vengeance on Varos is the easiest to like. The others require some effort. Rewarded effort, but effort.

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Alex Wilcock 5 years, 5 months ago

I’m not sure I find any of Season 22 easy to like – the most likeable in some ways ought to be The Mark of the Rani, as relatively inoffensive and not that violent, though I don’t actually like it much; and Colin’s at his most likeable this year for me in The Two Doctors. I think there are bits of this that are at least as prickly and difficult, and at least in the latter it’s mostly the other Doctor who’s given the unlikeable role. But I still think this is a good story, while nowhere near as good as it could have been (another polish of the script, a completely different director), and I’m with Andrew, above, on how differently this season would be seen had the slashed running time come in a season early. As long as they only picked out the even-numbered stories to keep, of course. The odd ones would be a disaster (not least because it’s the even-numbered stories that are the odder ones).

Anyway, ill, dizzy, not very coherent here, so shorter comment than usual. Good on you for explaining “diegetic”. Useful word. Got it from a Who author years ago when arguing about music (hope there’s an isolated score on the new edition, rather than the painful isolate-away-from-score version). And as you’re trailing stories to come, did I read somewhere that you’re doing Jubilee about June 15th? Would you consider moving it forward a week or so and giving us all a break from the incessant other Jubilee? And are Arak and Etta “noble” in any sense (other than your nobility of the working classes)?

I just wish Varos was more consistently like the best of itself – like the season as suggested, dropping out the crap bits. Keep Sil (fabulous) and the Governor, replace the Chief and Quillam, and so on… Though the most jarring thing about it for me is that it turns Doctor Who inside-out, not just in concept by critiquing it, but in structure by the way that this time the beginning and the end (save the coda) are sagging and lifeless, while the middle’s terrific. The Doctor sulks for ages in TARDIS scenes that go on for ever before they land in search of MacGuffin 7; then it doesn’t so much end as abruptly give up after a nonsensical message from ‘off’. For an ’80s story with much to say about big business and powerlessness against market forces, it’s a bit dumb on supply and demand – a superb plot collapses in a heap when a new supply sends prices soaring… It’s rare for a ‘climax’ to be dramatically and economically useless at the same time!

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

Alex, I don't think it's economically useless. The point is that there's additional demand, not additional supply. It's as if Chinese mines were only allowed to sell their rare earths to Chinese companies and then moved to being allowed to sell them to the rest of the world -- of course the price they see would go up. The oppressor is a monopsony, not a monopoly -- a much rarer case to see in drama but a real-world case nevertheless.

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Jesse 5 years, 5 months ago

Vengeance on Varos is for the most part the easiest to like story of Season 22. This is not to say it is the best - the redemptive reading of The Two Doctors presents a story that is probably superior to this one.

And indeed, of the Colin Baker stories I've seen, those two and The Mysterious Planet are the only ones I like at all. (And the ones I haven't seen are Mark of the Rani and the Dalek one, so I doubt they'll make the cut if I ever do take them in.)

[Oh, wait: I guess I like Mindwarp "at all" inasmuch as it contains some elements that I like. But it left a bad taste in my mouth.]

Anyway. I didn't post this comment to bore you all with my likes and dislikes. I posted it to inquire whether anyone here has seen Philip Martin's 1970s series Gangsters. It sounds fascinating, and I've been wanting to watch it for years.

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Exploding Eye 5 years, 5 months ago

"(And the ones I haven't seen are Mark of the Rani and the Dalek one, so I doubt they'll make the cut if I ever do take them in.)"

You might be surprised by Revelation Of The Daleks. It has its flaws - it's barely either a Doctor Who or a Dalek story, as both elements are quite marginalised - but taken on its own terms it has a lot of interesting things going on, some great ideas and some of the most memorable characters of the 80s. It's the most colourful and least macho of all Saward's scripts. For me, it's the last time (before the new series) that Doctor Who felt decently paced, like an actual adventure rather than a slightly rushed sequence of events.

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Matthew Blanchette 5 years, 5 months ago

Ahhhh... so, now I know where Tommy got his IMDb user name from! :-D

(I know him from there; got him interested in this lovely blog. :-) )

...speaking of non-diegetic music, I'm probably saying this a bit early, but the '86 theme is probably my favorite of the '80s Who themes, mainly because it brings the theme back to its original key, which I really appreciate.

The Howell theme has some wonderful "zazz" to it, but the key change irks me a little, and as for McCulloch... well, let's not talk about him. :-/

I also really love the Debney theme, even if it does plod along a bit.

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Gnaeus 5 years, 5 months ago

Revelation is indeed excellent, and to my mind jostles with Varos for being the better story in this season (and whether or not it's a Doctor Who or Dalek story enough be damned - it's good television).

It is worth noting, however, that the credit there must go, in the main, to Waugh, rather than Saward or any of the rest of the production team.

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Alex Wilcock 5 years, 5 months ago

Is it clear that this is monopsony?

For Varos, yes, for most of the story... But what precipitates the sudden ending I criticised wasn't the Governor's attempt to look for other buyers but the news that Zeiton-7 has been found on an asteroid, which you've clearly forgotten. It would only be a proper monopsony if Galatron Mining has control of it or sole access to the people who do, and that's not at all clear from the dialogue.

Either way, "the point is" that there is additional supply. That's given as the whole reason at the end!

The asteroid may give the opportunity for Galatron to expand their monopsony, or it may not; the dialogue doesn't say so. There may be additional demand from somewhere, or there may not; the dialogue doesn't say so.

All that the dialogue clearly says at the end is that a/ a new supply has been found and b/ that Sil should pay the Varosians "any price asked" for the Varos supply, which they need urgently (though nothing about why not the new supply, or whether it's any more urgently than usual).

Which, as I said, is both dramatically useless - because rather than any action of our heroes', or even on-screen at all, giving the villain his comeuppance, effectively a telegram comes in that says 'Story is over. Stop' - and economically useless, because additional supply that we do hear about and additional demand that we don't should mean the price going down, not "pay any price" as a sudden but economically illiterate happy ending.

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

Ah right, the asteroid. You're right, I'd completely forgotten that. And you're right, it makes no sense to have that immediately followed by the "pay any price" line. If it's worth paying any price for, it's worth invading for. That's a shame, I'd remembered the end as being quite good and forgotten that they'd thrown in the asteroid line to find a way of getting out of the invasion.

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure that's fair. Ideas matter, but execution is important too.

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Dougie 5 years, 5 months ago

Re-watched Gangsters series 2 on Youtube last year. It wasn't nearly as good as I remembered. Stylistically very dated and annoyingly wilful in places. Interesting as a visual record of declining Britain, however. Maybe the best thing about it is the overblown theme song.

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Alan 5 years, 5 months ago

I had assumed that the asteroid was under the control of some other business interest and that Galtron's monopoly power was about to be threatened. Accordingly, it was necessary for Galtron to have a large enough stockpile of Maguffin Element to undercut the rival start-up and lock in contracts for the new war that was breaking out. But that's just a guess. The dialogue is certainly ambiguous, but that would make sense if Galtron were both a monopsony and a monopoly.

Of course that doesn't answer the more bizarre question of how the entire galactic economy could rest on an element so rare that it's only found on one planet in the universe and yet none of the natives on that planet have any idea what it's worth AND all the galactic civilizations tolerate a single corporation exercising monopoly control over it.

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gregmcduck 5 years, 5 months ago

What the hell is this? Everybody told me there were no good Sixth Doctor tv stories, and what happens three stories in? One I really, really like. The script really feels sharp and Colin Baker really works here. I know about the whole "each Doctor is a comment of the previous," but it's startling just how violent the Sixth Doctor can be, especially for a guy who started watching Doctor Who in the Tenth-Doctor-I-Never-Would-I-Won't-Shoot-The-Master-To-Save-The-World era (I would have loved to see a Time Crash with Ten and Six).

How did Whitehouse not pay attention to Who at this point while getting her boobs in a twist over the Doctor getting his head dunked under virtual not real water? In three stories, we've had the Doctor strangle Peri, throw a vial of acid at Mestor, beat up police officers, shot a handful of Cybermen, tried to dunk a guard in acid, and then kill a bunch of people with poisonous vines. That's kind of crazy.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

It's not completely unlikely that I'd never have become a Doctor Who Fan if it wasn't for "Vengeance on Varos". I suppose I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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David Anderson 5 years, 5 months ago

If I remember correctly Mary Whitehouse did complain but by that stage she was issuing ritual denunciations of everything. Also, Michael Grade had already decided to cancel Doctor Who on other grounds.

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Abigail Brady 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh, so *that's* what that song is. I don't know how many times I must have danced to it.

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Abigail Brady 5 years, 5 months ago

That rest of the plot doesn't even need it to be that rare to work. You could change a bit of the Doctor's dialogue in episode 1 (have him say that Varos is the only place *in range* that has it, rather than *in the entire universe* - it's entirely plausible for a broken down Tardis to have a limited range), and figure out another way of doing the ending.

I suspect this happens because writers do not appreciate quite how big the universe is (c.f. the galaxy/solar system confusion).

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Youth of Australia 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm reminded of that Doctor Who? cartoon in DWM around this time, where the Sixth and Fourth Doctors are discussing violence in their show. The Sixth insists his era is nowhere NEAR as violent, and conversation drifts to a nearby bandaged figure covered in bloodstains on life support.

"Who's that?"

"He's the cameraman."

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Flynn 4 years, 11 months ago

I think the coat could've been dealt with as it was- the most obvious solution for me would've been to make the Sixth Doctor a lover of beauty in the most garish and ugly of places (which is something they hint at in Twin Dilemma only to maddeningly drop and deny it almost immediately afterwards).

Taken in that sense, though, there's a real Doctor-ish character element that could be played with in the series (being able to find the beauty in the most ugliest of circumstances) that would actually be mirrored in the nightmareish quality of the season itself.

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