I'll Bite Your Nose (Tooth and Claw)

(194 comments)

Awooooo! (Werewolves of Glasgow)
It’s April 22nd, 2006. Gnarls Barkley continues to hold the number one slot with “Crazy.” Rihanna also charts, along with holdovers from the previous week: the Black Eyed Peas, Pussycat Dolls, and Mary J Blige. Streets’ The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living tops the album charts, which also feature Massive Attack, Pink, and Morrissey, the latter with Ringleader of the Tormentors, which is at least an album I’m terribly sentimental about, since I saw him tour for it. In news, the first military parade through Dublin since 1970 commemorates the 1916 Easter Rising. Floods break out in Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia along the Danube, and Queen Elizabeth II turns 80.

Speaking of old queens, we have Queen Victoria as our requisite “famous person from history in the first three episodes.” But perhaps more interestingly, we have Russell T Davies’s sixth consecutive episode of Doctor Who. In many ways it mirrors the first story of that run of six (which is, I am fairly certain, the longest single-writer block of consecutive minutes of Doctor Who ever), in that it is a script born of production crisis. Davies’s original brief for the story was famously “werewolves, kung fu monks, and Queen Victoria.” This setup was given to another writer (whose name hasn’t, to my knowledge, leaked) for development. The story came back without monks or a werewolf, and instead featured an alien living in Queen Victoria’s eye. The writer was apparently frustrated with the process and decided Doctor Who was not really for him, and thus Davies stepped in to write a script to his original brief.

But let’s pause to consider what his original brief was. After all, it’s a bewildering set of images with no inherent links. The werewolves and Queen Victoria are at least vaguely adjacent, but the kung fu monks really come out of nowhere, conceptually speaking. It resembles nothing so much as the kitchen sink approach that, in the 1980s, led to such inspiring ideas as “a Concorde, the Master, Tegan’s departure, and a cameo from dead Adric,” “the Master, Kamelion, a new companion, Turlough’s backstory, and Lanzarote,” and, of course, the memorable “the Second Doctor, Sontarans, and New Orleans, sorry, wait, we mean Seville.”

But underneath this is the fact that if there was one thing John Nathan-Turner really was fantastic at it was remembering that it was helpful to have Doctor Who generate excitement every week of its run. This is notably different from most shows, which are only capable of becoming event television for their premieres and finales, or, perhaps, if they do some major mid-season plot twist. Big Brother has a tough time generating anything like the impact of launch night or the finale, hence its needing to rely on an endless succession of format-breaking tricks in the middle to maintain the tone of reverential obsession the series trades on. But Doctor Who, when it’s functioning well, just generates an event unto itself every week.

There’s a general trend here that Doctor Who is a part of. Let’s link it to comics, they having been the guiding influence of the previous television era of Doctor Who under Andrew Cartmel, and, perhaps more interestingly, a heavy influence on Davies, who is a known comics fan. In this regard he was surely aware of the trend towards what is, in comics, called decompressed storytelling. This became trendy around the turn of the millennium as Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (the latter tapped to do design work on the first series of Doctor Who) did The Authority, a comic that combined “widescreen” panels of high-octane action with a slower pace of storytelling that allowed what many writers would do in one issue to take up three or four. This led to the topic becoming the style du jour of Marvel in the early 2000s, perhaps most notably with Brian Michael Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man, which somewhat infamously took until most of the way through the third issue to actually get around to showing Spider-Man in his costume.

The style’s influence on television is obvious, being the dominant approach of HBO shows, and, perhaps more to the point, itself owing no small debt to the more methodical pacing of BBC “proper drama.” And inevitably an eventual backlash started, spearheaded in a large part by Grant Morrison, whose big DC Universe event Final Crisis coincided with eerie precision with Doctor Who’s similarly themed fourth season finale, and who is the obvious inspiration for a Scottish kung fu monk. Answering a question in a 2009 interview about supposed “event fatigue” in superhero comics, Morrison responded, “‘Events’ in superhero comic books FATIGUE you? I’m speechless. Admittedly they do tend to be a little more exciting than the instruction leaflets that come with angina pills but… ‘fatigue’? Superhero comics should have an ‘event’ in every panel!”

It’s not difficult to see how this approach intersects with Doctor Who, a series that actively spends its time reinventing itself weekly with a new glitzy and high concept trailer. Doctor Who does not spend its time meticulously examining every aspect of its premise - it gets right into the story and moves like hell through the concept before discarding it in favor of another one. It’s a bastion of hyper-compressed storytelling, in which the inherent density of its medium is exploited to deliver as much content as it is conceptually possible to convey in a single chunk of time. In a real sense the ideal form of Doctor Who is its trailers, a point we’ll discuss in detail towards the end of the season.

In that regard Tooth and Claw, like The Unquiet Dead, in part needs to be understood as something that belongs to its previous story. Its job is in part to, following a story featuring plague zombies, cat nurses, the far future, a talking face, and bodily possession humor, suddenly present the viewer with a montage of Queen Victoria, followed by a bunch of kung fu monks in vibrant orange, followed by some werewolves. Notably, this trailer gives no indication of plot. It is, in fact, straightforwardly presented as “here is Queen Victoria, here are some kung fu monks, and oh yes, there’s a werewolf.” Even the visuals are keyed to look radically different from anything we’ve seen in New Earth, with Tooth in Claw being processed in what’s known as a “crushed” style whereby the blacks are darkened, producing a grainier, starker feel that contrasts sharply with the candy-colored medicine bags of New Earth.

The point, in other words, is to go at the end of the big, frothy season premiere and to generate a sense of momentum for the rest of the season. This, in turn, sets up the somewhat odd phenomenon of the kung fu monks, who really do just exist for the sake of the trailer and then for the cold open in which grainy and stark agrarian Scotland is suddenly invaded by bright orange kung fu monks led by Ian Hanmore, the current go-to actor for bald creepy villains (he’s since played essentially the same role in The Fades and Game of Thrones). They have no larger role in the plot. But this is, all told, the correct way to handle the laundry list approach. If we take the purpose of the laundry list of items to be producing a good trailer then discarding extraneous ones once they’ve served their spectacular purpose is, from a storytelling perspective, the right call. So complete is the monks’ dedication to the trailer that they even resemble the “Tai Chi” ident from the then-current “Rhythm and Movement” series.

Again, in a trope aware milieu there’s an appreciable cover for this. The kung fu monks are obviously just there so Doctor Who can have kung fu monks. With no way of reading them as anything other than publicity bait all the possible critiques about superficiality vanish. “The monks are just a superficial stunt for the trailers,” you say, and the show stares blankly at you, wondering if your next critical insight will be “that box is blue!”

But what’s interesting about Tooth and Claw is that the story changes out from under us. It gives every appearance of meandering through another “look at us” romp before, in the final moment, pulling the rug out and turning the entire story into one about the Doctor and Rose’s arrogance as they prance through life ignoring the consequences. And, in doing so, it sets up the remainder of the season’s arc, in which the consequences of the Doctor’s actions here eventually cause him to lose Rose. This means that the first two episodes of the season, in an odd way, mirror the structure of The Christmas Invasion, with the four month gap serving roughly as the special’s first forty minutes, New Earth and most of Tooth and Claw serving as an extended cut of the Doctor casually dispatching the Sycorax, and the final bits of Tooth and Claw reiterating the disturbing downfall of Harriet Jones.

But there’s something quizzical underneath it. Davies is, as is well documented, a republican (Americans - this means “opponent of the monarchy,” not “right wing lunatic”), and having the declaration of the Doctor’s immorality come from Queen Victoria is thus telling. Let’s not forget that Queen Victoria creates the villains of the season in response to the Doctor. The idea that the story sides with her is farcical - she is, after all, revealed to be a werewolf mere moments before she establishes Torchwood. And, of course, in time we’ll learn that the end form of Torchwood is actively imperialist, which further hammers home the point that Queen Victoria is wrong here.

This is an interesting point that underlies the larger theme we’ve been developing for the Tennant era. Yes, the Doctor’s arrogance is his downfall. But in the general case, at least, the Doctor’s arrogance is not misplaced. Indeed, in order to get that message across Tooth and Claw would have to be a bad episode, which it isn’t. To portray the Doctor’s arrogance as misplaced it would have to have us share Queen Victoria’s frustration and anger with him. But she’s not the point of view character for this story - the moment where she turns on the Doctor and Rose (right after that marvelous “Dame Rose of the Powell Estate” line) is shocking, especially as it simultaneously doubles as the punchline to the extended “I am not amused” joke. As an audience we’re blindsided by Queen Victoria’s turning on the Doctor, because we’ve been, reasonably accurately, expected to have been enjoying ourselves for the previous forty minutes of the episode. Instead the episode puts us firmly on the Doctor and Rose’s side, and even goes so far as to make them thoroughly unchastened in the wake of Queen Victoria’s banishing of them.

Central to this is an important point that is so obvious as to be easily overlooked, which is that the Doctor and Rose’s adventures do not, in fact, cause anybody to die. This is because, and again, I recognize that this is terribly obvious, everybody within their adventures are not actually people but actors, and Equity rules haven’t allowed casually killing actors off since Underground. Which is to say that the reason the audience has been on the Doctor and Rose’s side through the entire story is that their adventures aren’t real and thus it’s perfectly OK to delight in the casual slaughter of a dozen or so people simply because it’s all a game. I mean, sure, there are ways it could be problematic, but none of them have to do with the moral issues of killing imaginary people. They have to do with the nature of drama as an imitative practice and thus what it suggests about the real world. And there aren’t really any significant problems here.

Now one can, of course, suggest that the Doctor and Rose are morally wrong within the logic of the story. But the story, as noted, doesn’t side with Queen Victoria’s judgment. Which suggests that the Doctor and Rose are morally off the hook by virtue of the fact that they recognize that they’re just in an adventure story and that none of the people who die are ones who are marked as “real.” The closest thing is Sir Robert, who gets a heroic death scene, but who is marked as doomed from the moment he becomes a traitor, and who thus does not constitute some tragedy that the Doctor and Rose have to get upset about. (Contrast that with Cassandra’s death, which, because she breaks out of her pre-ordained role in the narrative in her final scenes, is tragic, hence New Earth ending with the Doctor taking one last mournful look at her death - because she became the sort of character we have to care about, whereas Robert’s sacrifice is ultimately redemptive and, more to the point, excitingly violent.) Fundamentally, getting morally outraged about the trail of death that follows an adventure story around is silly.

In which case the fundamental problem with Queen Victoria’s outrage is that she doesn’t realize she’s in a fictional story, whereas the Doctor and Rose do. The latter fact is consistent with decades of Doctor Who, but the former is interesting, particularly inasmuch as it seems to suggest an inherent link between the horrors of empire and this lack of fictional awareness. The implications of this link aren’t explored by Tooth and Claw, but its existence alone is intriguing as we move forward to other stories.

Comments

David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure that this line of defence of the episode - that it's all fiction - doesn't throw out, say, Carnival of Monsters. And I'd rather keep Carnival of Monsters.

Besides, the horrors of Empire that fictional Victoria is responsible for are fictional horrors.

Also, I am not sure that anyone reacted to this episode saying to themselves, we thought we were only getting the Doctor vs Kung Fu monks, but, hooray, we're actually getting the Doctor chased through corridors by a werewolf.
(This sort of thing is not what makes werewolves an archetypal horror.)

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

I'll assume you mean that six consecutive episodes is a record for Doctor Who. It doesn't come close to J. Michael Straczynski's record of 54 consecutive episodes of Babylon 5, just shy of half the series.

The kung fu monks are honestly ridiculous, and jarring to the point that I can't handle them. The problem is that they really are there just for the sake of having Scottish kung fu monks, and make no sense in any aesthetic other than spectacle or absurd farce. But Scottish kung fu monks just isn't a cool enough idea for spectacle or a funny enough one to be funny; they're just sort of hanging out there.

It doesn't help that the rest of the episode is so very pseudohistorical-by-the-numbers until the last few minutes.

Also, why does everyone keep saying Davies' seasons follow the present-future-past pattern? If you count the Christmas specials after the first season, seasons one and two follow the pattern, but three and four go present-present-past. If you don't count the Christmas specials, season one is the only one to follow the pattern--season two is future-past-present, seasons three and four are present-past-future. There really doesn't seem to be any pattern at all.

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

Again, in a trope aware milieu there’s an appreciable cover for this. The kung fu monks are obviously just there so Doctor Who can have kung fu monks. With no way of reading them as anything other than publicity bait all the possible critiques about superficiality vanish. “The monks are just a superficial stunt for the trailers,” you say, and the show stares blankly at you, wondering if your next critical insight will be “that box is blue!”

An obviously true complaint is not the same thing as an obviously true observation. A dislike of gratuitousness isn't invalidated by the obvious reason for why the gratuity exists. Obviously this is an entirely different kettle of fish, but I'd look askance at anyone arguing there can be no critique of Alice Eve's underwear scene in Star Trek Into Darkness because it's obviously for the trailer.

Of course, I may be simply showing my ignorance as regards the difference between a critique and a criticism...

Fundamentally, getting morally outraged about the trail of death that follows an adventure story around is silly.

I'm not sure this follows in general, actually, but regardless, in this specific case I think there's a stronger counter-argument. The problem here isn't that main characters shouldn't enjoy themselves in stories in which single hit-point characters are going down left, right and centre. It's that the Tenth Doctor and Rose combine their grinning, prancing antics through fields of dead with a sense of outraged moral superiority whenever people do things they dislike. It's the combination of slapping down Harriet Jones for blowing up a ship of interstellar slavers whilst gurning through werewolf attacks that causes the problem.

At least, it is if we're viewing Victoria's critique non-diagetically. All this "man who never would", "I should have told them to run" type stuff just sits too uneasily alongside the jolly adventure romping we get elsewhere.

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

Queen Victoria banished the Doctor from her realm yet here he is hanging round Victorian London with the Paternosta gang. Oh I see 'Big Bang, timey wimey, Amy's crack blah blah.' So no Torchwood in Eleven's rebooted universe? It's notable that RTD made Captain Jack a character who is not only 'outside the government' but who also stands outside of death.

Anyway the idea that death in a fictitious universe has no extra-diagetic meaning and is always secondary to the 'romp' is a concept that will get fully worked over in the Moffatt era and I look forward to your take on it.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

That's it exactly. In the very next episode, the Doctor's "If I don't like it, it stops," fails because this episode stripped him of all moral authority. It's not that we're supposed to take Victoria's criticisms as false. Within the milieu of Doctor who deontological and authoritarian ethics are generally depicted as wrong, while virtue and care ethics are generally depicted as right. Yet in this episode one of the symbols of arbitrary rule-following for the sake of rule-following, the woman who gave her name to the Victorians, is able to see that the Doctor and Rose spend this episode as giggling sociopaths. It is precisely their attitude--that is, their lack of caring and the virtue of empathy, their refusal to recognize the episode's mooks as people--that gets them banished.

In essence, it's saying "Yep, Victoria is pretty awful, yet even she can see how much the Doctor is screwing up."

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

"Empathy" really is a word I should have thought to use myself. That's the real nub of the issue. There are simply too many occasions where we're expected to join the Doctor's horror at off-screen atrocities for me to to swallow the idea that it's fine for him not to give a damn about people he hasn't been formally introduced to.

A further point: if one dismisses Victoria's criticisms here because the people who died don't matter, should one feel no elation when the Doctor saves dozens of unknowns at the conclusion to "The Doctor Dances"? They're no more real or consequential than the hapless victims in "Tooth and Claw".

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

Also, by my count this is roughly the 7 trillionth Doctor Who character named some variant on Vic/Victor/Vicki/Victoria.

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Phil 4 years, 2 months ago

Usually I'm all for arguments that proceed from the premise that we should treat fiction as though it isn't real, but this one doesn't really work for me.

To return to a previous era of the blog, I think it boils down to aesthetics rather than morality. I don't necessarily think the Doctor and Rose are bad people for shrugging off the deaths of extras, but I do aesthetically prefer a Doctor who displays more empathy than he manages here.

Of course, that reduces my criticism down to one of personal response, which seems a bit shallow. On the other hand, it's not very memorable, this one. I'd probably quite enjoy it if I watched it again. I usually do.

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ferret 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm wholeheartedly with the two of you on this one - I don't see the need for a redemptive reading of the Doctor and Rose's attitudes in this episode. It's a massive mis-step for the show, not least because making the two leads so damn self-aware-smug it's almost unwatchable.

Queen Vic's attitude is spot-on, except for the bizarre and embarrassing "Sir Doctor of TARDIS" nonsense - that was Theme Park Britain at it's most embarrassing.

If the leads can be so self-aware as not to care about anything that happens in the show we may as well be watching Chucklevision. It could so easily have been a classic piece of Doctor Who if not for the strange attitudes the leads skewed it with... what a waste.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

In which case the fundamental problem with Queen Victoria’s outrage is that she doesn’t realize she’s in a fictional story, whereas the Doctor and Rose do

The other way around, surely? The Doctor and Rose arrive in a silly, pointless adventure romp and act as if they are in a silly, pointless adventure romp all the way through.

Victoria, on the other hand, steps outside the genre in order to criticise it.

She is the one displaying metafictional awareness, not the Doctor and Rose. She is the one who can look at the narrative from outside itself and say, no hang on, this is troubling.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Dear me no no no, this was never on course to be anything like a 'classic piece of Doctor Who.' That may be the wrongest thing anyone has ever said, and I've seen some wrong 'uns.

You can tell by the way the article deftly avoids talking about the actual episode, because there is nothing there to talk about except in a bad way.

It's a bit like those introductions to As You Like It that insist that it has virtues by going on about the treatment of pastroal themes and so on and so forth, while avoiding mentioning that none of the jokes are funny, which in a comedy is a flaw.

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Queen Victoria's indictment of the Doctor is false only insofar as she is indicting the Doctor himself, when the sin is that of the whole world in which he lives. The Doctor and Rose having fun adventures and being arrogant and not being horrified when characters not marked by the narrative as "real" are gruesomely slaughtered is the "right" attitude for them to have within the world of that narrative, but, as Queen Victoria challenges, is that a good way for the world of the narrative to be? And, more pointedly, should we be the sort of people who want to watch that sort of world?

Much like how Bad Wolf invites us to think what horrible people reality television fans are for gleefully watching people get torn apart by Big Brother before Parting of the Ways invites us to gleefully watch people get torn apart by Daleks, Tooth and Claw invites us laugh along with Rose and the Doctor as they fight a werewolf, then at the end turns around and says "You do realize that you just spent an hour cheering at the Doctor and Rose for cracking wise as a big monster tore people apart, right?"

It also goes back, I think, to a fundamental tension that I mentioned a little bit ago that hangs around all the way up through The End of Time: that whole attitude of "Characters not marked by narrative aren't real; they're just props for the audience to enjoy seeing get slaughtered as the Doctor cracks wise and defeats the monster in a big exciting adventure" is basically a core element of the Cult Sci-Fi aesthetic, and basically the antithesis of the EastPowellEstate aesthetic injected by 'Rose'.

Queen Victoria's challenge is a warning: Stay down this road, and the show will turn back into the 80s Cult Sci-Fi mess that killed it, where we treat people as disposable devices to move the plot. Is that really what you want?

(Of course, hanging around rec.arts.drwho at the time, the answer was a resounding "Yes please")

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Two are "present-future-past" and two are "present-past-future". The pattern is "First three episodes with a new regular hit all three, present first".

Rose, End of the World, The Unquiet Dead
The Christmas Invasion, New Earth, Tooth and Claw
Smith & Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock,
Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii, Planet of the Ood

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Bennett 4 years, 2 months ago

"The closest thing is Sir Robert, who gets a heroic death scene, but who is marked as doomed from the moment he becomes a traitor, and who thus does not constitute some tragedy that the Doctor and Rose have to get upset about.

If this is true (and I more or less agree that it is) what are we to take from his inclusion in Davros's Montage of Shame?

(The first time I watched Journey's End I half expected The Doctor to mimic my reaction by turning to Davros and saying "Wait...hang on...who was that last bloke?")

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ferret 4 years, 2 months ago

I think if you want to have a show that's self-consciously fictional with fictional characters in it that are self-consciously fictional, it's a pretty stupid idea to have the non-fictional Queen Victoria as one of your major characters, especially when the performance is grounded in the not so ha-ha reality of her grief of the loss of her also non-fictional dead husband.

I don't find Tooth and Claw remotely funny.

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Dee 4 years, 2 months ago

Surely the monks are there dressed in red purely to make fun of the then BBC1 ident - people dresses in red usually dancing while the next programme is announced. I didn't realize for s couple of minutes that the programme had actually started and the monks weren't a new regular feature on BBC 1.

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

@Ross

that whole attitude of "Characters not marked by narrative aren't real; they're just props for the audience to enjoy seeing get slaughtered as the Doctor cracks wise and defeats the monster in a big exciting adventure" is basically a core element of the Cult Sci-Fi aesthetic, and basically the antithesis of the EastPowellEstate aesthetic injected by 'Rose'.

It's that precise attitude that makes the two new Trek films so difficult for me to watch: the wedding of an ostensibly empathic and egalitarian society with the idea that staggering civilian casualties should look as cool as possible and be ignored the moment the CGI cuts out.

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ferret 4 years, 2 months ago

@Ross re-reading my comment it sounds like I'm having a go at you: to clarify, I agree with you - I think what you've outlined was the episodes intentions (certainly I can't believe the RTD crew could have screwed up so specifically by accident), and their intentions really badly don't work for me, instead producing something I am loathe to identify as "Doctor Who".

Side thought: it's arguable that this all pays off with "The Time Lord Victorius" in "The Waters of Mars", but I can't believe that long a game was (if intentional) worth the pay off, as it left Doctor Who in 2006 no longer a program I could be sure of enjoying... and for me, that's entirely the point.

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

'Also, by my count this is roughly the 7 trillionth Doctor Who character named some variant on Vic/Victor/Vicki/Victoria.'

And so should at some time in the future all be revealed to have been the same person. Or have we finished with that argument?

Also my comments are posting and vanishing again. Anyone else?

I had a point about Moffat's lassait faire attitude to death, Torchwood not existing in Eleven's rebooted universe, Moffat, Captain Jack and fictionality but it's all disappeared into the ether.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

I've been meaning to ask for ages, what is 'material social progress'? I mean, I can identify how social progress is different from, say, technological progress, but how is material social progress different from, I don't know, immaterial social progress?

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

Addressed by Phil in the main text

So complete is the monks’ dedication to the trailer that they even resemble the “Tai Chi” ident from the then-current “Rhythm and Movement” series'.

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Scurra 4 years, 2 months ago

@SK
while avoiding mentioning that none of the jokes are funny, which in a comedy is a flawOnly if you are using entirely the wrong definition of "comedy". (As ever, most arguments on the interwebs are definitional.) Surely we have all long accepted that "comedy" is more of a short-hand antonym for "tragedy" in that it has a more-or-less happy ending rather than an analysis of the humorous content? (Which, in any case, is a dangerously personal thing: if you list the comics that make you laugh, and I list the ones that make me laugh I would guess that there'd be some on each list that a third person would consider the least funny people in the world.)

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Scurra 4 years, 2 months ago

I hadn't really considered the whole "metafictional" aspect, but upon reflection it's quite a big part of this whole season and makes me revise my opinions of many of these stories up - this is easily my least favourite season of "nuWho" - and that's from someone who already really likes Love & Monsters.
Certainly there seems to be mileage in the idea that Queen Victoria was attempting to contain the incursions of the fictional "Whoniverse" rather than jumping down the rabbit hole herself, and that leads inexorably to the whole Torchwood debaclé.

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Arkadin 4 years, 2 months ago

And the Doctor and Rose's glibness makes them seem imperialistic themselves--there's a long link between Boys' Own adventure and empire, after all. Tooth and Claw registers as more disturbing because the "natives" are us. In fact, for all that he's opposed to tyrannies and governments, the Doctor's screw-ups are not at all unlike the actions of the West after 9/11. He overthrows the tyrants and assumes that he's living in a simplistic adventure story and there won't be consequences, and treating the rest of the world as extras and disposable bad guys in an action movie. The Question of what exactly is the difference between the Doctor and the imperial powers both human and alien that he fights--between Queen Victoria and the Time Lord Victorious--is one that haunts the series throughout RTD's tenure.

The defense of the Doctor's behavior here assumes that he is the moral center of the series, which is not reliably the case. It's much more common that the companion is the moral center in the RTD seasons, which is why season 2 stands out--Rose has failed in that function because she's too absorbed in the Doctor.

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Arkadin 4 years, 2 months ago

Also I look forward to discussing how The Beast Below mirrors both this episode and The Christmas Invasion via Liz Ten, providing a thematic epilogue to the RTD era and establishing Eleven's character by contrast.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

I always heard the claim as "the first three stories of a season are past, present, and future in some order."

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh, it's true that for any given comedian who makes someone laugh, you can find someone else who thinks they are unfunny.

But Touchstone makes no one laugh, and that's the difference.

(And while there is the sense of 'comedy' you describe, As You Like It is clearly meant to be funny. You can point to where the jokes are. They just utterly fail to be funny, well, unless the actor puts in some rude gestures.)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

The trouble I have with the line of critique raised by many people here is that it seems to me to work only if the audience has been ahead of the curve in terms of recognizing that the Doctor has a fall coming at the end of the episode. If we've been wincing along with Queen Victoria the whole time then yes, absolutely, that's how it plays out. But I don't think most of the audience was. I think the last twenty minutes of The Christmas Invasion and the bulk of New Earth has the audience primed for a romp, and it takes more than a few fleeting lines from Queen Victoria about "this is not my world" to dislodge that.

That Queen Victoria's critique sounds plausible is part and parcel of making her a good villain - her critique sounds sympathetic without actually crossing over to convincing. And if the next story were yet another romp it might echo usefully into that. But instead we get a story that's all about consequences and regret. There's never a point in the season where we're supposed to spend time inside Queen Victoria's critique.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

For her to step out of the genre she'd have to step into it first, though, and she pointedly refuses to do so: "this is not my world."

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

The same thing we make of that montage including River, who the Doctor saved, and Jenny, who isn't actually dead, I should think.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

All that means is that she recognises from the start that she's in a fictional story -- or rather, she recognises from the start that a fictional story is trying to barge its way into her world and is having none of it.

I don't see there's any way, if you're going to make the self-aware reading, of denying that it's Victoria who is the one who represents the self-awareness and punctures the generic conventions while Rose and the Doctor are just going along with them.

Yes, that casts her as the pantomime villain, who keeps telling the audience that they shouldn't be having this much fun: to that extent your reading of her works. But to say that she doesn't realise she's in a fictional story? No. She clearly does, as much as the Doctor.

The difference is not that one recognises the fictionality of their surroundings and the other doesn't, they both do, it's that they have opposite reactions to it. The Doctor joyfully goes along with the fiction; Victoria rejects fiction and insists that everything be taken deadly seriously (she is, in this sense, a bit like those who have been written about in previous articles for whom even the whiff of racism or sexism contaminates an entire work).

But both are equally 'aware' of the distinction between the (frankly stupid and awful) story they find themselves in, and 'real life'. It's just that the Doctor goes along with the story, and Victoria rejects it.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

If anything that position sounds like Queen Victoria is playing the Mary Whitehouse role.

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jane 4 years, 2 months ago

Immaterial social progress means we treat each other as more human than we used to. Material social progress means we have the coin to do so.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Which is a way of reading it, but the point is still that in order to play the Mary Whitehouse role from within the text she has to be just as self-aware of the nature of the text as the Doctor.

I'm just pointing out that 'Queen Victoria [...] doesn’t realize she’s in a fictional story, whereas the Doctor and Rose do' is an indefensible reading. If we accept that the Doctor and Rose are textually aware, then Victoria must be too, because they both take equal (and opposite) positions on the right response to finding oneself in a text of this nature (as opposed to the other characters, who simply fulfil their functions without offering any kind of commentary).

You ought to have written that the problem with Victoria's outrage is not that she doesn't realise she's in a fictional story (she clearly does) but that the text supports the idea than being in a fictional story is a good thing and should be embraced, not rejected in favour of the 'real world'.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

So material social progress means rising living standards, is that it?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

But I'm still not sure she recognizes that she's in a fictional story so much as she recognizes that her world has been invaded by the Other. I mean, there's an interesting reworking of the idea of a base under siege implicit in that.

But I'm not sure trope awareness is possible without a degree of submission to textual play. Which, again, you can build a huge and interesting theme about empire, trope awareness, postmodernism, and the inexorable link between permanence and death. But why would I do that here when Army of Ghosts exists?

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ferret 4 years, 2 months ago

From a very basic viewpoint, if you didn't enjoy the episode because of the Doctor's arrogance, it's very hard not to side with Victoria against the Doctor when she pulls him up on his arrogance. She becomes entirely a sympathetic character under these circumstances, authorial intent or not.

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, isn't it kinda the point that these are all people who sacrificed themselves to save the Doctor's bacon and who, by and large, the Doctor hasn't really thought much about afterward?

(Also, the Doctor still thinks Jenny is dead; only the audience knows better)

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Her recognising that her world has been invaded by the Other, though, is exactly the same kind of thing as the Doctor's ability to recognise what kind of story he's landed in, isn't it?

Most guest characters never get to have that kind of recognition. They simply play out their roles in the kind of story that the TARDIS has landed in this week -- as indeed do all the guest characters in 'Tooth and Claw'. They never have a layer above that, the layer that the Doctor and companion(s) exist on.

What makes Victoria different is that she does have that extra layer: she is able to comment on the text in the same way as the Doctor is.

And, yes, that has to be signified in some way by giving her extra textual weight than your normal guest character, which in this case is done by rooting her so firmly in the historical origins of the character. The Doctor's textual awareness comes from the fact his name is in the title, and Victoria's comes from the fact that she embodies so strongly a very particular, very real historical era.

So of course her textual commentary is framed in terms of her 'reality' being 'invaded' because it's the fact she is 'real' in origin -- that she has a historical original -- that gives her the necessary weight to allow her to exist on the same textual level as the Doctor, rather than the same level as a kung-fu monk or a made-up Scottish landowner.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

I suppose the question is whose perspective that montage is from. I always took it to be the series itself.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh for goodness sake, her being 'sympathetic' or not has absolutely bugger all to do with whether or not she is coded as having the same level of textual awareness as the Doctor!

'Sympathetic' indeed. Bloody hell. 'Sympathetic.'

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, my end suggestion, not to get too far ahead, is that there is a sense in which believing that what's happened is that you've been invaded by the Other actually is distinct from recognizing you're in a particular type of story. "Oh horror, the Other has landed on the shores of Britain" is imperialist/xenophobic. Whereas ultimately Doctor Who valorizes allowing your sense of self to be penetrated, eroded, and changed by the Other.

Queen Victoria enacts a paranoid reading, the Doctor a hedonistic one. Davies's sympathies on that dichotomy are clear.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

(And more to the point, under Davies a paranoid reading is not merely undesirable, it's a misreading that fails to understand what Doctor Who is, since Davies's MO is the complete rejection of the paranoid as a category with any validity within Doctor Who except as the province of small-minded bigots and fools.)

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

But both are equally 'aware' of the distinction between the (frankly stupid and awful) story they find themselves in, and 'real life'. It's just that the Doctor goes along with the story, and Victoria rejects it.

Now I'm thinking of the old Webcomic 'Adventurers'. It's set in a JRPG-world, and one of the main characters is a snarky wizard who spends the entire game complaining about how the conventions of their world don't make sense. The end of his character arc is that he realizes in the end that he's been wrong all this time, and it's the dopey fighter character who has had it right all along: it doesn't matter that the rules of his world seem arbirary and illogical, that's how his world works, and all he can ever accomplish by railing against it is to make himself miserable and shut himself out of the world rather than live in it.

You ought to have written that the problem with Victoria's outrage is not that she doesn't realise she's in a fictional story (she clearly does) but that the text supports the idea than being in a fictional story is a good thing and should be embraced, not rejected in favour of the 'real world'.

If we are neither to side with Her Majesty nor with The Doctor, perhaps we should conclude that Queen Victoria is wrong to assume that we should reject a fictional world in favor of the real one, but the Doctor is wrong to assume that the fact that we are in a fictional world is a license to treat people as things -- if we are to be masters of the land of fiction, the onus is on us not to be cruel or capricious masters, who create people and whole worlds, just to take joy in their suffering and destruction.

----

Hm... I'm thinking now about the parallel between Queen Victoria and the Brigadier. Surely, the Brigadier's defining trait is that he determinedly acts as if he is a real soldier in a real world that calls for normal sorts of soldiering, when it should be patently obvious to anyone competent enough to tie their own shoelaces that the world he's in is a weird and magical place full of weird stuff being... weird.

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Bennett 4 years, 2 months ago

I believe the intent was for the montage to be from the Doctor's perspective. The shooting script describes it as:

CLOSER on the Doctor, as it hurts, to remember - rapid, silent images of Jabe, 1.2; Pete Tyler, 1.7; Controller, 1.12; Lynda, 1.13; Sir Robert, 2.2; Mrs Moore, 2.6; the Abzorbaloff faces of Mr Skinner, Bridget, Ursula, 2.10...
INTERCUT with the Doctor, like this is hitting him -
The Face of Boe, 3.3; Dalek Sec, 3.5; Chantho, 3.11; Astrid, 4.X; Luke, 4.5; Jenny, 4.6; River Song, 4.9, Hostess, 4.10..
Silence.
The Doctor just staring into space. Raw.


And I guess what I meant by my original question was that if Tooth and Claw has us on The Doctor's side, is Davros's rebuke aimed at the audience as well?

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

But this is just beside the point, which is that the distinction isn't that the Doctor recognises something and Victoria doesn't, it's that they both recognise it and react to it in opposite ways.

And yes, it's clear which way the text, and Davies, is supporting (and it ties into the point about The Long Game that Davies promotes the hedonistic, as opposed to the instrumental, view of time travel: you're supposed to just enjoy it, not try to use it).

But you can't claim that Victoria is ignorant, that she doesn't understand what is going on. She understands what is going on as much as the Doctor. Her critique of the Doctor's hedonistic, embrace-the-story lifestyle is delivered from just as self-aware a place as the Doctor's rejection of her critique.

Davies doesn't write Victoria as not getting it, which is what you suggest by saying she doesn't realise she's in a fictional story. He writes her as getting it, and not liking it.

In a sense she is the worst thing he can imagine, I suppose. The supporting characters have no choice: they simply are caught up in the story, and yes, they may die, but they are caught up, and that's the important thing. They have a kind of thoughtless hedonism thrust upon them. The Doctor is even better, because he is both aware of what's going on and is caught up in it: he has reflexive hedonism.

Companions are the ones given self-awareness, and when they make the choice to plunge into the Doctor's hedonistic lifestyle, that's celebrated: so Rose is promoted from background character with thoughtless hedonism into main character with reflexive hedonism when she decides to plunge into the Doctor's world (but there's a dicey moment when she initially rejects the call).

Adam, on the other hand, is given the choice but doesn't take the plunge,: he thinks too much, he has ends in mind instead of simply enjoying the means. So he gets punished.

And Victoria, well, she's the worst of all: she has the awareness to be able to have reflexive hedonism, but she rejects the hedonism instead of plunging into the story.

And yes that's presented as her problem, your reading is right there, but my point is that it's not through not recognising that there is a story to plunge into that she rejects it. Indeed she can't: the point of her is that she sees the same thing the Doctor does, the utter joy of losing yourself in the story, and she rejects that joy (perhaps why Davies went for the famously buttoned-up Victorian era as where to make this point).

And that's why she's (as Davies writes it) the villain, because when going with the flow and hedonistic joy in whatever story you happen to find yourself in is the greatest good, then deliberately standing outside that joy is the greatest evil.

But that choice, that villainy, only makes sense if she has the choice.

So she must recognise that she's in a fictional story as much as the Doctor, or her choice -- to reject the Other instead of embracing it as the Doctor does -- makes no sense.

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Dee 4 years, 2 months ago

Ah. The technical, official terms went right over my head. I sit corrected. ..

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

The only way your reading could work is if it was taken as a given that to be aware of the fiction is to embrace it. But that's along the same lines as political argument that goes, 'If you really understood my position and considered it honestly you'd obviously agree with me because my position is so self-evidently right, so if you don't agree with me then either you don't understand because I haven't explained it enough or you're stupid, or you refuse to consider it honestly because you're a bigot or something.'

Whereas Davies understands enough about human nature to realise it's possible to understand his position and still disagree with it, whihc is where Victoria is coming from, though you are right that he loads the dice to make her out to be wrong to disagree.

Though again because he does understand human nature, though she is (according to the story) wrong, there is an element of truth to her point, and unbridled hedonism does have its downside, and that's where you're going with the articles on the rest of these series, I expect.

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David Ainsworth 4 years, 2 months ago

I can't speak for anyone else's experience on first watching, but I was increasingly uneasy on account of Ten and Rose's behavior over the course of this episode, to the extent of feeling relief when the mystery-solving section of the story popped up. Perhaps most of the audience had a different response to "sniggering at Victoria" but the Doctor's level of engagement with Rose in contrast with his engagement with the other characters supports your claim about "imaginary people" in a troubling sort of way.

As an episode standing alone, there's not much of a problem here. As an episode of a show called "Doctor Who," however, there's a big problem.

Contrast the Doctor's attitude here with, say, Four in Horror of Fang Rock, where terrible things happen to characters we recognize as disposable while the Doctor grins and smiles. Baker's performance makes it clear, though, that he's engaged with and a part of events and that these deaths do matter within the fiction, if only because he goes to such lengths to try to stop them. Part of the beauty of how that story works involves the audience surprise when characters we're sure are NOT disposable die, and the disturbing question of whether that attitude best matches the way the Doctor strides through the story, or Leela's bloodthirsty gloating, or the Rutan's clinical (and imperialist) attitude towards the natives.

Or if Horror of Fang Rock is the wrong genre, how about City of Death? The Doctor and his girlfriend gad about Paris having a grand time. The basis of the humor, though, involves engagement with one's surroundings to go along with detachment. And the conclusion, where it's the stereotypical bruiser lunkhead that we've been laughing at alongside the Doctor and Romana who saves all of humanity, makes everyone part of the joke.

To the extent something brilliant is happening in this episode, it's that Davies pitches the story in such a way that the Doctor and Rose's behavior registers in distinct ways depending upon one's investment in and reaction to different eras of the show. A casual fan seems least likely to be bothered by all the larking about (that's what Who is, right?), doesn't take the narrative seriously (and who could?) and comes away entertained if not especially engaged. A different casual fan might think the episode a wasted opportunity or a hot mess.

Regular watchers of Doctor Who can then be split depending upon their perceptions of how the show functions.

That means the episode functions on two levels, and I appreciate that. It doesn't function especially well at the level of the actual story, of course, but one can appreciate the ambition of the metanarrative even as it consumes the function of the episode itself.

Conversely, one can reasonably argue that there's a very interesting Vengeance on Varos-style story here about lycanthropy, the things which distinguish humanity from predators, colonial imperialism and the monsters in our midst, which reads the threat of the alien infecting Victoria as either redundant or a bit of a lateral move.

But then again, if Victoria is the villain, the Doctor uncharacteristically spends the episode protecting and mocking her and then leaves her in control. I'm now imagining a Victory of the Daleks where the Doctor and Amy keep trying to get one of the Ironsides to say "Exterminate" instead of fighting them.

Ultimately, can Tooth and Claw be both too ambitious and too self-dismissive? Too much of a romp, and a romp trying to accomplish too much else?

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David Ainsworth 4 years, 2 months ago

So Tooth and Claw really is Vengeance on Varos, then?

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David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure people have been putting forward a line of critique of the episode so much as a line of critique of the 'only fiction' defence of the Doctor against Victoria. A critique of the episode would surely be that it's a Base Under Siege by Numbers, whose inherent aesthetic interest is insufficient to ballast any aesthetic critique it wants to launch. I don't think the story has so far been consistent enough in tone to either accept or reject Victoria's critique.

The they needn't care defence undoes other episodes. New Earth had the Doctor recognising Rose is possessed because, 'Rose would care'. And it plays into the view of Doctor Who as about monsters killing off supporting characters that Rose and East Powell Street were supposed to save us from in The End of the World.

I only watched the story for the first time last week so I suppose I was watching in the light of the final scene. I found the Rose's 'we are not amused' bit wince-inducing throughout; you could ground something about a critique of a theme-park approach to history on that. But she only does it once after the killing starts, and that during a quiet moment. But otherwise I don't think their behaviour is sufficient to justify the critique. But it's not clear from the episode whether that's because it was written too hastily to fully justify it or too hastily to make it clear it's not justified, or whether the episode can't decide whether it's justified or not.

The sf-explanation of haemophilia in Victoria's descendants at the end is more cringeworthy. Quite apart from that being real historical distress, that comes close to a tymewyrm explanation of the Russian Revolution.

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Assad K 4 years, 2 months ago

I have to say.. I am scratching and scratching my head and I really don't get all this bit about the deaths of supporting characters being of no consequence because the Doctor and Rose are aware of all this being a 'story' (unless I am reading this wrong). I mean.. if this is extended into every TV show everywhere then what does anything that any character does matter? If the Doctor and Rose are supposed to be in love, but it's all a fiction, then what does the end of Doomsday matter, given that David Tennant and Billie Piper can still go out for a drink, and don't even fancy each other? I'm afraid I can't really wrap my mind around this whole approach about some characters recognizing their unreality, and others not.

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 4 years, 2 months ago

This is a penetratingly depthless thing to say, but I was sixteen or so when this episode came out, and it was the first time I'd hated an episode of Doctor Who. I was kind of scared by how angry I got that the series had let me down by producing an episode I thought was a pointless mish-mash of ideas. I have hated many episodes since (hello most of last season and series 4!), but this was my first time, my first real, documented case of fandom rage, and for that, Tooth and Claw will always have a hard spot in muy heart.

Man, did I hate it. Just because the Scottish kung-fu monks exist purely for non-diegetic trailer reasons doesn't excuse anything, it just makes it that much more cynical.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh, the episode itself is just terrible. If it was written in last-minute haste after another fell through and therefore is effectively a first draft thrown up on the screen that goes some way to explaining why it's so terrible, but terrible it absolutely is. It's a mess.

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

@Philip Sandifer

I think the last twenty minutes of The Christmas Invasion and the bulk of New Earth has the audience primed for a romp, and it takes more than a few fleeting lines from Queen Victoria about "this is not my world" to dislodge that.

I can only speak for this audience member, but the ending of "The Christmas Invasion" and the Doctor's ferreting out of Cassandra in "New Earth" meant that, romp or not, I was expecting some kind of awareness that characters we do not know, or necessarily even see, and could indeed be members of an alien race that would happily enslave us would register in the Doctor's consciousness.

I just don't see any way to reconcile Doctor's damning critiques of first Jones and then Cassandra with the idea that it's ridiculous to suggest he should feel bad about the deaths of bit players, and it's precisely because of how the Tenth Doctor acts in his first two outings that this is the case. Or at least, I can't see a way to reconcile them other than to argue that the Doctor was wrong in his concern (as oppose to wrong about how he acted due to that concern).

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ferret 4 years, 2 months ago

@SK and at what point did I mention Victoria as having textual awareness? I suggest you just skip over my comments, I'm certainly going to skip yours as you seem to enjoy jumping over mine so much in this entry.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

You didn't. That's why it seemed an irrelevant interjection into the area of the discussion about Victoria's level of textual awareness.

I can think of few topics less interesting than whether a character is sympathetic or not. It's about on the level of trying to work out what 'really happened' between scenes.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

*ahem*

Decorum, if we may.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

I just want to echo the sentiments of the people in this specific comment thread. And to bring something up: Watching this on broadcast I did find Victoria's chastisement convincing. The two of them lark their way through the slaughter of a group of people and then continue to do so afterwards. And then they have no remorse whatsoever.

At this point did no one else see that the Doctor was heading for a fall? I saw it as pretty explicitly set up. We have three stories where the Doctor does something that is set up to be viewed ambiguously. I was sure Rose was going to die in the season finale.

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Now that it's been brought to mind, there's a parallel with Harriet Jones here too; there, the Doctor's outrage at her is motivated by the fact that he'd negotiated a peaceful withdraw with no one getting hurt -- and Harriet throws back at him that someone did get hurt: Doctor Llewellyn died while The Doctor was unconscious, and the fact that the Doctor's just saved the world from the Sycorax doesn't make that any better.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 2 months ago

I must watch this again (I only saw it once about two years ago, and I was roped into playing a card game at the same time) because not only do I not remember the monks (I think I may have missed the cold open, though) but I don't remember the Doctor and Rose being responsible for a lot of deaths. I do, however, remember Queen Victoria, the books, the telescope, the Scottish characters, the mistletoe, Torchwood, and being knighted.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

The Doctor Who you loath I look at as some of the best produced...but at least we can have some common ground in Tooth and Claw.

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David Thiel 4 years, 2 months ago

And with this entry I finally reach the present day of this blog. I stumbled upon it at the end of May during the "Doctor Who is racist" flap, and wound up going back to the very beginning and working my way forward in a timey-wimey fashion.

I don't always agree with the prevailing arguments here; I still despise "Ghost Light" both for being gibberish and for its becoming the template of the 15 years during which "Doctor Who" and its fandom disappeared up each other's asses. But even so, this blog has been a fascinating read that has challenged my perceptions of the show.

So, this is my back-handed way of saying "thanks" for the passion and perseverance that went into this work.

Okay, so "Tooth and Claw." At the time, this was one of my favorite episodes of nuWho. I love the show when it's playful and comedic; all of the silliness with Rose's attempt at a Scottish accent and her trying to get a "We are not amused" out of Queen Victoria landed for me.

I also thought that the Werewolf was one of the most effectively-realized monsters to date, and shared the Doctor's enthusiasm about it. (It helps that I personally find werewolves terrifying in the way that they chase people down and rip them to shreds.)

I don't see this episode as firmly taking either side of the Queen's argument. On one hand, Rose and Ten are behaving like ugly tourists at times, and Victoria is right to call them on it. On the other, all of this theme-park history, lycanthropy and kung-fu monkery *is* fun. This is the sort of thing "Doctor Who" is for. Neither they (or we) are wrong to enjoy it.

I do wish that we'd gotten more of the Torchwood that was promised in the final moments here, an antagonistic counterpart to UNIT rather than a handful of people in a dark hole moping and fucking. ("Fuck-buddies" is a term that should never exist in any version of "Doctor Who.")

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Mike 4 years, 2 months ago

Seeing that hint about 'School Reunion' I get the feeling now, Phil, that excusing the Doctor and Rose because of their fictionality is going to become a larger point. Intriguing, although if not then I have issues with your point in this post.
Still fascinating as ever though.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

I always read the Victoria/Doctor issue at the end to be a matter of control. Victoria, at this point, is as close to an undisputed ruler of the Earth as can be. The Doctor and all his jackanaping around disrupt this pleasant illusion of calm and control. Consider the alternative: if the Doctor isn't present, the whole world gets taken over by evil werewolves. Hardly a good situation, I'm sure you'll agree. Luckily, he happens to be there to stop it, though he can't manage to save everyone this time.

And the idea that, even with a pistol in her handbag, the Queen of Everything is essentially helpless to save herself, is intolerable to someone in that position. So of course he needs to be destroyed. Rather petty to blame a man for only saving most of the people in the estate. Nevermind that he's the only reason she's still alive and in one piece. The idea that these things are his fault is as dumb as that played out old story about Batman being the cause of all the crime in Gotham.

Compare and contrast Victoria's reactions with Margaret Thatcher here in St. Swithin's Day and Miracle Man:

http://www.bleedingcool.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/swithins44-1-660x478-600x434.jpg
http://cdn.bleedingcool.net/wp-content/uploads//2013/04/tumblr_losxd13Ahb1qz4ymjo1_1280.jpg

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

Whoops, here's a working version of the 2nd picture link:

http://www.momentofmoore.com/post/47473856982/allow-miracleman-16-1990-artist-john

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 2 months ago

If you replace "future" with "somewhere in space" it works for all of Moffat's seasons too except 7 part 1 (because there is no present). (And that is including "The Doctor's Wife" in "somewhere in space", even though it's out of space.)

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

As I understand it, material social progress is an improvement in material social conditions. There is such a thing as immaterial social conditions, but they're entirely subjective, so there's no such thing as immaterial social progress. Philip's contention, I believe, is that there are certain social problems which are objectively real, and so material social progress would be finding solutions to those problems. (Which inevitably gives rise to new problems, of course.)

I don't agree with this view (the word "problem" is inherently subjective), so it's fairly likely I've not described it accurately.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

They're not responsible for any deaths AFAIR. The problem is that they treat the whole thing as a lark, while people are dying around them.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm always fascinated by what people find scary. For example, I find werewolves utterly boring because all they do is rip you to shreds. To be honest, I've never been frightened by a Doctor Who monster, but I think the whatever-it-was from "Midnight" comes closest.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

The trouble I have with the line of critique raised by many people here is that it seems to me to work only if the audience has been ahead of the curve in terms of recognizing that the Doctor has a fall coming at the end of the episode. If we've been wincing along with Queen Victoria the whole time then yes, absolutely, that's how it plays out.

*raises hand as someone who was wincing the whole time with Queen Victoria*

Treating people as not-people is a serious thing with me. I regard it as the definition of evil. The argument that the characters are fictional doesn't work, because so are the Doctor and Rose, so they're still all people to each other.

This is absolutely the moment at which I went from finding Rose rather lackluster to straight-up considering her a terrible companion, and it put me off Ten to a significant degree, too. (At least he has the excuse of not being human to explain his inhuman attitude, but still. Also, admittedly, the fact that he calls the werewolf "beautiful" earns him points that very slightly offset the rest of his callousness.)

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

Hey, not a correction as much as a pointer to where you might have overlooked the reference. I had the same thought on the original broadcast that the Doctor had broken out of his own text and invaded the station ident, a little like the Long Game's 'Big Brother' cold open.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Hm. Yeah, I don't think I agree that "the episode doesn't think that these characters' deaths matter" means that they don't matter. I mean, they're there in the story, they die in the story, there should be consequences in the story.

(That said, I don't agree with the common characterization of Ten and Rose as grinning psychos, gleefully running around the timeline and not caring about the consequences of their actions. Occasionally they're not as caring as they should be, but it generally feels more like a moment of bad writing than an actual element of the characters involved.)

Also, my main memory of this episode is just the infodump-ness of Victoria's final speech. "And it shall be called... Torchwood! And it shall eventually employ an immortal pansexual man with an American accent! And it shall be difficult to explain in terms of the UNIT era!"

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

Riping people to shreds is, for me, the least interesting thing about werewolves. All sorts of monsters chase people down and rip people to shreds. Werewolves do it, then they turn back into perfectly nice people who would never rip a person to shreds, put their clothes on, and go back to their day jobs. The neat thing about werewolves is that they're part-time monsters.

(An aspect that was pretty much entirely absent in Tooth and Claw, where it's just down to "Monster that can turn human-looking to hide")

(I guess recently, I've also found it interesting that werewolves generally don't act anything like actual wolves, but very much like the wrong things humans believe about how wolves act. But that's me being all metafictional)

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

Oooh! agreed,that was some spooky shit mainly because we never see the 'monster'. I just don't believe people when they talk about being scared by Doctor Who, or any other TV show for that matter, even as children. Disturbed maybe, upset possibly but scared? I mean really? Did anyone actually watch from behind a sofa? I don't know about you but my sofa's against the wall and pretty hard to get behind. Unlike Queen Victoria, apparantly, I could always tell the difference between fiction and reality.

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David Ainsworth 4 years, 2 months ago

As a yes-but here: the estate was designed as a trap, and not by the Doctor. He's not able to save "the world" because he's carrying a load of mistletoe in his pockets. It's because of all the power and wealth and privilege represented by British nobility. Throw in the centrality of the Koh-i-Noor, symbol of Victoria's domination of India, and imperialism becomes central to the werewolf's defeat.

The whole "Queen bitten" bit sees a bit redundant from a post-colonialist perspective. Victoria's the alpha predator in this episode, not the alien werewolf. The Doctor saves the "world" (ie the British Empire) from being conquered by an alien, but he doesn't save it from Victoria. He doesn't even seem that interested in trying.

That's my big personal problem with this episode. The Doctor can spare six words to bring down Harriet Jones, but has none to speak to Queen Victoria. There's an interesting "can't change history" point to be made here (after all, Harriet Jones was supposed to have brought about a new golden age of sorts before the Doctor deposed her), which isn't.

The result reads more to me like the Doctor overthrows Jones not out of outrage for the immorality of her behavior, but because he'd given his word and she broke it.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Hm. Watching this, I wasn't really wincing at all; I just thought it was kind of a thin, mildly boring plot, and Victoria's reaction seemed like overreaction to someone joking about while still doing the right thing.

But I still can't agree that "because they're fictional and the story acts like we shouldn't care" is a good defense for anything. Frankly, the story acting like we shouldn't care is what makes episodes thin and boring in the first place - lack of emotional engagement. Romps definitely need emotional engagement as much as Serious Drama does.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, I think Arkadin brought up the opposite of material social progress - individual spiritual progress. And both are important in alchemy, but when you're talking about alchemy and similar things, the spiritual and the individual are what's naturally focused on. And it's necessary for the mystic to take that progress back into the world and into society.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Ooooh, yes, good point. And note that the resolution to that plot hinges on being aware of the people around you and the meaningfulness of their lives.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, I don't think the kung-fu monks existing just for the trailer is in and of itself an excuse for them not working within the story.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't see this episode as firmly taking either side of the Queen's argument. On one hand, Rose and Ten are behaving like ugly tourists at times, and Victoria is right to call them on it. On the other, all of this theme-park history, lycanthropy and kung-fu monkery *is* fun. This is the sort of thing "Doctor Who" is for. Neither they (or we) are wrong to enjoy it.

I agree! Basically my feelings on the episode.

The neat thing about werewolves is that they're part-time monsters.

Also agreed! And of course they're one of those types of monsters where it's equally horrific for the monster themselves.

Anton: You know what freaked me out when I was little to the point where I had to leave the room? The Wicked Witch of the West, in The Wizard of Oz. Different people are scared by different things, and that goes double for kids.

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Triturus 4 years, 2 months ago

Anton B

I just don't believe people when they talk about being scared by Doctor Who, or any other TV show for that matter, even as children. Disturbed maybe, upset possibly but scared? I mean really? Did anyone actually watch from behind a sofa?

I'm not sure that as a kid you can tell the difference between disturbed, upset and scared, in practical terms.

The only classic Dr Who story that really got to me as a kid was Stones of Blood; that gave me nightmares for weeks, for some reason. Looking back I'm not sure whether it scared, disturbed or upset me, or a combination of all three. But it definitely did something!

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm not certain that undoes my point. Queen Victoria's solution (shoot it with guns, then throw more soldiers at it to shoot it some more) was never going to work. That she first pulls out her own pistol when they are briefly safe, rather than the crystal that will end up saving them all ends up, makes it an even bigger insult to her when the Doctor points it out. She would never have figured out how to use the mathemagical astrolabe, even though the solution was literally in her hands the entire time.

She can deny the situation all she wants, but this isn't her world. It never has been. The monsters are there whether she wants them to be or not. Shortly after the events, she'll be shot at by an insane poet, fall down the stairs, watch her children die, and end up almost immobile from rheumatoid arthritis and nearly blind from cataracts. Jack the Ripper will plague London and help usher in a new age, where technology and science and utilitarianism rule, not sentimentality, duty, and the Empire. William Gladstone gets elected the next year in a landslide over Disraeli, further pushing the Queen's power into obscurity as he leads the country into, well, not a very nice series of situations to put it mildly, but also certainly not what the Queen wanted. Judging from the rest of the show and all the other historical romps we see, Torchwood does an absolutely abysmal job of keeping the world safe and the supernatural contained. Ian Levine gets into their files without too much trouble, for gosh sake! The empire cannot control everything, no matter how hard it wants to.

Is that punishment enough? I can't say. But 1880 and onward were bad, bad years for the Queen.

We won't be there for a while yet, but the series 4 episode "Turn Left" did a wonderful job exploring not only how important Donna Noble is, but also stressing how important the Doctor is even in spite of his arrogance. Regardless of whether he's a bit cynical or jaded about the deaths of people he's only just met, or haughty about his decisions, without him there isn't a world to resent him. Haughty and arrogant? Certainly! Better than the alternative? Definitely.

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Stephen 4 years, 2 months ago

six is, I am fairly certain, the longest single-writer block of consecutive episodes ever

Even if we're just counting Doctor Who, there are five separate examples of a seven-episode block written by a single writer. Although, to be fair, the episodes were considerably shorter than in Davies' six-episode block.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

I was terribly impressed by the werewolf CG throughout (on a BBC budget, mind you!), especially considering how awful Professor Lupin looked just a two years earlier with a far more substantial CGI department.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

That kind of sets up a false dichotomy. It's not "Haughty and Arrogant" Doctor or "No Doctor At All". It's possible to have a Doctor that doesn't consider the slaughter of people a lark for he and his companion. Who has some appreciation for the situation and proper decorum. I have a hard time seeing The Ninth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor playing around with Rose's foolishness.

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Nyq Only 4 years, 2 months ago

//I just don't believe people when they talk about being scared by Doctor Who, or any other TV show for that matter, even as children. Disturbed maybe, upset possibly but scared?//

Nope definitely scared and in an immediate way - not a nightmares later sort of way and yes certainly as younger child (Pertwee era) I really did duck behind the arm of the sofa (so not literally behind the sofa but certainly using the sofa to obscure my vision of what was occurring). Disturbed? No, nor upset. The Doctor was proof against nightmares because he could defeat any imaginary threats.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

deontological and authoritarian ethics are generally depicted as wrong, while virtue and care ethics are generally depicted as right

Except that sophisticated deontologies are usually some kind of virtue ethics, and sophisticated virtue ethics are usually some kind of deontology.

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Nyq Only 4 years, 2 months ago

Sewers, fresh water supplies, affordable and accessible medical care, schools. Social progress that can be measured in stuff. Very relevant in terms of Victorian Britain in which social progress and whatever its opposite is lived side by side and were often led by the same people.

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David Thiel 4 years, 2 months ago

I was 42 years old when "Tooth and Claw" aired, so for me the Werewolf was less frightening and more "intense." That said, the "Midnight" monster seriously unnerved me. I saw that one late at night when my wife was away; if I'd had a sofa in my computer room I'd have been behind it.

My childhood experience with "Doctor Who" was the brief run of the Pertwee episodes in Chicago back in 1975-76. For some reason, the one that terrified me was the true face of "The Ambassadors of Death." Watching the story again on DVD earlier this year, I have no idea why.

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David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

I agree with Ross and Ununnilium about werewolves. Being Human puts werewolves through their paces by making the werewolves main characters / friends of the main characters.

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David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

The problem with any Victoria as villain reading is that there's little to nothing in the episode to support it until she decides to be hostile to the Doctor. And that has little to no effect negative effect on the Doctor until the end of the series as I understand it.
I think the first time we meet actual members of Torchwood is The Impossible Planet - where the Doctor allies with them without major problems.

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encyclops 4 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, I was scared, and yet/also thrilled, by The Stones of Blood. I watched it late at night when everyone else had gone to bed, in my grandparents' living room on the foldout couch, and I was sure the Ogri were going to come crashing through the big windows to get me. It was awesome.

I can't remember being scared by anything else in the show ever, though there were a few disturbing moments (Lytton's fate in Attack of the Cybermen, for instance). I think it matters tremendously how old you are when you see these things.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

There is such a thing as immaterial social conditions, but they're entirely subjective

Why "entirely subjective"?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

the first time we meet actual members of Torchwood is The Impossible Planet

I don't recall Torchwood in that episode.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

The crew of the expedition work for the "Torchwood Archive" whatever that is.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 2 months ago

Agreed. I see this story as a throwback to the classic series . Saturday family entertainment without to much depth.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

Why "entirely subjective"?

Some people want to lay on the couch all day and smoke weed and this is a fulfilling life. Some people want to work hard doing manual labor to build things with their hands they can show to others and take pride in and this is a fulfilling life. Some people want to raise their children and don't mind if they job sucks because it's worth it to see the look on their kid's face and this is a fulfilling life. Some people want to be completely subjugated by a superior they love and respect and will follow without question and this is a fulfilling life. Some people want to compete with others and work their way to the top of the pile through guile and skill and being "stronger than all the rest" and this is a fulfilling life. Some people want to collaborate and be part of a team and work alongside those they respect to build something together that they can all enjoy and this is a fulfilling life.

What works for one person doesn't work for another, and one person's dream existence is another's nightmare.

Material social progress tends towards universals: we all want enough food to eat, to live somewhere comfortable, to not get sick, to be able to do what we enjoy, etc.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 2 months ago

...why is Davros EVER presumed to have the moral high ground? He's DAVROS, for fuck's sake!

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

Because even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Or more directly...

Just because he`s Davros does not mean the Doctor is free from blood on his hands.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

That kind of sets up a false dichotomy. It's not "Haughty and Arrogant" Doctor or "No Doctor At All".

But that's exactly the dichotomy that Victoria sets up.

That said (playing devil's advocate here), it's fairly easy to imagine Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee playing the "Get her to say the line!" game, and the episode playing out more or less the same.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

I cannot see Pertwee`s Doctor doing that with the Queen. No way and no how. He may have been arrogant, but not in that way. The Fourth Doctor would yes. But I have never understood the incredible kudos he gets.

And the thing is we see the Tenth Doctor be far less of a nob later on. Just as we have seen other Doctor`s be far less Arrogant and Unpalatable. Without the Doctor larking about and treating people as disposable we can have a Doctor that authentically regrets each death and actually treats the situation with some consideration.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

People believing different things doesn't make truth subjective. Why should people wanting different things make value subjective?

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

So who's objective valuation of immaterial social progress is used then?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

That's the classic relativist's question, but only relativists seem to know what it's supposed to mean. One could just as well ask: "if truth is objective, whose subjective perspective is used?" I mean: used for what? Subjective perspectives aren't the standard for anything; they're where we start from in moral reasoning, but not where we're supposed to end up.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 2 months ago

I was fifteen in our CGI age, and I was pretty disturbed by the scenes of dolls being made in Spearhead from Space, the Silurian POV shots (with the heavy breathing!) in The Silurians, and the T-Rex coming after Sarah in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (I'm not kidding). The Seeds of Doom and The Brain of Morbius were pretty disturbing too, if in a more "stark violence" way, as was some early Hartnell stuff like the climactic fight in An Unearthly Child. The Weeping Angels made me jump too two years prior. ("Midnight" I've only seen once, but I was kind of underwhelmed because I was expecting it to be more taut and suspenseful and the atmosphere kept getting interrupted by the constant talking.)

Part of this is probably because I usually watch Classic Who at night in a dark room.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

If we use the example used before...who decides if a life lived laying on the couch has value? The person living it? Is the only judgement of a life well lived that the person living it feels that way? Because that's relativism in a nutshell. I don't feel comfortable enough in my experience and knowledge to pass wide sweeping judgements on things. Well...not on people.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

who decides if a life lived laying on the couch has value?

Well, as before, I don't know what the question "who decides?" means. It's something relativists always ask, and it leaves us non-relativists scratching our heads. It always sounds to me as though it's trying to mush together two different questions: "who are the authorities whose decision makes it so?" and "who is in a position to discover what is so?" If it's the first question, the answer is: nobody. If it's the second question, the answer is: all of us, using moral reasoning.

Is the only judgement of a life well lived that the person living it feels that way?

If you're asking whether a person's thinking their life was well-lived makes it so -- well no, why would it? Hitler may have thought his life was well-lived.

The way we feel about our lives isn't a brute given. It's a starting point for reflection. We've known since Socrates that what we initially (think we) value and what values those initial values turn out to commit ourselves to upon adequate reflection are usually very different -- just as the way the natural world initially seems via sensory observation etc. mutatis mutandis.

On well-being specifically, see Annas: http://www.amacad.org/publications/spring2004/annas.pdf

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Bennett 4 years, 2 months ago

To my knowledge there are two (possibly three) examples of eight-episode blocks as well: Chris Boucher with Face and Robots, and David Fisher with Stones and Androids (and arguably Derrick Sherwin with the 8-part Invasion, depending on how you feel about the 'from a story by' credit).

I took it as read that "longest" was meant as in running time (in which case the record holder should surely be Johnny Byrne - as Arc of Infinity feels like it goes for ten hours).

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Bennett 4 years, 2 months ago

That's what made this point interesting to me in the first place. Davies must consider Davros's rebuke accurate enough to break through the he's-Davros-for-f***'s-sake barrier.

So if we take it that this story earmarks Sir Robert as someone whose death shouldn't matter to our heroes because of the genre he's in, is Davies' decision to include him in the montage a rejection of that standpoint? (And I don't doubt that every inclusion was a conscious decision - note that Dalek Sec was in the script but not the final cut)

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Ross 4 years, 2 months ago

My recollection is that the expedition is only mentioned as having information from the "Torchwood Archive", with nothing to suggest that they work for them, or indeed that Torchwood still exists in that time period.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 2 months ago

Not being able to get near a computer or smartphone to comment until the evening after a controversial post is maddening.

I am fascinated to see in some fleshy detail SK's grounds for rejecting the entire new series (I knew this was coming from the comment threads on The Curse of Fenric when he referred to the classic series as "real Dr Who," which was opposed to 2005-present). And I'm still trying to wrap my head around Phil's madly meta-fictional take on Tooth and Claw. So let me add my own thoughts and reactions to the episode, and memories of its initial airing. It might offer a panacea, or maybe just complicate things even more.

When I first saw this in 2006, I could tell the season would explore the possible consequences of the arrogance of the Tenth Doctor, and the idea that he and Rose felt themselves indestructible. Because Queen Victoria is a relatively sympathetic character in the story — responsible for horrifying acts of empire, but in the context of Tooth and Claw, a historical fiction character with whom the audience is meant to sympathize. She spars with the Doctor, exposes his charade, and demonstrates an admirable ruthlessness when she kills Father Angelo. But she calls "Doctor McCrimmon" on his sometimes-disappearing Scottish accent (tricky bits of meta-fiction there), much earlier than her banishment scene. Victoria is sympathetic, she's on the Doctor's side against the alien werewolf, but she's complex, and mistrusts the Doctor because she's already figured out that he's screwing with his head with the Scottish accent and Rose's joke about the Queen Victoria stereotype which won't develop in popular culture until long after she's dead.

So while her conclusions about the Doctor and Rose don't carry enough moral weight to damn the characters, they certainly count for something thematically against them. Anyone following a reasonable amount of journalism around Doctor Who knew that the setup of Torchwood is the implicit arc-plot of this season, so we know that this explicitly originates our mysterious shadow organization, and we know it has an inherited vendetta against the Tenth Doctor.

I'd certainly like to see where Phil is eventually going with his meta-fictional take on the Doctor and Rose (begun in the reading of the episode Rose as a meta-fictional melange of genre), but the moral critique of the Tenth Doctor is there from the very beginning of the character. He is inconsistent in which of the regular people he cares about — Jackie and Elton, yes; Sir Robert here and Dr Llewellyn in The Xmas Invasion, no. But the consistency perhaps comes from the type of story he's in: Sir Robert dies as part of a redemption arc for his character, so it's appropriate for the narrative. But if the narrative structure of your adventure doesn't call on you to die, the Doctor will save you, or grieve genuinely if he can't.

So Queen Victoria calls him out for his arrogance because he does act like quite a douche at many points in this episode (Yes, Rose's "We are not amused" gag was annoying, but I saw it as a sign that she had adopted the Tenth Doctor's arrogant attitude). But Phil's right in that she doesn't understand how the Tenth Doctor's concern for life is based in the type of narrative he's in. He's okay with those who nobly sacrifice themselves, where Victoria sees no difference between a noble sacrifice and any other senseless death. That, I think, is the root of her character's horror at the Doctor. The Tenth Doctor's arrogant attitude (which does become rather OTT in this episode) just exacerbates that horror to the point where she tries to punish him.

At this point, it isn't that the Doctor's arrogance is a cause of his downfall as much as it just gets him into more trouble than the situation really calls for. The worst of this occurs in Midnight, but we'll get there.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 2 months ago

Stupid typo: I meant to say that she calls out the Doctor for messing with *her* head with his Scottish accent.

Also, a broader point about Tennant's acting. I found many of his performances grating in his first season: he'd swing with too much energy from a purely grinning madcap performance to an intensely raging anger to an overpowering sadness. This is why The Impossible Planet two-parter was my favourite story of season two. The last story filmed for the season, that two-parter was the story where Tennant, in my view, finally modulated his performance. It was only at this point when he managed to play the Tenth Doctor quietly.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

People believing different things doesn't make truth subjective. Why should people wanting different things make value subjective?

Because of the difference between capital T True and lower case t true.

The definition of "The Good Life" is hardly on the same level as "Every point mass attracts every single other point mass by a force pointing along the line intersecting both points. The force is proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them."

Whether I enjoy strawberry jelly or not has nothing to do with ethical or scientific Truth. It has everything to do with personal truth, and my enjoyment of jelly has no relation to, say, my spouse's enjoyment or hatred of that particular jelly. The immaterial portion (enjoyment) is a mental experience, and has surprisingly little to do with the material fact of the jelly being eaten. It would be unethical of me to suggest that said jelly ought to be placed on every sandwich because it is the way I like it.

And, I think this ought to go without saying but when discussing relativism is always seems to be, such opinions ought not extend as far as, say, whether the Jews should be permitted to live. To suggest that the (practically) universally agreed upon ethical standard (Don't hurt other people) is on the same level as preference in occupation or hobby is ludicrous. Making the next step, and understanding that others are just as valid as yourself and deserving of compassion and fair treatment, every bit important as the self-understanding itself. This is not the same as approval of another person's beliefs (ref. my spouse: "How can you eat that stuff? It's disgusting!"), merely an acknowledgement that said preferences exist and are usually as valid as your own.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 2 months ago

But he put it in Davros's mouth, which makes the whole thing come off a bit pot-kettle-ish. Surely there was some OTHER character, better suited for such a speech, who could've sold those points better than space-Hitler?

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 2 months ago

So... remember those recovered episodes that Ian Levine was denying the veracity of? The man has changed his tune: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/06/18/the-doctor-who-missing-episodes-rumour-gains-a-little-more-weight-three-tons-worth/

If best comes to best, well, then... IT'S REAL!!! :-D

*does happy "Human Factor" Dalek from "Evil of the Daleks" dance*

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

Because of the difference between capital T True and lower case t true.

I have no idea what that means. It just gives me queasy flashbacks to Harrison Ford's incoherent fact/truth lecture in Last Crusade. To say that "grass is green" is true is just to say that grass is green. That's the only concept of truth I recognise. Whether it's capitalised, lower-case, boldface, italics, or in wacky font makes no difference that I can detect.

The definition of "The Good Life" is hardly on the same level as "Every point mass attracts every single other point mass by a force pointing along the line intersecting both points. The force is proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them."

I don't know what you mean by "the same level," so I'm not in a position to agree or disagree with what you say here. What are these "levels"?

Whether I enjoy strawberry jelly or not has nothing to do with ethical or scientific Truth. It has everything to do with personal truth

I do not know what you mean by "personal truth." I also have no idea what preferences about strawberry jelly have to do with the topic at hand. If all you mean is that there will be variations in content of the good life from person to person, well, who ever denied that? There's also variation in the gravitational constant from planet to planet. That's not relativism or subjectivism, and it doesn't mean that there are a plurality of "planetary truths."

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elvwood 4 years, 2 months ago

Blimey. That's the first thing I've read that makes me think there must be something in it. Even if none of that shipment are Who episodes, we stand a darn good chance of getting some other missing 60s TV back.

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elvwood 4 years, 2 months ago

I have followed the discussion on this post avidly, though much of it has been at a level where I would really need to sit down and think hard for quite a while to be able to contribute (by which time the discussion would have moved on). Fascinating stuff; I'm so glad blog posts like this exist, and that we have such thoughtful commentators!

(For the record, this is one where Dr. Sandifer hasn't convinced me. That's fine - it's still made me think harder about the episode.)

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Chadwick 4 years, 2 months ago

I think the problem of Queen Victoria as a character in this story goes a little beyond that she's unaware of the fiction, it's that she comes with boundaries as a character the others don't have. She's a real historical personage and like Dickens and Van Gogh you can only go so far into weaving her life into the fabric of Dr Who. She also comes laden down with Davies' own political views on monarchy. This doesn't give the character much leeway in the story and I think the story would have been better handled by Mark Gatiss, who has a better grasp of history and how to play with real personages in Dr Who. But I'll grant that the idea that Queen Victoria is exposed to alien terror in Dr Who which causes her to initiate Torchwood is a strong idea, but the werewolf angle is superfluous in the way the end caption of "The Madness of King George" is ;where the nature of the illness is mentioned and the tag line "...it is hereditary" is there to make the audience think "OMG, THEY COULD STILL BE SUFFERING FROM IT!" Where tabloid speculation meets pseudo-intellectual republicanism.

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

@Froborr

Treating people as not-people is a serious thing with me. I regard it as the definition of evil. The argument that the characters are fictional doesn't work, because so are the Doctor and Rose, so they're still all people to each other.

I think my position is between yours and Philip's. I'm perfectly OK with playing death for laughs and using large-scale death as a plot point and nothing more - there's plenty of examples in the horror genre and the action genre of both. The problem here is how utterly out of place this attitude is within the confines of Doctor Who. As I started saying up-thread, I just can't see any way the "it's all fiction" argument can possibly hold unless a) the Doctor literally only worked this out between this episode and the previous one, or b) vast amounts of his previous actions have been an obvious waste of time.

Regarding Rose, I had a similar problem to you at this point. In fairness, my real problem with her wasn't her behaviour - she seemed a fairly well-constructed example of an utterly self-absorbed young person - so much as the degree to which the Tenth Doctor and the show seemed to fawn over her regardless. Much of what I didn't like about the Tenth Doctor(and there was a lot) was amerliorated when some of the very qualities I disliked about him turned out to be what brought him down. Rose on the other hand was just obnoxiously self-centered throughout, and nobody really called her on it.

For a show that, to me, is about the importance of understanding the worth of others, that's a real problem, and whilst I could just about get behind an argument that says Victoria's criticisms here aren't fair because the Doctor is acting atypically in this episode, the idea that she's wrong because no-one involved is real anyway just strikes as utterly counter to what this show has historically represented.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

I was kind of hoping for an answer from someone who agrees with, or at least would naturally use, the term. It's kind of stupid to accept the definition of a term from someone who disagrees with it: you'll never really understand a philosophy if you only listen to its enemies, you have to understand what those who believe in it say about it.

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elvwood 4 years, 2 months ago

SK, I think Spoilers Below's first answer is pretty darn good. All the rest is debate about subjectivity, which spun off from Froborr's comment about immaterial social progress being entirely subjective.

(FWIW, I believe in material social progress, though I would not naturally use the term. Immaterial...well, I think there we run into the danger of getting tied up in discussions of semantics and such. As evidenced here.)

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

Ah, that explains it! The way I'd heard it phrased, I'd assumed it meant a specific order, not just "one of each."

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

Except that sophisticated deontologies are usually some kind of virtue ethics, and sophisticated virtue ethics are usually some kind of deontology.

It's impossible to rank deontological systems by sophistication. I mean, I guess you could use "number of rules," but it still amounts to "here's some rules, follow them."

I would say, rather, that the phenomenon you're observing is a combination of most people following a hybrid meta-ethics, and that you can arrive at the some of the same conclusions through multiple ethical systems.

Neither of which is surprising, of course. The only way to select an ethical system (or meta-ethical approach, for that matter) is to compare its outcomes with views you already hold. So one of the major functions of ethical reasoning is always to justify positions already chosen and actions already taken.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

I would say it's the same as his use of Victoria here: that it's such an obvious flaw *even Davros* notices it.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

@BerserkRL: A better question than "who decides" would be "What external standard do we use?" For the question of whose perspective on truth we use, the answer is to appeal to an external standard, e.g. the material universe itself. We can tell it works as one, because people sometimes encounter consequences that contradict their beliefs--for example, disbelieving a rock does not stop you from stubbing your toe on it.

For questions of whose values to use, however, we would have to find an external standard to compare values to, and no one has yet succeeded in demonstrating such a standard.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Is that 'enough food to eat, to live somewhere comfortable, to not get sick, to be able to do what we enjoy'?

So would 'universally rising living standards' be a reasonable definition of 'material social progress'?

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

I have a pretty clear view of the difference between fantasy and reality, thank you very much. That doesn't prevent me from becoming emotionally invested in fantasy, which is all that is necessary to be frightened. It's just that I don't find the threat of physical violence all that concerning, even in real life, while the threat of something going mentally or conceptually wrong, or of reality coming apart, or space and time distorting? Those are terrifying. But Doctor Who just isn't particularly good at those sorts of scares.

And sometimes not even that. The brilliant thing about Marble Hornets (at least the first season, which is all I saw) is that marathoning it trains you to strain your eyes to try to spot Slender Man constantly, and for me at least it took hours to convince my eyes to stop. That led to a lot of jump-scares immediately after watching, because it turns out life is full of things that look vaguely like a very tall, faceless man out of the corner of your eye.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

And the only real way that's been found to disprove an ethical position is to follow it through to its logical conclusion and see if that produces an inevitable, unacceptable result (which is how we know to reject utilitarianism, for example).

So it is not surprising that all mainstream ethical theories agree on almost all cases that people are likely to encounter in everyday life, and differ on in the edge cases; because an ethical theory which didn't do that would never become mainstream.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

No, I also recall them working for the Torchwood Archive--however, the way they talked about it suggested to me that the Archive was their boss, not an organization they belonged to. That they were contractors, in other words.

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Froborr 4 years, 2 months ago

I assumed that New Series episode = Classic Series story.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 2 months ago

There's also variation in the gravitational constant from planet to planet.

There isn't (that's what "constant" means). Of course the gravitational field strength varies from place to place (and from planetary surface to planetary surface), which is probably what you meant.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

no one has yet succeeded in demonstrating such a standard

Nearly everyone, though, does seem to assume one, even if that standard is 'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good'.

Well, unless their view of morality is entirely descriptive. But then even people who claim that their view of morality is entirely descriptive often turn out to actually have things that they think are wrong: that's why you don't find many emotivists around these days. They went the same way as the logical positivists, and for many of the same reasons.

(In fact there are probably more logical positivists around these days -- I can think of a website where they hang out, poor souls, sorry, not souls, but you know what I mean -- than there are emotivists.)

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

"I just don't believe people when they talk about being scared by Doctor Who, or any other TV show for that matter, even as children. Disturbed maybe, upset possibly but scared? I mean really? Did anyone actually watch from behind a sofa?"

Well I have direct evidence of this now, because I have two kids who are now 15 and 10, but were 7 and 2 when it first came back, and I've seen both of them scared by Doctor Who. They didn't hide behind the sofa (that's just an annoying cliche that has been trotted out for 30-40 years!), but they hid their faces while sitting on the sofa. They weren't terrified because they kept on watching, but they were scared. Well except for "Waters of Mars" which daughter (5 at the time) couldn't watch and had to go to bed.

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David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

On the subject of Davies' sympathies in the paranoia/ hedonism side, I think his two strongest stories - Midnight and Torchwood: Children of Men - are firmly on the paranoia side. (This despite my general aesthetic preferences being largely the other way.) Davies strikes me as a paranoid who wants to be a hedonist.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Or a hedonist who's terrified the paranoid might be right?

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 2 months ago

I think Tennant is a notably better actor when he's using his natural accent, and it's a pity he wasn't able to do that throughout his run as Doctor Who.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 2 months ago

Kroll scared the shit out of me when I was five. I remember watching his big reveal from behind my Gran's chair.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Actually I'm not sure about 'Midnight'. The Torchwood one, yes, in that the Other is definitely threatening and needs to be repelled, but isn't 'Midnight' a bit more ambiguous about the nature of the invading Other?

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K Log 4 years, 2 months ago

It absolutely makes sense to me that Davros is the one to do this. One of the worst things about your enemies is the sneaking suspicion that deep down they see the worst part of you and they might be right. They win by beating you on your own terms, kicking the supports out from under you (regardless of how they measure up to those standards).

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

Well just to make you all jealous, there are several moments of sheer back-chilling fear that I recall from my very early childhood. Yeti lumbering through the Underground (we lived in London); the way the Ice Warriors hissed when they spoke; the Cybermen coming out of their tombs; even the Daleks in "Evil...".

And the very scariest? I think it was a dead heat between Jamie being trapped by the fungus blocking off the tunnels in "Web of Fear" and the foamy seaweed in "Fury From the Deep".

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

Sadly I think this about puts the 45-ton concrete lid on it:

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-06-20/collector-denies-he-has-90-missing-doctor-who-episodes

Morris was the last best hope for this being true. Looks like we've all been fooled again...

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Tennant always sounds Scottish to me. Whatever he does to his vowels, he always has the same, Scottish, rhythm and cadence to his voice.

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David Anderson 4 years, 2 months ago

Paranoia feeds on ambiguity or lack of resolution. However, the paranoia in Children of Men is chiefly directed at the politicians and establishment.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

But in this case 'paranoia' is being used in a technical sense with regards to a particular aesthetic stance. It's not the lay-meaning of 'they're out to get you' or even 'they'll hand your children over to save their own'.

The 'paranoia reading' referred to here is the 1990s, The X Files etc stance where the world is presented as a threatening place, the chaos outside the domes, always ready to break in and destroy. This is in contrast to the 'hedonistic' reading where the world is presented as an exciting and affirming place, there to be embraced and enjoyed.

This isn't quite the same as 'paranoia' used in the sense of, say, Enemy of the State, where there are threatening conspiracies in the world. The 'paranoid reading' here is that the world itself (as represented by the Other) is something to be resisted.

In that sense what the government does in Torchwood's 'Children of Earth' storyline is irrelevant: the key is that the aliens are utterly threatening and without any redeeming qualities (and interestingly motivated by hedonism (the philosophy not the aesthetic stance) -- I'm not sure what to make of that).

The issue is how 'out there' is presented. Mostly, in Davies's Doctor Who, 'out there' is presented as somewhere exciting, fun to explore, dangerous, yes, but ultimately exhilarating (as long as you do it properly, ie, stick with the Doctor -- otherwise you get exterminated).

Dr Sandifer's contention (I make no commitment here as to whether I agree with him or not) is that in 'Tooth and Claw' we have an instance of 'out there', in the form of an adventure romp story, breaking into Queen Victoria's world. Victoria takes the paranoid stance, that 'out there' is bad and must be repelled. The Doctor, by contrast, by throwing himself into the story, demonstrates the hedonistic stance: that 'out there' is fun and, yes, you may die, but it's better to die being part of a fun story than live in rejection of the story. and the text comes down on the Doctor's side.

(The viewer may or may not agree with the text, but it does come down, though not without reservations, on the Doctor's side).

'Children of Earth', on the other hand, indeed does take the paranoid stance of 'out there' having to be repelled. You could imagine Nigel Kneale, a paranoid-stancer if ever there was one (that's why Lawrence Miles hates him) doing 'Children of Earth': you couldn't imagine Kneale doing most of Davies's Doctor Who.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

No, no, no. The issue isn't with the world. The paranoid and hedonistic readings presuppose the same world.

The issue is one's relationship with the world. The paranoid reading is based on the attempt to preserve one's self-identity at all costs. The heart of paranoia is the belief that it would be preferable to have a hostile world so long as that hostility acknowledged us and focused on us than to have an indifferent world.

The hedonistic reading, meanwhile, fetishizes the destruction of the self in favor of drowning in the flood of Others. Self-identity becomes irrelevant. The idea of the Other invading us and changing us is desirable because there's always another Other, and thus we can reinvent ourselves endlessly and freely.

It's not about Out There. It's about what effect Out There has on In Here.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

I have no idea what that means.

It is true that "Barak Obama is president of the United States." It used to be true that "George Bush is president of the United States," but that is no longer true. He was president, but is so no longer. In a couple years, Barak Obama will no longer be president of the United States and that title will pass to someone else, and the first statement will no longer be true.

The phrase "Barak Obama is president of the United States" is true, for now. The phrase "Barak Obama is president of the United States between 20 January 2009 CE and 19 January 2017 CE" (or whenever the next inauguration is) is more true and will stay true unless something happens to him in the future that changes that duration and necessitates amendment.

It is True an object remains at rest or at a constant velocity (uniform motion), with respect to an inertial reference frame, unless acted upon by a force. This is a higher order of truth because it is incredibly unlikely that it will ever change, and describes something far more fundamental to the nature of the universe than, say, somewhat accurate statements about current politics.

The nature of infinity makes a fairly good analogy here. There are an infinite number of decimal fractions between 1 and 2. There is a larger infinity of decimal fractions between 1 and 10, though it seems on the face silly to describe one thing as "more infinite" than another. But that's how math works, regardless of our personal feelings on the matter.

There's also variation in the gravitational constant from planet to planet. That's not relativism or subjectivism, and it doesn't mean that there are a plurality of "planetary truths."

I would absolutely say that there is a plurality of planetary truths. They each have different gravitational pulls, for example. The conditions on one planet may differ from another. What counts as "Heavy" on one planet can differ from one to another. A marble weighs very little on Earth; it is about 2.5x heavier on Jupiter (not that one could be "on" as gas giant, but I digress...). Weight is by definition relative to the surrounding conditions of the planet; the numbers we plug into the laws are different. We are subject to those conditions, if you will. ;p

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 2 months ago

The word used in the episode is "Representing" which just has so many nice shades of meaning. My guess would be it's an expedition put together by Torchwood with at least one of the crew being an actual member.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

I thought that's what I wrote, but I must have been unclear.

Yes, it's about the 'effect Out There has on In Here', but in terms of a work of fiction, that effect is generated by the presentation of 'out there'.

If a work of fiction presents 'out there' as threatening and dangerous, then the effect it has is to reinforce the paranoid reading that the self must be protected from it.

On the other hand if it presents 'out there' as exciting and exhilarating, then the effect is to reinforce the hedonistic reading that it's okay to plunge headlong into it and lose one's self.

'Children of Earth' falls on the 'paranoid reading' side because there's really no way to suggest that the 'out there' presented is anything which it would in any way be good to have invade and drown you. I mean, the aliens drain children to get high: there's no many ways to read that as the kind of Other that you want to drown in, as opposed to the kind of Other that you want to preserve your self-identity in the face of.

'Midnight', on the other hand, I'm not so sure does fall o the 'paranoid' side. the Other in 'Midnight' is mysterious, sure, but not inherently something to be protected against.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

Right - my point is that talking about whether the Other is paranoid or hedonistic misses it. Midnight is about a hedonistic Doctor on a bus full of paranoid people. Children of Earth is a tragedy about how the hedonistic Jack has become paranoid and it destroys everything he loves.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

It is true that "Barak Obama is president of the United States."

But all you've done there is ignored that the use of the present tense means that the statement implicitly refers to a particular time, the time when it was made.

If I said in 2004, 'George Bush is the President of the United States' then when that statement ceased to be true in 2009, I didn't retroactively become a liar in 2004. It is assumed that my actual statement was implicitly, 'George Bush is the President of the United States [at the moment I make this statement' and the truth-value of that full, in-context statement can never change and so it is, by your definition, True. Right?

The phrase "Barak Obama is president of the United States between 20 January 2009 CE and 19 January 2017 CE" (or whenever the next inauguration is) is more true and will stay true unless something happens to him in the future that changes that duration and necessitates amendment

No: that statement is not 'more true' and it cannot 'stay true' or 'cease being true', it's just that its truth-value is, as yet, unknown.

You're trying to confuse epistemology and ontology. But it doesn't work because the two are completely different.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Hang on, I never wrote about the Other being paranoid or hedonistic, did I? I wrote about how the presentation of the Other (is one of the things which) determines whether the work comes down on the 'paranoid' or 'hedonistic' side of the debate.

If the Other is presented as threatening, evil, and generally something to be fought against (as in 'Children of Earth') then that suggests the work is supporting the paranoid view and encouraging those who take that view.

I'm not sure how you see 'Children of Earth' as being about Jack having become paranoid, but then I don't think Jack has ever been capable of really loving (as opposed to simply enjoying) anything, and I assume you'll explain when you get there.

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

The question remains though, and is a serious one. if one watches a scary film (or Meta-textual psychochronological TV show) and are scared by it, what exactly are you scared of? That the Daleks or Yeti will burst through the screen? That somehow the scene on screen will become real? I'm genuinely interested in this as I don't recall ever being honestly 'scared' by Doctor Who while in the process of watching it. (and I don't want to pull rank Spacewarp, but I vividly remember watching 'An Unearthly Child' on the night of first broadcast and there was a police box right outside the building where my aunt lived in London which used to fascinate me whenever we visited). So, I'm suggesting that a TV show or film can inspire scary thoughts about what may or may not be outside the window or under the bed but cannot in itself scare. As I said - upsetting, yes I've been upset by movies and TV. Sad, yes I've had a show make me cry. Disturbed, definitely and Doctor Who more than most but 'scared'? No because it isn't real. It's a moving picture which cannot interact in a hostile way with me any more than can a book or a painting. Put simply - If someone suddenly says "BOO" I am scared because I may perceive that as a hostile threat, if I hear someone say "BOO" on a film I am not scared because that person is not physically in the room with me except as a picture and sounds on a screen. I don't know, maybe it's just me. Maybe this is why I can't understand the horror genre.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

if I hear someone say "BOO" on a film I am not scared because that person is not physically in the room with me except as a picture and sounds on a screen

Hm. Did you not, at that moment when Austen Powers jumps into his E-type from the back and ends up with one leg on either side of the gearstick, flinch? I know I did, and from the many sharp intakes of breath in the cinema I don't think I was alone... and that despite Myers being not physically in the room.

Being scared by something on a screen is rare for me, but that's not to say it hasn't happened. The end of '[Rec]' is the most recent example I can recall. It's not so much that I think the monster will burst out of the screen, as that I have imaginatively put myself within the screen, I think, bypassing momentarily the 'I know where I am' bit of my brain.

Part of the reason it happens so rarely is that it doesn't work if I'm expecting it. So many horror films use the same, standard visual grammar when the monster is about to appear, so that the framing of the shots, the cutting, etc, announces about thirty seconds before the scary thing is about to appear that, hey, there's a scary bit coming up. Which totally deadens the effect, for me: I am waiting for the thing to show up, so when it does I am ready for it and cannot be scared. 'Mama', recently, was very like that.

I've been more scared by books, but that's obviously the 'inspire scary thoughts' thing you mean. I remember reading House of Leaves in an empty, well, house, and becoming hyper-aware of every noise around about...

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Anton B 4 years, 2 months ago

'Part of the reason it happens so rarely is that it doesn't work if I'm expecting it. So many horror films use the same, standard visual grammar when the monster is about to appear, so that the framing of the shots, the cutting, etc, announces about thirty seconds before the scary thing is about to appear that, hey, there's a scary bit coming up.'

Yeah SK I think you've got what I mean. 'Doctor Who' in particular has never strayed very far from that 'standard visual grammar' and consequently I think that when people say they were scared by 'Doctor Who' as children I think what they mean is that it inspired fear in them not that they were actually scared of the images on the TV screen. This may be a pedantic argument of semantics or something but it does annoy me and I feel somewhat cheapens the credibility of the show which has never tried to be 'Scooby Doo'. BTW I dislike Austin Powers so have never experienced the scene you describe but I can imagine what you mean. That isn't fear though but something like an involuntary sympathetic reaction.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

On the contrary, I would submit that thanks to the unreliability of the senses, the limits of language, and human nature as far as humans are concerned they are precisely the same thing. Without getting too deeply into Gettier, I would assert that by definition all ontological statements are epistemological. We can get working definitions and scientific observations, certainly, but every scientific theory carries with it the caveat that it is a true theory unless these certain defined things invalidate it.

It was never True, for example, that the planets and stars moved in epicycles, though there seemed to be an awful lot of evidence for it at the time. But it was the truth for astronomers for a great deal of human history and could be used to predict planetary movement with a pretty fair degree of accuracy, even though it was completely wrong. Ptolemy's writings were "true" at the time and represented the very height of astronomical study, though they aren't True. The Handy Tables have been superseded by a much more accurate guide to planetary and solar movement. The presumption that we've right now actually reached the apex of scientific understanding and ontological modeling is a bit haughty, isn't it, especially considering the entirety of human history?

But all you've done there is ignored that the use of the present tense means that the statement implicitly refers to a particular time, the time when it was made.

But you can see how the statement "George Bush is president of the US [at the time I am making this statement]" is as assertion whose truth value passes from false to true to false contingent on the time at which the statement is made.

Almost every statement carries with it such a temporal expiration date. Even a scientific fact such as "the earth travels around the sun at a rate of 107,300 km/h" will be true for a very long time, but not always. The number of things we can made definite statements about (i.e. "The man who raised me I consider to be my father, regardless of biology") is a much smaller set.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 2 months ago

Huh. I posted an entire comment yesterday comparing "material social progress" to individual spiritual progress, but it never posted.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Ptolemy's writings were "true" at the time and represented the very height of astronomical study

I assume that the fact you had to use quotation marks means you realise that this is simply rubbish using any reasonable definition of the word 'true'?

They may have been the very height of astronomical study, but they were not true. They were thought to be true but they were in fact false, weren't they?

Otherwise you're in the odd position of saying that anything which is sincerely believed to the best of someone's knowledge is true. Which means, for example, that if a husband sincerely believes, on the basis of the best evidence, that his wife is not cheating on him then it is true that she isn't. Even if she in fact is.

But you can see how the statement "George Bush is president of the US [at the time I am making this statement]" is as assertion whose truth value passes from false to true to false contingent on the time at which the statement is made

No, it doesn't, once you replace the bit in the brackets with an actual time. The truth-value of 'George Bush is president of the US at 7:36 BST on the 20th of June 2013' does not change, ever. And that is the statement I am in fact making when I say 'George Bush is president of the US'.

And if I say 'the earth travels around the sun at a rate of 107,300 km/h' then I am really saying 'the earth is travelling around the sun at a rate of 107,300 km/h at 7:37 BST on the 20th of June 2013' and that will be true for ever (if it is true, I haven't checked the figure, but ifit is false it wil be false for ever).

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

However, if you hadn't had time to learn the visual grammar, as you might not if you were a child, then you might not recognise the shifts in framing etc that indicate that a monster is about to appear, and as a result the appearance of the monster might actually be surprising and, in fact, scare you.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

Otherwise you're in the odd position of saying that anything which is sincerely believed to the best of someone's knowledge is true. Which means, for example, that if a husband sincerely believes, on the basis of the best evidence, that his wife is not cheating on him then it is true that she isn't. Even if she in fact is.

This is exactly the problem that Gettier addresses in his seminal paper "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?"

http://www.ditext.com/gettier/gettier.html

Note also that no one ever adds in the time to the brackets. They simply say "George Bush is president," hence why the "[at the time...]" is in brackets, perhaps implied but not guaranteed (we both know that old cliche about assumptions, eh?). The undated statement has an expiration date, and then henceforth needs to be changed to "George Bush was the president" once that date has passed. Ambiguous language usage is one of those pernicious and constant problems. It seems like we agree for the most part on this point, but are simply differing on one point: you believe that all statements of that nature imply a date stamp, I'm not so certain they do. We seem to agree that the use of a date stamp to determine whether it is true or false is important. Would you agree that almost every statement of fact has an expiration date? Should every statement be evaluated in terms of "true or false until new data or changes to the environment occur?" I would certainly agree with both. But epistemologically, where does that leave us? New research changes what we "know" about the past all the time, and transforms what is possible in the future.

Take the statement "I was speaking with the President the other day." The number of assumptions that need to be unpacked contextually are huge, such that the statement cannot be evaluated in isolation. Was it the US president? The president of Toyota? The president of the local motorcycle club? And who was holding the title "the other day"? Am I someone who is likely to be actually be speaking with any of these presidents, or am I the sort who talks to the television set? Based on these parameters any many others, the statement can have either truth value, and until said contexts are established, making assumptions is dangerous.

And, to follow up on the above example, say that Bush had been secretly assassinated and replaced by a clever look alike back in 2003, and that this secret is known only to Dick Cheney, the CIA, and the impersonator himself, none of whom are going to expose their plot. They all go to their graves keeping the secret, and the information is lost forever. Possible? Certainly. Likely? Not at all. But possible. Rather quickly we head down the rabbit hole of not knowing for sure. You never get to reach the completely objective, outsider ontological view of the world. We only know what we observe and learn, and these things change all the time.

Once you start thinking about it even a little, the list of things that you can know for certain are capital T, unchanging-and-forever-certain True is miniscule, if there are truly any at all (they tend to be personal truths, like "I love my spouse unconditionally" and "I have decided after years of research and soul-searching that I enjoy strawberry jelly above all other jellies"). The number of things that are lower case, good-enough-for-a-working-definition-and-to-get-on-with-my-life true, the things we have to just go with in order for existence to continue and without achieving epistemic nihilism and its subsequent depression and/or catatonia, is huge, and by its very nature changes based on the evidence and perceptions we receive.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

It does seem to boil down to exactly what we mean by "scared of".

When my son was very young he was scared by the "gas-mask zombies" to the point where he said when he was in bed he was worried they were going to come into his room and get him. He obviously said this to get my reassurance, but it seemed like a genuine worry on his part that the zombies were somehow capable of coming into his world. This may not affect all people (like you, Anton B) but it is a common thing when first watching Doctor Who at an early age.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 2 months ago

It is True an object remains at rest or at a constant velocity (uniform motion), with respect to an inertial reference frame, unless acted upon by a force. This is a higher order of truth because it is incredibly unlikely that it will ever change, and describes something far more fundamental to the nature of the universe than, say, somewhat accurate statements about current politics.

That'a true by definition: Newton's First Law is the definition of an inertial reference frame.

The nature of infinity makes a fairly good analogy here. There are an infinite number of decimal fractions between 1 and 2. There is a larger infinity of decimal fractions between 1 and 10, though it seems on the face silly to describe one thing as "more infinite" than another. But that's how math works, regardless of our personal feelings on the matter.

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with this analogy, but the mathmatics is incorrect. The cardinality of the real interval between 1 and 2 is identical to the cardinality of the real interval between 1 and 10: both are the same size of infinity. This infinity is, however, of higher cardinality ("larger") than the natural numbers, the integers or the rational numbers, which all have cardinality aleph-null.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Once you start thinking about it even a little, the list of things that you can know for certain are capital T, unchanging-and-forever-certain True is miniscule

But that's irrelevant. That's epistemology. The question isn't, 'are there things that can be known for certain are rue?' the question is, 'are there things which are true, whether they can (in principle or in practice) be known to be true or not?'

For instance, there is a true answer to the question, 'how many hydrogen atoms were there in the universe at the precise moment I finished typing this question?' It's not something we can ever know for certain, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a true answer. It's a true and unknowable answer, but its knowability is completely irrelevant to its truth-value.

I would also note that your example for something that is capital-T true is rather strange:

It is True an object remains at rest or at a constant velocity (uniform motion), with respect to an inertial reference frame, unless acted upon by a force. This is a higher order of truth because it is incredibly unlikely that it will ever change, and describes something far more fundamental to the nature of the universe than, say, somewhat accurate statements about current politics.

... because in fact for a long time that was not believed to be true. Aristotelean physics reckoned it was True that things given a shove would not continue to move in a straight line unless acted upon by a force, but would move until the motive power given them by the shove ran out, upon which time they spontaneously, and not under the influence of any external forces, would try to get back to wherever their essential nature wanted to be (in the case of rocks, the Earth, so they would fall down).

So according to you the very example of something you say is capital-T true was not, in fact, true before the seventeenth century. Is that right?

Rather quickly we head down the rabbit hole of not knowing for sure

Again: knowability is irrelevant. That's epistemology. The question of truth is ontology. Something can be entirely reasonably true but unknowable, so to prove that unknowable things exist, or even that there are infinitely many unknowable things, or even that nothing is knowable, are all completely irrelevant to the question of whether there are true facts.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Oh, and you appear to have completely misunderstood the Gettier paper, which is not at all about the nature of truth but only about the nature of knowledge. And indeed Gettier's paper rests on the premise that there exist objective facts, and that, for examples, in case I, 'Smith has ten coins in his pocket' is objectively true (it must be objectively true, because the example doesn't work if it isn't true, and the example states that Smith doesn't know it is true, so we have a fact that is true even though nobody knows it is true. It must, therefore, be an objective truth, mustn't it, that Smith has ten coins in his pocket? Otherwise Gettier's entire paper falls apart.

So the Gettier paper actually undermines your own argument!

Your claim seems to be that any justified belief is, by definition, true. For instance, Ptolemy had a belief that the planets moved in circles around the earth, and this was justified by the best observations he could make and the predictive power of the calculations he based upon them. You say that this means that therefore it was true, for him, that the planets moved around the earth.

But this is obvious nonsense as can be seen by anyone with a brain. Ptolemy may have believed it, and he may have been justified in believing it, but it was not true, either then or now, neither for Ptolemy nor for you nor for me.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

@Anton B

What was the name of your aunt's road? I'm a member of the Tardis Builders forum and we recently got hold of the Met's Police Box database. It may well be that a photograph of that box has already been located!

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

On twitter Levine has cycled through "definitely not real," "definitely real," "oh noes not real" and finally "probably partly real but I can't stand to discuss it further."

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

And I think Levine got it right! I just wish I knew which time.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

Let me try this again after a nap and some head clearing, rather than banging things out quickly during breaks at work:

There is a degree of accuracy to any statement. Were I to answer "A whole lot" to your question about hydrogen atoms, I would be correct. Not completely accurate, of course, but not entirely wrong either; there is a truly mind bogglingly large amount of hydrogen in the universe. The answer is not 100% correct, as it does not list a specific numerical value, but it is more true than incorrect answers, such as "none" or "7". It is of a lesser order of truth.

I am not proposing that the universe changes its existence to suit our strongly held beliefs. That would fall squarely into the realm of magic, and as delightfully sophistic as it would be to misapply Occam's Razor and claim that since "A wizard did it" is the simplest explanation for everything, it must be correct, that won't stand up to much scrutiny. But as far as we can describe the universe, what we believe to be true is by its very nature entire subjective. You are proposing that we ought to automatically fill in the scotoma of "what they really mean is" by adding temporality and other assumptions, and I am objecting to this.

We experience an infinitesimally small portion of "reality" through the filter of our sense perceptions and our interpretations of those sensations, and these are continually fouled through all manner of disturbances; a friend of mine is colorblind, for example: the colors red and green are forever denied to him, replaced with what he describes as a muddy brown. It is quite difficult, neigh impossible in fact, to establish what exactly can be counted as ontologically True, and without getting over this, we get nowhere beyond vague "I bet that exists" and build our towers on these tiny foundations we all agree not to question too much (we presume, for example, that Descartes' evil magician isn't making up the laws of logic as a huge prank on us, we presume that repeated and repeatable observation will continue to stay constant in the future, etc.), because down that route lies epistemological nihilism and gets us nowhere, and because we can get wonderful and thrilling results from those initial bets. Said bets have paid off handsomely. Our theories are working really well. We wouldn't be able to have this discussion if they did not. But, as we have just established, the only proper reply to "The Truth is out there" is "Well, did you find any yet?"

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

I am attempting (poorly, it seems, for which I apologize) to clarify the True vs. true distinction to get at this very point. The laws of motion were perhaps a bad example here; it seems most unlikely that they will ever be replaced, given how well they describe and predict things, and all the present counter-theories are laughable, though it is in the realm of possibility that they will be superseded at some point of scientific refinement for ones that better describe things. But your statement about the laws of motion is exactly so: science is descriptive, not proscriptive, to steal some terms from the linguists. They were describing what they saw and observed to the best of their abilities. I don't hesitate to call the laws that came before them incorrect, though I respect their creators for attempting to think logically.

As noted in the Gettier example, Smith does not know how many coins he possesses. There is no epilogue to the story in which he counts the coins in his pocket and slaps his head and says "Golly, I was right all along!" while walking into his new office. We never get to count the coins; experienced reality is always second or third hand. The Platonic forms may be out there, too, but without approaching knowledge of them they may as well not exist.

Immaterial social progress is permanently affixed to the realm of personal belief and personal truths, things about the self that said self determines and knows. Material social progress can be measured by metrics and surveys. But "Are you getting enough to eat? Do you live in a safe and comfortable place? Does your work satisfy you?" are very different questions from "Are you happy?"

The answer to the question Why should people wanting different things make value subjective? is contained within the question. Value is subjective because people want different things, and thus assign different values to them. Strawberry jam has no value other than that which myself or another gives to it; there is no universal Truth regarding whether one enjoys consuming it. As you said above "'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good'." Ontology never comes into it.

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Alan 4 years, 2 months ago

There is, IMO, no circumstance under which you should question whether the omnicidal lunatic maybe actually have a point. That episode ended with Davros hysterically calling the Doctor a monster for killing the Daleks who were attempting to destroy all non-Dalek life in the multiverse. I thought it was ludicrous for Ten to give even a second's consideration to the possibility that Davros was right. And the fact that he did (by extension suggesting that RTD found that critique valid) was proof to me that it was time for a regeneration.

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Alan 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm sure it is far too late for this point (it's hours away from "School Reunion" now, so no one will ever read this), but I kind of see Victoria as playing a double role. On one hand, she's a character in the drama with her own backstory and motivations. On the other, however, she's also a living symbol of the idea of Victorianism, which, in turn, is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as being a Force for Order. As such, she is by her very nature an antithesis to the Trickster Doctor who is usually depicted as a Force for Chaos.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

it still amounts to "here's some rules, follow them."

This describes no deontological philosophy ever.

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SpaceSquid 4 years, 2 months ago

On further reflection, it occurs to me that my problem with the "t'were but a story" position and my issues with Rose actually coincide here perfectly. The former basically suggests that we're supposed to care about Rose because the story tells us we're supposed to care about Rose, which is exactly the problem with the character across the entire season. "Don't worry about those people, you don't need to know who they are. Just look at how awesome this character is!"

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

The answer is not 100% correct, as it does not list a specific numerical value, but it is more true than incorrect answers, such as "none" or "7". It is of a lesser order of truth

No. It is not more true than the answer '7'. It is in fact more accurate than '7', though much much less precise.

You seem not to have any consistent meaning for the word 'true', and to equivocate on it terribly. At times you mean 'factually correct', at times 'accurate', at times 'believed', at times 'knowable'. And you use these equivocations to 'prove' things that are obvious nonsense by switching meanings like some inexperienced philosopher-conman trying to do a three-card trick with language.

Value is subjective because people want different things, and thus assign different values to them

Tendentious, question-begging and circular. That is only one way to define 'value'. Think of assets like equities, for example, which have extrinsic value (how much value people assign to them, and thus are willing to pay for them) and intrinsic value (how much they are actually worth), and how people make money by spotting when the subjective value of a share is less than what it is really worth (because people have irrationally taken against the company, say) and buying at the cheap price.

Strawberry jam has no value other than that which myself or another gives to it; there is no universal Truth regarding whether one enjoys consuming it.

Rubbish. Strawberry jam has nutritional content and that aspect of its value, or lack of it, is completely independent of whether you enjoy consuming it. You're trying to equivocate on 'value' just as much as you equivocate on 'true'.

As you said above "'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good'." Ontology never comes into it.

Well, except that 'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good' is an ontological statement that is either true or false. So even there you undercut your own argument and expose it for the late-night red-wine-fuelled undergraduate 'oh wow man we can't really know anything so what if, like, nothing's real?' blathering it is.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

Froborr,

For the question of whose perspective on truth we use, the answer is to appeal to an external standard, e.g. the material universe itself. ... For questions of whose values to use, however, we would have to find an external standard to compare values to

External to what? Anyway, ethics is more like mathematics than like physics; that is, it's primarily conceptual. All the same, its method is a lot closer to that of physics than you acknowledge.

Iain,

There isn't (that's what "constant" means). Of course the gravitational field strength varies from place to place (and from planetary surface to planetary surface), which is probably what you meant.

Big G = universal gravitational constant. Little g = local gravitational constant.

Spoilers Below,

I don't see the relevance of your examples to the present discussion. SK's response to you on time-indexing is clearly right. And your use of Gettier doesn't seem to correspond to anything Gettier actually said.

It was never True, for example, that the planets and stars moved in epicycles, though there seemed to be an awful lot of evidence for it at the time. But it was the truth for astronomers for a great deal of human history

No, it was not true for any astronomers. It was believed true (or True -- same thing). Believing something true, or True, or TRUE, does not make it true, or True, or TRUE.

The presumption that we've right now actually reached the apex of scientific understanding and ontological modeling is a bit haughty

Who's making any such presumption? As Descartes said: our minds may not be the measure of what is true or false, but they must certainly be the measure of what we affirm or deny.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

In any case, there's no special problem about empirical testing of value-judgments. Suppose I hold the following two value-judgments: "Phil Sandifer is a good person," and "No good person would bite the heads off kittens." These two value-judgments jointly entail the empirically testable proposition that Phil Sandifer does not bite the heads off kittens. So when we catch him biting the heads off kittens, we've thereby falsified a conjunction of ethical statements.

Of course absent context the empirical test doesn't single out a particular judgment to falsify -- but then empirical tests never do that in science either, as per Duhem-Quine. Hence in science as in ethics, we have to resort to reflective equilibration. But we've known this since Socrates, right?

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BerserkRL 4 years, 2 months ago

it's hours away from "School Reunion" now, so no one will ever read this

I read it!

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Spacewarp 4 years, 2 months ago

And me!

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

That is only one way to define 'value'. Think of assets like equities, for example, which have extrinsic value (how much value people assign to them, and thus are willing to pay for them) and intrinsic value (how much they are actually worth).

Please explain how these two statements don't directly contradict one another. Because there are obviously multiple values being assigned here with different criteria and different priorities, some of which you literally admit are subjective.

Value being defined solely as "Something worth something based on criteria," sure, I'd agree with that. But the moment you ask "why is it worth something?" it becomes pretty clear that the definition is too general and needs more explanation as to what is being evaluated and by what criteria.

The jam, for instance. Do we mean it has a value of calories? And is this different than the value of pleasure it contains when consumed? Because one of those is is rather different from the other. We can burn it down to get a caloric number, which is separate from my knowledge that the flavor is delicious, my spouse's that it causes horrible stomach aches and retching.

Well, except that 'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good' is an ontological statement that is either true or false.

One that is impossible to use without epistemology, dealing as it does with perception and knowledge, rather than the way things actually are. It is entirely possible to live a life which is "objectively" bad from the perceptions of others, but perceived as good by the person living it, and vice versa.

If I wake up suddenly attached to a gigantic machine that renders me immobile and seems to be doing strange, painful things to me, I may be horrified and wonder why I have to suffer through such torture.

If it is explained to be that the machine is keeping me alive and without it I would die, whether this is true or not, I am much more likely to accept that and come to terms with my new, machine bound existence, and perhaps accept it as good.

late-night red-wine-fuelled undergraduate

Name calling? Come on, now. We're better than that. :)

No, it was not true for any astronomers. It was believed true (or True -- same thing). Believing something true, or True, or TRUE, does not make it true, or True, or TRUE.

Then how, pray tell, are we making any ontological statements at all? Is everything simply a belief, perhaps backed up with evidence? Because based on those very reflective equilibrations we learned that epicycles are how the planetary bodies move, until using those same REs, we learned that they most certainly did not, they moved in a circular orbit, that actually was elliptical...

And no doubt is it good that such changes occur. No doubt it is important that we learn more and become more accurate. But for many of these things, it is as if I have never met Dr. Sandifer, will never meet him, and can only conjecture about whether he eats kittens or not based on the telescope I have set up to look at his house, and the "Kitten eater detection alarm" I have set up near by. I have never see him do it, so I can be as certain as is possible he is not a kitten eater, and thus can treat him as such, until I observe him sitting down to a plate of Siamese, something which is terribly unlikely to occur based on past experiences, but not completely absurd. The latter may occur or may not.

Lance Parkin lays out my point a little better than I can here: http://lanceparkin.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/above-us-only-sky/

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Because there are obviously multiple values being assigned here with different criteria and different priorities, some of which you literally admit are subjective

No one has ever denied that there are subjective values. You have denied that there can be (not that there are, not that we can ever know, but that there can ever logically be) objective values.

We can burn it down to get a caloric number, which is separate from my knowledge that the flavor is delicious, my spouse's that it causes horrible stomach aches and retching

And the caloric number is an objective fact. Which is exactly the thing that you have been trying, though without any decent arguments that don't boil down to either question-begging or equivocation, to deny exists.

One that is impossible to use without epistemology, dealing as it does with perception and knowledge, rather than the way things actually are

I don't even know what 'use' means in that statement, but it's irrelevant. Do you not see that 'a good life is one which the person living it perceives as good' is an ontological statement that is either true or false?

Whether the truth of it can be known, whether it can be 'used', these are all irrelevant. It is a statement with an objective truth-value.

If it is explained to be that the machine is keeping me alive and without it I would die, whether this is true or not, I am much more likely to accept that and come to terms with my new, machine bound existence, and perhaps accept it as good

And if you do start to perceive it as good, but you were lied to and in fact it's all a cruel prank, is it still good?

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Though to be honest, everyone really should have stopped reading at the point you claimed that it used to be true that the planets revolved around the Earth.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

Have you considered, SK, the degree to which your discussions might go better if you avoided saying things like

"everybody really should have stopped reading"

"you undercut your own argument and expose it for the late-night red-wine-fuelled undergraduate 'oh wow man we can't really know anything so what if, like, nothing's real?' blathering it is."

"this is obvious nonsense as can be seen by anyone with a brain."

and "I assume that the fact you had to use quotation marks means you realise that this is simply rubbish using any reasonable definition of the word 'true'?"

all of which are kind of blatantly attempts to insult and belittle the people you're arguing with, and which thus cause the discussion to take an adversarial and mean-spirited tone.

Please try to avoid doing this.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

You can't deny, though, that all those quoted statements are entirely accurate?

(Arguments are adversarial. That's how they work.)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

Arguments are not the only genre of discussion, nor even of disagreement.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

They're the funnest one, though.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

I think the fact that this blog defies the maxim "never read the comments" comes down largely to the fact that most of the people here disagree with that statement.

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SK 4 years, 2 months ago

Nah, it's 'cause most of the contributors are (unlike nearly everybody who uses the internet) literate and have some basic grasp of logic, so the arguments are interesting.

It's only when you get the occasional one who fails at those basic tasks that it all goes wrong.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 2 months ago

I think it's actually much more that most of the contributors are interested in community and friendly discussion instead of "winning arguments," and that it's only really been when you get the occasional one who is repeatedly rude and mean to people that things have gone wrong.

And that, I think, is the last thing that needs to be said in this particular discussion.

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Spoilers Below 4 years, 2 months ago

Then I shall agree to disagree and bow out gracefully.

How about that Dave Tennant guy, huh?

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

You know I can't remember. Somewhere in Peckham I think.

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Anton B 4 years, 1 month ago

Here!

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Ununnilium 4 years, 1 month ago

Woo!

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William Silvia 4 years, 1 month ago

7-1 is Present, future, past, although that first one is speculative when you consider that every single character that has any idea where the setting is, is a time traveler and I don't believe any of them explain it to the office. Still, the emotional weight of the episode (the terribly written breakup) is a present day one.

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