It Was Too Late, And Therefore Necessary (The Creed of the Kromon)

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It’s January of 2004. Michael Andrews is at number one with “Mad World.” After two weeks Michelle takes over with “All This Time.” Black Eyed Peas, Victoria Beckham, Atomic Kitten, Kelis, Franz Ferdinand, and Scissor Sisters also chart. In news, Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity land and do not discover Ice Warriors. Tony Blair narrowly avoids defeat on a Higher Education bill. BBC Director General Greg Dyke, successor to John Birt, resigns in the fallout from the Hutton Report. And a whale explodes in Taiwan.

While in audios, The Creed of the Kromon. First off, Charley gets raped. Again. Which is, what, the third time, basically? Minuet in Hell, Neverland, and now this? Never mind her being the “in love” one. Apparently she’s the raped one. Goodie.

Of course, what we have here is a classic case of sci-fi rape, which is to say, rape that would not be possible without a sci-fi conceit of some sort. This causes an interesting problem for people, in that a lot of them are really good at pretending that sci-fi rape is not, and I use this term with the irony dial set to maximum, legitimate rape. For some reason if you rape someone with science fiction concepts it’s just a metaphor for rape, in much the same way that killing them with a phaser is just a metaphor for them being shot. Note that, by this bit of sarcasm, I do not mean that fictional characters who are shot by phasers are shot in real life. What I mean is that phasers are not treated as metaphorical violence within the narrative. Whereas with sci-fi rape there’s a bizarre and horrifying tendency for everyone to act like it wasn’t really rape, it was just a metaphor in a story.

So we have Charley drugged, impregnated, subjected to brainwashing, and put through intense physiological changes whereby she becomes a giant insect. These are the events of extreme fetish pornography. Actually, I suspect it would be less upsetting as extreme fetish pornography, as at least then one imagines everyone would be willing to admit to the fact that this is a story about rape. Instead we get a story that seems to think it’s just a fairly usual romp about people getting captured by aliens and rescued, albeit one with a bit of a social conscience about runaway capitalism. Charley remembers nothing of what would euphemistically be called her “ordeal” and accurately called her “extended rape,” and so everybody decides it’s basically OK and they go off adventuring again. Without telling her what happened.

What bothers me here - OK, well, where to start, but what bothers me most fundamentally here is the fact that this would not be handled this way if it were anything other than sci-fi rape. It’s only rape that gets the magic veil of metaphor whereby as long as it happens with imaginary things it doesn’t count. Which is typical, really. I mean, it’s just the same mildly sociopathic crap that infests the program in almost all of its really stupid moments since the 1980s. It’s the blinkered view of the predominantly male cult television fandom that was, if not responsible, at least standing conspicuously close to the tiller for almost everything that went wrong on the program. Of course they don’t notice sci-fi rape. And that’s clearly what it is. It’s not some conscious conspiracy to work more rape fantasies into Doctor Who. It’s that Doctor Who is being written and produced by people who never go “wait a moment, we seem to be writing a story in which Charley gets raped for the better part of two episodes and yet nobody in the story is terribly bothered by it.” That’s the appalling thing. That nobody even noticed.

But as appalling things go, it’s par for the course in the wilderness years. This is, after all, ultimately their major crime. And it’s an odd balance. On the one hand the point where Doctor Who became fully subcultural was fertile for it. The wilderness years, for all their faults, produced a ton of ideas that were very influential to Doctor Who. But this influence comes in hindsight. At the time they happened there was no clear sense that the destruction of Gallifrey and the idea of a Time War would be huge to Doctor Who’s future but that looms were going to be quietly ignored. Nothing that was present at the time for Lungbarrow and Alien Bodies - books that, remember, came out in the same year and only eight months apart - that indicated which of them would have more influence.

Yes, these ideas came up because the subcultural, arcane nature of Doctor Who was productive at generating ideas. But the same thing has been its undoing far too often as an excessive number of clever boys go running off in their own directions without listening to each other. The wilderness years were productive only because we came out of the wilderness and back into the larger society. One thing that has been striking in writing this period has been the degree to which the Pop Between Realities posts hardly ever impact the material produced in the Wilderness Years itself. So yes, we pop off into Coupling or Buffy or Jonathan Creek, but it’s not like by doing so we discover new things about the Doctor Who of the time. Rather, that’s been a matter of meticulously setting up May 1st so that the Rose entry isn't 30,000 words long and prefaced with a history of television over the past sixteen years.

But in terms of how it’s impacted Doctor Who? It hasn’t. Here we are in early 2004, nearly a year after Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended, and it’s nigh-impossible to think of any stories that have been significantly influenced by it. I mean, you’ve got a Spike cameo in City of the Dead, sure, but have there been any Doctor Who stories that take any clear motivation from Buffy? And can anyone imagine a set of circumstances where, if Doctor Who had been on television in 2000, it wouldn’t have hit on doing a story set in a school with creepy seemingly supernatural things going on? And yet we went the entire wilderness years without ever doing a Buffy riff.

This speaks volumes about the level of isolation that Doctor Who existed in during this period. It simply wasn’t plugged in meaningfully to the outside world at all. It’s the flip side of its subcultural nature. The energy of the margins is generative, but it is, in the end, also a prison. And Creed of the Kromon illustrates that all too well, finding itself so far removed from any human concern that it can do an hour straight of rape and not even notice that it’s doing it. We’re back to Moonbase 3 territory.

Actually, we’re really just back to 1985-86. Because Creed of the Kromon is the exact same story we’ve seen twice before - it’s a redo of Philip Martin’s other two Doctor Who stories. And yes, it has the usual Philip Martin theme of “faceless profit-hungry corporations are bad,” which is at least a mild social conscience, but it has all the same problems of crass sensationalism and rape culture that those stories did.

At the time we assumed most of these problems were just part of the general malaise of Doctor Who in the era, largely because in other regards Philip Martin was much cleverer and more subtle than anything else going on at the time. But in hindsight, perhaps being sandwiched between Attack of the Cybermen and The Mark of the Rani flattered Vengeance on Varos, and that we may have forgotten how faint the praise “it’s the best story in Trial of a Time Lord” actually is. Which is to say that the myriad of very fundamental problems we noted with those two stories are, shocker of shockers, actually related to the writer of them. Which shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given that Martin, in interviews, has always basically taken Saward’s side in the drama of the era. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad writer - Saward had good taste in writers when he picked favorites - but it does mean that he was always likely to share blind spost with Saward. And sure enough, he did.

But why blame him? In the twenty years since Vengeance on Varos he’d managed a few scattered episodes of television, but it’s not like he was some superstar writer brought in from the heavens by Big Finish. He was one of the two good writers in a largely awful era, and, more to the point, an era that was now twenty years past. And yet as the first “proper” story in the big Divergent Universe arc - the one where we get to actually see parts of the Divergent Universe instead of getting a high-theory overview of it - this is what they turn to: the series’ vainglory days. So what would they expect? They hired a writer of mid-80s Doctor Who. Presumably they were expecting just that - mid-80s Doctor Who.

But there’s something bizarre about the decision to do it. Especially in the content of the Divergent Universe arc. The point of the Divergent Universe arc is presumably innovation. At the very least the point is clearly a “no classic monsters” run. First of all, one wonders why this needed an elaborate plot arc to accomplish. Surely a “no classic monsters” arc could be accomplished by, say, not commissioning any stories featuring classic monsters. I mean, the idea that you need an excuse to not use a classic monster is almost as strange as, well, the idea that you need an excuse to do any sort of innovative storytelling.

But the Divergent Universe arc clearly has no point if all it’s going to do is “the return of Sil only we’re pretending he’s a different species.” I honestly have no idea about the origins of this script, but it would surprise exactly nobody to find out that the Kromon were, in an earlier draft, the Mentors. Which, again, is presumably what you want when you bring Philip Martin out of retirement. But why wed that to the Divergent Universe arc? They’re not just separate instincts, they’re instincts that actively work against each other.

But all of this ignores the degree to which it’s just strange to be doing this in the first place. I mean, how “let’s do it like they did when the show was so wretched it nearly got cancelled” becomes a sensible course of action in the first place is at least slightly obscure. The strange and perverse reasoning necessary to get to this point in the first place is striking, to say the least. It’s a bizarre case of leaning into the critique - of simply acknowledging that Doctor Who is a minor and basically culturally irrelevant has-been of a series with nothing it can do but mining its own past. So much so that it’s stuck mining the worst portions of its past by virtue of having run out of anything else to say. But implicit in it is the abandonment of all hope that the series could possibly be more than a crass nostalgia trip. So of course this is the story with a bunch of cynical rape in it. Because it’s the story that’s decided that it just doesn’t care.

But haunting it is another opportunity. After all, this is a story that’s making an overelaborate effort to be original. That it considers innovation to require special effort is telling, yes. If we wanted to be snarky we could suggest that Creed of the Kromon does everything possible to be innovative save for actually being at all creative or original. It’s as though Doctor Who wants to be more than it is, but no longer knows the way. Buried under the weight of its obscurity, chasing a diminishing audience with increasing desperation, it knows innovation is out there, but it can’t find a way of getting there.

And this is, in effect, why we can walk away at this point from Big Finish just like we did a few years earlier from the BBC Books line. I say this, of course, with the intention of looking at another three audios, but as something to follow story by story it’s just not sensible. This isn’t a line that’s doing anything important enough to follow. It had some good ideas. The whole wilderness years did. But it’s time for them to be over.

Comments

Stuart Ian Burns 4 years, 8 months ago

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elvwood 4 years, 8 months ago

Darn. This is an audio I've only heard once, and the sci-fi rape of Charley is one of the things that put me off it - but then I forgot all about it. I remembered the derivative aliens and plot, the amateurish audio technique of having people explain out loud what they are doing, the fact that it was boring - but I forgot the most extreme thing.

I sometimes disagree with your use of terms - in Neverland, for instance, what happened to Charley seemed like torture but not rape specifically - but here you are right on the money.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 8 months ago

It's taken nearly a year, but finally we've hit what looks like an essential diagnosis of what went wrong with Doctor Who: disconnection and self-absorption. And it was operating at so many levels: the individual mentalities of Eric Saward and especially Ian Levine, a culture of fandom that was predominantly male (not only demographically, but receiving no substantial input from women in the formation of their own personalities and priorities) and detail-oriented to the detriment of the overall structure of the piece. That kind of perspective disconnects from the wider culture. Doctor Who is, if not at its highest quality or entirely unproblematic, at least ambitious and creative when it's engaging with ideas throughout the culture of its time, outside what was typically identified (via the signs of the anorak) as science-fiction.

Really, the Wilderness Years started in 1984, when the weirdly accidental yet enlightening (see what I did there?) gay culture subtext of the Davison years ended and the total self-obsession of the series with itself began. There was a brief interruption in the McCoy era, but the Wilderness Years proper saw all the creativity of the franchise focussed on sorting and rearranging its own signifiers. Even the first great work of the Virgin line, Timewyrm Revelation, was impossible to understand without a thorough grounding in all the tropes and images of Doctor Who. Those images can only be evocative if you already knew what they were meant to evoke.

Doctor Who is most powerful when it incorporates ideas from wider human culture to become Doctor Who. The question people who make Doctor Who should as isn't "How can we take what we know to be Doctor Who and make it better?" but instead "What can we find in the world to make Doctor Who new again?"

And of course, Whedon's influence on Davies helped the show recover its essential feminism. The central role of the female protagonist in Doctor Who isn't the peril monkey, as Susan eventually became, and to what it was reduced to in season five, the Saward era, the generic characterization of Sam Jones in pretty much all her appearances not written by Kate Orman, and all the rapes and tortures that happen to Charley.

With Whedon's help, Davies recaptured the soul of Barbara Wright.

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Froborr 4 years, 8 months ago

"Actually, I suspect it would be less upsetting as extreme fetish pornography, as at least then one imagines everyone would be willing to admit to the fact that this is a story about rape."

You imagine incorrectly, I'm afraid. I have had the unfortunate experience of arguing with adherents of a particular subgenre of fetish pornography on this very question; their basic attitude was that consent forced by magic/magical technology is still consent. They did not take kindly to my suggestion that "forced consent" is an oxymoron, whether it involves alien brainslugs and love potions or not.

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jane 4 years, 8 months ago

It's the whole "forced breeder" thing that drives home the rape imagery here. And this, I feel, is very different from what Charley goes through in Neverland. There, she's opened up to all of time and space, allowing travel to another world -- the first time I found it a bit awe-inspiring, not rapey as such, though it's pushed very close the second time around, when Charley's actively resisting.

But this, this is just settling in to some torture porn, it doesn't advance anyone's characterization -- even the fact that C'Rizz is chameleonic doesn't justify this kind of juxtaposition.

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Froborr 4 years, 8 months ago

"With Whedon's help, Davies recaptured the soul of Barbara Wright."

And then Moffat promptly lost it again.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 8 months ago

And you two are blowing smoke out your arses. "Recaptured the soul of Barbara Wright"? Hardly.

If anything, Davies recaptured the soul of Peri; hardly a grand achievement.

And don't knock Moffat down, just because he can do Vicki better than Davies...

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Adam, I really like and appreciate what you're saying about the RTD era (and totally agree with Froborr about the Moffat era, unfortunately).

Can you help me understand, though, how "Remembrance of the Daleks,""Silver Nemesis," "Battlefield," and perhaps most especially "Greatest Show" -- as good as two of those are -- don't demonstrate that same self-obsession from a different angle?

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 8 months ago

...okay, maybe I shouldn't have said "arses".

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Ununnilium 4 years, 8 months ago

"Sweeping, thoughtful, uplifting statement!"

"Petty shot that collapses all the good and bad of a whole era into a single 'it sucks'."

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 8 months ago

I didn't say it sucked. I'm implying it's overly glorified, and a bit put out that Froborr and encyclops are shitting on the Moffat era when it's featured the most consistently great run of stories (Series 5, if you must know) since Season 26.

Davies' era, delightful as it may profess to be, has its own problems, and far more numerous ones than the Moffat era -- indeed, extending all the way down to its characterization of the Doctor and his relationship with his companions... or, rather, one companion in particular.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 8 months ago

I was responding more to Froborr's comment there, really. Though, "recaptured the soul of Peri"? That's harsh even if you're talking about Nicola Bryant!

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Matthew, I respect your opinion. I disagree with it, though probably not as much as you're thinking.

I don't think I was "shitting" on the Moffat era. There's a lot I like about it, and I'd consider a handful of its episodes to be among the best New Who has to offer. I thought both series 5 and season 26 were pretty good. I was specifically agreeing with Froborr's observation about the female characters in the Moffat era, though honestly I'm not 100% sure RTD's were THAT much better. I wonder if we're leaning too much on what Donna, against all odds, became.

I'm not sure I agree that there's an equivalent to Peri in the RTD era, but I'm intrigued by your contention that there's a Vicki in the Moffat era. I assume you mean Amy? Or someone else?

I have problems with both eras' characterization of the Doctor and the obligatory romance. Perhaps boringly I'm still most in favor of the Fourth Doctor "bohemian underachieving alien with morals of steel and a knack for winning" concept, as opposed to "the lonely god" which we've gotten in various flavors from McCoy onward. And while I have no inherent objection to the Doctor wanting to snog his companions, I do think it's possibly the most boring relationship this show could offer and I'm really tired of it by now. For heaven's sake at least give them a point of view. A hobby. ANYTHING.

Davies and Moffat have each had their strengths and weaknesses so far. As sterile as I often find Moffat's work, I think he has with a few exceptions (the third episode of each of his seasons has been atrocious so far) done an excellent job of choosing guest writers and/or guiding them to impressive heights. I'm really worried about who's going to take over after Moffat, though; I don't see a successor I'm excited about. Gatiss? Whithouse? Lord help us, Chibnall? The mind boggles.

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Scott 4 years, 8 months ago

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Scott 4 years, 8 months ago

"I was specifically agreeing with Froborr's observation about the female characters in the Moffat era, though honestly I'm not 100% sure RTD's were THAT much better."

Personally, I think the problem isn't so much that Moffat's female characters are inherently worse than Davies' as much as (a) Moffat tends to sacrifice characters in general, male or female, to the demands of plot where Davies was more the other way around, and (b) from where I'm sitting people seem a lot more willing to cut Davies slack when it comes to his female characters where they're simultaneously quicker to lay into Moffat for what are, from what I can see, fairly minor differences in approaches between the two. Okay, there's problems with Moffat's approach at times, but he's hardly the misogynistic monster people seem to view him as, and equally while there's plenty to laud about RTD's characters they're not exactly the icons of feminism people seem to praise them as either.

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 8 months ago

I spend a day travelling on a plane and away from the internet, then look what happens. When we hit May 1, the comment sections will explode.

Since this is probably the only point before May that I'll be able to get a word in edgewise, I'll stake my claim on the intense and mad debates to come. I sincerely believe that Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat are feminist writers. There are some slips (Martha's motivations, River's character arc over season 6), but overall they're positive contributors to the storehouse of strong female characters on tv. The Doctor can't be the only star of his own show for Doctor Who to function well. He needs a foil not just for the show's plots, but for his own personality, someone with whom he's compatible, but with whom there are differences that drive drama (Barbara, Ace, Nyssa in the Davison audios), comedy (Jo, the Romanas), or both (Sarah Jane with Tom, every post-2005 companion except Martha).

I can understand where people who see Moffat as heteronormative compared to Davies come from, though I strongly disagree. But remember one of the many horrible things Phil isolated through analyzing Doctor in Distress: the only mention of the companions in the song was the line "Each screaming girl just hoped that a Yeti wouldn't shoot her." The anorak (self-absorbed and hostile male) personality that predominated the show in the Colin Baker period thought of female characters only as peril monkeys, that their only, and proper, role was to scream so the Doctor could get them out of trouble. Say what you will about the various interpretations of Davies and Moffat's characters, but they never reduce to that. Everybody screams sometimes (even the Doctor), but all the characters are more than that now.

This all having been said, when this debate comes up after May 1 (and it will, I think in every entry), I'll just refer people back to this thread instead of writing this argument out again. It's quicker that way, and lets me get on with my work and my life. I'm in academics. Footnotes are so useful.

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Nick Smale 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't see a successor I'm excited about. Gatiss? Whithouse? Lord help us, Chibnall? The mind boggles.

Whithouse has done excellent work on "Being Human", and "the God Complex" was one of my favourite stories of season 6 - I'm sure he'd make an excellent show runner.

To those three possibilities, I guess we have to add Matthew "Life on Mars" Graham and (with his two episodes this year) Neil "Luther" Cross. I'm personally more than a little intrigued to see what the latter makes of Doctor Who...

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 8 months ago

Ununnilium, my apologies. By mentioning Peri, I meant the fact that, of course, Nine saves his companion's life and regenerates into Ten, who immediately begins an unhealthy relationship with Rose... except, of course, unlike Peri, she's egging him on.

Also, with Moffat Who, generally, the Doctor specifically does NOT want to snog his companions. True, we got this with Donna, but that was very obviously a conscious reaction by Davies to his own earlier stuff; Moffat's Doctor hss him actively and consistently (at least up to "The Snowmen") turning down a companion's advances, and -- and this is the part that makes it work -- being completely horrified and baffled by the concept of a romantic relationship with the companion.

Davies's Doctor never was. That makes all the difference.

As for Vicki... yes, I guess I sort of mean Amy, but Clara could count, as well; the young, hopeful representative of the current generation who wants to travel and NOT have a romantic relationship with the Doctor while doing so. Not exactly Shop-Girl, you could say. ;-)

(Heck, Peter Purves even has a resemblance to Arthur Darvill!)

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 8 months ago

"Personally, I think the problem isn't so much that Moffat's female characters are inherently worse than Davies' as much as (a) Moffat tends to sacrifice characters in general, male or female, to the demands of plot where Davies was more the other way around"

That's close to my way of looking at it. I'd say Davies tended to see the Doctor through the eyes of the Companions, where Moffat tends to view the Companions through the eyes of the Doctor. During the Davies years, the Companion got her own supporting cast, so there was always emphasis on how her travels with the Doctor impacted her life and those closest to her.

Moffat isn't going to spend much time with a character unless they're traveling with the Doctor, with someone like Rory's Dad not becoming significant until he accidentally tags along on an adventure, while Amy's parents are seen just long enough to say they exist. Even the Companions are an adventure, as River, Amy, and Clara all promised character-specific adventures in their future with a mystery for the Doctor to explore.

Moffat is a bit more of a traditionalist than Davies, so now it's only adventures outside the TARDIS doors. Everyday human drama is something which happens when he's not around.

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Adam: I sometimes wonder, not having lived in the UK -- well, ever, really, but definitely not during the Colin Baker years -- whether these anoraks are apocryphal. I don't think I've ever met a Doctor Who fan who thought the way fans supposedly did during those years or during the portion of the Wilderness Years we're covering now, but if you've met them (as opposed to just inferring them from the assumption that those who made the program in those times were successfully giving anyone what they wanted) I have to take your word for it. I wonder if Doctor Who is the only show where its fans all think that _other_ people are the real fans, and that it's all _those_ fans who are social misfits with the emotional development of 12-year-olds? But I see your general point and I do hope that every New Who post doesn't involve a bunch of men arguing over whether Rose or Amy or River is feminist enough for them.

Nick: I think most of Whithouse's episodes have been pretty good, too, though "A Town Called Mercy" was one of my least favorite episodes of the whole of New Who so far. Hopefully it's just the third episode hiccup. I'm pretty excited for Neil Cross's stuff too.

Matthew: That's pretty good about Rose/Peri. I'd quibble with the word "unhealthy," which makes all the difference; it's not without its problems, but at least he never tried to strangle her and doesn't belittle and berate her every chance he gets. I think your perception of Moffat's Doctor is in trouble, though, because in "The Bells of St. John" he is as obviously in love with Clara as anyone could be without actually saying so. And he didn't really seem that uncomfortable being married to River; it's only Amy that we've seen that "no no, this isn't right" reaction with. I'd say it's a difference of degree, not kind.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

Chibnall's episodes this season have been excellent. Dinosaurs was a fun romp and Power of Three was a fun adventure. I didn't mind his Silurian 2 parter as much as most. And his work on Law and Order UK stuff was good as well. The only Whithouse piece I haven't loved has been 'Greeks Bearing Gifts'. IMHO either would do a fine job of being successor.

In terms of the Doctor, I don't see him as in love with Clara. He is excited and eager, but there doesn't seem to be any more there than friendship. He wants to solve this mystery, and he authentically wants to show her the stars. He's so devoted to saving her because he's lost her twice, once right on the heels of loosing his best friends. Yes he's going to be a little obsessive over saving her. That's just how the Doctor gets sometimes.

In terms of giving the Companions more to them than snogging...Amy and Rory have a lot going on for them, especially in series seven. We know more about their home lives than anyone since Rose and Micky.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

I'll be honest and say that the Doctor/Charley pairing was never as good as the Doctor/Lucie one. Charley (lets be honest) is mistreated fairly badly by her writers. Her arc is all over the place, and she just never popped for me. I stopped listening to main range stuff at Zagreus and after reading this I'm fairly glad.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 8 months ago

Yay! Substantial discourse!

I wonder if Doctor Who is the only show where its fans all think that _other_ people are the real fans, and that it's all _those_ fans who are social misfits with the emotional development of 12-year-olds?

Definitely not. Indeed, that's a pretty common thing nowadays...

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 8 months ago

OT comment: Just saw the news about the abandoned animated Who (complete with classic Doctors!)... obviously you can't cover it, but I think it would've been so much fun and I can only imagine the types of extra posts we'd get on here about it. I now always check this blog out when I've watched a Who story :)

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/04/03/the-doctor-who-animated-series-that-never-was/

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jane 4 years, 8 months ago

@Steven: "I'd say Davies tended to see the Doctor through the eyes of the Companions, where Moffat tends to view the Companions through the eyes of the Doctor."

@Scott: "Moffat tends to sacrifice characters in general, male or female, to the demands of plot where Davies was more the other way around"

More than anything, Moffat's characters are in service to the metaphors and allegories he's layered into the show. The Ponds, for example, stand for fandom -- the girl who waited since 1996 (the aborted reboot) and who's been heavily influenced by the show, wanting to "run away" through escapist fantasy rather than dealing with real life, becoming the boy who waited outside a box (the tv set) until the universe was reset. Dressing up, writing stories, drawing pictures. Giving the Doctor a wife. So they're not just being seen through the Doctor's eyes -- we are being seen through the eyes of the show, as if it were holding up a mirror to us.

Likewise, Clara stands for the show. The Woman Twice Dead -- born on November 23rd, died age 26 -- the Classic show. The quick death because she's a monster -- again, 1996.

River, in particular, stands for those of us who fall in love with the show and become "archeologists" -- theorists who delve into the show's past, unearthing all the layers the show has to offer, offering ourselves up for the show itself (through our writing) -- we are most beloved of all. But awkwardly. :)

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jane 4 years, 8 months ago

Lucie is brilliant and wonderful. Shame about what happened to her.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

I think she got a good ending. It hit me a lot less than someone like Donna or River. Which is not to say I wasn't broken up. I have not problem admitting I shed more than one tear. But Donna's ending and River's...they deserved so much more. So much better than either of them got. Lucie gets a good end and becomes a legend. How many companions becomes such heroes in their own right?

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

I never saw it this way before...and now I'll never be able to see them any other way.

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 8 months ago

It hadn't even occurred to me that Amy was set up as a Fangirl... one that was even pissed off at the Doctor when he did finally return.

I also think Moffat's companions and their mysteries are a metaphor for falling in love. River, Amy, and Clara are all about the Doctor falling into the mystery that is a woman... as everyone is a mystery waiting to be explored, these women just have big sci-fi mysteries because it's Doctor Who.

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 8 months ago

I know Davies and Moffat feel a certain responsibility to the kids in the audience and killing off popular characters ends up taking the show into a place that's a bit too dark. Adrec cast a long shadow over the program after his death, whereas a standard exit just leaves the Doctor a bit mopey until the next Companion signs up.

River got killed off before we got to know her properly, so her eventual fate informs how we bond to her. She's always Dead Woman Walking. Donna's exit is heart-breaking, but there's still the chance she'll rise above her station again.

Killing off companions is really something you can only get away with in the Extended Universe where most of your audience are adults... and then you have to be real careful not to go to that well too many times.

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David Anderson 4 years, 8 months ago

More to say about Lucie when we get to Lucie Miller. (Not to forget Tamsin.) Short version: New Adventures Season Four is the best constructed arc in Doctor Who that I can think of.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

Sitting down and watching Silence again...it's more than a little heartbreaking. At the time it was sad...but even more so now we know she had this amazing life with the Doctor and now gets to spend the rest of time with the same 8 people in a computer taking care of fictional children. I wouldn't call that a good end.

I think it's interesting that the endings that seem happy to children but get a little horrific with some maturity fit Doctor Who so well. Many companions leave with a great amount of psychological damage, terminal illnesses, or other worse fates...

In comparison a simple death like Adric's is much better for the character than (as an example) Martha who becomes a gun toting mercenary, with a PTSD plagued family.

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Jane: you are a GENIUS. I adore this. I don't know if I want it more than I want a companion who's more of a three-dimensional character than a sort of personification of an idea, but it's so clever that I have no trouble hanging with it until next time. I'd picked up on the numbers with Clara but thought I might be reading the wrong things into it. You're giving me hope that I'm not.

Theonlyspiral: I don't hate Chibnall, and I did enjoy "Dinosaurs" and "Three" -- I even liked "42" before I learned I wasn't supposed to -- but I'm not sure I'd want to be in the car with him at the wheel. It would take quite a lot for me to stop watching at this point, though.

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

It's a shame to hear that Charley is so mistreated. In the handful of Charley's Big Finishes I've heard, the actress who portrays her is frequently the best part of it ("The Stones of Venice" being a good example there in my book, though I think I might be alone in having disliked that one).

I'm really uncomfortable with the fact that so few companions now voluntarily leave the Doctor. If this really is "the companion's story," that story should allow them to grow and learn to the point where there's a reason why they leave. This "till death/parallel universes/returning as a guest star/memory wipe/being sent back in time do us part" stuff seems kind of childish and uninteresting, as does the idea that you can't end a story with a prominent villain without killing them off (see both New Who Master stories, and hell, also almost every villain in the recent Batman movies).

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Ross 4 years, 8 months ago

The new series has a much harder job than the classic one at getting rid of companions. You need to have some reason for the departure to be permanent, because back in the 60s -- even in the 90s -- you could get away with "And then Dodo went home and we never spoke of her or thought about her again," (Heck, any show that dropped a cast member could do that back then. Let us meditate on the mystery of Chuck Cunningham, who walked up the stairs at the end of the first season of Happy Days, and was never seen again), but if you do it now, no one in your audience is going to keep liking The Doctor.

Not long ago, I was conversing with someone who had tried to get into Doctor Who. They'd thought it would be a good idea to start with something early on, and watched 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth'. At the end, their response was "Wait. He's just going to ditch his own granddaughter on post-apocalyptic earth, making the decision for how she is going to spend the REST OF HER LIFE for her without even ASKING her, and then they just never mention her again? Fuck that noise, this Doctor fellow is a sociopath and I have no interest in watching any more."

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 8 months ago

"It's a shame to hear that Charley is so mistreated. In the handful of Charley's Big Finishes I've heard,"

You should check her out when she teams up with Colin Baker. It's a shame she hadn't been teamed with him originally as they had to eventually end her story. Those two worked together brilliantly, but Colin Baker tends to work well with everyone.

Only problem I have with it is the Doctor is too willing to put aside the mystery she presents him with, as he spots the large gaping holes in her story instantly and uncharacteristically lets it drop.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

42 gets a lot more flack than it deserves IMHO. It's just unremarkable. Very forgettable. I don't know what the show would look like with Chibnall in charge but eventually we're going to see someone at the wheel who isn't Moffat. I feel like he's as good a candidate as any.

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Steven Clubb 4 years, 8 months ago

"I don't know what the show would look like with Chibnall in charge"

Same was true of Moffat. His debut as show-runner surprised a lot of people. So much of what reaches the air is colored by the show-runner, either directly through re-writes or indirectly by their cast.

The next show-runner can alter the show to play to their strengths. Part of me pulls for Gatiss, but only if he doesn't write nearly as many episodes as Davies and Moffat have. He's got a great love of period pieces and loves horror aesthetics and I think he could provide a background for other writers to thrive.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 8 months ago

I am deeply conflicted on the idea of Gatiss as showrunner. I love Night Terrors. Absolutely love it. I find Unquiet Dead and Victory of the Daleks to be ok. They're not the finest moments of the show by any stretch but I'm not unhappy to see them. I loath Idiot's Lantern with a passion. The only piece of NuWho I find worse is Fear Her.

If Gatiss took over...well if he was writing less I wouldn't mind. I agree he might pull the show in an interesting direction for other writers...but I wouldn't want to bet money on the quality of his episodes.

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elvwood 4 years, 8 months ago

Since going totally OT is preferable to actually talking about Creed (or my mind's inexplicable ability to brainwipe itself of the audio's worst faults), I'd like to defend Chris Chibnall a bit too. 42 was the story that perked me up in a season I wasn't enjoying, and made me keen to watch it again; and Dinosaurs was my joint-favourite story of 7a. I'm not so keen on his Torchwood stories, but the whole family is currently enjoying Broadchurch. I'd certainly be happy to see his take.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 8 months ago

On the topic of showrunners, in the Radio Times preview for this week's episode (it's online), Moffat said about Neil Cross, "You'll be hearing more about him soon. Any minute now..." I wondered if this was a hint?

Jane: Those metaphors are great!

I like all the Vicki references (a really underrated companion, in my opinion). I wouldn't say the Doctor is "in love" with Clara; he seems rather fatherly toward her (the bedroom window scene).

The Silence arc really has a lot to do with UFO and abduction legends, and in the vein I took a lot of what happened to Amy, Rory, and River to be about the frustration of fixed time (which, in the block universe, where time travel is most possible, all time is fixed) and being controlled by outside forces without your consent. It's kind of like those times when you feel like you don't have control over your life.

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Well, jeez, the Susan thing has ALWAYS been fucked up. But when it's Romana saying "I want to stay in E-space and get it on with Tharils" or Nyssa saying "I'm going to help lepers" or Turlough saying "I'm going home" or Jo saying "I'm getting married," why would that make people dislike the Doctor? I don't get it. Everybody knows what it's like for two friends to grow apart or move to different cities/planets/universes.

Isn't it worse when the Doctor fucks up and accidentally lets someone get locked into another direction, or has to force someone to forget all about him? Or completely arbitrarily decides he can't go to Poughkeepsie and send a telegram into Manhattan because of circumstances? I certainly think so.

I LOVED the Amy and Rory farewell at the end of "The God Complex." That's the kind of thing we need more of. Audiences today must be just pathologically clingy.

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encyclops 4 years, 8 months ago

Really, Moffat surprised people? But his episodes were, rightly or wrongly, hugely feted as the cream of the crop. It seemed like a logical choice to me when I heard about it. Chibnall and Gatiss have gotten much more mixed reviews. But while I unfortunately haven't liked any of Gatiss's New Who work, I think the only Chibnall script I've actively disliked was the Silurian two-parter, and even that could've been worse.

My money's on love. I see what you're saying about the bedroom window thing, but it's ambiguous, and his reaction when she accuses him of having a "snogbox" and so on tilts it for me. The clincher for me is the "monks are not cool!" sequence.

I do agree with you that Vicki's underrated. I especially adore her in "The Space Museum."

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Scott 4 years, 8 months ago

"Audiences today must be just pathologically clingy."

*Insert glib and slightly snide jab about all the fans of Rose who, years later, still can't get over the fact that the Doctor has dared to have other companions since she left.*

Although I think you're on to something; audiences these days do seem have trouble letting go these days.

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Scott 4 years, 8 months ago

... I have never been more angry at the BBC than I am right at this point.

Frankly, the only thing that would have been more fun than this would have been all the pedantic arguments about how everything fitted in. Especially since it seems that, from the looks of things, the First Doctor at least would have had new companions...

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Eric Gimlin 4 years, 8 months ago

Another OT comment, on a totally different subject: I want to go on the record as having bought the e-book version of the Pertwee volume before Phil officially announced it was out. Although he did give us a heads-up it was on the way last week.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 8 months ago

Or maybe we're just assuming this is what they want and we shouldn't be generalizing. I mean, isn't it more accurate to say that Davies and Moffat would be the clingy ones?

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 8 months ago

...and judging by Saturday's episode, yes, Clara is Vicki. :-D

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matthew 4 years, 8 months ago

I vaguely remember thinking I'd found a Spike cameo in an EDA - although Other Places on the Internet suggest it was Camera Obscure rather than City of the Dead - but in fact it turned out to be one of those actual real-life poets called William (Yeats, I think).

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Daru 4 years, 8 months ago

Jane - "More than anything, Moffat's characters are in service to the metaphors and allegories he's layered into the show."

Yup, totally agree. Was just forming this thesis myself during repeated viewings of the current Series 7 episodes and previous stories with the Ponds.

Spot on.

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Daru 4 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I found this story very difficult to listen to because of what was done to Charley's character. Really it made me at the the time feel physically uncomfortable on a very visceral level.

I actually felt disgusted, not by my thoughts of the writer, etc (though - how could they?) - but really by what it was that was happening being so abusive. And what made it feel worse for me was the way sound was utilised to enhance the horror of her experience. I have a very strong imagination and the sections of her rape/transformation feels like they were almost leered at (as with glossy porn) through the medium of sound - such an intense experience it was, I could almost smell it.

Genuinely I was caught by surprise when listening to this - a friend had just introduced me to the 8th Doctor audios two years ago and had mentioned this arc as being a 'bit of a romp' in an alternate universe. Sounded fun. Imagine my feelings at this tale! I really wanted him to turn it off and when I re-listen to these audios I certainly will skip this one.

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