Stories, Titles, and Kickstarter Updates

(40 comments)

Someone asked me, and I found it an entertaining question, what I thought the most jarring mismatches in story quality vs title quality were. I noted, for instance, that The Ark in Space, Rose, and all of Power, Evil, and Remembrance of the of the Daleks set were spectacularly underwhelming names for great stories, as are City of Death and The Mind Robber, whereas Nightmare of Eden, Let's Kill Hitler, and The Arc of Infinity are all rather lovely names with stories that really don't come close (though really, what story could be good enough to be called Let's Kill Hitler?)

But then I asked what I find the more interesting question: what stories most perfectly match their titles in quality. I suggested Delta and the Bannermen as one that, regardless of how much you like it, is almost exactly as good as its title suggests. Someone else went for Love and Monsters. You?

Also, there's two new Kickstarter rewards - a sort of scaled down version of the "signed and numbered books" version and another high roller option. I've been finally watching Game of Thrones, about which I knew basically nothing, and doing short recaps on another social media venue, and have been quite enjoying that, and thought it might be fun to run a few short-run features on other media here, just to see what sorts of things are a good fit for me and attract interest.

So here's your opportunity. Want me to write up the entirety of Firefly? Always wanted a systematic close-reading of that 1990s classic of Avengers crossover Operation Galactic Storm? (No. Nobody has ever wanted that.) Looking to see me go back to video game criticism and do Mass Effect? Itching for an overview of the films of Darren Aronofsky? These and any other topics can be yours for $200 over here. (Don't feel like it has to be an object that breaks sensibly into four parts. You pick the topic, I'll figure out how to get four posts out of it.) Only about $4000 to go before we get the William Blake book.

Back to writing Dalek with me. Well, actually, Rob Shearman already did that, so I'll be going with writing About Dalek.

Comments

JJ Gauthier 4 years ago

Planet of Spiders kinda works both ways. That title suggests nothing resembling the elegiac, thematically rich epic Spiders lives up to at its finest. On the other hand, the innumerable minor failures, both technical and artistic, keep it from actually succeeding in delivering the comic book thrills that title promises and the episodes keep trying to pull off. It's both much worse and so much better than the title.

But yeah, as much fun as I think Let's Kill Hitler is, there was really no possible way to live up to that title.

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

Damn damn damn damn damn!


My dream of you one day covering Sondheim is spoiled by my lack of 200 dollars. :(

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

Oooh, interesting question. (I know you have a busy writing schedule, but more of these interval posts would be fantastic!)

A story title that mirrors its quality?

Planet of the Dead. It's a generic, standard title. It's a generic, standard story (ironically billed as a Special).

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

These interval posts are the goal. I'm not sure I'll be able to cover every Tuesday and Thursday, but I'm at the very least planning on at least one non-Eruditorum post a week. I kind of look forward to when the Kickstarter is over so they don't have such cravenly moneymaking subtexts to them, really. The asking for money part of this job is rather massively the part I hate. :)

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HarlequiNQB 4 years ago

While to my mind The Eleventh Hour is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Spot on match of title and episode.

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

Fair enough with regards to Kickstarter, but it's all for a great cause and there are many willing to help out, so I wouldn't feel guilty about it. You're asking for money, but people are happy to donate because they want you to do this! A friendly cycle.

As for interval posts, I can't wait to see if/what else you come up with. It'd be interesting to have some polls, some trivia, some questions, even some 'compare X story to X' etc.

I'm really enjoying the evolution of the Eruditorum.

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Lewis Christian 4 years ago

The Beast Below, I think, is an interesting title because Moffat's openly admitted he should've spent more time on it (along with Victory of the Daleks). There's a beast of a script, but the better draft is below the surface. He just needed to reach in a little further to get it.

Survival. Perfectly apt.

The Happiness Patrol. Sounds a bit odd at first. But it is odd. Completely weird. In a good way. Just like the story.

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

Keys of Marinus- it sounds like a video game plot. It *is* a video game plot.

Also Warrior's Gate and Ghost Light sound about as surreal as their respective stories do.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years ago

"The God Complex" - mystical and intellectual

"A Christmas Carol" - just as enchanting as the original

The War Games - as epic and vast as it sounds

"Asylum of the Daleks" - as mental as it sounds (er, no pun intended)

The Pirate Planet - ditto

The Curse of Fenric - just perfect

Planet of Evil - interesting, but kind of bland

"The Empty Child" - spooky (unlike the title of its second part)

"Fear Her" - just not interesting or threatening (and I like this episode more than most people)

I also disagree and think The Mind Robber is an appropriate title. It messes with your mind.

Is it just me, or are a lot of the early titles (until about mid-seventies) really not that interesting? Or maybe that's because I've seen most of them and reading them all together makes them sound very repetitive.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years ago

Evolution of the Eruditorum

Now there is a title!

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Kit 4 years ago

The Mind Robber is a great title I think, not necessarily heralding the content in any way, but so curiously evocative that it sets the tone for this unpredictable story. The Caves Of Androzani is massively underwhelming as a title, and flags only the second-least important aspect of the story. Dragonfire promises far much more than the production could ever deliver.

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Bennett 4 years ago

If I had it in my power to rename one Doctor Who episode it would be the New Series's "Forest of the Dead". Even if the use of 'forest' was clever, it still reads as a generic title for an episode that did everything but be generic.

When I heard that the title was, until the very last minute, going to be "River's Run" I was bewildered. It's a little pretentious sounding, sure, but it's still a much more fitting title, particularly in retrospect.

Of course, in "The Writer's Tale" Davies writes about how he and Moffat bandied around some alternative titles - like "Forest Under CAL's Kingdom" and "A River's Song Ends" (snicker).

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Froborr 4 years ago

Planet of the Daleks. "of the Daleks" is the single most common phrase to end an episode title in the series, "Planet of" is the single most common start to an episode title, and the episode is entirely about doing things that have been done before.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

My problem with The Mind Robber is that I've played enough D&D that it just sounds like a cut-rate Mind Flayer.

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ferret 4 years ago

That's rather wonderful :-)

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thepoparena.com 4 years ago

GAH! I have never wanted to have two hundred dollars of disposable income more in my life!

(If this works out, perhaps you could consider making commissioned essays a regular thing? Like, a fifty dollar donation on Paypal per essay? I've been doing something similar, twenty dollars per analytical video, and it's worked out pretty well thus far)

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Froborr 4 years ago

According to TVTropes, which of course is always correct about everything, "Planet of the Daleks" is the statistically most likely episode title, but the most likely unused titles are "The Death of Death" and "The Day of Time." Which, honestly, the latter would be a pretty decent alternative title for "The Big Bang."

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Anton B 4 years ago

'The Unicorn and the Wasp'. Nowhere near as mad as the title suggests and so much of an in-joke for fans of another oeuvre entirely that it crashes its chosen genre clumsily, not only with the inclusion of a startlingly literal Giant Wasp but also giving the eponymous Unicorn the most boring explanation possible.

Though yeah 'Planet of the Daleks' is the clear winner.

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encyclops 4 years ago

I'd seen the title "Doctor Who - Kinda" several times (probably in a list of novelisations) long before I saw the story, and I was fascinated long before I had a clue what it was about. "What does it mean to be kinda Doctor Who?" I wondered. "And if it's also kinda not, what else is it?" So not exactly a good title, but one which inadvertently excited me just as much as the actual story does.

"Enlightenment" is a rather nice title too for an excellent story. "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva" as well. I like a good one-worder when I can get it (see also "Hide").

"Earthshock" and "Timelash," though, are kind of juvenile, aren't they? "The Visitation" is so bland, though it's almost comforting in its blandness.

"Vengeance on Varos" -- lousy title, better story (though a touch overrated).

Appending "of the Daleks" to anything makes me instantly bored.

I'm not sure if they count, but the story titles that make up Trial of a Time Lord are for my money the worst the series has to offer. Well, hold on -- "Time, Inc." is actually kind of intriguing, but the story doesn't live up to it.

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Sparhawk 4 years ago

'The Hungry Earth' and 'The Rebel Flesh' are gorgeous titles, pregant with unease... lavished on criminally boring stories. :D

'The Empty Child' is still the best title of the new series, a good match with what is still one of its best stories. It is ENTIRELY context-dependent, but such a haunting, cut-up phrasing that you're already upset before the ep even begins!

The empty.... CHILD.

Brrr.

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BatmanAoD 4 years ago

To my mind, the fact that "Let's Kill Hitler" explicitly avoids doing what it pretends to set out to do is the best thing about it. So the fact that there's such a mismatch between title and story is a major strength.

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

Yeah, I think something like this would be brilliant. I know I'd have a boatload of stuff to request (the work of Bryan Fuller, Community S. 1-3, films of Bob Fosse, films of Jacques Demy, etc).

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

"of the Cybermen" is even worse when it comes to boredom- which is why I'm glad the upcoming Gaiman story has the much more evocative "Nightmare in Silver".

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Laurence Price 4 years ago

River's Run would have been the most wonderfully literate title imaginable. The quality of in-my-end-is-my-beginning ourobouros narrative from Finnegans Wake fits River's own story very pleasingly. What better story to get a Joyce reference than one set in a giant library?

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William Whyte 4 years ago

"Talons of Weng-Chiang" successfully suggests the gusto that's brought to the rest of the story. Contrast with "Claws of Axos", which is novel but lacks punch.

For off-schedule entries: I'd love to see you do Blake's 7 in more depth.

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Ross 4 years ago

"The Visitation" is so bland, though it's almost comforting in its blandness.

Which also makes it a spectacularly adroit title for that serial.

(Seriously, I know I've seen it. I know I've even read the book. But the only inkling of a memory I have of it is an image of a stone wall partly broken away to reveal part of a vaguely Olmec-style giant stone head, and I think that's just because it's on the cover of the novelization)

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elvwood 4 years ago

If I had $200, you would indeed be doing Firefly in depth. It's the only TV show I love more than Who.

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ibishtar 4 years ago

Don't forget it's actually: "Love & Monsters". I love that ampersand. I think it's the best title ever and fits that story perfectly.
There's been loads of fitting titles. A couple not mentioned yet:
The Girl in the Fireplace - romantic and storybook-y
School Reunion - nostalgic and emotional rather than action-packed
The Sound of Drums - ominous and musical

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Froborr 4 years ago

I dunno, there are "of the Daleks" titles that could intrigue me. Any food item, for instance. "Sandwich of the Daleks?" No way am I missing that episode!

More seriously, anything that suggests something meta going on: "Absence of the Daleks." "Surprise Appearance of the Daleks."

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Froborr 4 years ago

Wish I had an edit button. "Fifth-Floor Walk-Up of the Daleks" would be even better than "Sandwich of the Daleks."

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Philip Sandifer 4 years ago

There are indeed a whopping twelve "of the Daleks" - Power, Evil, Day, Planet, Genesis, Destiny, Resurrection, Revelation, Remembrance, Evolution, Victory, and Asylum.

There are seven "Planet of": Giants, Daleks, Spiders, Evil, Fire, Ood, and Dead.

But notably, and consistently running close to or even ahead of "Planet of" is the ending "Planet." It's not a Thing of the Other Thing structure, but there are Web, Tenth, Pirate, Mysterious, and Impossible.

I therefore propose The Planet Planet.

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Ross 4 years ago

Not "Planet of the Planet"?

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brownstudy 4 years ago

For some reason, "Family of Blood" and "Midnight" are titles/stories that resonate with me, whereas "Turn Left" is almost so offhand a title for the wrenching that goes on in the story.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Also, I'm not sure about titles, but No Future must have the biggest disparity between quality of story and quality of cover.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

Asylum of the Daleks is one of the more intriguing titles of this season, IMHO, and it's been a good season for titles.

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Ross 4 years ago

One little thing that I really liked is that there is a Big Finish Bernice Summerfield episode called "Death and the Daleks". It's sort of pleasantly weird.

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Ununnilium 4 years ago

And "The Doctor Dances" is just cheeky enough to work.

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

Just reminded me- there's an episode title that far outshadows the actual quality of the episode- "Death to the Daleks". One of the few 'of the Daleks' monikers that's actually promising and it's wasted on a dull story that spends half of its time doing puzzles.

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encyclops 4 years ago

T. Hartwell: "Nightmare in Silver" is a little overripe/purple for me, and a little uneasily reminiscent of "Silver Nemesis," but I agree that it actually sounds a little intriguing as opposed to "oh god, here we go again."

Ross: what's hilarious is that you mean "The Awakening." "The Visitation" is the one where the sonic screwdriver gets destroyed and reptiles from space (vs. from Earth) start the Great Fire of London. Or maybe the Doctor does. Anyway, I actually sort of like both of them, but that doesn't mean they're any good.

Froborr: good point!

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T. Hartwell 4 years ago

"The Visitation" actually had the honor of being my least favorite classic Who story until I had the, um, honor of witnessing "Warriors of the Deep".

It's not even that it's that bad, it's just that it's so damned middle-of-the-road and generic. To my mind there is absolutely nothing worse than forgettable Doctor Who. Save, of course, for "Warriors of the Deep".

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