Viewing posts tagged entropy

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Adric has found the Doctor sulking in the TARDIS cloisters.  The Doctor has lost Romana and K9.  He's feeling his age.  His ship seems to be falling apart too.  The stone pillars, overrun with vines, crumble under his fingers.   And, to cap it off, Adric wants to be taken back to Gallifrey.

"I sometimes think I should be running a tighter ship," he says sadly.

"A tighter ship?" gasps Adric, as though this is a threatening notion.

"Yes. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is taking its toll on the old thing. Entropy increases."

"Entropy increases?"

"Yes, daily.  The more you put things together, the more they keep falling apart.  That's the essence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and I never heard a truer word spoken."

It's only fitting that the Doctor should fight one of his most elemental battles against omnipresent entropy.  The Doctor has encountered entropy many times on his travels.  The Tribe of Gum were dangerous because their world was dying in the cold, all heat drained away.  The Moroks froze entropy in an attempt to freeze their own declining imperial history.  Skaro ...

The Cut

On 'The Space Museum'


Recently, while tracking some hits this blog received, I discovered a new Doctor Who podcast called Pex Lives.  It's great stuff, well worth listening to... and I'm not just saying that because the guys who make it - Kevin Burns and James Murphy - kindly linked to me and mentioned me in one of the episodes.  Their third and latest podcast is just out, and centres upon 'The Krotons'.  Their second podcast is about 'The Space Museum' and they delve into the piece with lots of wit (in both senses of the word) alongside anarchism, Tolstoy, progress and political change.  Not many Who podcasts touch on stuff like this.  My favourite quote: "we're both ambivalent about violent revolution".  (For the record, so am I.)   It also helps that they both have likeable voices.  Kevin sounds like Terry Gilliam (i.e. he has one of those American voices that sounds as though it is filtered through a permanent grin of enthusiasm) and James sounds like a gigantic, sentient, wryly raised eyebrow that has somehow gained the ability to talk with the voice of a hip-hop DJ.  Even ...

Apocalypse Below (or The Tractate Face-Off)

From Panic Moon, July 2011.  Edited, and with new material in a seprate coda.


This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end


At first, 'Frontios' seems like the odd one out amongst Christopher H. Bidmead’s Doctor Who scripts. Unlike 'Logopolis' and 'Castrovalva', it’s overtly political and doesn’t seem to be powered by any underlying scientific concept. Also, it has monsters in it.

Bidmead included monsters – reluctantly – at the insistence of John Nathan-Turner.  On reflection, this seems a dodgy call. Monsters from Bidmead were always going to be too concept-heavy to realise properly on screen. Sure enough, he comes up with giant woodlice that can disguise themselves as rocks until they unexpectedly uncurl… which was never gonna look good on the day.

Apparently finding the macabre more fascinating than he expected, Bidmead also included alien machines made with bits of corpses. This was very tuned in to the then-current turn towards biomechanics and ‘body horror’ in the fantasy genre, but it proved too horrific for Doctor Who to attempt on screen (though it livens up the novelisation ...

Green Day

This is a slightly-tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


Plant monsters. That’s an old one. Where does it come from? Maybe it’s about the Venus Fly Trap, the cactus or the thorns on the stem of a rose. Maybe it’s about the faces that we see in the gnarled bark of trees; the faces that gave us generations of tales about tree folk. We see this in 'The Seeds of Doom', in the initial humanoid shape of the monster, in its booming threats, in its communion with Chase, in the way that the Doctor keeps calling it Keeler ironically, having chided Sarah for referring to the transformed Winlett by name.

Maybe it’s the sheer unnerving silence and mindlessness of things that nonetheless seem to have flesh and veins and skin, that nonetheless grow and move and breed.  We see this in 'The Seeds of Doom', with all the emphasis on skin, blood and pain… and Chase’s obsessional desire to “see what happens when the Krynoid touches human flesh”. We see this in the way the Krynoid moves, unfettered ...

Independence Day

This is a slightly-expanded/tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


In 'The Mutants', Earth’s empire is the British Empire in decline, as it disassembles itself out of economic necessity (true in general terms but misleading in particular; the British were usually savage in their resistance to independence). The Marshall echoes Ian Smith, who ran the racist apartheid state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and tried to hang on after the British cut him loose.

We get a positive view of a national liberation movement. Ky is clearly the figurehead of a powerful anti-Overlord groundswell; they’re called “terrorists” naturally, and maybe they are, but they’re fighting for their freedom. We get no patronising sermons to oppressed people about non-violence.

The system is depicted as inherently racist, featuring a version of apartheid. The Solonians are not black, but then neither were the Irish… and they were the first to come under the British heel. 'The Mutants' shows racism, quite rightly, as the ideology of empire, not the cause.

There is an apologia for empire that stresses the “progress” it can bring to its subjects. The concept of “progress” is ...

Grinding Engines


The mechanical sciences attained to a degree of perfection which, though obscurely foreseen by Lord Bacon, it had been accounted madness to have prophesied in a preceding age. Commerce was pursued with a perpetually increasing vigour, and the same area of the Earth was perpetually compelled to furnish more and more subsistence. The means and sources of knowledge were thus increased together with knowledge itself, and the instruments of knowledge. The benefit of this increase of the powers of man became, in consequence of the inartificial forms into which mankind was distributed, an instrument of his additional evil. The capabilities of happiness were increased, and applied to the augmentation of misery. Modern society is thus an engine assumed to be for useful purposes, whose force is by a system of subtle mechanism augmented to the highest pitch, but which, instead of grinding corn or raising water acts against itself and is perpetually wearing away or breaking to pieces the wheels of which it is composed.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Philosophical View of Reform, 1819-1820 

Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from ...

In the DNA

Happy birthday Douglas Noel Adams.  Shame about you dying, but still.

I hear there's a new TV series based on Dirk Gently.  I haven't watched it.  With is odd.  If someone had told me, even ten years ago, that there would one day be a Dirk Gently TV show and I wouldn't watch it, I'd have thought they were insane.

But look at this.


That's Dirk, apparently.

Funny.  It reminds me of something.


Oh yeah.

In the novels, Dirk is described as fat, ugly and toadlike with a wildly mismatched clothes, a long leather coat and a ludicrous red hat.

Still, that wouldn't make good telly, would it?

Adams was, in his way, as concerned with entropy as Bidmead.  He even has Skagra mention it in 'Shada'.  Entropy, of course, is the shuffling of everything into predictability.  The ultimate terminus of increasing entropy is the reduction of all things to homogeneous porridge.

Just saying.

Adams himself was very concerned with the corporate crapization of everything into synthetic banality.  It's a running concern of the Hitch Hikers books, from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation to Infinidim ...

Things Fall Apart

Here's a round-up of my Timelash II on Season 18.  I was holding this (and some of the stuff about Seasons 19-21) back because I was going to rework it into something bigger, but that isn't happening (too much else to do), so...


The Leisure Hive

Bidmead's script tinkerings somewhat dilute the essential idea of a leisure planet in favour of wannabe-big-conceptual stuff... which is pretty dull and lumbering, if we're honest.

The planet fails to convince as a leisure resort, which kind of undercuts all the lengths they go to to stress that the whole race have become employees of a going concern. All that boardroom stuff where they discuss investments suddenly looks redundant. What's it there to contextualise?

The stylistic overhaul is huge, ambitious and largely successful. There's a new willingness to try stuff out. They're happy to go all dark and quiet during the scene where Timson is stalked by the West Lodge Foamasi. I particularly like the slow, melancholy opening.

Mind you, the seeds of the later-80s problems are already visible. The Doctor is now wearing a uniform, etc.

The politics is weird. The war was about... what ...

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