The Tiny Pressure of My Thumb, Enough to Break the Glass, Would End Everything

(12 comments)

Boys in Their Dresses will be around later this week. For now... something new. You may find yourself wanting a link to my Patreon for this...

A critic once, in a moment of naiveté that hovers between sweet and pathetic, once asserted that "as long as there are stories, there are Doctor Who stories. When the stars go out and the universe freezes, around the last fire on the last world, there will still be Doctor Who stories to tell. And when we are done telling them, at long and final last, in the distance will be a strange wheezing, groaning sound. And out will step an impossible man, and he will save the day." Perhaps it's true that Doctor Who will last until the end of stories, but the reality is that this threshold is very likely a couple of decades away, and will happen right here on this planet as manmade climate change triggers a civilizational apocalypse. In which case there's really not a lot that an imperial adventure hero with a busted-up time machine is going to do for us.

Nevertheless, Doctor Who provides a fascinating record of the fall. The 20th century, particularly the global industrialization of its latter half, is where humanity's missteps sealed its fate. Doctor Who is a snapshot of British anxieities during that time. And as a fading colonial power that, at its hubristic height, had played the leading role in establishing the ideological preconditions for armageddon as global hegemony, Britain had a lot of anxieties during that time. Where an American franchise like Star Trek would offer a series of delusional fancies about the bright future of liberal capitalism, Doctor Who offers something altogether more interesting—a culture that is half-aware of its self-destruction, murmuring cryptic hyperstitions of its demise into the ears of its children as a means of entertaining and pacifying them.

Dalek Eruditorum is the story of this. Snapshots of a culture as it teeters on the brink, then off it—a record of the things it knows without knowing that it knows. Visions of the end with a thin veneer of "but our heroes will save the day" plastered implausibly on top of it. A fifty-six year chain of contradictory and jumbled prophecies from a mad seer in a strange and magical island at the center of a dying world. It's a tale of post-apocalyptic hellscapes and the monsters that breed within, of eco-gothic terrors oozing up from the earth, of machines gone so insane they do what they were always meant to, and of hopeless fantasies of rebuilt civilization.

More practically, Dalek Eruditorum is a proposed blog project. If the Patreon hits $650 before December 15th (which right now it already has!), it will begin in January as a thirteen-post run, covering one story from every Doctor. Each story will get a twisted mirror of a TARDIS Eruditorum entry, looking at it with much the same critical approach, but a very different understanding of what sort of world it exists in. If the Patreon hits $700 by that time, meanwhile, it will get another thirteen stories, and at $750 it'll get thirty-nine stories—one from every televised season, plus two from the Eighth Doctor era.

Those will break down like so:

$650: The Daleks, The Invasion, Terror of the Autons, The Pirate Planet, Frontios, Revelation of the Daleks, The Curse of Fenric, Alien Bodies, The Long Game, Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, Victory of the Daleks, Kill the Moon, Demons of the Punjab

$700: The War Machines, Enemy of the World, Inferno, The Sea Devils, The Ark in Space, Horror of Fang Rock, The Horns of Nimon, Enlightenment, Terror of the Vervoids, Paradise Towers, Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, The Bells of Saint John, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls

$750:The Crusade, Evil of the Daleks, The Green Death, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Seeds of Doom, Deadly Assassin, State of Decay, Kinda, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, the TV Movie, Planet of the Ood, Closing Time, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, and something from Series 12.

You may be asking yourself about reviews of Series 12 when it starts up sometime, presumably around January. Well... those are at $800. Yes, that's a lot. But frankly, so is the effort of finding something to say about Chibnall-era Doctor Who that isn't just incoherent screaming in frustration, so, you know. Maybe they won't happen this year. I'm frankly OK with that.

And to answer the obvious question, yes, Boys in Their Dresses will go on hiatus for this. It may come back, I may have other things I want to do by late September 2020, which is when this could find itself wrappng up. We'll see.

In any case, if any of this interests you, here's my Patreon. Thanks for your support.

Comments

Przemek 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I am so excited for this. Sounds delightfully perverse.

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LatriceRok 1 week, 4 days ago

You have kept away from conversation

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Moon 4 weeks ago

Keen to see this go ahead, and glad you've found a lense on (going back over) Dr Who that allows engagement with such a tentpole of the site's identity and revenue that nonetheless feels relevant to what you have to say about the world presently and does not trap you in derivation!

Obviously there is a bitter tang to the particulars of the endeavour, which is the heart of it's freshness contrasting the semi-utopian tone of TE.

Truly hoping Boys in Their Dresses will resume after its hiatus, it has the manner of a passion project, and the vulnerability associated, pragmatic decisions about time and energy must be made but it feels like an important work at a personal scale.

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Summer 4 weeks ago

—I mean climate change isn't going to end storytelling, that's several steps up from 'civilisational collapse'—

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Douglas Muir 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Climate change isn't going to cause civilizational collapse either, people. honestly.

I work in development. One surpise: industrial civilization is really fucking robust. It has never yet been wiped out over any large area for any extended period of time. Sure, you can get local, temporary and partial collapses. Cleaning up after those -- in the former Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, West Bank, Afghanistan -- is literally what I do for a living. I'm writing this from a city that literally lost more than half its population, including almost all of its college graduates, within living memory, and then got mostly razed to the ground as well.

It's given me a bemused appreciation for just how tough modernity actually is. Killing a third or half of the population doesn't shut it down. Bombing cities flat does almost nothing. Murderous, genocidal, violently incompetent governments can produce local rollbacks but they never last. Industrial civilization can ignore astonishing levels of human misery and just keep rolling.

Climate change is going to generate vast amounts of suffering. And yeah, it's going to bloody us up. All of us.
Most of us will be poorer, and our politics may get even meaner and more stupid.

But "civilizational collapse"? no. really, no.


Doug M.

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Aylwin 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I think you mostly answered your own point with the words "local, temporary and partial". Such disasters happen within a global civilisation, the vast majority of which remains undisturbed by them, which the areas harmed can plug back into and draw resources and expertise from whenever the crisis abates. They are the product of things people do, and which they tend after a while to stop doing, or of momentary natural disasters. For the most part they destroy only people and the things people make, both of which are, viewed callously in the grand scheme of things, quite easily replaced. That's a totally different proposition from the impact of changes which are universal (though hitting some regions faster and harder than others), which are permanent and just keep on getting worse, and which cut away the environmental foundations for human subsistence. On the human scale the horrors are much the same, but on the scale of global society it's like comparing a cold to cancer.

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BatmanAoD 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Without meaning to downplay the severity of climate change, the fact that it's global doesn't necessarily mean that it will "cut away the environmental foundations for human subsistence." Civilization _as we know it_ may indeed come to an end, but a warmer planet with less land area and more carbon dioxide is, as far as I can tell, not incompatible with the existence of some kind of human civilization. As far as I'm aware, no model of climate change shows so much warming that we'd lose all viable food crops or so much atmospheric carbon that the air would be toxic to humans.

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Aristide Twain 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Even beyond the dubiousness of the idea that climate change (or really any one of the various man-made threats around currently) might actually cause a full-on collapse of our civilization… our civilization didn't invent stories. What an odd idea indeed, that the end of our civilization — however soon it may come — would be the end of stories.

In my opinion, and I'm surely not alone in this, we could be reduced to cavemen and we'd still tell stories. Mankind to be done to one individual, yet that poor sod would be telling themselves yarns to pass the time on long winter nights. …And there's no reason those stories couldn't still feature a kind-hearted trickster genie who flies around in a box.

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Kyle Strand 2 weeks, 5 days ago

A dark mirror of Tardis Eruditorum sounds absolutely incredible. Brilliant idea.

I can't help but suspect that the prophecy that "the end of stories...is a couple decades away" is not entirely serious; I'm reminded of the opening of the "Pop Between Realities" about Ziggy Stardust:

> The smart money, you have to realize, was not on reaching 1978. The question was just which of the myriad of ways we might kill ourselves would pull it off.

Of course one should expect that there's a possibility that a creative project with an assumed looming apocalypse as its foundational premise will perhaps be enjoyed in a world that has survived or avoided that apocalypse. Analyzing such works (Ziggy, Watchmen...) is a major part of your oeuvre, Elizabeth!

Let us hope that we all live long enough to see Dalek Eruditorum through such a lens. And if we don't, and the prediction ends up being correct, well, let us hope that there are humans around (and enough remnants of internet media) to appreciate it in the opposite light.

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Kyle Strand 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Re: Tardis Eruditorum for Chibnall, I only watched a single episode, largely because of your disappointment in the season, so I hope that Whittaker's tenure grows to be more to your liking, whether under Chibnall or someone else.

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Haris 1 day ago

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