This Was Altogether Impossible (Conundrum)

(54 comments)


Steve Lyons’s Conundrum is the fourth and penultimate part of the Alternate History arc. It’s another sequel book, this time to The Mind Robber, so clearly I’m going to have some things to say below. As with much of this book arc, it’s also largely about ratcheting up the tensions within the TARDIS, and everyone is at everyone else’s throats for much of the book. It is quite acclaimed - indeed, the most popular of the five books, coming in tenth place on Shannon Sullivan’s rankings. Craig Hinton claimed it as an “absolute masterpiece,” while Lars Pearson calls it “Tremendous.” So obviously I’m going to have something terrible to say. Before that, however, the DWRG summary and Whoniverse Discontinuity Guide entry.

——
It’s January of 1994. Mr. Blobby is still at number one. This comes to a swift end, as Chaka Demus and Pliers get to number one with “Twist and Shout” featuring Jack Radics and Taxi Gang, which seems like far too many people for “Twist and Shout.” Two weeks later it’s unseated by D:Ream’s “Things Can Only Get Better,” which plays out the month, keeping “All For Love” by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting out of number one. That also seems like too many artists, really, for anything. Culture Beat, Eternal, Haddaway, Depeche Mode, Toni Braxton, and Tori Amos all make the top ten as well, the latter with “Cornflake Girl.”

In the news, NAFTA is properly established. Nancy Kerrigan is whacked in the leg, setting off one of the greatest sports melodramas ever. In one of the greatest purely symbolic acts of foreign relations ever, the US and Russia sign the Kremlin accords, agreeing not to actually point their nuclear weapons at each other but to aim them only if they intend to actually blow up the world. Two blank shots are fired at Prince Charles in Australia. This is, so far as I can tell, utterly unrelated to him retiring from competitive polo a few weeks earlier. Katharine, Dutchess of Kent, converts to Catholicism. And Shannon Faulkner breaks the gender barrier at The Citadel, a US military college, and quickly dropped out in the face of the torrent of sexist abuse she received.

While in dead trees, Conundrum. Steve Lyons is something of a bogey-writer for me. He’s terribly well-acclaimed. According to Shannon Sullivan’s rankings, he’s got top-ten novels in the Past Doctors Adventures and New Adventures, and places at fifteenth in the Eighth Doctor Adventures and sixteenth in the Missing Adventures. And yet I’ve done his work twice - The Witch Hunters in the Hartnell book and The Fires of Vulcan here - and came away unimpressed both times despite the acclaim. And here I am with his most acclaimed book and yet again I have trouble with him.

Admittedly explaining the Land of Fiction was never going to be a way to win my heart. If there’s a premise for a Doctor Who story I’m more likely to outright hate than that, It doesn’t spring to mind easily. It’s not that claiming that the Land of Fiction was created by the Gods of Ragnarok is unreasonable from some sort of continuity sense. It’s perfectly plausible that beings like the Gods of Ragnarok would create the Land of Fiction. It’s just stupid. It takes a terribly inventive concept from Doctor Who - the idea that there’s a world in which all of the creations of literature and imagination reside as real beings - and makes it the discarded entertainment of a random villain from a late-80s story. Yes, Greatest Show in the Galaxy was a very good late-80s story, and the Gods of Ragnarok were pretty good villains, but there’s not a villain in Doctor Who that compares to the idea of a place where all of humanity’s ideas are real beings.

The problem here shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but just in case, it’s that this is Whoniversal logic. The Land of Fiction had, prior to this book, been a moment of oddity and whimsy - something that it was very difficult to explain within the context of the rest of the show. (Indeed, as I’ve argued, it’s something that seems to beg to be read in such a way as to break with the rest of the show.) This is not a problem, or at least, it shouldn’t be, save for the tediously Urizenic portion of fandom who’s hell-bent on making sure everything in Doctor Who makes rational, singular sense. And yet clearly it is and the Land of Fiction needs to be fixed into some continuity-bound thing explicable primarily in terms of other Doctor Who stories instead of, you know, the entire history and future of literature.

On a purely emotional level, I just sort of want to scream a lot about how the least this segment of fandom could do is let the rest of us have The Mind Robber without fussing. I mean, I’d happily trade the ability to critique the most Whoniversal of Doctor Who stories - let’s say Attack of the Cybermen - in exchange for everyone else agreeing not to fuck up The Mind Robber. I mean, if there’s one story that we ought to get to keep for the “Doctor Who is weird and eccentric” brigade it’s The Mind Robber, a story whose entire point is a sort of playful allusiveness and an insistence on working through associative logic.

But Conundrum exists, and so we have to confront an attempt to ruin one of the best stories in Doctor Who. Fine. Let’s look at what we have, then. The first thing we can see is that Conundrum does make a serious bid at correcting the closest thing to a fault that The Mind Robber had, which was that it wasn’t as technically inventive as it could be. The example I used back in the actual post on the story was the one in which Jamie reads the ticker tape upon which the Doctor and Zoe’s encounter with the Minotaur is being recorded. Nowadays any television writer worth their salt would realize that you want to put the cliffhanger on Jamie reading out text about something horrible happening to the Doctor and Zoe, not on the Doctor and Zoe being charged by a Minotaur. But The Mind Robber doesn’t, and there are a host of similar little things where the story opts against a genuinely interesting bit of technique in favor of playing things a little more straightforwardly.

Conundrum, on the other hand, is intent on exploring the technical implications of its premise. It’s narrated by the current Master of the Land of Fiction, who is diegetically writing the novel. And so there are all sorts of clever moments when the narrative actually gets out of the control of its ostensible author and he struggles to get it back, or where the narrator makes amusing metatextual nods at the reader. As the story goes on the characters, particularly the Doctor, start becoming increasingly aware of what’s going on, leading to snarky exchanges between the Doctor and the narrator, most memorably when the Doctor correctly identifies that a chapter is ending. Eventually other characters get in on the game, including Benny, who has a fantastic moment when she gets outraged that she took a bath during the novel.

There are also a few moments that push the premise further. Ace is, at one point put on trial, with the accusation being that she’s outlived her usefulness as a character. On top of that, she’s attacked with books, including Dragonfire, Love and War, and Deceit. This isn’t the only moment where the fictionality of Doctor Who starts to bleed into the narrative either - there’s a moment towards the end in which it’s fleetingly implied that the Doctor knows that there’s always an audience watching him. These are quite clever, and push the idea of the Land of Fiction in directions The Mind Robber was too shy to explore.

Lyons is also taking a swing at character drama, continuing a theme that’s been building for several books now about the tensions among the TARDIS crew. At this point in the series they just seem to flat-out not get along very well, and Benny admits in the book that she’s thinking about leaving, while Ace discusses her reasons for staying and comes across stunningly unsympathetically in doing so. (Basically, she’s staying on the TARDIS to try to one-up the Doctor.) There’s an extent to which this begs to be read as the Davison era done right - an attempt to have a soap opera going on within the TARDIS crew. And there are some good scenes, particularly Benny’s confiding to someone that she’s just met that she’s thinking of leaving the TARDIS.

And for all that there are reasons to be grumpy about Conundrum, it’s not as though its implication is that we have to simply pack up our elaborate theories about the Land of Fiction and go home. This is a bit odd, actually, since the odds that Steve Lyons was trying to imply that the Doctor is the exiled ruler of the Land of Fiction seem low at best. And yet there are moments like the one where the narrator tells the Doctor that “you’re the whole reason this place exists.” Admittedly this can also be parsed in terms of the larger plot of someone meddling in time and setting up the Land of Fiction anew, but it works just as well to suggest an inherent connection between the Land of Fiction and the Doctor.

But so what if there is? Who cares if the Doctor is the ruler of the Land of Fiction when the Land of Fiction is just an abandoned plaything of the Gods of Ragnarok? The Land of Fiction is pathetic in this book - a run of the mill alternate dimension that’s easily disrupted by McAllerson’s radiation, a concept seemingly utterly lacking in point. (And a missed opportunity: the correct name is blatantly McGuffin’s radiation) Even the idea of becoming fictional is rubbished, with the Doctor suggesting it really just means that the Master of the Land of Fiction kills you and then writes stories about you. Yes, you can still link the Doctor inherently to the Land of Fiction. Heck, you can do it even more easily if you build off of the Doctor’s line in Greatest Show in the Galaxy about fighting the Gods of Ragnarok across all of time. But there’s no fun in it anymore. There’s no point. All the mercury’s drained out.

It’s telling that for all the ways in which Conundrum pushes the envelope in ways The Mind Robber didn’t, The Mind Robber is ultimately the story that is willing to push the big, conceptual envelope. Conundrum plays at boldness, attacking Ace’s validity as a fictional character, but then the novel just pulls away from that, letting her pull herself out of her nightmarish dream sequence and return to reality through a supreme act of willpower. Which, having raised the game to where the character is in active existential danger, just feels like a cop-out.

And this just about sums it up. Conundrum feels as though it thinks it’s brave for pushing the Land of Fiction concept further than The Mind Robber does, but it has nothing to say about it. It’s clever, but it’s shallow in its cleverness. The Mind Robber had a wealth of ideas, but in hindsight what is so striking about it is how laid back it is about them and how willing to is to be understated in its execution. There’s a playful inventiveness to The Mind Robber, and a confidence that its ideas can stand up on their own merits. Conundrum has far fewer ideas, and is far more ostentatious about them.

But this is oddly appropriate. Conundrum takes another step in advancing one of the New Adventures’ pet theories, namely that the Seventh Doctor forced the regeneration of the Sixth, and that the Sixth was particularly prone to becoming the Valeyard. Given the fleeting presence of the Valeyard it’s fitting that the exorcism-like nature of the Colin Baker era comes up here. Because the fact of the matter is that Conundrum’s problems are the problems that have been plaguing the entire line since at least Deceit. It’s trying for anti-heroic, edgy storytelling, and it just can’t figure out how to reconcile that with being Doctor Who. And it knows it.

In Conundrum, at least, this crosses into something else. The most telling bits are the bits about the White Knight and Doctor Nemesis. It’s not quite clear what they’re trying to do. It’s tempting to say that Lyons is imitating the darkening trends in superhero comics themselves of the time, but superhero comics were going in the Image Comics hypermasculine direction in the early nineties, not in this sort of deconstructed nostalgia direction. If Lyons is trying to parody that by making a dark and violent version of an Adam West-style character, on the other hand, he runs into the problem of misjudging the future: Conundrum’s approach is almost indistinguishable from a Geoff Johns comic. If it’s a parody, it’s one that has since been subsumed by reality. And that makes its efforts to resist the gravity of hard-edged anti-heroic storytelling strained.

And this is the problem. Most of the New Adventures writers don’t know how to do antiheroic storytelling effectively, in no small part because it’s hard and character-based and nothing like what Doctor Who usually does. The novels are trying to do this big plot about tensions on the TARDIS, but to do that right the audience should sympathize with everybody. Instead everybody is eminently punchable. The tensions are paper-thin and irritating. The only person to have made them work is Kate Orman, and she did it by absolutely breaking the Doctor. As standard operating procedure, this just isn't successful.

And in a way, Conundrum is the perfect symbol of this. Like the entire line thus far, it’s got some good ideas about what more mature storytelling techniques should be used for Doctor Who, but not a lot of ideas about what to stories to tell. And here it ends up finally eating its own tail, applying its slightly misguided techniques to the story that is most capable of resisting them and exposing the techniques for what they are. The result is a novel that seems to move the New Adventures to a point of crisis. Simply put, there’s not a plausible way to continue like this. These joyless triumphs of style over substance are not a plausible approach, even with some very clever bits. Even if this is what Doctor Who had to be for the cultural moment of the early 1990s, this book seems to mark the point where the limitations of that approach become restrictions. Simply put, this may have been what the New Adventures had to do in this period, but the use of this approach is running out. And while I'll readily agree that Conundrum is more technically impressive than, say, Blood Heat, I think in its success it reveals its weaknesses more deeply than Blood Heat did. It seems, not for the first time in the history of Doctor Who, like something has to give.

Comments

SK 4 years, 11 months ago

I liked the Scrabble scene.

Link | Reply

jane 4 years, 11 months ago

Definitely on good form for this one, Phil!

Link | Reply

Matthew Celestis 4 years, 11 months ago

I really love this novel. It is almost my favorite NA, if it were not for the scene with John and Gillian. I really resent Steve Lyons attempt to de-canonise the TV Comic stories. It smacks of the worst kind of fan humourlessness. Doctor Who is so varied in tone and style; if there is room for both the Mythmakers and Caves of Androzani in the canon, surely there is room for The Challenge of the Piper and A Christmas Story?

Link | Reply

jane 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh, but I wonder -- is Lyons making a commentary on the kind of problems posed by a tediously Urizenic fandom? After all, the Writer is exactly that sort of fan, right? Or this a case of unintentional irony?

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

"If Lyons is trying to parody that by making a dark and violent version of an Adam West-style character, on the other hand, he runs into the problem of misjudging the future: Conundrum’s approach is almost indistinguishable from a Geoff Johns comic."

Oh snap.

(Also, I'd judge the Kremlin Accords as being mostly symbolic, but also very useful for preventing General Ripper-style shenanigans.)

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

Indeed there is.

Link | Reply

Matt Michael 4 years, 11 months ago

Of course, the Land of Fiction is wider than that, so clearly the Gods of Ragnarok are just another story in the Land of Fiction, just another "Master Brain" McGuffin explanation that's far too timid and too small to explain a place where every story can be told and has been told. The reason I don't have a huge problem with this book is that I imagine it as just another volume on the shelves of the Land of Fiction Master's library. And, of course, the Master is an elderly man with a shock of white hair with a Ship that's bigger on the inside than out. Who just happens to look mysteriously like renowned actor Peter Cushing...

Link | Reply

Jesse 4 years, 11 months ago

I really resent Steve Lyons attempt to de-canonise the TV Comic stories.

I haven't read the book, but based on what I've heard about it, it sounded more like a clever way to canonize them.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

a run of the mill alternate dimension that’s easily disrupted by McAllerson’s radiation, a concept seemingly utterly lacking in point.

I haven't read the book, but one of the summaries you linked to says that the Doctor "guessed what was happening when the TARDIS transformed into a gingerbread cottage, and he therefore changed the story by specifying the nature of the Force as McAllister’s Radiation." As I read that, then, the point of the radiation is a metafictional decision on the Doctor's point to MAKE the Land of Fiction a "run of the mill alternate dimension that’s easily disrupted by McAllerson’s radiation." Is that wrong?

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 11 months ago

So... nobody up in arms over the "Williams" gravestone, despite the prior reaction to "The God Complex"? Interesting...

Personally, I loved the episode; what an ending. ;_;

Link | Reply

David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

I confess to not understanding the significance of the reference to Geoff Johns. (My google-fu informs me that he's responsible for lots of big Green Lantern event shenanigans.)

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

He is... one of the more problematic of the current crop of Big Writers in comics. He has a definite knack for getting to the core of a concept and spinning new, interesting ideas out of that... but, more relevant to the topic at hand, he also has a tendency to bring back old characters without really understanding why they were worth bringing back, and going for boring shock techniques.

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

I still haven't seen it. >.>

Link | Reply

Eric Gimlin 4 years, 11 months ago

My problem with the book was that it just got nasty, for lack of a better word. I know part of the point was to show the current Master of the Land of Fiction wasn't a very good writer, but Lyons wasn't able to pull that off completely. To be fair, that's a VERY hard line to walk. But it very much crossed the line from "the current Master is unpleasant and wants to dump on the kid adventurer group as nastily as possible" and "Lyons is unpleasant and wants..."

I must admit the book was interesting, with a lot of interesting ideas. I just can't call it even remotely enjoyable. Which is not an absolute requirement for a book, but it needs to have a heck of a lot to overcome that.

Link | Reply

daibhid-c 4 years, 11 months ago

In the sense of saying "yes, they technically exist in continuity, but they don't actually have anything to do with the TV Doctor because That Would Be Silly." So one step below the DWM strip that made TV Action land the Doctor's dreamworld in terms of how much they "count", really.

Link | Reply

Matt Michael 4 years, 11 months ago

So, SPOILERS... many ways I loved the episode - beautifully made, possibly THE most beautifully made ever. And the Angels were much more effective here than in their previous story. But I felt the ending got caught up in its own tortuous and poorly articulated logic to the extent that I really don't get what the problem is - especially given River seems perfectly able to go and visit with manuscripts and the like. I get "Rose is trapped in another universe" as an ending. I didn't get this

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

Well, the gravestone wasn't a comment by the Doctor; indeed we don't know who wrote it. (Well, I guess it would be the next of kin -- meaning River? But she couldn't or wouldn't prove she was next of kin, so more likely some friend?)

Link | Reply

Jesse 4 years, 11 months ago

It was written by Stephen Moffat, of course.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

To Matt (and again, SPOILERS): Right, and if the TARDIS can't go to 1938 NYC, how about 1939 NYC? Or 1938 New Jersey?

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

But (still SPOILERS) -- the we're-characters-within-a-book idea, and the parallel between angels becoming fixed when you look at them and the past becoming fixed when you read about it were very nice.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

It was written by Stephen Moffat, of course.

I doubt he's that steady a hand at stonecarving. He probably just told someone else to write it.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

He is also like the Master is being very fond of the word "decimate" -- but unlike the Master in not knowing what it means.

Link | Reply

Matt Michael 4 years, 11 months ago

It's really interesting watching your odyssey of the NAs. I joined for about the last third - from The Also People onwards, by which time I sense the books had loosened up and were, you know, enjoying being the future of Doctor Who. Until the TV Movie came along and spoiled it. There are still many of the middle books I've never read between Conundrum and Head Games. Which means my "era" of the NAs almost exactly coincides with the move to the new cover style, and the first Cornell book I read was the wildly untypical Happy Endings.

I do agree the early NAs seem often desperate to be anything other than Doctor Who. And I think is is why they were so marmite - and quite probably a contributing factor to launching the Missing Adventures in 1994. Certainly, when I was reading them in my mid teens, I found the earlier books notably harder going than "my era" of the books. The "future history arc" of Deceit, Lucifer Rising and Transit were a particular slog, and I even remember struggling with The Left-Handed Hummingbird in comparison to SLEEPY and Return of the Living Dad.

This I think also made me far more contented with the EDAs than long-term NA readers, given "my era" saw books by Lawrence Miles, Lance Parkin, Jim Mortimore, Kate Orman and Terrance Dicks - all mainstays of the early BBC books. I have to admit I don't remember a stylistic sea-change between The Room With No Doors, The Dying Days, Vampire Science and Alien Bodies. It was a comfortable segue as far as I remember.

I'm looking forward to where you're going with this particular thesis, and when you see the novels actually starting to embrace their Whoishness. After some initial scepticism that it made sense to cover so many of the NAs, I'm totally sold.

Link | Reply

Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes, the 2 things Geoff Johns seems to be known for in his writing for DC Comics is, 1)"Fixing" characters that other writers have systematically destroyed over a great many years, and 2)"Wholesale slaughter" of old characters in the most horrific, brutal fashion, just to get a rise out of the audience.

Sure seems to me like he's working at cross-purposes with himself!

Link | Reply

Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 11 months ago

@Matthew

I did a lot of yelling and screaming about "Angels Take Manhattan" on Twitter. Trust me, it got a reaction. I just try to keep my mad ranting away from the Eruditorum when it's not strictly relevant.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 11 months ago

THERE's the reaction I was expecting. :-P

Josh, if you yelled and screamed over it... well, frankly, you missed the damned point. They were always meant to be the Williams's; it's not any misogynist creed, dude. People marry, they change names; if that winds up on a headstone, who needs protest?

Annnnnybody else? :-P

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

You mean apart from women's changing their names in marriage being a) a misogynist relic of coverture, and b) a practice that is now happily starting to die out?

Link | Reply

Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 11 months ago

@Matthew

This is precisely why I didn't want to bring my opinions here in the first place.

@BeserkRL:

Thanks.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 11 months ago

@Berserk: That's not Moffat's point.

They had two lives; life with the Doctor (as "Amelia Pond", the Girl who Waited) and "real life" (as "Amy Williams"). The fact that Amy chose to live with Rory is in no way a validation of misogynism; in fact, I'd say that accusation is totally out-of-hand with Moffat, since he (if you remember) is not the one who made a companion forever pine after the Doctor.

If it was "Amy Pond" on the gravestone, that whole connecting point would be lost. You wouldn't be up in arms, but then, this doesn't need to be something to get up in arms about. This isn't "The Twin Dilemma", for cripes' sake! :-(

Link | Reply

John Seavey 4 years, 11 months ago

It can't be "McGuffin's Radiation" because the Master of the Land of Fiction is aware of the tropes of fiction and would spot the use of a metafictional joke immediately. Honestly, for someone who complains about the reading of a previous story being far too literal and didactic, you are kind of taking at face value the idea that everything the Doctor says in this story is absolutely true even when it's blatantly obvious that everything he says in the story from page one onwards is a shameless lie. :)

The Doctor is playing a game of storytelling with the Master from moment one, subverting his narrative and substituting a different one that diminishes its threat to him, because he refuses to be limited by an author's interpretation of him. He defines the Land of Fiction within his reality, rather than allowing himself to become just a part of a larger narrative, in order to preserve his freedom to travel (and isn't it said that the TARDIS is really a device for traveling between genres?) To assume that Lyons literally intends the origins of the Land of Fiction to be what he says they are is to colossally miss the point: Everyone is lying. Everyone is making up stories and narratives to define the world they live in on their terms. It's how we survive as human beings.

Or at least, that's how I see it. :)

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

INDEED. Of course, occasionally he "fixes" characters who had nothing wrong with them, like Brainiac.

Link | Reply

Ununnilium 4 years, 11 months ago

Ah, but the important thing is: Did that come out in the book itself? How much do you have to read that assumption into it?

I want to read Conundrum for myself now, just to answer that question.

Link | Reply

Wm Keith 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't think the "Williams" issue would be quite such a sore point were it not for the ugly way the name is forced on Amy in "The God Complex".

As a husband and wife in mid-20th century New York it would, of course, be extremely unusual for Rory and Amy not to share a surname. Seeing, however, that they had the opportunity (and indeed needed) to set up their new lives from scratch, it's a real shame that Rory's surname didn't fade to "Pond" as Amy's inscription appeared on the gravestone.

Also - was the episode suggesting that it was River's insecurity about her appearance that had made her appear (previously) in the Doctor's life in reverse chronological order? Or was it really saying that someone who used to date Cameca is now bothered about seeing the effects of ageing?

Link | Reply

David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

Various points:
a) River doesn't know that the Doctor knows when and how River is going to die. River is almost certainly not fully interpreting the Doctor's reaction, and may be misinterpreting.
b) the Doctor is an immortal time traveller. It makes sense to say that the only way he can relate to human beings is by deliberately ignoring the fact that human lives are ephemeral compared to his.
c) it makes thematic sense to raise the point in a story about accepting the fact that the people we love are going to die.

And, yes, the Williams-Pond thing is a misjudged piece of symbolism in relation to everything else.

Still, I expect Phil will find quite a lot to say about the story when he gets to it.

Link | Reply

Wm Keith 4 years, 11 months ago

a) I don't disagree with you.
b) It's not really "relating", though, in that case. Ignoring an issue is not the same as accepting it. Quite possibly there's an intention to make something of this later in the series.
c) Except, of course, the point is spoiled somewhat because the loss is not absolute. The Ponds don't die; they emigrate, write letters home, and have their own spin-off adventures featuring Morton Dill.

Link | Reply

daibhid-c 4 years, 11 months ago

@Matt

*Is* River able to visit with manuscripts? I got the impression she posted it from somewhere that wasn't riddled with paradox.

Why the Pond-Williamses can't leave paradox-riddled New York and go somewhere the TARDIS can pick them up is unclear. (They'd leave a trail of paradox? Not if they had every intention of returning to New York by their eighties, surely?)

@Wm Keith

They do die; there's a gravestone. Yes, if you think about it for three seconds that means absolutely nothing to a time traveler, as I note above, but the intent is "they're dead, that's fixed".

Link | Reply

daibhid-c 4 years, 11 months ago

The problem is the MacAllistair radiation; it doesn't affect the Land of Fiction because the Doctor says it does, it does so because it's MacAllistair radiation, and that's what it does, and the Doctor only explains what's going on afterwards. Otherwise the Master would know not to go along with the Doctor's claim that the Source is MacAllistair radiation.

I suppose you could claim that the Doctor has cunningly defined both the Land and the radiation to act in accordance with each other, and the Master goes along with both seperate theories without realising how they interact. I'd have to reread it to see how well that holds up.

Link | Reply

daibhid-c 4 years, 11 months ago

"Dark and violent version of an Adam West-style character"? Wasn't *the* Adam West character pretty dark and violent by 1993? Certainly when I read about the gratuitous death of the White Knight's kid sidekick, my firtst thought was to wonder if the Master's audience had got to vote on it...

Link | Reply

Wm Keith 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes, it seems that writing something down "fixes" it, so long as what is written down is true when written. Personally speaking, I'm pretty convinced that it's the Hand of Omega in that grave.

Link | Reply

Jesse 4 years, 11 months ago

Or was it really saying that someone who used to date Cameca is now bothered about seeing the effects of ageing?

I don't think it was an issue of looking old; I think it was an issue of looking older. The Doctor is disturbed by the transformation, and the implicit reminder of approaching death.

Link | Reply

Kit 4 years, 11 months ago

"This comes to a swift end, as Chaka Demus and Pliers get to number one with “Twist and Shout” featuring Jack Radics and Taxi Gang, which seems like far too many people for “Twist and Shout.” Two weeks later it’s unseated by D:Ream’s “Things Can Only Get Better,” which plays out the month"

This is the first time I've noticed the Eruditorium has synced up with Popular: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/popular/

Link | Reply

Anton B 4 years, 11 months ago

You're confusing Adam West with Bruce Wayne I think. That's like saying Patrick Troughton had developed tasteless dress sense and become prone to strangling his companions by the 1980s.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

You wouldn't be up in arms

But the whole point of my first post was that I wasn't up in arms -- that, given the context, "Williams" on Amy's tombstone didn't seem as objectionable as the parallel reference in "God Complex."

My subsequent comment was simply a response to the later suggestion that the tombstone wasn't problematic at all.

fact that Amy chose to live with Rory is in no way a validation of misogynism; in fact, I'd say that accusation

What accusation? Certainly not one I made.

is totally out-of-hand with Moffat

I think those who see Moffat as purely sexist and those who see him as completely free from sexism are both wrong, FWIW. There are strongly feminist and strongly antifeminist strands in his writing.

Link | Reply

Stephen 4 years, 11 months ago

@Ununnilium
Ah, but the important thing is: Did that come out in the book itself? How much do you have to read that assumption into it?

It's pretty explicitly established that the Doctor knows what's going on as soon as he exits the TARDIS and sees it take the shape of a gingerbread house. The narration establishes that the Master of the Land is very much familiar with fictional tropes. The only question is - as daibhid-c says - about the actual effect of McAllerson's Radiation.

And colour me surprised that Phil dislikes what's almost certainly the most postmodern Doctor Who story ever written, and seems to base that dislike almost entirely on a throwaway line about the Gods of Ragnorak.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

My strong impression from the book was that McAllerson's Radiation's effect is based on some predictable technobabble. The line "it interfered with the energies making up the Land of Fiction" seems telling in this regard - it's something that works in a sciency way. He tricks the Master on literary grounds, sure, but he ultimately trumps fiction with sci-fi concepts. Which is bad enough.

As for why I didn't like it... because it was facile postmodernism, mainly. Being postmodern is certainly a plus in my book, but it's not an automatic seal of approval. The Gods of Ragnarok throwaway seemed to me emblematic of the whole book: it cheapens the Land of Fiction by making it just another sci-fi concept. The Land of Fiction just becomes Planet of the Postmodernists. And I think that's less than what The Mind Robber gave us.

That said, I'm starting to feel guilty about beating up on Steve Lyons, and I'm going to try very hard to like Head Games. :)

Link | Reply

5tephe 4 years, 11 months ago

Not trying to rag on daibhid's innocent mistake here, but Anton B wins the comments section today.

Link | Reply

Nick Smale 4 years, 11 months ago

As a husband and wife in mid-20th century New York it would, of course, be extremely unusual for Rory and Amy not to share a surname.

I doubt they died in mid-century, however. Unless I'm very much mistaken, the font on the gravestone is Avenir, which dates from the late 80s, so they must have survived until then at least (which would make sense if the Angel sent them back to 1938 and they lived another 50+ years).

Link | Reply

daibhid-c 4 years, 11 months ago

@5tephe Absolutely, although I would argue Anton is the one confusing "Adam West character" with "Adam West"...

Link | Reply

Wm Keith 4 years, 11 months ago

I think they died with the TV series. Rory died after Survival; Amy made it to Dimensions in Time.

Link | Reply

dreamer-easy 4 years, 11 months ago

The Scrabble scene was pure genius. I just about fell out of my chair.

Link | Reply

Froborr 4 years, 11 months ago

I think the point is that any time travel which alters the time traveler creates a paradox. Since the Doctor remembers reading the book, he cannot change the past in a way that changes what he remembers, because that would change him. Specifically, altering the past to prevent an event he remembers obviates his reason for traveling back in the first place, creating a grandfather paradox.

The very fact that "real" life is coded as "Amy changes her name" and "fantasy adventure" life is coded as "Amy keeps her name" is itself misogynistic.

Personally, I think Moffat is aware that sexism is bad, but still can't quite wrap his head around the notion that women are people. Hence his complete inability to write women as anything other than broad stereotypes--it's because he's trying to write women, rather than trying to write people.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

I concur.

Link | Reply

Mithun bd 2 years, 2 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Link | Reply

Mithun bd 2 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations! in this post .It is real Article posting site and Educated I Dual the Hartnell edition few months ago and sight the base on Friday as shortly as I got residence from a misadventure I request the Ignite version of the Troughton one. I see brash to datum the new one.To do know more info visit this professional essay writers

Link | Reply

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom