Time Can Be Rewritten 16 (The Well-Mannered War, Virgin Books, 1997)

(81 comments)

Sorry this is late - not sure why it didn't post when it was supposed to. Speaking of books, if you've bought mine from Amazon or elsewhere, please consider leaving a review. Even if you hated it. Though, I mean, I'd rather you do it if you liked it.

But not, we should stress, too clever for anyone to enjoy. It's not accurate either to treat the Williams era as some failed experiment before its time. As we saw before, its ratings were solid even without ITV just collapsing. The AI figures show that people genuinely enjoyed it. And perhaps most importantly, Gareth Roberts exists.

Gareth Roberts has, if we are being honest, done more than anyone to rehabilitate the Williams era. I do not merely refer to his quite lovely "Tom the Second" essay discussed back in the Horns of Nimon entry (and before that in the Armageddon Factor entry), although it is a masterpiece of fan writing and its thesis, which can roughly be summarized as "shut up, it's really fun" ought be, I think, the thesis of far more arguments both scholarly and popular. But his real contribution to Williams-era rehabilitation are his three novels for the Missing Adventures range, all of them set within Season Seventeen.

There are two ways of looking at these novels. On the one hand, Gareth Roberts, who had already put out The Highest Science and Tragedy Day when the Missing Adventures line started and had firmly nailed down his role as "the funny one." Given that the New Adventures as a whole were pretty strikingly far from the "funny" brief when the Missing Adventures started up Gareth Roberts, who clearly was a great writer in the wrong era with the New Adventures, was a searingly obvious choice to write for them. And this era was a searingly obvious choice for him to write in. In this regard his first Missing Adventure, The Romance of Crime, was almost inevitable - the sort of thing that just followed instinctively from the premise that the Missing Adventures existed. (Less expected was that one of other things that everyone would naturally assume would exist in the Missing Adventures - a Hartnell historical - also came from Roberts and took until The Plotters)

The other perspective, and the one I prefer just because it involves casting Roberts as a sort of Robert Holmes villain cackling away in a cellar and shrieking about how he'll show them all and how SOON they will RECOGNIZE the POWER of GRAHAM! WILL! IAMS!, is, well, about what I just described. These novels are unabashedly and gloriously Gareth Roberts with a chip on his shoulder hell-bent on showing the world that they're wrong about his favorite era of Doctor Who. In this regard The Romance of Crime, which was written with such a sense of traditionalism as to adhere to what could plausibly have been made in 1979, is the most obvious. It is unabashedly an attempt to show not what the Williams era could have been but rather to show what it was, in point of fact, when written competently.

It was also a massive success, leading to Roberts doing two more, including this one, The Well-Mannered War, which doubled as the final book in the Missing Adventures line. And so, in a deft bit of continuity positioning, Roberts jumps forward from the gap between Creature From the Pit and Nightmare of Eden that he put his first two books in an positions this one in the gap between the Williams era and the Nathan-Turner era. A new capstone for the Williams era, in other words, and a commentary on the transition from one era of the show to another.

But that commentary is the last few pages of the book, so let's leave it for a bit. Let's first do the traditional "clearing up popular misconceptions" moment where we discuss the received wisdom about this book. A lot of people seem to think there's a shift in tone halfway through. This claim is… puzzling. It is true that the comedic set piece of the first half - a pointless war that is a war in name only, in which the two sides get along perfectly well, and in which there's even a tea trolley serving the trenches - goes out the window and a war in earnest starts. But this is not so much a darkening of the book as an obvious moment of ratcheting up tension. Of course if you have a wholly defused friendly war in the first act you need to have it turn into a proper war eventually. That's just how tension goes. Anyone saying that the second half of the book isn't funny must have stopped reading it midway through.

For one thing, the second half introduces the funniest character in the entire book: Fritchoff the lone Marxist revolutionary. (In fact he's just the lone member of the rebel militants. There are also three militant rebels, but they're apparently inherently counter-revolutionary and have also all been murdered by evil flies.) Fritchoff is a marvelous character. He is, of course, mocked ruthlessly by the entire book. But that's fine. This is meant to be the Williams era. Everyone is mocked ruthlessly by the entire production. Heck, the final shot of the Williams era is Romana making faces at the Doctor for being annoying. (Actually, the only character to evade mockery is Romana, who under Lalla Ward is seemingly above all reproach. Which is fair, let's face it.)

What's key about the mockery of Fritchoff is that he's at once parodic and detailed. For one thing, he's visibly written by someone who knows his Marxism at least decently well. Roberts nails every single one of the myriad of intellectual and linguistic sins committed by incompetent Marxists. It would be far too easy to give Fritchoff Marxobabble dialogue that just blithely signifies "stupid Marxist," but instead Fritchoff gets to say things that make sense but are stupid and irrelevant to the matters at hand such as "not getting killed by evil flies." This goes a tremendous way towards making the parody less mean-spirited. If you're actually familiar with Marxist literature Fritchoff is even funnier than he is if you're not. He's a parody that's best appreciated by the very people he's parodying.

Second of all, Roberts is careful to make the jokes at the expense of Fritchoff as a character, not at the expense of what he believes. The Doctor clearly has little patience or interest in Fritchoff's politics, but all the same expresses respect for his dedication and buys a copy of his newspaper (though he clearly isn't fond of it). Fritchoff isn't depicted as bad because he's a weirdo Marxist living in a hole, but because he's opportunistic, blinkered, and hypocritical, clearly rationalizing what he wants to do with Marxist rhetoric instead of using Marxism as a set of principles. In other words, it's not that Marxism or Marxists are bad or silly, but that people like Fritchoff are. None of this is to say that Roberts appears fond of Marxism - he doesn't and probably isn't. But there's a sense of love underlying his mockery. There is no malice or anger behind the jokes, here or anywhere else, and there's a tangible ethos that as long as you're also willing to laugh at your own side you're free to join in on the joke.

This sense of genuine love permeates the book. Roberts clearly grew up on Douglas Adams and his ilk, and has a delicious knack for the comic turn of phrase. But more to the point, the book revels in these phrases. Dialogue like "We are prepared to enter into full negotiations on Barclow, without preconditions. As soon as they accept our terms" is a highlight, as is the phrase "many a cheese-and-wine evening in the trenches" and the moment in which the Doctor pulls a cup of tea from his pockets. These little gems are sprinkled throughout the book and rarely done with any flamboyance or showboating. There's a sense of understatement to it all. Even the most high concept aspects of the book - most obviously the idea of K-9 running for political office - aren't wallowed in.

It's tempting to treat this as a correction to the Williams era - an attempt to reign in the overacting and showboating that plagued several of its stories. But that would be unfair. It's not as though Roberts doesn't take opportunities for that kind of broad and hammier comedy as well, most obviously in the character of Menlo Stokes, a fantastically irritating artist. But this is visibly tempered with a willingness to go for humor without also going for wringing every laugh out of the audience. This is writerly humor, not performer's humor. It's seeking to make people laugh, but not to wring every laugh possible out of the audience. If anything, the book seems to enjoy knowing that the audience is unlikely to spot every joke on the first pass. The jokes are there because they're worth making, not  just for the reaction.

Certainly this is true of the Williams era as well. Although written before the age of the VCR and permanent copies of thing, the Williams era was made at a point when the attitude towards archiving television was rapidly changing. It was during the Williams era that the attitude of the BBC really changed away from treating its old recordings as irritating clutter and towards treating it as a national treasure to be preserved and archived. And there's notably a tendency for the writers to do scripts with subtleties and nuances that simply wouldn't have made sense in an earlier single-use model of television. This, in a real sense, explains the sudden focus on characterization and motivation in the Williams era. The writers were making the earliest steps towards writing for an audience that would revisit the stories.

But for Doctor Who there's an even more obvious reason why writers might do this, which is that by this point it was clear that anything they wrote would be novelized. Even though key highlights of the Williams era weren't novelized, this was due to Douglas Adams wanting to do them himself but wanting more money than Target would give him, not due to him not wanting them novelized. Indeed, it speaks volumes that nearly a decade later, long after he had any rational reason to be revisiting his jobbing TV writer days, Douglas Adams eventually did basically novelize City of Death and Shada into Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

But this also marks out a curious influence Terrance Dicks had on the program. If we credit the fact that writers in this era for the first time had reason to believe that their stories would be revisited for the change towards a more nuanced and character-based style of storytelling and a love of smaller and more understated jokes then we are led to conclude that in a real sense the intended audience for large swaths of Doctor Who in this era was, in fact, Terrance Dicks himself. He was, after all, the one doing the novelizations. If you wanted a good line to be preserved he was the one who had to like it enough to keep it in the book. In practice, of course, video technology has swallowed that up and meant that what is and isn't remembered comes from rewatching, but it's worth pointing out that in an era where posterity seems to first be being thought of it was Terrance Dicks who was the near-sole arbiter of that.

But when Miles and Wood talk about the Williams era as being a "literary" era of Doctor Who, this is a lot of what they mean. The move towards more literate science fiction was in many ways a move towards a science fiction of books, as that was the essential difference between books and television. Books were reviewed. And so in this sense even though the sort of love of language Roberts demonstrates and the love of slipping in little asides is a fundamentally linguistic pleasure as opposed to a televisual one, it's one the era still shared.

Ah, yes. The era. Because in the end, that is what this novel is about. And there's a clear change in the way that Doctor Who is being thought about in the first place here. The parceling of Doctor Who into eras is one that slowly but inexorably increases from its debut on. And I do not use "inexorable" here in a merely casual sense. Having written up seventeen seasons of the show in the last year, I can vouch for the fact that there really is an unavoidable gravity of this sense of "era" - the division of the show, in essence, into discrete segments that form mini-shows. To some extent this is just common sense. When you're dealing with a show of normal length the notion of eras just isn't helpful. When you're dealing with a show on year 49 of its existence, on the other hand, eras are fundamentally helpful. They break the show into segments that are much closer to the sorts of things that the vocabulary of television criticism is already meant for.

On top of that, they make for lovely book dividers, whether you use the traditional and most superficially obvious structure of breaking a series up by Doctor (as I've favored) or favor different approaches. One of the things I most respect About Time for is its decision to break its volumes up on season lines that approximate producer shifts. It's still not perfect - a proper treatment by producer would mean, for instance, that the Letts era is offset from the Pertwee era by one story. But nobody in their right mind would run a book from The Silurians to Robot instead of from Spearhead From Space to Planet of the Spiders. But for the most part, if you want to look at creative shifts, producers are the best yardstick to use.

But even still there's an odd way in which the logic of eras asserts itself more and more strongly as the show goes on. Part of that may simply be down to some idiosyncracies of the 1960s. The fact that the John Wiles era happens within Season 3 and lasts only four stories is a bit of a problem, as is the fact that the Lloyd-Bryant-Sherwin years bleed heavily into each other. But there's a more obvious culprit here, and that's fandom. By the late 1970s Doctor Who fandom was undeniably a thing, and with it came a consensus vocabulary and a lot of chatter using it. As a result, there's a much larger body of received critical wisdom about the changes between The Horns of Nimon and The Leisure Hive than there is about the changes between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Horror of Fang Rock.

We'll deal with the question of exactly how dramatic the gap between those two stories actually is over the next two entries. But suffice it to say that we are now firmly in a period in which there are piles of critical dogma and fan politics that stand behind every single judgment that can be made. If Planet of the Spiders marked the entry where my own personal history with Doctor Who became an ever-present part of the series (with an odd gap for the Williams era in which the era is, for me, mostly defined by how much I wanted to see it and couldn't), here is where the fan debates become omnipresent. Actually, to some extent that was the Williams era, hence the frequent nipping off to check the Mighty 200 poll and all.

But what happens next is John Nathan-Turner. The first seventeen years of Doctor Who have eight producers. The next ten have one. John Nathan-Turner, who takes over with the next story, oversees four different Doctors, three regenerations, and the cancellation of the series. And thus, fittingly and ironically, it is over him that one of the biggest critical question marks in the series hangs.

So, just to kill any mystery, since I don't particularly see "what is Phil going to think about the quality of a given era" as a source of suspense or drama in this blog, I happen to like the majority of it. I like Tom Baker's last season, Davison is a strong contender for my second favorite classic Doctor (Troughton is the only one who really gives him a run for it), and Sylvester McCoy is my outright favorite era of the classic series. I do pretty much loathe the entire Colin Baker run, though as the standard follow-up to that sentence goes, he's quite good on the audios. So for the most part, I quite like the Nathan-Turner era, though with a very, very big asterisk on that claim. Certainly I hold him in higher regard than both John Wiles and Barry Letts.

All of which said, Nathan-Turner himself is a deeply problematic figure, and given the extent to which he thrust himself forward as one of the stars of the show it is impossible to spare him from careful judgment. There's too much debate over him to ignore. Unsurprisingly, given that he was a human being and all, the end result of that analysis is going to be muddier. He made some incompetently stupid creative decisions in his tenure and some deeply questionable personal ones. He also got the show cancelled. Then again, he made some brilliant creative decisions and probably saved it from being cancelled in 1981. More on this over the next several months, of course.

But in any case, this is The Big One when it comes to era shifts. Despite the fact that only the producer and script editor change between The Horns of Nimon and The Leisure Hive, this shift is, for all critical purposes, as tectonic as the shift from The War Games to Spearhead From Space (which, ironically, had a considerably smaller actual creative shift) or from The End of TIme to The Eleventh Hour. The only shift that's definitively larger is the shift from cancelled to 2005.

Except that there's one other shift that's just as big as those, and it's one that is hardly ever mentioned (though one that this blog is going to cover thoroughly when the time comes). And that's the shift from the Virgin Books era to the BBC Books era. This is a shift I've alluded to before, and it's massive in two ways. The first is a very broad way. There were three sustained continuations of Doctor Who between 1989 and 2005: The Virgin New Adventures, the BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures, and the Big Finish Audios. Two of these proved to be major influences on the new series that might as well be considered de facto canon. The third of these was BBC Books. It is genuinely striking just how influential both Big Finish and Virgin were on the development of the series. But even more striking is how completely irrelevant the BBC Books line has proven to be to the future direction of the show.

This is not a judgment on its quality - a thumbing through of my comments on the BBC Books novels here will show that I've found much to love there. Rather, it's a simple judgment of influence. BBC Books writers were not tapped to write for the new series, ideas from the BBC books line were not imported into the new series, and the aesthetic of the new series has very, very little to do with the ideas that came out of BBC Books.

But this gets at a second issue, which is that a lot of the mainstay writers of the Virgin line did not follow to the BBC Books line. Among those who didn't was Gareth Roberts, who wrote seven books for Virgin, two audio plays for Big Finish, and not a word for BBC Books. And he's far from the only one to drop out, so to speak. There's a clear split that happens between the lines, and the shift is not without potshots on both sides about the other line.

And there's no way to read the ending of this book as anything but a comment on both the Virgin/BBC era split and the Williams/Nathan-Turner era split. At the end of the book it turns out that the entire plot of the novel has been a trap laid by the Black Guardian for the Doctor, and that the Doctor has thoroughly fallen for it. Faced with a choice between causing the deaths of billions or abandoning travel and staying in the TARDIS forever, the Doctor and Romana proceed to cheat the Black Guardian and activate the emergency unit last used at the end of The Dominators, throwing themselves out of the universe. He remarks to Romana that last time this happened they ended up in the Land of Fiction.

"Then we'd just be characters, not real people," Romana frets. But there is no other option, and so the Doctor and Romana press the button and simply depart the universe entirely.

It's hilariously and delightfully petulant. The Doctor would rather give up on his "reality" than be sucked into the John Nathan-Turner era. (Clarification: Gareth Roberts has stated that it was not his intention to take a swipe at 80s Doctor Who with this scene. Apply your own level of belief in the intentional fallacy to this fact.)  Taken as an ending to the Virgin line it's a bit nicer, but there's still a tangible anger to it - a declaration that whatever happens next doesn't get to impact or erase what Roberts and his friends have built. (And they really did build something extraordinary.) But first and foremost, it is a commentary on the Williams era, and an illustration of one final point in its defense - a rejoinder to those who object to its supposed lack of seriousness. It is a reminder that comedy, even good-natured comedy, can readily be weaponized.

To some extent this is the thrust of the whole book. It is a book about war in which quite a lot of people die. The subject matter portrayed in the book is funny, but, notably, it's funny only because it's not real. But this is an important function of fiction. Absurdist humor is only funny in fiction. In reality it's just totalitarianism. There's nothing actually funny about Margaret Thatcher because she was unfortunately and frustratingly real. But in fiction, where the dead don't count, it is possible to make a point that is difficult to make in reality. Pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is much easier when it doesn't actually involve seeing Margaret Thatcher naked.

So Roberts ends on a cutting joke. But one with some real truth underlying it. His defense of the Williams era, after all, has always been that it's very fun. And here we see that elevated to a moral point. The possibility of humor is, in a real sense, a powerful stopgap against a number of problems. There is only so bad that things can be as long as it's possible to laugh about them. There's only so bad Doctor Who can be as long as it's still funny.

And this is, in the end, the key point of the Williams era. Yes, it was funny and silly. But it was about being funny and silly. The distinction may be subtle, but it's very much real. It's not just a series of jokes, but a series of jokes about how bad people without a sense of humor are. There's a real moral purpose to it, and it's one that it's very hard to object to.

It's just a pity that its creative staff wasn't all as good as Gareth Roberts.

Comments

David 5 years, 5 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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David 5 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, thought you'd missed off the first paragraph before I realised it was meant to carry on straight from your last post!

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

No problem. I was forced to double bank slightly this week and instead of writing one post a day write slightly more than one a day, so I ended up just sort of splitting a train of thought across two entries as I finished one and immediately started the next.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

I take it you've not yet read Alien Bodies, if you think that the BBC books haven't had an influence? The end of Moffat's first series and the start of his second one are practically an adaptation of Alien Bodies but with the good bits taken out. Come to that, the whole idea of the Time War seems to have come from the War In Heaven plotline in the BBC Books.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

No, I know of that. But I think it's telling that where the New Adventures were actively reintegrated the series with stories being adapted and races being mentioned by name Russell T Davies actively created a second Gallifrey-destroying war to have taken place during Paul McGann's era instead of using the one that was right there. I mean, as snubs go, that one's pretty staggering.

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Stephen 5 years, 5 months ago

Firstly, this sentence "Gareth Roberts, who clearly was a great writer in the wrong were with the New Adventures, " doesn't make sense. I think you might have meant to use "era" instead of "were", but that's just a best guess.

Secondly, there's a fourth sustained continuation of Doctor Who in the "Wilderness Years". DWM's comic strips lasted the entire era. Although they didn't really come back into their own until the eighth Doctor era, they had a very clear influence in the new series. The Flood was a clear influence on both The Parting of the Ways and Army of Ghosts, and there are probably more throwaway references to DWM continuity than there are to Big Finish continuity.

Thirdly, you are definitely underplaying the impact the BBC books had on the new series. Yes, they were probably the least influential of the four, but - as has already been pointed out - their influence was a great deal larger than zero. The Time War, the arc about the Doctor's death, and the Sycorax all display clear influences from Alien Bodies - to name the first three examples that come to mind.

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David 5 years, 5 months ago

Having said that, wasn't the general consensus of the BBC Books that they were either stodgy books of techno-nonsense and time paradoxes that didn't engage anybody (the EDAs) or frothy throwaway nonsense (the PDAs)? The Eighth Doctor line is regarded by many as being a bit of a failure. They may have had an influence on New Who in terms of serving as a warning: a) if you're going to do a plot arc, don't do it over too long a time and for God's sake make sure you know how it's going to end, and b) make sure your big dramatic points are emotional character ones and not to do with big esoteric concepts that only a marginal percentage of the viewers will understand or care about. I mean, I'm not a fan of much of the RTD era (for me the 10th Doctor era is the low point of the entire series, whereas season 5 - with Matt Smith - is my absolute favourite) but he got a lot more right than BBC books did. Even the destroying Gallifrey idea and the Time War is a notion picked up and then used in an entirely different way, and Moffat's arc about the Doctor's death seems more like a cool idea any executive producer might come up when plotting a season about a time traveller, as opposed to something picked up from a Lawrence Miles book in the mid 90s.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 5 months ago

@Phil

Can't think of a better way to look at the end of the Graham Williams era than this book and this post-Great pick! I still wish I could share your enthusiasm going into the John Nathan-Turner era because, as I've said before, my opinions on at least the next four years are completely the opposite of yours. I'll be incredibly anxious to see your take on them.

@Stephen, Andrew Hickey

I always thought Moffat's Death of the Doctor arc shared more similarities with Big Finish's "A Death in the Family" than "Alien Bodies", except the audio play was a tighter, more intriguing story with a less angsty and more engaging Doctor. I will grant it may be hard to make a case here because of the short time between them (the play was October 2010 and Series 6 started in Spring 2011), but they still seem uncannily similar to me.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

I hadn't noticed the similarities between A Death In The Family and the last Moffat series (possibly because A Death In The Family is really, really good and the last series isn't), but now you mention it there is some similarity.

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WGPJosh 5 years, 5 months ago

@Andrew Hickey

My thoughts exactly, though I couldn't help noticing the at least superficial plot similarities as soon as I saw where Moffat was going. This is part of the reason I was so cranky last year when everyone was talking about how "shocking" and "groundbreaking" Series 6 was.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

I think the idea that the Virgin writers 'didn't follow the books to the BBC line' is a little misleading, if it's meant to imply some kind of deliberate taking-of-their-ball and home-going.

Because the truth is that there isn't that clean a divide. Paul Cornell, for example, is one of the most obvious cases to make for the split: he was a, if not the, mainstay of the New Adventures, and absent from the BBC books for a long while. Except he had already left Virgin long before the line ended, to concentrate on his TV career. Other than Happy Endings -- surely a special case -- he hadn't been seen since May 1995 and Human Naturewhich finished his 'seasons' cycle. And yes, he wrote Oh No It Isn't: but that was to launch a new line from which he was getting royalties. And then of course he returned to Doctor Who to write Shadows of Avalon for the BBC and novelise his Scream of the Shalka script.

And Andrew Cartmel, who contributed his War- trilogy earlier in the New Adventures, had his last work for Virgin -- completing the trilogy -- published in early 1996, and there's no indication he would have written any more.

And then there's those who did cross over: Mark Gatiss wrote The Roundheads for the BBC, Kate Orman crossed over without a break, writing the third-from-last New Adventure and picking up almost immediately with the second Eighth Doctor Adventure. Most of the writers who had their debut novels published late in the Virgin run also crossed over to the BBC line quite quickly: Parkin, Miles, Bucher-Jones, Leonard, Messingham. Justin Richards ended up editing the BBC books; Steve Lyons wrote for them, as did Dave Stone (Richards and Stone possibly even working for Virgin on the Summerfield line at the same time as working for the BBC on Doctor Who. Terrance Dicks did too, but he's Terrance Dicks.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

In fact I think Gareth Roberts may well be the only one of the regular contributors to the Virgin line to 'drop out' (there were, of course, some writers who only ever contributed one or two books in toto, and they all happened to be for Virgin: Daniel Blythe, Russel T. Davies, Ben Aaronovitch, David Banks, Neil Penswick, Matthew Jones.

So I don't think the evidence actually supports the idea of a mass exodus of writers at the changeover. Most of the active Virgin writers continued to write for the BBC; most of those who didn't, had already left the arena of Doctor Who prose fiction.

What there very definitely was, was a generational shift where the bunch of early writers, who by all accounts had mostly got on famously and formed quite a clique, moved on and a 'second generation' of writers,the Parkinses, the Miles, etc, arrived after them (Orman is the only one who really plays a big part in both generations -- maybe Richards, don't know if he counts as 'early Virgin'). And that happens around 1996/1997, but the generational shift is well under way before the Virgin/BBC transition.

I think the sharp division may actually mostly be a product of post-hoc fan commentary, heightened by the very different editorial approach taken by the early BBC line, rather than being something that actually happened at the time. Fans disappointed by the early BBC releases drew a sharp dividing line and claimed that all had been lovely and wonderful in the Garden of Virgin, until the Buffini serpent came and cast them into the wilderness of BBC Children's books. Which is a convenient narrative, but ignores the fact that it was basically the same people writing them (albeit with a different editorial team).

None of which is to say that Roberts isn't making a pointed comment, and the fact that -- almost unique among writers actively working for Virgin at the time of the switch -- he doesn't go on to write for the BBC does suggest that maybe he was. But as for a wholesale exodus, as for many of the writers 'not following' the books: the facts simply don't bear that interpretation out.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

As for the influences, I think you're being a little simplistic there, too. Yes, New Adventureswriters were invited to submit to the TV series: well specifically Cornell, Roberts and Gatiss were (and Matthew Jones, later, but he knew Davies through other channels). But they were in that early group who had left the Virgin books behind and moved into television. Whereas the later generation, who hadn't moved into television (or whose television careers had stalled somewhat in Emmerdale), didn't write for the TV series. So I suggest that the story there again is more complex than 'New Adventures writers were tapped to submit for the TV series because Davies was impressed with the New Adventures'; rather, it's more like, 'The early group of New Adventures writers formed a loose network that helped each other on in their TV careers and so when the programme came back they had the requisite experience in the medium to be asked to write for it'.

Because if you look at the new series, and the New Adventures, apart from some of the names, there really aren't that many similarities. Notable features of the New Adventures are a lot of space opera, a consistent 'base' setting that the novels kept returning to (Earth, its colonies and Empire, roughly between the twenty-fith century and the fiftieth), lots of cyberspace (hey, it was the nineties),lots of stories without 'monsters' but instead with antagonists who are characters with their own goals etc.

The new series, on the other hand, is all over the place: it switches genres like crazy, trying out one thing this week, another next week. You know what does that? The BBC books. They are in some ways much more experimental than the Virgin books: where the Virgin books love them their building up a coherent future history, the BBC books include books set in a world created from what people in the sixties thought space would be like, on a light-year-long stretched-out TARDIS at the end of time, or in a world of cartoons!

So actually I think the new series is much more similar to the BBC books than the New Adventures. Does this means that actually the BBC books influenced the new series? Well, as you point out, Davies didn't use the one concrete element of the BBC books that he could have done, the Time War. Unlike you I don't think that was a deliberate snub: I think that Davies simply hadn't been reading the BBC books. Why would he? He was busy writing television. Who, doing that, has time to read a hundred-thousand word tie-in novel every single month (every other month, later)?

No, I think what happened was that the BBC books, and the new series, being products of a similar time (the TV series was announced in 2003, overlapping substantially with the BBC books) and therefore responding to similar influences, without directly impacting on one another. As a correspondent on a mailing list out it when I pointed this out, the New Adventures were written by a bunch of people watching Babylon 5 and excited by the idea of a huge coherent years-long future history; while the BBC books were written by a bunch of people watching Buffy, the Vampire Slayer playing genre games week after week, with musical episodes and speechless episodes and, indeed, the whole basic setup being a genre twister.

And we know that Davies was influenced by Buffy, the Vampire Slayer when he was developing the new series because he said so, a lot.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

So to return to the point. Did the New Adventures influence the TV series? Yes, a bit, but not as much as the other things that happened in television in the intervening years. which makes sense: if you're developing a TV series in 2003 you look to what was on TV in 2001, not to what was being done in books in 1991. The New Adventures' influence was very indirect, more about expanding the range of possibilities for what Doctor Who could be than about any of the particular things they did within that expanded area.

The BBC books, on the other hand, had no influence at all -- but they were influenced by the same things as the new series' main influences, and so they ended up bearing a closer resemblance to it.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Finally, might I suggest that the idea of the Doctor faking his death to protect his friends might have a more obvious precursor in literature, one that we know Mr Moffat has read, or at least we do if we watched BBC 1 yesterday...

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 5 years, 5 months ago

@David I wouldn't call 10th doctor a low point (there's nothing in it that is ever outright offensive), but for me it became a bunch of great concepts butchered by shitty execution, or overhyped concepts that never stuck with me. Bringing the Ood back, for example, ruined an interesting concept by making the Ood one more species that the Doctor saved, hurray hurrah.I remember reading that RTD brought the Ood back because of what he'd been reading of Richard Dawkins and the Selfish Gene, and I remember feeling irritated. I don't care what Dawkins said, Russell, the idea of a purposely bred slave race is fascinating. Retaining them into an already existing slave race who needed to be saved from their oppressors just makes it one more retread of the been-there, done that variety. They kept trying to shoehorn the ood in as something important - Oh My Goodness, the Ood are a centruy more develoved than they should be. This becomes important when... when... wait. Why was that ever brought up? That was a dramtic reveal that did nothing.

Crap like that is where I can see you being dismissive of the 10th Doctor as making a bit of sense. Fourth series especially. From Voyage of the Damned to Unicorn in and the Wasp, there's a straight run of eight terrible, terrible episodes. For me, anyways. I'm sure someone likes them.

Oh, typical. By the time I finish writing this, the conversation has moved on. Sigh.

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David 5 years, 5 months ago

@Lord

I find the characterisation of the 10th Doctor pretty well appalling, starting off merely as irritating and ending as a character I'd normally steer well clear of if it weren't for that fact that he was masquerading as a character called "the Doctor". And I'm not a New Series hater, as Matt Smith's 11th Doctor is my favourite of them all (by a nose, ahead of Hartnell and Tom). I just find the 10th Doctor petulent, empty, annoying and at odds with everything I find appealing about the character which is present in all the other incarnations. It doesn't help that many RTD scripts indulge in constant Doctor God-worship and speeches about how utterly wonderful the Doctor is. Emotions with a sledgehammer. I just find understatement goes a long way.

I rewatched series 4 recently and it got to the point where I kept thinking "This episode - as bad as it is - wouldn't be anywhere near as bad if Matt Smith were in it." I don't even think Tennant is a bad actor, just his take on the character - enforced by the scripts and the general vibe of that era of the show - is totally at odds with all the things I adore about the Doctor as a character and cultural hero.

Still, none of this has to do with the NA v BBC Books debate, so i suppose I should save it for when this blog gets to the Tennant years.

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Matthew Blanchette 5 years, 5 months ago

What I love about Moffat is how understated it is -- even the music has gotten far less bombastic than it used to be.

Now, JNT... well, we'll see, shall we? We know from the Graham Williams era, at least, that he is a more-than-competent production unit manager -- but a whole programme? At least he knows when to let script editors take the reins... mostly.

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William Whyte 5 years, 5 months ago

I thought Silence in the Library was the awful one from Series 4, to be honest. I enjoyed Partners in Crime, Fires of Pompeii, Unicorn and the Wasp a lot, and even liked bits of The Doctor's Daughter (though that displayed a lot of the worst aspects of RTD Who as well). Donna was such a great character that she kept me watching even the bad bits.

But we can discuss this at the time...

I've hardly read any of the Virgin / BBC books. I R BAD FAN. Anyone fancy uploading .mobi versions of them anywhere?

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Anyone fancy uploading .mobi versions of them anywhere

I would like to think that no one here is morally bankrupt enough to do that.

Some were available on the BBC website, but I can't find them there any more. If I find out what happened to them I will update.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

(Otherwise, most of them are still readily available through online second-hand books or auction websites).

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

You don't actually think writing this blog using only legitimate commercial releases of every single thing discussed is possible, do you?

And anyway. The author/publisher gets identical royalties if you buy a book second-hand as if you pirate it. And all of the Virgin and BBC Books lines are out of print. I fail to see how it's "morally bankrupt" in this specific case. There is no way whatsoever to buy a copy of The Well Mannered-War that will give money to anyone involved in producing the book. There is no reason to believe that there ever will be again.

"Morally bankrupt" was, frankly, over the line.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 5 months ago

I thought Silence in the Library was the awful one from Series 4

Whereas I thought Silence/Forest was far and away the best story of series 4. Your kilometerage may vary.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

Actually, at least some of the BBC Books are back in print - Lance Parkin's ones were reissued as paperback and Kindle editions at the back end of last year, and I think others were, too.
(And Parkin's books are, other than those by Lawrence Miles and Simon Bucher-Jones, the very best of the BBC range).

(Actually, just checked Amazon - all Parkin's books are available, plus Bunker Soldiers, but no other BBC Books as yet).

However, if you want to read several of the Virgin books, you can do so legally by going to archive.org's cached version of the BBC Doctor Who page, which has several of them including The Well-Mannered War and Lungbarrow.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

You don't actually think writing this blog using only legitimate commercial releases of every single thing discussed is possible, do you?

I am, perhaps, too ready to assume the best. I shall have to see whether I am immoral enough to continue reading. I fear I may be.

There is no way whatsoever to buy a copy of The Well Mannered-War that will give money to anyone involved in producing the book. There is no reason to believe that there ever will be again.

Not that any of that makes copying it okay. If there's no way to get something legally and morally, the correct thing to do is to do without it. Neither you, me, nor anyone else has any entitlement to a copy of The Well-Mannered War. To take it anyway (unless you have the permission of Gareth Roberts) is what is, frankly, over the line, so I will continue to express exactly how I feel about anyone who does it by describing them as what they are: morally bankrupt.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

And Parkin's books are, other than those by Lawrence Miles and Simon Bucher-Jones, the very best of the BBC range

Nope: the best of all are the two by Lloyd Rose.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm pretty sure that by allowing The Well-Mannered War to be posted as a free ebook on the BBC site, Mr Roberts gave permission for anyone to take a copy.

I also don't think it 'morally bankrupt' to make a copy of a work which is otherwise unavailable, since it causes no harm to anyone. From a Benthamite utilitarian perspective, for example, the utility to the person with a copy of the book is increased, as they now have a book, while the utility to the author is unchanged (as they still have exactly the same money as they would had a legitimate second-hand copy been bought).

One can also, for example, be very firmly moral and have an opposition - on moral grounds - to the whole idea of 'intellectual property', as for example the Free Software Foundation does.That's not moral bankruptcy, but having a different set of moral standards. In their view it is not that the reader is not entitled to the book, but rather that the author should not be entitled to withhold the book from the reader. (I don't necessarily agree with that view - my own views on copyright are complex and based more on pragmatism than morality).

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Wm Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

There's something frightfully moral about bankruptcy. It works two ways. It denies you the world, and it frees you from worldliness...

But, on a more practical note, "The Well Mannered War" and the other books which were available on the BBC website can be downloaded from

http://web.archive.org/web/20070117200729/http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/ebooks/index.shtml

[oh, I see someone else got there first]

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm pretty sure that by allowing The Well-Mannered War to be posted as a free ebook on the BBC site, Mr Roberts gave permission for anyone to take a copy.

That is probably an arguable moral position (I wasn't aware of which books had and hadn't been released on the website, so I didn't know this was one), so I may withdraw 'morally bankrupt' in this particular case, while making it clear I do still regard the practice in general as morally bankrupt (and I note that the original asker wasn't specifically enquiring about this book in particular).

From a Benthamite utilitarian perspective

Well as I think utilitarianism is obvious bunk, that's hardly going to convince me, now, is it?

my own views [...] are [...] based more on pragmatism than morality

Is that not pretty much the definition of 'morally bankrupt'? The only thing more so is -- which is sadly all to common these days -- for one's views to be based neither on pragmatism nor morality but merely on what is the most convenient way to instantly gratify one's desire.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

Really? I've not read Rose's books (I've not read all the BBC books) but I've never heard of them spoken of as among the better ones.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, really.

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Jesse 5 years, 5 months ago

Neither you, me, nor anyone else has any entitlement to a copy of The Well-Mannered War. To take it anyway (unless you have the permission of Gareth Roberts) is what is, frankly, over the line, so I will continue to express exactly how I feel about anyone who does it by describing them as what they are: morally bankrupt.

The mind boggles. Seriously: Inside my head, right now, someone is shaking a Boggle tray that contains my mind.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm not a Benthamite myself, but nor do I think Benthamites are necessarily 'morally bankrupt'. I was just using that as an example of a philosophical position in which illegal downloading of (not otherwise available) books would be an actual moral good. Having a differing moral viewpoint is not the same as having no morality at all.

And no, having a view of copyright that is based more on pragmatism than morality is not 'the definition of morally bankrupt'. There are areas of life where morality is the prime or only consideration. If I ask "should I murder my annoying neighbour?" the moral consideration takes precedence over everything else, even though he is *really* annoying.

On the other hand, a question like "at what rate, if any, should international financial transactions be taxed in order to maximise revenue without adversely affecting the economy?" is a question that has little to do with morality - at least as the word is conventionally understood - and entirely to do with pragmatism. A tax level of 2% would not be more or less moral than one of 5%, just more or less effective at raising revenue.

I view copyright law as being in the latter category, rather than the former, and there the question is "what level of protection is necessary to ensure it is possible for at least some artists to earn a living from their work, to prevent artists from being exploited by those with more resources, and to ensure the artists' work is not misrepresented in a way that is detrimental to them, while allowing a maximal amount of free flow and exchange of culture and knowledge?"

In my view, the current copyright law, which means that books, songs, and now sound recordings don't go out of copyright until seventy years after their creators' death, is far too restrictive. I don't think, for example, we should have to wait another eight years before Shaw's St Joan (written in 1923) is released into the public domain. You may disagree, but I don't think that makes either of us 'morally bankrupt', unless your definition of 'morally bankrupt' is 'does not agree with me on every detail of everthing'.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Okay, so not totally morally bankrupt. Just a little morally bankrupt. Fair enough.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't think that dumb laws have any moral obligation to be followed, and laws criminalizing copyright infringement where no meaningful damages are caused to anyone are dumb.

As for morality, I think there is far more immoral in a system that renders scholarship and research functionally impossible when not actually protecting anyone's interests than there is in taking an option that does not hurt Roberts, Virgin Books, or anyone else. I mean, I'm certainly not advocating for an approach of pirating everything regardless, but I have major ethical issues with making scholarship a financial impossibility. Given the low profit margins on scholarship the fact of the matter is that when dealing with semi-obscure popular culture there is no way to do thorough work without making some allowances. This isn't a matter of assuming the best - no blog like this could possibly exist without some recourse to piracy. For obvious reasons I'm not going to make public the exact means through which I've obtained things. But it has never been indiscriminate, and has always tried to work in a way that means that the creators get royalties. It's a series of case-by-case decisions based on financial circumstances, availability of the material, and whether I own legitimate copies in other formats. (I have few qualms about obtaining alternate-format copies of something I have already purchased.)

I mean, if nothing else, it is outright impossible to cover reconstructions without piracy. Reconstructions by definition are piracy given that the soundtracks remain copyright of the BBC. And it's perhaps also worth noting that missing episode finds at this point come entirely because of people who, in the 1970s, stole physical copies of material from television stations.

So frankly, this isn't a matter of assuming the best. This is simple realism about the world. I find a situation where the ability to do effective scholarship of this sort is restricted only to those with massive disposable incomes wholly unacceptable. The ability to engage in critical analysis of popular culture cannot and must not be reserved for the financial elite. Laws be damned.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, it's arguable that what you're doing is fair dealing for the purpose of research for a non-commercial purpose (the fact you're selling the results of the research would argue against it; though the fact you have no hope of making a profit and are merely trying to defray costs is set against that). So arguably in the UK what you're doing might not be illegal. I have no idea of the situation in the US.

Reconstructions by definition are piracy given that the soundtracks remain copyright of the BBC

And are now all available on CD. Buy them.

You may indeed want to do research and this is a laudable aim; a laudable aim does not make it okay to steal stuff.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

I'd go further and point out that the fact that we have any record at all of the missing episodes is down to copyright infringement - the soundtracks only exist because people tape-recorded off-air broadcasts in clear violation of copyright laws - and in some cases what we have are illegal copies made for friends, so that compounds the violation.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

SK - where has Philip said he hasn't bought the soundtracks of the missing episodes? But the fact remains that while I own the Lost In Time box set (which has the surviving episodes of The Moonbase and The Crusades plus the soundtracks of the other episodes) - and indeed I also own the novelisations of both those stories, so have paid twice for the stories - it is still illegal copyright infringement for me to download reconstructions of those episodes.

For that matter, it's also illegal copyright infringement for me to download PDFs of those Target books so I can read them on my e-reader, even though I own them as paper copies.

Despite those things being illegal, I have a great deal of difficulty seeing them as in any way immoral.

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Jesse 5 years, 5 months ago

a laudable aim does not make it okay to steal stuff.

We aren't discussing stealing. We're discussing copyright infringement. Bad as intellectual property law can be, it at least refrains from confusing the two.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

The entire rhetoric of "theft" is, I think, intellectually bankrupt. Theft implies the actual loss of something. There's no unique object that is taken from one person by another here. "Theft" is an utterly misleading term.

What we're really talking about is creating a fair system within which people who do creative work can make a living doing so. Theft is the wrong metaphor largely because it fundamentally misunderstands what we - and obviously I do consider myself in the same boat here - do. We don't create unique objects that are commodities as such. We contribute to a larger discourse, inserting our work into a cultural conversation where it takes root. We also have a quite reasonable desire to have our labor rewarded with things like an ability to eat and have housing. But the system that enables that is fundamentally different from the one that enables people who make physical and unique objects to make a living. It has to be. Because a hole in one part of the larger media ecosystem where a work is unavailable harms the work of a wealth of other people as well. Frankly, a model of sole and unique possession of ideas cannot possibly work. My ideas aren't just mine. Two thousand people a day get them put inside their heads too. I can't claim sole possession of them when I'm also trying to get them out there and influence other ideas with them. It just doesn't make any sense.

Still, yes, I'd like to make money at it. As would Gareth Roberts. As would most people doing this. I care about making sure that's possible. Not only do I not care about preserving the current system that attempts to do that, frankly I'd rather like to blow it up and start over with something designed to run on the Internet instead of on 19th century communications technology.

I will say that the potential revenue lost to any creator due to this blog is pennies at most, and that any creator who fears that I have cost them money in writing this blog should feel free to contact me, and I will be more than happy to talk to them about exactly what I did regarding their creation and how I can make sure they get their fair share. And that I can sleep just fine at night with that knowledge regardless of anyone else's views on it.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

it is still illegal copyright infringement for me to download reconstructions of those episodes

It is not, however, illegal copyright infringement to listen to the soundtracks while examining (legally obtained) copies of the telesnaps.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Theft is 'the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it.'

Four out of those five criteria -- all but the last -- are satisfied by copyright infringement, so I feel justified in using theft as an analogy.

What we're really talking about is creating a fair system within which people who do creative work can make a living doing so

No -- what we're talking about is recognising that morally the creator of a work has control over it. It's not about loss, or harm, or compensation: it is entirely about the control of the products of one's intellectual labour and that is the be-all and end-all.

To drag it down to the level of money and making a living is base. It's about recognising whose is the rightful control of the expression of an idea.

I know I have no chance of changing anyone's mind, and though it saddens me that you can sleep at night I know there is nothing I can do about it. But I also cannot remain silent, as it's an important point.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, I'm sorry you feel that way. But if you're going to begrudge me sleeping at night, please do it somewhere other than in the comments of my blog.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

At least in European copyright law, the moral rights of an artist (to be named as the creator of the work, to have their work reproduced accurately without alteration, not to have their work presented in a context that reflects badly on them and so on) are entirely separate from the rights relating to reproduction. I doubt anyone here would disagree with most of those rights.

For example, were I to download an illegal recording of the Paul McCartney concert I went to in December (knowing that no legal recording has or will come out, that I paid for the ticket to see the performance, and that I own legitimate copies of every song he performed, many of them multiple times over) as a reminder of the show, I would not consider that an immoral act - and it wouldn't infringe McCartney's moral rights under EU law (I am not a lawyer, this is only my understanding, etc). It would, though, infringe his rights regarding copying of the recording.

On the other hand, to use a recording of McCartney singing Yesterday to advertise meat, when McCartney is a well-known vegetarian, would infringe McCartney's moral rights even were the recording to be properly licensed from EMI and royalties for the song paid to Sony Music (the current owners of the rights to the song). I would also consider this - associating an artist with something they consider repellent, and degrading their work in their own eyes - immoral.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

That those rights are called 'moral rights' is somewhat of a misnomer: they are no more 'moral' than any other rights. What they are, legally, is inalienable, and they are given the separate title to thus distinguish them from the other rights (of reproduction, of adaptation, and so on) which are alienable.

so do not be misled by the odd choice of words into thinking that the intent was that those rights are the only moral ones and all others are merely practical -- even if we were to take the Berne convention as the final authority on what morality is in this area, and why would we?

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Jesse 5 years, 5 months ago

It's not about loss, or harm, or compensation: it is entirely about the control of the products of one's intellectual labour and that is the be-all and end-all.

I'd like to point out that six of your posts on this thread include quotations from other people's comments. As far as I'm aware, you did not request permission to appropriate the products of their intellectual labor. How do you sleep at night?

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, you seem to be arguing for a far more bizarre proposition, which is that illegality is precisely equivalent in all cases to immorality - and that the slightest deviation from your views on this is precisely the same as having no morals whatsoever.

My own view is that 'bad laws are meant to be broken', and the fact that I know literally nobody who has not at some point broken copyright law (whether by recording something off the TV and keeping the recording, or making a mix tape for a friend, or copying more of an article than fair use would permit when writing a rebuttal on the internet, or copying a recipe for a friend or writing fanfic or, as Philip does here, posting random screenshots of a TV programme to accompany a blog post about it) suggests to me that copyright law as it currently stands is a bad law.

Which is not to say that in all circumstances breaking it is unacceptable, but that there are *at least some* circumstances where it is acceptable.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

I think the case of the missing episodes is very much illustrative of why rights relating to creative production cannot be treated as the sole possession of the creator/copyright holder. The BBC exercised their completely legal right to destroy all existing copies of those episodes. They reversed their position and actively came to regret that decision largely because of the harm done to the broader culture by their archiving procedures or lack thereof.

In other words, why the missing episode destruction was horrible was precisely because there does exist a broader cultural right to the continued access to material that has already influenced the culture. This right needs to be balanced with the rights of the copyright holder, which, in turn, need to be balanced with the rights of the creators themselves. Right now neither creators nor the broader culture are meaningfully considered by the laws.

But I believe very strongly in a broad cultural right to access, disseminate, and critique creative works that have influenced that culture. When possible this should be done in ways that respect the legitimate rights of creators to have their work acknowledged, control the means of distribution, and be paid for it. When impossible... well, try not to be a dick about it.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh no, I wouldn't say that illegality is equivalent to immorality. What was originally asked for -- copies of Doctor Who books -- is definitely immoral, and would be so even if the law were changed to make it legal.

I know precious few people, among those who drive, who have not at some point broken a speed limit. Does that mean that speed limits as they currently stand are a bad law? What changes would you suggest? And speed limits aren't even laws with moral force, they are merely to keep traffic flowing safely. Copyright law is about the moral duty to respect the creator of a work's control over it.

Anyway, even logically, if bad laws were meant to be broken, that does not mean that any law which is broken is a bad law, or I am Socrates.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

In other words, why the missing episode destruction was horrible was precisely because there does exist a broader cultural right to the continued access to material that has already influenced the culture

No. the destruction was horrible inasmuch as it destroyed works of lasting artistic value, which is always horrible.

However, just because something is horrible does not mean there is any 'broader [...] right', cultural or not, for it not to happen. If i were to buy the Mona Lisa and set light to it, I would be a horrible horrible person, and you would be justified to try to do anything to stop the Louvre selling it to me. But once they have sold it and I have obtained title, there is no 'broader cultural right' to stop me burning the thing. I have the right to burn it.

Of course, I would be wrong, and a horrible person, to exercise that right.

But that is still my right, and it would still be my right even if I came later to regret bitterly what I had done.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

(More to the point, if I create the greatest work of art the world has ever known in my basement and then set light to it without telling anyone, I am still a horrible horrible person but I am again totally within my rights, and even more within my rights than someone who has simply bought the picture because I made it, so I can dispose of it, whether that is to allow people to see it or to not do so.)

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Stephen 5 years, 5 months ago

@SK

Theft is 'the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it.'

Four out of those five criteria -- all but the last -- are satisfied by copyright infringement, so I feel justified in using theft as an analogy.


I only count four there, and it's arguable how much they apply.
dishonest - what's dishonest about copyright infringement?
appropriation of property - legally speaking, it applies. But the legal concept of intellectual property is highly questionable.
belonging to another - again, legally correct but dependent on notions of intellectual property
with the intent to permanently deprive them of it - the one that most obviously doesn't apply

Copyright infringement may or may not be immoral, but it clearly isn't the same thing as theft.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

If the owner of the Mona Lisa were known to be going to destroy it then stealing the painting would not merely be morally defensible but a moral duty.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

The five are:

1. dishonest (which basically means you have to know that you're not entitled to appropriate it: for example, if you honestly think that I said you could use my lawnmower and come and take it, then you haven't stolen it; applies if you have no reason to think the owner would have given you permission, even implicitly, to make the copy)
2. appropriation (which clearly applies)
3. property (something can't be stolen if it isn't property; you can't steal a corpse as there are no property rights in human remains; clearly applies because of the very concept of intellectual property)
4. belonging to another (clearly applies)
5. intent to permanently deprive (doesn't apply).

That's 80%.

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

If the owner of the Mona Lisa were known to be going to destroy it then stealing the painting would not merely be morally defensible but a moral duty.

No. It wouldn't. It's not okay (absent completely abnormal circumstances, like war) to do something wrong just to stop someone else doing something wrong.

It might be okay to do something wrong to save someone's life, but a painting -- even the Mona Lisa -- is not a life.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

"speed limits aren't even laws with moral force, they are merely to keep traffic flowing safely. "

I would argue that keeping the traffic flowing safely - or to put it another way, trying not to kill people - is rather *more* morally important than not reading a Doctor Who book that's gone out of print.

But yes, laws against speeding are unenforceable as they stand. Which suggests that we should be looking at ways to achieve the same aims enforceably - like maybe having speed limiters on all cars, or something along those lines. It's not something I've thought about much, unlike copyright, because I'm a writer, musician and software engineer as well as a reader, listener and user, while I don't drive.

And note that your argument is all one way. These books, for the most part, did not go out of print because the writers wanted them to, but because the BBC, owners of Doctor Who, did. If your objection was truly to lack of respect for the creator of the work, you would be arguing that it is immoral for the BBC to restrict these books' availability against the writers' wishes.

Personally, I don't see why writers should have any greater control over how I use their work than any other workers. In fact I find the idea that by reading a Doctor Who book I am somehow giving Gareth Roberts control over me, and the idea of 'control of the expression of an idea', quite scary.

No piece of culture exists in a vacuum. Everything is influenced by, and an implicit criticism or refinement of, earlier work. To argue that an artist has some special right to control their work once it's published is to argue against the very idea of culture. A blog like this, for example, is all about taking control *away* from the makers of Doctor Who.

To the extent that this blog is successful, someone watching, say, The Ark after reading Philip's analysis of it as being a reactionary piece of racism, will be watching a totally different story to the one they watched before, which they might have seen as an interestingly-structured romp with crap monsters. All successful criticism takes control away from the artist. Should we ban criticism?

Another horrible secret - sometimes I (whisper it) *skip boring bits* in books! I'm not experiencing the work the way the writer wanted me to! I sometimes skip tracks when listening to albums, too. Or even worse, just play my MP3 collection on shuffle, generating all kinds of juxtapositions that were never intended by the musicians. Sometimes I'll even do that and boost the bass coming through the speakers so the recordings sound different from the way they were intended to.

I even have recordings of Bach keyboard pieces - written for the organ or harpsichord - being played on a piano! Even worse, I own a copy of Switched On Bach, where they're played on a synthesiser! In fact even owning recordings of Bach pieces at all is obviously wrong, because he never wrote them to be recorded, but to be heard in a live performance.

That must make me a truly terrible, awful, evil person, by your standards in which the artists' wishes are paramount, right? Whereas I thought it just made me a participant in culture like everyone else...

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

(And more to the point, the reason it is wrong to destroy the Mona Lisa, which is the main point at issue, is not because it violates any 'right' to have it (whose 'right' is it? 'culture'? How can an abstract entity like 'culture' have rights? Even giving rights to 'society' is slightly dicey, and 'culture' is more abstract still) but because destroying artistic value is wrong.

You seem to have slipped into the fallacy that all morality must be phrased in terms of 'rights' so that if something is morally wrong then it must violate some 'right'; so when you see something clearly wrong you have to invent a wholly spurious 'broader cultural right' rather than acknowledge that some things just are wrong even though they violate no rights (this is the converse, of course, of the fact that just because there is a 'right' to something doesn't mean that it is morally okay to exercise that right).

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SK 5 years, 5 months ago

while I don't drive

That actually doesn't surprise me; I have met your type.

I don't see why writers should have any greater control over how I use their work than any other workers

The only right I have been arguing in favour of, of course, is the right to control the making of copies. Not to control how or where or at what speed you read it; merely to control the process of creating a physical instantiation in the world of the abstract artifact created by someone's intellectual labour.

These books, for the most part, did not go out of print because the writers wanted them to, but because the BBC, owners of Doctor Who, did

Which is fair enough, because the writers all knew that when they signed their contracts. They got to use trade marks owned by the BBC (and in the process boosted the readership of their novels enormously), and in return the BBC got some of their control. Perfectly fair trade-off.

If they had written original novels instead the BBC would have no say. Which is as it should be.

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Wm Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

"Theft is 'the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it.'

Four out of those five criteria -- all but the last -- are satisfied by copyright infringement, so I feel justified in using theft as an analogy."

If there is no intention to permanently deprive, then there is no theft. Never. "We were going to give it back" is a complete defence against an allegation of theft, if the jury believes it. For this reason, the crime of "Taking [a vehicle] without consent" (aka TWOCing) was devised in the Theft Act 1968 to deal with the problem of "joyriding".

Home Taping is, allegedly, Killing Music, but it isn't theft.

More interesting is the statement that "morally the creator of a work has control over it". Who is the creator of "Invasion of the Dinosaurs"? Malcolm Hulke, who wrote the script? Terrance Dicks, who edited it? Martin Jarvis, whose acting may have influenced the subsequent novelisation? A N Other, who chalked marks on the floor in the rehearsal studio? Paddy Russell, who directed it? Douglas Camfield, who originally cast Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart? The BBC, who tried to wipe it from existence?

What practical control did any of them have over it? Practicality and morality are intertwined. Any form of publication involves a relinquishing of control in return for a reward of some kind.

[I can see that this is now several hours behind the other comments...honestly, conversations like this could hardly be more complicated if we were all travelling at near-light speed in different directions.]

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Mike 5 years, 5 months ago

Proud to be the first reviewer on Amazon! For better or worse, I guess I'm now the anchor point for future reviews...

Enough time has passed that I don't really trust my memories on this, but I see the new series as drawing on/disregarding the Virgin and BBC lines about equally - that is, some ideas were harvested (Human Nature, destruction of Gallifrey), but mostly I see an attitude of "none of that stuff happened" and a break from the tone of both lines.

I guess I didn't have too much to add to the discussion, but I always manage to get to comment threads late.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

OK. Friendly debate hat off, I'm in charge hat on.

I'm at least vaguely willing to tolerate things like suggesting I shouldn't be able to sleep at night because, well, I open myself to some measure of criticism by putting a "comment on this post" link at the bottom of most entries.

I am not willing to tolerate calling other posters "morally bankrupt," but am willing to deal with that by stepping in at their defense. I am wholly unwilling to tolerate the unpleasant personal bitchiness of comments like "I have met your type."

I would like very much to not have to extend my administration of blog comments beyond the role of stern comments and nudging discussion in various directions. However behavior like this will force me to. Which will make me sad, but not sad enough not to do what is necessary to keep these comments a place where people can engage in vigorous debate without being insulted, belittled, or demeaned.

I think we can call the copyright discussion over at this point.

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Stephen 5 years, 5 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Stephen 5 years, 5 months ago

As the copyright discussion is over, how about speculation on future entries?

We've got two Pop between realities left in the Tom Baker years, and Phil's previously said the three will cover two distinct media (we've already had an audio). So who's got some ideas about what they might be?

I'm guessing one will be The Iron Legion, because the comic strips have been sadly sidelined thus far, and because it gives an excuse to talk about the genesis of DWM (as it became). But I'm not sure about the other one.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

I believe you mean two You Were Expecting Someone Else entries, of which there are indeed two. There are also two more Pop Between Realities entries - a multi-topic one tomorrow that will cover most of the TV and movies you expect to be covered in this period and a single topic one between State of Decay and Warrior's Gate that is either a little over three years overdue or about twenty years too early.

Your instincts on the first of the two You Were Expecting Someone Else entries are sound. The other is not unrelated to the first entry, but is based on the idiosyncrasies of my own interests. Ask yourself - are there any comics in DWM from that era that I would be wholly incapable of skipping?

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Matthew Blanchette 5 years, 5 months ago

Philip, will you also go into discussion on the differences between Dicks' original "Vampire Mutations" serial and the revised, Adric-ized State of Decay? I'd like to hear some thoughts on the evolution of Season 18 -- quite interesting to discuss, I think. :-)

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 5 months ago

Did Alan Moore do any?

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

Five, in fact.

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Philip Sandifer 5 years, 5 months ago

I haven't gotten to watching State of Decay yet, and I don't have a ton of information on the original version of the script, but it will surely come up. I mean, if nothing else, the fact that this is, in a literal sense, a Hinchcliffe-era story and not merely an homage to a past era is interesting.

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Andrew Hickey 5 years, 5 months ago

He did, right at the start of DWM. They weren't very good, but they set up stuff for both Moore's later run on Captain Britain (which created the Marvel Multiverse - and established that the Doctor Who 'universe' is one of the universes in the Marvel Multiverse) and were massively influential both on the 80s show and on the NAs and BBC books. In particular, he was the first person to come up with the idea of a Time War.

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Iain Coleman 5 years, 5 months ago

I must have read them, but in fairness I was about six at the time and the name "Alan Moore" didn't mean much to me until some years later. And my opportunity to reread them was significantly curtailed by my mother chucking out a load of old comics. If I invent a time machine, I shall go back and explain to her about eBay.

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Matthew Blanchette 5 years, 5 months ago

...technically, it's a literal Williams-era story (having been commissioned under him and then replaced by Fang Rock), but it's interesting to see JNT try to put his own producer's mark on the story (same as he did with The Leisure Hive, a story by an actual Williams-era writer) -- and, as the second filmed story of the season, it's interesting to explore how the season would evolve by both filming and transmission order (same could be said of 19, with a brand new actor finding his place in the role).

...really, a horrible run-on-paragraph, I know, but if even one of my garbled ideas gets explored come next week (or is it the week after?), I'd be immensely happy. :-)

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BerserkRL 5 years, 5 months ago

The problem with intellectual "property" is that claims to ownership of an abstract object always have to be translated into claims to control the physical media in which it's embodied. In practice, this means that IP is inherently in conflict with other property rights, and more importsntly, with one's rights to one's own person.

Suppose A recites a poem and B hears it and memorises it (perhaps deliberately, perhaps inadvertently -- does it matter?). B now has a copy of A's poem in B's mind. So far all seems fine. A has a right to control the copy in A's mind or embodied in A's paper and ink, but no right to control the copy in B's mind, since A doesn't own B's mind.

Now B uses B's own hands and B's paper and B's ink to transcribe the copy from B's mind onto B's paper and ink. Since A doesn't own B's mind or B's hands or B's paper or B's ink, how can A have any right to prevent this?

And further, if B publishes, exchanges, or gives away this copy, how can A legitmately prevent B from doing so, short of the assumption that A own B and/or B's property?

I can't see how intellectual "property" law is anything but, simultaneously, a form of censorship and a form of protectionism.

As for the claim that it's needed in order to secure to artistic creators a monetary reward for their work, there are other, nonviolent ways of doing that. The chief beneficiaries of IP are not artistic creators; they're publishing companies.

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BerserkRL 5 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, I posted that last bit before I saw Philip's request to end the copyright discussion.

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Eric Gimlin 5 years, 5 months ago

It depends. When exactly did the trio of Alan Moore stories pop up in DWM? I only have the reprints in DAREDEVILS and am not exactly sure when the originals hit, other than roughly around now.

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Dan 5 years, 5 months ago

The first was Weekly dated 12th June 1980, in issue 35, the last was in the Monthly 51, cover date April 1981. Five stories.

Black Legacy
Business as Usual
Star Death
Black Sun Rising
4-D War

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Eric Gimlin 5 years, 5 months ago

Great, my first post here and I somhow manage both inaccurate and redundant information. Oh, well. Hopefully my future posts will be more worthwhile. Does anybody have the exact issue numbers on the other three stories?

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elvwood 5 years, 5 months ago

Iain: And my opportunity to reread them was significantly curtailed by my mother chucking out a load of old comics.

I sympathise; I had the same experience with my copies of Countdown/TV Action (which I had got starting with issue #1). Although I do understand why she did it, since if I'd had my way nothing would have been chucked and I'd have had a room full of stuff and nowhere to sleep...

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Spacewarp 5 years, 5 months ago

Bit of a Babylon 5 influence on the cover as well, doncha think?

http://fan.butterfly-effect.net/obsidian/layout_v4_5.jpg

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BerserkRL 5 years, 5 months ago

David,

It doesn't help that many RTD scripts indulge in constant Doctor God-worship and speeches about how utterly wonderful the Doctor is

Though to be fair, the RTD era also undermines all that by insisting that a) without companions, the Doctor becomes arrogant and dangerous, while b) when he does have companions, he ruins their lives.

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matthewrmichael 5 years, 2 months ago

Philip,

I think the "producer eras" are one way to look at the series, but "script editor eras" perhaps even more fruitful. The show seems at its most stable when you have a script editor with a firm idea of what he wants to do, and the time to do it - Whitaker, Dicks, Holmes, Cartmel, even (gawd 'elp us) Saward. When the show has a high turnover of script editors (Seasons 3-5 and Seasons 15-19), the overall feel of the show is less consistent, and the variability in quality much more pronounced.

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Paul A. 1 year, 10 months ago

On the question of the relative influence of the Virgin and BBC novels on the new series: an aspect which I don't think anybody's mentioned is that, as I understand it, the makers of the new series were expressly forbidden to draw on the BBC novels heavily or overtly. The key point was that they didn't want to wind up giving anyone the impression that you had to buy the books in order to fully engage with the TV series. So, for instance, RTD wasn't allowed to just reuse the downfall of Gallifrey from the books, and had to come up with a new downfall of Gallifrey that had never been mentioned before.

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