Time Can Be Rewritten 29 (The Fires of Vulcan)

(36 comments)

My Google Analytics indicate that despite my being American a narrow majority of my readers these days are British, and so I'd like to wish you all a happy anniversary of the day you got rid of us idiots and got on with your lives.

That said, on to the meat of things. Of the several genres of Time Can Be Rewritten posts, this is, unfortunately, a member of my least favorite. It's one of those posts where I take a much praised piece of Doctor Who that I put on the schedule largely on the recommendations of fandom at large, then sigh and ask fandom at large why it hates me and wants me to suffer. In this case it was some Gallifrey Base thread or another in which this was praised as a latter day classic of the pure historical and as being far better than Fires of Pompeii. Then, listening to it in the car on a long drive a week or so back, I paused it and asked my girlfriend if she wouldn't mind looking on her phone to see who wrote it, as I'd not bothered to look closely at that when putting it on my iPod.

"Steve Lyons," came the reply, and I sighed dejectedly.

Those who bought the Hartnell volume (and by the time this goes up the Troughton book should be in the hands of my copyeditor) may remember a rather scathing account of Lyons's The Witch Hunters in that book. There my objection was largely to the book's appalling tone deafness, particularly the final sequence in which the Doctor essentially defends the Salem Witch Trials on the grounds that it all worked out and is thus in some sense worth the price.

To some extent, then, The Fires of Vulcan marks an improvement in this. McCoy's Doctor, at least, is one who is consistently portrayed with a ruthless detachment such that seeing him calmly accept that some unknown number of the people he and Mel have been interacting to died in the eruption of Pompeii. For all the famous weight of "you can't rewrite history, not one line," Hartnell's Doctor only comes near this in The Massacre, and that seems to be framed with the Doctor as the unsympathetic one. But McCoy offers a Doctor capable of remaining sympathetic even as he's chillingly alien in his morality. As a result, he can carry the emotional and moral heft of this story in a way that Hartnell's Doctor can't carry a similar one.

But wait a moment. What have we seen in McCoy so far that supports any of this? I mean, it's one thing to apply these notions to McCoy's Doctor down the road, but in a story ostensibly set immediately after Delta and the Bannermen there's something more jarring about it. This isn't the Doctor as he existed in Season 24. Obviously it's an extension of him - McCoy's Doctor does develop in this direction. But he's not there in Season 24.

This is something that bubbles around throughout the McCoy era. There's a big piece of fanon - admittedly advanced largely by Lyons - that suggests that the arrival of Ace at the end of Season 24 marks an actual turning point for the Doctor, with Season 24 being explicitly bracketed as him larking around before knuckling down and getting serious. This is, obviously, another front in the larger critical attack on Season 24. And while it is, again, certainly true that starting with Remembrance of the Daleks McCoy's Doctor takes a darker turn, and that Seasons 25 and 26 are better than Season 24, the idea that there's a disjunct between them is simply wrongheaded. Season 25 refines and adds to the innovations of Season 24.

And yet oddly what this story tries to do - go be a Season 25/26 story in the midst of Season 24 - is jarring as well. Part of it is simply the fact that authorial intent bleeds through. Given that Season 24 is so criticized the idea of doing a story set within it that acts like what the McCoy era developed into is difficult not to read this as another form of the "Season 24 isn't proper McCoy era" critique.

All of this is heightened by the fact that, if we're being honest, the biggest shift between Season 24 and Season 25 is the move from Mel to Ace. We'll talk more about Ace next entry, but let's look at Mel, who we haven't really talked about outside the context of Trial of a Time Lord. Mel is a throwback to the programmatic characters of the UNIT era - ones like the Brigadier, Jo, and, in the original conception, the Master. Programmatic characters are fine. But Mel is a bizarre choice of a programmatic character - she's a children's television trope of "the girl one" - the lone female character in an otherwise male cast who is stuck being the moral conscience all of the time and fretting that if the boys are naughty they might get into trouble or something.

This is not actually a terrible character to give Colin Baker, who was, as Trial showed, deeply weakened on the matter of actually having any moral authority. Baker's Doctor could use Mel to keep him honest, so to speak. But McCoy's Doctor doesn't need that. It's revisionist to suggest that he needed to be unshackled by Mel in order to become less honest, but it remains the case that Mel is by definition poorly suited to stories long on moral complexity.

But that's not to say that she's bad in Season 24. She turns out, as both Delta and the Bannermen and Paradise Towers show, to be quite good at the job of being dropped into a bizarre world and making sense of things for the viewer. She doesn't quite serve as a viewer surrogate - she's self-consciously too morally simplistic and superficial for that - but she's very good at asking the questions the viewer needs to have asked. Think about how, in Paradise Towers, the job of investigating the Towers is split between the Doctor and Mel, with the Doctor solving the mystery and Mel exploring the weirdness of the towers. Or, similarly, how in Delta and the Bannermen, Mel's easy embrace of the Holiday Camp (really the perfect setting for her) serves such useful function in explaining the story's concepts.

Unfortunately, Lyons makes a hash of it, drawing on exactly the wrong aspect of Mel for this story. He has her running about Pompeii making strong moral speeches about its cultural errors. Which means that we spend most of the story with nothing to do with the setting save to go "oh, yes, those Romans sure were terribly wrongheaded."

And here we get to the meat of the problem. It's one thing to do a Seventh Doctor/Mel story that tries to repair the perceived mistakes of Season 24. But if you're going to go for that you have to actually beat Season 24 in basic quality. This doesn't. Listening to it in actual proximity to Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen it is painfully obvious that this is a less ambitious and less intelligent story clothing itself in the trappings of drama in the same way that Earthshock did.

At the heart of this problem is the same thing that broke The Witch Hunters, which is a deplorably unjustifiable conception of history. Except here that conception is brought into sharper relief such that we can really nail it down and see its problems. In a nutshell, Lyons treats the past largely as a series of morally suspect or outright appalling cultures whose sole value is that they lead to the present.

This is bad in a vast number of ways. First, it leads to a warped sense of ethics that requires either a Panglossian fetishization of the present or, worse, the outright excusing of contemporary moral obscenities in the name of a pre-existent narrative of historical progress leading to some eventual utopia. That is to say, either we have to simply decide that the present is completely dandy and thus the travesties of the past are justifiable because they lead to such a wonderful present or, if we want to be slightly less delusional about the present, adopt a blind faith that everything will work out in the end and so our own travesties are as excusable as those of the past.

This is, admittedly, a viewpoint more jarring when applied to the Salem Witch Trials than to Pompeii. Except for two things. One, the Doctor is ultimately indifferent to the question of saving people in Pompeii. Yes, he has to be due to the whole "no changing history" bit (about which more in a few paragraphs), but here it's striking just how much better Fires of Pompeii's solution of decoupling the larger social question ("does one have a responsibility to stop Pompeii") from the smaller personal one ("does one have a responsibility to save the people right in front of you") is than what we get here. But more to the point, the story gets itself into a fairly deep hole simply because of how much it treats the deaths of people in Pompeii as being down to their adherence to the Roman pantheon instead of to geology.

Which is the other problem with Lyons's approach - he's so bound up in the sort of intense rationalism that attempted to characterize Masque of Mandragora that he can't think of much of anything to do with the past other than complain that it has different beliefs. Which is one thing in Masque of Mandragora, where at least the story is taking place at a moment of history that this debate is relevant to. It's another in The Witch Hunters, where it gives a very distorted view of the underlying causes. But in The Fires of Vulcan it's appallingly off base.

The problem is that it's utterly reductionist. It's the imperialist/tourist conception of history writ large, where anything that differs from a secular western late 20th century perspective is at best suspect, and more likely simply a piece of harmful delusion. For one thing there's no real ways to hold this viewpoint about history and avoid holding it about present day cultures other than western secularism. Especially because, if we're being honest, that's the whole reason to write a story about how the people deluded by religion in ancient Rome caused their own destruction - to suggest the same about large swaths of the modern world.

To be clear, I don't mean this as a defense of religion, mysticism-prone as I may be. I've no problem with the ethics underlying something like Meglos that puts a critique of fanaticism in space. It's doing it in history that's problematic. It's linking the ideological critique of religion to a narrative of historical inevitability and progress whereby it necessarily and teleologically leads to massive devastation. That's where the ethics go off the rail.

Implicit in all of this is an irritatingly facile view of what history is. Multiple writers have played with "you can't rewrite history," but there are few with as flat a vision of it as Lyons. In this case Lyons holds to that dull cheat where as long as you keep the details you know in place you can change the rest. The problem is that this makes the entire set of incidents in the story nothing more than the product of the Doctor not having a clever idea until episode four that there's no reason he couldn't have had in episode one. It's a straight up idiot plot in which everything happens because a character made a dumb decision instead of a smart one for reasons having nothing to do with their characterization.

But more to the point, it reduces history to little more than a series of facts. On the one hand this seems an ironic complaint, given that I've just spent several paragraphs complaining about the ugly image of the arc of history that is implicit here. But in practice these are two sides of the same problem. Lyons removes the material progress of history in favor of Panglossian fidelity to a particular vision of western classical liberalism. There is no arc of history - there is merely the rational observer who uses pure empiricism to judge the past and escape predestination paradoxes. But only after spending three episodes being thick.

In the end, this is drab and facile. There's far more depth in either Paradise Towers or Delta and the Bannermen compared to this. There's far more character drama in either, given that neither Wyatt nor Kohll are invested in treating all of their supporting characters as idiotic heathens. And Wyatt and Kohll's scripts are both very funny to boot. Leaving The Fires of Vulcan to be a supposed repair job that misunderstands the nature of what it's repairing and fails to improve it to boot.

Comments

Bob Dillon 4 years, 7 months ago

First: Happy Independence Day to you as well!

I hope that next in the pipeline is "Bang-Bang-A-Boom", an audio which is both thematically similiar to season 24, and really uses Mel in a much more appropriate way (and is funny to boot). I too never saw what the fuss was about in Fire of Vulcan.

Bob Dillon

Link | Reply

Abigail Brady 4 years, 7 months ago

Afraid not - Phil has already told us that his Big Finishes for the Seventh Doctor are this, Thin Ice and A Death in the Family.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

Did I not say Shadow of the Scourge? Because Shadow of the Scourge on October 10th.

Link | Reply

Adam Riggio 4 years, 7 months ago

On top of being a sort of perfect storm for analyzing Steve Lyons' problematic conception of history, The Fires of Vulcan might also work as a tool to help understand fandom's relationship with Season 24. By the time Big Finish released this story in 2000, the New Adventures series was long finished, and the image of McCoy's Doctor it created for its primary, or at least most visible, audience of Doctor Who superfans was well established. The reputation of Season 24 as the silly season was so canonical by then that for fandom, there were two Seventh Doctors: 1) the "authentic" McCoy who began in Season 25 and whose character arc developed to Lungbarrow; and 2) the silly McCoy of Season 24 whose existence was rather regrettable.

Fires of Vulcan can be seen as an attempt in the producer-fan dialogue that produced much of Doctor Who during the post-1996 wilderness years to erase, at least partly, the silly McCoy. You've done a great job, Phil, of showing how the stories of Season 24 are actually very good overall, advancing solid reasons why the season has its terrible reputation in fandom, and showing why there really is only one Seventh Doctor. The question is, why the long-standing belief among fandom that there are two McCoys, the authentic and silly? I think it comes down to two key properties that Season 24 had which other McCoy seasons and eras didn't.

1) Time and the Rani. As you mentioned in that essay, this story was a terrible way to start the season, a campy, overlong Pip and Jane runaround that, while having some interesting ideas, following the general disastrous reception of Trial, was exasperating. The negative reaction to Time and the Rani coloured fandom's perception of the whole season.

2) Mel. You hit the essence of the matter: she's a programmatic character of the lone girl in a boy's world who serves as a moral conscience. Her character has such a simple morality that she wouldn't be able to comprehend the complexity of the situations that characterized the style of the "authentic" McCoy. Removing Mel from the show allowed Cartmel and his writers to craft more morally complex stories like Remembrance of the Daleks and The Curse of Fenric, and set the conditions for the further development of this direction in the New Adventures. Would I be right to guess that we'll hear more about this in your essay on Head Games over the autumn?

Link | Reply

elvwood 4 years, 7 months ago

Ah yes, Steve Lyons. although I've given below-average ratings to all the books of his that I've read, I've always enjoyed his audios - and this is no exception. I'm currently in quite a bit of pain; hopefully that will ease tomorrow and I'll be able to come up with a coherent response. We'll see.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

Regardless of whether you can come up with a coherent response, I hope you feel better. :(

Link | Reply

Stephen 4 years, 7 months ago

Firstly, as it's that anniversary, can we have our tea back, please?

Secondly, this gives me the chance to disagree with what you wrote about The Witch Hunters. Your problem with the message seemed to be that the coda sequence was there to justify that what happened ultimately turned out for the greater good. In fact, it's just there to ensure that Rebecca Nurse got a glimpse of hope before she died. It doesn't have to be read as anything more than a lie the Doctor tells her to give her one last comfort. And even the most basic contextual knowledge of why the Crucible was written would surely make that interpretation plausible, if not compelling.

It seems that there are some stories where you either can't see the redemptive reading, or you choose not to follow it.

As for comparisons between this story and The Fires of Pompeii, the TV story foregrounds a runaround with monsters who didn't need to be there, and fails to honestly portray the society of the time - pretending that slavery (which was an all-pervasive institution) didn't exist. The Fires of Vulcan, however, tries to portray that society honestly - warts and all. It's basically a tragedy in which a complex and interesting society is completely destroyed by an unstoppable natural disaster. Yes, the plot point that keeps the Doctor in Pompeii is fairly weak, but it's mostly incidental to the heart of the story.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

I have dutifully returned all of your tea to India.

I forget, did I mention in the Witch Hunters essay that I think The Crucible is one of the worst plays ever written? :)

More seriously, no, I see the redemptive reading of both. It's more accurate to say that I can't bring myself to follow them. To my mind a redemptive reading has to be one that first acknowledges all of the possible critiques of the story and then pushes through them to find something redemptive. I picked the word "redemptive" consciously, implying as it does a descent through the negative prior to an uplift.

Ultimately, with both of these stories, I can't quite bring myself to push through the vision of history involved. I see what the stories are going for, yes, and I agree, it's terribly interesting and compelling, but I think the vision of history that Lyons requires is just... too ugly to be justified by the conclusion. I can't quite get out of the mire on these.

This is something of a limit to redemptive readings, I'll admit. Production difficulties can often be worked through, especially with a script smart enough to work as camp. The existence of an entire and long-standing aesthetic of camp and kitsch detourned to subversive purposes makes it easy to work through production difficulties. Ethical difficulties are harder to work through - there's the absurdist/existentialist defense in which the work is trying to disturb the audience via a confrontation with the ethically problematic, but that doesn't work often. And so when redemptive reading fails, it does tend to be on ethical grounds.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

Actually, on this topic I ought link Shabogan Graffiti's rather fabulous attack on my redemptive reading practices: http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/beyond-redemption.html

Although I disagree with it (I commented on the post), I think it does a very solid job of summing up the things that redemptive readings must be cautious about.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

Hmmmmm... surprised you never responded to this, then, Phil: http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.com/2012/04/opposite-reaction.html

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

You know, I think I wrote around 800 words in response to that before deciding I didn't like the reply and abandoning it. :)

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

...well, I'd certainly like to hear it. :-)

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

...by the way, July 4th, 1776 was not actually when Britain "got rid of us idiots", as you say; it was actually either on September 3, 1783 (when the Treaty of Paris was signed) or January 14, 1784 (when the Treaty was ratified by the American Congress) that such happened... so, you've got a few months to go until the anniversary, either way. :-P

Also, I would not be so hasty in extolling the virtues of Britain (as you did in your last entry); they may be far ahead of us in social progress, quite true, but the whole business with a monarchy, a state church, and absurdly bad libel laws... well, you can't say Thomas Paine didn't have a point. ;-)

Link | Reply

Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 7 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"It's one thing to do a Seventh Doctor/Mel story that tries to repair the perceived mistakes of Season 24."

What's funny is that I actually did "cast" both Sylvester & Bonnie in one of my stories, and I did them a LOT like they were in "DELTA". Except it wasn't a DOCTOR WHO story at all. (Except for the time machine, but I treated his character more like Peter Cushing's.) So, obviously I didn't have any problem with their characters, just a lot of the writing in the stories they appeared in.

Link | Reply

Eric Gimlin 4 years, 7 months ago

You really didn't, Philip. Your mention of The Crucible mentions "unsubtle cudgels of moral judgement", which perhaps would normally be taken as negative. But I think most references to The Crucible seem to view that aspect of the play as, if not actively positive, at least necessary and proper in context.

Link | Reply

Eric Gimlin 4 years, 7 months ago

Aargh, I somehow managed to take something I meant as a mild "you did not quite make your dislike clear" and turn it into what now feels like an incredibly hostile statement. I apologize.

Link | Reply

Iain Coleman 4 years, 7 months ago

Only one of those is a real problem, and a libel reform bill is going through Parliament as we speak.

Link | Reply

Nick Smale 4 years, 7 months ago

I'd thoroughly recommend that every nation have a state religion - it's absolutely the best way to neuter the power of the church. Having a state church guarantees that religion is as attractive to join as the civic service, and as effective a force as a public service union...

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

No apology needed. :)

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

I was going to say, I am, in point of fact, a royalist. :)

Link | Reply

Abigail Brady 4 years, 7 months ago

My membership card for Republic arrived today, along with a note apologising for the delay. Apparently there was a large backlog of memberships to process, what with the Jubilee.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

One of these days I'll hit a post where a digression about my views on monarchy makes sense. Certainly The Beast Below, if nothing earlier presents itself.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

...so, "Liz Ten", something something, "I'm the bloody Queen, bint"? Yeah, that sounds about right. ;-)

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

Anyhow, Nick, that's all well and good today, but back in the day when the colonies were seceding, "state church" meant "rabble rabble rabble, burn the heretics; ribble ribble ribble, the king rules by divine decree and is never wrong"; that's the entire point of Jefferson's "wall between church and state", not to mention Roger Williams's own promulgation of it...

Philip, if you're a royalist... then you truly are a self-hating American, innit? (Only half-joking, sorry.) :-P

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 4 years, 7 months ago

Oh, I certainly am. Ideological preference for democracy to be overlaid onto a monarchist structure is, in fact, one of the reasons I'd like to emigrate in the future. (Short form - I think having a static text as the fetish object upon which the moral legitimacy of the state is founded is pragmatically disastrous. Human beings change and are mortal, whereas the written Constitution provides an all too compelling reason for people to insist that the ethics of the nation are permanently rooted in the 18th century.)

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, I suppose that's a plus for having an unwritten Constitution, I guess. ;-)

Personally, I like having what government can and cannot do written; they can even be overwritten and cancelled, if that's the case, but only by a large majority -- and, fortunately for all Americans, Constitutional "traditionalists" do not rule the debate. The Constitution is pretty much free for a learned mind to interpret within reasonable grounds. :-)

Link | Reply

Adam Riggio 4 years, 7 months ago

"The Constitution is pretty much free for a learned mind to interpret within reasonable grounds."

It's just too easy to make a joke about this these days. Said the Canadian.

Well . . . said the Canadian whose current Prime Minister is a male Margaret Thatcher.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

...hence, "REASONABLE grounds". Not "batshit crazy" ones. :-P

Link | Reply

Nick Smale 4 years, 7 months ago

back in the day when the colonies were seceding, "state church" meant... ribble ribble ribble, the king rules by divine decree and is never wrong"

I'd be surprised if that was the case. Remember, we fought a civil war and beheaded a king in the 1640s to free England from dictatorial monarchy - by 1776 Parliament's supremacy over the king had been established for nearly a century. The job of a state church would be to support that status quo, not challenge it - any priest still preaching the divine right of kings would likely have been out of a job sharpish...

the entire point of Jefferson's

I've often thought there was a lot of propaganda in the American revolutionaries statements. It obviously served their purposes to pretend that the Britain of 1776 was a lot less free, modern and democratic than it actually was...

Link | Reply

Abigail Brady 4 years, 7 months ago

Remember there were state churches in the immediate post-colonial period. The Bill of Rights is not to be understood as some absolute prohibition on established churches, but a way of making sure that the existing established churches could not be interfered with by the Feds. The 1st amendment did nothing to affect those until the 14th amendment was held to incorporate those rights against the states (by which time they'd all been disestablished anyway...)

I agree that the fetishisation of the U.S. constitution is a bit odd. At this point it has become effectively a religious text in its own right. You even have exactly the same arguments about "we should do literally what God/the founders said" vs "this is a living document" - often made by the same people! Amendments are getting harder and harder despite the entire system having ended up in perpetual constitutional crisis.

This is particularly hilarious when you bear in mind that Jefferson REWROTE THE BIBLE.

There are even analogies between side-texts like the Federalist Papers and the Hadith, and the early Supreme Court rulings and the Torah.

Er, so, volcanoes and stuff.

Link | Reply

Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, Nick, despite that, there's still a level of intolerance built into the British crown; even today, if an heir to the throne is not a member of the Church of England, their claim automatically becomes forfeit.

You can't say that's just.

Link | Reply

Nick Smale 4 years, 7 months ago

despite that, there's still a level of intolerance built into the British crown; even today, if an heir to the throne is not a member of the Church of England, their claim automatically becomes forfeit.

Yes, that's in the Act of Settlement (1701). You can absolutely understand why Parliament wanted that at the time - only ten years earlier James II had attempted a Catholic counter-revolution, and had been deposed and kicked out of the country for his trouble, so there would have been a desire to ensure that could never happen again. But it's clearly anachronistic today.

You can't say that's just.

Absolutely. My understanding is that the Act of Settlement is very hard to change (as the Queen is head of State in sixteen different nations, a change would have to be enacted by all of their parliaments, not just the UK one) but nonetheless the current government have said they want to have a go at updating it.

Link | Reply

elvwood 4 years, 7 months ago

Thanks. It's eased a little, but I'm still a little fuzzy in my thinking. I decided to listen to Fires again in the light of your post, and I won't be getting to a response while it's topical. I might post something anyway Sunday or Monday; again we'll see.

Link | Reply

BerserkRL 4 years, 7 months ago

I love England, but I wouldn't want to be in London right now.

And as an actual anarchist, I feel no obligation to choose between democracy and monarchy.

Link | Reply

elvwood 4 years, 7 months ago

OK, this is way too late for the general discussion, but having spent some time thinking about it I decided to post anyway.

There are a few areas where I disagree with you on this one.

"In a nutshell, Lyons treats the past largely as a series of morally suspect or outright appalling cultures whose sole value is that they lead to the present."

I don't really see this in The Fires of Vulcan. It is Mel's conception, sure; but there are plenty of indications that her viewpoint is narrow and simplistic - the means she chooses to attack the slavery issue, for instance, are well-meant but ultimately would have been harmful for her friend Aglae if it weren't for the eruption. And this is obviously deliberate. There's a lot of Mel in me, and while she is the closest to a viewpoint character in the story, part of it for me is noticing some of the wince-worthy things she does and says that I might well be guilty of in similar circumstances.

(The nearest I've come is when my family were in Nepal for six weeks during the Maoist uprising. We were staying with some Nepali friends we first met when they were living in England, and there was a disconnect between the time we spent with them - helping around the house, meeting family, getting involved in their work - and when we went out and about without them. Going into Kathmandu I felt totally like a tourist, and indeed was treated as such by the people I met.)

There is also a sense in this story that the people of Pompeii have lives outside of the plot, something that I never got from The Witch Hunters. There's always going to be a bit of a tourism aspect to a story with a real, not-modern-Western setting, but the humanity of the inhabitants (yes, even Murranus, a character that Steve Lyons added only reluctantly) mitigates that. You call them "idiotic heathens"; I don't see the idiotic part at all. Unless you swallow Mel's viewpoint whole, in which case you would be too polite to come right out and say so.

What about the heathen part? You have more of a point there, because, yes, the story pushes a scientific outlook; but at no point does the Doctor tell the people that their gods don't exist, just that the eruption isn't their punishment. You see a message of people being killed because of their outmoded belief system, I see them dying because of circumstances they don't understand.

As for the Doctor's behaviour... Yes, he saved a family in Fires of Pompeii, but he had considerably more experience - and he had Donna to push him. Mel is much less pushy, carrot juice notwithstanding. And anyway, the Doctor did tell a number of people what they needed to do (and not do) to have the best chance of survival without a TARDIS. I'll agree his initial fatalism is not particularly good characterisation - neither the season 24 nor the season 25/26 "versions" are like that - but the realisation that he could do something forms part of a retrospective character mini-arc that leads from the Doctor of Paradise Towers to the Doctor of Remembrance. It starts with his confrontation with Gavrok in Delta, losing his temper in the face of such open, wilful evil (thanks jphalt). This story then teaches him that he can do more than he thinks, and facing Kane in Dragonfire shows that he has an even greater talent for manipulating people than he had hitherto believed. OK, that's a bit contrived, but no more so than some other fan theories I could mention!

Still, one of the things we agree on is that Simon Guerrier's take on the malleability of history is much more fun than Lyons'.

Phew. That'll have to do.

Link | Reply

Froborr 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm Jewish. Historically speaking, we have not fared well in states with official churches. I'll stick with that separation of church and state, thanks muchly.

Link | Reply

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom