Why Not Make Some Coffee (The Time Warrior)

(27 comments)

roofle pwned feminist
It's December 15, 1973. Slade is at number one with "Merry Xmas Everybody," with Gary Glitter, Roxy Music, Wizzard and Mott the Hoople also lurking in the charts. Slade holds #1 through Christmas, and into the new year, in the last real flourishing of glam.

I'd do the usual new season politics roundup, but I feel like the last entry did most of it. You've got the Yom Kippur War, tons more bad stuff in Northern Ireland, Pinochet's coup d'etat in Chile, Spiro Agnew's resignation, and the mounting hilarity of Watergate. While during this story, OPEC doubles the price of oil, and the Three-Day Week itself comes into force.

So let's get down to watching Doctor Who, since the nature of the blog as it gets to the end of an era is that I end up packing it with entries about things other than TV episodes. (There are, after this, four more Pertwee stories, but Robot is eight entries away.) And The Time Warrior, made at the end of the Season Ten block (i.e. a block where the show was, as I've said, on fire creatively), is, in a practical sense, the last Pertwee story that has a large number of people who unabashedly and unambiguously love it. Not that at least some of the four after this don't have their fans (though some of them basically have nobody whatsoever who likes them), but that this is in one sense the Pertwee era's last stab at outright greatness.

It's also very much a passing of the torch. It's Robert Holmes's last story before he becomes script editor, a position he unofficially adopts for part of Season Eleven, and adopts in full for Season Twelve. And it's the debut of Sarah Jane Smith, the iconic companion of the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era renaissance. So there's  a lot to love here.

As with the last Holmes story we saw, the major highlight here is that Holmes is a wizard at creating epic stories out of low rent characters. This is perfectly in keeping with the "fallen power" feel of Britain that has been brewing for a while and really reaches a head with the wiping out of the Heath Prime Ministership. Here we get Irongron, whose name makes him sound like a strange reject from The Krotons. At the start of the story, Irongron is a pathetic loser of a warlord complaining about his bad food and bad wine, and talking of how he's going to have to go do some conquest to get new stuff, but with the clear sense that he is pathetically all talk.

This is the essential Robert Holmes move - to make a villain out of a pathetic schlub instead of out of some terrifying and powerful figure. So Irongron is scary not because he's inherently powerful, but for the far more interesting reason that he's an easily manipulable loser who's come under the influence of a powerful alien warrior. What Holmes does with this character - and with many of his other characters - is make him scarier by making him more low rent. Holmes is intensely aware of the vicious sadism that ordinary people are capable of, and knows that by putting Irongron in the influence of Linx he gets a villain who is more rawly nasty than anything we've seen in the program since Benik in The Enemy of the World.

Holmes also gives us a helpful reminder of how much of a good idea the Master was. Remember that Holmes was the one who wrote the Master's first appearance - and yet it's also the only time he wrote for Delgado's Master, and one of only three times he wrote for the character at all. (And one of only two he survived) In Holmes's original conception, the Master was solidly the evil counterpart to the Doctor. Not just an evil genius, but someone who gets to out-Doctor the Doctor in scenes they share. Once the Master became as familiar as the Doctor, as I've said, he steadily became toothless and impotent.

Here, though, Holmes just goes back to the drawing board and creates Linx. I should stress, because this is one of those points where obsessive fans skew things a bit, he does not create the Sontarans here. Rather, he creates a character who is a member of a previously unseen and unknown alien race. But Linx is not a particular instance of a mildly tedious Doctor Who monster - he's a specifically designed counterpart to the Doctor. Just as the Doctor is still one of two (or, given that The Final Game was still on the menu at the time of writing, one of one) Time Lords we have met, Linx is meant to be the one Sontaran we meet - a representative of a larger and more powerful people. And notably, Linx is built up in a way that we've never really seen prior to this story - he talks sneeringly of the Time Lords as if they're a lesser race.

In other words, Linx is basically Holmes going back to the actual original idea of the Master and doing that again. The bitter irony of this, of course, is that filming on this story ended mere days before Delgado's death, an event that, understandably, smashed the wind out of the sails of many of the people who had been working on the program for some time, most obviously Jon Pertwee, who, by all accounts, became deeply apathetic about the program after this story.

What this means is that Holmes is doing an interesting engagement with a recurring theme we've seen in the Pertwee era - one that dates all the way back to The War Games. In The War Games, we talked about an idea that seems to be introduced but that then gets dropped because of the gravity of the whole Time Lord revelation, namely that the Time Lords are some form of counterpart to the War Lords, and overseers of those concepts. With the Sontarans, Holmes is essentially dusting off that dead end and reworking it into something else. But since the Time Lords have developed considerably since the first try at that, the equivalent of the War Lords changes as well.

I've talked several times about the way in which the Time Lords appear to be the guardians of some notion of historical progress. And in this story, Holmes gives the Doctor a couple of lines that seem to support this, most notably in how the Doctor appears to view technological progress and social development as fundamentally intertwined, objecting to what Linx is doing because speeding human technological progress would ruin their moral and ethical development. Linx, as a Sontaran, is viewed as representing a different model of progress - one based on military might and power. And so the basic conflict of this story is an argument between a moral/technological view of historical development and one based on power and the use of force.

But then, in characteristic Holmesian style, he makes the forces of military might into silly buffoons - though as we've already discussed, this in no way takes away from the fact that they are effective and truly menacing villains. He creates an entire chunk of the story to serve as a view of history and the world centered on military might, then makes that portion of the story into a truly dark bit of comedy. We've already talked about Irongron's pathetic incompetence, but it's also worth looking at Linx, who promises endlessly to supply Irongron with weapons, but endlessly fails to deliver, or, when he does deliver, delivers something lousy and unworkable like a silly robot. And then there's the sublime visual gag of Linx unmasking himself at the end of the first episode, revealing that underneath his helmet is... a potato head the exact shape of his helmet.

This is the thing that is so wonderful about Holmes - his ability to weaponize humor and use it to lay into things like military bravado that he finds preposterous and wrong-headed. Holmes is not the funniest writer to do Doctor Who - both Douglas Adams and Steven Moffat reside in leagues of their own. But he is the most savagely funny writer - the one who is most capable of using comedy to damn his enemies. But this also brings us around to Holmes's biggest weakness as a writer - the fact that his unrepentant cynicism, which fuels his greatest moments, is at other times simply too unrestrained and too nasty. And The Time Warrior is the first place where this fault really comes through. Because as wonderful as Sarah Jane becomes, and as amazing as Lis Sladen is, Holmes is truly awful to her in this story.

Let's circle back briefly and look at Jo. As I talked about in the Terror of the Autons entry, Jo was introduced to a great extent because Terrance Dicks thought Liz Shaw was too strong and competent a character, and wanted a dumber companion who would get captured and rescued a lot. And this marked a major shift in how female companions were treated on Doctor Who. Not all of the previous female companions were paragons of feminism - not by a mile. But they did better than people give them credit for. Anneke Wills famously used to complain about how sexist the treatment of Polly was, pointing heavily to The Moonbase, where she's somewhat infamously told by the Doctor that the most helpful thing she could do would be to go make coffee. But then she actually saw the episodes and realized that, in fact, Polly is enormously resourceful and clever in that story, and a much stronger and better character than she'd assumed.

What I'm getting at here is that Doctor Who, contrary to Dicks's claims in justifying swapping Liz for Jo, was actually always a show with stronger female characters than the norm for its era. And that it was under Dicks and Letts that a crasser and more superficial view of what the companion was really took root (although as I discussed in the video blog for The Ice Warriors, Victoria is a major step in this direction as well). So contrary to how Sarah Jane is presented - as a liberated and more mature woman than the show has given us in the past - she's actually a return to a better state of affairs. The show only had a major feminism problem because it had traded up from a minor feminism problem.

The thing is, even when the show under Letts and Dicks turned to feminism, it did so with appalling condescension. The most toe-curlingly awful moments of The Time Monster are where Ruth is made a feminist to make her comically annoying. But that's nothing compared to this story, which contrives to have the Doctor be a sexist ass to Sarah just so she can complain about it. The problem here should be obvious - the show goes out of its way to make a major character sexist just so it can get in a line complaining about sexism. In other words, the show's reaction to feminism is actually to make its major characters more sexist.

Even worse, though, is the extended sequence in Episode Two in which Sarah's complaining about how Irongron and company are sexist is played for laughs, where part of the joke is that Sarah hasn't figured out that she's gone back in time and so is complaining about sexism to people who cannot possibly understand what she means and genuinely don't care. In other words, feminism is played for laughs - har har, look at how the dumb feminist gets it wrong and complains that the medieval brutes are sexist. She's so dumb. It's cruel, and nasty, and cynical, and, unfortunately, pure Robert Holmes. And this is his real weak spot - his cynicism can readily get carried away and start attacking the good guys with the same brutal fervor he applies to more deserving targets.

Which also serves as a decent lead-in to the rest of the season. If Season Ten was the year in which Doctor Who improbably made it work (with the exception of the Sloman/Letts script, which is, as always, full of truly dreadful stuff), Season Eleven is the year in which no matter how good a set of ideas they have, they somehow find a way of screwing something big up (with the exception of the Sloman/Letts script, which is, as always, full of some quite cool bits). This story, of the first four, fares the best by miles. But its initial treatment of Sarah Jane really is woeful, and ends up being far worse than the ostensibly more sexist Jo Grant ever was. And unfortunately, the gaping and catastrophic flaws in well-intentioned stories are just beginning.

Comments

David B 5 years, 7 months ago

Good dissection of the story there and the problems/strengths that are found within it. Enjoyed reading that.

Link | Reply

Tom Watts 5 years, 7 months ago

Have you seen Four Lions? Rather than Dad's Army, now I'm reminded of the Time Warrior, with its portrayal of incompetent, innocent thuggishness, set against the more refined idiocy of Dot Cotton and her husband.

But I want to take issue with your comment on the way Holmes tends to start on the good guys (with all the malicious abandonment of Mr Sin at the House of the Dragon). To me, that's his major strength, and it's particularly true of The Sunmakers: he completely satisfies no-one; everyone comes from a Holmes story disappointed in some respect, with at least one small personal illusion clouded. Far from being irresponsible, I think it's a sign of artistic courage (which just means to say "I like it", because courageous comedy is always irresponsible). It's supremely comforting TV which is never somehow comfort food. It's also a bit punk: there's an side to a lot of great creative works that sneers and gobs at the audience. Why should sensitive and intelligent young women be made to feel welcome?

And I want to raise a flag now to state, pre-emptively, that Invasion of the Dinosaurs is one of the greatest stories ever and Hulke's best script, that Monster of Peladon is just as good as Curse, that Death is a mile better than Planet (not difficult) and that, well, you get the picture. Season 11 is Pertwee's finest.

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

I think in general there was an awkwardness in the way discussion of feminism was shoehorned into early Sarah Jane stories. I just re-watched "Robot", and it's two clunky references to the issue wind up creating a story paradox. (An organization that sneers at pants wearing women being lead by a feminist.)

At any rate, I think the scene with Sarah Jane and the scullery maids was more so Holmes could get in the "You're all living in the Middle Ages!" punchline than a real stab at commentary. Her effectiveness at doing things throughout the story (Practically running the rival King's affairs at some points.) speaks better on the issue.

Link | Reply

Seeing_I 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree with Steve - Holmes gets in a lot of feminism jokes, mainly by confronting SJS with brute sexism in its rawest form (you think the 1970s are sexist, try the 1270s!) - but she STILL runs rings around the brutes and even gets the drop on the Doctor.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 5 years, 7 months ago

But that's standard for companions. Jo did it too. So did Zoe. And Barbara. And Vicki. Being a strong female character is not a new invention in Sarah Jane. But going out of your way to put her in sexist situations so she can complain about them is.

So basically, we have a companion who is as strong as past companions, but who is now treated with overt sexism far more often (and not just from Irongron - remember, the Doctor opens with an out of character sexist line just so that the establishing dialogue that Sarah is a feminist can take place) and who is apparently expected to justify her strength instead of just being allowed to have it.

By any measure, this is a step backwards.

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

That seems more like a commentary on the male characters than Sarah Jane though.

To contrast: while Jo managed to become far more than the damsel in distress that Dicks wanted, (It's surprising to go back and see her judo chopping baddies like she's Emma Peel.) she tends to maintain a non threatening childlike waif-yness. Sarah Jane is probably less of an action heroine, but she's more independent and tends to demand respect rather than hope for paternal indulgence. It's hard to imagine her putting up with some of the condescension Jo got treated with.

Which isn't to say how this gets handled in the series isn't awkward and off putting at times. As a general rule, middle aged men in the 60's-70's weren't particularly good at dealing with this issue.

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

Just to compare: In the previous episode, Jo falls in love with a guy who spends the bulk of the story contemptuously treating her like an idiot, and then is hunky dory when (In what was easily the most jaw dropping moment for me.) he unilaterally declares that they are getting married when they haven't even been on so much as a date!

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 5 years, 7 months ago

To be fair, though, I criticized that too, and part of what I criticized it for was specifically how poor a job it did of providing an adequate capstone for such an otherwise excellent companion.

Again, my point is that Sarah Jane, at least in this story, far from being a step towards a more enlightened and feminist companion, is a visible step backwards, in that her inclusion becomes an excuse to make overt sexism a routine part of the narrative. And it's not balanced out - yeah, she's headstrong and take charge, but the scenes where she's running things are the ones where she gets it all wrong and thinks the Doctor is the bad guy. Once he meets up with her again in episode three she's disabused of that notion and becomes a good little test-tube hander for the rest of the story. Even the basic logic of her - that being a strong female character has to be explained in some fashion - is problematic.

And there are a lot of people involved in that problem. Holmes is one of them. Dicks and Letts are probably bigger ones, given Moonbase 3 (which I just watched the last episode of last night, and it may be the most horrific piece of rape apologia I've seen in recent memory). I don't think that the "Holmes skewers everyone" argument someone gave upthread holds, though. Being an equal opportunity offender is not a virtue in a world where not everyone deserves equal attacks. It may be artistic courage, but its morally bankrupt to turn feminism into an object of mockery.

I mean, obviously Sarah Jane turns out all right. Better than all right, really. She's one of the best female characters in television history, and has done indescribable good in terms of giving young female viewers someone to look up to on television.

But she had a rough start.

Link | Reply

Gnaeus 5 years, 7 months ago

To begin with, sorry, but this is one of those little things that bug me:

"really reaches a head with the wiping out of the Heath Prime Ministership."

I think you mean either the Heath Premiership or the Heath Ministry. I have no idea whether "Prime Ministership" is officially acceptable or not, but it's an immensely clumsy usage, regardless.

Sorry, I know it's a minor thing.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 5 years, 7 months ago

No, I appreciate it. I couldn't remember the correct term, and that was a guess. Premiership. Excellent. The mistake shall be made no more. :)

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

It's possible that I'm a bit influenced by an earlier recap by Christopher Bahn over at the AV Club website:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-time-warrior,60140/

(It's worth noting that a link in his previous entry on The Mind Robbers was how I found your blog.)

He has a more benign take on the episode, suggesting that The Doctor was kidding about the coffee, that Sarah made a reasonable mistake about the Doctor's intentions and that the bit with the kitchen wenches was just a setup for a funny line.

I guess arguments can be made for both interpretations, and certainly differing opinions are what keep the internet interesting. I personally don't see this episode so much as "Let's dump on the feminist" as trying to squeeze some (Awkward) topical humor out of a character who's a different sort of female companion.

I would agree though that the show was probably doing a better job with female companions in earlier stories where it wasn't self conscious about gender issues and focused more on individual personalities. Sarah Jane becomes a better character when she stops being pigeonholed as "Sarah Jane: FEMINIST!" and is allowed to simply be the sort of person a feminist would admire.

At least one sexist aspect we should all agree on: why the Hell didn't anyone evacuate those poor kitchen wenches from the castle?

Link | Reply

inkdestroyedmybrush 5 years, 7 months ago

I tend to agree with the other writers of the comments section, that Holmes isn't dumping on Sarah Jane so much as he is struggling with writing up to the times: i.e. working hard to decide how to deal with these bra-burning feminists from the real world in fiction. And, lets face it, he doesn't do that great a job. He's saved, of course, by Lis Sladen bringing warmth and conviction to the character,as well as dignity in a socially explosive situation.

I'm not sure that i see Holmes' greatest failing as a writer being his cynicism. It may have been too openly acknowledging his influences and not trying as hard as he could to make them in to something the resembled new. Certainly, when given the opportunity to, he was able to infuse his parables with memorable characters that would elude almost all the rest of the writers for Doctor Who combined. Did anyone else ever spend the time to develop a Binro in Ribos?

It certainly seems like, when Holmes knew what he had in Lis that he was able to stop with the "Sarah Jane: Feminist!" declarations (post Robot) and come up with more subtle touches of male/female dynamic that said the same thing: i.e. the crawling through the air ducts scene in Ark. Baker's taunting of her is a far better showing of the Doctor's confidence in her, and his belief in her ability to handle the job while teasing her with something that we know will just get under her skin.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 5 years, 7 months ago

I certainly agree that it's under Holmes that Sarah Jane becomes a feminist icon instead of becoming a badly done attempt at pandering. But that doesn't reduce the problems of this script.

Link | Reply

7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194 5 years, 7 months ago

"the show's reaction to feminism is actually to make its major characters more sexist"

That seems to have been the standard way that 70s shows tried to address feminism -- to make the male characters even more overtly sexist than usual so the female characters could then complain. (That's not a defense! Just an observation.)

"the Doctor opens with an out of character sexist line"

But to be fair, the Doctor was dying! And sexist remarks are totally ok when you're dying.

Oh sorry, wrong episode.

Link | Reply

7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194 5 years, 7 months ago

Although this is a bit ahead of the schedule, I always thought Sarah Jane's departure in _The Hand of Stony Badness_, where she fakes a petulant tantrum while wearing an absurd children's costume, was a particularly weak and unfortunate closeout for her character.

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

Well as Phillip's blog does an excellent job of pointing out (And even though I've been disagreeing a little here, I'm still a big fan.) this is a show that's constantly trying to figure out how to do different things. (And not always getting it right the first time.)

And when it comes to unfortunate closeouts and bad outfits, poor Sarah's still got that K-9 pilot to get through...

Link | Reply

7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194 5 years, 7 months ago

I rather like Sarah in the K-9 pilot. It's a good presentation of her character.

I don't much like anything else in the K-9 pilot, though.

Link | Reply

Steve Hogan 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm just thinking of the hair and leg warmers. She looks like she's heading off to a hot date with Napoleon Dynamite.

Link | Reply

Keith 5 years, 7 months ago

Regarding the issue of feminism in this episode, what about Lady Eleanor? I seem to recall the script treating her character like a good version of Lady MacBeth, prodding her weak-willed husband to make the right choices.

Link | Reply

Gavin 5 years, 7 months ago

I might cautiously try to split the difference.

First, the original post is absolutely, unquestionably right (that is, in my opinion...) that the Doctor is characterized as sexist.

I'd maybe quibble about how out of character it is. I feel that it only explicitly articulates something that was implicit in the Pertwee Doctor's relationship with Jo, as well as in his general aura of old-fashioned male authority. To a certain extent, this is hard-wired into the set-up that the Pertwee era introduced (which then became the default norm for DW): the Doctor as male lead with a young woman as female lead.

This is not, obviously, the Doctor as we would like him to be, but I don't think it would be anything like as jarring as (Spoilers for Let's Kill Hitler!) That Bit was in LKH.

Second, however, there are certain aspects of The Time Warrior that palliate what Philip is complaining about. (Palliate, no more than that. There's still a problem.)

1) Sarah Jane is playing the straight man role that Philip earlier discussed in connection with the Brigadier: the sane and sensible person who refuses to see that she's entered an insane world. The association of this role for the previous three years with a quintessential masculine authority figure cuts down on the problems with associating it with Sarah Jane here.

It matters that she's a journalist, another stereotypically hard-headed and cynical profession. A refusal to accept surface impressions is an important aspect of the character that differentiates her from the innocent Jo (cf. Robot). This story turns this up to 11 for humorous effect, but it's still a fundamentally admirable aspects of the character (much as the Brigadier's unflappability is still admirable, even when the show makes fun of it).

2) It's crucial that The Time Warrior is set in an overtly ersatz Middle Ages, not an attempt to suggest a real visit to the medieval period.

(This is something that I'd have been interested to read Philip discussing, since t's only in hindsight that the Sontaran and Sarah Jane is the most important thing about this episode. After all, if this blog is a meditation on utopianism, then versions of the medieval period - both a traditional British touchstone for an idealized escapist past and a byword for backwardness* - might have something to offer.)

Anyway, when Sarah Jane believes that this must be some sort of exploitation of cliches about Merrie Olde England for tourists, she is, in a sense, completely correct. The entire thing is put together from exactly those cliches, especially as enshrined in Technicolor Hollywood epics (occasionally reversed for comedic effect). While point 1 above is about the way in which Sarah Jane is the only person who isn't in on the joke, this (point 2) is about how she's the only person who is in on it.

*Unfairly, before a medievalist emerges to hit me.

Link | Reply

Spacewarp 5 years, 7 months ago

I kind of get what you're saying about he way the story treats Sarah Jane, but I don't think that's a waste of her character or in any way denigrating it. One way to highlight a particular character trait is surely to test it. A character who claims to be a pacifist is often goaded by other characters to fight, more so than normal. For example Kwai Chang Caine in "Kung Fu" or Mr Spock in "Star Trek". Arguably Spock had the mick taken out of him more than Kirk, simply to highlight the fact that he would always talk his way out of a situation rather than result to fisticuffs...until of course (like Caine) he showed that he was ultimately a better fighter than you anyway and you shouldn't mess with him.

Surely by writing Sarah as a "modern feminist" one has to provide areas in the script to highlight this, otherwise how do you know she's a feminist? Jo Grant was written largely as a pretty blonde bimbo, long on looks but short on brains. By allowing characters to continually patronise and talk down to her, you allow her to either confirm or subvert these traits as and when the script requires. In the same way you can ask a stereotypical feminist character to "make the tea" and elicit a diatribe on how women are much better than that; or you can tell her she's looking pretty today, expecting another rant, and be surprised when she smiles and says thank-you.

Link | Reply

Abigail Brady 5 years, 7 months ago

But there's no need for the character who makes those sexist tea-requesting comments, or the like, for the feminist character to react to and define her, to be the supposedly sympathetic leading man. I think that's the part of it I found most objectionable.

Link | Reply

Spacewarp 5 years, 7 months ago

@Abgail Brady. But if you want to show how a character will react to someone asking them if they're gay, lesbian, feminist, or will they make the tea, then you have to have another character ask them that. We may well not like what one character says to another, but we can't argue with the writer's reasons for putting them there. We just may not understand why it was done, either because the writer didn't get the point over sufficiently, or because social mores have changed over time.

Link | Reply

pbristow 5 years, 5 months ago

"We may well not like what one character says to another, but we can't argue with the writer's reasons for putting them there. "

Oh yes we blinkin' well can! =:o}

To clarify: You seem to be assuming that the author's reasosn are unknowable, and therefore inaccessible to criticism. While that may sometimes be the case, it rarely is in "Who", with such a vast wealth of disclosure of authorial (and actorial, and producerial, and... (etc.) ) intent down the years!

Link | Reply

William Whyte 5 years, 4 months ago

@Spacewarp: It has to be another character, but it doesn't have to be the lead character.

Phil -- you usually have a good eye for counterpoint but you seem to have missed the obvious one here. Linx isn't a stand in for the Master -- he's a stand in for the Doctor. He's trapped on a planet he hates, he allies with a militaristic crowd of idiots, he helps them out, flatters them, and insults them behind their back, while all the time his main aim is to get away. I even suspect the helmet gag (with bald head underneath) is a conscious jab at Pertwee's visits to the hairdresser. The actual contrast / joke is that in the case of Linx he's even more militaristic than the idiots he ends up allying with, and that if anything leads to Linx having more fun than the Doctor did.

On one level, this is just an observation about the effectiveness of fish out of water scenarios (and, of course, putting Sarah in the past gives us another fish out of water scenario and a clue, perhaps, that Holmes is playing this for comedy more than to make a serious point about feminism). On another, it's making a very serious libertarian/conservative statement about morality. If the Doctor and Linx map so well onto each other, the reason why Linx is bad and the Doctor is good is that Linx doesn't care about the effects he has on the primitive planet and the Doctor is very careful not to interfere with the self-progression of the human race (he saves it from invasions, obviously, but that's an effect he has on the external situation of humanity, not the internal one). He doesn't share his technology, he doesn't explain anything; in order to avoid sharing his technology he has to take on a lot of personal danger. In other words: leaving people alone to take responsibility, even if that means they get hurt in the short run (think of the diseases the Doctor could cure!), is a high moral calling.

Maybe that's an overstatement. All the Time Warrior really says is you shouldn't give other people bigger guns. That's a low bar for morality. But even so it illuminates Holmes's approach: despite his name, the Doctor is a policeman rather than a doctor, and being a policeman is about as good as you can hope to be.

Link | Reply

Philip Sandifer 5 years, 4 months ago

... Shit, you're totally right about Linx as a Doctor parallel.

Link | Reply

Henry R. Kujawa 5 years, 1 month ago

Linx as Doctor parallel: BRILLIANT! I've seen this story maybe a dozen times now (and again just 2 days ago), and somehow never really noticed that.

I sometimes wonder if I'd have come to like Sarah as intensely as I did for the whole of the 80's if I'd been able to see her 1st season before seeing her other 3 (instead of 5 years later). She is so on fire in this story, and yet it is hilarious how much she gets wrong. In her first TWO stories, she actually makes Jo seem much smarter by comparison. Then, in her 3rd story, she suddenly seems smarter than The Doctor! Half the problems in "DEATH TO THE DALEKS" began when, after she asked, "You're not going to run off, are you?" the first thing he does when she's out of sight is WANDER OFF. Idiot!

I love to contrast Jo and Sarah. My initia reaction to Jo was identical to The Doctor. "Oh, NO!" (I really liked Liz, and was shocked when she disappeared and was replaced with... Jo.) Took me until "DAY OF THE DALEKS" to really LIKE either Pertwee OR Jo, to tell the truth. Eventually, they grew closer, in an uncle-niece sort of way.

Compare that with Sarah. HE took to her IMMEDIATELY! I think that fire and short temper only attracted him more. A real kindred spirit. Only problem was that chip she had on her shoulder (but look at seasons 7-8 and he had an even bigger one, except around Liz). I suspect he wasn't thinking too clearly in "DEATH..." Maybe he was in love?

I also note that Sarah, like Romana, got MUCH smarter when she stopped trying so hard to prove how smart she was. And Romana was the only one besides Sarah I ever saw as a real "perfect match" for him.

Link | Reply

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom