You May Find His Behavior Somewhat Erratic (Interference)

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I’ll Explain Later

We skipped David McIntee’s Autumn Mist, which was a bit of a flop. Taking up both the Eighth Doctor Adventure and Past What is the significance of retconning Planet of the Spiders out of existence? There are some answers we can simply rule out as terribly silly. It does not, obviously, do any violence to Planet of the Spiders as a 150-minute long stretch of video. That remained pleasantly inviolate on everybody’s bookshelf in VHS form, as it had for the For reasons not entirely unrelated to a desire to be ostentatious, I periodically claim to have no ethical principles, only aesthetic ones. In this regard the Remote seem almost designed to be interesting to me. That said, it’s not as though either Miles or I have terribly original ideas here: the idea that there’s a link to be found between aesthetics and ethics has deep roots. Kant made Miles’s comments on the bottle universes are difficult to quite square away. He claims to have created them to sort out the continuity between the Virgin line and the BBC Books line, with the book that convinced him that the BBC Books line wasn’t set to be in the same universe as the Virgin line being The Eight Doctors, and blames writers like Kate Orman and Gary Russell for When talking about Grant Morrison and The Invisibles I posited that Morrison was of the man’s party and didn’t know it. That is, he is hopelessly torn between a revolutionary aesthetic and a commitment to working within a fundamentally anti-revolutionary form. A similar affliction seems to plague Lawrence Miles, albeit one that I simply haven’t read enough to resolve quite at this Doctor Adventure slot for the month, Interference is a two-part Doctor Who novel featuring both the Third and Eighth Doctors. We’ve covered it once already, and as with The Two Doctors, it is my intention not to repeat myself, though equally, not to contradict myself. Much. If I can avoid it. In any case, Interference is the big one, both literally and figuratively, setting past eight years. Nor, of course, can this be claimed as in any meaningful way similar to War of the Daleks. War of the Daleks was stupid because it ran roughshod over stories and told us that what we saw on the screen was wrong. Interference renders Planet of the Spiders non-canonical, yes, but it keeps it intact as it explicit in The Critique of Judgment, and it appears that Hannah Arendt died in the earliest stages of working on a book that would have explicitly based a theory of political philosophy on Kant’s aesthetics. I make the claim because it’s amusing and brash, not because it’s terribly original. overruling him by referencing Virgin stuff. Two major problems exist here. First, he introduces the bottle universe in Christmas on a Rational Planet and implies that the TV Movie takes place in it, which puts the date of the continuity split too early. Second, he references Tyler’s Folly, his planet from Down, in Alien Bodies, which puts him at as much blame as Kate Orman for attempting to merge  point. (The perils of a blog version of this, really.) On the one hand, Lawrence Miles’s sympathies seem to lie firmly with Faction Paradox.

There are, of course, exceptions to this statement. Most obviously the decision to have Llewis become a Faction Paradox agent, which makes explicit the fact that the cowardly banality of his evil is perfect for Faction Paradox. There is,
up loads of plot for the Eighth Doctor line, writing Sam out, introducing a new companion, and, oh yeah, killing the Third Doctor prior to Planet of the Spiders and thus infecting the Doctor with a Faction Paradox biovirus that will corrupt his Eighth incarnation.

It is contentious to say the least. It makes it to tenth and eleventh place in the Shannon Sullivan rankings, it does so. Planet of the Spiders is as it always was - it’s just a story the Doctor was diverted from. Furthermore, Interference is open about the fact that this is intensely wrong. The Doctor wasn’t supposed to die on Dust. It’s tough to get too outraged about how wrong a retcon is when the entire point of the retcon Likewise, Miles doesn’t really do much of anything in Interference that isn’t just Marshall McLuhan merged with some

trite but not inaccurate observations about the way in which human sympathies and philosophical principles diverge. It’s not hard to see what Paul Cornell was reacting to when he described Miles’s treatment of politics as being like that of, as Miles recounts it, “a seventeen year-old virgin.” The terminology is a bit odd, but we have a whole post on The Shadows of Avalon coming up where
 the continuities.

All of which said, there’s a standard general explanation for the bottles. The Time Lords of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, fearing the oncoming War, snuck into the I.M. Foreman’s bottle universe, which contained the Virgin Adventures, where they became the Gods of Dellah, who were the big metaplot going on in the Benny books at the time. Meanwhile, Time Lords from the Virgin line snuck into the 
in other words, no mistaking that Faction Paradox are the villains here. But on the other hand, every cool idea Miles has seems to implicate Faction Paradox. Even if they’re the bad guys, they’re the ones with cool ideas about how the world is run entirely on aesthetic principles. They’re the ones who get to live in the Eleven Day Empire, a chunk but flame wars broke out over this one. As you might expect from someone who went on to hire Lawrence Miles to continue this mythology, Lars Pearson said that “Interference is a masterwork that takes risks and wins, the culmination of years of novels that opens up a whole Vortex of possibility. It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.” Which, he wasn’t wrong about “interesting,” though he was surely disappointed.

is its jarring wrongness.

Equally, the retcon is so brazenly cheeky that it serves as a shot across the bow. It’s so blatantly designed to piss certain types of people off that it’s going to regardless, but meticulously designed so that every actual objection they can raise to it is easily shot down. The technical term for this is “trolling,”
 this is one of the big things I mean to talk about, so we’ll save it. For now let’s highlight the fact that Cornell is on reasonably sound footing in identifying that there’s something off about Miles’s politics here. It’s not that Miles is wrong so much as that he’s terribly incomplete. Yes, he’s right that most people have what is more accurately described as a sense of bottle universe that Chris has in Dead Romance, which is presumably the one he found in the TARDIS in Christmas on a Rational Planet. I, Who 2 suggests otherwise, but given that Dead Romance strongly suggests that the Doctor went and fought the Dellahn Gods, lost, but stole a bottle universe that Chris eventually acquired and Christmas on a Rational Planet shows the Doctor with a bottle universe, this of time bought from the British government when they set their calendars forward to match the Gregorian calendar. They’re the ones who create the Remote, and who get to muck up Doctor Who’s past continuity. They’re the ones with TARDIS-like machines run entirely on symbolism and magic. And yet they’re the bad guys.

On the one hand, this is inevitable. They have But the real news is in Doctor Who Magazine. There are some… issues to be sorted out here. In July of 1999, the Big Finish line started. The Big Finish line was and is marvelous. But Doctor Who Magazine got a bit… partisan in the rivalry between the two lines, and was pretty blatantly pro-Big Finish.  but it’s such a masterful piece of trolling that it’s hard not to forgive and, indeed, encourage. Interference sets out to piss off all the right people, and does a rock solid job of it. But while this sort of trolling may be commendable, there’s a degree of hollowness to it as well. OK, you’ve pissed the most annoying segments aesthetics than a sense of ethics. In this regard he’s made it ahead of, say, Andy Lane in Original Sin, but that’s not an earth-shattering revelation, and Miles mistakes it for one.

And so in his proposed escape from this he ends up aiming for the meaningful and hitting the Banal. The Eighth Doctor section culminates in the Doctor teaching Sam that she has to “make new
 seems sensible. Except for that persnickety little detail of Christmas on a Rational Planet clearly implying that the bottle universe in the Doctor’s TARDIS is where the TV Movie takes place. (“Hey, that one’s got a TARDIS just like the Doctor’s! Maybe it is the Doctor. I wonder what he’s doing in San Francisco?”) Which not only screws up Miles’s explanation of what he was trying to do, it to be the bad guys, because Doctor Who isn’t able to support the complete and utter mercuriality of the Faction. This isn’t controversial: Doctor Who’s foot in the material world precludes it disappearing entirely into the churning chaos implied by the Faction. It’s too rationalist and too moderate to ever go completely down that rabbit hole. If nothing else, a skull-wearing voodoo Although bad reviews aren’t unheard of in Doctor Who Magazine, it’s not exactly the harshest place to go for reviews either. And when “big books” have come along, they’ve usually been dutifully willing to back them at the time, even if they’re The Eight Doctors. Which makes the hiding that this book takes jaw-dropping. Vanessa Bishop calls it “impressively boring,” “misleadingly promoted,” describes the of Doctor Who fandom off, but unless your next trick is falling off a log, it’s tough to go downhill from here.

This hollowness also reflects on the main impact the idea does have. If nothing else, Miles, by killing the Third Doctor, comes up with something genuinely unexpected. He finds a place within the rules of Doctor Who where
 rules” and break out of traditional political structures, which are only ever going to lead, in Miles’s view, to endlessly reiterating the same structures of oppression over and over again. Which is to say that Miles ends up recreating the basic structure of Morrisonian chaos magic. Of course, everyone in the late 90s was doing exactly that, so for the time, at least, it’s understandable why Interference was messes up the hierarchy of the bottles. Either way, any plans along these lines were scuppered when Mark Clapham and John de Burgh Miller decided, in the final Benny New Adventure, that the Dellahn Gods were going to be the Ferutu from Lance Parkin’s Cold Fusion.  cult doesn’t get to be the heroes of anything the BBC is ever going to put out. And Miles, to be fair, knows this. I’m in no way averse to the reading that he’s consciously writing in a manner reminiscent of Blake’s take on Milton and writing a book in which the villains are secretly the sympathetic ones - a book, in other words, Third Doctor as “ponderous and undynamic,” and says that it “severely tries the patience.” It’s one of the most bracingly negative reviews I’ve seen in Doctor Who Magazine, and makes the eventual schisming of what “the present” of Doctor Who is all but inevitable.

——
It’s August of 1999. Ronan Keating is at number one with “When You Say Nothing At All,” he can leverage a properly shocking “wait, they can DO that” moment. But it’s telling how far he has to go to do it. It works, but in a way that feels like diminishing returns and increasing desperation. OK, yes, it’s terribly surprising, but it’s so over the top that it ends up highlighting just how little Doctor Who can do that still is surprising. such a big deal at the time. But equally, as I’ve indicated, this is not the most compelling moment in the history of zeitgeists. Chaos magic and its associated aesthetics were a dull and misleading turn of little benefit. 


And so Miles, ironically, ends up falling into the exact trap he warns against. History repeats itself, and Miles finds himself repeating the failings of the late Troughton and 
But equally, this highlights the degree to which Miles simply didn’t have anything that could be described as a “plan.” Mind you, he

 never pretended to. He’s consistently hostile to the sort of meta-plot driven Babylon 5 style storytelling that set into science fiction, consistently opposed Doctor Who to that approach, and has said in interviews that he pretty much just made things up each book and then picked the interesting things to flesh out further in the next book. In other words, it’s a mistake to look at the War that aims to utterly subvert the entire structure of Doctor Who.

But there’s a problem here: Miles can’t extricate himself from Doctor Who. His entire fiction writing career save for one short story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a lone “Tharg’s Future Shock” consists of Doctor Who and Doctor Who spin-offs. He writes things that actively resist the which lasts for two weeks before Westlife takes over with “If I Let You Go,” which lasts a week before Geri Halliwell takes it with “Mi Chico Latino.” Whitney Houston, Ricky Martin, Eminem, Chemical Brothers, TLC, and Will Smith also charting, the last with the song from Wild Wild West, called, shockingly, “Wild Wild West,” which I bring up just to try to trigger some PTSD.

In news, Elizabeth And the successful shock of the Third Doctor section obscures the fact that elsewhere in the book things are rather more disappointing. The Eighth Doctor trapped in a Saudi Arabian prison fails to bring anything to the table that Kate Orman didn’t do more elegantly in the first two chapters of Set Piece. The impressively Pertwee eras, skipping over the human element in favor of a blind commitment to revolution for its own sake. It’s telling that Miles, when defending himself against Cornell’s criticism, slams Cornell for supporting New Labour. For all its failures, and I’m hardly a fan of that sort of triangulated liberalism, the fact remains that the portion of the anti-Thatcher left that backed New Labour did wildly more arc as some unfinished masterpiece. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what it is - unfinished even to the point of being incompletely conceived. There is no proper War arc that got interrupted. The Miles-approved and written material that follows isn’t the “correct” version, and, in fact, is heavily influenced by other writers as The Book of the War demonstrates. There is no War arc. There are just some ideas that never got fully developed. 

structure and implications of Doctor Who, but he keeps doing them within Doctor Who. Even if Down and Dead Romance are the two best books of his we’ve read, they still require an anchoring in Doctor Who to function. The entire revolution he points towards comes pre-squashed, left exclusively as a footnote to a dominating master text that it cannot ever possibly II opened the Scottish Parliament last month, and Brandi Chastain did the whole penalty kick thing she’s known for. Woodstock 99, the last and greatest selling out of that festival, took place in New York. MSN Messenger was released, not that that’s meaningfully news. John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash off of Martha’s Vineyard. While the month this book actually came out, harrowing journey Fitz gets sent on is interesting, but the consequences are seemingly muted, with the status quo more or less seeming restored at the end. Past that, there’s not a lot to recommend the Eighth Doctor section. Where Alien Bodies disrupted the series by confronting Doctor Who with its own future, Interference is a relatively straightforward adventure with concrete good for people than the chunk of the anti-Thatcher left that stomped off to be revolutionary anarchists. It’s not, of course, a conscious failing. Miles did this better with Dead Romance. But he’s inconsistent on it. Tellingly so. 

On a more basic level, there’s something fantastically unsatisfying about Miles’s conclusion here. “Make new rules” and “try something different” are gorgeously unhelpful suggestions when grappling with the 
We’ve already looked, in Alien Bodies, at why this likely is: simply put, the War looked better on paper than it possibly could have in reality. With actually depicting the War off the table, there’s not much to do. Miles has talked about a few ideas in interviews, and they’re interesting enough, but it’s telling that he’s never talked about anything along the lines escape from. Miles wants to say things that are unspeakable within Doctor Who. This is interesting and worth doing, but doing it within Doctor Who is the very definition of diminishing returns.

And so we’re left with a strange phenomenon. Interference is quite a good book. It is, for the most part, better than Alien Bodies, and if you want to claim it’s 
Boris Yeltsin fires his Prime Minister, East Timor votes for independence from Indonesia, and Charles Kennedy becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I’d make the transition to the story now, but we’re just about done with the entry, since I’ve opted to present this entry as five separate strands that cut amongst each other and are allowed to interfere with each other’s lines of thought.

few implications for the Eighth Doctor. The biggest one - that he’ll someday be subverted by Faction Paradox - really just comes from the Third Doctor section. Other than the quite good conceit of the Remote, there’s not a lot else here. The book makes a far more compelling case than it means to that Doctor Who is running out of ideas. idea of a totalizing and corrupt ideology. What new ideas? What different? These are, of course, impossibly difficult questions, but that’s the point: they don’t form remotely satisfying answers to any sort of political problem. Like the observed equation of aesthetics and ethics, and, in fact, like most of this chaos magic aesthetic, they sound much more clever than they are. The superficial splendor of them is fundamentally misleading. of a resolution to the plot. This is one of the regards in which his War and the Time War most coincide: both are intended not to be depicted, but instead to hang over the text. In that regard, rather than being treated as another step towards some lost epic, we ought treat Interference as it is - a largely self-contained novel that forms the end of its particular line of thought. the most interesting Doctor Who book since Love and War I’m not going to argue with you. But it doesn’t work, and, more to the point, it can’t work. It’s the crowning moment of a doomed project - the triumphant 4-0 victory over a top team during a relegation season. It deserves tremendous respect in this regard. But that doesn’t mean it works.

Comments

Stuart Ian Burns 4 years, 10 months ago

Two of the fonts look exactly the same on Chome. I can see what you're trying to, it's amazing, but any chance of an untangled version?

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Comment deleted 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Comment deleted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Grant, the Hipster Dad 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh, for fuck's sake, Sandifer.

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ferret 4 years, 10 months ago

How on earth is this going to work in the Kindle version?

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Alex Antonijevic 4 years, 10 months ago

Yep. I can't follow this. Do I need to paste this into Word and assign each font a different colour?

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goatie 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, looks like I'm starting my day by writing some regular expressions to piece this together.

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JohnB 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh dear, I have very poor eyesight and cannot distinguish at least three of the fonts used.

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John Callaghan 4 years, 10 months ago

I have managed to create a readable version of this essay (ie. unscrambled). I haven't read it yet, but then I haven't read Interference either. I assume Dr. Sandifer would prefer me not to post it. So I now find myself in the strange position of possessing the truth but being unsure what to do about it. It's like being in a Lovecraft story, only with less ichor.

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Darren K. 4 years, 10 months ago

I cut the whole thing into Word to edit, but there are still only four text types. And two of those are Arial and Trebuchet, which I can only tell the difference between when Word tells me they are different. I suspect a very slight colour change might be involved too.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

John C, I hear your scruples, but I don't share them. Here goes.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

I’ll Explain Later

We skipped David McIntee’s Autumn Mist, which was a bit of a flop. Taking up both the Eighth Doctor Adventure and Past Doctor Adventure slot for the month, Interference is a two-part Doctor Who novel featuring both the Third and Eighth Doctors. We’ve covered it once already, and as with The Two Doctors, it is my intention not to repeat myself, though equally, not to contradict myself. Much. If I can avoid it. In any case, Interference is the big one, both literally and figuratively, setting up loads of plot for the Eighth Doctor line, writing Sam out, introducing a new companion, and, oh yeah, killing the Third Doctor prior to Planet of the Spiders and thus infecting the Doctor with a Faction Paradox biovirus that will corrupt his Eighth incarnation.

It is contentious to say the least. It makes it to tenth and eleventh place in the Shannon Sullivan rankings, but flame wars broke out over this one. As you might expect from someone who went on to hire Lawrence Miles to continue this mythology, Lars Pearson said that “Interference is a masterwork that takes risks and wins, the culmination of years of novels that opens up a whole Vortex of possibility. It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.” Which, he wasn’t wrong about “interesting,” though he was surely disappointed.

But the real news is in Doctor Who Magazine. There are some… issues to be sorted out here. In July of 1999, the Big Finish line started. The Big Finish line was and is marvelous. But Doctor Who Magazine got a bit… partisan in the rivalry between the two lines, and was pretty blatantly pro-Big Finish. Although bad reviews aren’t unheard of in Doctor Who Magazine, it’s not exactly the harshest place to go for reviews either. And when “big books” have come along, they’ve usually been dutifully willing to back them at the time, even if they’re The Eight Doctors. Which makes the hiding that this book takes jaw-dropping. Vanessa Bishop calls it “impressively boring,” “misleadingly promoted,” describes the

Third Doctor as “ponderous and undynamic,” and says that it “severely tries the patience.” It’s one of the most bracingly negative reviews I’ve seen in Doctor Who Magazine, and makes the eventual schisming of what “the present” of Doctor Who is all but inevitable.

——
It’s August of 1999. Ronan Keating is at number one with “When You Say Nothing At All,” which lasts for two weeks before Westlife takes over with “If I Let You Go,” which lasts a week before Geri Halliwell takes it with “Mi Chico Latino.” Whitney Houston, Ricky Martin, Eminem, Chemical Brothers, TLC, and Will Smith also charting, the last with the song from Wild Wild West, called, shockingly, “Wild Wild West,” which I bring up just to try to trigger some PTSD.

In news, Elizabeth II opened the Scottish Parliament last month, and Brandi Chastain did the whole penalty kick thing she’s known for. Woodstock 99, the last and greatest selling out of that festival, took place in New York. MSN Messenger was released, not that that’s meaningfully news. John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash off of Martha’s Vineyard. While the month this book actually came out, Boris Yeltsin fires his Prime Minister, East Timor votes for independence from Indonesia, and Charles Kennedy becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I’d make the transition to the story now, but we’re just about done with the entry, since I’ve opted to present this entry as five separate strands that cut amongst each other and are allowed to interfere with each other’s lines of thought.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

What is the significance of retconning Planet of the Spiders out of existence? There are some answers we can simply rule out as terribly silly. It does not, obviously, do any violence to Planet of the Spiders as a 150-minute long stretch of video. That remained pleasantly inviolate on everybody’s bookshelf in VHS form, as it had for the past eight years. Nor, of course, can this be claimed as in any meaningful way similar to War of the Daleks. War of the Daleks was stupid because it ran roughshod over stories and told us that what we saw on the screen was wrong. Interference renders Planet of the Spiders non-canonical, yes, but it keeps it intact as it does so. Planet of the Spiders is as it always was - it’s just a story the Doctor was diverted from. Furthermore, Interference is open about the fact that this is intensely wrong. The Doctor wasn’t supposed to die on Dust. It’s tough to get too outraged about how wrong a retcon is when the entire point of the retcon is its jarring wrongness.

Equally, the retcon is so brazenly cheeky that it serves as a shot across the bow. It’s so blatantly designed to piss certain types of people off that it’s going to regardless, but meticulously designed so that every actual objection they can raise to it is easily shot down. The technical term for this is “trolling,” but it’s such a masterful piece of trolling that it’s hard not to forgive and, indeed, encourage. Interference sets out to piss off all the right people, and does a rock solid job of it. But while this sort of trolling may be commendable, there’s a degree of hollowness to it as well. OK, you’ve pissed the most annoying segments of Doctor Who fandom off, but unless your next trick is falling off a log, it’s tough to go downhill from here.

This hollowness also reflects on the main impact the idea does have. If nothing else, Miles, by killing the Third Doctor, comes up with something genuinely unexpected. He finds a place within the rules of Doctor Who where he can leverage a properly shocking “wait, they can DO that” moment. But it’s telling how far he has to go to do it. It works, but in a way that feels like diminishing returns and increasing desperation. OK, yes, it’s terribly surprising, but it’s so over the top that it ends up highlighting just how little Doctor Who can do that still is surprising.

And the successful shock of the Third Doctor section obscures the fact that elsewhere in the book things are rather more disappointing. The Eighth Doctor trapped in a Saudi Arabian prison fails to bring anything to the table that Kate Orman didn’t do more elegantly in the first two chapters of Set Piece. The impressively harrowing journey Fitz gets sent on is interesting, but the consequences are seemingly muted, with the status quo more or less seeming restored at the end. Past that, there’s not a lot to recommend the Eighth Doctor section. Where Alien Bodies disrupted the series by confronting Doctor Who with its own future, Interference is a relatively straightforward adventure with few implications for the Eighth Doctor. The biggest one - that he’ll someday be subverted by Faction Paradox - really just comes from the Third Doctor section. Other than the quite good conceit of the Remote, there’s not a lot else here. The book makes a far more compelling case than it means to that Doctor Who is running out of ideas.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

For reasons not entirely unrelated to a desire to be ostentatious, I periodically claim to have no ethical principles, only aesthetic ones. In this regard the Remote seem almost designed to be interesting to me. That said, it’s not as though either Miles or I have terribly original ideas here: the idea that there’s a link to be found between aesthetics and ethics has deep roots. Kant made it explicit in The Critique of Judgment, and it appears that Hannah Arendt died in the earliest stages of working on a book that would have explicitly based a theory of political philosophy on Kant’s aesthetics. I make the claim because it’s amusing and brash, not because it’s terribly original. Likewise, Miles doesn’t really do much of anything in Interference that isn’t just Marshall McLuhan merged with some trite but not inaccurate observations about the way in which human sympathies and philosophical principles diverge. It’s not hard to see what Paul Cornell was reacting to when he described Miles’s treatment of politics as being like that of, as Miles recounts it, “a seventeen year-old virgin.” The terminology is a bit odd, but we have a whole post on The Shadows of Avalon coming up where this is one of the big things I mean to talk about, so we’ll save it. For now let’s highlight the fact that Cornell is on reasonably sound footing in identifying that there’s something off about Miles’s politics here. It’s not that Miles is wrong so much as that he’s terribly incomplete. Yes, he’s right that most people have what is more accurately described as a sense of aesthetics than a sense of ethics. In this regard he’s made it ahead of, say, Andy Lane in Original Sin, but that’s not an earth-shattering revelation, and Miles mistakes it for one.

And so in his proposed escape from this he ends up aiming for the meaningful and hitting the Banal. The Eighth Doctor section culminates in the Doctor teaching Sam that she has to “make new rules” and break out of traditional political structures, which are only ever going to lead, in Miles’s view, to endlessly reiterating the same structures of oppression over and over again. Which is to say that Miles ends up recreating the basic structure of Morrisonian chaos magic. Of course, everyone in the late 90s was doing exactly that, so for the time, at least, it’s understandable why Interference was such a big deal at the time. But equally, as I’ve indicated, this is not the most compelling moment in the history of zeitgeists. Chaos magic and its associated aesthetics were a dull and misleading turn of little benefit.

And so Miles, ironically, ends up falling into the exact trap he warns against. History repeats itself, and Miles finds himself repeating the failings of the late Troughton and Pertwee eras, skipping over the human element in favor of a blind commitment to revolution for its own sake. It’s telling that Miles, when defending himself against Cornell’s criticism, slams Cornell for supporting New Labour. For all its failures, and I’m hardly a fan of that sort of triangulated liberalism, the fact remains that the portion of the anti-Thatcher left that backed New Labour did wildly more concrete good for people than the chunk of the anti-Thatcher left that stomped off to be revolutionary anarchists. It’s not, of course, a conscious failing. Miles did this better with Dead Romance. But he’s inconsistent on it. Tellingly so.

On a more basic level, there’s something fantastically unsatisfying about Miles’s conclusion here. “Make new rules” and “try something different” are gorgeously unhelpful suggestions when grappling with the idea of a totalizing and corrupt ideology. What new ideas? What different? These are, of course, impossibly difficult questions, but that’s the point: they don’t form remotely satisfying answers to any sort of political problem. Like the observed equation of aesthetics and ethics, and, in fact, like most of this chaos magic aesthetic, they sound much more clever than they are. The superficial splendor of them is fundamentally misleading.

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Jon Cole 4 years, 10 months ago

Genius - I just read it as is, and it makes perfect sense

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

Miles’s comments on the bottle universes are difficult to quite square away. He claims to have created them to sort out the continuity between the Virgin line and the BBC Books line, with the book that convinced him that the BBC Books line wasn’t set to be in the same universe as the Virgin line being The Eight Doctors, and blames writers like Kate Orman and Gary Russell for overruling him by referencing Virgin stuff. Two major problems exist here. First, he introduces the bottle universe in Christmas on a Rational Planet and implies that the TV Movie takes place in it, which puts the date of the continuity split too early. Second, he references Tyler’s Folly, his planet from Down, in Alien Bodies, which puts him at as much blame as Kate Orman for attempting to merge the continuities.

All of which said, there’s a standard general explanation for the bottles. The Time Lords of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, fearing the oncoming War, snuck into the I.M. Foreman’s bottle universe, which contained the Virgin Adventures, where they became the Gods of Dellah, who were the big metaplot going on in the Benny books at the time. Meanwhile, Time Lords from the Virgin line snuck into the bottle universe that Chris has in Dead Romance, which is presumably the one he found in the TARDIS in Christmas on a Rational Planet. I, Who 2 suggests otherwise, but given that Dead Romance strongly suggests that the Doctor went and fought the Dellahn Gods, lost, but stole a bottle universe that Chris eventually acquired and Christmas on a Rational Planet shows the Doctor with a bottle universe, this seems sensible. Except for that persnickety little detail of Christmas on a Rational Planet clearly implying that the bottle universe in the Doctor’s TARDIS is where the TV Movie takes place. (“Hey, that one’s got a TARDIS just like the Doctor’s! Maybe it is the Doctor. I wonder what he’s doing in San Francisco?”) Which not only screws up Miles’s explanation of what he was trying to do, it messes up the hierarchy of the bottles. Either way, any plans along these lines were scuppered when Mark Clapham and John de Burgh Miller decided, in the final Benny New Adventure, that the Dellahn Gods were going to be the Ferutu from Lance Parkin’s Cold Fusion.

But equally, this highlights the degree to which Miles simply didn’t have anything that could be described as a “plan.” Mind you, he never pretended to. He’s consistently hostile to the sort of meta-plot driven Babylon 5 style storytelling that set into science fiction, consistently opposed Doctor Who to that approach, and has said in interviews that he pretty much just made things up each book and then picked the interesting things to flesh out further in the next book. In other words, it’s a mistake to look at the War arc as some unfinished masterpiece. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what it is - unfinished even to the point of being incompletely conceived. There is no proper War arc that got interrupted. The Miles-approved and written material that follows isn’t the “correct” version, and, in fact, is heavily influenced by other writers as The Book of the War demonstrates. There is no War arc. There are just some ideas that never got fully developed.

We’ve already looked, in Alien Bodies, at why this likely is: simply put, the War looked better on paper than it possibly could have in reality. With actually depicting the War off the table, there’s not much to do. Miles has talked about a few ideas in interviews, and they’re interesting enough, but it’s telling that he’s never talked about anything along the lines of a resolution to the plot. This is one of the regards in which his War and the Time War most coincide: both are intended not to be depicted, but instead to hang over the text. In that regard, rather than being treated as another step towards some lost epic, we ought treat Interference as it is - a largely self-contained novel that forms the end of its particular line of thought.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

When talking about Grant Morrison and The Invisibles I posited that Morrison was of the man’s party and didn’t know it. That is, he is hopelessly torn between a revolutionary aesthetic and a commitment to working within a fundamentally anti-revolutionary form. A similar affliction seems to plague Lawrence Miles, albeit one that I simply haven’t read enough to resolve quite at this point. (The perils of a blog version of this, really.) On the one hand, Lawrence Miles’s sympathies seem to lie firmly with Faction Paradox.

There are, of course, exceptions to this statement. Most obviously the decision to have Llewis become a Faction Paradox agent, which makes explicit the fact that the cowardly banality of his evil is perfect for Faction Paradox. There is, in other words, no mistaking that Faction Paradox are the villains here. But on the other hand, every cool idea Miles has seems to implicate Faction Paradox. Even if they’re the bad guys, they’re the ones with cool ideas about how the world is run entirely on aesthetic principles. They’re the ones who get to live in the Eleven Day Empire, a chunk of time bought from the British government when they set their calendars forward to match the Gregorian calendar. They’re the ones who create the Remote, and who get to muck up Doctor Who’s past continuity. They’re the ones with TARDIS-like machines run entirely on symbolism and magic. And yet they’re the bad guys.

On the one hand, this is inevitable. They have to be the bad guys, because Doctor Who isn’t able to support the complete and utter mercuriality of the Faction. This isn’t controversial: Doctor Who’s foot in the material world precludes it disappearing entirely into the churning chaos implied by the Faction. It’s too rationalist and too moderate to ever go completely down that rabbit hole. If nothing else, a skull-wearing voodoo cult doesn’t get to be the heroes of anything the BBC is ever going to put out. And Miles, to be fair, knows this. I’m in no way averse to the reading that he’s consciously writing in a manner reminiscent of Blake’s take on Milton and writing a book in which the villains are secretly the sympathetic ones - a book, in other words, that aims to utterly subvert the entire structure of Doctor Who.

But there’s a problem here: Miles can’t extricate himself from Doctor Who. His entire fiction writing career save for one short story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a lone “Tharg’s Future Shock” consists of Doctor Who and Doctor Who spin-offs. He writes things that actively resist the structure and implications of Doctor Who, but he keeps doing them within Doctor Who. Even if Down and Dead Romance are the two best books of his we’ve read, they still require an anchoring in Doctor Who to function. The entire revolution he points towards comes pre-squashed, left exclusively as a footnote to a dominating master text that it cannot ever possibly escape from. Miles wants to say things that are unspeakable within Doctor Who. This is interesting and worth doing, but doing it within Doctor Who is the very definition of diminishing returns.

And so we’re left with a strange phenomenon. Interference is quite a good book. It is, for the most part, better than Alien Bodies, and if you want to claim it’s the most interesting Doctor Who book since Love and War I’m not going to argue with you. But it doesn’t work, and, more to the point, it can’t work. It’s the crowning moment of a doomed project - the triumphant 4-0 victory over a top team during a relegation season. It deserves tremendous respect in this regard. But that doesn’t mean it works.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

Hope this doesn't spoil anyone's enjoyment. I think readers will still get the artpunk impact of the original entry while now actually being able to, er, read it. Phil, feel free to delete these if they break the aesthetics.

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

That's exactly what I did.

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JohnB 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh thank you so much!

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

I used Pages, but yes.

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Prole Hole 4 years, 10 months ago

So just like Interference then - a nice idea that doesn't quite come off... FWIW I think Alien Bodies is superior to Interference simply because it succeeds on its own terms where as Interference doesn't, for the many reasons outlined above. Yet some of the writing in Interference is just wonderful and I greatly lament the fact that Miles never wrote a PDA for Pertwee (not that he was ever likely to of course, but still) because he captures everything of that era so well and the Third Doctors parts of the book are by far and away the strongest. I'll always prefer my books with too many ideas than not enough and I'd still put Interference within the top five-ish of the EDAs, but yea, the actual Eighth Doctor stuff definitely falls short, and the implicit criticism (that the Doctor is ineffective when placed in a real-life situation) is essentially meaningless, since Doctor Who itself is telefantasy/science fiction and thus doesn't in any way represent real life. Or to put it another way - a thing that isn't a thing isn't a thing.

Nice use of Ogrons, though.

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Foxed 4 years, 10 months ago

Just popping in to recommend Jacob Clifton's Television Without Pity reviews of the Davies era. His Moffat era reviews are a bit critical of Moffat's "million ideas with no breathing space" approach, and he quit in frustration after Season 5.

But his Davies era reviews are worth your time.

http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/doctor-who/recaps.php

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Foxed 4 years, 10 months ago

Guess I forgot my introduction after three attempts at posting this.

Hi! I'm currently reading back at the Williams/JNT interregnum, but since you're not at "Rose" yet, I thought I could recommend something worthwhile.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

I can kind of see where Cornell's coming from with the "seventeen year old virgin" crack; the moral criticism that 'the Doctor doesn't do anything to help people wrongfully imprisoned by brutal regimes in the Middle East!' sounds very deep and clever when (and here I generalise a bit) you're young and you've just discovered alternative politics and the like, but it kind of falls apart when you think about it for more than two seconds with some common sense for the simple reason that, yeah, the reason he doesn't do that because he doesn't exist, he's just a fictional character in a fantastical non-realistic tele-fantasy series, and it would actually be kind of offensive if they DID have the Doctor show up in the middle of Riyadh with the TARDIS and overthrow the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and institute equal rights for women before buggering off again. There's moral criticisms that can be made of the character of the Doctor, but taking a fictional character to task for not solving real life problems when they're neither designed to nor equipped to just seems like the height of navel-gazing fatuousness, really.

(It's the same reason why I kind of get a bit annoyed with people who think they're clever for pointing out that Batman should just use his millions to set up a charity to improve Gotham rather than fund a costumed war on crime, because (a) if they'd actually paid attention they'd realize he actually has, and (b) yeah, in the real world he probably should, but we all know that in the comics he doesn't do that because he's just a made-up fantasy figure and in any case "Bruce Wayne: Social Charity CEO" wouldn't be a particularly exciting superhero action-adventure comic.)

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Ross 4 years, 10 months ago

Reminds me a lot of Mels in 'Let's Kill Hitler' answering every question about historical tragedies with "Because the Doctor didn't fix it."

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Wm Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

"it would actually be kind of offensive if they DID have the Doctor show up in the middle of Riyadh with the TARDIS and overthrow the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and institute equal rights for women before buggering off again."

I don't know if "offensive" is the word - Doctor Who can do that because, unlike the Soviet Union or the Coalition of the Willing with their expeditions to Afghanistan, he magically "doesn't do goodbyes" - generally speaking, his adventures are discrete and without consequences.

Oh, and, yes, I like the Five Faces joke.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

Continuing... it's our wilful blindness to the consequences of the Doctor's actions that allows us to pretend he's a man and not a god. I don't think there's many DW stories that deliberately study the consequences of his past actions. Since the list includes "Monster of Peladon" and "Timelash", I'm happy for it to stay that way.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh I will. :)

But not before doing an edit on the entry to use color to distinguish between sections and make it so that it alternates serifed/unserifed (with the double serif using Courier, which sticks out like a sore thumb).

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Of an untangled version? No. Of another pass to increase legibility? Already done.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I have no idea.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Ooh, good idea. I've gone ahead and redone it - hopefully it's more readable now.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm very sorry - I've updated the post to hopefully be more readable.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I've hopefully fixed it so that's less necessary?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

There wasn't a color change, but there is now. :)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Ooh. I'm sorely tempted to delete these, I am. I've redone the text so that it's hopefully considerably more readable, and I'll await feedback. I really do want them to remain tangled, but if the post is still unreadable I'll go ahead and concede that I may have gone too far this time.

Which is funny, because this is what I did after talking myself down from an outright cut-up method post...

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janie-aire 4 years, 10 months ago

Only now, having read the text six times, does it suddenly appear in color. Not sure I like it -- it makes for less interference.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes, well, I'd prefer if everyone on my blog thought Naked Lunch was a delightfully fun book to read too. :)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

More seriously, I am tempted by the midpoint - drop the color, keep the more dramatic shifts between fonts (I didn't just add color - I made it so the only time there was a shift between two serifed fonts one of them was fixed width - the rest of the time it goes serif-unserif, which jumps out more naturally), and let William's cheater versions stand in the comments. I continue to solicit thoughts. :)

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

I hear you. Not trying to spoil the fun. But I think you may have taken the aesthetics over ethics approach a bit too far...

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theonlyspiral 4 years, 10 months ago

Please keep the cheat-sheet version?

I love your explorations and experiments. I do. The Three Doctors was a triumph. However before William's cheat sheet went up I read it three times, had a headache and was still not 100%.

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Matt Largo 4 years, 10 months ago

Mark Z. Danielewski called...

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theonlyspiral 4 years, 10 months ago

I would read the hell out of "Bruce Wayne: Social Charity CEO". Put Brian Wood on it and have the art done by JH Williams III. Perfect!

I definitely read Mels as a shot at that sort of fan/person. Committed to it only in terms of snarking and coming off as clever and in the end it's psychopathic.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

It's the 4th font being indistinguishable from the 1st that's trickiest, I think. That and it being very close to the 3rd font in spacing. But you could pull it off just by making it italics, or bold.

In separate news, the penultimate chunk of the entry has a brand new font in it, for the sentence "The superficial splendor of them is fundamentally misleading." I kind of like it.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

Phil, couldn't you have done something less obvious? For example, text that is only visible on Durin's Day?

Anyway, I read the damned thing when it was only available in black and white, and I want my money back now that you've sold out to The Man.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

The Face of Evil plays with this dividing line rather deliciously.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Huh. You're right - even on my system. The first is set within Blogger to be Times - a serifed font - but it's displaying as a sans serif identical to #4. Well, the color hopefully sorts that.

Superficial splendor is now fixed. :)

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 10 months ago

I think you missed a couple of words right before the second red Verdana section. "Past eight years" should be included there, no?

(Then again, it's entirely possible that this is some clever critical point that I'm currently too tired and ill to follow.)

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spoilersbelow 4 years, 10 months ago

I can only hope that your entry on My Little Pony's Dr. Hooves/The Time Turner and the effects that a fanatically devoted periphery demographic can have on a show whose runners are not at all interested in changing the core dynamic of the program or its actual target audience, but still manage to cater to those other fans anyways (not to mention the huge crossover fandom... http://www.themarysue.com/doctor-whooves/), is as colorful.

Nice work!

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Gnaeus 4 years, 10 months ago

Quite.

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Gnaeus 4 years, 10 months ago

The chief problem with "spoiling the fun" here would be that there isn't any.

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Aaron 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, c'mon Phil, don't let annoyed comments make you desist. You've left your audience complacent by not doing this sort of thing often enough, I mean, it's been since Ghostlight. Back in your Nintendo Project days, I would have welcomed this as refreshingly straighforward. :P

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

Untangled -- or even more tangled than before? You decide!

**


But the real news is in Doctor Who Magazine. There are some… issues to be sorted out here. In July of 1999, the Big Finish line started. The Big Finish line was and is marvelous. But Doctor Who Magazine got a bit… partisan in the rivalry between the two lines, and was pretty blatantly pro-Big Finish.

Although bad reviews aren’t unheard of in Doctor Who Magazine, it’s not exactly the harshest place to go for reviews either. And when “big books” have come along, they’ve usually been dutifully willing to back them at the time, even if they’re The Eight Doctors. Which makes the hiding that this book takes jaw-dropping. Vanessa Bishop calls it “impressively boring,” “misleadingly promoted,” describes the Third Doctor as “ponderous and undynamic,” and says that it “severely tries the patience.” It’s one of the most bracingly negative reviews I’ve seen in Doctor Who Magazine, and makes the eventual schisming of what “the present” of Doctor Who is all but inevitable.

It’s August of 1999. Ronan Keating is at number one with “When You Say Nothing At All,” the weeks before Westlife takes over with “If I Let You Go,” which lasts a week before Geri Halliwell takes it with “Mi Chico Latino.” Whitney Houston, Ricky Martin, Eminem, Chemical Brothers, TLC, and Will Smith also charting, the last with the song from Wild Wild West, called, shockingly, “Wild Wild West,” which I bring up just to try to trigger some PTSD. In news, Elizabeth II opened the Scottish Parliament last month, and Brandi Chastain did the whole penalty kick thing she’s known for. Woodstock 99, the last and greatest selling out of that festival, took place in New York. MSN Messenger was released, not that that’s meaningfully news. John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash off of Martha’s Vineyard. While the month this book actually came out, Boris Yeltsin fires his Prime Minister, East Timor votes for independence from Indonesia, and Charles Kennedy becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I’d make the transition to the story now, but we’re just about done with the entry, since I’ve opted to present this entry as five separate strands that cut amongst each other and are allowed to interfere with each other’s lines of thought.

For reasons not entirely unrelated to a desire to be ostentatious, I periodically claim to have no ethical principles, only aesthetic ones. In this regard the Remote seem almost designed to be interesting to me. That said, it’s not as though either Miles or I have terribly original ideas here: the idea that there’s a link to be found between aesthetics and ethics has deep roots. Kant made it explicit in The Critique of Judgment, and it appears that Hannah Arendt died in the earliest stages of working on a book that would have explicitly based a theory of political philosophy on Kant’s aesthetics. I make the claim because it’s amusing and brash, not because it’s terribly original.

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

Likewise, Miles doesn’t really do much of anything in Interference that isn’t just Marshall McLuhan merged with some trite but not inaccurate observations about the way in which human sympathies and philosophical principles diverge. It’s not hard to see what Paul Cornell was reacting to when he described Miles’s treatment of politics as being like that of, as Miles recounts it, “a seventeen year-old virgin.” The terminology is a bit odd, but we have a whole post on The Shadows of Avalon coming up where this is one of the big things I mean to talk about, so we’ll save it. For now let’s highlight the fact that Cornell is on reasonably sound footing in identifying that there’s something off about Miles’s politics here. It’s not that Miles is wrong so much as that he’s terribly incomplete. Yes, he’s right that most people have what is more accurately described as a sense of aesthetics than a sense of ethics. In this regard he’s made it ahead of, say, Andy Lane in Original Sin, but that’s not an earth-shattering revelation, and Miles mistakes it for one.

And so in his proposed escape from this he ends up aiming for the meaningful and hitting the Banal. The Eighth Doctor section culminates in the Doctor teaching Sam that she has to “make new rules” and break out of traditional political structures, which are only ever going to lead, in Miles’s view, to endlessly reiterating the same structures of oppression over and over again. Which is to say that Miles ends up recreating the basic structure of Morrisonian chaos magic. Of course, everyone in the late 90s was doing exactly that, so for the time, at least, it’s understandable why Interference was such a big deal at the time. But equally, as I’ve indicated, this is not the most compelling moment in the history of zeitgeists.

Chaos magic and its associated aesthetics were a dull and misleading turn of little benefit. And so Miles, ironically, ends up falling into the exact trap he warns against. History repeats itself, and Miles finds himself repeating the failings of the late Troughton and Pertwee eras, skipping over the human element in favor of a blind commitment to revolution for its own sake. It’s telling that Miles, when defending himself against Cornell’s criticism, slams Cornell for supporting New Labour. For all its failures, and I’m hardly a fan of that sort of triangulated liberalism, the fact remains that the portion of the anti-Thatcher left that backed New Labour did wildly more concrete good for people than the chunk of the anti-Thatcher left that stomped off to be revolutionary anarchists. It’s not, of course, a conscious failing. Miles did this better with Dead Romance. But he’s inconsistent on it. Tellingly so.

On a more basic level, there’s something fantastically unsatisfying about Miles’s conclusion here. “Make new rules” and “try something different” are gorgeously unhelpful suggestions when grappling with the idea of a totalizing and corrupt ideology. What new ideas? What different? These are, of course, impossibly difficult questions, but that’s the point: they don’t form remotely satisfying answers to any sort of political problem. Like the observed equation of aesthetics and ethics, and, in fact, like most of this chaos magic aesthetic, they sound much more clever than they are. The superficial splendor of them is fundamentally misleading.

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

Miles’s comments on the bottle universes are difficult to quite square away. He claims to have created them to sort out the continuity between the Virgin line and the BBC Books line, with the book that convinced him that the BBC Books line wasn’t set to be in the same universe as the Virgin line being The Eight Doctors, and blames writers like Kate Orman and Gary Russell for overruling him by referencing Virgin stuff. Two major problems exist here. First, he introduces the bottle universe in Christmas on a Rational Planet and implies that the TV Movie takes place in it, which puts the date of the continuity split too early. Second, he references Tyler’s Folly, his planet from Down, in Alien Bodies, which puts him at as much blame as Kate Orman for attempting to merge the continuities.

All of which said, there’s a standard general explanation for the bottles. The Time Lords of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, fearing the oncoming War, snuck into the I.M. Foreman’s bottle universe, which contained the Virgin Adventures, where they became the Gods of Dellah, who were the big metaplot going on in the Benny books at the time. Meanwhile, Time Lords from the Virgin line snuck into the bottle universe that Chris has in Dead Romance, which is presumably the one he found in the TARDIS in Christmas on a Rational Planet. I, Who 2 suggests otherwise, but given that Dead Romance strongly suggests that the Doctor went and fought the Dellahn Gods, lost, but stole a bottle universe that Chris eventually acquired and Christmas on a Rational Planet shows the Doctor with a bottle universe, this seems sensible. Except for that persnickety little detail of Christmas on a Rational Planet clearly implying that the bottle universe in the Doctor’s TARDIS is where the TV Movie takes place. (“Hey, that one’s got a TARDIS just like the Doctor’s! Maybe it is the Doctor. I wonder what he’s doing in San Francisco?”) Which not only screws up Miles’s explanation of what he was trying to do, it messes up the hierarchy of the bottles. Either way, any plans along these lines were scuppered when Mark Clapham and John de Burgh Miller decided, in the final Benny New Adventure, that the Dellahn Gods were going to be the Ferutu from Lance Parkin’s Cold Fusion.

What is the significance of retconning Planet of the Spiders out of existence? There are some answers we can simply rule out as terribly silly. It does not, obviously, do any violence to Planet of the Spiders as a 150-minute long stretch of video. That remained pleasantly inviolate on everybody’s bookshelf in VHS form, as it had for the past eight years. Nor, of course, can this be claimed as in any meaningful way similar to War of the Daleks. War of the Daleks was stupid because it ran roughshod over stories and told us that what we saw on the screen was wrong. Interference renders Planet of the Spiders non-canonical, yes, but it keeps it intact as it does so. Planet of the Spiders is as it always was - it’s just a story the Doctor was diverted from. Furthermore, Interference is open about the fact that this is intensely wrong. The Doctor wasn’t supposed to die on Dust. It’s tough to get too outraged about how wrong a retcon is when the entire point of the retcon is its jarring wrongness.

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

Equally, the retcon is so brazenly cheeky that it serves as a shot across the bow. It’s so blatantly designed to piss certain types of people off that it’s going to regardless, but meticulously designed so that every actual objection they can raise to it is easily shot down. The technical term for this is “trolling,” but it’s such a masterful piece of trolling that it’s hard not to forgive and, indeed, encourage. Interference sets out to piss off all the right people, and does a rock solid job of it. But while this sort of trolling may be commendable, there’s a degree of hollowness to it as well. OK, you’ve pissed the most annoying segments of Doctor Who fandom off, but unless your next trick is falling off a log, it’s tough to go downhill from here. This hollowness also reflects on the main impact the idea does have. If nothing else, Miles, by killing the Third Doctor, comes up with something genuinely unexpected. He finds a place within the rules of Doctor Who where he can leverage a properly shocking “wait, they can DO that” moment. But it’s telling how far he has to go to do it. It works, but in a way that feels like diminishing returns and increasing desperation.

But equally, this highlights the degree to which Miles simply didn’t have anything that could be described as a “plan.” Mind you, he never pretended to. He’s consistently hostile to the sort of meta-plot driven Babylon 5 style storytelling that set into science fiction, consistently opposed Doctor Who to that approach, and has said in interviews that he pretty much just made things up each book and then picked the interesting things to flesh out further in the next book. In other words, it’s a mistake to look at the War arc as some unfinished masterpiece. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what it is - unfinished even to the point of being incompletely conceived. There is no proper War arc that got interrupted. The Miles-approved and written material that follows isn’t the “correct” version, and, in fact, is heavily influenced by other writers as The Book of the War demonstrates. There is no War arc. There are just some ideas that never got fully developed.

We’ve already looked, in Alien Bodies, at why this likely is: simply put, the War looked better on paper than it possibly could have in reality. With actually depicting the War off the table, there’s not much to do. Miles has talked about a few ideas in interviews, and they’re interesting enough, but it’s telling that he’s never talked about anything along the lines of a resolution to the plot. This is one of the regards in which his War and the Time War most coincide: both are intended not to be depicted, but instead to hang over the text. In that regard, rather than being treated as another step towards some lost epic, we ought treat Interference as it is - a largely self-contained novel that forms the end of its particular line of thought.

When talking about Grant Morrison and The Invisibles I posited that Morrison was of the man’s party and didn’t know it. That is, he is hopelessly torn between a revolutionary aesthetic and a commitment to working within a fundamentally anti-revolutionary form. A similar affliction seems to plague Lawrence Miles, albeit one that I simply haven’t read enough to resolve quite at this point. (The perils of a blog version of this, really.) On the one hand, Lawrence Miles’s sympathies seem to lie firmly with Faction Paradox.

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

There are, of course, exceptions to this statement. Most obviously the decision to have Llewis become a Faction Paradox agent, which makes explicit the fact that the cowardly banality of his evil is perfect for Faction Paradox. There is, in other words, no mistaking that Faction Paradox are the villains here. But on the other hand, every cool idea Miles has seems to implicate Faction Paradox. Even if they’re the bad guys, they’re the ones with cool ideas about how the world is run entirely on aesthetic principles. They’re the ones who get to live in the Eleven Day Empire, a chunk of time bought from the British government when they set their calendars forward to match the Gregorian calendar. They’re the ones who create the Remote, and who get to muck up Doctor Who’s past continuity. They’re the ones with TARDIS-like machines run entirely on symbolism and magic. And yet they’re the bad guys.

On the one hand, this is inevitable. They have to be the bad guys, because Doctor Who isn’t able to support the complete and utter mercuriality of the Faction. This isn’t controversial: Doctor Who’s foot in the material world precludes it disappearing entirely into the churning chaos implied by the Faction. It’s too rationalist and too moderate to ever go completely down that rabbit hole. If nothing else, a skull-wearing voodoo cult doesn’t get to be the heroes of anything the BBC is ever going to put out. And Miles, to be fair, knows this. I’m in no way averse to the reading that he’s consciously writing in a manner reminiscent of Blake’s take on Milton and writing a book in which the villains are secretly the sympathetic ones - a book, in other words, that aims to utterly subvert the entire structure of Doctor Who.

But there’s a problem here: Miles can’t extricate himself from Doctor Who. His entire fiction writing career save for one short story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a lone “Tharg’s Future Shock” consists of Doctor Who and Doctor Who spin-offs. He writes things that actively resist the structure and implications of Doctor Who, but he keeps doing them within Doctor Who. Even if Down and Dead Romance are the two best books of his we’ve read, they still require an anchoring in Doctor Who to function. The entire revolution he points towards comes pre-squashed, left exclusively as a footnote to a dominating master text that it cannot ever possibly escape from. Miles wants to say things that are unspeakable within Doctor Who. This is interesting and worth doing, but doing it within Doctor Who is the very definition of diminishing returns.

And so we’re left with a strange phenomenon. Interference is quite a good book. It is, for the most part, better than Alien Bodies, and if you want to claim it’s the most interesting Doctor Who book since Love and War I’m not going to argue with you. But it doesn’t work, and, more to the point, it can’t work. It’s the crowning moment of a doomed project - the triumphant 4-0 victory over a top team during a relegation season. It deserves tremendous respect in this regard. But that doesn’t mean it works.

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ir3actions 4 years, 10 months ago

Whoops. Started untangling when I first read the entry, didn't realize that someone else had already done it until after I'd posted.

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Ed Jolley 4 years, 10 months ago

In a similar vein, I suspect that 'which lasts for two' should be black rather than red (and change font), and go after '“When You Say Nothing At All,”' or before 'weeks before Westlife takes over' instead of before 'of Doctor Who fandom off, but unless your next trick'.

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

YMMV, but personally, I found Jacob's DW to be some of the most self-indulgent things ever to appear on TWoP and that's saying something. I was stunned that he complained about Moffat's "million ideas with no breathing space" approach after his rave reviews of "The End of Time," the first hour of which was one of the most incoherent episodes in the show's modern history.

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, Phillip, but all I can say is "Thank God for William Whyte." I'm half afraid now that I'll come here some day to find an entry done in a substitution code for which I'll need to order a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

"A crummy commercial for Phil's next project? Son of a bitch."

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

"It’s not that Miles is wrong so much as that he’s terribly incomplete."

"But while this sort of trolling may be commendable, there’s a degree of hollowness to it as well."

This is basically my problem with Lawrence Miles and similar trolling-based writers, summed up.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Also: I read it linearly and did mostly fine, though I searched forward a few times to find out what was at the end of a particularly intriguing sentence. There's a stray "past eight years" in the second meta-paragraph that's supposed to be in the bright red sans-serif font that comes after it, I think.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Also, there's a "which lasts for two" that isn't supposed to be in that font in the paragraph that starts "And so in his proposed escape from this..."

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

the portion of the anti-Thatcher left that backed New Labour did wildly more concrete good for people than the chunk of the anti-Thatcher left that stomped off to be revolutionary anarchist

If 99% of a group do X and 1% do Y, then of course the X group will get more done, whether for good or for ill (or, in this case, plenty of both). But that hardly proves that the Y approach would have been ineffective if it had been the one to win the 99%. Nor does it answer the objection that the X group's successes came at the expense of the future.

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Jack Graham 4 years, 10 months ago

If you ask me, Paul Cornell pronouncing on the political maturity of others is a bit like Dan Brown lecturing on the proper use of similes.

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Andrew Hickey 4 years, 10 months ago

Agreed with this. There's also the question of how much good New Labour did at all, and if the small amount of actual good done (all of it between 1997 and 2001) outweighs the (in my view, much, much larger) damage done by the Labour government. There's also the harm New Labour did merely by existing, in that it caused both major parties in the UK to converge on a 'centre ground' that has removed, possibly forever, the possibility of real choice or change in British politics.

There's also a false dichotomy there -- the same one Blair used himself -- of Blair or revolutionary anarchism, with no third option. I'd argue that, to the extent that individual political actions matter at all, those on the left who worked within the Liberal Democrats, Greens, the Nationalist parties and the smaller socialist splinter parties managed to do far more good and less harm during that time than those who ended up supporting war crimes, torture, and a massive shift of wealth from the young and poor to the old and rich simply because "at least it's not the Tories, and they *did* bring in the minimum wage".

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minkubus 4 years, 10 months ago

The Television Without Pity style 'annotate every moment of the show' review style is the most witless thing. Less work for the writer, more work for you to figure out what they actually have to say for themselves.

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 10 months ago

Very much seconded. I'm going to have to agree with BeserkRL over Phil here.

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 10 months ago

I read both Phil's original and William's "disentangeld" version. Honestly I think they compliment one another. It was the similarity of some of the fonts and colours that was messing me up, even after the revision. But then again, maybe I'm just not firing on all cylinders today.

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Galadriel 4 years, 10 months ago

This article is really hard to follow...is there an option for a non-tangled version?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Both fixed. Thanks to you and the people who caught them above.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps, but even Dan Brown can use a simile correctly every once in a blue moon.

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ferret 4 years, 10 months ago

I guess you have some time to work it out :-)

I've just bought my first Kindle, it's not arrived yet but it's already awaiting synching up with Amazon to download a certain 2 books by Mr Sandifer. Looking forward to reading everything again, new and improved!

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goatie 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh, Philip. You should know that whenever someone says they need to write a regular expression, that person is a nerd and WANTS to do it.

Speaking of nerdery: I see your name (or a name eerily similar to yours) attached to the upcoming 33 1/3 selection on Flood. Yayface.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

"A man had a problem, and he said 'I'll use regular expressions.' And then he had two problems."

Yes, that is me on the Flood book, along with the thoroughly brilliant S. Alexander Reed. It's about 25% written now, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. There's a chapter on the history of geek culture, in fact, that starts with an epigraph from Interference: “He’s a geek, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Isn’t it wonderful, by the way? Living in a culture that’s got a special word for a person who bites the heads off animals?”

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

Having followed some of the recaps and hung around some of the forums (although not for Doctor Who, I have to confess), I can't help be a bit wary of TWoP -- as well as the other things mentioned above, they also tend to fall into the trap of mistaking sarcasm for intelligence.

@ Alan: This is what gets me about all the Davies / Moffat comparisons of this nature; not that Moffat doesn't have issues with his plotting, but people seem to be a bit too quick to forgive and forget Davies for his own sloppy plotting and tendencies towards favouring a whole load of good ideas or a brilliant moment over the rest of the plot as well.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

There are a couple of non-tangled versions in the comments further up, but Phil has indicated that he'd prefer the 'tangled' version to stand on it's own so I'm not sure how long they'll last.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

Have to say, regarding the structure, I found it difficult to read in the 'tangled' version, but it was actually quite a lot of fun piecing the entry together. Like a jigsaw. Particularly since there were a few little curveballs thrown in there that I'd like to think were deliberate that made it all the more challenging...

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

I've had all day to reflect on this, Phil. I read this through, made my own linearly-ordered copy of the post, read back through your other posts on Morrison and Miles, a couple more chapters of Alien Bodies which I'm now finally reading for the first time, and your first post on Interference at the end of the Pertwee era. Two things come to mind.

First is that your critiques of Miles (and by extension, Morrison, though this connection feels to me like your next project leaking into the current one, and good enough) and the Letts/Dicks production team end up on the same trajectory. In 2011, you said Miles' story about Pertwee's Doctor critiqued his disconnection from the messiness of real human concerns. Your particular focus was the scene where Pertwee lays out all the problems of Dust and how to fix them in the abstract, and gets coffee thrown in his face for his trouble. Now that you're firmly wading through the Lawrence Miles era, you critique him in just the same way you critique Letts and Dicks: instead of platitudes about humanist morality, Miles' work ignores the messy reality of life to focus on platitudes about revolutionary uprising.

More esoterically, my second idea about your treatment of the Miles era is how haunted the first years of the Eighth Doctor novels are by Jon Pertwee. It puts me in mind of some comments you made in the Knights of God essay about the alchemical shadow Patrick Troughton cast over the late renaissance of Doctor Who after his death in 1987. Pertwee died in the same month, May 1996, over which the McGann tv-movie was released. From that time until after The Ancestor Cell in 2000, Pertwee's era was harkened to pretty frequently, enough to think that his death around the flop of the McGann movie created a kind of barely conscious desire to pay homage or critique or otherwise examine various aspects of his era and his Doctor.

The storyline of Interference literally amounts to the current incarnation of the Doctor becoming haunted by the death of Jon Pertwee. Given the associative logic that the Eruditorum sometimes uses, I'd wonder what you'd make of the ghost of Jon Pertwee.

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sleepyscholar 4 years, 10 months ago

I can't believe that the man who once produced his zine in the form of a Moebius strip, and who produced his most coherent issue after (allegedly) dropping acid actually did this!

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm lawful good now, not chaotic neutral. So it goes.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

I think that we expected more of Moffat after his first three amazing stories. With Davies it was clear what we were going to get from the word go.

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sleepyscholar 4 years, 10 months ago

First two, surely William?

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead served as pretty good warnings of the problems to come, wouldn't you say, for all their good points.

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

Silence/Forest was his fourth, though, after Empty/Girl/Blink; so while I agree with your assessment, I also agree with William.

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Phil 4 years, 10 months ago

Girl in the Fireplace is Moffat's first major misstep, surely? It's an irritating mess that can't be redeemed even by the clever twist at the end, or the visual of David Tennant riding a horse.

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

Haven' t read Miles. Love Burroughs. Enjoyed your latest post. Rearranging the order of your Brion Gysin style cut- up is as pointless as re- editing Nolan' s Memento. Enjoy the art. I guess there will always be people who look at a collage and demand that someone explains its 'meaning'.

And yes, complaining that the Doctor (or Batman) doesn' t solve real world problems suggests a need to get out more.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

They'll last. I have decided not to be quite that dictatorial an author. :)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

One of my few regrets about ending the Nintendo Project where I did was that I never got the opportunity to do a full-out cut-up post. It always felt like the lost last post of that blog.

I'm unlikely to desist from structurally experimental posts for the simple reason that I really enjoy them and want something between one per Doctor and one per book. (I'm not sure that Eccleston has room for one.) Hartnell didn't get one, but I've done at least one post for every Doctor designed in part to require active grappling with.

It's an odd game determining what gets the treatment and what doesn't. Some stories just demand it: I couldn't see any way to do Logopolis or Trial of a Time Lord besides the approaches I took. Others require "big posts" but not formal experimentation - the TV Movie post is in its own way far more radical than this one, but less ostentatious. And others can go either way. I could have written straightforward posts on The Three Doctors, Ghost Light, or this. But there felt like something extra that could be communicated with the formalist aggression. I like form and structure, and like seeing what they can do. With Ghost Light, I wanted a post that made sense the same way Ghost Light itself does - one where the gaps are all quite fillable, but still very present. I liked the labyrinthine nature of it, in the proper sense in which it's distinct from a maze, and is instead a long, looping path that continually circles back right near itself.

Here I wanted to force the experience of the line at this point: an excess of ideas, everything going a bit too fast, and the impossibility of holding all of what's going on in your head at one time. Something that's terribly fascinating and interesting, but that's also clearly just spiralled out of control. Lance Parkin apparently described the EDAs as "interesting in the same way that being on an airplane at 70,000 feet with no pilot is interesting," and Interference is really the tipping point - the point right before the whole thing goes totally out of control, and the last point before the noise finally overwhelmed the signal. And that seemed worth celebrating with a barely-in-control essay that demanded holding a few too many moving parts in the reader's mind at once.

Now to decide where next to be a bit mad. I've an idea for the Tennant era, actually...

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I am going to have to do the ghost of Pertwee eventually. I mean, the problem is straightforward enough: on the one hand, there's a reasonable case to be made that he's actually the iconic Doctor even beyond Tom Baker. On the other, he's thoroughly dissonant with the rest of Doctor Who, and efforts to recuperate him into the rest of the narrative are often wonky. (Consider the almost uniformly poor quality of UNIT stories in the new series) He's one of the few things within the series' history that it just can't completely work through as of yet. Though I'm curious how long that will last, since his preservation seems, and I'm speaking purely anecdotally here, due mainly to the prevalence of people of the right age to have grown up with Pertwee (i.e. Gatiss) now making Doctor Who. In another 20 years, the children of Pertwee will have largely aged out of the history, and it's not at all clear to me that their replacements will see Pertwee as anything other than that old Doctor with the big nose who got referenced a lot.

There was a similar shift that happened in the late 80s with Hartnell. For a brief while, right around Colin Baker, everyone glommed onto Hartnell as the possible origin for a more mature, darker Doctor Who based on his anger and mystery. Both Baker and McCoy have talked about wanting to "return" to Hartnell, with differing levels of success. (And tellingly, McCoy returned to Hartnell by returning to the real Troughton instead of the fan-memory Troughton) But these days Hartnell is mostly treated as an interesting prototype - historically fascinating, but not really treated as a part of the series' DNA that gets endlessly referenced and built off of. And I'm curious whether Pertwee will go a similar way.

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

Love and Monsters?

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William Whyte 4 years, 10 months ago

Agree with elvwood and sleepyscholar here -- Silence in the Library felt a bit recycled, despite the great Donna sequences in the second part. And its major innovation, the Doctor solving the problem by shouting "I'm the Doctor!" at the bad guys, has been poison.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

It's interesting, I did think Library was quite weak on the first go. But once I realized it was secretly Episode 0 of the Eleventh Doctor's era and not a Tenth Doctor story at all it grew on me considerably. It's genuinely one-of-a-kind within Doctor Who: a case of two different eras of Doctor Who interacting on the older era's terms.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

And now the font of the very first block is off -- a small serifed font, when it should be the standard font of the blog. :)

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Soitinly!

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Russell Gillenwater 4 years, 10 months ago

Sorry Phil, but imaging that Library is a Moffat/Smith story doesn't change the fact it is weak.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

"There's also a false dichotomy there -- the same one Blair used himself -- of Blair or revolutionary anarchism, with no third option."

The revolutionary anarchist side tends to support the same false dichotomy, though.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Personally, I think the main fascination with Hartnell nowadays is all the things it did that the series stopped doing until much later. Not so much edgy darkness, but, say, how the family structure of One/Barbara/Ian/Susan is reflected in Eleven/Amy/Rory/River.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I also think it obviates the real dichotomy, which, in 1997, was Blair or Major. One of them was going to win the general election. No matter how much a sensible person would have wanted a different choice, that was the one that was there. And one of them was better. I can conceive of no political ideology other than "one in which the only issues I care about as a voter are the ones the two parties are inseparable on" that would not care about that choice.

I mean, I agree, the false dichotomy is the bread and butter of two-party politics. And I'm mortified that my country conducts drone strikes with no oversight in which any Muslim man of the right age is assumed to be a terrorist, committing obvious war crimes in the process.

But that didn't meaningfully dampen my enthusiasm when voting for the candidate who wasn't going to repeal universal health care in the country. Wanting a better system is not in any way incompatible with enthusiastically attempting to derive the best possible outcome within the current one.

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

"And its major innovation, the Doctor solving the problem by shouting "I'm the Doctor!" at the bad guys, has been poison."

No it hasn't.

Doctor Who, as Sandifer has pointed out constantly, mostly involves throwing the Doctor into a genre, style, or pre-existing story structure and letting the Doctor destabilize that story. The only genre of story he's never been able to take a mastery of is his own. Moffat's Doctor resolves the story [one time only] by pointing out to the monsters that they're in a Doctor Who story - and those never end well for people in their position.

We then get an arc in which the Doctor's ability to wield his own genre is taken to it's extreme resulting a total narrative collapse. Twice.

And the roots of this are clearly there in everything Moffat has ever said or done, but a core group of fandom still seem to think that Series 7's promise of a 'quieter' Doctor and individual stories is some kind of victory

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

To be honest, I wasn't aware that getting oneself laid was the path to political Enlightenment or necessarily had an impact on one's politics at all. If I had, I would have done it sooner.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

What J Mairs said.

Also, I'd say that even ignoring the paratext aspects of it, Library is a pretty strong story. You've got some good horror aspects in there ("Hey! Who turned out the lights"), the dreamlike metafiction inside the Library's world, the unnoticed tragic moment at the end as Donna never realizes that her perfect love was real...

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

This, this this this

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

"And yes, complaining that the Doctor (or Batman) doesn' t solve real world problems suggests a need to get out more."

I think that entire subplot was complaining more about the fans than anything and this statement is actually backwards.

There are a large portion of fans who are more concerned about sexism in Peladon, than sexism in Riyadh, would speak more informed bile of Helen A and the Happiness Patrol than Mrs T and the Boot Boys and more concerned about the history of Gallifreyan Intervention in the Spiral Politic than British Intervention Anywhere.

We have had nearly a decade of non-televised Who, and yet this is really the first time that the Doctor has been shown to be an inadequate model for Real Life - instead of the deep, philosophical revolutionary that everyone behaves like he was.

Ultimately, you have Sam who is mocked constantly throughout her tenure for having political views, and for actually engaging with the world - no matter how simplistic those views might be getting a pat on the back by the Doctor and being told to keep up the good work, but to try new and different things - or rather, to be more like him and tear it all down.

Apparently the world had moved on from the McCoy era that the simple messages of the "Greatest Show" no longer apply

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Daibhid C 4 years, 10 months ago

Regarding the heirarchy of the bottles: My understanding (based on reading Christmas once, Interference Book One half the way through, Dead Romance not at all, and discussions on radw quite a bit) is that it's the same principle as the Farnsworth Parabox in Futurama. In the EDA universe, there is a bottle which contains the NA universe. And, at the same time, in the NA universe, there is a bottle which contains the EDA universe.

The Ancestor Cell, of course, took this a step further by claiming it's a Klein bottle - that is, in the Whoniverse there is a bottle which contains the Whoniverse...

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

The perfect entry to tackle the ghost of Pertwee would definitely be Zagreus</tongue-in-cheek> - but you'll have enough other stuff to say there...

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Arkadin 4 years, 10 months ago

In fact, there were a number of echoes of the Pertwee approach in the TVM--not just the logo, but the action-adventure story, the present-day Earth setting, the use of the Master, the Doctor's Vicwardian persona... Of course Pertwee and McGann were diametrically opposite in character--Pertwee being perhaps the most remote Doctor, and McGann being perhaps the least remote. That probably says something about the way the role of heroes in action movies has changed over the years.

Nor did the resonances with the Ancestor Cell. The pseudo-reboot that followed it echoes the Troughton to Pertwee transition--stripping the Doctor of everything that made up "Doctor Who" in the past and stranding him on Earth.

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Arkadin 4 years, 10 months ago

Or Blink? (You could make an analogy about how the gonzo posts in this blog function similarly to the Doctor-lite episodes in the show.)

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

Can I propose review the three discs of Zagreus whilst pretending to be someone else? ;)

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

If you haven't included it in the Pertwee book already, his "I Am The Doctor" single might offer a meditation worthy of considering the paradoxes and contradictions of his tenure. The lyrics position him as the mystical mercurial otherworldly figure, and yet so many of his own stories lean toward the tropes of the pedestrian action star.

I cross the void beyond the mind
The empty space that circles time
I see where others stumble blind
To seek a truth they never find
Eternal wisdom is my guide
I am the Doctor

The same character who spoke/sang these lyrics also drove the Whomobile. It doesn't make any sense.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I dunno "the void beyond the mind" is as good an explanation of the Whomobile as any.

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk...

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

I think 'virgin' is simply intended to indicate more a lack of experience in general rather than a suggestion that virgins can't be politically aware (although of course the implication is there); the archetypal/stereotypical virgin, after all, tends to be an innocent naif with little experience in the world.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

"I think that entire subplot was complaining more about the fans than anything and this statement is actually backwards."

But complaining about the fans being obsessively inward-looking is, itself, even more inward-looking, and if you're making an entire book based on that theme, that seems quite obsessive.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Oooooo. I like it.

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Shining Blitz 4 years, 10 months ago

Keep ponies out of my DW Blogs, Sandifer, PLEASE.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 10 months ago

I think it all ties in quite well with the Third Doctor's urgent need, often expressed in an aggressive or blustering fashion, to find an identity for himself. As Dean Acheson said, he has lost an empire but not yet found a role.

"No me? Am I...the Doctor?"

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Stuart Ian Burns 4 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, that's much better.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

Plus, the reason why more stories tend to focus on the Doctor as 'deep, philosophical revolutionary' rather than 'the Doctor as inadequate hero' is because once you've done the latter, the only real question left is "... Now what?"

To roughly paraphrase Phil in one of the articles he wrote around about the time of "The Dalek Masterplan" (can't remember exactly which one), you can certainly point out that the Doctor is ultimately an inadequate hero-figure who can't always save the day and who ultimately is useless in the face of the trials of real life ... except once you've gone there, it's hard to really come back from it and make any of his fictional victories have any meaning. Hence why that particular arc kind of fizzles out.

For the show to function the way it does, the Doctor has to be a hero-figure. It's one of the central planks of the whole thing. This may mean it's never going to be "The Wire", but then, it's not supposed to be "The Wire" anyway.

"Apparently the world had moved on from the McCoy era that the simple messages of the "Greatest Show" no longer apply"

Like Phil says, though, when all's said and done at the end of all this it's not as if Miles proposes any better ones. Yeah, the messages of the McCoy era look a bit simplistic in hindsight, but for all this deconstruction he's doing it's not as if 'make new rules' and 'do something different' are any less simplistic or trite when you get down to it.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 10 months ago

Which also ties in with the Eighth Doctor's arc nicely.

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Dr. Happypants 4 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately for "The Ancestor Cell", that isn't actually what a Klein bottle is like.

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J Mairs 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm reminded of HL Mencken's remarks that there was no equivalent between US and Soviet actions during the Cold War, and that comparing them was similar to drawing an equivalence between pushing someone in the path of a bus and pushing someone out of the path of a bus just because both involve the act of pushing.

"To roughly paraphrase Phil in one of the articles he wrote around about the time of "The Dalek Masterplan" (can't remember exactly which one), you can certainly point out that the Doctor is ultimately an inadequate hero-figure who can't always save the day and who ultimately is useless in the face of the trials of real life ... except once you've gone there, it's hard to really come back from it and make any of his fictional victories have any meaning. Hence why that particular arc kind of fizzles out."

But surely Miles' point is that nobody has done this since Pertwee took over - when suddenly the Doctor dons his frilly cape and begins his path to a hero. Miles, between Alien Bodies and Interference creates an arc for the Doctor's entire history in which he is a flawed and inadequate figure, but his victories still have meaning.

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Scott 4 years, 10 months ago

"I'm reminded of HL Mencken's remarks that there was no equivalent between US and Soviet actions during the Cold War, and that comparing them was similar to drawing an equivalence between pushing someone in the path of a bus and pushing someone out of the path of a bus just because both involve the act of pushing."

This is probably me being a bit fuzzy-minded after a hot Sunday afternoon and a couple of glasses of wine, but I'm struggling to see the connection here, to be honest.

"But surely Miles' point is that nobody has done this since Pertwee took over - when suddenly the Doctor dons his frilly cape and begins his path to a hero. Miles, between Alien Bodies and Interference creates an arc for the Doctor's entire history in which he is a flawed and inadequate figure, but his victories still have meaning."

I'd suggest that Miles would be a bit misguided in this belief, though, given that a large part of the Davison years, the Colin Baker years, and the New Adventures were about showing the Doctor to be flawed and inadequate in various ways (albeit within the context of being a fictional hero, unlike the real-world contexts that Miles introduces, but I'm suspecting that we might have to agree to disagree on whether Miles introducing that is a good idea or not).

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kuyanhjudith 4 years, 10 months ago

Personally, with colours I didn't have much trouble reading it. I was hoping the different strands would reference things said in each other at some point.

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neroden@gmail 4 years ago

"All of which said, there’s a standard general explanation for the bottles. The Time Lords of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, fearing the oncoming War, snuck into the I.M. Foreman’s bottle universe, which contained the Virgin Adventures, where they became the Gods of Dellah, who were the big metaplot going on in the Benny books at the time. "

FWIW, contradicted and thrown out by Twilight of the Gods (Benny) which specifies that the Dellahn Gods are rogue Ferutu.

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neroden@gmail 4 years ago

"He's one of the few things within the series' history that it just can't completely work through as of yet. Though I'm curious how long that will last, since his preservation seems, and I'm speaking purely anecdotally here, due mainly to the prevalence of people of the right age to have grown up with Pertwee (i.e. Gatiss) now making Doctor Who. In another 20 years, the children of Pertwee will have largely aged out of the history, and it's not at all clear to me that their replacements will see Pertwee as anything other than that old Doctor with the big nose who got referenced a lot."

The things which will keep Pertwee in the limelight are:
(1) Season Seven, the Derrick Sherwin take on the show which hasn't been done since;
(2) Malcolm Hulke and Brian Hayles political stories, which are mostly Pertwee-era. And similar scripts.

A third category, the one everyone's thinking of as "Pertwee era", are the "UNIT cozies". These are uncomfortable because we *know* the military isn't like that now, let alone the paramilitaries. They won't be something people will be able to, or really want to, revive until society changes.

But those two earlier strands are deeply important to Doctor Who and they keep coming back. The second requires Pertwee to do something which people don't talk about that much -- they require him to be a political prisoner, as he is most explicitly in Frontier in Space. Not your usual vision of Pertwee? Well, I think this is actually the bit which is dissonant with much of the rest of Doctor Who. The Doctor is usually quite socially irresponsible. It's the Pertwee era where he's "fighting the good fight"!

The first requires Pertwee to be, basically, Doomwatch, which is also rather dissonant, but probably easier to reconcile. Of course, Season Seven is the one Paul Cornell likes.

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neroden@gmail 4 years ago

Ah, Chris Boucher's masterpiece. It's interesting how that introduced so many ideas which were not followed up again until the Wilderness Years.

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neroden@gmail 4 years ago

" simply put, the War looked better on paper than it possibly could have in reality. With actually depicting the War off the table, there’s not much to do. "

This is why Kate Orman's use of the war is to assign Benny to prevent the war from happening. _Walking to Babylon_. Best use of the "war".

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