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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

62 Comments

  1. John Callaghan
    July 23, 2012 @ 12:26 am

    Fair enough!

    I do like the Brig's survival. In a way, you do get your death scene, set up and played; you also get an additional bit of fun where he stands up again and says "no, we're not doing that scene today". All it needs is a record scratch on the incidental music!

    Similarly, it's much funnier for Bambera to say "oh, sh…ame". It's a gag which children and adults can both get, maintaining Who's status as the "children's show that adults adore".

    Reply

  2. peeeeeeet
    July 23, 2012 @ 1:25 am

    A corking review. I've always maintained that Battlefield is underrated for the same reason any story is either underrated or overrated – ratings. Its status as the lowest of the low, particularly given the cancellation of the series, leads fans to watch it looking for reasons to hate it, in a way that they don't really with say Mark of the Rani or Nightmare of Eden. This would tie in with Cornell's view that everyone was perfectly happy with it when it was first on and only later started panning it till it crawled away and died. Slightly ironic given your line about reruns, since I think this is the only post-haitus serial ever repeated on either BBC1 or BBC2…

    (While we're on the subject of the novelisation, does anyone else's copy end a bit weirdly? Mine cuts off seemingly in mid-conversation, without even a close quotation mark for the dialogue. Is there some terribly clever reason for this that's always gone straight over my head, or have I just got a botched copy?)

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  3. Jack Graham
    July 23, 2012 @ 4:07 am

    I'm waiting for the audiobook.

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  4. daibhid-c
    July 23, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    Absolutely. And my recollection is that most kiddie shows with fakeswearing didn't have gags about it being obvious what swearword was being used, because they were aimed at kids and that would be missing the point of not swearing. As usual, Doctor Who is at its most interesting when it's written for adults but aimed at kids. (And at its worst, like much of the Sixth Doctor era, when it's the other way round.)

    And, after all, it's not like people were saying "shit" on BBC One at 7:35 in the 80s even in programmes that weren't aimed at kids. Even today, the BBC guidelines claim that "crap" can cause mild offence and should not be used indiscriminately.

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  5. elvwood
    July 23, 2012 @ 5:53 am

    I really like Battlefield, and the version of the story I like best isn't the televised one – but it isn't the novelisation either, which I've not read. It's the Special Edition on the DVD. Some of the SEs are pretty poor (Planet of Fire, take a bow) but this is one that (for me, at least) substantially improves on the original.

    Sometimes this my favourite McCoy story; sometimes that's Fenric. Both are great, both have flaws, and when I'm in the mood for one I'm rarely in the mood for the other.

    What I like about this post is less what it has to say about the serial than how it explains the psychology that led to the NAs. Very nice.

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  6. Matt Sharp
    July 23, 2012 @ 7:20 am

    Is there some terribly clever reason for this that's always gone straight over my head, or have I just got a botched copy?)

    Let's see…

    'You see I've just got a job offer it would be hard to turn down. (sic, no quote mark).

    May have been a way of avoiding 'down' ending up orphaned at the bottom of the page, but it's probably just a typo that got missed by both the editor and the proof reader. It happened in the later Target books – there's a reference to the seventh Doctor uncharacteristically 'peeing over a shelf' in 'Delta and the Bannermen'.

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  7. Galadriel
    July 23, 2012 @ 7:30 am

    Which is a pity in some ways, as a storyline rooted in the ancient heritage of Britain about a mysterious woman who rises from a lake, who eventually traps the Doctor in a prison for all eternity, and to whom the Doctor appears to live backwards in time would be really, really interesting…
    –That never occurred to me before, but…yes, River Song's story has some very intriguing elements in light of Arthurian legends. And as a fan of Arthurian legend myself, I would actually rate Battlefield as a wonderful story for several reasons, including the ambiguity of Morgaine's actions. She dissolves a man for information, yet heals someone's blindness in payment of a debt.

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  8. Ununnilium
    July 23, 2012 @ 7:41 am

    So, wait. The first New Adventures novel was actually titled "Timewyrm: Genesis?"

    Huh.

    (Also, I have no idea what in this article lead to a Romney ad at the bottom of the page, swing state or not.)

    Reply

  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 23, 2012 @ 7:43 am

    Yep. It was.

    As for Romney, no idea, but I'm on my way to the ad control console to terminate the ad.

    Reply

  10. Jesse
    July 23, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    My main problem with the serial was the scenery-chewing villain and his over-the-top maniacal laughter.

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  11. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 23, 2012 @ 8:12 am

    Even there I found myself mostly thinking "Man, if they did this today they'd totally try to hire Tom Hiddleston for this role."

    Reply

  12. Aaron
    July 23, 2012 @ 8:40 am

    What did you think it was named?

    Reply

  13. jane
    July 23, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    Wood's critique about killing off the Brigadier makes sense, for all the reasons stated. That said — and not because I justifiably love the Brigadier — I still appreciate the choice not to kill him off. My reasoning is rooted in my take on Myth. Sure, a dead Brigadier would have served as a wonderful critique on the UNIT era, but it would have, on the other hand, reinforced the mythology of Arthur, and the whole notion of being saved by kings. Sorry, but I'll take a flawed UNIT and glossy nostalgia over king-myths any day.

    The other reason I'm happy the Brig lives is that I justifiably love the character, and I think killing him off would have swerved back into Saward territory, upholding a misanthropic cynicism rather than hopeful graciousness. Rather than a maudlin funeral, we get a progressive denouement, and I think that served the series better in 1989. Had the problems of the previous regime been quite different, the dramatic choice of killing the Brigadier could have worked.

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  14. David Anderson
    July 23, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    Tom Hiddleston was just last week playing Prince Hal/ Henry V in the BBC's Richard II-Henry V production.
    I suppose it says something about the quality of Joss Whedon's writing that I found myself thinking about similarities between Prince Hal and Loki.

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  15. elvwood
    July 23, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    I suspect, like me, Ununnilium thought it was named Timewyrm: Genesys. Mostly because that's what it says on the cover…

    Reply

  16. Adam Riggio
    July 23, 2012 @ 9:47 am

    That also speaks to why I thought the living Brigadier at the end worked best. It subverted both the mythic status of Arthurian legend by Lethbridge-Stewart not following through on what his narrative parallel structure would have forced him to do, and ended with a rebuke to the UNIT era that fits even better with the general theme of the Eruditorum.

    Phil, I remember one of your strongest critical remarks in you essay on Mawdryn Undead being that the story positioned the otherworldly adventuring life as inherently superior to the daily life of people, as if the Brigadier's life as an ordinary person was a pathetic downfall from his true greatest days leading UNIT.

    In Battlefield, the Lethbridge-Stewart returns from retirement buying trees with his wife, wearing his famous uniform in an epic helicopter ride, standing up to Morgaine as a warrior in a classic mold. Then he walks through all the beats of a typical Hero's Sacrifice at the end, including the awesomely humble line to the monster ("Are you the best this world can offer?" "No, but I do the best I can."), then as the Doctor is eulogizing him in the wreckage of the building, he opens one eye in a reverse wink, dusts himself off, and goes home. At the end of the kind of stereotypically epic narrative that Saward would have played completely straight, he just gets up and goes home.

    He goes home to a quiet daily life. The most unironic epic character of the whole story, Anselin, is happily put to work at the lawnmower, while Alastair cleans up the garden, the women take the hot rod out on the town for the day, and the Doctor cooks dinner. That's the rebuke to the Letts era and the Saward era at once: The Doctor's adventuring isn't an end in itself, but a means to secure the happiness of ordinary life.

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  17. Adam Riggio
    July 23, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    I thought Mordred's scenery chewing laughter was just part of the tongue-in-cheek attitude Cartmel was developing. The whole reason Mordred turns out to be a bit of a naff villain is that his cackling signals from the beginning that he isn't a serious villain: the audience is laughing (or at least I was laughing) at how ridiculous his laughter was.

    Morgaine was positioned as the really dangerous villain because she does calculated, dangerous things. Also, there's a scene early in the story were one of the characters asks what could be the cause of all these weird goings-on, and we then cut to Morgaine in the globe viewer of the sword on the spaceship, looking straight into the camera (fourth wall breaking normally being the Doctor's territory), and answering the dialogue that he character couldn't possibly have heard. It signals to the audience who the real danger is: Not the cackling doofus too full of himself to realize what an ass he is, but the deadly serious (if scenery chewing in her own way) villain that can speak through the television.

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  18. Iain Coleman
    July 23, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    The main problem with Battlefield is that it hits just wide of the mark, aesthetically speaking.

    It was produced only three-and-a-bit years after Hawkwind's Chronicles of the Black Sword tour, and that's the aesthetic that this show should have achieved. Larger than life epic fantasy warriors in a high tech / mediaeval mashup swinging legendary swords to a driving heavy metal soundtrack. Instead it's… not quite that. Overblown fantasy-rock nonsense is like a souffle: it can be splendid if you get it exactly right, but get it just slightly wrong and the whole thing collapses.

    These aesthetic issues aside, there's a lot of great stuff in Battlefield. It's still the worst story of the season, but any season of Doctor Who in which Battlefield is the low point is a very strong season indeed.

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  19. jane
    July 23, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    I love the subtle mythological nods regarding the Brigadier. Buying a tree with Doris, who he's now married, a perfectly mundane way of suggesting Alastair's already a master of two worlds, for the World Tree is an alchemical symbol of connection between Above and Below, rooted in the Now. So it makes sense for the Brig to escape the heroic sacrifice, because he's already moved beyond such paltry dramatic concerns.

    Likewise, tending to the Garden at the end symbolizes a return to Eden, and positions the Ordinary World as positively heavenly.

    I wonder about the Silver Bullets. The Destroyer isn't a werewolf (though we just had one in the Greatest Show) but he's susceptible to Silver. Silver is what we use for Mirrors, so there's the notion that the Beast can't face itself. A bullet, though, would be quick silver, the mercurial element which is the Doctor's stock and trade. Naturally, the Brig's got a stash, so he's integrated the Doctor's tricksterly arts into his own.

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  20. Seeing_I
    July 23, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Bravo, Adam! Great reading.

    Reply

  21. Ununnilium
    July 23, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Well, I knew what the book was named, but I had no idea it was the first of the line. This surprised me, due to two points:

    1.) I would assume by that name that it's the first chapter of the "Timewyrm" miniseries; to start off the book line with several integrally-linked books seems like an odd decision.

    2.) The name itself is the '90s-est name that ever '90s'd.

    But I've never actually read it, so.

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  22. Ununnilium
    July 23, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    Oh, yes, I like this.

    Reply

  23. Josh Marsfelder
    July 23, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

    Thirding/Fourthing. Jane and Adam have pretty much said what I wanted to say about "Battlefield" and The Brigadier surviving. As the one-time Doctor Who reviewer on History of The Doctor once said, "Isn't it magical?".

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  24. Josh Marsfelder
    July 23, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    I'm going to second this and once again cast my votes for the DVD Special Editions of the McCoy era serials (namely this, "Fenric" and "Remembrance"). I do think they improve them substantially.

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  25. ferret
    July 23, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    Small point, but they weren't entirely wrong on five pound coins coming into circulation in the near future: I was given one in 1990 when they were first issued.

    True they were "commemorative" and more likely to be collected than spent (their perceived worth being greater than their face value), but nevertheless legal tender.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_pounds_(British_coin)

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  26. Alan
    July 23, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

    Nothing at all about that extraordinary scene in episode 3? The one where the Doctor talks Morgaine out of setting off a nuclear warhead by explaining both to her and the audience exactly what a nuclear explosion is and why it is the sort of weapon that even the most evil of villains should consider unthinkable to use? For all the talk about a political bent to the Cartmel/McCoy era, I don't think Doctor Who has ever gone after a contemporary political target as fiercely and unambiguously as this story did with the threat of nuclear conflict. This wasn't a thinly disguised Maggie Thatcher clone in a pink wig. It was Sylvester McCoy talking about a child's eyes turning to cinders! That's a helluva lot more provocative to me than Bambera not saying shit on television.:)

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  27. Eric Gimlin
    July 23, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    Battleground state = Battlefield state?

    At least, that would be my guess…

    Reply

  28. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 23, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

    I further applaud Adam's reading – a fine redemption. That said, I remain hesitant about a wholesale embrace of it – there is, for me, still a problematic knot that doesn't quite untie here. The problem, for me, is that Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors have, by this point, transformed the Brigadier past where he can still fill the function Adam's reading requires.

    Had this been Benton I think Adam's reading would have worked perfectly. But with the Brigadier, a character who had already made two, arguably three appearances after his seeming departure (depending on what you want to do with Terror of the Zygons), I don't think he can return to "normal" life as such. He's the one Doctor Who character for whom departure from the narrative seems foreclosed. As evidenced by the fact that he doesn't get his normal life, or, at least, that fandom is hell bent on not giving it to him. Battlefield and his survival are what finally push him to become a Doctor Who standard that every Doctor supposedly must interact with. Even the novelization sells him out, ending with a tease that he's going to be re-recruited by UNIT in some capacity.

    I love the story Adam is mapping out, but I'm just not sure it can be done with the Brigadier post-Mawdryn Undead.

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  29. jane
    July 23, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

    I also loved Mordred calling the Doctor's bluff by using the same lines the Doctor used in The Happiness Patrol to talk down the sniper. "Look in my eyes. End my life."

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  30. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 23, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

    I don't believe I left that line out of the post! Yes, it's a fabulous line, and it further reinforces the way in which McCoy's Doctor is wrongfooted. He's wrapped up in a game assembled by an older and wiser version of himself, and the other people in the game know him well enough that they can use his own tricks against him. And so the Doctor's own moment of triumph from Season 25 gets used against him, shattering the idea of McCoy's Doctor as ontologically being the cleverest person in the room. (And, of course, it's only the low-key modesty of the Brigadier that can actually solve the problem.)

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  31. Matthew Blanchette
    July 23, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    Well, at least they gave him spectacular aim… 😀

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  32. Matthew Blanchette
    July 23, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    You know, Phil… if you had really wanted the Brigadier to be killed off at a logical point for the series, the original version of "The Hand of Fear" might be something for you to look into: http://www.shannonsullivan.com/drwho/serials/4n.html

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  33. Matthew Celestis
    July 23, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    I spent one of those five-pound coins. I was twelve years old at the time.

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  34. Tommy
    July 23, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    The novelisations of Season 18's stories were generally as high concept as the TV stories themselves, and the Warrior's Gate and Leisure Hive novelisations did a fair bit of embelishing on the televised versions. Additionally, it was around this time that Ian Marter was writing more gritty, edgy and embelished versions of the older stories. So arguably if the show had ended in 1981, then the novels would have still been seen as the natural second home for Doctor Who.

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  35. Anton B
    July 24, 2012 @ 1:05 am

    The 'five pound coin' reference is sad as it's clearly an attempt to repeat the 'decimal currency' prediction of 'An Unearthly Child' and thus obliquely addresses 'the problem of Susan' (The other 'near future politics' references also recall the Pertwee era's predictions of a female Prime Minister) but the show just doesn't have the magic anymore. Not in this TV incarnation anyway. It's fitting that it calls out to a smarter future Doctor to resolve the plot. It got that prediction right at least. The River Song/Lady of the Lake connection hadn't occured to me either. I wonder if Moffatt's spotted it.

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  36. Nick Smale
    July 24, 2012 @ 6:01 am

    Morgaine is played by Jean Marsh, of course. Sometime I like to pretend that Sara Kingdom survived the Time Destructor by escaping to another universe. And then I realise how silly that would be…

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  37. Laurence Price
    July 24, 2012 @ 6:44 am

    It's interesting that Morgaine folds with relatively little fuss. Yes, the Doctor's speech about the disgusting horrors of nuclear warfare is disturbing for anyone with a moral sense rooted in this world. But Morgaine is a character who is played as pathologically careless about death and suffering; vaporising a UNIT soldier as a way of cleaning up the carpet and bringing down a helicopter to show off. Getting snarled at by a little man in a question mark jumper should be fairly easy to cope with. But she gives in, and even submits to being locked up at the end. And I think the key to it is the fact that she is a fictional character- but one from the wrong fiction. Morgaine comes from an Arthurian fictional universe that sits slightly skewed to the universe of Doctor Who; one which the Doctor crucially describes in Episode 1 as “sideways in time”.

    The Doctor “is” Merlin in this Arthurian universe. He fulfils the same role as trickster, magician on the outside, with a hint of universal force within. In the same way, Wotan in Wagner's Ring Cycle “is” Zeus in Greek mythology- a father god, wayward in sexuality, but ultimately more aware of the deepest moral dilemmas than any of the lesser gods. Of course we're not necessarily going to see a red-haired Doctor in a police box turning up at King Arthur's court on Saturday evenings at any time, nor is Wotan going to get Zeus's post redirected from Mount Olympus to Valhalla. But just like the Doctor and Merlin, they play parallel games, separated by the boundaries between fictional universes.

    And of course, the Arthurian cycle as a whole is just as much a living self-referential universe as Doctor Who. In fact, the two are fairly close cousins. They both have no one creator; they help to define that odd chimera, “Englishness”; they both were and are still being created over a period of time beyond that of any ordinary text (admittedly, Arthur's thousand-odd years trumps Doctor Who's fifty). It's superfluous to mention their common romance, their excitement, their profound moments and their occasional rubbishness.

    So it makes sense (for a given value of “sense”) for a message to spill out sideways from Arthur's universe to its younger cousin Doctor Who. And once that spillage has occurred, the message to Merlin homes in on the TARDIS console- the closest thing to Merlin's cave in the universe of Doctor Who.
    (continued below- sorry for rambling on!)

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  38. Laurence Price
    July 24, 2012 @ 6:45 am

    So why does this make Morgaine's capitulation work any better? Because her apparent callousness about death is centred on the defining event in the Arthurian universe- that Arthur will rise again at Britain's time of need. That is the principle that gives her whole universe its conclusion, and its mythic life. (Rather like a certain Question in the Doctor's own universe). Just when all seems lost, Arthur will come back, and everything will be alright- in that fictional universe. Their values are of chivalry as play, expressed with toys rather than real weapons: Excalibur looks suspiciously like the Sword of Omens, beloved of a thousand Thundercats fans, and tell me those glitterguns aren't actually from a playset suitable for ages 8 and up!

    But Morgaine and all the other knights have slipped sideways into the wrong fiction. In this story war isn't a fun adventure with lots of flying knights and no blood. It's a diplomatic stand-off where grey-suited men threaten each other with the deaths of millions of children. And Arthur is dead, and will be forever; no matter if Morgaine tries to engineer Britain's real hour of need (which is surely what she's up to really). In this universe, the sound of nuclear explosions will herald no hero; just death, death, death.

    And who is it who tells Morgaine she's in the wrong story? None other than the Master of the Land of Fiction himself. In the previous story, he slipped up a narrative level and we saw him dancing in front of the Gods of Ragnarok; now, he's dancing between parallel fictional universes and putting stray warrior queens back in their correct stories. She won't stay locked up, of course. You can't lock up a fictional character!

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  39. Matt Sharp
    July 24, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    Of course, there's 'when we meet again, I shall kill you!' from Morgaine, then the two never do meet again.

    But two thousand years later Sara Kingdom guns down Bret Vyon…

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  40. Ununnilium
    July 24, 2012 @ 7:32 am

    Hmmmm. The economy as Arthur?

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  41. Ununnilium
    July 24, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    Ooooooh. Indeed. Go back to your own story, where you can deal with the consequences.

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  42. Josh Marsfelder
    July 24, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    But in a way isn't he still the cleverest though? After all, it is still a game of his own design he's fallen for. I can totally see the Doctor of "Valhalla", "Robophobia" or even "A Death in the Family" pulling something like this.

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  43. Adam Riggio
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    I still think my reading can work with the Brigadier, because he doesn't necessarily have to retire or die as much as change priorities. Just because you're not fighting alien invaders and suchlike for the sake of fighting them, doesn't mean you'll never fight alien invaders and the rest again. It just shifts adventuring from being an end in itself to a means to the further end.

    I mean, the Doctor is never going to stop adventuring, even if he does volunteer to cook dinner. But they're all happy in that role, now that the televised adventure is over. There will be other television adventures for the Doctor, and the Brigadier can show up. But the ending of Battlefield changes the reasons why they show up for adventures, why Lethbridge-Stewart has a working retirement instead of a totally opting out. As I think about it, a retirement that entirely opts out of adventuring would suit the problematic Letts and Saward visions: you either devote yourself utterly to adventure or drop out. Lethbridge-Stewart shows how you can blend those lifestyles.

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  44. Matthew Blanchette
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    Yay; it's a mini-reunion from The Daleks' Master Plan! 😀

    All they needed to complete the set were Adrienne Hill, Peter Purves, and Kevin Stoney…

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  45. Matthew Blanchette
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:16 am

    If I could "Like" this post, I would. 🙂

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  46. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Yeah, I think that's completely ridiculous.

    Morgaine is obviously Joan of England, Queen of Sicily.

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  47. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    You are probably correct.

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  48. Alan
    July 24, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    But Morgaine is a character who is played as pathologically careless about death and suffering; vaporising a UNIT soldier as a way of cleaning up the carpet and bringing down a helicopter to show off.

    Gotta disagree here. Morgaine was the opposite of "pathologically careless about death and suffering." On the contrary, she unilaterally initiated a temporary truce as a way of atoning for accidentally fighting near a war memorial without properly respecting the honored dead of her enemies. She took down the helicopter but without inflicting any casualties more serious than a twisted ankle for Lavel. She apparently only killed Lavel to obtain tactical information and then made a remarkably magnanimous gesture to the nearby mortals in recompense for disturbing them. Morgaine, to me anyway, is presented as someone scrupulously committed to honorable warfare (at least as she perceives it) and it was no surprise to me that she would consider nuclear warfare to be utterly dishonorable once the Doctor emphasized its horrific and indiscriminate nature.

    As for her "surrender," it was obvious to me that she was, if not in love with Arthur, then at least fixated on him. She bore the burden of immortality for untold centuries for the sole purpose of finishing her battle with him, and upon learning that he'd been dead the whole time, she simply lost her only real motive for action. I imagine the Master would react similarly if he'd caught Ace in a trap intended for the Doctor and she casually revealed that the Doctor had died without regenerating years earlier.

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  49. Matthew Blanchette
    July 24, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    "That it had the gall to get it wrong about the Cold War?"

    This might, of course, be the whole result of the reasoning behind Ben Aaronovitch getting excited about "Communist propaganda"… 😉

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  50. Laurence Price
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

    That's a really good point which I hadn't thought of- I'd forgotten about the scene at the war memorial! So rather than being completely careless towards death and suffering, the issue is that Morgaine only cares about death within certain narrow bounds that she considers "honourable". It's like the paradoxes of the old Samurai code, where on the one hand you have the call to protect the helpless peasants- but on the other hand, murdering them to practice your swordsmanship was also acceptable.

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  51. Matt Sharp
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

    Aha, perhaps the Time Destructor splintered Sara Kingdom in time, so she's Joan of England, Queen of Sicily and Morgaine, just like Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth.

    Who just so happens to be Richard the Lionheart…

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  52. Matt Sharp
    July 24, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

    By the way, I'm fairly sure that one of the major influences on Doctor Who throughout pretty much every era is T. H. White's 'The Once and Future King' – Merlyn pretty much IS the Doctor, so much so that the last time I reread it, whenever he said anything he did it with the voice of Patrick Troughton. Which was, frankly, a little bit disconcerting.

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  53. sleepyscholar
    July 25, 2012 @ 3:52 am

    No particular paradoxes in "the old Samurai code" as it has nothing about the "call to protect the helpless peasants." That's Seven Samurai you're thinking of which, despite the name, pointedly is not really about samurai ethics, as Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune's character) is actually not from the buke.

    Samurai derives from saburahai which does indeed refer to protecting: but it was the kuge (nobility) they protected in the old days. They didn't even pay lip service to the idea of protecting the peasants: indeed they specifically stripped that element of Confucianism out of the philosophy when they imported it.

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  54. Laurence Price
    July 25, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    I thought that someone who knew more about it than me would pick me up on that! But was there not an element of compassion (for the lower orders or more generally) in bushido? Or was it purely limited to the nobility the samurai were engaged to protect?

    I'm genuinely intrigued, as most descriptions of European feudalism (at least in its early stages) emphasise the principle of mutual contribution to society ("I rule for all, I fight for all, I pray for all, I pay for all"). Alright, that's a romanticised generalisation after the fact- but it relies on the fact that a knight can't feed himself and a farmer on his own can't defend himself. (Of course, when the farmers start being able defend themselves without the warrior classes, that's when you start getting revolutions- as in archaic Greece). But was there no sense of mutual provision in Japan, and it the only thing preventing a revolution boiled down to "They've got swords and we haven't"?

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  55. sleepyscholar
    July 25, 2012 @ 6:21 am

    Bushido was essentially a romantic rationalisation after-the-fact. Even then, it didn't have compassion. From a purely pragmatic basis, the buke recognised the necessity of the farmers.They were placed second in the Confucian order of society (shi-no-ko-sho, the former being scholars in China, but samurai in Japan, the latter two being artisans and merchants respectively). However, in practice the money of the merchants compensated for their allegedly low status.

    The romantic image of the samurai was bound up in loyalty to the daimyo (hence the resonance of the 47 Ronin story) though even this, too, was an image for stories — in practice samurai were as likely to betray if they could get away with it as anyone else.

    Japan doesn't have a myth akin to the Arthur myth, whether in its original Celtic forms (the Mabinogion etc), or in its French chivalric development. The Kojiki is basically freaky stories, and the Nihonshoki is an attempt to get some of the sense of historical authenticity the Chinese were perceived to have on account of their meticulously kept histories.

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  56. Laurence Price
    July 25, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    It's a fascinating and somewhat terrifying picture- many thanks for this! Now we just need to see the Eleventh Doctor landing in fourteenth-century Japan…

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  57. Kit
    July 25, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    For the book, if not correcting here: despite the half-inched vocals, Black Box’s hit was “Ride On Time.”

    “in this case the connections are completely coincidental, as the Twilight of the Superheroes plot didn't leak to the general public until the Internet came along”

    It probably was entirely coincidental, but the full proposal was definitely circulating well before Netscape Navigator opened the internet up – I got it from a Legion Of Super-Heroes APA in 1992, where the person who photocopied it was presenting it as “here’s an old classic some of you may not have seen if you’re new to organised fandom…”

    And feel free to talk about the Remembrance novelisation all you like!

    Reply

  58. BerserkRL
    July 26, 2012 @ 6:10 am

    a knight can't feed himself and a farmer on his own can't defend himself.

    "It has been implied — by the statement that gunpowder abolished the Middle Ages — that the peasant was defenseless against the knight. On the contrary, the knight was hopelessly vulnerable to the peasant. A man in armor relying for mobility on a horse in armor could be put out of action, the horse hamstrung, the rider brought down, by one or two quick-footed men with scythes and pitchforks. The knight could scarcely mount unaided; on the ground he was clumsy; if he fell, he could not spring up nimbly. A human tortoise, the knight was equipped only to encounter another knight. He was no less dependent economically. His armor had to be forged by the smith, his food and clothes supplied and his horse maintained by the labor of the peasant. The knight knew no useful art, and was wholly an end-product of a rigid system. If the system were interrupted for more than a very short time, the knight must perish anyhow." — Isabel Paterson

    Reply

  59. Tim Roll-Pickering
    July 31, 2012 @ 1:22 am

    Being legal tender doesn't mean a coin is actually accepted in general circulation. "Legal tender" is a narrow concept relating to the settlement of debts and not a law about what coins and notes must be accepted in day to day transactions. Most retailers et al look on commemorative coins even less favourably than Northern Irish bank notes – something they've never heard of, are not sure if the bank will accept it, and they'll never be able to give it out as change that customers will accept. A few might accept it but it's foolish to rely on it.

    Reply

  60. Froborr
    October 5, 2012 @ 6:05 am

    I agree that the Brig's survival adds to the humor, and it also plays a bit with the theme that you can't resurrect the past. The Brig is in an Arthurian role because Arthur is dead. You can't resurrect the past, but you can recreate elements of it in a more modern form, which is very much what the series was doing throughout the previous season, and what the new series will do as well.

    Reply

  61. othemts
    July 7, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

    I'm now saddened that there isn't nor never will be a film adaptation of The Once and Future King starring Patrick Troughton as Merlin

    Reply

  62. Katherine Sas
    June 13, 2014 @ 4:57 am

    "Which is a pity in some ways, as a storyline rooted in the ancient heritage of Britain about a mysterious woman who rises from a lake, who eventually traps the Doctor in a prison for all eternity, and to whom the Doctor appears to live backwards in time would be really, really interesting."

    Ha! I see what you did there. Bravo, sir.

    Reply

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