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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.

39 Comments

  1. elvwood
    May 11, 2012 @ 12:28 am

    Lovely. I am enjoying your sixth Doctor run much more than the fifth (although there were some quite sparkling Davison analyses they were more scattered), so putting the two together in volume 5 is a good marketing ploy!

    I'm kidding about that – I'll happily buy them all – but you do seem to have gone up a gear. Great stuff!

    Reply

  2. Anton B
    May 11, 2012 @ 1:23 am

    Apart from anything else, and rather ironically as I've only watched it once, this story was the one which had the most profound effect on me personally. As you point out the idea that, as Morrisey observes, 'Meat is Murder' is inherent in the writing. The absurdity of being in any way squeamish about eating human flesh while tucking into a juicy steak is definitively foregrounded here. It's also touched on in Douglas Adams 'Restuarant at the End of the Universe' where in the TV version the Dish of the Day disconcertedly but politely introducing himself to Arthur Dent was played by our own Peter Davison. This was, I believe, on Adams part an homage to the banquet scene in Alice Through the Looking Glass. ('Alice, Mutton, Mutton, Alice')rather than a diatribe on vegetarianism but I wonder, was Robert Holmes veggie? Anyway, it took a couple of years for me to process but I haven't eaten meat for twenty years now and this story was a major influence on that decision.

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  3. Rob Shearman
    May 11, 2012 @ 2:05 am

    I think you put across my somewhat garbled and overexcited points in About Time far more cogently than I do – and get more meaning to them too! Thank you. It's such a peculiar story, The Two Doctors, isn't it? Even from the title it appears to be promising something safe and fun, and it so manifestly tries to avoid being neat and ordered – even in the way that its pacing is somewhat lumbering, that it is clearly (and defiantly!) overwritten and self-indulgent. It's a strange and ugly piece of work, and I don't think for a second that director Peter Moffat intended that. But I believe that Robert Holmes sort of did.

    My friend Ed Stradling – DVD director maestro – has an opinion that in season 22 you end up with a series of mismatches between scripts and directors. Attack of the Cybermen – bad script, good director; Vengeance on Varos – good script, bad director; Mark of the Rani – bad script, good director. The Two Doctors, he says, is the worst example of it. Imagine what this might have been like directed with the brio of Graeme Harper, or had Spain been captured with the artistry of Sarah Hellings. In a funny way, though, I think it's the naff blandness of Peter Moffat that makes Holmes' awkward anger come across all the more forcefully – it's the way that there's no attempt to acknowledge how edgy and uncomfortable this all is that makes it all the more blatant. Put in the hands of a director who wanted to do it properly, The Two Doctors might have lost some of the context it was attacking. Giving it to a director who treats it as if it's no more than a gentle romp in the style of The Visitation at once cripples it but makes it have a point.

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  4. Matt Sharp
    May 11, 2012 @ 2:54 am

    In a funny way, though, I think it's the naff blandness of Peter Moffat

    That's Moffatt, you're thinking of someone else. Possibly several of them, up to and including Georgina Moffat, the tall one out of Skins who isn't related to any of the others or has anything to do with Doctor Who…

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  5. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 11, 2012 @ 3:36 am

    Philip Sandifer:
    "He fixed it by creating the Androgums – essentially the same concept only now they’re food-obsessed instead of war-obsessed – and having them be humanoid enough that nobody was ever going try to reuse them as generic monsters. And then, for good measure, have the story repeatedly and uncomfortably treat them like generic monsters even though they’re clearly interesting characters."

    Fascinating. I've seen this quite a few times, and I never noticed that before.

    "it’s almost tailor-made to piss continuity-obsessive fans off."

    Holmes did that in both "GENESIS" and "DEADLY ASSASSIN".

    "Troughton’s Doctor always inherited more of the “old man” characteristics from Hartnell than people give him credit for, and his portrayal here is far closer to what he actually did on the series than the defanged clown he played in the anniversary stories. There are moments that jar – snapping at Jamie about his mongrel tongue remains indefensible – but for the most part Holmes actually writes the character that appeared in the 1960s. This character is still magnetic and charming – especially in contrast with Hartnell, who was, after all, the only point of comparison when people formed their impressions of him."

    Again, fascinating. My exposure to Troughton was naturally limited to "FIVE", "THREE" and what was left of Season 6, which made its debut in the US the same year as this story.

    Oddly enough, I've read the "THE TWO DOCTORS" was originally conceived as bringing back Richard Hurndall as The 1st Doctor… but he passed away before they could do it. So, Troughton it was. What do you make of that?

    I have no problem with the fan theory that this story takes place after "THE WAR GAMES". What gets a bit confusing is that remote-control device for the TARDIS, which appears both here and in "MARK OF THE RANI" ("THE TWO DOCTORS" was filmed first!), and the idea that Troughton should have it while Colin says, "I always wanted one of those." Seems like a diverging timeline intersecting with the current one, doesn't it?

    My favorite line, of course, remains, "I think your Doctor's worse than mine!" I also like how Jamie snatches a kiss from Peri. Way to go! Oh, and Colin looked so much better without the jacket in the 2nd half, didn't he?

    One of the many things JNT obsessively jetissoned when he took over was 6-parters. But some stories need to be longer. He finally did one here… except, of course, it was run as a 3-parter.

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  6. 5tephe
    May 11, 2012 @ 3:48 am

    Beautifully done, Phil. I've really been looking forward to your returning here, and the turn you have pulled just now made the wait worthwhile.

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  7. Picklepuss
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:07 am

    Judging from the Big Finish audio "Project: Twilight" that's far longer than the Doctor stuck with his vegetarian diet…

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  8. jane
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    Phil, you make me nostalgic for the days when I actually enjoyed this serial.

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  9. Adam Riggio
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    Phil, you've made The Two Doctors another classic Robert Holmes joint: including all the flaws of the 1985 vintage of Doctor Who in the composition of the story itself. I can see everything the previous three stories pointed out, in addition to new targets of critique that Holmes introduced. The twists of continuity Holmes unleashes with the reasons why the Second Doctor and Jamie show up just pokes the Whoniverse in the eye. Henry's right to point out how silly it is for the Sixth Doctor to look at the Second Doctor's TARDIS remote control as if he never had it. I never noticed the subtlety of that joke, where the Sixth treats the Second like a different person, while a major plot point hinges on the Second being the past of the Sixth. All the characters are complicit in the violence of the Androgums because they hold the creatures irredeemable, incapable of imagining a world where an Androgum can be peaceful. Jamie mocks the Sixth Doctor's empty bluster.

    We haven't seen until now in this season a critical focus on nostalgia, as distinct from continuity. This is probably the centrepiece component of the exorcism for The Two Doctors. Despite whatever Blakean mind-scapes mights have roiled under some previous Doctor reunions, they were always pitched as fun nostalgia-driven romps. That feeling is fine in small doses, just like any pleasant memory. But when it dominates one's thinking — or in this case, one's favourite television show — nostalgia distorts one's understanding of the reality of the present as well as the past. Jack Kirby and Gilles Deleuze were right: you never repeat the achievements of the past by emulating them, but achieving the creativity that made your heroes so remarkable.

    Would I be right to expect the Timelash entry to include an account of the show's growing sexism and objectification of women? The problems of a show dealing with genuinely serious concepts like violence, sexism, and exploitation no longer taking itself seriously? For that last question, I'm remembering the pure camp performance of Paul Darrow and the cartoonish plot.

    A statement of pure fan-love to Rob Shearman: I first discovered your work when I listened to The Holy Terror a decade ago, which I still think is one of the best stories in the history of Doctor Who. Every year of the new series when I still don't hear your name in the list of returning writers, I feel a touch of sadness.

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  10. Adam Riggio
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:46 am

    I remember from the New Adventures — although, as with most nostalgia, my memory is hazy — that the Seventh Doctor was a consistent vegetarian throughout his run. The Sixth was written as periodically relapsing. I think that was a small element of the concept the Virgin line had of the Seventh Doctor being an antidote to the inconstancy of the Sixth.

    Looking forward to the New Adventures analysis over the Fall.

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  11. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 11, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    Adam Riggio:
    "Henry's right to point out how silly it is for the Sixth Doctor to look at the Second Doctor's TARDIS remote control as if he never had it. I never noticed the subtlety of that joke, where the Sixth treats the Second like a different person, while a major plot point hinges on the Second being the past of the Sixth."

    I think a question might be… was Colin supposed to be joking? Or, since "TWO" was filmed before "RANI", did he have it in "RANI" because he got it in "TWO", but switching the order caused a continuity error?

    In syndication, they always run the NIGHT COURT where Kwon Le gives birth just before the one that takes place just before she gives birth. Similarly, the schedule-snafu of Season 25 caused some glitches regarding Ace's rocksack, not to mention the development of her relationship with the Doctor.

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  12. BerserkRL
    May 11, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    I mean, much as one can insist on some viewpoint where aliens aren’t treated as generic monsters, for instance, the truth is that in an action sci-fi show there are always going to be monsters.

    True, but I think the ratio of stories-where-aliens-are-treated-as-generic-monsters to stories-where-they're-not has fallen a bit with the new series. Think of "Boom Town," "Planet of the Ood," "The Beast Below," "The Hungry Earth," "Vincent and the Doctor," "The Curse of the Black Spot," "The Rebel Flesh," "A Good Man Goes to War," and the two attempts to humanise even the Daleks — successfully in "Dalek," not so well in "Daleks in Manhattan."

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  13. Alan
    May 11, 2012 @ 8:33 am

    If "The Two Doctors" was meant as pro-vegetarian propaganda, then it failed for me at least. I remember listening to Shockeye's florid ruminations on how delicious Jamie would be if he were cooked properly, and my mouth started watering!

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  14. gregmcduck
    May 11, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    While at the end of the day I can't say I liked The Two Doctors, I much rather prefer it's kind of angry, uncomfortable style over the Cybermen and Rani dullfests provided this season. A failed experiment is still better than playing it safe, at least the former leaves you with something to chew on.

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  15. Anton B
    May 11, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    heh heh. Not suggesting that was its intention just that, bizarrely, My least favourite era of Doctor Who turned out to have the biggest effect on me.

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  16. Rob Shearman
    May 11, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Indeed. I left off the 't'.

    Reply

  17. Eric Gimlin
    May 11, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    I rewatched this story this week, specifically because I knew you would be returning to it. Unfortunately I have little to add to your comments despite that! I am figuring out just how lucky I was in the part of Colin's run I've actually seen already- Vengeance through Daleks and none of the others (although I'm starting in on Trial today). While all four of the stories are flawed, they do seem to be the better regarded chunk of his run on screen.

    One thing that I really do appreciate about this one as opposed to "The Five Doctors" and to a lesser degree "The Three Doctors" is that the concept seems to be story first, multi-doctor second. Admittedly a very close second, but it's still nice. I think that touches on your observation that here we get Troughton's Doctor, not "the Second Doctor"; and it is a joy to have one more story where we get to see the real thing. This is also one of the all too few stories in the entire run where they actually seemed to give some thought to "which one deserves the extra length". I particularly enjoy how the first episode is roughly a Troughton episode followed by a Colin episode, meeting at the cliffhanger.

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  18. William Whyte
    May 11, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    The Two Doctors isn't the worst Doctor Who story ever, but it may be the one I most dislike, for reasons you admirably summed up in your other entry on it.

    Having said that, it occupies an interesting position at the heart of Season 22. As these posts have clarified, Season 22, while perhaps too mundane to be truly alchemical, is all about metamorphosis. Painful metamorphosis, unwillingly undergone, that doesn't end well. Every story bar Timelash has people turning into things they don't want to — Lytton->Cyberman, Peri->bird, Luke->tree, people->Daleks — and even in Timelash there was a metamorphosis, it just happened before the story started. Seasons 13 and 14 feature change too, as part of exorcising the Pertwee years, but there it isn't always horrible. Here it is.

    So what makes The Two Doctors the right centerpiece for the season is two things: first, the Doctor too undergoes a transformation. This is the only story this season where he gets touched by the decay that's rampant throughout it. And second, it's the one story that shows a transformation that is supposed to be an improvement by the lights of the audience's normal attitudes — the Androgums' enhancement — only to turn around and show that to be horrible too.

    So that's interesting. And it's cute that Oscar tries to enhance his life and ends up dead just like Chessene does. But I still don't enjoy watching it and, despite all the clever things it does with the audience's expectations, I wish they'd made it differently or not at all.

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  19. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 11, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    Eric Gimlin:
    "the concept seems to be story first, multi-doctor second"

    Yes. I think I read (maybe) the idea was, why not just happen to have their timelines cross, since a thing like that seemed increasingly likely to happen by accident.

    It got me thinking this past month, wouldn't it have been funny if when Tom Baker jumped into "…THE PIT", if he'd have found the 1st Doctor (Geoffrey Bayldon) down there. And then tried to figure out "Why can't I remember this?" I can just picture the 1st Doctor as being possibly the only character who could really put Baker's Doctor "in his place" with his overbearing, imperious attitude. And of course, the whole thing could be played totally for laughs.

    "I particularly enjoy how the first episode is roughly a Troughton episode followed by a Colin episode, meeting at the cliffhanger."

    Hey, that's right.

    "Painful metamorphosis, unwillingly undergone, that doesn't end well."

    WTF was going on? This crap continued in "MINDWARP" (with Peri– presumably), and "VERVOIDS" (the unfortunate assistant who had the accident and was kept in the isolation ward).

    Of course, Kate O'Mara went thru an entirely different kind of transformation in "TIME AND THE RANI" (heeheehee).

    Seriously, though, how do you think "THE TWO DOCTORS" might have turned out if Richard Hurndall hadn't passed away when he did? (Personally, I'm glad we got to see one more Troughton story.)

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  20. J. L. Webb
    May 11, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. J. L. Webb
    May 11, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

    I do seem to recall reading that Holmes was indeed vegetarian, although I can't account for the credibility of my source.

    Also, as an interesting aside, Adams denied all accusation of there being a direct relation between the 'Dish of the Day' scene and the 'Alice, mutton' sequence.
    However he denied wholesale having read any Lewis Carrol , in spite of numerous apparent homages in the hitchhikers series (not to mention the comparable nature of the premises themselves.)

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  22. J. L. Webb
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

    The problem with "Daleks in Manhattan." isn't that it humanises the Daleks, it's that it presents an equation:

    Dalek + Human = Mostly Human i.e. Human > Dalek

    However much one may appreciate the sentiment, and agree that human nature is a better nature than that of a Dalek, it alchemically cripples the Daleks (for one story).

    Also the episode looks astonishingly cheap and tacky by NuWho standards.

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  23. J. L. Webb
    May 11, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    On the topic of making The Sontarans 'work':

    It's questionable whether there will ever be a good Sontaran story again, if there have indeed been any (as opposed to good stories featuring a Sontaran.)
    They were, as the good Dr. Sandifer has illustrated, never conceived as a race; expanding them out into one unsurprisingly led to another Generic Monster in the Who rogues gallery.

    However the means by which they were expanded out turns out to have been rather apt, and may hold a key to some redemption; The Sontarans are clones.
    Both conceptual clones of Holmes' original Commander Linx, and literal clones of some ancestral Sontaran.

    So, built into them is the possibility of an interesting story, a discussion of whether there is more to Sontaran nature than war, of whether it's their identical DNA that reproduces an endless race of killers, or if it's culturally imposed, and given a little room to grow a bottled up wealth of diversity and personality and virtue might unfold.

    curiously enough the closest we've come to seeing this is from the very (very [very]) unlikely source of A Good Man Goes To War (of all things); in which we meet a Sontaran who, given just a little chance to lead a different life, finds that he is well suited to being caring, compassionate, even maternal, and finds no glory in battle what so ever.

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  24. Anton B
    May 12, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    Really? That is interesting. It's hard to believe a writer of his generation could have had an English childhood without reading Lewis Carrol. It's an odd thing to deny as the observation of similarities would indeed be suggesting homage rather than plagiarism.

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  25. J. L. Webb
    May 12, 2012 @ 3:16 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. J. L. Webb
    May 12, 2012 @ 3:18 am

    Either it's a string of improbable coincidences (kind of too Adams for Adams), or he was just trolling. I've always suspected the latter.

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  27. John
    May 12, 2012 @ 4:31 am

    Try 'Heroes of Sontar' for a good story featuring multiple Sontarans 🙂

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  28. Andrew Hickey
    May 12, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    He didn't say he'd never read it. From Gaiman's Don't Panic:

    "I read — or rather, had read to me — Alice In Wonderland as a child and I hated it. It really frightened me. Some months ago, I tried to go back to it and read a few pages, and I thought, 'this is jolly good stuff, but still…' If it wasn't for that slightly nightmarish quality that I remember as a kid I'd've enjoyed it, but I couldn't shake that feeling. So although people like to suggest that Carroll was a big influence — using the number 42 and all that — he really was not."

    Adams was incredibly magpie-ish as far as ideas go, and often wrote at a very fast pace, and used references that he later disclaimed all conscious knowledge of (for example he studied Pilgrim's Progress at university, and made a number of references to it in Hitch-Hiker's, yet he disclaimed all knowledge of the fact that Bunyan's single biggest influence had been a book called The Plain Man's Pathway To Heaven by Arthur Dent, even the title of which sounds a little like The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy). It wouldn't surprise me at all if little bits of Alice stuck in his brain and came out when he needed a random number or wanted to write a quick filler scene.

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  29. Andrew Hickey
    May 12, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    And the documentary about Holmes on the Two Doctors DVD says he was vegetarian.

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  30. Andrew Hickey
    May 12, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    "I first discovered your work when I listened to The Holy Terror a decade ago, which I still think is one of the best stories in the history of Doctor Who"

    And one that touches on some of the themes of this story, and extends them…

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  31. BerserkRL
    May 14, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    The Sarah Jane Adventures had a better than average Sontaran story.

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  32. Jim Smith
    May 21, 2012 @ 6:41 am

    Oddly enough, I've read the "THE TWO DOCTORS" was
    > originally conceived as bringing back Richard Hurndall > as The 1st Doctor… but he passed away before they
    > could do it. So, Troughton it was. What do you make of > that?

    It is entirely untrue. Entirely.

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  33. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 23, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    Jim Smith:
    "It is entirely untrue. Entirely."

    I can believe that. I read the Shannon Sullivan page on this tonight, and there was no mention of Hurndall. How can that be, I thought? I know I read it in the DWMagazine, but did they get it wrong, or is there something missing? Perhaps it was a passing thought, but Hurndall died long before the story itself ever started to come together? In any case, I'm so glad Troughton did this. As smeone mentioned, so few of his stories survive, it's wonderful that he came back for 3 later stories. (And I've still got PROF. WAGSTAFF to re-watch… heehee).

    Having watched "MARK OF THE RANI" again last night and "THE TWO DOCTORS" tonight, I see I mis-remembered the bit about the TARDIS remote. In "RANI" they played it up as a very big thing, that the Rani had invented a TARDIS remote. In "THE TWO DOCTORS", Troughton has one– but, as he's on a special mission for the Time Lords, the impression I'd get from this is, they loaned it to him. Of course, one question never even addressed here is, are the Time Lords who recruited Troughton from Troughton's time (relatively speaking) or Colin Baker's? Going both on the remote and developments seen in the "TRIAL" story, it seems likely it was Colin's Time Lords (so to speak).

    Another favorite bit:

    "Maybe you should see a doctor."
    "………….Are you trying to be funny?"

    …also…

    "I can see by your attire that you are of the plain-clothes division."
    "……….???"

    (Colin's acting, for the most part, is so good in this!)

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  34. denyer
    May 31, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    Excellent news — really enjoyed volume one, and look forward to more in that format.

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  35. goatie
    August 20, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    Stranger coincidences have happened. One day I was saying something particularly funny, or profound, or odd… or all three, even, I dunno… and someone noted that Dirk Gently was their favourite book. I asked why they said that, and it was because I was quoting verbatim from it. I found that unlikely since I had never heard of the book.

    The person did not believe I had not read it. And then his incredulity went into overdrive during the rest of the exchange:

    "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. By Douglas Adams."

    "Who?" I asked.

    "Douglas Adams!"

    "I'm sorry, I…"

    "He wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy!"

    "Oh, I've heard of that. It's good? I should read it?"

    I found and read the books about a year later. This is all very strange, and all very true.

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  36. Daibhid C
    July 16, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    I'd go further, actually. I can't think of any new series story where an intelligent being is treated as a generic monster. Plenty where they're monsters, of course, as well as the ones where they just look like monsters (humans [or Time Lords] being the real monsters optional), but monsters with their own distinct brand of monstrousness that comes from a specific way they see the world that is distinct from the other monsters.

    And, if there's more than one of a monster race, they usually have distinct personalities within this worldview. (Cybermen excepted, because the erasure of personality is part of their distinct monstrousness … which is why it's so easy for them to become generic monsters.)

    If the Colin era is an exorcism, I think this is something it sucessfully exorcised.

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  37. John
    December 20, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    To update this to include Season 7, we can add Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, where the evil is being done by a human who killed the spaceship's previous Silurian owners; A Town Called Mercy, where both the alien doctor and the cyborg are characters, not monsters; Cold War, where an Ice Warrior is revisited as a character with motivations, rather than a generic monster; Hide, where the monster turns out to be benign; and The Day of the Doctor, where the Zygons are partly redeemed. And obviously The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, and The Name of the Doctor build on the depiction of Vastra and Strax as individual characters who happen to be a Silurian and a Sontaran. So the new series, especially during Moffat's tenure, has actually gotten a lot better about this.

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  38. Kassi Dephinia
    November 21, 2016 @ 2:03 am

    I fell over myself with joy at the reference to Frank Zappa’s live cover of ‘Ring of Fire’ on ‘The Best Band You’ve Never Heard in Your Life.’ The only other people I’ve ever encountered who know about this are people that I have tied to chairs and forced them to listen to the whole thing before giving them a drink of water (with or without alcohol as requested) and an apology. And only one of them, now deceased, would have actually also have seen ‘The Two Doctors’ (more than once!) and gotten this joke.

    Since the read on this season also discusses themes of exorcism, I’m listening to ‘I’m the Slime’ in a nostalgic haze.

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  39. Chris
    February 6, 2021 @ 7:32 pm

    The uneven air to this story might be because it is where the traditional BBC values of an old school writer like Bob Holmes (oxbridge, donnish, tweedy) run headlong into the garish, eighties, New Romantics-going-to-seed approach of JNT. – which was a foretaste of the vulgarised BBC as we know it today. Troughton’s presence was entirely appropriate.

    Reply

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