Eruditorum Press

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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.

55 Comments

  1. Homunculette
    July 23, 2018 @ 9:53 am

    Great essay, El. I completely agree with your assessment of Mathieson, and I’m very glad you were able to plumb this episode’s depths a bit. I think he’s actually my favorite writer of the Capaldi era. He and Harness are the two writers that impressed me so much I went back and watched their whole back catalogue, and they’re both extremely solid. Harness is generally an extremely serious writer, while Mathieson seems to have reserved his most tonally serious work for Doctor Who.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen you talk about Dirk Gently, El, but I think it would be a good Pop Between Realities for the Capaldi book. Two of the three writers are Doctor Who alumni – Matt Jones and Jamie Mathieson – and the whole thing is a low-budget riff on Sherlock.

    Personally, I would love to see Jamie Mathieson running Doctor Who, maybe in the far-off post-Chibnall era, and he has expressed interest in doing so. At the very least I’d love him to write more Doctor Who.

    Also – do you have any plans to cover the Doctor Who short story Mathieson wrote?

    Reply

  2. mx_mond
    July 23, 2018 @ 10:04 am

    For me, Mathieson demonstrates the biggest versatility and the most consistent quality of the three new writers of the Capaldi era and “The Girl Who Died” is my favourite of his episodes. Like Homunculette, I would be very happy to see him as a future showrunner.

    Reply

    • John
      August 28, 2018 @ 12:46 am

      Aren’t there six new writers of the Capaldi era? Harness, Mathieson, Cottrell Boyce, Tregenna, Dollard, and Bartlett, no?

      Even if you want to kick out Tregenna and Bartlett for each writing only one episode, Cottrell Boyce and Dollard both wrote two.

      Reply

  3. Przemek
    July 23, 2018 @ 10:42 am

    I would imagine Moffat’s main contribution to “The Girl Who Died” would be the explanation of why did the Twelfth Doctor choose this particular face, given that it was Moffat himself who set this mystery up way back in “Deep Breath”. The scene itself is one of my favourite parts of this episode and the decision to even address this issue is certainly interesting. Although it makes the fact that the Sixth Doctor apparently chose the face of a man who shot the Fifth Doctor very amusing.

    This episode was certainly good and I enjoyed your exploration of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara here – she’s been his “carer” for such a long time now, it’s nice of him to finally acknowledge it and appreciate her for it. To be honest I completely forgot this was Mathieson’s episode – which just goes to show how easy it is to pigeonhole DW writers. It’s a real pity he won’t be returning for Chibnall Who and I agree with everyone who said they would like to see Mathieson become the showrunner one day.

    Aside from that, not my favourite episode simply because I don’t care much for Vikings (and I usually much prefer gun to frock anyway). And since I consider “The Woman Who Lived” rather disappointing the whole two-parter just leaves me a bit cold.

    Reply

    • mx_mond
      July 23, 2018 @ 11:22 am

      “It’s a real pity he won’t be returning for Chibnall Who”

      They had a meeting and he was invited to pitch some ideas. It didn’t work out this time, but there’s definitely some interest on Chibnall’s part in getting him again, so I think there is a real possiblity it could happen in later seasons.

      Reply

      • Daru
        July 28, 2018 @ 11:31 am

        I would really love to see his come back at some point to write – so that’s gladdening to hear that there is a possibility there.

        Reply

  4. Lambda
    July 23, 2018 @ 11:01 am

    I find in particular Mathieson just gets the little things to make sense better than anyone else. The Doctor “speaking baby” in this story is a great example. First time this came up, it made for a perfectly good throwaway joke. I laughed. But then as it started to recur and become sort of canon, it became objectionable because as soon as you take ten seconds to think about it, it’s just so damn insular, the idea that grown human thought is universal and also found in babies and horses, and that you don’t want to imagine any other sort of thought.

    Until this story, where it’s beautifully written so, without explicitly contradicting what came before, you can just read it as the baby being very intuitively sensitive to the people around it and hence just knowing things aren’t right, which I reckon babies probably really can do, and the “speaking baby” being for the Doctor to take this crying reaction and put it into flowery words. Which is great.

    Opinion on “There are plenty of shows that do terrifying action set pieces better than the BBC ever will.” They might do the actual mechanics of the terrifying action set pieces better, but they’re hopeless at putting them in a story with someone like the Doctor as protagonist, and hence ensuring the audience (members like me) are awake and care about what happens in them. (Which isn’t to take the opposite side, I just like both approaches. Or perhaps “no story containing the Doctor is ever truly gun.”)

    Reply

  5. David Anderson
    July 23, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

    The hand TARDIS scene surely frocks Flatline in one swoop.

    Aside from that scene I can see the claim that other shows could just about do Flatline or Oxygen. (Though maybe not with protagonists like the Doctor and Clara.) But could anything else do Mummy? By the standards of anything that does sf action horror
    that I can think of it’s terribly frock. (Farscape maybe.)
    One of the things Doctor Who does is easily bridge tonal shifts by virtue of the fact that genocidal giant pepper pots and time travelling police boxes are normal.)

    Reply

  6. Echo
    July 23, 2018 @ 1:31 pm

    Game of Thrones is absolutely a cultural juggernaut over here in the UK. The Atlantic figures don’t reflect those who pirated the show or used an unofficial stream on night of transmission (or for older demographics, DVD box sets), and it’s been almost a cliche for every news outlet to run an annual article saying GoT is the most pirated show of the year. Numbers aside, everyone knows it and knows what it is – even those who hadn’t seen it knew Maisie Williams, at least by appearance. She was great in the role, but it was absolutely marketing-focused.

    Reply

    • S
      July 23, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

      everyone knows it and knows what it is – even those who hadn’t seen it knew Maisie Williams, at least by appearance

      Doesn’t follow. Everyone knows Downton Abbey and knows what it is too, but that doesn’t mean those who don’t watch it could pick any of the cast out of a line-up, or would necessarily recognise any of their names (other than the legitimately famous ones like Maggie Smith or the one out of Paddington who goes to the prostitutes).

      Heck I watched two series of Game of Thrones before I stopped on account of it was shit, and I couldn’t necessarily recognise any of the cast.

      Reply

      • Rodolfo Piskorski
        July 29, 2018 @ 12:25 am

        I knew what GoT was but I didn’t know Maisie Williams was in it. I only knew her from The Falling and I thought they were casting a critic-loved, award-nominated young actress who could play a teenager who is hundreds years old.

        Reply

    • David Anderson
      July 23, 2018 @ 2:13 pm

      It certainly gets a lot of column inches on the Guardian website. My impression is more than any other genre show except perhaps Doctor Who.
      An audience of 2.6 million is still more than the last couple of seasons of Humans, which is Channel 4’s current big sf show.

      El has pointed out in previous posts that the standard for cultural juggernaut in the UK and the US are different due to the difference in viewing habits. Looking at wikipedia I see that the US audience for the Season Five premiere of Game of Thrones was 8 million. Out of the UK population of one sixth of the US, 2.6 million is pretty respectable. It’s just that BBC One or ITV headline shows like Poldark or Line of Duty Season Four get viewing numbers in the 8 or 9 millions despite the UK having that smaller population.

      Reply

      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        July 23, 2018 @ 7:08 pm

        The fact that Doctor Who gets more column inches than a lot of shows that get better ratings does tend to suggest that column inches do not track strictly to ratings, but rather to a combination of ratings and audience engagement. GoT fans are more inclined to read about their show than, say, Line of Duty fans.

        Reply

        • David Anderson
          July 23, 2018 @ 9:43 pm

          My impression is that there are quite a lot of column inches for Line of Duty as well. (When I was saying GoT gets more column inches than other genre shows I was using ‘genre’ in the marked sense of ‘sf/ fantasy. I.e. genres perceived as not mainstream. And even then in a complex sense where I wasn’t thinking of The Handmaid’s Tale.)

          Reply

          • Sleepyscholar
            July 26, 2018 @ 4:00 am

            I agree with you, and I was going to post pretty well the same thing before you saved me the trouble. I think there’s an interesting comparison here with Love Island, which is absolutely massive despite having relatively modest viewing figures.

            All the same, I’m not sure that this invalidates the thrust of El’s argument, which is that Maisie Williams is a big deal for geeks rather than for the mainstream audience.

  7. Peeeeeeet
    July 23, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

    I’d forgotten he wrote this one, which goes some way towards proving your point. That said, I feel like you’re in danger of doing the same thing with Frock and Gun that happened with terms such as Mary Sue, Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Deus Ex Machina, that is applying them so broadly that they lose any usefulness. “Gun” was originally about a specifically Peter Darvill-Evans way of doing things, where things are dominated by the Military Industrial Complex, all relationships are fundamentally abusive and heroes are people like Abslom Daak. The only Mathieson episode that comes anywhere close to that is Oxygen. Certainly if either Mummy or Flatline had been NAs (and they both have quite a strong NA flavour, to me), nobody would have made the claim that they were “Gun” books.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      July 23, 2018 @ 2:58 pm

      I think frock/gun is different from the other things you mention in that it is not about defining a type but about placing things on a spectrum between two ideal types. An individual story can occupy any position on that range, and do so through any number of different mixtures of ingredients. (The other concepts mentioned are also about story components rather than stories as a whole.)

      I do think playing up the gun-ness of Mummy is slanting things a little for the sake of a tidy argument, though. (If it is the most popular of the Mathieson episodes, it needs to be classed as firmly gun to make a “TGWD is less popular because it’s too frock” case properly convincing.) It seems to me to have a good deal of frockery about it, as in the sheer preposterous campness of its setting, the musical number, or the emphatically non-violent resolution (or even, indeed, its strong showing in the field of actual frocks).

      Reply

      • S
        July 23, 2018 @ 3:13 pm

        Gun stories have soldiers in them, like Deceit or Lucifer Rising or Warhead or Blood Heat or even Shadowmind.

        (Frock stories can have soliders in them, but if so they tend to be zen warrior-monks or psychic voyagers or just there for the pacifist hero to haul into an ambulance in the tedious epilogue. But gun stories always include soldiers who are there to shoot ineffectually at the monsters and be killed by them.)

        I don’t think there’s even a single gun in the story in question.

        Reply

        • Aylwin
          July 23, 2018 @ 3:38 pm

          If you mean Mummy, there are two soldiers (well, an armed guard and the captain, who is an ex-soldier) who shoot ineffectually at the monster and are killed by it.

          (I may not have been clear before, but certainly there is plenty of gunnishness about Mummy, a lot more than in TGWD. I just think it’s more mixed than Flatline, let alone Oxygen.)

          Reply

          • MatthewB
            July 25, 2018 @ 11:20 pm

            And, of course, the mummy is ALSO a soldier.

          • taiey
            October 20, 2018 @ 7:50 am

            Mummy is sort of the most inescapably series 8 of stories; partly the hairpin turn taking Clara from trying to be Sensible to embracing her addiction, but also in the way the mummy being an old soldier would come out of absolutely nowhere if it wasn’t for everyone being a soldier this season.

      • Aylwin
        July 23, 2018 @ 11:33 pm

        So I was just ruminating vaguely on the similiarities of the-Orient-Express-in-space and the-Titanic-in-space, and now I’ve landed myself with the observation that Astrid with the forklift is an instalment in a tradition of arrival-of-the-heavy-machinery-operating-cavalry in RTD’s work which also includes Jackie with the wrecker in Parting of the Ways and Ianto with the digger in Children of Earth episode 2, and that this stretches back as far as that teacher with the digger in the last episode of Dark Season, and I have nowhere to put it.

        Reply

        • Rodolfo Piskorski
          July 29, 2018 @ 12:28 am

          There was also Jack’s literal barn-storming in Countrycide!

          Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      July 23, 2018 @ 7:15 pm

      Well, first of all I don’t think those terms have lost usefulness. Second of all, the fact that the distinction came out of Orman and Roberts talking during the VNA era means it doesn’t have wider applicability. There were always classic series examples being reached to in order to illustrate it, and the distinction is just as much between the Saward and Williams eras as between Deceit and The Highest Science.

      Aylwin’s point about it being a spectrum is relevant. And I don’t think there’s any Doctor Who story that’s devoid of frock; there’s too much queerness intrinsic in the concept to ever let that happen. (Are there stories wholly devoid of gun? Possibly. This is one of the reasons the distinction has always intrinsically favored frock.)

      Reply

      • Lambda
        July 25, 2018 @ 8:56 am

        I was thinking about that. I reckon you could theoretically have a Doctor Who story devoid of gun, but it would need to have no peril or bad guys in it. Which is an interesting idea, but has never actually happened. (Well, maybe the early parts of Black Orchid. Which I don’t think works, but not in a way which suggests it can’t work.)

        I was thinking you could characterise the standard Doctor Who story as “people should be frock, not gun” (hence requiring the presence of both,) with frock stories being where this is easy, and gun stories being where this is hard. And because it’s sometimes easy and sometimes hard, you need both in general. (Though a person might need one far more than the other depending on their personal experiences and needs.)

        I was also thinking it might be a triangle rather than just a continuum. Is Ghost Light frock or gun? I think it’s too busy making commentary on things to be much of either. It’s not about it being easy or hard, it’s about the reasons why.

        Reply

        • mx_mond
          July 25, 2018 @ 10:14 am

          “ I reckon you could theoretically have a Doctor Who story devoid of gun, but it would need to have no peril or bad guys in it.”

          Most of Twice Upon a Time would qualify as well, with the exception of the two soldiers aiming at each other (although this is resolved in a very frocky way) and the RTD (that’s Rusty the Dalek) sequence.

          Reply

        • David Anderson
          July 25, 2018 @ 10:27 pm

          Listen has no peril or bad guys. Although on the surface a lot of it has a decidedly gun aesthetic: as you say, if the standard Doctor Who story is people should be frock not gun, then Listen is the distillation of that.
          That said, while the Doctor’s values obviously include never carrying a gun, I’m not sure they’re pure frock. As I understand it, problem solving – the finding of clever solutions to puzzles – is more of a gun value than a frock value. Robots of Death is as a Christie-style murder mystery a fairly gun story (apart from the art deco aesthetic). One aspect of the Doctor is always going to appeal to the sort of people who think all the world’s problems could be solved by throwing sufficient software engineers at them.

          Reply

  8. Nindokag
    July 23, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

    Wait, fandom doesn’t like The Girl Who Died? I continue to be surprised and baffled every time I find out what “fandom” likes and doesn’t like.

    This is one of my favorite episodes not just of the Capaldi era but of all time. For me it’s the funniest thing since City of Death. I started laughing as soon as Capaldi said he’s not in the mood for Vikings, and barely stopped until the sudden serious turn at the end. Completely lost it when the doctor started giving people nicknames because he couldn’t be bothered to remember their real names.

    Comedy is subjective, sure. If you didn’t laugh, then you didn’t laugh. But I’ll never understand why fandom seems to prefer grim slogs like Caves of Androzani over the comedy ones.

    I loved Flatline and Oxygen too; but never noticed they were all by the same guy. Mathieson is my new favorite writer and I didn’t even know it.

    Reply

    • Homunculette
      July 23, 2018 @ 5:15 pm

      For me TGWD is everything Robot of Sherwood failed to be – it’s actually funny, for one thing, and it actually had a lot of interesting things to say about performance and storytelling.

      It’s interesting that Capaldi got one iteration of this kind of story per season – RoS, TGWD, and Eaters of Light, all of which have similar settings and themes.

      Reply

      • mx_mond
        July 23, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

        In my subjective rankings, those three are somewhere in the top of their respectives seasons, but I never thought to look for similarities between them, thanks for pointing it out!

        Reply

    • ScarvesandCelery
      July 23, 2018 @ 7:50 pm

      It’s less that fandom as a whole doesn’t like “The Girl Who Died”, and more that fandom doesn’t have a lot of love for the episode. There’s no wave of criticism denouncing it as “the worst episode ever”, and most responses are at least mildly positive but it (depressingly) frequently ranks behind the (depressingly actually well received) “Under the Lake/ Before the Flood” on series nine ranking lists.

      Which is a shame, because I think it’s one of the highlights of the Capaldi era.

      Reply

      • homunculette
        July 23, 2018 @ 10:46 pm

        On the bright side, that makes it ripe for reevaluation a few years down the line!

        Reply

        • ScarvesandCelery
          July 24, 2018 @ 3:35 pm

          That is indeed what I’m hoping will happen.

          Reply

    • Przemek
      July 24, 2018 @ 7:37 am

      I have this thing where whenever I notice a work presenting itself as “the funny one” it automatically becomes less funny to me. The key to humour is surprise; if I’m anticipating a joke, its impact is lessened. Which is why I find it hard to e.g. enjoy Terry Pratchett or be over the moon about comedy DW episodes. I much prefer the ones that mix jokes with horror or action, like Moffat’s episodes do.

      Reply

    • Rodolfo Piskorski
      July 29, 2018 @ 12:30 am

      I think some delicious humour in DW can greatly elevate the episode. I remember that I guffawed when first watching Flatline. The tiny TARDIS just tickled my funny bone.
      That and Thin Ice are some of the funniest DW episodes lately.

      Reply

  9. Mark Pompeo
    July 23, 2018 @ 8:57 pm

    In regards to Chibnall not bringing back any of the good Capaldi era writers, paticularly Mathieson and Sarah Dollard (I’m indifferent on Harness. Of his three scripts I give him one A, a B, and a D for grades.), I recall reading it’s because Chibnall is going with a “writers room” approach instead of commissioning scripts to individual writers, not uncommon for TV but new to Doctor Who. So while I’m upset the loss of a couple great writers, maybe a brand new wiring approach will yield a different type of a quality we haven’t seen before. Maybe it will yield even better consistency than the Capaldi era. Holding out hope for sure.

    Reply

    • David Anderson
      July 23, 2018 @ 10:48 pm

      That’s what I’ve heard, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing. The writers’ room model obviously works where you want everyone to be on the same page with season plot and character development. I think Doctor Who works best as an anthology show tied together by the Doctor and companions and season arcs risk being a distraction from what it does well. (In especially grumpy classic series dinosaur moments, I think continuity is a distraction from what Doctor Who does well.)

      Reply

      • Kit
        July 24, 2018 @ 3:21 am

        of course Doctor Who works as an anthology show in a way that almost none have the opportunity to, and very few of those manage successfully. But, typing as someone who has no faith in Chibnall’s writing at all, I’m very pleased that he’s taking a different approach his first time out. It looks like there <is going to be a series arc this year, something which Dr Who has barely managed to pull off once in 37 years of broadcast: this makes sense to cover with a team who are all on the same page, rather than papering over yawping cracks with reshoots and inserts.

        If the collaborative approach fucks up, then Chibnall can obviously try a year of wild abandon, with old and new freelancers, next time. But in a soft reboot with so much publicity to bring a new audience, why not try a new approach while you have the chance? The mantle of showrunner has effectively been lowered upon him – why not have him bring a team he’s comfortable working with along? I don’t hold out high hopes for Chibnall Who to meet my taste, but I’d rather he gets to do what inspires him with the job, than to try and slot into what’s expected onscreen or behind the camera.

        Cartmel threw out all the old writers*, and (for the circumstances) built a exciting stable of brand new people quickly, to results that reinvigorated the show. As El notes here, Moffat took five years to effectively pull together a reliable team, and the fresh blood was welcome. If Chibnall gives us something Who hasn’t typically done before with his new team, great! If it’s a Pertwee-like arc of the Doctor getting a new squad of pals together and trying to get off Earth again, while having lots of grounded-in-real-life RTD-esque vignettes, hey, those have built the audience before, and he’s starting from a diminished position.

        • okay, by the time he got there, the only existing writers were Pip & Jane, but he still tried to throw them out even sooner than immediately.

        Reply

    • mx_mond
      July 24, 2018 @ 7:21 am

      We know Chibnall met with both Dollard and Mathieson, so it’s not that he doesn’t want to bring them back.

      As for the writer’s room, I think he mentioned in one of the Comic-Con interviews that the approach he took is a mix (dare I say… a Hybrid?) of the American writers room and the British method. Until we get more details about it we don’t know precisely how that works, but it seems to indicate that there is some element of the old model present.

      Reply

      • Mark Pompeo
        July 24, 2018 @ 11:25 pm

        Interesting! I hadn’t heard about the “hybrid” portion of his plans. Maybe it could be something like commissioning the initial story ideas and drafts out to freelancers but then a consistent group of ppl editing and honing the scripts instead of just Chibnall.

        Reply

      • Kat
        July 26, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

        Yeah, that was the original rumor but it’s not clear to me that that’s what actually happened. In the Comic Con panel, he said there will be 5 “guest writers,” which implies the same old British freelancing method which has been the case all along, as well as (I’m assuming) meaning that Chibnall is writing the other 5 himself. None of that is 100% confirmed, of course — I’m just reading between the lines.

        Reply

        • Aylwin
          July 27, 2018 @ 12:30 pm

          I had previously missed the fact that there are only going to be ten episodes. So was Ian Levine’s reaction when that news originally came out the inspiration for Trump’s Iran tweet? Or is he affecting not to care these days?

          Reply

          • Przemek
            July 30, 2018 @ 7:53 am

            From Wikipedia: “Episodes will run for an average of 50 minutes each, with the premiere running for 65 minutes”.

  10. Chris C
    July 23, 2018 @ 11:57 pm

    “Fans don’t rate it because there wouldn’t be electric eels there” is the sort of thing a Doctor Who episode can wear as a badge of honour. This episode seems calibrated to frustrate the type of person who fetishised MotoE and Flatline as a more businesslike alternative to NuWho’s status quo – luxuriating in baby-translation, the Doctor talking at length about his feelings, a laid-back plot and comedy climax complete with cartoon logic. It also takes the cheeky step of literalising the gun/frock debate within the story and firmly declaring its own allegiances.

    Actually it’s impressively hardworking all around, feeling engaged with the text of not only Capaldi, Smith and Tennant but even an inflection of The Mind Robber (in the phrasing of Ashildr’s illusory dragon). It’s every bit a dense thesis statement about how Doctor Who rolls in this era, even structurally, as the unassuming romp withdraws to reveal an altogether stranger coda. The final shot of Ashildr is simply not something you can imagine Doctor Who attempting at any time before now.

    This episode is crucial to making Series 9 work and perhaps even Capaldi’s entire tenure, which is what makes its average reputation so simultaneously hilarious and frustrating.

    Reply

    • Mark Pompeo
      July 24, 2018 @ 11:52 pm

      Spot on about the cruciality of this episode to the whole of Season 9! That never really clicked for me until you said it, but yeah the whole second half of the season would take on such a diminished quality if this episode hadn’t gone off so well. I don’t even want to imagine an alternate version of “Face the Raven” where Ashildr/Me never worked as a character because they bungled her intro and setup.

      Reply

      • Rodolfo Piskorski
        July 29, 2018 @ 12:37 am

        Face the Raven would obviously work if they just moved the setting to a Cardiff Rift-hidden sidestreet being run by Jack Harkness and/or Gwen Cooper.

        Reply

    • Tarantulette
      July 26, 2018 @ 10:02 am

      It also taps perfectly into the legacy/notoriety of Kinda. The Mire, embodiments of toxic masculinity, are frightened by a cool-looking CGI snake when it’s really just a cheap puppet. The day is literally saved by Doctor Who’s rubbish effects; the show weaponises those things some might find laughable about it.

      Reply

      • Chris C
        August 3, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

        Oh, that is GOOD. Never thought about that. The need for a special-CGI-edition snake is invalidated by the presence of a young girl’s imagination, transforming the cheap puppet snake. Love it.
        Sounds like it also possesses a little bit of the same DNA as The Rescue.

        Reply

  11. MattM
    July 24, 2018 @ 9:26 am

    I’m in two minds about this episode. I liked most of what people seemed to hate (Ashildur, the silly ending, both were great) but it just didn’t gel for me. I think there was a lot of tonal dissonance in how it was shot (or at least how I remember) – very grey and bleak looking visuals but silly and fun – it should have been bright and colourful surely?

    The Mire looked a bit too clunky. Not quite sure what they were going for with those costumes.

    The biggest issue was that in retrospect it feels a lot like an episode written around having Brian Blessed as the villain, but without Brian Blessed in it. I can honestly imagine it being a fan favourite if things had worked out and they’d got him. There’s lots of space in it for a big lout OTT villain performance, but what we get is a lot more subdued.

    Reply

  12. UrsulaL
    July 24, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

    I wonder about how much of the lack of fan appriciation comes from the fact that this episode is explicitly about a girl? And not just that, they specifically kill off all the manly-men in the first few minutes, and dismiss their virtues as a testosterone excess that makes them only good to be consumed.

    The remaining men are lumped in with the women and children, those who stay home and attend to the domestic. The Doctor even gives one the girl’s name Heidi.

    And making Ashildar, a girl, immortal, is part of Moffat’s clear agenda to shape the show into one where a female Doctor is not only possible, but inevitable. She gives the show a chance to preview what the Doctor’s immortality might look like in a feminine context.

    So those who are uncomfortable with the path to a woman Doctor are going to be uncomfortable here.

    Reply

  13. Daibhid C
    July 25, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

    Past that, there’s not a ton to say about Ashildr here. Her starting point is not what’s interesting about her character

    I guess everybody sees things differently, but for my money “Possibly neuro-atypical Viking puppeteer girl” was much more interesting than “Yet Another Lonely Immortal”. Although I did like the later character as well.

    the conceit of them slaughtering Vikings to drink their testosterone is wonderful

    As the token Worrier About The Science round these parts (and, yes, the electric eels did annoy me, but the sequence was so wonderful I forgave it) it should probably bother me that this doesn’t actually make sense. In fact, I reckon the fact it doesn’t make sense makes perfect sense. Of course a literalisation of toxic masculinity is an entirely pointless act that they do because it’s never occurred to them to question it. What else would it be?

    Reply

    • Rodolfo Piskorski
      July 29, 2018 @ 12:40 am

      Why shouldn’t the eels have been there?

      Reply

      • Tarantulette
        August 13, 2018 @ 3:52 pm

        The logic runs that electric eels are native to South America, and as such should be nowhere near 10th century Scandinavia.

        “Logic”! In Doctor Who! As if! 😉

        Reply

  14. Daru
    July 28, 2018 @ 11:47 am

    “…but it’s a story in which the scary aliens are defeated by telling the right story and then setting the video footage to “Yakety Sax.””

    This is exactly what I love about this story, that obfuscation, turning the narrative that bullies use back upon themselves and using the ridiculous as a weapon were all just sheer brilliance. Then having Ashildr’s fate turn into something potentially monstrous as a cliffhanger was great stuff. perfect Doctor Who for me, and storytelling that makes so much sense in the era that the show is in when it’s not quite the ‘golden child’ ratings wise, but with it having the freedom to buck trends a lot more.

    Reply

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    October 11, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

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