Eruditorum Press

The Coalition of Chaos

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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.

35 Comments

  1. Lewis Christian
    March 29, 2013 @ 12:37 am

    If someone can re-arrange the entry to 'normal', it'd be appreciated. Until then, I'm sure this is another top quality piece, Philip 🙂

    Reply

  2. Scott
    March 29, 2013 @ 1:04 am

    Actually, compared to some of Phil's experiments with the form (I'm looking at you "Interference" article), this one's comparatively straightforward.

    A hint to help things along, though; picture a snake eating its own tail.

    Reply

  3. Phil
    March 29, 2013 @ 1:24 am

    This is what 'normal' looks like for this entry, though. It's clearly been written as a loop, with no fixed beginning or end, but is otherwise completely linear.

    Reply

  4. J Mairs
    March 29, 2013 @ 1:40 am

    “Unless the decision to have Davison’s character be the only one of the three pseudo-Doctors to contribute nothing whatsoever to the plot resolution and the decision to have Baker’s character be the evil one are actually deliberate swipes at their eras, in which case we’re back to the problem of the audio being breathtakingly mean spirited.”

    But this is why it’s so brilliantly funny. Townshend, Tepesh and Winkle are obvious mirrors of the Doctor.

    Each is a savage deconstruction of their era –

    Townshend, who comes across as spiteful and unfeeling because he doesn’t acknowledge the need for his niece to mourn the death of her father (and his brother) which is a sly joke about the Ainley Master, Planet of Fire, and the fact that, as you kept pointing out, Nyssa . His curiosity leads to the death of everyone around him. Frankly, I think they missed an obvious opportunity when he ripped open that rift – now he’ll never know if he was right!

    Tepsesh – codified thoroughly as a villain, yet is the hero. Potentially abusive relationship with Ouida – and he his throttling of Rassilon is… well… another era injoke.

    Winkle, the children’s entertainer who is thrust into a world of eldritch abominations, who is made the victim of a world-ending scheme only to reveal at the last minute he’d already had a plan that scupper's the villain's machinations. The man who stepped out his box to die (in a suit he had made for his death, no less!) – and who oversees the end of the universe. If you fight like animals, you’ll die like animals!

    The timeline created by Rassilon is essentially the show’s history – and the entire story is about moving past the TV show. Embrace the divergent forms of DW media and all their glorious contradictions and accept that there is no longer one single master narrative of what Doctor Who is anymore.

    Zagreus rips Doctor Who to shreds using it’s own continuity references, and each of the Doctors are deconstructed as inadequate, ineffectually, same with the available eras on show – but then it puts the show back together again and reafirms we love it so much: Because the one thing we never do is we never ever give up!

    Now my fannish moment: The Divergence are a different type of history, so as you point out, link back to the War in Heaven arc — however they no longer full under the scope of Rassilon’s evolution experiments. Well, the Daleks are the “final evolved form” of the Kaleds, and are distinctly non-humanoid so Davros obviously managed to circumvent Rassilon/The Time Lord’s status quo – the Daleks are connected to the Divergence. Free Will is not a possibility… All universes will converge into one…

    Reply

  5. Ross
    March 29, 2013 @ 2:27 am

    The story flirts with deciding that Doctor Who is really Carrollian before having Romana declare it all a lot of nonsense.

    If it were properly Carrollian, the narrative would just look at Romana and say "Yes. Yes it is. Tea?"

    Reply

  6. elvwood
    March 29, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    On the typo front, I like the idea of a story called Auld Morality…

    Reply

  7. elvwood
    March 29, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    The title "Chronic Hysteresis" was a clue to the form, and I just ran with it. These format experiments usually add a little spice to an entry, and – even though this was about as simple as you can get – it put me in a good mood to start reading. Though it turned out the entry was much more interesting than its subject! (To me; I know Jane will disagree here.)

    Reply

  8. J Mairs
    March 29, 2013 @ 3:46 am

    “Unless the decision to have Davison’s character be the only one of the three pseudo-Doctors to contribute nothing whatsoever to the plot resolution and the decision to have Baker’s character be the evil one are actually deliberate swipes at their eras, in which case we’re back to the problem of the audio being breathtakingly mean spirited.”

    …But this is the point of Townshed, Tepesh and Winkle. Each of them is a savage deconstruction of their Doctor. They’re taking to pieces, savaged with their own continuity and then it slowly reaffirms why we still like them so much.

    I think you’ve got the angle on this story all wrong – I never got the sense that it was “spitting in the face” of the other ranges, in fact I think this is a pretty direct commentary on the state of Doctor Who at that time.
    Rassilon’s history is the history of the show, right down to McCoy’s Doctor overseeing it’s end. Ultimately, Zagreus concludes that we have to put this behind us, accept that it’s never coming back, and we have to embrace the divergent forms which the show is now taking.
    They wanted to do something radical with their story – and throw McGann into an entirely new universe, the biggest shakeup to the DW status quo since the Pertwee Era – having a line in the story making it clear that the other stories are still able to go off in their own directions “each real and primary to their inhabitants” and “sharing moments” is no more mean-spirited than when the Star Trek reboot stopped for about a minute to pat their fans on the head and assure them that this was an alternative continuity.

    Also – fannish moment ahoy! It’s very easy to connect the Divergence to the Enemy HOWEVER!! It’s made clear that thanks to Rassilon’s template, the intended development for all lifeforms is humanoid…. But Davros re-engineered the Daleks to be the Kaled’s final evolutionary form and they are distinctly non-human.

    All timelines coalesce into one…

    Reply

  9. jane
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:11 am

    The form also sums up the structure of the Divergent Universe, an Eternal Return of "revolution stories."

    Reply

  10. elvwood
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    Good point – and once again it makes me sorry that Philip's stopping before The Natural History of Fear. "Dormir comme un sabot", and all that. I think I'll say some stuff about that one in the post on The Creed of the Kromon. That'll stop me being entirely bilious there…

    Reply

  11. Jesse
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back…

    Reply

  12. jane
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:40 am

    When you put it like that, you make Zagreus sound like the Timelash of Big Finish. But Zagreus is so much better! Because it has a fusion of polarities — it's not just going for the deconstruction and leaving it there, it then reconstructs and actually launches into something new. And there's a lot that's new here, from the old stalwarts playing new parts, to the Divergent universe and jettisoning of prior continuity, to the emerging love story between Charley and the Doctor and their escape into a new Universe.

    Oh, Charley. Phil's right that this part of the story is not fleshed out well at all, but that's entirely due to how poorly she's been characterized over the past couple years. She's the Edwardian Adventuress, and that's pretty much it. But when you've got decent performers playing the parts, you automatically get more dimensionality. It's to India Fisher's credit that Charley comes off as well as she does, and it's a damn shame that BF didn't have the guts to continue this storyline, bringing in the wretched C'Rizz to drown this aspect of the relationship before it could flourish.

    I'm a bit surprised there's no commentary on the ancient Greek myth of Zagreus. He's an alchemical god, born of Zeus (above) and Persephone (below) who captures animals rather than killing them. And yet Zagreus isn't a singular god — he is likened to both Hades and Dionysus. Zagreus is put in the care of the Titans, who surprise him by showing his likeness in a mirror. Zagreus assumes many forms in trying to escape; as a bull, he's caught and rendered into pieces, which the Titans eat — except for the heart, rescued by Persephone and delivered to Zeus. Zeus eats the heart and becomes past, present and future in one, a snake eating its tail with the power to smite the Titans. Their ashes are used to form mankind.

    And so the alchemy proceeds anew, light and dark fused. Which is what, I think, the BF story shoots for, even if they don't quite have the chops to fully pull it off. But they do have Davison, Baker and McCoy re-enacting the dark shadows of the Doctor, and they linger like Jedi-ghosts at the end, giving a tacit blessing to their latest incarnation before he goes off on his Orphic journey.

    Reply

  13. jane
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:43 am

    Yes, Natural History really deserves some attention, and Caerdroia, too.

    Reply

  14. William Whyte
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:44 am

    Good to hear about your future plans. Looking forward to the Pertwee book and Rose entries, and good luck with the site migration.

    I'll gladly contribute to the Kickstarter for the second edition of the Hartnell book if you finally cover It Happened Here…

    Reply

  15. Aaron
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:59 am

    This. Exactly this.

    "Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk"

    Reply

  16. Daniel Tessier
    March 29, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    I'll be buying the Hartnell 2nd edition primarily to read your views on 'A Big Hand for the Doctor.' I presume it won't be very favourable.

    Reply

  17. Andrew Hickey
    March 29, 2013 @ 6:22 am

    He caun ne'er be bothered but maun e'er be waked. If there is a future in every past that is present Quis est qui non novit quinnigan and Qui quae quot at Quinnigan's Quake! Stump! His producers are they not his consumers? Your exagmination round his factification for incamination of a warping process. Declaim!

    Joyce was clearly writing about Zagreus…

    Reply

  18. Scott
    March 29, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    "Ultimately, Zagreus concludes that we have to put this behind us, accept that it’s never coming back, and we have to embrace the divergent forms which the show is now taking."

    Oh, the irony.

    Reply

  19. Ununnilium
    March 29, 2013 @ 7:11 am

    For all that the wilderness years brought us tremendous innovations in Doctor Who, we’re left with this basic problem: they were built on sand.

    I don't know – it seems like the Virgin years had their own thing going, at least for a while there, while Paul Cornell was setting a positive direction.

    Reply

  20. Ununnilium
    March 29, 2013 @ 7:13 am

    Also, speaking of epics: I remember seeing a summary of this story years ago, and thinking it seemed like a lot of comic book stories that want to be epic but end up producing a story where the VAST HUGE STAKES end up entirely self-contained, affecting nothing but this single story, leaving no place for anyone else to hook in, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

    Reply

  21. Andrew Hickey
    March 29, 2013 @ 7:20 am

    Basically, yes. Zagreus isn't about anything, in any real way. There's no story there at all. And it's a shame because the 'villain trilogy' that led up to it was pretty great (well, except for the last part of Master, which was the worst kind of fanwank, but the first three-quarters of it was superb).

    Reply

  22. Ross
    March 29, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    At least in part, I think one of the things that motivated both the Divergent Universe arc in Big Finish and the Amnesia arc in the EDAs is a creeping fear of being irrelevant. They both wanted their own way of saying "Doctor Who is ours now. We can do a Big Irreversible Thing That Changes It Forever, and then no one else will ever be allowed to ignore us because they will have to work forward from the new status quo we established."

    Ironically, as we all know, it did exactly the opposite.

    Reply

  23. Phil
    March 29, 2013 @ 8:38 am

    The second stretch of the wilderness years basically consists of people milling around and arguing about how to get out of the wilderness, while ignoring the fact that Paul Cornell had already drawn them a perfectly good map.

    Reply

  24. Ununnilium
    March 29, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    Indeed. And then it turns into the Blair Witch Project, only it ends in a deus ex machina where a man shows up and shouts "Run!" and all the characters pile into a blue box. The final shot is the camera lying on the ground as the box disappears.

    Reply

  25. J Mairs
    March 29, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

    "Basically, yes. Zagreus isn't about anything, in any real way."

    Sure – if you ignore the fact that it is setting up the Divergent Universe saga, which of course, was intended to go on for much longer than it did. 🙂

    Reply

  26. Andrew Hickey
    March 29, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

    Setting up another (dreadful) series of stories doesn't mean that Zagreus, itself, is actually about anything.

    Reply

  27. J Mairs
    March 29, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

    "When you put it like that, you make Zagreus sound like the Timelash of Big Finish. But Zagreus is so much better! Because it has a fusion of polarities — it's not just going for the deconstruction and leaving it there, it then reconstructs and actually launches into something new. And there's a lot that's new here, from the old stalwarts playing new parts, to the Divergent universe and jettisoning of prior continuity, to the emerging love story between Charley and the Doctor and their escape into a new Universe."

    Sowi! I wrote a longer post that was a lot clearer on this point, but when I came back to read the site it hadn't posted… so I knocked this one up: I certainly didn't mean to make Zagreus sound like Timelash 😛

    And your right about the games it plays with continuity: this story is often criticized for it's liberal quoting of other stories – but it's pretty telling that the only characters who speak in references are Townshend, Tepesh and Winkle, the three facsimiles of the Doctor, so there is a rule there that the story takes care not to break.

    "I'm a bit surprised there's no commentary on the ancient Greek myth of Zagreus."

    I was gonna – but I thought I should leave it for you. 😉

    I agree with you though that Zagreus was never provided the mythological clout he deserves, and actually becomes a more powerful figure when he pops up in The Next Life, when he actually gets to live inside your head, and gets to live amongst the dead and eat you when your sleeping.
    (Although I have to say I did like the conceit that he could be the Doctor or the TARDIS, but only one at a time.)

    This story also kind of simplifies the dynamic which Miles set on the the DW universe back in "Rational Planet" into Apollonian/Dionysian dualism, and the actual character of Zagreus himself had plenty of potential to be BF's Sabbath-like figure – particularly in The Next Life, a Doctor from an irrational universe, but I think the script ultimately misses the chief appeal of the Doctor and ultimately sets him as too intrinsically linked to Rassilon's Master Narrative.

    Zagreus is still in the top three of my DW Eldritch Abominations though – even if all his potential was squandered and mostly because of what you point out, just what the story of Zagreus was supposed to be and just how great an idea that could have been – and for me that is the ultimate problem with the story Zagreus: there was no pay-off that was worth it.

    Reply

  28. Aaron
    March 29, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    I know this is probably a discussion for Monday, but I don't really get why the divergent universe arc is all that bad. I mean, yes, the concept of no time makes absolutely no sense, and is frequently contradicted by nearly everything in the stories. But the stories themselves are quite good. Scherzo and Natural History of Fear are probably among the best Doctor Who stories in any medium, and I personally think Caerdrioia's a classic as well. Plus, the Last and Faith Stealer are generally well liked, and the worst you can say about Creed of the Kromon is that it's pretty generic. It actually strikes me as a very string run of stories. I'd take it over everything Big Finish has done since the Kingmaker, with the singular exception of Death In the Family.

    Reply

  29. jane
    March 29, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

    Despite the disappointing ramifications of Kromon, the Divergent Universe makes a bold step into a unified set of stories that plays to one of Who's classic strengths: Revolution. These are all revolutionary stories, in a revolutionary universe, and it's kind of exciting — especially when that line of storytelling has kind of fallen off the radar in the Revival.

    Natural History is quite simply brilliant. Twilight's weak, but it's central conceit is another hint of the Ouroboros structure of the Divergence. Faith and The Last are solid, and then there's Caerdroia, which manages to slip in a great character study of the Doctor into the mix, and is funny as hell.

    And yeah, The Next Life isn't all that special, another bog-standard epic to wrap things up, but at least it's weirdly prescient of the themes that are about to emerge on another Island, on the other side of the pond.

    Reply

  30. Steven Clubb
    March 29, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    "Instead we get the unsettling realization that in order to do a two-season run of McGann stories with no classic monsters and strange new settings Big Finish really believed they needed to do a big continuity wipe and shunt the Doctor into an alternate universe. Instead of, you know, just doing a run of innovative, exciting stories."

    ***

    I think this is the kind of thinking that ends up being the bane of far too many publishers. It's like they recognize that they're not living up to the potential of their properties, but instead of sitting down and thinking "how can we make this better?" they opt for a big grand gesture… in the hopes that their creators will rise up to the challenge.

    DC Comics has pretty much fallen victim to this every decade since 1985. Instead of building on what is working, they go for some big, grand universe altering cross-over event that is supposed to make everything right and provide the groundwork for genius to be built upon… which only achieves the random success here and there across their line as the handful of truly creative people on their payroll create exciting wonderful stuff… while everyone else continues to make the exact same mistakes that made the Big Grand Gesture necessary in the first place.

    So Big Finish saddles the Eighth Doctor with a novel idea that, if released today, would have been a tightly plotted trilogy that came up with stories that made good use of the "there is no time" mandate of the Divergent Universe. And while there's some genuinely good stories in it, which make good use of the idea of time as something quite strange and alien, the saga is filled out with the usual sort of adventures which could have easily taken place in the regular universe.

    Sort of like the E-Space Trilogy, which tried to get some drama out of the Doctor being trapped in an alternate universe where he's forced to wander around having random adventures and… oh, wait, it's exactly the same damn thing he does in the regular universe… guess it's time to go back home now 🙂

    Reply

  31. J Mairs
    March 30, 2013 @ 1:51 am

    "Setting up another (dreadful) series of stories doesn't mean that Zagreus, itself, is actually about anything."

    Um, yeah it does. "Setting up another series of stories" is something.

    Plus it's fannishly about the DW Universe, and the previous eras of the show, continuity , memory and identity. Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it isn't about anything.

    Reply

  32. elvwood
    March 30, 2013 @ 6:10 am

    I am firmly of the opinion that the main problem with Zagreus is the length. If it had been a regular 2-CD offering and tightened up accordingly, it might make it as high as my audio mid-list; as it is, it languishes near the bottom, above only Creed of the Kromon and a few that I found hard to stomach such as Nekromanteia and Minuet in Hell. Having said that, Philip's comment about it lasting four hours made me realise that there is one TV serial of very similar total length: The War Games.

    Detractors of each suggest that the story is nothing but a pointless runaround for the first 90% of the time, as the Doctor and friends struggle against the schemes of a villain who turns out to be an evil member of the Doctor's own people. This is then followed by the only meat, as the Doctor is exiled by the Time Lords, sent (on his own) to a place where he can cause no trouble. In fact he will meet an old friend there, and make a new one, but that's not part of this story.

    This isn't surprising, really, as the forward-looking "purpose" of each story is the same, and this bit is effectively an epilogue in each case. What makes me a supporter of The War Games but not Zagreus is the 90% that comes earlier. J Mairs and Jane have crystallised what I was feeling about Townshend, Tepesh and Winkle, which does help a little; and I never got the swipe at the EDAs because I wasn't following them. But it just goes on, and on, with not enough of a plot to sustain my interest. Maybe if it had been broken up into smaller episodes it would have helped.

    Incidentally, Philip, did you ever hear the "making of Zagreus" bit on the Living Legend freebie? A lot of it is the actors chatting, but Gary Russell and Alan Barnes do get to say a bit about what they were thinking, and why they didn't go for a traditional "meeting of the Doctors" storyline. Though Nick Briggs is going for just that with The Light at the End (and comments have made it clear that this decision is at least partly because of the backlash against Zagreus).

    Reply

  33. Daibhid C
    April 9, 2013 @ 7:06 am

    what is really telling about Zagreus is its basic premise: a multi-Doctor fortieth anniversary story that declines to have all the Doctors in it. The basic deferral of desire implicit in this just feels mean. “We know what you’re here for, and here’s something that’s conspicuously not it.” Yeesh.

    In the spirit of Hanlon's Razor ("Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity"), it's possible that Big Finish took the maxim "Give the audience what they want, but not what they expect", and just happened to horribly misjudge it.

    Under this interpretation, they thought what the audience wanted was McCoy, Baker, Davison and McGann in one story, and what they'd was that this meant Yet Another Multi-Doctor Story. They didn't realise that the target audience wanted Yet Another Multi-Doctor Story, or at least something that was closer to one than this.

    Reply

  34. Daibhid C
    April 9, 2013 @ 7:08 am

    Oh, should add, I haven't heard the "Making of" although I do have that CD kicking around somewhere, so if I'm just repearing what they said at the time…

    Reply

  35. Daibhid C
    April 9, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    …Aaand just noticed the word "expect" seems to have been swallowed up by HTML tags in the phrase "and what they'd expect was…"

    Reply

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