Eruditorum Press

Sneakily taking the hinges off the doors of perception

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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.

34 Comments

  1. Spacewarp
    July 18, 2011 @ 3:05 am

    I've always thought that the success of this era of Doctor Who is down to the fact that Pertwee encapsulated (or possibly created) the archetypal early 70s SF/Fantasy leading man. Compare Tarot from Ace of Wands, Jason King from Department S, or even Jimi Hendrix's on-stage persona from a year before. The public of the time liked their leading men frock-coated, frilly-shirted, and cravatted, and Pertwee reflected the zeitgeist perfectly.

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  2. zapruder313
    July 18, 2011 @ 3:16 am

    Since you rightly point out that the Troughton era often had "the same story in different locations", and since Season Seven has three "scientific installation with mysterious deaths and monsters" stories in a row, I eagerly await your thoughts on Season Eight: "Oh, look, it's the Master. Again."

    I've always regarded The Master as an exercise in profound tedium (alleviated to some extent in the Pertwee era by Delgado's truly charismatic performance), and I'm half hoping against hope for one of your wonderful "have you ever thought about it like this?" moments to redeem the character for me . . .

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  3. Carey
    July 18, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    Hmmm, I'd say that the prime reason for contrasting the two worlds and how what is learnt in one solves (or at least indicates the solution to) the problems of the other is one of humanity and its ability to choose. It is the romantic subplot between Petra and Greg that is important in 'our' world, as it makes Petra question her superiors motives earlier. The suppression of it contributes to the ending of the 'other' world. Similarly, the contrast between Liz Shaw's choice to be a scientist and being drafted into the security services is also a prime motivator. Even Stahlman's decent into a monster is about free will versus determinism, as he is infected by the primordial liquid which removes his ability to choose and makes him hurry the decent all the more.

    I'm surprised you dislike this story, as I do think, even though I agree it isn't the best story of season seven, it does deserve its accolades precisely because it's paean to free will and choice. In the fascist world, there is no choice, and thus the world ends. In ours, we survive because of it, as represented by the catalyst of the Doctor.

    Good review, though.

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  4. Sean Daugherty
    July 18, 2011 @ 4:24 am

    I mostly agree with Carey above. I do think that it's the best of season seven (and of the Pertwee era), and you even hit upon the reason before mostly dismissing it. The central tension (identified by Carey) between free will and choice, illustrated in the difference between the fascist alternate Britain and "our" world gives us one of the few times in the Pertwee era where the characters actually matter.

    Petra, Greg, Sir Keith, Stahlman, the entire supporting cast are all played quite well, as are the series regulars in Pertwee, Shaw, and Courtney. But part of the reason why they carry themselves so well here is because they have a script where they really matter. Indeed, they have a script where they need to matter: the Primords aren't scene-stealing monsters, and the setting is deliberately familiar. The story is about its characters and how they interact and respond to the threat facing them.

    That's a fairly rare approach for Doctor Who throughout the entire classic run, and it's practically the only example in the entire Pertwee era. And in that respect, Inferno is not only an excellent story, but one that presages the show's 2005 revival in a key way.

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  5. David
    July 18, 2011 @ 4:24 am

    It's also perhaps one of Doctor Who's few attempts at the disaster movie set up. The facist world episodes have a tension and desperateness that you don't find elsewhere in the series. The direction of this story is brilliant, as are the actors. I'm usually a script man myself and episode 7 is a let-down after the episodes before it but I do think Inferno is a wonderful exercise in suspense and high stakes. It's extremely watchable and easy to get caught up in it. And, as you've pointed out, Jon Pertwee gives one of his best performances. I can't see why showcasing the range of your lead early into his tenure is a bad thing and I don't quite understand what you're getting at there.

    I prefer The Ambassadors of Death (my favourite Pertwee) but I am a big fan of Inferno. I've never watched the stories in order so under that scrutinu perhaps it is a bit samey but the joy of watching in retrospect is that you can assess a story on its own merits if you like as well as enjoying it in context. On the other hand, I've always found Spearhead rather boring and plotless, especially as the entire story seems to be packed into episode 4.

    I really enjoy reading this blog and I'm impressed you've got this far! I can already tell your take on the Pertwee years is going to be very interesting and entertaining.

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  6. Matthew Celestis
    July 18, 2011 @ 5:20 am

    Yes, Inferno is an overrated story. The fascist world does not really go anywhere and the primords are thrown in just because somebody thought the story needed a monster.

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  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 18, 2011 @ 5:38 am

    But looking through it, the free will argument – though one I should have mentioned in the piece, you're right – doesn't hold up either. Nobody's choices actually matter. After all the buildup of seeing the alternate world, it comes down to the fact that Stahlman happens to emerge from the chamber as a Primord and tip everyone off that they should definitely 100% stop the drilling. If the story were about free will, there would need to be some choice made differently by a character in each world that ends up making the difference.

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  8. Sean Daugherty
    July 18, 2011 @ 6:11 am

    With the utmost respect, I'm not sure I accept your reading of the ending. By that point, we've already seen how the story plays out on the fascistic earth, where, crucially, Stahlmann doesn't have to do anything to ensure the apocalyptic conclusion. He turns into a Primord there, to be sure, but he hardly needs to start attacking the personnel there to ensure that the drilling reaches its point of no return. No one, except the Doctor, seriously attempts to avoid that fate. The Brigade Leader, Section Leader Shaw, and Petra are "just following orders", Sutton clearly disapproves but doesn't dare do anything much more than grouse, and Sir Keith is dead. Stahlmann's regression into a Primord is incidental to the tragedy unfolding.

    That's simply not true back in the "real" world. For one thing, Sir Keith is already on the verge of demanding that the drilling be stopped. He's vacillating a bit, but the outcome seems pretty clear, since even Stahlman's supposed allies (Petra and the Brigadier, mainly) have basically determined that he is at least unstable, if not actively malicious. When Stahlman orders everyone out of the drill room, we're seeing a key difference between the two worlds. Unlike the alternate universe Stahlmann, who only devolves into a Primord after the drill penetrates the crust, "our" Stahlman grabs a handful of slime and basically lathers himself up with up (charming image, that).

    This is, as presented, a deliberate action, borne of frustration. He's lost, or at least believes himself to have lost. His actions in this scene are a hail mary pass: he first tries to prevent anyone from being able to stop the drilling, and then lashes out in primal (literally) anger. Yes, it's the revelation that he's been infected that finally pushes everyone over the edge into stopping the drill. But it's not a decision that comes out of nowhere, and it may not even be a factor at all. After all, it's not like the fact that there are Primords running around is unknown to the characters at this point, and that Stahlman is now one of them doesn't seemingly change the dynamic at all. Sir Keith's order to stop the drilling is a choice of which Stahlman's transformation is, at best, a single factor among many. The choice he makes (and that most of the other characters have made previously) is what separates the "free will" universe from the "fascist" universe, not Stahlman's rampage.

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  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 18, 2011 @ 6:35 am

    Sean – I love your take on the final episode, but I can find little when watching the episode that persuades me that your take was shared by the people making it. Which gets at my point – it's not that Inferno is bad. It's quite watchable. It's just that it has a reputation that seems to me well in excess of its quality. People less love Inferno than they love what Inferno could have been and almost was. Perhaps it only needed a fine tuning, as you suggest, but it definitely needed something.

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  10. Gavin
    July 18, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    I think that these may be some of the reasons why the story is well-remembered.

    1) The actors. But not just their performances. This one comes up whenever they're asked which stories they remember fondly. (Because when an actor says something is good, this tends to mean that he or she is good in it.) This sort of thing pushes a story towards canonization as one of the all-time best. Pertwee selected it as one of his top three for The Pertwee Years, as close to official canonization as one could imagine.

    2) Childhood memory privileges iconic moments over overall plot (see also Tomb of the Cybermen). Especially when striking moments coincide with cliffhangers, as they often do in Inferno. The last two, in particular, are among the best "tune in next week" bits in all of Doctor Who.

    3) The fondly remembered stories are often those that cohere well with other aspects of boys' adventure stories from the period. (I'd argue that, once Verity Lambert goes, DW increasingly becomes not a children's show, but a show for boys. Certainly, most of those who grew up to self-identify as fans were boys.)

    For UNIT (= British soldiers running around shooting at things), the touchstone is the Second World War, whose presence in the imagination of British boys in the '60s and '70s is hard to overstate. (For an American, edit out both superheroes and Westerns and put "Englander schwein!" in their place.) I've enjoyed this blog's connections between Doctor Who and the Top 10, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, alas, Valiant is sometimes a more relevant point of comparison. (For the Troughton era, the Eagle. The Moonbase is pure Dan Dare.)

    And nowhere is WWII more relevant to the Pertwee era than in Inferno.

    4) Much of the nostalgic rhetoric surrounding fond memories of Doctor Who is conservative: the family gathering around the television every Saturday afternoon after the football, just before supper, etc.. (Doctor Who gets namechecked in Life on Mars. This is no accident, I think.)

    Let me quickly stress that I don't mean this as a criticism, just a description. (I loved Life on Mars.)

    Also, this is small-"c" conservative, which is quite compatible with being not just left-wing but (in some ways) very left-wing. A Very British Coup is shot through with this stuff.

    Once again, Inferno coheres well. It's a deeply small-"c" conservative story. (Which, to repeat, doesn't mean it can't be left-wing in some ways. Inferno shares a lot of common ground with The Green Death.)

    One of the main markers of wrongness about the Republic is that it is a republic, that it's killed the Royal Family. As a statement about fascism, this is historically odd. Fascism is notoriously hard to define, but presumably Mussolini's Italy has to count.

    But the Republic isn't just marked as fascist, it's also marked as "post-revolution" (not a specifically Communist one, obviously – a sort of generic revolution or coup), and taps into older Burkean worries that society, absent certain stable "givens", might unravel and people would completely lose their moral bearings.

    For my money, that's what's going on with the Brigade Leader. He seems to me to have little common with the Brigadier beyond his rank, position, and a certain officiousness. In particular, the single most stable component of the Brigadier's characterization is unflappable physical courage.

    Obviously, one doesn't have to agree with the story, but this is what I think its politics are. As such, I tend to think that the final scene raises the possibility that UNIT is the RSF preciselyin order to deny it, and say that the Doctor didn't really mean it. Robert Holmes, I suspect, observed that scene closely. The characterization of the Doctor in Terror of the Autons builds directly off it.

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  11. Sean Daugherty
    July 18, 2011 @ 7:45 am

    Fair enough, although I don't believe that I'm making as great a leap in interpretation as you suggest. And I should correct myself: based on this discussion, I just sat down to watch episode 7, and realized that I wrongly stated above that it was Sir Keith who gave the order to stop the drilling. He doesn't: as he explains, only Stahlman has the authority to issue such an order. It's Petra who intervenes to stop it, and the Doctor and Sutton who manage to halt its momentum.

    It's directly between Sir Keith's admission that he can't override Stahlman and Petra's stopping the machinery that Stahlman attacks, but the scene, crucially, works just as well if Stahlman is left out of the picture entirely, since it literally changes nothing. Petra is already convinced that Stahlman's in the wrong beforehand, and Sir Keith's authority isn't changed afterward. I don't think this is accidental, and I think that's why I don't have the problem that you appear to have with the ending. I suspect we'll just have to agree to disagree here, though.

    And since I didn't say so before, thanks for the excellent review here, and I'm greatly looking forward to your take on the next four Pertwee seasons (probably one of my least favorite periods in the show's history).

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  12. Adeodatus
    July 18, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    I've always thought "Silurians" was by far the best of season 7. There are just too many points in "Inferno" where I want to go and make a cup of tea – because, as you say, it's really just the same story, twice.

    On the endings of this, "Silurians" and "Spearhead": aren't these endings meant to emphasise how trapped the Doctor is on Earth, and how dependent on the Brigadier? "Spearhead"'s finally scene would formerly have been avoided by the Doctor quietly slipping away in the TARDIS before the cleaning-up had to be done. In "Silurians", you know the Doctor is going to have to sacrifice his ethical idealism, because he has no home to go back to except UNIT HQ. "Inferno" underlines this by actually having him attempt to escape with the TARDIS console, only to be humiliated in the attempt. I think the real cop-out is in the next season, where we see the Doctor suddenly much more at ease with UNIT: instead of working through his humiliation on-screen, we're asked to believe he's come to terms with it during the between-seasons break!

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  13. Sean Daugherty
    July 18, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    I'm not sure we should take the final scene where the Doctor compares the Brigadier to the Brigade Leader, and, in that sense, I agree with Gavin that it's raised explicitly to be denied. It's an odd scene, and the Doctor doesn't come of sympathetically.

    Comparing a brutal, immoral fascist like the Brigade Leader to the Brigadier could certainly be played as a stinging indictment of the show's current status quo. That would make sense in at the end of The Silurians, certainly. But look at what presages it here: the Doctor compares the Brigadier to a murdering sociopath because he asks (literally: he's not demanding or ordering) the Doctor to not run off. What a monster! The comparison is, frankly, offensive, and it would have been far more problematic if the Doctor hadn't recanted it almost immediately afterward.

    The story has a rather complex (especially for the Pertwee era) take on authority figures. Obviously, the authority of the RSF is portrayed as a bad thing, but both UNIT and the government representatives in "our" world are deeply problematic, as well. Stahlman is obviously a lunatic, the Brigadier and company are slow to pick up on the danger at hand (as is already becoming a trend, admittedly), and Sir Keith means well, but is basically ineffectual.

    This certainly isn't sharply-barbed criticism of the social order, to be sure. And the end product of comparing UNIT and the UK to the RSF and the RGB is inevitably going to come out in favor of the former. So it is, at least in that respect, an apologia for the status quo. But it's telling, I think, that the two most unambiguously heroic characters (the Doctor and Sutton) are the two characters who are continuously in conflict with authority. Part of that is simply a reflection of the basic premise of the show, but I don't think that's all of it, given how much subsequent episodes will move away from the "countercultural Doctor" motif.

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  14. Sean Daugherty
    July 18, 2011 @ 8:13 am

    Adeodatus: the problem isn't that the Doctor's reactions are unrealistic, and you're right that he's being portrayed as basically dependent on the Brigadier and UNIT for the duration of his exile (though, to be fair, the dependency is mutual, given that UNIT rarely gets portrayed as particularly capable without the Doctor's help).

    The problem (and I think Philip has mentioned this in the past, though I can't remember where) is that the writers are basically putting the Doctor in a situation for which a return to the status quo is unacceptable, or at least unsatisfying. If we see the Doctor as a character for whom genocide is a cardinal sin, one that cannot be forgiven easily, then having him forgive and forget that his current landlords are more than willing to engage in it is deeply unsatisfying. At best, it reduces the Doctor from the near-mythical figure he has been to a deeply cowed and meek pawn who has to sacrifice his principles to the practicalities of his survival on an alien planet. It would be one thing if the show were willing to explore that dynamic, but it never really does.

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  15. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 18, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    Or even, for that matter, to sell that dynamic. The Doctor makes no visible effort to look for anything to do on Earth besides work for UNIT, giving the strong suggestion that it's the most natural thing in the world for him to do. Which is I think what many of the defenses of the Doctor working for UNIT misses. It's not that the Doctor working for the military is unnatural – he's done it repeatedly over the years. It's that the Doctor seeming to seek out the military ahead of other options that seems strange.

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  16. Aaron
    July 18, 2011 @ 8:18 am

    Your analysis of Pertwee's Doctor as basically Pertwee playing himself is really interesting, as is your analysis that this Doctor is rarely, and can only rarely, be pushed into unfamiliar territory. Please please please please do the 3rd Doctor sections of Interference as a Time Can Be Rewritten right before Planet of the Spiders, because what Lawrence Miles is doing with the 3rd Doctor there is directly comparable to this point and is incredibly clever as a lens to see the differences between this era and the more complicated 8th Doctor era. Miles is showing the 3rd Doctor in an environment where his unflappable charm doesn't work, and his inability to deal with the situation like the 3rd Doctor normally does contributes to a sense of alienation that the audience feels along with the Doctor. It's quite brilliant, and it would link in directly to the points you are making here.

    It'd also give you some material to talk about the place of books in Doctor Who fandom, because Miles is trying to subvert the idea that TV is primary canon by showing the books overrule that canon. Anyways, I know you've read it before so I hardly need to repeat what's awesome about it, but I hope that you'll cover it when we get to Dust.

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  17. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 18, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    One thing to say on behalf of Pertwee: he may have been a prima donna, but he could be very generous to the other actors. It's mentioned in several of the commentaries, when one of the other actors would flub their lines slightly, or even just play a scene less well than they wanted to, but slightly enough so that the cost-conscious director would decide to keep filming, and the actors didn't have enough clout to demand a retake, Pertwee would immediately and deliberately flub his own lines so badly that they'd have to reshoot the scene. Also, when the director wanted Liz on the Silurians to go crawling around in the cave in her miniskirt, and ignored her objections, Pertwee insisted that she receive the same caving suit as the other actors.

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  18. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 18, 2011 @ 9:22 am

    Gavin: "Doctor Who gets namechecked in Life on Mars. This is no accident, I think."

    Well, of course the Master is going to remember the Doctor.

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  19. Jesse
    July 18, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    It's that the Doctor seeming to seek out the military ahead of other options that seems strange.

    To be fair, he only falls back on that after trying the alternative option of staying at a luxury hotel and going on quiz shows.

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  20. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 18, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    Jesse wins this thread.

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  21. Bill Reed
    July 19, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    This article really points out a lot of the same flaws I found in Inferno, a story everyone but me loves– and I adore the Pertwee era, in general. But Spearhead and Ambassadors are far better, and more exciting.

    Also, the Primords are stupid.

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  22. Gnaeus
    July 20, 2011 @ 5:44 am

    First-time commenter, but I just want to say how much I'm enjoying reading this blog!

    I'd take a slightly different tack on Inferno, being an avowed fan of it, but not of much of Pertwee – Silurians and Spearhead included (primarily because I think they're not very entertaining).

    I don't think the point of the fascist universe is to contrast with 'our' universe, because I don't think this story is about what you're saying its about. I just don't think it's as complex as all that.

    Rather, what I'd see it as being about is a criticism of aligning oneself ideologically. Stahlmann is obsessed with scientific progress, and it destroys him. The Brigade Leader is obsessed with the concept of the Doctor as an enemy. In the final scene, the Doctor becomes obsessed with the idea of the Brigadier – in each case, reality breaks through abruptly – as transformation into a primord for Stahlmann, as a gunshot wound for the Brigade Leader, and as landing in a rubbish tip for the Doctor.

    It might also be taking the old theme of putting science on a pedestal, but I'm cagey of over interpreting this one.

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  23. wwhyte
    July 23, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

    I think there are two things that make Inferno great that you’re overlooking.

    First, it simply does things differently. The parallel universe where things go wrong is new in Doctor Who, and not very common anywhere (because you need a baseline where the hero usually wins to make this work – so you can find this in serial adventures like comics but not so much in “literature” in general). So points for that.

    But even more, points for simply being scary. You criticize Inferno because it doesn’t draw a clear distinction between what makes the fascist Earth die and our Earth live. But you can turn it around and say, that’s the point. For you, as a person in the UK in the early 70s, where because of nothing you did Germany was defeated, and now America and Russia are facing off with nuclear weapons and could decide to fight a nuclear war and there’s nothing you can do about it, there’s a compelling horror movie to be written about how things just ended up worse because that’s just how they ended up. And Inferno’s that horror movie. The UK just ended up Fascist because it just did. Because things can always be worse and there’s nothing you can do about it. And then the Fascist UK was the site of a project that resulted in the destruction of the Earth. Because things can always be worse and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think that’s the fear that Inferno talks to. Remember, this was just after rivers of blood, the complete antithesis of what Letts stood for (I’m never sure about Terrance Dicks politically, I suspect him of being an old Tory, but Letts’s sympathies are clear). Ted Heath’s government, though bumbling and corporatist, was seen by urban liberals as possible stalking horses for Powellite fascism. So the Fascist UK isn’t a fantasy, it’s something real. And it’s bad. And then things get worse.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about the lack of thematic unity in Inferno, and how that weakens it. But I’d argue that the theme is: thank goodness we’re lucky enough to live in a world where individual people can make a difference, and where a renegade like the Doctor (and I’ll give you everything you’ve said about how the Doctor isn’t actually a renegade in this era, but I’ll ask you to give me that the series wants you to think that he is) is occasionally listened to.

    And, as a powerless 13-year-old boy watching Doctor Who, isn’t that a really powerful message to hear?

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  24. wwhyte
    July 23, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

    Phrased like that, the answer seems obvious – the reason you do that is to play off exaggerated versions of the existing tensions between the Doctor and UNIT.

    To summarize the summary of the summary: no, the reason you do it is because it's scary and real.

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  25. wwhyte
    July 23, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

    The Doctor declares that the Brigadier sometimes reminds him of his other self – i.e. accuses the Brigadier of being in some sense implicitly a fascist. It's a stinging critique, in part because it gets at what should have been the point of the story – what is or isn't the difference between a fascist UNIT and the real one.

    Sorry, doing the multiple commenting thing again. One thing that (Google thinks) you've never brought up in Tardis Eruditorium is It Happened Here, 1966 the mockumentary about Nazi Britain. That's a key piece of British parallel-universe film making, and one I'm sure the Doctor Who team were familiar with. And its point is basically: once the Nazi victory happened, the Brits just shrugged their shoulders, cut their cloth to suit the wind, and got on with it. Parallel-universe Inferno makes most sense seen as a mass-market follow up to that: It Happened Here Too. Just be glad you avoided disaster. Do what you can and hope things turn out okay.

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  26. John Seavey
    December 29, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

    I think my primary source of disagreement with you is that you're looking for one Big Decision that separates the Doctor's world from the Fascist Earth. Instead, it's a series of dozens of tiny, incremental changes; Keith Gold isn't killed and Petra questions Stahlman more and the Doctor is a trusted figure and the Brigadier and Liz both behave as a brake on Stahlman rather than a subordinate to him and…and so on and so on. The reason our world isn't destroyed is because, to sum up, it's just a saner place. There isn't any one Big Obvious Divergence, it just is better everywhere you look.

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  27. John Seavey
    December 29, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

    Oh yes, and my secondary source of disagreement is that you're watching it right after another episode that does similar things (well, not right after…) and saying, "Hmm, this seems a bit like the Silurians at times." Which it may well be, but it's also not like 31 other seasons of Who. 🙂

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  28. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 29, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    Well, sure, but judging by the standards of its time cuts both ways sometimes.

    I mean, I'm not saying the story is rubbish. It's not The Monster of Peladon or anything. But it's got a bizarrely over-inflated reputation. It's not Monster of Peladon. But it's not a massive classic either. As I said. It's not even obvious this is the best story of its season. It's a fine story. But its reputation is, I think, genuinely puzzling.

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  29. tantalus1970
    January 23, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    I'd agree that it's over-rated and that it's over-rated because people remember the idea rather than the actual 7 episodes (which go on forever IMO). It's not bad, but not that good. Essentially, it's a B-movie at nearly twice the length.

    However, although the regulars cited this story as a favourite, I'm not sure the supporting cast were having such a blast. The original director, Douglas Camfield, who cast them, and was Sheila Dunn's husband, had a heart attack partway through the filming and the studio sequences for the later episodes were directed by Letts. I suspect the strength of their performances was more due to the stress of not knowing whether Camfield was going to be OK.

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  30. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 10, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    Philip Sandifer:
    "what do we get? Another scientific installation with mysterious deaths and monsters."

    This latest time around, I watched "SPEARHEAD" and went straight to the sequel, skipping all 3 7-parters.

    "Put another way, nothing whatsoever that the Doctor learns in the course of the four episodes spent in the alternate universe matters in the slightest when it comes to saving the real world. The four episodes dealing with the fascist alternate Earth only pad out the story. They have no consequences."

    I think that has always annoyed me. They drag out the alternate Earth thing for 4 WHOLE long painful episodes, right to the final moment when "Everybody dies!!!!!", and then, in episode 7, there's no call for it.

    "INFERNO", as it happens, was the 1st WHO TV story I actually managed to see every episode of. (I missed "AMBASSADORS" parts 4-6, but did catch the ending.) Since it started the Pertwee run on PBS in the 80's (right after Davison's 3rd season, if memory serves), when only half his stories turned up, this means I've probably seen it more than any other Pertwee story. Future video playbacks may make up for that eventually.

    "John does brilliantly, but as turns out to be the effective epitaph for her character, she was wasted on the part."

    I really liked her as a character (in principle, anyway), as in my younger days, I admired "intelligent" women more than the airheaded screamers. Betts & Dicks would later cast her as "Laura Lyons" in their version of "HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES". A great scene is when Sherlock Holmes (Tom Baker) informs her "You've had a VERY CLOSE brush with death", as it turns out the mans who befriended her is actually the story's murderer. (Her character was actually killed in the Ian Richardson version a bit later, but she was played by a different actress in there. In that one, Laur'a husband, the artist, "Jeffrey" was framed for her murder. He was played by Brian Blessed! I just love anything with a Holmes connection in it.)

    "eventually the idea was hit upon that playing the Doctor as Jon Pertwee might work. (Pertwee, by all accounts, found this to be a tremendous acting challenge.)"

    FUNNY. Troughton, a "character" actor, played it with a lot of humor, while Pertwee, a "comedy" actor, played it deadly serious too much of the time. I didn't start to like him until he began to "lighten up".

    Right after "INFERNO", Pertwee crossed paths with Geoffrey Bayldon in "THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD". Also with John Bennett, and Ingrid Pitt. Va-va-voom!

    Don Houghton, meanwhile, would reunite Peter Cushing with HIS "Master", Christopher Lee, in "DRACULA A.D. 1972" and its sequel, "THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA". The latter, especially, had an "espionage thriller" feel to it, and feature future AVENGERS girl Joanna Lumley! (Va-va-voom!)

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  31. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 10, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    Something no one's mentioned that has always bothered me about this story, frankly, is its premise. We're supposed to believe that just because someone drills a hole thru the Earth's crust, that this awful green stuff will come oozing out, people will turn into werewolves, and, further, earthquakes will happen, molten magma will begin pouring out, and, the WHOLE PLANET will be destroyed. Over ONE small hole?

    I could almost see a section of England destroyed, but not the entire planet…

    Reply

  32. Andrew McLean
    November 3, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    I'm very fond of this story, and indeed of season 7 as a whole, which is the strongest era of Pertwee's Doctor.

    One thing about the free will discussion struck me when I was doing my own "watch all the stories in order" a few years back, as they were being shown on UKTV in Australia (which I also took as an excuse to track down various Virgin & BBC books I hadn't read, inserting them at the correct points).

    When Pertwee is in the alternate universe he muses: "So free will isn't an illusion." This struck me as having a greater relevance to the series as a whole, not just this story. It came across to me as his personal revelation contrasting with the much-quoted line from The Aztecs – that history could indeed be changed, that every choice mattered and contributed to shaping the world.

    Reply

  33. orfeo
    October 20, 2013 @ 12:12 am

    "See, in order to get the two universes thing to work, the story has to hinge on the difference between the two worlds."

    Well, it does. As much as anything, it hinges on the extra time before penetration of the crust. That extra time doesn't result from anything we see, it hinges on all the tiny little differences BEFORE we ever see the parallel world. The differences that have created more caution and more questioning even with the over-the-top Professor in charge. The differences that mean dissension can't be met with overt threats of death.

    And that extra time matters now because it gives more time for a whole host of characters to do a little more questioning, be a little more troubled.

    "If the story is going to have the Doctor fail to save the fascist world then save the real world…"

    I think you go wrong in trying to find a meaningful difference between the two worlds because you think it has to be about the Doctor learning things and saving things, and so your search for a difference is focused on the Doctor. But the Doctor didn't create the difference in the course of the drilling that already exists. There's no evidence that he's the cause of the drilling in 'our' world going more slowly.

    Reply

  34. FlyingSquirrel
    November 5, 2019 @ 7:06 pm

    I’m late to the party, but I think part of what makes this serial stand out for me is the nobility of the “good guys” in the fascist universe. We’re used to seeing heroic characters who sacrifice their own lives for friends and family, or to “save the world” in some sense. But “the world” for the alternate versions of Petra, Liz, and Greg is doomed, and so are they – and they know this. And yet they still spend their last moments alive doing everything they possibly can to help the Doctor get back to his own universe. They’re not dying to save themselves, their friends, their family, or even their world – but alternate versions of themselves in a different universe that none of them will ever see. Granted, they’re all going to die either way, but still, that’s a level of courage and selflessness beyond what we’ve simply come to expect from what I’d call the Doctor Who formula.

    On the free will point, I think there’s (whether intentional or not) some irony in the fact that the choices of the characters in the fascist universe – namely helping the Doctor survive and return home – are arguably more important than any single decision made by anyone in the democratic universe. I take the point that Stahlman ultimately destroys his own credibility by turning into a monster, but would the rest of his team have been as prepared to act against him without the Doctor, Sir Keith, the UNIT crew, and others raising doubts along the way? Also, doesn’t the Doctor warn them about a certain pipe being on the verge of exploding or something when he first returns? (It’s been a while since I’ve watched this serial.)

    Reply

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