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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. Sheโ€™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.


  1. Simon Cooper
    June 6, 2012 @ 12:11 am

    Are you going to be covering "Peri And The Piscon Paradox" and what it tells us about her character and her fate(s)?


  2. Spacewarp
    June 6, 2012 @ 12:54 am

    Two Part 4's?


  3. David Anderson
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:13 am

    Robert Holmes wrote Jo's first story. And he basically used one of the standard formulas for introducing a new character, which is 'new character appears useless and then turns out competent after all'. Whether it was Letts/Dicks' idea or just Holmes to do that I suppose we don't know. And then Holmes makes the skill Jo turns out to have escapology, which must be the single most useful skill a companion could have, a symbol of how Jo works in the series, and a headache for all other Doctor Who writers trying to be lazy.
    Peri, sadly, had none of that. And given that Holmes was there at her second story, and first as a recognised companion, he could have done something about it.


  4. nimonus
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:14 am

    Is it me, or does this entry seem like a mixed-up jumble of bits from all the Trial entries? You refer back to the Mysterious Planet entry . . . in the Mysterious Planet entry.

    And then the next question is . . . is this deliberate?


  5. David Anderson
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:17 am

    One of them belongs to Mindwarp. The other belongs to either The Mysterious Planet or possibly the Ultimate Foe: it would be too tidy if it's The Ultimate Foe.


  6. nimonus
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:19 am

    I mean, jumping back and forth between past, present, and future fits Trial nicely, but it wasn't half confusing to read ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Andrew Hickey
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:45 am

    I'm going to second the comment on Peri And The Piscon Paradox. You simply NEED to cover this story — at the very least in the book version — for what it does with the issues Peri's character raises.


  8. Lewis Christian
    June 6, 2012 @ 3:35 am

    "but for God's sake, how do you make it a year into working on a season long plot arc and not have the ending worked out yet?"

    Ask Steven Moffat ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Just kiddin'. But I agree. And I love your analysis of this story. Bob-on.


  9. Nick Smale
    June 6, 2012 @ 3:44 am

    I'm sure it's deliberate. Phil's written an entry as chronologically confused as the story he's analysing. Makes me look forward to seeing what he comes up with next year, when we get to Moffat…


  10. Silent Hunter
    June 6, 2012 @ 3:55 am

    Robert Holmes wrote 17 stories for the show – most of them are classics. He's a great loss to the Whoniverse.


  11. jane
    June 6, 2012 @ 4:54 am

    Part 1
    Part 8
    Part 14
    Part 4?


  12. Adam Riggio
    June 6, 2012 @ 6:00 am

    I maintain that The Wedding of River Song was absolutely in the spirit of Doctor Who. Think back to the recurring themes of how the show gets out of narrative collapse (And what bigger narrative collapse of the show can there be but the death of its protagonist, the one with his name on the title?). A narrative collapse is an event that forces the show into a choice, where all the choices set before it will destroy the means by which it exists: the rules of the situation themselves dictate inevitable destruction. And one of the central characteristics of the Doctor is that he doesn't play by the rules.

    Just like what Phil writes here: the Doctor is opposed to rules for the sake of rules. Where rules lead you only to destruction, you break them. That's what the Doctor does in The Wedding of River Song: he plays a trick, and breaks the rules.

    Of course it feels like a cheat. That's because it is! It's the nature of the Doctor to cheat when playing by the rules leads to destruction. Think of the chess game with Fenric coming up later. It's ridiculous for the pawns to team up against their own kings. It's ridiculous in chess, but it's just the sort of thing to work in real life. And remember The Ribos Operation. Of the three analogues of the Doctor in the story — Romana, Garron, and Binro — Binro the heretic is the most genuine. Romana reflects his arrogance and ego, Garron his mercurial anarchism, albeit without direction, and Binro his kindness, dedication, and opposition to useless, backward, unjustifiable rules. Any rule that leads to your own destruction is pretty unjustifiable if you ask me.

    That's the spirit of Doctor Who and Robert Holmes both.


  13. C.
    June 6, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    "Mysterious Planet" (the non-trial bits) is like a folk memory of what "old" Who was like, but with the life drained out of it. It's so damned joyless. It's the past of the show appearing as dessicated husks: Tom Chadbon—once a riotous piece of comic relief in "City of Death," now a dull, anemic-looking supporting character with utterly no internal life. Or the classic Holmes double-act reduced to a groaning, awful kids-morning-show skit: the irritating twits who help the robot.

    Trial is by far my least favorite Who season of all—it's the bungled suicide of the show, acted out in slow motion. The trial sequences in particular are like a form of un-art: they are appalling, witless, poorly acted, incomprehensible.

    that said, i'm greatly looking forward to the rest of your take on it.


  14. Simon Cooper
    June 6, 2012 @ 8:37 am

    If you tried submitting a screenplay or novel which ended with "and he wasn't dead, he was a robot all along" it would hit the rubbish bin so fast it'd probably catch fire on the way down.


  15. Matthew Blanchette
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    Will we get to Moffat, though? Phil's been surprisingly ambivalent on whether he wants to cover this up to the new series… :-/


  16. Matthew Blanchette
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    But it was set up at the midway point! Unless you missed the season half-mark, that's a very poor analogy…


  17. Matthew Blanchette
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    I quite enjoyed it.


  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    No I've not! My plan has always been to stop when I catch up with the series. That is, when there are no episodes of Doctor Who left to cover, I will end the blog then. So as of right now, the end point would be Good as Gold. Though as I've now got a post schedule out to January (The TV Movie is set to be covered on Boxing Day) in practice we can safely assume that I'll cover at least to the 50th anniversary episode.


  19. Adam Riggio
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    Any screenplay at all yes, but this is Doctor Who, and so gets weirdly meta-textual. The Doctor wasn't just cheating his friends, the Silence, and the recorders of the universe's history. He was cheating the viewers' expectations of how a television show itself would go. The whole season was seeded with images of duplicates, clones, and doppelgängers that the fakeout was subtly foreshadowed. But the Doctor being a robot duplicate he was controlling himself was such an old bait-and-switch for anyone with any televisual literacy that it would have been unexpected. It was so stupid, we didn't expect it coming from someone as clever as Steven Moffatt. So Moffatt was clever enough to do something we never would have expected him to do: the most stupid cop-out imaginable.

    Granted, it does leave Moffatt in danger of vanishing so far up the rectum of self-reflexivity that it risks becoming intensely dangerous for the show itself. I remember Phil discussing how he saw some tendencies in the Moffatt era that could become serious problems in the future. And I think this was one of them.

    Also, Moffatt only had to submit the script to himself, so the chances of it actually going in the bun were slightly lower than average.


  20. Alan
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    IMO, the genius of the WoRS resolution was that the idea of the shapeshifting, time-traveling Tessalecta had been staring at us with a big smirk ever since "Let's Kill Hitler," and no one saw it because we were all distracted by the shiny red herring of the Doctor's ganger-clone from "The Rebel Flesh." My only complaint about the resolution was that it undermines "The Waters of Mars" if the Doctor could have just rescued everyone, deposited them 1000 years in the future with fake IDs, and said "never tell anyone who you are or the universe will implode." Still, I can almost forgive it by Dorian's suggestion that it wasn't really a "fixed point" in time but just a "still point" that the Silence was trying to make into a "fixed point," and that gives me just enough wriggle room to let it pass. We'll see how it plays out going forward.


  21. Alan
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    While it's true that Jo and Sarah Jane were technically the only two single Earth females to travel alone with the Doctor prior to Peri, that analysis requires you to treat K-9 as a companion equivalent to Jamie or Ben instead of what he was: a talking Deus Ex Machina who existed to deliver plot exposition and shoot bad guys. Treat K-9 as a talking version of the sonic screwdriver instead of a true companion and the Doctor traveled with a single human (or humanoid) female continuously from Season 9 until Adric shows up. So the "single female" status quo isn't as unusual as you suggest from that point of view.


  22. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:34 am

    Certainly Leela and Romana were both females, but neither were culturally from Earth. Leela was anatomically human, but for all practical purposes alien. That's the main reason I don't count them as in the same category as Jo/Sarah Jane – neither is positioned as representing the audience's culture.


  23. Alan
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    In the single trashiest and laziest retcon in the series history we get the pink-haze "she's a warrior queen of King Ycranos." To which the Doctor sighs happily and leaves her.

    In his defense, I just rewatched that bit and the Doctor was already inside the Matrix when the retcon was revealed by the Master. I don't think there was any point onscreen where the Doctor was told the truth, so as far as he knows, she did die as a result of the Time Lords' actions (who themselves were deposed in the last episode). So there wasn't really anything for him to do.


  24. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 6, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    There's a second bit in Episode 14 in which The Inquisitor tells the Doctor. That's where the horrid pink-haze slow motion shot of Peri and Ycranos comes in. The Doctor sighs, says "Vroomnik" in a touched fashion, and never speaks of her again.


  25. Matthew Blanchette
    June 6, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    Oh, good! ๐Ÿ™‚

    (And how appropriate that the TV Movie's being covered on Box-ing Day? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )


  26. Matthew Blanchette
    June 6, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    To be fair, the whole reason it's horrid is because JNT was script editor, by that point…


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

    What multiple people pointed out at PageFillers was the insanity of The Valyard using "THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET" as evidence for the prosecution, when it clearly shows The Doctor doing good, while at the same time, drawing overwhelming attention to the very thing the High Council is trying to HIDE– namely, Ravalox. The bleeped bits of dialogue only make it more obvious something's not right.

    Further, when not onle person involved in the making of "MINDWARP" (the actors, the writer, the story editor, the producer, the director) knew whether The Doctor's bad behavior was A)an act B)his brain scrambled by Crozier's machine or C)falsified Matrix testimony… you've got a real problem.

    It was suggested, and I had to agree, that the first 2 stories should have stood on their own, and the "TRIAL" only started after the end of the 2nd story. Had the entire "TRIAL" been done as the 3rd story, this would then have left room for a 4th story to properly introduce the new companion.

    In effect, trying to do "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" with this was never gonna work.

    Personally, because of the obviously fake evidence in "VERVOIDS", I never had any problem learning Peri's death had never really happened. Then again, as someone asked, WHY would they show such obviosly faked evidence within The Doctor's evidence, when doing so would make no sense (apart from allowing a cheap laugh)? He wouldn't have used such evidence if it was true, which therefore popints up that, yes, someone HAS been tampering with The Matrix. (sheesh)


  28. Russell Gillenwater
    June 6, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

    My problem is by the time of WoRS I just didn’t care. I knew that the Doctor wasn’t going to die, so I guess it didn’t really matter “how clever” Moffat is perceived to have been in get around the Doctor’s death.
    I think his whole “timey, wimey” thing is a way to get out of dead ends his plots sometimes head down. The way the Doctor’s death was resolved was just more of the same.
    I guess just like Series 5, my favorite stories of Series 6 were the ones less “arc heavy” like The Girl Who Waited.


  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 6, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    See, for me that's the basic justification of it. Yes, of course the Doctor isn't going to die. The entire question of "how will he escape death" is little more than technobabble. He'll escape death by doing something clever, same as he always does. The season was, I think, specifically about the non-interestingness of the question of how the Doctor was going to escape.


  30. vitaminbillwebb
    June 6, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    "…the non-interestingness of the question of how the Doctor was going to escape."

    I also enjoyed Season 6, much more than Season 5, whose standalone episodes don't stand alone very well. But I have to wonder: if the story's about the fact that "How-will-the-Doctor-escape" isn't an interesting question anymore, then what's left? I mean, there are some obvious things–mercurial anarchy–but this has been a part of the show since the beginning, hasn't it? "Will the Doctor escape?" has always been boring, but if the way in which he's going to do it is closed off, where do we make cliffhangers? Arcs? Plots?


  31. WGPJosh
    June 6, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    My argument would be you actually don't: My feeling has always been cliffhangers, especially later on in the show, tend to feel like little more than cheap moments of peril shoehorned in because a cliffhanger is traditional. It's never made a ton of narrative sense to me.

    Granted there are certainly ways to use cliffhangers to ratchet up drama, usually by introducing an unforeseen plot twist of some kind, but writers so rarely seem to use them that way.


  32. WGPJosh
    June 6, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

    I think a far more interesting question to ask is why the single, nubile young female from contemporary Earth companion archetype got to the point where it was ever considered the default to begin with. Their merits as characters aside, why did the creators of characters like Peri and the New Series companions feel obligated to write them that way? What was so iconic and special about the "concept" of Jo and Sarah Jane (their tenures corresponding to exceedingly popular eras of the show and brilliant performances by their actors aside) that their character archetype became seen as the "norm" over all the others?


  33. BerserkRL
    June 6, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

    Phil's been surprisingly ambivalent on whether he wants to cover this up to the new series…

    I think you must be thinking of Wifeinspace (where she wants to go through the new series and he doesn't).


  34. BerserkRL
    June 6, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

    in practice we can safely assume that I'll cover at least to the 50th anniversary episode.

    Which seems appropriate ,,,,


  35. BerserkRL
    June 6, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    My only complaint about the resolution was that it undermines "The Waters of Mars" if the Doctor could have just rescued everyone, deposited them 1000 years in the future with fake IDs, and said "never tell anyone who you are or the universe will implode."

    Wasn't this possibility already established in "Fires of Pompeii"?


  36. BerserkRL
    June 6, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

    if the story's about the fact that "How-will-the-Doctor-escape" isn't an interesting question anymore, then what's left?

    Well, it's not as though there weren't other interesting things happening during series 6.


  37. Alan
    June 6, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

    Wasn't this possibility already established in "Fires of Pompeii"?

    He could save "little people" like Caecilius and his family and like Yuri and Mia from "Waters of Mars." But he could not prevent the destruction of Pompeii and the death of most of the people without triggering the sort of event we see in the start of "Wedding." Or at least, that was my understanding.


  38. Alan
    June 6, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    I suppose I never think about Jo and Sarah Jane as being "contemporary Earth girls" because when I actually watched those episodes, they were ten years or so out of date. Eleven could come in next season and start traveling with Jo's cousin Gertie and she would be an anachronism from the Groovy Seventies. I suppose the preference for contemporary characters is that they can drop topical references into the dialogue more easily. It's not like Leela or Romana would have ever thought to have referred to Morbius as "Lord Chop Suey." Likewise, I think there's probably a consensus that "one companion is better than two," that "contemporary Earth is better than alien," and that "pretty girl is better than guy in kilt." I'm not sure that consensus if right, but I imagine that's the calculus that JNT used. And honestly, if Arthur Darvill hadn't been the revelation he was, I imagine the Doctor and Amy would by flying around unchaperoned as we speak.


  39. Scott
    June 6, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

    @WGPJosh: I think it's simply and most likely a matter of dynamics and — and, I know Phil doesn't exactly get on with this term, but it's commonly used by those involved, so — audience identification. Essentially, there's a fairly simple, easy-to-invoke set of binary relationships that lend themselves nicely to the 'young nubile female companion' template — ancient extraterrestrial time-travelling male, young human contemporary female, and so on.

    Plus, the whole 'exceedingly popular eras of the show and brilliant performances by their actors' thing probably isn't something they sniff at either.


  40. Silent Hunter
    June 6, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    That said – there is a lot to be said for having two companions; you can kidnap or incapacitate one of the regulars while the other two still banter.


  41. David Anderson
    June 6, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

    One of the things Phil's been pointing out is that one of the big obstacles to constructing a coherent Whoniverse is that Robert Holmes seems to have taken a positive pleasure in ignoring continuity when it got in the way of a good story.


  42. Lewis Christian
    June 7, 2012 @ 3:08 am

    I'm confused. Is this the trial all covered? I hope not. I was expecting a lot more.


  43. Tommy
    June 7, 2012 @ 3:57 am

    "IMO, the genius of the WoRS resolution was that the idea of the shapeshifting, time-traveling Tessalecta had been staring at us with a big smirk ever since "Let's Kill Hitler," and no one saw it because we were all distracted by the shiny red herring of the Doctor's ganger-clone from "The Rebel Flesh." "

    It might also be because the Doctor we saw executed at the beginning of Series 6 actually emoted and showed joy at the sight of his companions and reacted with visible sadness and panic at his death, and didn't act or sound anything like the autonomous, lifeless robot we were presented with in Let's Kill Hitler, which couldn't show realistic human facial expressions with a whole crew operating it, and yet we're expected to believe it could act in all the human, emotional ways with just the Doctor as sole operator.

    Perhaps no-one saw it coming, because deep down they knew it would make no sense, and it still doesn't.


  44. Adam Riggio
    June 7, 2012 @ 5:16 am

    It's quibbling fannitude, I know, but it makes sense to me that the Doctor would pilot the Tesselecta robot better than the dudes themselves. His interest was delivering a convincing fake to maintain all the movements that his friends saw and were in people's historical records, when all the Tesselecta were interested in on their own were getting close enough to torture whatever dictator was their target of the week.

    I've come to think of this fixed-still-flexible points in spacetime as set by the participants' knowledge of them. Adelaide Brooke's death was a fixed point because she had become such a Neil Armstrong figure, a singular inspiration in the spread of humanity through the galaxy, which is pretty important to a lot of the Doctor's own past, and the lives of most of his companions and friends and enemies. Pompeii ended up being fixed because the Doctor turned out to be responsible for the eruption. Whereas the Doctor's death at Silencio turned out to be only still because the event was witnessed and the result presumed, but there was enough wiggle room in the actual event to preserve people's memories and records of what was seen, while what they believed happened really didn't. In this case, memory got cheated.

    I'm intrigued to see Phil's reading of this arc next year, though. I was actually very interested in it at the time. Not because I actually thought he would die — again, it's silly to think the show would actually kill its protagonist when it's not going to be cancelled forever (and the idea that when Doctor Who is cancelled again it'll be forever no longer makes sense).

    I was interested in how he was going to weasel out of it. But I was most interested in what I thought was the most profound narrative collapse in my whole memory of the show. The Doctor himself spends an entire season coming to question the reason for his existence, whether the good he does in the world ever outweighs the harm. He's thought that way about some situations before, but never about his whole life. That's what The God Complex is about: He isn't a hero, and he expects life with him to be worse than life without him. Considering what Phil says in the requiem, series six questioned the moral validity of Holmes' vision: If the collateral damage of the fight that flows from your morality is too great to justify fighting anymore, then it's no longer worth existing.


  45. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 7, 2012 @ 6:23 am

    I think the non-interesting nature of "how will the Doctor escape" is also dependent on the situation. Because it's so abstracted. "The Doctor will die! How will he escape?" I mean, as phrased it's actually just the general form of the cliffhanger. All the actual action is around it – both in "why is the Doctor going to die" (since we know he's complicit with it) and "how is everyone going to handle this?" The central concept – I'm almost tempted to say the central joke – is that the actual avoiding death bit is a piddling detail in a season that is about everything surrounding that question instead of the question itself.

    Likewise, you don't really think we're going to get the answer to the question "Doctor Who?" do you? Of course not. We're going to get an exploration of the concepts anchored by that question. With the real question dating back to Forest of the Dead: what is the one circumstance in which the Doctor could tell someone his name?


  46. Adam Riggio
    June 7, 2012 @ 7:56 am

    I'd be hideously disappointed if they do answer that question. When I first heard Dorium shouting it at the end of the last season, I couldn't stop laughing. It's a brilliant arc going into the 50th anniversary too. The actual story arc of the season, the meta-text of the relation between the show and the viewers, the para-text of how the viewers, actors, and production staff interact, and the whole history of the program can come together in some fascinating, wonderful, horrifying, and slightly arousing climax. In terms of an excess of sense, it's going to make Trial of a Time Lord look like The Ice Warriors in comparison. And I'm reasonably sure it'll be good this time, too.


  47. John Nor
    June 7, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    From "Part 1: How To Write Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant"…

    "The intended structure of Trial of a Time Lord was based on A Christmas Carol, with the three stories shown as evidence representing the past, present, and future. And so The Mysterious Planet is intended to represent the past. Off the bat this is a little strange – it is, after all, an adventure with the then-current TARDIS crew seemingly set after the most recent televised adventure. The distinction between it and the succeeding story in terms of time is almost completely arbitrary.

    Except that the present of Trial of a Time Lord is presumed to be the courtroom, and thus Peri's departure has already happened somewhere within the Seasonish. And so this story goes back to a past, yes, but to an erased past that never was"

    During the first segment of the season, is it made clear that Peri has departed the TARDIS?

    Otherwise it could be assumed watching "Mysterious Planet", before "Mindwarp", that the Doctor is just temporarily away from his companion (which happens quite often).

    What I'm saying it, doesn't it only become clear that "Mysterious Planet" symbolises "The Past" until later, after the segment?

    Of all the four-episode runs of Doctor Who I have to say "The Mysterious Planet" is one of my favourites.

    So the second segment is the second segment…

    Of the third and fourth segments of this review I'm slightly confused as to which symbolises which segment of the season.

    The way I'm reading them either could be either!

    The fact that one segment of the season only has two episodes could be a clue, but will there be 16 segments to the four reviews? (Or 14 segments?)


  48. WGPJosh
    June 7, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    Not that I am disregarding the popularity of the Letts/Dicks and Hinchcliffe eras or Katy Manning and Lis Sladen's performances, but I'm not sure that would explain why that character archetype was used as a template by further writers. Why did this "consensus", as Alan puts it, come to be in the first place? I don't see JNT coming up with Peri because Lis Sladen was a good actor.

    @Silent Hunter: I also like two or more companions, but not for that reason. I still feel kidnapping and incapacitating characters for no other purpose then to cheaply raise the stakes is a bit lazy. I think there are far more interesting ways to use a larger TARDIS team and the show in the 60s was actually pretty good at them (for the most part).


  49. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 7, 2012 @ 9:03 am

    Josh – I'm not sure you can put the immense popularity of the Letts and Hinchcliffe eras aside, especially not once the nostalgia-focused period of Doctor Who begins. I think JNT's conception of Peri can be explained entirely in terms of "this is how it was when the show was popular," and the new series depends heavily on recreating the public's memory of what Doctor Who was. So they went for the format that characterized the best-remembered period of the show's history.


  50. Alan
    June 7, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    There's also the fact that the show had just come off an extended period of "the Doctor + THREE companions" and that, as we've all discussed, was frankly an ill-considered mess. There was never the time to develop any of them and in most episodes, one or two would be unconscious or lost in a ventilation duct or possessed by the Mara or (most hilariously) left standing around the buffet table stuffing his face. As I said, however you want to quantify it, "Doctor + one female" had arguably been the status quo since the Jo Grant era (I'm certain that JNT didn't consider K-9 to be a companion in the traditional sense). I think JNT just wanted to go back to a prior format that worked better without fully understanding exactly why it worked better.


  51. Alan
    June 7, 2012 @ 11:07 am

    Ugh. Yeah, just went back and checked. I also came across footage of Colin at a convention explaining that he'd specifically asked for the question of "What about Peri?" to be answered one way or another (since the ending of Mindwarp was ambiguous), and the response from management was to shoehorn in that "warrior queen" nonsense. I wish he'd left well enough alone.


  52. Iain Coleman
    June 7, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    I can see Colin's point. If the Doctor isn't sure what's happened to Peri, that raises the question of why he doesn't go and try to find out. If she knows she's definitely dead (or, indeed, definitely married to the least objectionable man she's met on her travels who isn't dead) then we'll be happy to see the Doctor move on to travelling with a new companion. It's just a shame the answer they came up with wasn't better.


  53. Matthew Blanchette
    June 7, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    How appropriately time-twisty that the very first scene of Colin Baker arriving and being put on trial was actually the last thing Robert Holmes wrote for the story? Not only that, but it wasn't even directed by "The Mysterious Planet"'s director OR shot in that block? Due to being a revision (as well as a kerfuffle involving the trial room screen), the scene was pushed back to the end of "Mindwarp"'s block, and was directed by Ron Jones.

    Also… I'm assuming you've already written all four parts, but will you mention the original Part 14, by Eric Saward? It's actually available online; I've read it, and… well, thought it has its moments, it's quite dire:


  54. BerserkRL
    June 7, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    I'm confused. Is this the trial all covered? I hope not. I was expecting a lot more.

    See above:

    "But more on the particulars of the Doctor's acquittal next entry."


  55. J. L. Webb
    June 8, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    However much one stresses the irrelevance of the question 'how will the doctor survive?', it is inescapably a central pillar of an arc built around The Doctor's death, a question the audience will be anticipating over the course of the season, indeed over the entire summer in which the show was paused to ratchet up tension.
    However clever it may be to settle for a simple answer, perhaps so as to hoodwink those who've been working on elaborate theories (something well within the puckish nature of the persona Moffatt cultivates), or perhaps to underline the irrelevance of the question in the first place, it's hard to see how the benefits of this honestly outweigh those of thinking up a solution that couldn't be, in the general case, described as point blank stupid.
    Or indeed an answer which doesn't make a farce of the emotional impact and philosophical issues we've been looking at as a result. what emotional conclusions does The Doctor reach, if after a season of looking at himself and seeing destruction everywhere he chooses not to bow out gracefully, but to pretend that's what he's doing? Why should we invest in his apparent humility? Let alone the damage this does to our ability to believe in or care about anything River says or does, how many of her emotions are real, and how many are facades in the name of causality.
    The story is clever, it is immensely self aware, and it is remarkably well produced, but in the end it may well be far too much of a mess.


  56. Henry R. Kujawa
    June 11, 2012 @ 7:15 am

    Lewis Christian:
    ""but for God's sake, how do you make it a year into working on a season long plot arc and not have the ending worked out yet?""

    Good question. A few years back, I spent about 14 months (off and on) working on a single story, but in my case, I came up with the ending FIRST –in fact, before I even decided to go ahead and write the story. My best friend asked me a question, what if THIS character met THAT character? And without batting an eye, I told him– character "A" would blow character "B" completely to hell, and that would end that sickening series of misbegotten movies for all time. What happened was, the longer I thought about it, I got inspired to actually write the damned thing… but first, I had to come up with some reason for the two characters to cross paths with each other, and to do that, I also wound up having to go back and make sense of everything that led up to that point. Which was something the film-makers we were taking pot-shots at had never once bothered to do in any coherent fashion.

    I guess this is my way of saying that DOCTOR WHO is not by any means the only series that has flown totally off the rails over the years.


  57. Alex Wilcock
    June 15, 2012 @ 1:39 am

    Your opening gambit, “Part 1: How To Write Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant”, is a major part of why I love this story – for, as the cliché goes, all its faults – and underscores my reply to Iain on the next post. They’re just great together, and you wish they’d been allowed to be this good all along. I just wish you hadn’t juxtaposed it with “Part 4: The Unspeakable Screwedness of Nicola Bryant”, where the sexual connotations may be being used deliberately to highlight the inherent sexism in Peri’s treatment, but still, the repeated “screwed” comes across as crass, unpleasant and sexist in itself.

    The sequence where Peri realizes that Ravalox is Earth and the Doctor is at once understanding of her emotions but unwilling to humor them at length may be the last great thing that Robert Holmes ever wrote.

    I do think that’s a great scene – undermined by being the point at which the Trial suddenly intercedes to say ‘It’s crap!’ and suggest the production team has lost all confidence in their fourteen-episode new start after fourteen minutes – but I think there’s a still greater one further into the story, where the Doctor makes a mistake in his personal relationship, realises it and immediately deals with it. If I were reading too much into it, I might even say that it’s a far better proxy for working out his problems with Peri and with Lytton.

    As I explored at length when I reviewed The Mysterious Planet, for me the best thing in this is the Doctor’s debate with Drathro, who he at first thinks is just a robot, without realising that the L3 is in fact deep in an existential crisis and that saying that is the thing most likely to wind it up. Which he does. Drathro’s a fascinating, many-layered character, and a brilliant piece of writing from Holmes. That no-one else has ever said this suggests I may, again, be reading too much into it, but I don’t think that’s a crime on here.


  58. Brad Cast
    June 15, 2012 @ 5:52 am

    "He set the Doctor against rules for their own sake. He set the Doctor against bullies and boredom and everything drab and banal." It's hilarious to me, really, that you get this and yet missed the White Guardian's threat at the beginning of Key To Time: "And the Doctor visibly loathes him, even as he consents to the mission (if only because the White Guardian threatens to kill him)."

    Except the White Guardian doesn't. When the Doctor asks what will happen to him if he refuses the mission, the Guardian replies with "Nothing at all…ever." The Doctor isn't being threatened with death, he's being threatened with eternal boredom, a life free of excitement.


  59. John Binns
    September 30, 2013 @ 7:45 am

    Surely the issue is not the 'archetype companion' so much as the 'archetype TARDIS crew'. Thinking about the former, there's almost always been a youngish female companion around, usually from Earth, more often than not contemporaryish Earth. (Susan, Vicki, Katarina, Sara, Dodo, Polly, Victoria, Zoe, Liz, Jo, Sarah, (Leela, Romana, Nyssa,) Tegan, Peri, Mel, Ace, Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Clara.) The male lead archetype (Ian, Steven, Ben, Jamie) became redundant when Pertwee arrived (Turlough and Jack being exceptions proving the rule perhaps). Thinking of the latter, the TARDIS crew almost always includes that youngish female archetype, and although there are plenty of other crew archetypes, the one where the Doctor is paired solely with the youngish female (with or without K9) is the most common. Indeed it holds sway for 10 out of 11 seasons from its introduction in season 7 until JN-T (channelling the 60s) varies it for 4 seasons from mid-18 (Full Circle) to mid-21 (Planet of Fire), then returns for the remaining 4 seasons (22 to 26).


  60. John Binns
    January 22, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    Robert Holmes’ episodes of Trial seem to target in particular the malign influence of bureaucracy and the law on the Doctor’s traditional domain of storytelling. The tragic absurdity of Ravolox is illustrated in part by its reliance on one designated ‘reader’ and three uninspiring ‘set texts’, while the Doctor’s alter ego seems to preside over something called a ‘fantasy factory’.


  61. Henry R. Kujawa
    February 6, 2016 @ 12:59 am

    Simon Cooper:
    “If you tried submitting a screenplay or novel which ended with “and he wasn’t dead, he was a robot all along” it would hit the rubbish bin so fast it’d probably catch fire on the way down.”

    Anybody here ever read STRANGE TALES #167– “Armageddon!” ?

    Jim Steranko spends most of a year building up to a climactic showdown between Nick Fury & The Yellow Claw, only to find the guy he chased for the last 2 entire episodes was a robot.

    IN this case, it would have worked, if on the last page you’d have seen the real Claw in another secret HQ, watching from afar and playing chess –in the best tradition of the “FU MANCHU” tv series– and in the tradition of the Chris Lee movie series, he said, “The world shall hear from me again!”

    But instead, we find it’s Dr. Doom watching. Which makes NO damn sense AT ALL!

    I’m convinced those last 2 pages were a last-minute change forced by Steranko’s editor– who was a master of taking other people’s perfectly-good, already-finished stories– and SCREWING them over so they made NO DAMN SENSE.


  62. Zbu
    February 24, 2016 @ 11:45 pm

    The one thing I took away from Trial of a Time Lord is that John Nathan-Turner should have been fired right after the last season. When the show was put on hiatus for eighteen months, that was a good sign that something needed to be done and that needed to start from the top down. I love Colin Baker’s Doctor, but the main issue at the time was that a clean broom was needed. JNT had at least five years in at the time the hiatus was announced, and that was enough. PIp and Jane Baker may have had an idea on what the show was supposed to be, but it’s telling that JNT didn’t correct them.


  63. John Binns
    April 19, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

    Thinking about Holmes’ ‘less than sincere’ response to Jonathan Powell’s ‘conflicting instructions’, wasn’t the exact wording of the brief to get the show ‘back on the rails’?


  64. orfeo
    October 14, 2017 @ 8:34 am

    This is unreadable.

    I don’t think I’ll be back when I’ve watched the rest of season 23 to try and sort all of it out. Thanks so much for spoiling some of the details, particularly around the departure of Peri, that I didn’t recall after 30 years.


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