Our business actually is to reason and compare

Skip to content

Jack Graham

Jack Graham writes and podcasts about culture and politics from a Gothic Marxist-Humanist perspective. He co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper. Support Jack on Patreon.


  1. JohnB
    February 10, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

    Good stuff.

    Hopefully you will blog on each episode.


  2. jane
    February 12, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

    It shouldn't be surprising that the easiest and laziest way of producing a violent conflict for the small screen was the option they chose. There's no interest in seeing "two sides" to either of the sides! Rather, who are the baddies and who are the goodies? It's a goodie/baddie story, with the people in power using violent repression as the baddies, regardless of how they got there, and the people fighting them as the goodies, likewise.

    It's difficult to stomach given the complexity of the period, but it's easy to understand given the kind of production standards for the first year of Who, every episode produced in a week. I doubt it's intended as a political commentary on the Revolution at all, just another context to exploit for telling a mundane, pedestrian story of capture/escape as conveniently as possible. Regardless of intent, it still comes out as reactionary dreck — hell, just to want to tell such a simplified story is inherently reactionary, in my book.

    However, there's one scene, at the beginning of episode four, where the Doctor meets Robespierre, that some small concession is made to the context of the period:

    ROBESPIERRE: I could, and I shall, do great things for France. For too long the Nobility have kept our people to heel. And now finally, my world is at power, what happens? My colleagues, my trusted friends, plot for power.

    DOCTOR: Do they? Or is it just their wish to keep their heads, hmm?

    ROBESPIERRE: Danton planned to restore the monarchy. I had the proof, I knew! I had to dispose of him. And the Girondins. Even now, Convention members are at work, plotting my downfall. But I will triumph, even if I have to execute every last one of them! Death, always death. Do you think I want this carnage?

    Is that enough? Didn't think so.

    If you look at how Spooner handles other historicals, the same pattern emerges. It's not pretty — Nero is played for laughs (including yet another attempted rape of Barbara, ho ho) until it's time for him to hulk out as a villain; Spooner is using historicals to employ well-corn tropes, regardless of the larger consequences of his decisions. It's definitely not the same approach used by Lucarotti or Whitaker.


  3. Anonymous
    February 13, 2013 @ 3:44 am

    This story actually provided my clearest personal example of how fiction can change attitudes. (Fortunately, it wasn't this doing the changing.) First time I watched it, I couldn't see much wrong with it, apart from it being less interesting than the better historicals and making the female half of the TARDIS crew overly wimpy. Second time I… tried watching it, that was with 41 episodes of Rose of Versailles behind me, in which the lead develops from being best friends with the queen to helping to storm the Bastille. My opinion that time was a lot more angry.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.