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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.


  1. SpaceSquid
    August 16, 2013 @ 12:29 am

    Reading this, it occurs to me that one of my major problems with this first season is that the camp aspect only ever gets to go so far before it bangs up against a wall of gratuituous nastiness. I'm not remotely qualified to say whether the two are utterly compatible, but it doesn't seem to work here. For every lovely moment we get there's another one where everyone just treats everyone else like shit. It's all too wrenching, and unpleasant.

    This is why I think Combat is one of the strongest episodes this year managed. The two most memorable moments of unpleasantness – the Gwen/Rhys confrontation described above and Jack's decision to heartlessly use an at least quasi-sentient lifeform as kidnap-bait – are both questioned in the narrative. The former Phil has covered, but there's also Tosh's line about how they'd never use a human the way they use Weevils. Which yes, is kind of ambiguous as written – is she seeking reassurance or making a point – but Naoko Mori's delivery makes it clear she's disgusted by the plan.

    This was what the earlier episodes seemed to be missing, a realisation that a combination of Pertwee attitudes and 21st century storylines would lead to clashes that would need to be addressed, rather than just thrown up on screen and immediately forgotten about.


  2. elvwood
    August 16, 2013 @ 5:51 am

    Great reply to a great post! I missed the fact that there was so much to tease out of this episode, which I thought was well done even while I disliked it.


  3. elvwood
    August 16, 2013 @ 5:53 am

    So, are you going chronologically and slipping in The Runaway Bride and Invasion of the Bane, or are you finishing the Torchwood series first?

    Actually it makes little difference to me as I'll be missing them. I'm away from the Internet for a couple of weeks, and will have to catch up when we're back. Have fun!


  4. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    August 16, 2013 @ 6:05 am

    I remember hating this story, absolutely loathing it; largely, I think, because it stared Owen, who I hated from his first moment on screen to his very last. Burn Gorman is a great actor but I will hate him in everything forever after this, because in my mind he will always be Owen or Mr. Guppy in Bleak House. Those weird, frog-like lips make my blood boil.

    This has been your purely emotion-based, unacademic critique of Combat of the day.


  5. Ununnilium
    August 16, 2013 @ 7:15 am

    My problem with Owen is pretty much summed up in his scene in his first episode, in the bar. Not, I note, in the rapeyness of it; though that's loathsome, as you say, it can safely be ignored as a mistake. No, I mean the joke that it's supposed to be – that Owen is, essentially, a pathetic loser who can only get a girl to sleep with him through a wacky scheme.


  6. Bennett
    August 16, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    "…its author is Noel Clarke, who’s as good a writer as he is an actor."

    Now, now. Surely that's a bit harsh. 🙂


  7. Jesse
    August 16, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    I disliked it because it seemed perverse (and not in a good way) to rip off Fight Club without also ripping off the twist ending. I must admit that the phrase "Sergeant Benton joins an alien Fight Club" makes me want to give the episode a second chance, but even then I expect I'll end up disappointed that it doesn't conclude with Benton learning that he was also the Master all along.


  8. Adam Riggio
    August 16, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

    I was so glad to see that you've hit on the Gwen-Rhys confrontation as the centrepiece of the episode. For me, this was the only part of the episode I could really enjoy. She was the character in which I had invested most, and this was the climax to her emotional arc throughout the series. When big loveable Rhys loses his temper, she looks the purest form of her own ethical corruption in the face and is terrified.

    Then the bulk of the episode concentrates on this ludicrous Fight Club pastiche that I just couldn't handle.

    I think at the time I just had too many friends who were way too much into Fight Club. Have you ever had friends who were such emphatic and over-the-top devotees of a cultural property that their obsessiveness just put you off the product for a while? That happened to me with Fight Club and Chuck Palahniuk. Same thing with American Psycho. It took me years to get to it just because I had a friend who would randomly quote lines from the most brutally violent scenes. Ruined 80s cheese-rock too.

    And, yes, before any of the commenters asks, I have occasionally done this to people with Doctor Who. I remember one humiliating incident after the very first trailer for the Smith era dropped. My friends Scott and Sarah are only just getting into it now that the Smith era is about to end. I since learned my lesson and deliver my guides more calmly.


  9. Assad K
    August 16, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

    Eh.. a not particularly good Fight Club pastiche, that I found much more enjoyable on Angel when Angel did it. I don't remember much else about this one except that it seemed the bad guy decided to commit suicide because it was the end-of-episode mark.


  10. Matthew Blanchette
    August 16, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

    …seriously, what the hell is wrong with Burn Gorman's face? :-S


  11. Matthew Blanchette
    August 16, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

    No, apparently he thinks Noel Clarke is a great actor. Seriously!


  12. Alan
    August 19, 2013 @ 6:29 am

    In Clarke's defense, he handled Mickey about as well as possible given the fact that the character was designed for the sole purpose of being an obstacle to the developing Rose-Doctor relationship. I thought Arthur Darville was kind of lame too until they actually gave him a character.


  13. William Silvia
    October 7, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

    Noel Clarke got to act in one Doctor Who story:
    Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
    I can't watch that two-parter and say he does anything less than a great job.


  14. William Silvia
    October 7, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

    Personally, I view this episode as serious and rather effective. I wasn't quite this bad after my own break-up, but I would have been if I had as much of a support circle as Owen does (none, largely by his own making). I've had times where I would have gone in to fight that Weevil, and then seriously considered whether I wanted to just let it tear into me to remind me what being alive felt like, or to tear it apart and let violence imitate that feeling.

    Ultimately, what was worst about this to me was the fact that it was rather jarring. Owen never struck me as a rage-ful character. Angry, yes. But there is a far cry between the smart-ass who thinks he's tough shit and the person who will beat the shit out of you in public before even trying to talk you down, and they crossed that line without blinking. THAT is the weakness of this season to me, something that you largely hit over the head two episodes previous: it is essentially a string of independent stories playing itself off as a season. That goes a long way toward showing that the showrunner of now four shows (one ending and one beginning, but close enough that the workload must have overlapped) has a little too much to do, considering how tightly connected even the most flawed stories of Christopher Eccelston's run were, compared to the disjointed feel of the first season of Torchwood, largely connected only by the main character (there is nothing until Children of Earth to indicate that Jack is in any way the main character) and her love story.

    It says something about Doctor Who (and perhaps Russell T. Davies) that Gwen and Rhys make it through this season, and the next, and the next, as a couple. Some of the Doctor's hope has trickled down this far.


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