Don’t look at the future. We drew something awful on it.

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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. BerserkRL
    February 21, 2014 @ 4:17 am

    This episode reminds me of the Teen Titans episode "How Long Is Forever?"


  2. gatchamandave
    February 21, 2014 @ 4:26 am

    I have a question I'd be interested in hearing your answer to, Dr Sandifer, as well as anyone else disposed to address it.

    In your musings on Eye of The Berserker you suggested that one of the lessons abuse victims should take from that story is that we owe our abusers nothing. Now I agree with that entirely but I wonder – do we owe them the truth ?

    You see, I was, over a period of years a victim of sustained and often vicious workplace bullying by one particular manager. Eventually this led to a complete breakdown on my part and a quite spectacular example of career suicide.

    Lest anyone worry too much this has resulted in a complete change of work, one that is much more enjoyable and rewarding, albeit not financially perhaps, but still better than having my day ruined all the time.

    Every so often, though, I bump into someone I haven't seen for a time and naturally I have to come up with some explanation as to why a once promising Chartered Surveyor now drives a taxi. Being only human, I find myself telling a version of events that favours me-as-victim, downplaying or eliminating those matters that reflect poorly on me. And thus there is that nagging awareness that I'm not really discharging my responsibility to The Truth.

    So, does the panel think that abusers deserve the truth ?


  3. Marionette
    February 21, 2014 @ 4:47 am

    Ultimately the central conceit of the story – old Rani – becomes superfluous. It really has nothing to do with the rest of the story and raises far too many problems; why does 2059 look the same as 2009? Why has it taken them forty years to fix the mistake? What has Rani been doing in the meantime? Why is space-travelling future boy wearing a t-shirt and jeans?

    The script editor should have taken a hard look at it and dropped the future mystery, even if that was the starting point for the story. It's like those Julius Schwartz comic covers that promise something weird and exciting but have almost no bearing on the content of the actual story.


  4. heroesandrivals
    February 21, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    In terms of characters designed only to be plucky and adventuresses and given no character traits beyond that, I far prefer Rani over Clara Oswald.

    I had a long discussion with a friend about character construction for lead characters vs. supporting characters. (Admittedly we were talking about 1970's Avengers comics….) It's my belief that characters conceived as "team members" almost never function well as solo heroes because the way they're 'built', from their personality, issues, backstory, character ties, habits and powers (since we were talking about superheroes) was geared towards functioning on a team. You can take the Scarlet Witch out of the Avengers — but only by putting her in a different 'team' context. She doesn't function as a solo character. (Something I can attest to, having read the Scarlet Witch miniseries.)
    To a degree this is true of Sarah Jane. She /can/ cut it as a solo character by dint of her original introduction and re-introdyuction in School Reunion where she was already in the progress of investigating a story. She can and does work alone on these events — but there's a real sense that watching her tackle her adventures solo would be really, really boring. Sarah Jane Adventures solves this by inverting the power-dynamic and making her the headline character — but also giving her a gang to work with.
    It makes me wonder how much better Force Works might have been if Iron Man hadn't been part of the team to overshadow Wanda. (Eh, it would still probably would have sucked. It's Force Works.)


  5. jane
    February 21, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    With a title like this, the story should have been rocking some Charlotte Brontë. Instead it's more like, well, LOST. Just look at all those mirrors! Mirrors which are used as match cuts between different time periods, mirrors used as portals to an alternative consciousness — one that's depicted as a red face, very alchemical in the rubedo sense. There's the reading of memory, a FlashBack structure laced with FlashForwards, and the implication of Eternal Return given the amusement park rides and the repeating action.

    But, as with much of the Mystery Box conceit, the story becomes too invested in its game of hooks and reveals, to the detriment of character-based drama. Even Rani's predicament, while on the surface motivated by her interpersonal relationships, isn't really rooted in a deep abiding conflict with these other people, or internally conflicting needs, or a true flaw of character. It's just a mistake, a computer error, which rather cuts against the grain of the alchemical imagery.

    The main problem with Rani's "wish" is that it's actually an inversion of her need to be seen and recognized as valuable. It may reflect how she "feels" — so it's a bit of a metaphor — but there isn't a "choice" as such, no conflicting need that would make it compelling drama.


  6. jane
    February 21, 2014 @ 1:21 pm

    Clara's much better written than Rani. Clara actually has conflicting inner needs. On the one hand, she absolutely needs to have control, to exercise boundaries and authority, which stems from her childhood experience of being "lost" and the eventual loss of her mother, who'd mitigated that awful experience. This, in fact, is the root of her sense of responsibility.

    On the other hand she needs to travel, to explore, which often takes actually getting "lost" and letting go to really fully appreciate. She gets that opportunity with the Doctor, of course, but for the most part she's been able to maintain more control over her adventures than just about any Companion before her — in part because she's willing to let the Doctor take the lead when it's obvious he knows better than she does; Clara doesn't wander off, takes the responsibilities he gives her seriously.

    She's been able to balance (and indeed synthesize) these needs because she's very intelligent — not just in terms of cleverness, but from having a philosophical attentiveness, the ability to see "deeper" than most. She understands how to navigate different social milieus. She understands how to invert her cognitive framework, from seeing that TARDIS is "smaller on the outside" to making Daleks "forget" to pulling a chair outside when the man she wants to talk to won't come on in.

    I would never think of Amy Pond ruminating on how everyone is a "ghost" from the Doctor's perspective, on the eidos of a soufflé, or the soulfulness of an old woman's remembrance of falling in love. Clara's the one who recognizes that just because the Doctor's learned to forgive himself doesn't mean that the act committed was ever right, or fated.

    So, um, sorry, but the charge that Clara has no "character traits" just comes out of nowhere. It's an empty claim.


  7. Galadriel
    February 21, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

    While the "friendly alien" element may have contributed to the mess of this story, I definitely was glad to see one. They're altogether too rare in Doctor Who. Okay, there's the occasional creature (Hide), and the Paternoster Gang and Dorium have made multiple appearances, but the most recent episode with a non-evil alien antagonist was Night Terrors, and we could really use some more


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    February 21, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

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  9. jane
    February 22, 2014 @ 7:40 am

    I dunno exactly how rare they are, if you actually don't dismiss certain ones out of hand:

    — In Time of the Doctor, the Silence become allies.
    — In Day of the Doctor, the Zygons become allies.
    — In Name of the Doctor, Strax and Vastra are allies.
    — In Crimson Horror, Strax and Vastra are allies.
    — In Hide, the Tree Creatures were misunderstood.
    — In Cold War, the Ice Warrior is redeemed.
    — In Rings of Akhaten, we get a whole world of friendly aliens.

    Just in the last ten episodes, we've had plenty of non-evil aliens. What about antagonists being evil? That's the bigger one — but even here, we've got several stories where the antagonists aren't motivated by evil. Some of them are certain complicated, though.

    Time of the Doctor, for example, has evil Daleks and Cybermen and Angels, but we've got comical Sontarans, allied Silence, and even the Church takes on a protective role. The real source of conflict is actually the fear of Gallifrey returning. But as we've seen in Day of the Doctor, we can't consider all of Gallifrey to be evil.

    Speaking of Day of the Doctor, it's interesting how the Zygons are turned away from "evil" — it's actually a very positive message in the end, that the "other" can be seen as being every bit as human as anyone else. This is rather much in line with how Zygons have been presented in audio adventures.

    Now certainly we can say that The Great Intelligence is simply evil, and given this foe occupied three of the past eleven stories, it's not easy to get past that. But again, it's not the "alien" part of the GI that makes it evil — the GI is in part "evil" due to Victorian repression, and possibly in part by being a metaphor for "God" given that it's a disembodied intelligence.

    Which is even more interesting given the kinds of "evil" present elsewhere in the past season — the "evil parasite god" of Akhaten, the puritanical zealots empowered by the Repulsive Red Leech, the Judgment Day of the Shakri, and of course the religious iconography that the Angels represent. Even Solomon shares the name of a religious figure. The only other "purely" evil creatures are Daleks and Cybermen, both of whom are depicted as "converting" others.

    So what do we have left? There's the Gunslinger, who isn't evil and is in fact redeemed. There's the Ice Warrior, who the Doctor regards highly, despite his violent acts. There's the Ghost and Tree Creatures of Hide, both misunderstood antagonists. In Journey there's the salvage crew (not evil) and the TARDIS (not evil) and even the Lava Zombies are simply our heroes deformed by the future and presumably motivated to stop that future from happening, even though it means killing themselves before the horror befalls.

    Before that, The Wardrobe hardly features any antagonists at all!


  10. ferret
    February 22, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

    My perspective: if person A abuses person B, and person B acts/reacts in a negative way (the 'matters that reflect poorly') – those negative actions are still caused by the abuse of person A.

    It may even have been person A's intention to cause a negative reaction, much like Internet Trolls enjoy their victims angry responses, as such negative reactions give them both pleasure and further avenues to bully.

    So in my opinion 'no': abusers do not deserve the truth if the truth humiliates you further and occurred in response to their abuse. It would give them pleasure if they knew they were still having a negative effect on you.


  11. Froborr
    February 22, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    I don't think you have a responsibility to The Truth in this case. You are telling a story to a mostly-stranger; there is a general cultural understanding that you are leaving out bits you're not comfortable with sharing. Besides, the function of such a story is not to convey information about the events that occurred, but rather to convey information about yourself, using those events as a medium; it is therefore better to tell a less-than-complete version of the events that correctly conveys who you are than to tell a complete version of events that might be misleading as regards who you are.


  12. mengu
    February 23, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

    I've been searching for these words for at least half a year. Thank you.

    She understands how to invert her cognitive framework, from it's people not technology, to the future not the past, to going after the Cybermen when her preferences and the Doctor's instructions say to stay defensive.

    "I would never think of Amy Pond ruminating on how everyone is a "ghost" from the Doctor's perspective, on the eidos of a soufflé, or the soulfulness of an old woman's remembrance of falling in love." This this this this this. Unlived days and tomorrows come early. She's grounded but comfortable with abstraction. (Amy was such a dreamer but in concrete terms)

    "On the one hand, she absolutely needs to have control, to exercise boundaries and authority" Exactly.


  13. Galadriel
    February 24, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

    I haven't sat down and hammered out a definition of "non-evil aliens," as such–more like thinking out loud. But even if you count species (or individuals of said species) that end up aligned with the Doctor at some point, it feels like all the big episodes and well-known species are enemies. I think I left Rings off–though it was gorgeous, the first properly alien planet in ages–because apart from the facial markings, which might have been tattoos-they could have passed for human.


  14. gatchamandave
    February 25, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

    Thank you very much to both of you for your thoughtful, wise replies. I am much obliged.


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