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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. Ewa Woowa
    April 17, 2013 @ 12:00 am

    Do I look like a She?


  2. dm
    April 17, 2013 @ 12:41 am

    At first, I read "Dicksian" as a typo, but of course it isn't. I'd almost begun to believe this post was never going to happen.

    Some far less interesting and meaningful connections: the film that features David Tennant is also the one that features tents which are bigger on the inside (and a one note "deranged" performance from Roger Lloyd Pack), RTD asked Rowling to write for series one and she declined (she commented that she was "amused" by the idea), The Writers Tale has details of an episode RTD was planning which would star Rowling herself, and would basically be a Who-Potter crossover.


  3. Scott
    April 17, 2013 @ 12:43 am

    I dunno, but you're absolutely gorgeous.


  4. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    Harry Potter? Working class? Bloody Hell. Harry Potter is the least working-class thing ever. There's not a single working-class character: they are all, without fail, resolutely, completely, utterly, middle-class. There's no wizards from estates there. They're all from Privet Drive. In Surrey, for goodness' sake. They don't have working class people in Surrey.

    As is Rowling herself: yes, much has been made of her writing the first book in a coffee shop for warmth while on the dole. But the coffee shop was owned by her brother-in-law, and as she herself has admitted in interviews she didn't have to be on the dole: she was a fully qualified teacher and could easily have got a job (or indeed gone back to her parents, who were reasonably well-off). Instead she decided to live on benefits in order to focus on writing.

    Being able to choose whether to work, or whether to indulge your hobby full-time: that's not exactly a mark of the working class.

    (Now if you'd said Harry Potter was a middle-class version of the posh school story, that would be accurate.)


  5. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 12:54 am

    I don't think you need to worry about your blogging future. If you can deconstruct Harry Potter as well as you did there, you can do anything.

    As an aside, I've always maintained that Harry Potter has been an influence on recent Doctor Who, albeit a mildly unconscious one. Just look at the way Tennant holds his sonic in full "Harry Potter with wand" mode.

    I thought for a while Smith was going to break the mold on that one, but here we are in Series 7 and he's straight-arm pointing it at they enemy once more. I keep expecting him to shout "Rictusempra!"


  6. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:27 am

    This is probably down to Phil not 100% understanding the nuances of British class culture. Although I get where he's coming from. Yes, Privet Drive is inescapably middle-class, but that's a comment on the Dursleys, not Harry. Although he's been brought up in that house, the Dursleys have never attempted to integrate him into their world, so Harry has remained somewhat classless for all of his life.

    He certainly doesn't have a middle-class attitude, and displays a noticeable working-class dislike for the trappings of both his Aunt & Uncle's life and to a certain extent the traditions of the Wizarding world.

    Harry's predicament is similar to that of a working-class student in Oxford on a scholarship – he fits into neither world. The only two things that prevents the Wizards from looking down on him in the same way as they do to Hermione is his surname and the fact that neither of his parents were Muggles.

    Many of the characters in the books may be middle-class, but Harry definitely isn't. For most of his life he hasn't been able to choose or indulge anything, quite unlike his spoilt middle-class cousin Dudley.


  7. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:43 am

    That he's been mistreated doesn't make Harry working class. The aunt and uncle are clearly modelled on Hyacinth Bucket: the amusing thing about them is not that they are middle class, it's that they are middle class with pretensions. And it's the middle class who find things like, 'Bucket residence, lady of the house speaking' most funny. Harry's dislike for his aunt and uncle's lack of taste is middle, not working, class.

    And the fact that he doesn't fit in at school isn't working-class either: as you write, they look down on Hermione more, and she's definitely middle class.

    Harry, like most of the characters, is definitely written as middle class. His parents, from what is given, were middle-class, and then he was adopted by another middle-class family, and while they may have mistreated him, he displays classic middle-class mores of politeness and just generally never reads as a working-class character.

    (Some of the characters — mostly baddies, but also eg Dumbledore — read quite upper-class. But I can't think of a single working-class (human) character. The entire working class is basically represented by elves and goblins, unless someone can think of a human example?)


  8. Wm Keith
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:49 am

    Surely the posh school story was always written for day-school children, able to relish the imagined independence of their public school peers?

    Public school children will have needed a different kind of escapism. They knew that their lot was "Lord of the Flies" with added buggery.

    Harry Potter, if I recall, escapes the intellectual poverty of a Surrey car dealership by journeying into a world where he can use his fantasy riches to assist the offspring of financially embarrassed civil servants.


  9. Wm Keith
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:56 am

    There is a magic bus driver and a magic bus conductor. As I recall they are drawn with a rather broad brush.


  10. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:59 am

    I think we really need to define the difference between middle and working class in this context then. As you point out, Harry's parents are middle-class, but that's irrelevent as he isn't brought up by them. His adopted parents are also middle-class, but I defy you to claim that he is brought up in a middle-class way, being forced to sleep in a cupboard and wearing hand-me down clothes. Harry doesn't have a "middle-class" life by any stretch of the imagination. He doesn't have the same living standards of the people he lives with any more than Oliver Twist and Mr Bumble.

    Harry's attitude is more akin to working-class, not his circumstances. Well as I said before, actually classless, since your class is more or less determined by the Class group you are part of, and identify with. Harry is essentially a loner, excluded from the society the Dursleys move in for the first 11 years of his life, and therefore unable to identify with it. If you told him he was middle-class because he was polite, and lived in an estate in Surrey he'd laugh in your face. He may live in Middle-Class Suburbia, but he's not a part of it; and he's polite because underneath it all he's a fairly decent polite kid.

    No he doesn't quite read as a working-class character, because he's not been brought up working-class, but I maintain that his feelings of exclusion from both the upper class of Hogwarts and the middle class of Surrey mark him as being in neither of those.

    Also which family does he gravitate towards, and feel naturally part of? The Weasleys, who are about as working-class as you can get in the Potter books (considering that in a world where everyone can do magic nobody can be truly working-class).


  11. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:09 am

    Oh, Harry's definitely written as an outsider, but a middle-class outsider. A working-class outsider, for example, would be a very different character, as would an upper-class outsider. An outsider character is defined in relation to the society they are outside, and the society Harry is defined in contrast to is very definitely middle-class.

    What Harry would say is neither here nor there. You don't get to choose what class you are.

    (The reason he doesn't read as a working-class character I suspect is because Rowling wouldn't know how to write a working-class character, so her 'default' character is middle-class.)

    And the Weasleys are nowhere near working class. The dad is a civil servant which is about as middle-class as you get, and the mother is a housewife. I mean, you're right that that's 'about as working-class as you can get in the Potter books' but 'about as working-class as you can get in the Potter books' is 'firmly middle class'.


  12. goatie
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:32 am

    On the figures comparing viewership of various shows: I'm not too familiar with England's television landscape. In my mind it's still just a handful of channels (in the sense of "what do you want to watch, cheese or snow?"). I know there are hundreds of channels to watch in America, and that alone makes seven percent absolutely huge. Does England also have a gluttony of television channels?

    Putting aside my lack of knowledge of modern television across the pond, I do know that it's not fair to compare today's ratings to those in 1976. There was definitely a disparity there with the number of available channels. You touched on this point long ago in the blog, by noting that even though viewership numbers went down, viewer appreciation ratings went up; the reason being that there were more channels to choose from, so people who didn't like Doctor Who watched something else and therefore didn't add negative points to the appreciation index.

    And now coming back to comparing modern television, because I clearly don't know how to edit this comment to flow well: we are talking about Sherlock here. Even if England has thousands of channels to choose from… come on, Sherlock. Sherlock!


  13. Anton B
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:41 am

    As a blog primarily concerned with how high and low pop culture impacts on Doctor Who and vice versa this entry dealt perfectly with the HP phenomena. I'm fascinated by the links between Who and British classic myth and fairy tale. Both Moffat, with his Peter Pan style nursery abductions and RTD's more CS Lewis quasi-religious take have addressed it but I Iook forward to some future incarnation that uses Lewis Carrol or PL Travers (you could do worse than Mary Poppins as a template for a female Doctor) as tropes.

    Back to JK though. I have read all the books and seen all the movies and can't help agreeing with your observation that

    ' … while Rowling’s prose is not going to win any major literary awards, it has an almost Dicksian functionality. Rowling writes to be devoured in single sitting. She is one of the greatest binge writers of all time. In this regard she was almost made for the midnight release.'

    I suspect as soon as the films became massively popular and caught up with the release events of the book launches she wrote more and more as screenplay than as literature. Notice how 'Harry' becomes more like Daniel Radcliffe as the series progresses.

    As for HP influencing DW – remember The Shakespeare Code and Tennant's
    "Expelliarmus! Good old JK!"

    I'm not gonna get involved in arguing about British class issues – That way madness lies!


  14. gatchamandave
    April 17, 2013 @ 3:01 am

    Dear goatie,

    It is in fact BRITAIN'S television landscape, of which England's is merely a softy, Southern, twee part. All doylies on the table, and cottages with thatched roofs and the like.

    Hee hee


  15. Daru
    April 17, 2013 @ 3:16 am

    "Implicit in the idea of eccentric magical spaces that are nestled inside normal ones is a peculiar relationship between the esoteric and the mainstream. Faerie is an irrational space alongside a rational one – or, at least, a differently-rational space. It is the radical alongside the mainstream."

    Aye Philip, agree so totally that the time was indeed right for the return of Who in this culture.

    I was really tickled and smiled to myself when I read your above comments on "the old Celtic legends of faerie" as I had only just then posted on 'The Girl Who Waited' about:

    "…an Otherworld such as the Celtic Land of Faerie, which has its own laws of operating and offers a route-map to Initiation…"

    A lovely conjunction!

    I do strongly feel that the internal logic of the "eccentric magical spaces" which are the Land of the Fey, Faerie, or even its diluted form – Fairy Stories – is somehow informing the story writing process in Moffat's run. Except as you suggest Philip, mashed-up with Science Fiction.


  16. Daibhid C
    April 17, 2013 @ 3:20 am

    "The dad is a civil servant which is about as middle-class as you get, and the mother is a housewife."

    Okay, despite being British I've never really understood the class system myself, but my Mum's a civil servant. And she came up as Traditional Working Class on the BBC's class calculator thing, as did I.

    Granted, Mum's at the bottom of the civil service, and IIRC, Mr Weasley is at a level where he at least gets to express an opinion on policy, but still…


  17. Nick Smale
    April 17, 2013 @ 3:48 am

    The last of the UK's traditional analogue transmitters was shut down last year, so for the past six months all British TV viewing has been via multichannel digital platforms. At the moment approx 50% of viewers use 'freeview', a free service with about 50 channels, whilst the remainder are signed up to subscription satellite and cable services which carry 500+ channels.


  18. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 4:08 am

    However, there are only about seven or eight channels on Freeview at any one time that are carrying new, programmme-based content: the rest are movie channels, music channels, news channels, porn channels, '+1' channels or repeats channels.


  19. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 4:47 am

    The British Class system is more akin to the Hindu Caste system than a statement of where you currently sit within society.

    The Working Class manage to be proud of being Working Class, while hating the Middle Class and being mildly deferential towards the Upper Class. The Upper Class paradoxically both despise and admire the Working Class, even to the extent of copying their speech patterns (e.g. "ain't").

    The Middle Class is divided into several sharply defined layers through which the Middle Class move vertically up or down as they climb or fall (e.g. the Lower Middle Class want to be Upper Middle, while the Upper Middle wish there was an Upper Upper Middle for them to aspire to).

    The Upper Class get on better with the Working Class than they do the Middle Class, and vice versa.

    Everyone hates the Middle Class, even the Middle Class, who unlike the other two, never want to remain the Class they are.

    This is why I would maintain the Weasleys are Lower (perhaps not Working) Class in nature. They don't aspire to better themselves, only to remain "comfortable", and they aren't social climbers. I used to work for the Civil Service and most of the people of the level I was at (CO or Clerical Officer) were unashamedly working class Londoners.

    The Working Class and the Upper Class (aka the Aristocracy) can never change their Class. Only the Middle Class can do that, and only within the broader spectrum of the Middle Class (Lower, Middle, Upper Middle, Upper). If someone from the Working Class marries into the Middle Class, it doesn't make any difference. They'll always be Working Class, no matter how much money they have.

    Understanding the Class system is the key to understanding the British, and to be honest it's almost impossible to rebel against it, and even if you do, nobody listens. What Class you are determines ultimately who you are friends with, where you work, who you should vote for. It's one of the few things that make me hate being British, the fact that someone can point at me, tell me where I am in the Class System, and it doesn't matter how much I protest, they're right and I'm wrong.


  20. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:02 am

    The Weasleys are, if you want to gets precise about it, on the lower end of the middle-class spectrum; but they are definitely still middle class.

    And Harry is very definitely a middle-class outsider. There is not a whiff of the working class about him.

    I'm not really interested in a big debate about the British class system. I was simply pointing out that applying the label 'working class' to J.K. Rowling or anything about her creation is completely wrong. She and it are as middle-class as organic veg straight from the farmer's market, or reading the Guardian.

    You certainly could have a series of books about a working-class wizard who goes to a magic school and doesn't fit in. But Harry Potter isn't even nearly it.


  21. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:12 am

    (In fact I believe I read somewhere that one of Aaronovitch's ideas that led eventually to the Rivers of London series was, 'What if a working-class kid got into Hogwarts?').


  22. encyclops
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:24 am

    This is utterly fascinating.

    I'd love to see you guys break down the class situation in The Young Ones for me. I have my guesses but judging by the above I don't dare to hope I'd be correct.


  23. encyclops
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:27 am

    "magical spaces that are nestled inside normal ones"

    This phrase makes me happier and happier every time I read it. I love all the things you're evoking in this essay.


  24. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:29 am

    They're all middle class except Mike, who might possibly be working class, but probably isn't.


  25. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:08 am

    Yeah I'd agree with SK with one reservation.

    Rik desperately wants to be working class but is definitely middle-class, if not upper-middle.

    Neil wants to live outside the class system but is very upper-middle (just look at his posh parents), although this was probably just a phase, and Neil probably would have got his hair cut a year or too later and ended up with a seat on the Board…if he hadn't gone over a cliff in a bus.

    Mike? Yeah, probably lower middle class, but he (and his family too) are probably too dodgy to be sure.

    Vyvian though I would say was working class. He despises middle class Neil and Rik, and his mum works in a pub.


  26. Abigail Brady
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  27. Theonlyspiral
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:12 am

    I have no preconceived notions of how you look. You simply are.


  28. David Anderson
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:16 am

    Low ranking civil servants come only just below people on benefits on the list of people the Tories / right-wing tabloids hate, which must tell you something about their class standing.

    I think the moral of the above is that Britain has a class system, everyone knows what it is, and no two people can agree on the details. (People are much more accurate about their own class and nearby.)

    My reaction to Phil's description of Rowling as a 'working class sensibility' was also initially sceptical. But Rowling's first novel aimed at adults, her one book in which she can get away with anything and she'll still be published and read, is a social realist novel about a deprived council estate. That must count for something. (It might still be getting the politics wrong despite good intentions a la Dicks/Letts, but the intentions are clearly there.) It may just be that engaging children's fantasy has to be subversive because adult authority has to be corrupt or absent in order for there to be genuinely anything at stake.


  29. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    Ah, you know more about the programme than I do. I was just going on Vyvian being a punk, and most punks being middle class. But I suppose there were a few working class punks (unlike, say, goths, who are all middle class because there's just no way a working-class kid could afford all the necessary gear). But then there's his name: were there many working-class boys named Vyvian around then?

    The working-class reading of Mike is that he's a kind of Alan Sugar type. Market trader wideboy kind of thing.

    Neil and Rik are both firmly middle-class, and both of them hate that.


  30. Spacewarp
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    For a fascinating study of the class system and much much more, check out "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour" by Kate Fox.


  31. Ununnilium
    April 17, 2013 @ 7:23 am

    I'm not sure how to ascertain the gender of stuffed monkeys.


  32. Ununnilium
    April 17, 2013 @ 7:27 am

    I'd say that the influence there is making magic wands mainstream enough so that you can show the white science wand being used the same way.


  33. Daru
    April 17, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    Yeah, totally! Myself also. Inspiring indeed – made my day.


  34. SK
    April 17, 2013 @ 7:36 am

    I'd say that's the obvious way to hold a weapon (which, in the Tennant era, the sonic screwdriver obviously was) of that physical configuration.


  35. T. Hartwell
    April 17, 2013 @ 9:14 am

    What stuck out to me about HP when revisiting it recently was how much of it was centered around contrasting these high, epic fantasy tropes with the mundanity of everyday life. So we get wizards that have to go to boarding school, elfs that do menial work, and several characters defined by their rather mundane quirks (it's almost literalized in Arthur Weasley's fascination with 'muggle' culture). With this, then, the weakest of the books are generally the ones that drop the mundanity in favor of 'epic' fantasy.

    Of course, Doctor Who had been doing that since Robert Holmes, which makes Phil's point in the essay even clearer.


  36. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 17, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Which is slightly less fragmented than US television, but not enough to explain the sheer size of the gulf. I mean, for me the real stunner is that Battlefield, the story that's used as the point where Doctor Who stopped having any cultural relevance, would be the #1 drama in the US right now with that percentage of viewers.

    Put another way, yes, time has a lot to do with it, and Doctor Who is never going to pull 22% again, but the degree to which television is a more culturally unifying force in Britain than in the US remains true.


  37. encyclops
    April 17, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    Vyvyan: Could the confusion stem from being a working-class character created and portrayed by middle-class writers and actors? I always thought "VERY METAL" was a somewhat incongruous thing for an ostensible punk to have on his denim jacket anyway.

    Neil and Rik: totally agreed.

    Mike: the toughest for me to read, but you both say convincing things about him. He's the only one in the house Vyvyan seems to respect, if that tells us anything.

    Then of course there are the various Balowskis…


  38. BerserkRL
    April 17, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    As for HP influencing DW – remember The Shakespeare Code and Tennant's
    "Expelliarmus! Good old JK!"

    Or the Doctor's mentioning that he's read the 7th Harry Potter book (before it was published in real life).


  39. BerserkRL
    April 17, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    Yes, Harry lives in a middle-class home. But the maids and butlers in Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey live in upper-class homes; that doesn't make them upper-class. Harry seems more like a live-in servant than a member of the family.


  40. jane
    April 17, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    Amy's glasses (which the Doctor now wears) are rather Harry Potterish.


  41. Daibhid C
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    "(In fact I believe I read somewhere that one of Aaronovitch's ideas that led eventually to the Rivers of London series was, 'What if a working-class kid got into Hogwarts?')."

    Other way round. The Big Idea was that a posh kid learns he's a wizard … and Hogwarts turns out to be a comprehensive.


  42. Pen Name Pending
    April 17, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

    One reason I think orphans and the portal to another world are common in children's literature – other than the magic – is that you have to kind of get rid of the parents to have the kids really explore. I've found that in my writing my three top story ideas all involve the kids/teens ending up somewhere else when they go to bed/dream. Of course, the fact that I'm obsessed with dreaming and the like doesn't help, but there's just something funny about having the parents around. It doesn't quite fit when you want to tell a story about rediscovering your childhood or facing fears or getting to talk to those you never get to.

    Audience share: are you using the final ratings? Those are time-shifted and include everyone who watched the episode live plus the ones who recorded it and watched it within 7 days. For those who record and watch multiple shows, they may be counted more than once. According to Digital Spy, the audience share for the live broadcast of "The Rings of Akhaten" was 28.8%. "Cold War" was the same, while "The Bells of Saint John" was a little higher.

    What's amazing about Doctor Who is that it's had consistent ratings since 2005. The only trend – although it's the trend of television in general – is that less people watch live and more record (and there are always a million or so who download from iPlayer).


  43. Pen Name Pending
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

    The sonic is used by Smith as a scanner a lot. When I first started watching, I thought it was for scanning.


  44. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    I am using final ratings, but I'm not doing audience share, which is just percentage of the number of TVs that were turned on at the time. I'm doing share of the country as a whole.


  45. Pen Name Pending
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

    And the idea of setting things in a boarding school. I forgot that part. The whole thing is about gaining independence.


  46. Pen Name Pending
    April 17, 2013 @ 2:30 pm


    Oh, I see. I wasn't sure what the difference was.


  47. Scurra
    April 17, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

    One of the things I think Davies really understood about Who was that the Doctor was, in effect, the White Rabbit who was inviting Alice to jump down the Rabbit Hole – but that it was Alice who had to make the decision. Hence the payoff for us as viewers wasn't so much the Doctor as the chance to see how that choice changed Alice by being taken out of the mundane world and into Wonderland. (And why Donna will remain the single most tragic figure in the new series because of that.)
    Moffat is clearly taking this line and bending it beyond breaking point, which is why he exasperates the "SF" fans so much…

    In passing, I will also note that in your JK Rowling comment you missed one other thing which was that the first book appeared in 1997 coinciding with the whole New Labour / Cool Britannia mindset, when people were actively looking for that national identity thing you mention. Sometimes timing is everything.

    p.s. As you may guess, I've only just discovered this blog. So I'd like to thank you for ruining my next few weeks as I devour it all.


  48. Scott
    April 17, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  49. Scott
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  50. Scott
    April 17, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

    Harry's clearly a bit complicated when it comes to class, but I'm not sure the fact that Harry's upbringing is clearly abusive means that makes him working-class, since it's still clearly happening within a middle-class context (and I kind of feel it's important to note that abuse is not itself a fundamentally working-class experience; middle-class children are abused all the time, but that doesn't transform them into working-class. Not saying anyone's suggesting this, but I just feel like it should be put out there). Yes, he pretty much lives the life of a downtrodden slave, but the maids and butlers on Downton and Upstairs Downstairs were themselves born to working class families, which Harry IIRC wasn't; not only his foster parents — and they are his foster parents no matter how much they treat him otherwise, not his employers, another crucial difference between Harry and the Downton servants — but his parents were both middle-class as well (although there's an argument to be made about his mum and aunt, since they knew Snape who I believe was implied to be working class and Harry's aunt screams 'working class girl made good and overcompensating').

    For me, the easiest way to resolve Harry is 'lower-middle-class'; he's grown up and lived on (for him at least) the lowest possible rungs of middle-class privilege, it's just that the form the abuse he suffers from takes is stereotypically working-class in nature.

    And Phil, if / when you move the blog to a new space, I have but one request; please please PLEASE make it possible to edit posts after submitting them. 🙂


  51. Matthew Celestis
    April 17, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    Pen Name Pending, very good point about orphans.

    That is something that Moffat really does not seem to understand. He wants magical stories about a magical childhood, but he persists in putting parents in there. That combination does not really work.


  52. Multiple Ducks
    April 17, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

    I hope you'll revist Harry Potter once you've started your Morrison/Moore Magickal Mystery blog, if only so we can track the sentiments which of course ultimately bubble over into this: .


  53. Scott
    April 18, 2013 @ 12:32 am

    @Matthew Celestis: I dunno about this one. If we're looking at the companions as the 'children' in this case, I don't think Moffat so much wants magical stories about a magical childhood (particularly since none of the companions can be really said to be children) as much as he wants to explore the conflict between the magical childhood and the simple fact that even the magical childhood can't last forever and that you have to grow up sometime, and whether you can still keep ahold of the magic of your childhood even when you're an adult. Peter Pan remains young forever, but Wendy and the boys eventually have to go home and grow up.

    Furthermore, if we're looking at the companions as 'children' in this case (and I'm overlooking the whole 'River' thing for these purposes), then aside from Brian Williams their parents hardly ever appear. Certainly, parents of companions (and mothers especially) were a far bigger part of the RTD years than the Moffat years by a long pole.

    (Besides which, this model suggests that we can't have Brian Williams, and I reject out of hand any model of story telling that either denies us Brian Williams or suggests he doesn't work.)


  54. Abigail Brady
    April 18, 2013 @ 12:40 am

    It's not a meaningful comparison, but I'm always fascinated by considering the absolute numbers of viewers. Doctor Who does not just have a bigger audience share, but is actually watched by more people than Buffy was, by more than any of the Star Trek series after The Next Generation. More people watched Jonathan Creek last week than watch Glee in the US.

    Hell, Arrow picked up 1.46 million views on Sky on Monday: it's pulling only double that in the US.


  55. jane
    April 18, 2013 @ 3:38 am

    @Scott: Brian works, because he only shows up when Amy and Rory have finally settled into adulthood. He's there to show them that even when they get to his age, the magic of childhood can be reclaimed — as evidenced by his extensive travel once he gets back from the dinosaur spaceship.

    In Power of Three he becomes a Zen Master, taking care of the Home Base while the kids go off exploring — this, then, is the final thing Amy and Rory have to learn.

    River, by the way, is the perfect example of embracing the childhood/adulthood frisson. Her solution to having parents around is to have them around as children. As an adult, she's simultaneously daughter and "mother" insofar as she's got a whole lot more experience in the art of magical adventures.


  56. Matthew Blanchette
    April 18, 2013 @ 3:57 am

    And which, in turn, was incredibly idiotic.

    Also, Roger Lloyd-Pack was the one giving the subdued performance; it was Tennant, sadly, who was giving the one-note "deranged" performance in Goblet of Fire.


  57. Spacewarp
    April 18, 2013 @ 5:44 am

    I'm sure you've all seen the "PS" scriptlet that was never filmed, showing Brian reading a letter from Rory?

    If not, it's here:

    (or look on youtube if you're in the US)


  58. Theonlyspiral
    April 18, 2013 @ 6:14 am

    It's more like a Tricorder than anything else these days. For most of Smith's tenure the Sonic has been a device to get information or to facilitate Jiggery Pokery. Which the Doctor could do without the sonic if he really wanted to.


  59. Matthew Celestis
    April 18, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    Scott, I'm not just talking about the companions. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is the most naked example of what I am talking about.

    The Narnia stories were about children having adventures without their parents. With Moffat's attempt at a Narnia-inspired story, the children's mother goes to the magical world and then the final outcome is their father coming back from the dead.

    Likewise, with The Night Terrors, the emphasis is on the parent's perspective on the magical experiences of the child.

    When Moffat portrays childhood, he tends to deal with it from a parental perspective and emphasise children's need for parental protection.

    He's a father so I understand why he uses that perspective, but it is a somewhat limited one.


  60. jane
    April 18, 2013 @ 9:19 am

    @Matthew: The Wardrobe story is about Madge, not the kids. Madge is the one who needs the magical experience; it's all about breaking through her repression and owning up to the truth of her husband's loss. Reg's return is a metaphor for how salvation lies in memory, which is why it's so important the repression be broken in the first place.

    Dealing with psychological repression is one of the key concepts to understanding what Moffat's doing.


  61. Froborr
    April 18, 2013 @ 10:00 am

    One of my (many) issues with Moffat is related to this, namely that (particularly for female characters) he equates adulthood to parenthood.

    Coupled with the fact that he only writes one female character at different stages of her life (the female cast of Coupling, Amy, and now Oswin are all basically the same person; River is that person ten years older; Amelia is that person as a child) and subscribes to some rather extreme gender-essentialist views, the results are decidedly problematic.


  62. Theonlyspiral
    April 18, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I think that's a rather blinkered view of Moffat's female characters. I think calling Amy/Oswin/Clara (Victorian)/Clara Contemporary/River/Madge/Amelia/Vastra/Jenny/Abigail/Liz 10 are the same woman at the same point in her life. We have a number of women (Liz, River, Vastra, Jenny, Oswin, Sally Sparrow, Renette,) who are adults and have no connection to the child-rearing as adulthood paradigm. Even more so, we haven't seen nearly enough of Clara (Contemporary) to say she fits into that yet. It's like comparing where she's going to Amy in "A Time of Angels", or the Doctor in "The Daleks". it's ludicrous. And while she does work with children that's far from a part and parcel endorsing that view. If anything she's growing up now she's distancing herself from that.

    Yes he does have some gender essentialist views. It can be problematic. But it's not like every piece of his writing is marred by that.


  63. T. Hartwell
    April 18, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

    I found it interesting that in 1976, when Doctor Who was watched by 22% of the country, the highest-rated program in the US that year (All in the Family), was watched by 9%. I knew their would be a difference, but I didn't realize it'd be that big.

    Heck, looking at US TV as a whole I think the only dramas/sitcoms that ever pulled numbers like that were the final episodes of The Fugitive, Dallas, and MAS*H (the last of which was watched by about 50% of the country). I don't think anything else really compares.


  64. jane
    April 18, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    Suggesting that all these characters are all "the same person" belies a far more extreme, reductive, and essentialist view than what's given by the characters themselves.


  65. sleepyscholar
    April 18, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

    "betokens" rather than "belies", surely?

    But I write this because I agree with you.


  66. Scott
    April 22, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    A bit late, but just wanted to say — love your analysis there, Jane. Anything that cements Brian Williams' importance in the world gets an automatic thumbs-up from me. 🙂


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