Saturday Waffling (January 27th, 2018)
Morning all. The Kickstarter for TARDIS Eruditorum Volume 7: Sylvester McCoy will, unless something goes weirdly wrong, start on Thursday. I’m finalizing the list of stretch goals, which will be the added essays for the bolume, and I wanted to solicit input on McCoy-era stuff I’ve not covered that you’re hoping for in the book version. It can be Virgin or BBC Books novels, Big Finish stories, other media, Pop Between Realities stuff, or larger questions you’d like me to wrestle with.
Nightshade is already on the list, and will be the lowest stretch goal, so you’re almost certain to get that. The final stretch goal will be “force Phil to read The Pit.” There are others I’m pretty sure to have on there, but I’ll leave it vague for now and let you suggest what you will.
Also, due to the existing number of McCoy entries and the fact that there’s some definite chaff in there (both Pop Between Realities stuff that only exists because I couldn’t keep a pace of three novels a week and novels that just didn’t work out as essays), there’s a very high chance some blog material will not make the book. If you have any beloved entries from the McCoy era that you’d be gutted to see fail to make the book, now’s a good time to tell me that.
January 27, 2018 @ 5:05 pm
I’d suggest covering some of the new Bernice Summerfield Big Finish stuff, if possible. The two most recent sets with Warner’s Doctor probably don’t fit in this book, but the shift between McCoy and him feels worth exploring. Plus, it gives you the opportunity (if you want it) of charting Benny’s continued growth from the New Adventures AND her (possible) relapse with these Doctor-heavy stories.
January 27, 2018 @ 5:16 pm
Specific stories very welcome.
January 27, 2018 @ 5:35 pm
Looking solely based on writers and titles (with the exception of the first one):
-The Worst Thing In The World
-The Least Important Man
-Walking to Babylon
-The Extinction Event
-The Adolescence of Time
-Many Happy Returns
January 27, 2018 @ 6:01 pm
I was thinking more along the lines of the box sets with McCoy, Aldred, and Warner (and of those, I’d recommend the first and fourth), but you’ve listed some good ones here. I suspect they’re outside of this book’s purview, though.
January 27, 2018 @ 8:17 pm
I’m unlikely to do a full box set due to my increasing aversion to Big Finish material.
January 27, 2018 @ 8:56 pm
That’s sort of what I’d figured (and I don’t really blame you). Will be interested to see what you decide to do regardless. 🙂
January 27, 2018 @ 5:06 pm
no Davison or Baker volumes Phil?
January 27, 2018 @ 5:15 pm
Been out for a while: https://www.amazon.com/TARDIS-Eruditorum-Unofficial-Critical-History/dp/151737636X/ref=nodl_
January 27, 2018 @ 5:37 pm
so it has! Apologies. I have already bought it as well two years ago! next on my reading list methinks
January 27, 2018 @ 5:31 pm
Looking over the list of blog entries, the one where you do an overview on sitcoms should probably be cut down to just Blackadder, Joking Apart, and Jeeves and Wooster. (Also, I think the most interesting bit about Nightshade is that Mark Gatiss, of all people, was the only one to take Grant Morrison’s interpretation of the Seventh Doctor and run with it.)
As for stretch goals, Phil and Caitlin watch the McCoy era? An audio version of Continuity Errors read by the Eruditorum crew with Jack as Prof Candy and Phil as the Doctor? A short story about the 7th Doctor taking care of Coraline Sandifer?
Also, might as well plug interesting people: Pop Arena looked at The Pit last year as part of their series on the Wilderness Era (though they’re more interesting project is a historical look at the history of Nickelodeon).
January 28, 2018 @ 9:25 pm
As for stretch goals, Phil and Caitlin watch the McCoy era?
January 27, 2018 @ 6:12 pm
For McCoy books, maybe something from the Mike Tucker/Robert Perry pair? Since I believe they wrote almost all of the seventh Doctor material BBC Books put out, there may be something interesting in looking at the other line’s take on the Virgin Doctor.
For Big Finish, perhaps the short trip Forever Fallen would work, given that it feels like a conscious effort to channel the NAs for 2016.
Oh, and you simply have to cover Search Out Science.
(In all seriousness, I look forward to reading this new volume :))
January 28, 2018 @ 1:06 am
For McCoy, I understand if your aversion to Big Finish prevents it, but I would suggest covering The Fearmonger – it’s an early one, it has a stand-out performance from McCoy, it covers a lot of the familiar themes from that era of fascism, oppression, power and monsters without just hitting the most obvious beats, and it’s an unjustly forgotten entry into BF’s canon. It’s a terrific piece of work.
Also – and excuse the self-plug – I’m the co-host of a podcast dedicated to Big Finish called Talking Who To You, and we covered The Fearmonger a few months back. So if you want to know our take we can be found in the usual podcast-y places (iTunes, Soundcloud etc)
January 29, 2018 @ 5:58 pm
Seconded. I just listened to the Fearmonger a few months ago, and I was surprised by how excellent it is.
January 30, 2018 @ 3:28 am
Thirding The Fearmonger
January 27, 2018 @ 6:33 pm
I can’t imagine you’d cut them, but I always love the Pop Between Realities on other contemporary TV shows (so Twin Peaks, X-Files, Babylon 5, etc.). The compare/contrast between what’s going on in Who and wider culture is consistently fascinating. So please don’t cut those, and do more of it!
January 27, 2018 @ 8:16 pm
Some of those are likely to go, just because they belong to the list of “stuff I sometimes did for no reason other than needing a non-book entry for that week,” but the two you mention are safe. Babylon 5 is one I’d absolutely do under any circumstances, and while the other one exists mostly because First Frontier was on a Friday and I needed a Wednesday post before it, A) it’s one of my favorite essays of the period and B) would only force me to knock together an X-Files post as a lead-in to the TV Movie.
January 27, 2018 @ 6:44 pm
I think the audio version of Damaged Goods is the best audio work McCoy has done, and they inserted a few random new series references in there, but I suppose there’s not enough worth writing about to differentiate it from the novel entry.
Regardless, I’ve been slowly scooping up the NAs and have been reading them in order in anticipation of this release, Phil. I’ve been largely enjoying myself, too (Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible and Timewyrm: Genesys being the low points so far, currently on Transit). Looking forward to it!
January 28, 2018 @ 10:01 am
Is the audio a good equivalent of the novel? I’m a Russell T Davies fun, and while the Big Finish play is more easily accessible to me, I keep wondering if I should get the novel instead.
January 28, 2018 @ 4:00 pm
I was about to launch into a comparison of the two and then realised I only listened to the audio once when it came out so probably best not to trust my memories. However, the tweets I made at the time are as follows (a couple are unrelated but I include them because they amused me):
Listening to Damaged Goods. Roz Forrester is definitely not mixed-race, adaption-people.
I wish we were allowed to say cocaine. The Doctor’s “Chris, get me some Smile!” doesn’t have the same impact.
Because I’m a big contrarian, I’d rather have a next-gen remake of FFXII than FFVII. Still, will be nice to see Aeris fridged all shiny like
[Sidenote: I got my wish yay!]
All the skin on my hands is flaking off! Have I been struck with leprosy? Is it because I mocked Aeris’s silly death?
Damaged Goods is OK. I feel like Roz and Chris shouldn’t have English accents, though. Also no attempt is made to properly introduce them
January 27, 2018 @ 7:46 pm
Could you post a list of essays you are considering dropping so we can make a case for them one way or the other?
January 27, 2018 @ 8:07 pm
Not really, because I don’t know how many I’ll have to drop. Essentially what’ll happen is that as I hit essays that I go “ooh, that’s a bit crap” I’ll decide if they’re fixable/worth fixing or not. If not, I’ll cut them. Then when I have a final page count I’ll see if more need to go in order to come in under the Createspace page limit.
Tentatively, Sean’s right that the sitcom essay is pretty superfluous, the Original Sin essay is my single least favorite across all of Eruditorum, and the Alan Moore spoken word pieces are a justification-free fill-in when I couldn’t bring myself to slog through another David McIntee novel. So all of those will have to really surprise me to make it in. Past that, though, it’s a matter of what I think sucks when I go to revise it and how much needs cutting to make the book printable.
January 27, 2018 @ 7:52 pm
I wonder if there’s anything in an entry on the wider subsequent career of Andrew Cartmel. Or – almost inversely – an entry about Script Doctor, which as an attempt to contextualise that period of the show I found to be a massively infuriating read.
January 27, 2018 @ 8:09 pm
There’s an obvious case for a Casualty entry; if I recall, however, the episodes Cartmel script edited were beyond my capacity to find. I might take another crack at it though.
Script Doctor is unlikely; it’s a category of book I generally don’t touch. The only exception was The Writer’s Tale, which is legitimately extraordinary, both as a book and as an entry.
January 31, 2018 @ 3:10 am
Ben Aaronovitch also wrote some ‘Casualty’ episodes, of course.
January 27, 2018 @ 9:52 pm
An essay on ‘Big Bang Generation’. Feels like it would fit better as a coda here at the end of the Virgin era than trying to link it to the rest of the Capaldi era.
January 28, 2018 @ 12:11 pm
As far as BF goes, I can recommand, in the “non-continuity-locked-and-single-release” category –
For Seven alone:
– The Fearmonger, by Jonathan Blum
– Colditz, by Steve Lyons
– The Rapture, by Joseph Lidster
– LIVE34, by James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown
– The Word Lord, and A Death in the Family, by Steven Hall
– Just War, by Jac Rayner, adapted from Lance Parkin’s book
– Death & the Daleks, by Paul Cornell
– The Worst Thing in the World, by Dave Stone
– Glory Days, by Nick Wallace
– Absence, by Daniel O’Mahony
– The Winning Side, by James Goss
– The Revolution, by Nev Fountain
– The Lights of Skaro, by James Goss
January 28, 2018 @ 9:33 pm
The Fearmonger is kind of interesting, inasmuch as it’s the only Big Finish I’ve heard that is attempting to feel like a putative Season 27 story, fitting between the classic series and the NAs (as opposed to BF’s own continuity) — but I don’t know that there’s enough there to get a full Eruditorum’s worth of essay.
(It’s also more worthwhile than most of Sylvester’s audio work, as he appears to have actually read the script before going into the recording booth.)
January 30, 2018 @ 11:23 am
Good suggestions, though I can’t see Phil taking to Colditz if he had problems with Fires of Vulcan. Even I had major issues with Colditz. Might be an interesting read, though.
January 28, 2018 @ 12:14 pm
So I understand your aversion to recent Big Finish stuff, and to a pretty large extent I sympathise, but I think you’d be mad not to cover the first New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield boxset. It is absolutely integral to the Seventh Doctor, Benny, and Ace, in fact it’s arguably the last time anyone did anything worthwhile with McCoy.
It’s only four parts, and really it all hinges on the last part – so specifically, I’d really, really like to read an essay on James Goss’s ‘The Lights of Skaro’. If you haven’t listened to it already, it turns Skaro, in the words of a friend of mine, into “a jigsaw puzzle designed by a crack addict, a confusing collage where famous episodes, characters, and events intersect with each other”, exploring the planet as both a geographical and psychological space. It’s also brilliant. Considering this blog’s interest in secret histories and psychochronography, TARDIS Eruditorum would be incomplete without covering this story.
If you really don’t want to listen to the boxset, I’m happy to give you a summary of the first three episodes (and a link to the fourth) – but honestly, they’re not too bad.
I guess there’s probably a demand for some Ace/Hex stuff as well? That’s quite a big arc, and you didn’t cover that stretch of stories between Scutari and Signs and Wonders. But… honestly, although they’re not bad, they’re just retreading a lot of New Adventures ground, so probably not worth your time when you could be writing about Benny.
And did you ever do Lidster’s ‘Master’? I can’t remember. That’s always been a controversial story, and as the forty-ninth monthly story, marks the last bit of ‘old Big Finish’ before Zagreus comes along and reshapes the range. So that’s an option too. But I’d passionately suggest you at least think about covering The Lights of Skaro.
January 29, 2018 @ 12:02 pm
‘The Lights of Skaro’ sounds amazing! I’d love an essay on that.
January 28, 2018 @ 2:27 pm
An interesting choice would be one of the audios featuring Elizabeth Klein. While there are 4, A Thousand Tiny Wings covers the most ground.
The stories essentially take a look at 7 dealing with some of the after-effects of one of his ‘master-plans’, having to deal with a character left behind by his actions.
It seems to act as a more personal critique of the Doctor’s manipulations in this period, and his moral code.
Then again, Steve Lyons wrote the first and last in the arc, and I remember your general distaste for his other work.
Maybe the PDA Heritage, to analyse the ways fandom sees Mel?
January 28, 2018 @ 9:42 pm
Sounds like there’s plenty already, but if you want suggestions for other children’s programmes which just so happen to start at EXACTLY the same time as the McCoy era, one ITV rival is Knightmare (1987-1994). Interestingly, while as a fantasy adventure show, people probably assume it was a ‘boy programme’, most of my primary school friends watched at least casually. This shows how wrong the assumptions were in the 1980s as to who Doctor Who’s audience could be. Earlier in the decade at least, the creative team seemed to give up on having a broad fandom.
January 29, 2018 @ 1:27 pm
Haha! I love Sean Dillon’s idea above of the entire Eruditorum Gang doing a classic (or not so classic) Who script read-through!
With James Murphy and Kevin Burns narrating the action periodically as Charles Dickens and Rizzo the Rat 😀
January 29, 2018 @ 1:30 pm
That makes me want to see a version of The Unquiet Dead guest-starring Gonzo the Great instead of Simon Callow…
January 29, 2018 @ 6:02 pm
I would honestly love an entry on McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s in-character appearance on Search Out Science, which I think is one of the weirdest things in all of Doctor Who.
January 30, 2018 @ 9:10 pm
I’m gonna put in another vote for the Fearmonger. I’m sure you’re aware of the gist of the play but if you need convincing to cover it – it is the one Big Finish play that truly feels authentic to the TV show as it existed, rather than a shallow attempt to recreate it (the preceding four plays) or expand and make the audios their own thing (as happened in the very next play with Marian Conspiracy and the introduction of Evelyn). It continues the engagement with a contemporary setting began in Survival and is full of the political and social engagement of the time of its release in much the same manner that made the McCoy era so great on TV. The production even has the early-Big-Finish awkwardness to it that adds enormously to the McCoy-era feeling 😛 somehow, this play (released before 9/11) is frighteningly prescient of the Bush-Obama-Trump eras to come – even my parents, who aren’t big Doctor Who fans, were impressed with it. Its politics might be a little wonky at times, but its heart is in the right place and that comes through in the end. Oh, and the final scene never fails to make me cry.
It’s also both the only play of the first five and the only just-Seventh-Doctor-and-Ace audio from the time to be any good whatsoever.
Plus, it’s written by Jon Blum.
I recently bought the first volume of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield on sale and was really quite pleasantly surprised by just how strong it was. (Well, except the writing for Ace, which is so far from anything I like about the character that I pretty much just pretended Sophie Aldred was playing a different character.) You start a fun Nev Fountain adventure with a great conceit – the Doctor and Benny are addled the whole story – and end with a fantastic examination of the Daleks to boot.
(For those who’ve listened to that series – are the future volumes worth getting? I’m interested in 3 and 4 but 2 sounds like it could be a bit wonky and my audio-buying budget is limited…)
John G. Wood
January 31, 2018 @ 9:12 am
Set #2 is definitely worth skipping unless you’re a completist – I’ve listened to it twice and my mind’s wandered off both times, which rarely happens (I’m a much bigger BF fan than Phil). It doesn’t connect to the others so you don’t even need to read a summary to enjoy set #3, which is a lot of fun. I haven’t heard #4 yet, so I can’t help you with that one.
I wouldn’t recommend TNAoBS#1 for Phil. I like The Revolution a lot myself, but I can see certain aspects of it irritating him, which we don’t need to read more about when we’ve already got The Pit in this volume. Even The Lights of Skaro might not work so well. No, stick with The Fearmonger or A Thousand Tiny Wings (which also might cause some ire, but in a more interesting way).
January 30, 2018 @ 9:47 pm
Marc Platt’s Valhalla might also be an interesting choice. It’s Michelle Gomez’s first Doctor Who role, though her character and most of the rest the supporting cast are pretty standard/functional (Gomez putting on an accent in the extras is hilarious, though). More memorable by far is that the TV-Movie-era Seventh Doctor is written as world-weary and considering his retirement, and Sylvester McCoy plays this to the hilt. The plot is a pleasing combination of a Wind-of-the-Willows fairy tale on the macro level and a gritty hard-sci-fi tale on the human level, as the wonderfully creepy and amusing giant termites antagonists literally tower over the terrified humans they plan to sell off as commodities (everything is a commodity in the city of Valhalla, even the ticketed riots the citizens purchase to vent their frustrations) – perhaps a metaphor for the overwhelming impact of Thatcher’s policies on the people affected by them?
The overall effect suggests a McCoy era that might have continued on TV up until 1996: this is a world that’s tired and worn down, with a tired and worn down Seventh Doctor who’s spent years fighting Thatcherite evils such as those in this story and is looking for some peace and solace, but to face off with a villain who herself is facing her end of days. The late Susannah York delivers an amazing performance as the termite queen and her interplay with McCoy makes this worth the $2.99 download price alone. That, and the score and soundscape are incredible – listening to this story in the dark is one of my fondest Who-memories. It’s not a masterpiece by any means but it’s good, thematically interesting fun.
And finally, there’s apparently a Short Trips story – Closing the Account, by Stephen Hatcher – where the Seventh Doctor and Ace comfort a dying Stalin and reassure him that his apparently glorious legacy will live on?!? I haven’t read it so I can’t confirm the context, but all reviews I’ve read suggest that the story is unironically in favor of Stalin’s actions. Perhaps it’s worth covering to see if it really is the complete antithesis of the McCoy era and Doctor Who in general that it appears, and for the sheer what-the-fuckery of it all?