“Is there anything the servants can get you Doctor?” asks Edward Grove over the deep, low tolling of the clock.  “It is such fun giving them little chores to do!” he chortles, using the voice of the butler, Mr Shaughnessy.

“No thank you,” says the Doctor icily.

“Very well,” says Edward, vocally turning to the servants, “You may leave, all of you.  Return to your duties.  I shall chime if I need anything.”

The clock is central to the organisation of time in capitalist society.  It regulates work.  Since work is life, it regulates life.  The chiming of the clock, like the jangling of the bell, is a summons to the servant, just as the factory worker must clock in and clock out at the right times.  The industrial revolution fundamentally changed how people perceived time, not only by drastically changing how long it took to do certain things, but also by subjecting the workforce to new schedules.  The organisation of labour in capitalist production centres also made time seem repetitious, on a permanent loop.  The same set tasks, over and over again, for hour after hour.  The clock is a heavily freighted symbol in any discussion of class.  The class war will centre upon the organisation and reorganisation of time.  Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, eight hours play – this was a demand of the workers’ union struggle… though, of course, this is a gendered issue.  For women, both integrated into the workforce and expected to perform unpaid domestic labour, it was always something of a joke.  In the life of a domestic servant, especially a female domestic servant, the idea of time separated from the demands of ‘the household’ was almost an oxymoron.

“No doubt I’ll need another death at some point,” says Edward, “when I’m feeling hungry.  I’ll let you know which one of you I’ll choose nearer the time.”

They thank him.  It is part of the sick joke of it all, this obligatory gratitude.

“You do need death, don’t you,” observes the Doctor.

Edward is a sentient house.  He is The Household (also the workplace, to servants) come alive.  He’s a haunting that has become a mind, inhabiting a building.  He was created by the constant looping and re-looping of a paradox.  The Doctor has realised that the paradox which forms the foundation of his structure was created by a death.  He now needs to feed on the deaths of his servants, the workers trapped inside the paradox.  They each take a turn dying for him every time his two hour span replays itself.  For them, even being murdered has become a chore, a duty, part of their employment.  A task to be performed for the master, upon orders, and upon a fixed schedule.

Edward insists that he is alive, but the Doctor dismisses this.  Edward isn’t a person, he is a pile of bricks and mortar, a loop of hours, a schedule.  He’s an era.  Well, he’s the Edwardian era.  He’s a system that has come alive. …

Continue Reading