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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. Adam Clegg
    July 27, 2012 @ 12:36 am

    The first Doctor Who episode I ever saw was part 1 of Fenric, it terrified me so much I didn't watch any Doctor Who again until 1993.

    I think there's any important difference between The Curse Of Fenric and The God Complex climaxes. In Fenric the Doctor has to destroy Ace's sense of self and he's brutal especially the line 'an emotional cripple'. However in The God Complex (which is probably my favourite episode of the new series) the Doctor has to tear himself down in front of Amy while at the same time gently nudging her to finally grow up and thus it's a far sadder scene. Both great scenes but with very different emphasises, which is why I found myself getting irritated at people just dismissing The God Complex as having ripped of Fenric.


  2. David Anderson
    July 27, 2012 @ 1:04 am

    A pedantic comment first: I think Ace is a young woman rather than a young girl.

    The question that the story raises, and I don't think it actually answers it, is how much does the Doctor know about what's going on before he arrives. Does he actually know that Ace is a wolf, for example? I think your reading of Curse on the assumption that he does is very good. And as a side note, one doesn't really risk making Ace into a passive object given that Ace just isn't passive material.
    However, I still think it's plausible that the Doctor didn't know about Ace. After all, the speech where the Doctor says he did is demonstrably dishonest in that it fails of its purpose if anybody realises what the Doctor's purpose is. And the Doctor is lying through his teeth when he calls Ace an emotional cripple. Why assume he is telling the truth about anything else? In which case, this is the Doctor improvising in desperation. I'm not sure how that would affect your reading of the themes of the story though.

    Another thought: sacrificing innocent people for the greater good is Commander Millington's plan. And the Doctor is disgusted by the idea. So we're invited to see some kind of distinction between the Doctor as manipulator and Millington as manipulator.
    I would certainly reject any reading of McCoy's Doctor on television in which the Doctor's disgust at Millington's plan is merely hypocritical or tactical.


  3. David Anderson
    July 27, 2012 @ 1:10 am

    I think the Curse scene is more interesting in that there's more going on. The God Complex scene is a bit one note: the Doctor has to destroy Amy's faith in him to save her and he does so.

    Also, I think the God Complex scene, while it might work with Rose, is just wrong for Amy. Karen Gillan said of her first season that she's playing Amy as if part of her just doesn't trust the Doctor and given that the writers can be a bit here and there with Amy's character Gillan's performance is one of the things that holds the character together. So I'm not happy about a script that turns on flatly contradicting Gillan's character reading.


  4. Adam Clegg
    July 27, 2012 @ 1:21 am

    I personally don't think it contradicts her character in the slightest. There's always been the part of her that's still the little girl that The Doctor first met and to save everyone she has to move on from that, The Doctor has to stop being her 'imaginary friend' and become someone real and real people are always far more disappointing.


  5. Tommy
    July 27, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    "In Freudian terms – terms which apply well to the bulk of this story – we're talking about the death drive. Curse of Fenric posits a self-destructive, suicidal instinct within history and biology itself."

    That could possibly have made sense of the entire Saward era.

    "The sequence of the Doctor breaking Ace's faith is one of the best in the classic series – hence it getting recycled wholesale by Toby Whithouse. And for the first time the series pulls off this switch perfectly."

    I think City of Death pulled off a similar switch. For most of the story the Doctor comes off as a bastard trying to sabotage Scarlioni's perfectly noble aims to save his people, until the final reveal demnstrates why the Doctor was right to.

    As for breaking Ace's faith…. I dunno, I just can't help feel that scene is yet again an example of JNT's tendency to treat the show in a manner akin to Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, being projected onto the Doctor himself. Just like in Twin Dilemma.

    The other issues I have are that the background of how Ace met he Doctor is crucial to the story (since her displacement in time mirrors that of the Haemovoores), and yet it's not something that's made lucid to first-time viewers who haven't seen Dragonfire.

    And also that it seems to take the left-wing, anti-British sentiment too far by its suggestion that the Russian soldiers have greater, secular 'faith' than we do. Which rings false when they were living under a fear state ruled by one of the most evil, bloodthirsty tyrants in history (brought about by the revolution they claim to have such faith in), and that they would only understand success or death in this mission. There's little for them to have faith or hope in.

    Other than that though, it is the best of the McCoy era that succeeds in the many areas that the rest of the era falls at, in terms of gravitas and sobering professionalism of performance and directing. It doesn't feel plastic like so much of the story of the immediately prior two seasons did. In that it is perhaps McCoy's very own Revelation of the Daleks.


  6. John Callaghan
    July 27, 2012 @ 2:17 am

    It's recently been in the news that Alan Turing may not have committed suicide:

    …although he was still poorly treated, of course.

    And Lisa Stansfield was, for a time, allergic to her own saliva. Unfortunately she never sang a song about this.

    "Been around the world and I, I… I'm allergic to my own spit."


  7. Nick Smale
    July 27, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    Curse of Fenric is a story fatally undermined by its own casting, unfortunately. I found it impossible to take seriously from the moment Nicholas Parsons appears (though he gives an effective performance). "Live from Norwich, it's the quiz of the week…"


  8. David Anderson
    July 27, 2012 @ 3:53 am

    As I hadn't seen a lot of Nicholas Parsons before, I just found it was an excellent performance. I think I knew I'd seen the actor somewhere before but if I'd been asked to guess I'd have said he'd played a vicar in some Agatha Christie or other.

    I can see that there's a disjunction between character and actor that doesn't happen with, say, Hale and Pace who are in Survival to do a Hale and Pace skit with the Doctor in.


  9. Carey
    July 27, 2012 @ 3:57 am

    "Much of the plot hinges on the fact that everyone at the base is a descendent of the viking settlers. These would be, of course, the viking settlers who were all killed by vampires, according to the inscriptions. "

    Of course that presumes that a) the inscriptions are to be trusted (after all, the final inscription is written during World War 2, and there's nothing to say that the rest of the inscription isn't simply another part of Fenric's plan to release himself); and b) that all the settlers were killed off before they could start families.

    Personally I go for the later, as I always got the idea that the families were culled so that the "Wolves" chain was purest, so as to better implement Fenric's plan.


  10. BerserkRL
    July 27, 2012 @ 4:00 am

    I'm a bit surprised that a) there's no mention of Judson's disability as a metaphor for homosexuality, especially in conjunction with Ace's imagined status as (emotional) cripple; and b) there's likewise no mention — apart from "the good force that primordially opposes Fenric is never accounted for after its seeming destruction, with the Doctor slotting into the opposition role" — of the story's insinuation that the Doctor is himself the good force from before the universe.

    It takes place in World War II, when the Russians and the British were still allies. And yet everyone is aware of the Cold War and aware that it looms inevitably over them

    Well, of course many people were. "After we defeat the Germans we'll have to fight the Russians" was not exactly an unheard-of sentiment during the war.

    Turing, of course, is famous for suggesting that being able to convince a person that you are also a person is the definition of thinking

    That would be a bit circular as a definition, given that "person" and "thinking" aren't entirely separate cocepts. (Imagine how unhelpful it would be to be told that the definition of a gzonk is the ability to convince another gzonk that you are a gzonk.) It might instead be a criterion.

    Godel's Incompleteness Theorem shows that there are statements in mathematics that cannot be proven true or false, and, more importantly, that it's impossible to identify these statements, thus putting an absolute limit on mathematical certainty

    Well, not exactly. It shows (on the standard interpretation, at least) that for any given axiomatisation of mathematics, there are statements that cannot be proven true or false within that axiomatisation. That doesn't imply that they can't be proven true or false within a different axiomatisation; nor does it imply the impossibility of knowing them to be true or false by some means other than proving or disproving them within an axiomatisation. In other words, it's not nearly as exciting as its popular reputation.

    Take Hitler and Put him in the Cupboard Over There

    "Take Hitler and put him in the funny pages!" — His Girl Friday

    She's an emotional cripple

    "Face it, Janet — Brad's an emotional cripple!" — Shock Treatment


  11. Ace
    July 27, 2012 @ 4:09 am

    The trouble, really, lies in believing that she still trusts him at all by that point.
    She has been so heavily marginalized and undercut throughout the season (starting out away from The Doctor, being kidnapped in every story, the whole baby… thing) that when she insists that she believes in The Doctor more than anything (in a story that does no small amount of alienating the audience from her itself), her words just ring false.

    That said I do love the god complex an immense amount in most respects, and consider it a very sincere and worthy homage to Fenric


  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 27, 2012 @ 4:41 am

    It does, however, establish a minimum complexity for axiomatisations beyond which they are necessarily incomplete, and this minimum is one that any functional mathematics will exceed. So the practical scope is in line with its popular reputation

    As for the use of "definition," fair enough – I've recast the sentence. (Along with fixing the "young girl" bit David objected to above)


  13. Adam Riggio
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    Phil, you've put such a dense post together that I'm glad I have the whole weekend to sort it out in my thoughts. As it is, this comment might be as disjointed by necessity as the Ghost Light essay was by design.

    It's taken me years to figure out what Turing was really talking about in the imitation game, and its subtlety has impressed me more than ever. A puzzle about thinking computers was turned into a profound statement of the human condition: all any of us ever do is con others into thinking that we meet their minimum conditions to require respect. Any underlying reality doesn't matter, and probably doesn't exist anyway.

    It saddens me that Nicholas Parsons couldn't imitate an actor deserving respect for a significant chunk of British fandom. But even though one of the main goals of the Eruditorum is showing the intersection of Doctor Who's fictional world with our mostly real one, I think this intrusion of Parsons' game show persona into viewers' perception of The Curse of Fenric is the wrong kind of interaction of worlds. I live in Canada, so I had no experience of Parsons other than Doctor Who. But I think I figured out the phenomenon when I did some web fu on James Corden when his being cast in The Lodger was so controversial in the UK. Consensus since then is that Corden did a wonderful job, and I think I may miss him if we don't get another Craig Owens story in season 7. However, what I learned in anticipation of The Lodger:

    The phrase "James Corden's guest appearance in Doctor Who" had the same tone in the UK as the following sentence if it had been uttered in North America: "Ray Romano's guest appearance in Battlestar Galactica."


  14. Adam Riggio
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:04 am

    And I hope we're all thinking of the captcha tests as successfully imitating a human for the sake of a computer.


  15. Adam Riggio
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:18 am

    I actually found the show's depiction of Captain Sorin as remarkably brave, creepy Stalinist undertones aside (and that loyalty to the Stalinist Soviet state may have been a kind of foreshadowing of Sorin's eventual takeover by Fenric). Sorin is one of the two main allies of the Doctor and Ace among the guest cast for the story, and the member of the guest cast who most earns the respect of the audience. Rev. Wainwright ends up more pitiable than effective, as he can no longer maintain any kind of faith necessary to keep the base from being overrun by Haemovores. Everyone else is either cannon fodder or working explicitly or implicitly for the villains.

    At the end of the Cold War, Russia had been an existential threat to Britain, and The Curse of Fenric was most explicitly about the horror of weapons of mass destruction — that for generations, most of the population thought the Cold War would end in holocaust and in the best case scenario the toxic world of the Haemovores. And in a story like that, Doctor Who has the courage to have an admirable character with such faith in the ideals of the Soviet revolution that he can hold back a vampire. Sorin was such an admirable figure (and his constant flirting with Ace was weirdly sweet and really rather charming as well) that whenever I watch this story, it still hits me in the gut when Fenric takes him over.

    I almost wish Mary Whitehouse had still cared about the show so she could have had a conniption at the depiction of a faith outside Christianity having the traditional power to beat back a vampire (indeed, thanks to Rev Wainwright, Sorin's and the Doctor's secular faith is the only kind that works).

    Phil, I know this story is crazily oversignified, but I'm surprised that you didn't discuss the importance of the Doctor's display of faith, which fits very well with your original reading of why the Doctor became a hero. His greatest faith is his memories and love for his friends, which only makes what he does to Ace even more tortuous.


  16. Adam Riggio
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:28 am

    Ace, I'm not sure that Amy's faith in the Doctor by The God Complex is unbelievable as much as it passed your limit of skepticism, but not hers. Since Raggedy Doctor night, Amy had defined her life according to this image (and if Let's Kill Hitler was good at one thing, it was in showing how this image of the Doctor played out explicitly in her friendships, even if Mels turned out to have encouraged it for more nefarious reasons).

    I don't think it's that her belief in the Doctor is maintained at a constant level. It's constantly challenged, but when a belief is continually challenged and survives, it just becomes stronger for it. The Doctor unintentionally tests Amy's belief in him, but continually earns it back. It took him 12 years (then another two) to return, but he did. He comes back to her after giving her and Rory a post-honeymoon break (which is a very radical way for the Doctor to treat a companion when you think about it), rescues her from Demon's Run, helps her daughter overcome the torture she received. And even when The God Complex's events in her memory, she still believes in him enough to join up with River in the time-gone-bananas timeline and track the Doctor down to save him.

    Amy's faith is tested by all these events, and the Doctor ends up passing. The one time he doesn't is in The God Complex, when he's forced to flunk on purpose. And it hurts the Doctor more than it hurts Amy.


  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:28 am

    I think I find the suggestion that Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica are interchangeable for these purposes more disturbing than anything else here – and I even like Battlestar Galactica. πŸ™‚

    I didn't know who Corden was when I watched The Lodger, but he was obviously the "comedian guest star" role, so I could at least tell that there was a cultural signifier I was missing. Actually, for me it was Daisy Haggard who was the visible guest actress in that story – I knew her from the delightful sketch troupe Man Stroke Woman. But knowing that gave me a decent sense of what Corden was supposed to signify; we clearly weren't drawing from the Stuart Lee end of the comedy spectrum.

    It's interesting, though, how much Corden has managed both to overcome that and, seemingly, to rehabilitate his career at large, going on to a big theatrical success with One Man, Two Guvnors. And I think that is, in part, because Craig is obviously a role made for a guest actor.

    Parsons, on the other hand, seemed a respectable dramatic actor in a role where one would expect one, and as a result I had no idea he was an odd casting choice, or even a well-known figure to begin with. I just thought he was marvelous. The Corinthians reading scene moves me to this day (even if it has a tendency to make for an awkward moment in wedding ceremonies as I begin imagining Haemovores bursting through the doors of the venue – the perils of learning something from Doctor Who). So I agree, it's sad that his imitation of a serious actor was unconvincing to much of British fandom, though as a blind interrogator, I can confirm that he fooled me at the time.


  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    There's actually been some doubt as to his suicide from day one – his mother always insisted it was an accidental death. I remain unpersuaded, by and large.


  19. elvwood
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:45 am

    As someone who grew up with Sale of the Century (and continues to listen to Just a Minute, albeit irregularly) I think he did a great job and I didn't have any trouble disconnecting his character here from his compere persona (or, perhaps, personae, since he's changed over the years). In fact, I found his appearance in The Comic Strip Presents episode "Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door" more jarring – and there he was playing himself! Basically, this bit of stunt casting worked for me in a way that Hale & Pace didn't.


  20. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:47 am

    The Curse of Fenric does, at least, avoid having any lines as grotesquely horrific as "Mrs. Williams."

    But by and large I love both scenes and have little desire to pick a favorite.


  21. Anton B
    July 27, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    Or Alexei Sale who gives an appalling performance in Revelation of the Daleks. I've never been able to bear to watch Ken Dodd's cameo so can't comment. Parsons, before he became an afternoon quiz show host was a respected supporting actor in a number of i940's and 50's British movies. In Fenric he is well cast to the type he would have played in films contemporaneous with the setting.


  22. Anton B
    July 27, 2012 @ 6:44 am

    BTW having to prove I'm not a robot in order to post a comment has never seemed so apposite!


  23. Adam Riggio
    July 27, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    Oddly enough, Phil, I've seen a couple of episodes of Ray Romano's post-Everybody Loves show, Men of a Certain Age, and found that he quite effectively moved beyond his most famous persona. So maybe a guest appearance on a cerebral sci-fi show wouldn't have been such a tonal shift after all. Just like Corden achieved.

    I know it'll be a while, but I am quite interested in hearing your take on Battlestar Galactica eventually. Given its unlikely revival in 2003-4, and its hitting a creative peak concurrent with the Eccleston and first Tennant years of Doctor Who, I think it's reasonable to expect you to pop between realities to it. It would also be important in that Doctor Who's popular explosion in America under Moffatt happened shortly after Battlestar wound down. So you could think of the end of Battlestar (and maybe Lost as well) creating space for a new sci-fi show to conquer the Comic-Con set, and the Moffatt vintage of Doctor Who arrived just in time.

    Two good friends of mine got married (to each other) a couple of years ago, and they read that Corinthians passage. I also imagined the Ancient One and Sylvester McCoy looking on in approval.


  24. jane
    July 27, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    I'll second the Lost/BSG wind-downs as creating space for my current Who obsessions, not to mention how both programs upped the ante on SF-flavoured character dramas.


  25. David Anderson
    July 27, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    In Invasion, twenty-odd years before this, the cybermen's fleet is blown up by Russian nuclear missiles. I've never seen anybody remark upon the fact that less than ten years after the Cuban missile crisis Doctor Who showed Russian nuclear missiles saving the world.

    One of the more objectionable things about Stalin (once you've excluded killing millions of his citizens) is the way in which he manipulated people's faith in the Revolution.


  26. Jesse
    July 27, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    I hope we're all thinking of the captcha tests as successfully imitating a human for the sake of a computer.

    The captcha tests have half convinced me that I am a computer. Never before have I suffered such an intense bout with Impostor Syndrome.


  27. David Anderson
    July 27, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    In case it's not obvious from what I was saying, I think Hale and Pace work. If a story can switch successfully from suburban London to Anthony Ainley's Master it is straining at gnats to claim that it can't digest a Hale and Pace sketch.


  28. Iain Coleman
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    I think seeing the depiction of Soren as brave is reading American attitudes into a British show. While the UK was indeed on the front line of the Cold War, the British never really saw the conflict with the USSR as an ideological conflict. The general view was more along the lines that the Russians were decent enough people much like ourselves who were ruled by a bunch of mad Communists, while the American were decent enough people much like ourselves who were ruled by a bunch of mad capitalists, and we were stuck in the middle with a great big target painted on us. The sequence with the Russian fishermen in Bill Forsyth's "Local Hero" illustrates this well.

    While some in America saw the Cold War as analogous to the Second World War in terms of it being an existential struggle against an unacceptable ideology, the British saw it more like the First World War, a pointless and deadly struggle of empires with no ideological imperative.


  29. Ununnilium
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    I would say that the Russian faith makes sense specifically in the context of soldiers in World War II, where one's sufferings can be framed entirely in the context of what those Nazi bastards have done to the Motherland.


  30. Roderick Thompson
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    "It does, however, establish a minimum complexity for axiomatisations beyond which they are necessarily incomplete … "

    Yes, and an interesting question which follows on from that is, perhaps, what we think about the nature of mathematics. Godel's Incompleteness Theorems spelled the end of Hilbert's proposal to find a complete, consistent axiomatic foundation for all of mathematics.

    That's really only a problem if one thinks that mathematics is the same as its axiomatization. Godel's first Incompletenes Theorem shows a distinction between the two. So it does not demonstrate a limit to our knowledge. In fact the theorem provides an explicit method for constructing the undecidable Godel sentence for any particular consistent axiomatic system that encompasses arithmetic. When we interpret this sentence, it says essentially, "I am a proposition with no proof in this system." So not only is the sentence undecidable in the system, but also we know it to be true, because we understand its meaning in a way that the axiomatic system cannot. So we know at least one thing which the system doesn't.

    Roger Penrose in his book "The Emperor's New Mind" relates this to the question of whether or not human thinking is the product of a Turing machine. He makes a strong case for the idea that because we do mathematics by insight and not by axiomatizable procedures, we cannot be using a Turing machine algorithm. He argues for a Platonic rather than a formalist understanding of mathematical truth.

    (I should probably add that this is my first post on this blog, which I have been reading and enjoying tremendously for several months now. I haven't seen The Curse of Fenric, but from this description, I am very much looking forward to it.)


  31. encyclops
    July 27, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    This is another one I remember not liking as much as everyone else did, but while I remember exactly why I didn't warm to Ghost Light, I don't remember what the problem was here. It could be that the whole thing just felt disjointed and difficult to follow; I watched the first half this morning in the gym on my phone using Netflix (it's an omnibus edition, oddly), seeing it for the first time in probably 20 years, and I think it might be the first time I caught most of what was going on. It doesn't seem like it jumps around more than any other modern TV show, but maybe it jumps around more than Doctor Who did in times past and more than it does now (when the Doctor is rarely allowed to be offscreen for long).

    I do remember thinking of the faithless priest as being straight out of Salem's Lot, and of this story as falling short of that one in terms of effective vampire horror. If there's a reason the Haemovores had to be vampires, I'm not sure I've worked out what it is; I might have been less inclined to compare the two. I'm reading Paul Cornell's Goth Opera right now, and of course the "faith" angle comes up again and again in it; back when I was really heavily into vampire lore (a generation before Twilight, thank you very much), part of the reason I favored Anne Rice's vampires was that they were entirely unaffected by religious symbols and strong beliefs, unless they themselves happened to be superstitious.

    Most of the McCoy stories had something I found a little "embarrassing," and often it wasn't really any more so than you'd find in any other Doctor Who story, so I don't know exactly what that was about. In this case, I recall it was the two girls who went swimming when they shouldn't have, walking around terrorizing people with their Lee Press-Ons in broad daylight.

    This morning, what embarrassed me about them was the broad characterization and the fact that the harridan in whose house they were lodging was in fact entirely correct about the dangers of Maiden's Point: if "going into the water" is sex, here it's every bit the deathtrap it's advertised to be, at least until the Doctor cleans it up. I'm curious to hear more about how this is a story about sex vs. death when in fact we get the classic slasher formula of sex = death and the secret word that triggers the flask of Norse venom is "love." I'm not saying the story believes those equations, but the first half seems to be deliberately entangling the two, not setting them up in opposition.

    Maybe I don't know much about Turing's life (I definitely had the misunderstanding you predicted about the Turing test, though I've spent a fair amount of time with Turing machines), but I'm not sure I see why you chose to overlap his homosexuality with transgenderism. Is it the hormone injections he was given as compulsory chemical castration? Could you explain more about his "fascination with gender impersonation," or point me to your source for the same?

    Speaking of, all the photos I've seen of Turing are considerably hunkier than his fictionalized counterpart, which is a bit of a bummer for this story. Not that it would contribute to the story for Judson to be sexy. Fortunately the soldiers are pretty easy on the eyes.

    I did enjoy the story more this time around, and I do plan to watch the second half of the story, probably tomorrow. Maybe I'll have more useless things to add then. πŸ™‚


  32. Josh Marsfelder
    July 27, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    Fans of both Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who ought to pay attention to the character of Tricia Helfer's Messenger Six in general, especially in the first episode. That's all I'm gonna say.

    And amazing take on "Fenric", Phil. Just what I expected πŸ™‚


  33. Matthew Blanchette
    July 27, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

    "The Curse of Fenric does, at least, avoid having any lines as grotesquely horrific as "Mrs. Williams." "

    …says the man who treats Lacan with any respect. πŸ˜‰


  34. Matthew Blanchette
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

    If anything, the North American equivalent of "James Corden's guest appearance on Doctor Who" would be "Ashton Kutcher's supporting role in Star Trek 2"… πŸ˜›


  35. Matthew Blanchette
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    So, Phil… what did you think of the Olympic opening ceremonies? πŸ˜‰


  36. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 27, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    I appreciated its moral message that socialized health care would lead to Mary Poppins fighting Voldemort.


  37. Matthew Blanchette
    July 27, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    And that magical statues of Winston Churchill freak even James Bond out.

    Now… due to its absence tonight, I am DEFINITELY expecting a Doctor Who scene during the closing ceremonies. DON'T… fail me AGAIN… Olympics!

    shakes finger at Olympics; walks off


  38. BerserkRL
    July 27, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    That's really only a problem if one thinks that mathematics is the same as its axiomatization

    Exactly. Which is why I continue to think it's not exciting in the way it's been thought to be.

    To put it another way: it was a mistake to think of mathematics as based on, or depending on, its axiomatisation. Mathematics is not based on its axiomatisation; its axiomatisation is based on it. So problems with the axiomatisation need not have important implications for mathematics itself — any more than shooting a bullet at my shadow need affect me.


  39. BerserkRL
    July 27, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

    Fans of both Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who ought to pay attention to the character of Tricia Helfer's Messenger Six in general, especially in the first episode. That's all I'm gonna say.

    Jeri Ryan, Tricia Helfer, and Matt Smith walk into a bar:
    "Hi, I'm Seven of Nine."
    "Hi, I'm Six of twelve."
    "Hi, I'm Eleven of thirteen."
    "So how come yesterday you said you were Eleven of 507?"
    "Oh well, six of one, half a dozen of the other."


  40. Martin Porter
    July 27, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

    Possibly my favourate Who too.

    I suspect the only reason it doesn't win fans polls is that it doesn't contain a 'classic' monster.


  41. Adam Riggio
    July 28, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    In the immortal words of Mr James McCrimmon, "Oooooooooh."


  42. Abigail Brady
    July 28, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    It would be perfect for Matt Smith to arrive in-character at the closing ceremony with a torch, ready to light the cauldron…


  43. Josh Marsfelder
    July 28, 2012 @ 7:47 am

    That's not at all what I was thinking of, but, nevertheless, BeserkRL wins.


  44. Spacewarp
    July 28, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    What is the audio equivalent of a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" moment? Because there was one last night. The TARDIS was briefly heard during Bohemian Rhapsody. There was supposed to be more, but…


  45. Henry R. Kujawa
    July 28, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    Philip Sandifer:
    "the chess puzzle and its solution are completely non-sensical, that a mate-in-one puzzle that stumps an ancient god for ages is ridiculous"

    I totally agree. I personally feel this story would have worked far better if it hadn't been a "sequel" to a story we never saw, if The Doctor had figured out who and what the "Evil from the dawn of time" was right here and now, and if he'd somehow figured out a way to defeat him that– you know– made any damn sense at all.

    Tying this in with a scene in "SILVER NEMESIS" and, worse, "DRAGONFIRE" (same writer, of course) never quite worked for me. It's like, I could see what they were tryinbg to do… I just don't think they pulled it off. And by that, I mean, they didn't convince me it made "any damn sense at all".

    "The result is what is, in my experience, the single easiest piece of classic series Doctor Who to show someone who has never seen it before."

    Are you KIDDING?

    "So on the one hand Fenric is trying to get her to help him bring about Ragnarok"

    This may be the central point. HOW? Okay, so this evil being who is somehow trapped in a ceramic flask (!!!), somehow managed to cause a time storm which whisks Dorothy Gale (haha) away from Earth in the present to Iceworkd in the far future… JUST so The Doctor will pick her up as his latest travelling companion. How could he know The Doctor would show up then and there? And what real purpose is there to have Ace with The Doctor, since everything she's done since hooking up with him has been to become a better person and helping many, many other people? What the HELL am I missing here? Or is the writer really THAT incompetent?????

    So much about this story is so good. WHY did it have to be so completely (in my eyes) derailed by some amateurish fanboy trying to cram in "too much stuff" into a single story, much as he did with "DRAGONFIRE"? Sure, the result here is at least 10 times better… but without the connections, and with a better, more sensible back-story and climax, it could have been damn-near perfect.

    "And also that it seems to take the left-wing, anti-British sentiment too far by its suggestion that the Russian soldiers have greater, secular 'faith' than we do. Which rings false when they were living under a fear state ruled by one of the most evil, bloodthirsty tyrants in history (brought about by the revolution they claim to have such faith in), and that they would only understand success or death in this mission. There's little for them to have faith or hope in."

    It's sad, it's tragic, over the years, I've come to feel the Bolshevik Revolution was perhaps the biggest, most monstrous CON-JOB ever perpetusated on a large segment of humanity. They lied and cheated and stole and MASS-MURDERED their way to the top, they told everyone left that it was some grand scehem for the betterment of mankind, when really, it was just to benefit an army of murderous gangsters who made Adolph Hitler look like an amateur.


  46. Henry R. Kujawa
    July 28, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    Iain Coleman:
    "The general view was more along the lines that the Russians were decent enough people much like ourselves who were ruled by a bunch of mad Communists, while the American were decent enough people much like ourselves who were ruled by a bunch of mad capitalists, and we were stuck in the middle with a great big target painted on us."

    I once read an article about Gerry Anderson's "UFO" which painted the whole show as a thinly-disguised Cold War allegory, with SHADO on one side and the UFOs on the other, and the "good guys" often came across as every bit as bad as the baddies! They tended to be so obseesedd with absolute secrecy at all costs (much more so than learning more about the enemy and finding ways to stop them), that innocent people were in as much danger from them as from the aliens, if, God help them, they ever found out about their top-top-secret organization.

    Nick Smale:
    "I found it impossible to take seriously from the moment Nicholas Parsons appears (though he gives an effective performance)."

    I'd never seen him before, so I found him quite convincing and sympathetic. (Although I could have sworn he'd played the Vicar on "TO THE MANOR BORN", but no, that was someone else.) As it turns out, checking the IMDB, I see he played The Sheriff on Gerry Anderson's "FOUR FEATHER FALLS". (heh)

    Adam Riggio:
    "I know it'll be a while, but I am quite interested in hearing your take on Battlestar Galactica eventually. Given its unlikely revival in 2003-4, and its hitting a creative peak concurrent with the Eccleston and first Tennant years of Doctor Who, I think it's reasonable to expect you to pop between realities to it."

    There was a while there, where BG and DW were the 2 best things on TV, but whereas the BG redo was a dark, nasty, unlikeable F*** of a series, I found the writing and the characters on DW to be much better. In other words, almost as soon as it debuted here, I found the revived DOCTOR WHO to be the best damn thing on TV, period!!!


  47. Matthew Blanchette
    July 28, 2012 @ 10:48 am

    YES!!! I wasn't the only one who heard that! πŸ˜€


  48. encyclops
    July 28, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    I finished it this morning. It was indeed very good.

    I'm not sure I'm convinced that "Mrs. Williams" is a worse thing to call someone than a failed student, a "social misfit," and an "emotional cripple" (and "grotesquely horrific" seems a little strong), though I can see why you might feel that way. Since the point in both cases was not just to be hurtful but to be convincingly hurtful, they all seem to be pitched just about right.

    This time around I noticed that only women are converted to Haemovores — the men just seem to die. I'm not sure what to make of that.

    I don't think I've said it, but I'm grateful you're writing this. I don't always agree with your viewpoints, but often they make me see the stories in a new light, and it's been great to revisit the McCoy era after so long.


  49. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 28, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    The crux of the difference, for me, is that I think we're meant to read the Doctor as telling the truth (or at least as believing himself to be telling the truth) in The God Complex. Because he reaffirms the thrust of his claim in letting Amy and Rory go at the end. McCoy is making a feint to get out of a jam. Smith seems to be admitting an uncomfortable truth.

    The gender impersonation issue, for me, comes mainly from the fact that in the 1940s and 50s the link between "male homosexual" and "effeminate" was a much, much stronger link than exists today, while the cultural understanding of "transgender" as a category was much more limited. Historically speaking, the terms were considerably more conflated. I don't think it's a stretch to assume that the cultural conflation of the concepts would influence both transgender people and homosexuals' self-conceptions. In fact, I think it's almost certain that they would.


  50. Spacewarp
    July 28, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

    Heh! No, you're not mad, though nobody else in our house heard it (philistines!). I guess after 40-odd years I'm psychically tuned into the sound of the TARDIS! Doctor Who is a British cultural icon, I knew they had to give it at least a nod.


  51. Adam Riggio
    July 28, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    It's something I hope Phil covers when he goes through the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ron Moore, BSG, and its predecessors in Moore's career like DS9 and his aborted plans for Voyager that would have made it good.

    Probably the biggest difference between the shows was their tone, and I think it's linked to the circumstances of the shows they were reviving. Doctor Who was known for being silly at times, but also for being a scary and sometimes violent show thanks to the Troughton era thrillers, the Hinchcliffe era gothic horror, the Saward era violence and misanthropy, and the pessimistic character arcs of the Virgin era Seventh Doctor. On top of that, it was known for dealing regularly with very complex and strange ideas. So Doctor Who could afford to be more diverse in its tone.

    The original BSG, meanwhile, was low-budget disco in outer space. Ron Moore and his team had to prove from the start the BSG could be a serious show at all, so they, in my view, overcompensated, at times far too relentlessly bleak.


  52. David Anderson
    July 29, 2012 @ 5:32 am

    For what it's worth I think the chess thing is defensible if we assume that the Doctor explicitly posed the problem as a symbol of the real-life contest between the two of them. In which case it would have been understood that a) either party can play the other party's pieces (which both the Doctor and Fenric do in Curse) and b) the Doctor cheats.
    I don't think it's reading anything into the story to say that the reason Fenric can't solve the puzzle himself is that he can't imagine the pawns not killing each other when they have the chance.


  53. SpaceSquid
    July 29, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    How lovely that I should find this blog just as my favourite Doctor Who story is being considered. I agree on all counts, this is the original series high point, and an excellent introduction to those not already aware of its charms.


  54. Anton B
    July 29, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    My friends and I were convinced that the TARDIS would appear and all the athletes would emerge from it. Oh well, I feel better now I know that the Doctor was at least considered for a cameo appearance. Phillip, I feel the opening ceremony deserves a Pop Between Realities from you particularly considering the bizarre parallel with the end of Alan Moore's recently published 'Century 2009'(Mary Poppins seeing off Voldemort, James Bond entering reality etc.). Perhaps a tie in with 'Fear Her' when we get there?


  55. BerserkRL
    July 29, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    And then Evita should come in saying "I'm dressed up to the nines, at sixes and sevens with you."


  56. Jesse
    July 29, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

    I am not a number. I am a free man.


  57. Alan
    July 29, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    Monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder. I suspect Stalinism appears much more attractive when the amateur Hitler is massing at the border and flat out states his intention to exterminate you and your loved ones because of your inferior genetic stock.


  58. Alan
    July 29, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

    Does anyone know exactly what the Doctor was saying to ward off the haemavores? I know it was the names of past companions (which I thought was absolutely marvelous in what it said about this Doctor's views about his traveling companions) but other than Steven Tyler, I couldn't make them out.


  59. SpaceSquid
    August 21, 2012 @ 9:40 am

    I always assumed that the Viking settlers were already there, hence why the crew carrying the flask went there in the first place. The wolves of Fenric didn't transport the flask, they received it.


  60. Nickdoctorwho
    November 28, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    "The Corinthians reading scene moves me to this day (even if it has a tendency to make for an awkward moment in wedding ceremonies as I begin imagining Haemovores bursting through the doors of the venue – the perils of learning something from Doctor Who)."

    Next time you go to a wedding, Dr. Sandifer, I dare you to successfully organize and pull off just that.


  61. William Silvia
    June 16, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    My criticism of the God Complex comes from the reverse synergy of the season:
    Failures of script editing are particularly noticeable in these seasons. Amy Pond is written as “The Girl Who Waited”- who was willing to wait for over a decade without her faith losing any strength. She was proven by the beginning of the season to have undying faith and devotion in Rory, and the one time Rory is shown to turn on Amy, it’s shown to be a trick by a god amusing himself with the TARDIS. Yet when Amy’s shown trapped on an alien planet for years, she manages to completely turn on the Doctor and hate him and everything he stands for. Even in that episode, it’s her love for Rory that gives her the strength to change the past, yet somehow in “God Complex”, it’s her faith in the Doctor and the Doctor alone that draws the group into a trap.

    Although my take on it was that if either Matt Smith or Toby Whithouse had watched Curse of Fenric, they simply wouldn't have done it that way, because the scene here was so much more powerful than theirs.


  62. Mike
    July 4, 2013 @ 3:34 am

    "It's interesting, though, how much Corden has managed both to overcome that and, seemingly, to rehabilitate his career at large, going on to a big theatrical success with One Man, Two Guvnors."

    I have to disagree that just because he 'does theatre' he wanted to be taken seriously. He was great in One Man, Two Guvnors but that's becasue he was playing the clown and essentially himself. There were much better actors in the cast than him, but he still did a good job. He'd also done The History Boys, which judging by the film was also a good performance.

    I don't dislike him as much as others do but I'd hardly consider him a great actor – his best performances are only very slight departures from playing himself. Unlike Nicholas Parsons who I love anyway, but I think is just magnificent here. His death scene is the most disturbing and tragic in the story – his lack of faith conflicting with his desperation to keep hold of it was beautifully done and made his death suitably devastating.


  63. Orange Coloured Kermit
    June 18, 2014 @ 3:46 am

    Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven. That's as far as he gets before the audio becomes too muffled.


  64. Daibhid C
    September 25, 2014 @ 2:51 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  65. Terry
    December 4, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    I've only just started reading this blog today, and while sometimes it lapses into, what for me, is vaguely incomprehensible and a bit dull, I have to say that it's an excellent read. The 10th was my first Doctor, but my favorite has to be the 7th.

    And this is still my favorite Doctor Who story ever, and probably better to show someone who's never seen it before than something like, say, Genesis or Remembrance of the Daleks (a conclusion I reached about a week ago).


  66. orfeo
    September 30, 2018 @ 5:59 am

    I think it’s good.

    I don’t think it’s THAT good.


  67. fennric
    May 2, 2022 @ 1:46 am

    I named myself after this episode, in a roundabout way. Started using “fennric” as a username not long after this was published (and at a point where I’d already read it/already considered this my favourite episode of Who), and ended up using the shortened version “Fenn” when I transitioned from female to nonspecifically nonfemale entity.

    I could’ve just not named myself after a Doctor Who episode, but I tried ‘normal’ names and none of them clicked. And anyway, as a person for whom “underwater World War II vampires demonically possessing Alan Turing” is an ideal way to spend two hours, nothing else would have been as true to myself.

    I’ve just watched my eponymous episode again, for the first time in a few years, and of course I had to go read this again directly afterwards. In the process, I’ve become aware of a very particular thing:

    This article, from start to finish, is my gender.


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