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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.

16 Comments

  1. Jack Graham
    February 3, 2012 @ 1:02 am

    Great essay.

    One thing. I've always taken the business in 'Logopolis' about Adric thinking the Watcher is the Master to be dramatic irony. I mean, the Master is clearly implied to be the chuckling presence within the TARDIS, isn't he? And the chuckling presence is quite separate from the white sentinel. They occur at different times and in different spaces (e.g. inside the TARDIS; far outside the TARDIS).

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  2. Paul Ingerson
    February 3, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    Interesting essay, but you missed out on the fact that they chose to remind us (and let new viewers learn for the first time) of the thirteen lives limit in the story right before a regeneration story. It's as though they really want us to feel that after Logopolis the Doctor (and the series?) will be one step closer to a final death. Great way to reassure us!

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  3. Adeodatus
    February 3, 2012 @ 7:54 am

    Nice piece. Here's a thought: I've always felt that the Master's costume and demeanour from here on make him resemble nothing so much as a stage magician. Black velvet and glitter, showy "reveals", a grandiose manner. Given what you've been saying about Bidmead bringing back Whitaker's magic/science approach, might it be significant that it's this Master/Magician who (repeatedly) breaks the science-derived narrative?

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  4. BerserkRL
    February 3, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    Petty quibble: I believe it's "jackanapes," not "jackanape."

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  5. Alan
    February 3, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    Three points:

    1. I've always attributed the weakness of the Ainley Master to writing more than the actor. In the better Master stories from here on out, Ainley is fine. In particular, "Survival" from the Cartmel era is easily his best story, IMO, because the story allows him to act out a barely restrained homicidal menace that's quite frightening at times. Whereas, in "Mark of the Rani," he shows up for no purpose at all except to screw around with the Rani and the Doctor, destroying the plans of the former for no purpose other than to stage an elaborate death trap for the latter. The Rani even lampshades it with that wonderful barb "Whatever his plan is, it'll be devious and overcomplicated. He'd get dizzy if he ever tried to walk in a straight line." It seems to me that, faced with a character who seemed to have no motives other than to be a pantomime villain, Ainley just shrugged and chose to play him as a pantomime villain.

    2. I have to say I do think you underestimate how important "Nyssa as companion" is to this story. She is introduced as an excellent potential companion. I immediately fell in love with her in episode three. To recap: Up to this point, Nyssa is portrayed as a sweet young princess in the mold of Victoria Waterfield, who nevertheless has the presence of mind to pose as a cold arrogant bitch when necessary to bribe and bully guards. Then, she learns that the Doctor, Adric and Tremas have been captured and imprisoned. So this fairy tale princess (complete with a tiara and a poofy skirt), who was born and raised on a world that hardly knows what war or violence are, calmly goes home and assembles a stun gun out of ordinary household tools before staging a one-woman jailbreak. That's practically Leela territory as far as I'm concerned! And then, she goes on to matter-of-factly help Adric build the machine that will basically destroy her civilization because it's the only way to beat Melkur. It is only after the day is "saved" and the Doctor has literally run out the door to avoid interacting with these people anymore, that her father is effectively murdered and cannibalized by the Master. I think it's very significant that the last line of the story goes to the now orphaned Nyssa, who wanders in plaintively calling for her father. I remember watching this and being quite angry that the Doctor didn't come back either to save Tremas or to take Nyssa with him.

    3. This is yet another episode in which, IMO, Adric is fine. He continues to have a good relationship with the Doctor (regardless of what was happening behind the scenes) and he even gets in a good line: In response to a bit of nonsense from the Doctor, he snaps "That's the silliest thing you've ever said," and the Doctor agrees! I laughed out loud at that.

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  6. Iain Coleman
    February 3, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    That lengthy opening Tardis scene with the Doctor and Adric is easily the best we've seen the young lad. There's a real on-screen chemistry between the characters, and relationship of experienced eccentric man and bright but callow youth really works. If the characters had been able to continue in this vein, Adric would certainly have been more affectionately remembered, especially if it gave Matthew Waterhouse the confidence to finally figure out how to walk realistically.

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  7. Spacewarp
    February 3, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    @Iain Coleman. I do so agree with you. It's the only time that the Doctor and Adric have got themselves to themselves, and they interact wonderfully. There's no real friendship or affection between the two of them because both characters seem quite alike – essentially emotionally stunted – the Doctor by the particular alien detachment this incarnation has from humanity, Adric simply by his youth and personality. As soon as you put a third person into the mix, Adric's one-to-one relationship with the Doctor disappears and he appears forced into the role of younger brother continually arguing with older sisters. You can see it in his bickering with Tegan and Nyssa, and to be honest you saw it previously with Romana. The problem is of course that he was plainly written that way, but it's Waterhouse who seems to have shouldered the blame.

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  8. Shane Cubis
    February 3, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    "There’s actually an entertaining theory to be spun here. The fact that the Doctor knows he meets Nyssa in his fourth incarnation means that he cannot regenerate until he does. This corresponds perfectly with his cockier and more domineering demeanor in the Williams era. And after meeting Nyssa in this story he becomes deeply sulky and funerial, as if he knows the jig is up."

    Just like Arthur Dent and Stavromula Beta!

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  9. inkdestroyedmybrush
    February 3, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

    how did Tom Baker know that he was destined to meet Nyssa prior to his regeneration? Am i forgetting something here?

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  10. Matthew Blanchette
    February 3, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    That Stavro Mueller sure did have a great nightclub, eh? 😉

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  11. Abigail Brady
    February 4, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    "does the Doctor’s not taking Nyssa with him at the end of this story constitute a deliberate attempt to alter history?"

    And then in the next story Nyssa turns up anyway. The Watcher is trying to get history back on the right track, and truly paving the way for the regeneration by making sure Nyssa is taken as a companion?

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  12. Matthew Kilburn
    February 8, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    The borrowing from Shakespeare isn't just influence from The BBC Television Shakespeare – Johnny Byrne, hippy-era poet and pop culture guru that he was, was profoundly interested in harmony and the restoration of a lost balance of humanity with nature. There was a view of Elizabethan cosmology which chimed with this outlook, of ordered hierarchical spheres of influence, from an era when astronomy and astrology were allied disciplines. There's more of the same in Arc of Infinity. It's ironic that Bidmead, who later claimed to be seeking to stamp out mysticism in the programme, brought in a writer (who had had talks with at least two of the three previous script editors) who had the clearest mystical vision for Doctor Who's universe.

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  13. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 7, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

    Philip Sandifer:
    "if we take Asylum seriously and assume that the Doctor knows Nyssa is a companion from the start, does the Doctor’s not taking Nyssa with him at the end of this story constitute a deliberate attempt to alter history?"

    Ah, now I know you're not talking about the Amicus film. That one's got Geoffrey Bayldon in it, who turns out to be quite NUTS, and he even gets to KILL JESUS before it's over. No, really. All to the tune of Mussorgsky. (Come to think of it, "Doctor Who" is in that movie, too!)

    "Of course, the idea that he’s just grumpy about losing Romana is probably the better account."

    Of course. By my account, only twice in 26 tv seasons did he really fall in love, and this was the 2nd time he lost one.

    "the debate really centers on the desire of some fans to have a reason to tell other fans they’re wrong about something"

    You should see the arguments at the IMDB regarding Peter Davison (or Colin Baker).

    "There’s something very Shakespearean about this story: the plot. In the end this is a story about a dying king and a battle of succession."

    Yes, I really noticed that tonight. that and the way that, of all the stories this season, this is the one that most feels like a videotaped stage play. (And I've seen more Shakespeare in the last 10 years than in the 40 before that.)

    "The only difference is that in Shakespeare the stranger whose arrival kicks things off would have been a secret heir to the throne and ultimately the suitor of Nyssa, not the Doctor."

    I keep thinking Adric should have stayed behind with Nyssa.

    "What we have here is another deliberate and carefully measured step along a well considered reinvention of what Doctor Who is and should be in the 1980s. For the first time in years we have a coherent vision of what Doctor Who is being executed with reliable competence by the production team. This is a crowning glory for the show."

    Maybe. But of late, I'm finding myself partly wishing it had never happened.

    Alan:
    "So this fairy tale princess (complete with a tiara and a poofy skirt), who was born and raised on a world that hardly knows what war or violence are, calmly goes home and assembles a stun gun out of ordinary household tools before staging a one-woman jailbreak. That's practically Leela territory as far as I'm concerned!"

    Wonderful! I love that sequence. Particularly, when she has the guy toss the key on the ground, apparently because she KNOWS they'll try to do something when she bends down to get it, giving her an excuse to open fire. After, note Tremas putting his arm around her and smiling with pride, to which The Doctor says, "Remind me never to fall out with your daughter."

    By the way, I wonder what anyone here might think of the one reviewer at Page Fillers who felt this was actually the worst-plotted, though best-produced of Johnny Byrne's 3 WHO scripts? He ran down a list of identical plot elements in all 3 stories. Reminded me of when I watched 3 different Paddy Chayefsky movies on TCM within a few months of each other.

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  14. goatie
    August 12, 2012 @ 5:45 am

    Thanks to the way the words on the page organize themselves around the picture, I got to read this:

    "John Lennon is down to two top ten singles – His coat contains a furnace where there used to be a guy."

    Now I'm imagining a John Lennon / John Linnell mashup.

    Reply

  15. John Binns
    May 12, 2015 @ 4:15 am

    The line is "what can't be cured must be endured"!

    Reply

  16. orfeo
    August 10, 2016 @ 10:39 am

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that there’s an accidental trilogy here, unless you’re referring to the script as originally written before the Master was put into it.

    Because another source discusses quite convincingly the various attempts that Nathan-Turner made to smooth over the departure of Tom Baker. He wanted a familiar character for the audience while the change in Doctor was occurring. His initial thoughts were to bring back a previous companion – either Sarah Jane Smith or Leela – but as both actors were not interested the decision was made to bring back a familiar villain instead.

    So by the time Castrovalva was being made (and indeed even by the time it was being written), it had been intended for a long time that the end of Season 18 and the beginning of Season 19 would share a familiar character. To the extent that you invoke Castrovalva in your “accidental trilogy” notion, you’re completely off base.

    Reply

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