Less the heroes of our stories than the villains of some other bastard’s

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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. weronika mamuna
    May 12, 2024 @ 1:52 am

    “Ironically sci-fi can do a lot better with lack of rules than fantasy. Magic needs to make sense”

    i said when there was twitter discourse on the distinction: in fantasy science is called magic, in science fiction magic is called science


  2. sqrnookle
    May 12, 2024 @ 2:32 am

    Loved it! The one little headscratcher that I’m hung up on right now is that when the Doctor and Ruby head back to the present, they explicitly state it’s June 2024… but Space Babies is also explicitly Christmas 2023, and it doesn’t feel like Ruby and the Doctor have been travelling for ages together (certainly if she’s only just being introduced to the TARDIS wardrobe). So did the Doctor leave after Christmas and come back? Are there 6 whole months of adventures in-between SB and TDC? (Big Finish are literally already rubbing their hands with glee over on Twitter.) Or is this just a soft reboot to put the finale on or around the airdate?


    • Madeline Jones
      May 12, 2024 @ 2:41 am

      It seems to me like they want you to think there’s been a six-month time jump where the Doctor and Ruby have been readily traveling with each other, based on lines that I remember threw me before the June thing was mentioned like when Ruby says, “I know you, you’re clever!” in a way that seems odd if they had only just met.

      Honestly, between that and how much heavier the finale is being foreshadowed here, I’m left wondering if this episode was meant to be later in the season and moved it up for whatever reason (maybe to make a more exciting double premiere?) but left in all the subtext that makes it feel like a late-season adventure.


    • Ross
      May 13, 2024 @ 11:51 pm

      It’s strange, because Ruby seems to be answering the implicit question at the end of Space Babies: where do you want to go next. There are scenes where Ruby has a strong handle on the Doctor that seems like it comes from experience- she recognizes that his fear at the Maestro us uncharacteristic (Though this is two in a row where the Doctor has been uncharacteristically spooked by the monster of the week…), but at the same time, it’s not just the wardrobe – Ruby clearly doesn’t know how “visiting the past” works insofar as the need to costume-up, and she improvises a way to get them into the studio in a way that indicates that she hasn’t done “bluster your way in somewhere with the Doctor” before. Not sure if it’s indicating a change between drafts or they’re trying to do a “They have this deep and instant connection” thing.


    • Aylwin
      May 14, 2024 @ 6:40 pm

      An additional little infelicity of jumping from Christmas to the “now” of broadcast is that robs a little bite from the wink-to-the-fans detail that, in a series suddenly awash with out-of-context Christmas snowfall, we get an unremarked fall of not-snow-it’s ash thrown in.


  3. CT
    May 12, 2024 @ 2:59 am

    I think ‘the twist at the end’ is just wordplay – ‘the twist’ is the dance they’re doing, not an actual twist ending.


  4. Citizen Alan
    May 12, 2024 @ 3:04 am

    “It seems to me like they want you to think there’s been a six-month time jump where the Doctor and Ruby have been readily traveling with each other, based on lines that I remember threw me before the June thing was mentioned like when Ruby says, “I know you, you’re clever!” in a way that seems odd if they had only just met.”

    I kind of like the idea that Gatwa’s second episode immediately takes a moment to give us space for years worth of Big Finish episodes with Ncuti’s Doctor and Ruby. 🙂


  5. Bedlinog
    May 12, 2024 @ 4:23 am

    Wasn’t the chord that banished Maestro supposed to be the one at the end of Day in the Life? That was played by all Beatles on three pianos (E major), but I guess maybe rights issues stopped that happening more overtly on screen?

    The song at the end would have been more fun if it had actually been a good one. But was the very pointed inclusion of two people from Strictly Come Dancing (Shirley Ballas and Johannes) – the UK’s biggest show – a signal for British audiences at least, that none of it was ‘real’?


    • Eric
      May 13, 2024 @ 12:11 am

      Via Tom Brevoort’s review, Mark Waid thinks that in the original draft it was the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night.”


      • Citizen Alan
        May 17, 2024 @ 1:40 am

        Personally, I am nearly certain that it was the last chord to “I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends,” which, if correct, is brilliant on multiple levels.


  6. Rodolfo Piskorski
    May 12, 2024 @ 5:10 am

    It’s not just that there is a twist in the end. It’s that there is always a Twist in the end. It’s Susan Twist in the end credits.


  7. Ric Crossman
    May 12, 2024 @ 5:17 am

    “If the media is to be believed, the secret chord that banishes Maestro is a C Major, which has got to be the most effort ever expended finding a trivial solution in Doctor Who.”

    I thought the point here – as with the tritone – is that it’s the person playing the chord which actually matters, hence both the Maestro’s brief synopsis of the dude who released them, and the idea that the person who would work out how to banish them would be someone who’s intimately familiar with the kind of misery they’ve caused. It’s not an uncommon idea about music: technical skill is a total irrelevance, what matters is the underlying emotion the artist wants to convey. There’s then the corollary that the more real the emotion is to the artist, the more effective this process will be.

    It’s an approach to music which is blinkered at best, and toxic at worst. Within the episode itself, it also both makes the talk about the tritone being forbidden an extremely unhelpful red herring, and manages to suggest denying the Beatles the opportunity to make music would have been more upsetting to them than surviving a genocide is to the Doctor (and that’s the real lead in to this year’s Eurovision). Still, that to me was the story logic in play.


  8. Cyrano
    May 12, 2024 @ 5:19 am

    It’s interesting how well this episode worked for me despite all the things I’m conscious of about it that don’t really add up.

    If you rescued four random people and a dog from a shipwreck they would look more like the Beatles than these four actors specifically cast to play the Beatles.

    El’s review points out the senselessness of The Maestro’s summoning and banishment, both logically and emotionally. It doesn’t feel earned or fought for – it’s arbitrary. The people fighting for it end up stuck in an oboe and it’s solved by a couple of Beatles wandering down a corridor for no real reason. It doesn’t feel like Paul McCartney plays the piano it feels like he pressed a button on it.

    I’m also not clear on how defeating the Maestro in 1963 undoes all the changes since the 1920s – the episode establishes this a deeply changed world on its way to destruction already.

    A Twist at the End (but it’s the dance the twist) is a fun joke but the song isn’t good enough to sustain the dance number and it’s not a great joke because, under RTD especially, Doctor Who episodes don’t have a twist at the end that much. They resolve pretty straightly but with satisfying sentiment. A bit like the closing song of a musical, which isn’t mostly a twist, it’s a joyful (or tragic), sentimental statement of the themes we’ve been fighting for all along. A Twist at the End doesn’t really have anything to do with the story we’ve just watched. It should have been a lovely song.

    The absence of Beatles music, an inevitability which Davies tells as the key to how he conceived the episode feels like it’s ultimately being too clever. The story, ultimately, needs the Beatles to be saved and to play a famous song. Or at least…you see them in the studio and hear the first note? A clever idea for an episode that requires skipping the big audience satisfying bit doesn’t feel very RTD.

    In that line, Maestro’s plan feels intellectually worked out but not emotionally grounded. Destroying life to write a symphony of Aeolian tones is an intellectual motivation. I think it needed a note of contempt for humanity’s immature love songs or something. Spite.

    Finally, you’re telling me a story about music being turned into a perverted, shameful, secret thing is written by Russell T Davies and isn’t solved by Paul McCartney and John Lennon joyfully coming out as musicians? The sad old man doesn’t banish the bitter, purist god of music by expressing what’s been inside him all those lonely years? There’s all the ingredients in the story for a genuinely meaningful, huge celebratory closing number that’s integrated with the plot but it skirts them all and ends up feeling a bit hollow.

    But…despite being consciously aware of all that, the episode still really worked for me. Just a basic level of moment to moment to entertainment that was missing from so much of the Chibnall era, even as it shares a sense of being a bag of elements it doesn’t quite know how to make best use of. The rooftop piano scene (though…that’s not put next to the Beatles in any meaningful way? It’s not an attempt to get them on track or pull some genuine music out of them?) was beautiful. Jinx Monsoon’s performance was titanic. The sheer fun the Doctor and Ruby are having till it all goes wrong. It all adds up. I can just see a version two drafts down the road, or where Russell got Paul McCartney drunk and they got 30 seconds of Beatles music for less than the cost of the moon and…that would have made more sense.


    • Aristide Twain
      May 12, 2024 @ 9:41 am

      “I’m also not clear on how defeating the Maestro in 1963 undoes all the changes since the 1920s – the episode establishes this a deeply changed world on its way to destruction already.”

      To be fair, this is consistent with the mechanics seen in ‘The Giggle’, where, after the Toymaker was defeated, Charlie snapped back to the night they tested the TV prototype and Stooky Bill caught fire.


      • Corey Klemow
        May 12, 2024 @ 3:11 pm

        Yeah, in my head the only way to reconcile history and music going off-course from 1925-63 is for Maestro’s meddling to be retroactively erased. Unless we’re going to find by the end of the series that the Doctor and Ruby’s travels are seriously bollixing up history.

        I saw someone suggest that they probably could have afforded to license “Twist and Shout,” which was not written by Lennon and McCartney. That would have been a much stronger closing number. But Murray Gold has delivered on the pop tunes before, so it makes sense RTD trusted in him to deliver the goods; this just happened to be the time he didn’t manage it, unfortunately. Loved the intentionally lousy songs, though.


        • Aristide Twain
          May 12, 2024 @ 3:52 pm

          I mean, I like the tune of “Twist at the End” well enough, the problem is the lyrics, and those are RTD’s own ruddy fault.


          • Corey Klemow
            May 12, 2024 @ 7:41 pm

            Something about the tune didn’t quite click with me; only the energy and the joyous dancing really sold the sequence, in my case. But then, there’s someone below going on about pentatonics and similarities to Beatles compositions, so what do I know? (Other than I didn’t love it, much as I wanted to.)

            Still, the one-two punch of “Space Babies” and this largely left me with a big dumb grin on my face regardless.

          • prandeamus
            May 13, 2024 @ 5:23 am

            Lyrics seem in many cases to be placeholders. I dabble with this sort of thing, and when you’re working in a medium in which rhyme is important, it helps to have dummy rhymes as scaffolding. It would, I concede, be better if those lyrics had more meaning.

            “What you intend I can’t defend I think this song will never end” is musically the most interesting bit for me. It goes through a bunch of interesting chord changes (sorry, I’m just insufficiently trained to identify them) that seem to destabilise the key, which is where the song for a moment becomes much more complex than pastiche on Twist-era sounds. And it’s visually signified by H.Arbinger at the door. I’m probably reading this too closely, but that’s all part of the fun.

            And it was fun.

      • Cyrano
        May 12, 2024 @ 4:32 pm

        Oh yes, fair enough, I’ll suck that one back in


      • Ross
        May 13, 2024 @ 11:54 pm

        The obvious solution that comes to me is that it’s not so much “defeating the Maestro undoes everything they did” as it is “Defeating the Maestro sends all the music they consumed back to where it came from” – history reverting follows on from the music being there again.


    • Jesse S
      May 12, 2024 @ 9:20 pm

      I pretty much agree with everything you said. I enjoyed this episode a lot more than it deserved.

      The Beatles were definitively a missed opportunity (and terribly cast – why cast a guy with strikingly blue eyes to play Paul McCartney??). After the cafeteria scene where John and Paul are shown to have their music buried away within them as a shameful secret, of course the emotional through-line is to see them joyfully embrace their music. Very strange to see RTD drop the ball on what’s typically been his specialty: the emotional payoff of a story.


      • AuntyJack
        May 15, 2024 @ 9:47 am

        The casting of the Beatles (and Cilla) with shoddy lookalikes was quite deliberate. The production team were showing us versions of John, Paul etc with all the soul, charisma and music sucked out, looking small, shoddy and beaten down. The music inside them is what makes them look so extraordinary and alive and charismatic in ‘reality’.


    • Eric
      May 13, 2024 @ 12:26 am

      Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.


    • Citizen Alan
      May 17, 2024 @ 1:48 am

      “In that line, Maestro’s plan feels intellectually worked out but not emotionally grounded. Destroying life to write a symphony of Aeolian tones is an intellectual motivation.”

      The impression I got from Maestro’s monologue about nuclear winter is that they somehow gained power from the potential of music that is never actually created. The way I see it: (1) the Harbinger allowed Timothy to inadvertently summon the Maestro with the Tritone, (2) Maestro then offered to free the music in Timothy’s heart, (3) Timothy, misunderstanding the nature of the offer, accepts, thereby allowing Maestro to use their full power on the human race. Hence, “The Devil’s Chord” which can be used to allow the Devil to enter. And what does the Devil always to? Offer you something for your soul that’s not worth the price you pay for it.


  9. Cyrano
    May 12, 2024 @ 6:07 am

    Oh here’s an extra thought: the show seems to be at pains at the moment to show how changing the past can rewrite the present.

    In the Church on Ruby Road, we see the present changed by Ruby being kidnapped as a baby. Space Babies has the butterfly routine and The Devil’s Chord finally finds time for the Pyramids of Mars bit that’s been considered multiple times in the past but cut for not really contributing.

    Is the show trying to establish as the sort of thing that can happen? Writing it in as the stakes for a time traveller so it can do it in a big way in the finale?


    • Harlequin
      May 13, 2024 @ 12:30 am

      So the finale might show us the true mavity of what they’ve been doing?


  10. Chris C
    May 12, 2024 @ 6:41 am

    This episode stars the winner of Drag Race, the TARDIS canonically having “wigs galore” is perfect.


  11. Richard Pugree
    May 12, 2024 @ 8:31 am

    I was watching Church on Ruby Road again this week, and was struck that having the Doctor navigating (with Ruby), what it means to be an abandoned child, as they now understand themselves to be, does potentially set up a Susan story that might actually be worth doing.

    Looks like we’re getting it!

    This episode really feels like it was originally placed later on in the series – all the ‘you’re not like this ‘you never run’ stuff. Did thewy move it up specifically for Eurovision do you think?

    I think it would have worked better later on, so that there was more breathing space between this and The Giggle.


    • Harlequin
      May 13, 2024 @ 12:34 am

      Moving it to lead into Eurovision seems to make some kind of sense. Although that song sounding, to me, reminiscent of some older British entries sways me toward this being where it was meant to be.


  12. Richard Pugree
    May 12, 2024 @ 8:34 am

    “It’s clearer than ever that we’re going to get Susan, though. I’m continuing to have my money on Mrs. Flood and not the recurring Susan Twist character, both because I think you’d go for the better known actor for that role and because Mrs. Flood acts more like you’d expect a regenerated Susan to.”

    She’d recognise the police box TARDIS straight away though, no?


    • Anton B
      May 12, 2024 @ 12:06 pm

      She clearly does and even remonstrated with her neighbour because he didn’t. With a fourth wall breaking wink to the camera.


      • Corey Klemow
        May 12, 2024 @ 3:05 pm

        But earlier in the episode she didn’t seem to recognize it. She was also way more grumpy and unfriendly and didn’t have that cheery twinkle in her eye and personality that she had at the end.


      • Richard Pugree
        May 12, 2024 @ 3:35 pm

        No she recognizes it as a TARDIS only once she has seen it dematerialize and rematerialize somewhere else. And they make a real big deal of her being annoyed about it being there at the start, and then explicitly recognising it as a TARDIS afterwards.
        Which would suggest that she’s familiar with TARDIS’s in general but she didn’t recognise ‘the’ TARDIS. (Or she’s opened a Chameleon Arch by then; or been replaced etc). I mean, it’s possible she’s just pretending not to at first, I suppose, that just would seem quite pointless.


  13. Aristide Twain
    May 12, 2024 @ 9:36 am

    “But the real spicy one is the poster advertising both John Smith and Chris Waites, when we all know that they’re the same person. Are we about to get earth-shattering revelations about fictional 1960s musicians?”

    I like the reading that a wacky sitcom about the Many Lives of Aubrey Waites is being implied. It writes itself: Our Hero has wound up fronting two different bands under two different assumed names, but oh noes! They’ve been booked to appear at the same performance! How will our boy cope?

    (Presumably it goes awry, the charade crashes down, and this is why Ian knows perfectly well that John Smith=Chris Waites a few months later.)


  14. Anton B
    May 12, 2024 @ 12:20 pm

    This might be a stretch but that’s never stopped me before.
    That eerie Christmas carol emanating from Ruby as she hangs in the air. (Did we also hear it in the scene where the cloaked figure leaves her in the snow outside the church?) It seems to disturb Maestro and prompt their final ‘One Who Waits’ warning. Is it another clue? Susan has been waiting for the Doctor to come back as promised for centuries. Susan was played by CAROL Ann Ford.
    Incidentally, in England carol singers are also called Waites.
    Another link to the honourable Aubrey/Chris/John Smith?


    • Harlequin
      May 13, 2024 @ 12:48 am

      The billboard also reminded us that Waites’s band at the time was known as the Carrollers.


      • Anton B
        May 13, 2024 @ 5:07 am

        I rest my case. 😉


  15. prandeamus
    May 12, 2024 @ 3:13 pm

    I am sure there are better musicologists that me, but that twist song, man. The first few bars have nods to the pentatonic approach that early Beatles music is known for. By the end into a bunch of modulations just before the boy looks through the door. Maybe Murray Gold is just pulling a bunch of musical cheap tricks, but my word I loved it.

    Putting any arcs and kisses to the past and whatnot to one side, this story can be understood by a child – the villain is trying to steal all the music, but the Doctor stops him.

    Yeah, there’s stuff to criticise, but I loved it.


    • prandeamus
      May 12, 2024 @ 6:00 pm

      Minor edit: Doctor stops “them” I guess.

      I would be fascinated to know how these two episodes land with folks who literally haven’t seen the programme before. No doubt time will tell, etc.


      • Harlequin
        May 13, 2024 @ 12:50 am

        It always does.

        </Seventh Doctor>


      • George Lock
        May 17, 2024 @ 6:28 am

        Well my two kids’ first proper episodes were The Star Beast and Church on Ruby Road. Space Babies was definitely the bigger hit with them, but they enjoyed both.


  16. JdR
    May 12, 2024 @ 11:59 pm

    I’m intrigued that there seems to be a plot-line mystery in the RTD2 stories where “time doesn’t work like its supposed to” (or at least how it usually (inconsistently, sure) works in Doctor Who) and the Doctor noticing and trying to work out how/why its somehow centred around Ruby (but still somehow flowing out of the expelling of the meta crisis from Donna’s body and the invocation of superstition at the edge of the universe):
    – the butterfly scene most obviously
    – the memories intruding on reality
    – the 1925/1963 problem
    – the goblins having time travel, kidnapping Ruby, changing everything, and the Doctor changing it back.


  17. sqrnookle
    May 13, 2024 @ 4:13 am

    One thing that struck me last night: it seems that Maestro’s spell largely only effects composition, not so much performance (the orchestra playing Three Blind Mice badly aside). The Beatles can sing and play about Paul’s dog Fred perfectly fine, even though the song itself is (delightfully) crap, and Cilla can still sing too.

    There’s interesting threads to pull here – firstly, that the Beatles’ first album is fairly heavy on covers (6 out of 14 tracks), and while there’s a few good originals on it’s largely some of their lesser work, which is understandable! But The Beatles are very much the pivot point in the modern music history where the idea of a performer writing their own material was not only common but became expected – prior to the 60s it was not as inherently prestigious to write all your own material, as the Beatles did from Rubber Soul on.

    It’s also a very, shall we say, writerly view of music. Timothy Drake is specified as an unsung genius not because of his performance but because of his compositions. Paul and John’s genius is about the songs they have written (or in this case not written), and not their performance or indeed album production (which if you’re unaware is in some ways an even bigger legacy than their songs – they along with George Martin and the Abbey Road engineers pioneered so many techniques and styles of recording over their career that helped bring music production into the modern era, really). To minimise performance is a shame, as it’s often undervalued (especially post-Beatles as bands were expected to write all their own material (which also had the enticement of songwriter royalties)), but in terms of acts of ‘creation’ to both loose and chain Maestro it does make sense.

    Just some exhausted ramblings about music. 🙂


  18. Jesse
    May 13, 2024 @ 7:45 pm

    Best episode in ages. I won’t be surprised if it does turn out to be my favorite of the season.

    (Also: I’ve been trying to start a rumor that “There’s always a twist at the end” means every episode will now end with a musical number. Help me out, folks.)


  19. AJ McKenna
    May 13, 2024 @ 9:55 pm

    I keep going back to Tennant’s line in the Comic Relief special about the canon being in flux, and I still think that has some sort of relevance to all the ways things seemingly work differently this time around. The last time the Time Lords were out of the picture we had Reapers going around trying to stitch paradoxes back together with extreme prejudice, and that was just when they were all secretly hiding (and then it all got retconned in Day of the Doctor anyway). So now they’ve been destroyed on a cellular level…if there is no-one actively protecting the arc of history, nobody anchoring the thread, no wonder everything is boiling off into weirdness all over the place. Maybe everything so far – New Davros, Mavity, the simultaneous biregeneration of all incarnations of the Doctor, the re-emergence of the Pantheon (who knew the Yssgaroth would be so fabulous?) – is the result of the fact that (a) nobody is in charge, history in the Whoniverse is now terrifyingly rudderless and (b) the one person who might be able to fix it is just farting about (literally in Space Babies) the time/space continuum instead. What if the big biregeneration is the universe trying to recreate enough Time Lords to re-anchor the thread from the original source of their biodata? What if it’s a failsafe programmed into the Doctor by Tecteun in the event of a Time Lord genocide?

    Also as to the mystery of Ruby Sunday…well, her first proper episode has a long discussion about Time Lords and their pretentious names, and she’s named, at least partly, after a song whose chorus is ‘who could hang a name on you’. Is she also somehow part of the failsafe? Is she another Timeless Child? It’s always best to keep a backup…

    Oh, and the eerie carol is ‘Carol of the Bells’, but I don’t know if that has any special resonance, necessarily.

    Obviously all of the above is probably completely wrong.


    • Harlequin
      May 14, 2024 @ 11:56 pm

      “Oh, and the eerie carol is ‘Carol of the Bells’, but I don’t know if that has any special resonance, necessarily.”

      The resonance of the Carol Bell(m)Ann-Ford shortest path algorithm?

      Apologies. I still have Anton B in my head 😉


      • Anthony Bernacchi
        May 15, 2024 @ 1:19 am

        “Carol of the Bells” is originally from Ukraine, if that means anything.


    • Citizen Alan
      May 17, 2024 @ 1:55 am

      “What if it’s a failsafe programmed into the Doctor by Tecteun in the event of a Time Lord genocide?”

      While I want the Timelords to return in some capacity (I loathe Chibnall’s idea that everything the Doctor did to save them in Day of the Doctor was undone in a day by the Master in a fit of pique, and he could only do so because the 12th Doctor spared Missy’s life and tried to rehabilitate her only for her to die and be reborn as the Dhawan Master), I would be very grateful if allowed to forget that “Tecteun” ever existed.


  20. Rei Maruwa
    May 15, 2024 @ 6:11 am

    These stories aren’t quite as polished as one would maybe expect, but I have to respect RTD for going for pure absolute fun + weirdness over everything else, including any fear of criticism. It’s a fair enough statement of intent for a new version of DW.


    • Aylwin
      May 15, 2024 @ 11:13 am

      Going by the form-book, I’m not sure greater polish is necessarily what one would expect. After all, RTD’s Doctor Who scripts during his first tenure were usually a hot mess of brilliance entangled with incoherence. That impression of needing another draft or two has been kind of the default when he writes for the series, in a way that sits a bit oddly with the more refined impression of his other work.

      There are reasons why one might hope that that would have changed – a less frenetic workload, continued growth as a writer (given that his best non-Who work has probably appeared post-2009), arguably a greater average sense of completeness in the 2023 specials than in RTD1 – but that was always still largely in the realms of speculation.


      • Steven
        May 19, 2024 @ 2:36 pm

        Yeah this is something I’ve found so interesting about the series.

        When RTD first took over the show, it was in the guise of a very hot up-and-comer who could do absolutely anything. When he was announced as returning to the show, it was from a different place. He’s now probably the most distinguished British TV writer of his generation. His pre-Who work was great but his work since has been astonishing (and an interesting contrast with Moffat – Boom is excellent but his work since his time on Who (aside from perhaps his play which I’ve not seen or read) has been surprisingly shaky). He’s gone from an all-time great Who writer to, imo, the most significant voice on British tv.

        But him in Who mode, on the strength of the episodes so far – and this is not coming from a place of disappointment as I love the episodes to date – remains absolutely the same. Like fundamentally the difference between this series and RTD’s initial run is just, like, he’s even more confident and the fetters are off. But the sense that these scripts are written on the cuff of his pants, with ‘this’ll do’ resolutions and a fair bit of disregard for internal logic… it really feels like he’s picked up without missing a beat and is totally unconcerned with porting over the maturity and refinement he brought to Cucumber, Y&Y, A Very English Scandal, Nolly or, above all, It’s a Sin. It’s genuinely pretty surprising. But it’s also refreshing. I think RTD loves Who because its maybe the only show where his approach can get so far.

        There’s changes I’d make to Chord if someone lost their mind and sent it to me for script-notes, but only around the edges (for instance, i think the story would have more logic to it if the world wasn’t one where music was suddenly bad, but one where it wasn’t valued in its own right – just imo they should have turned up to Abbey Road to hear the Beatles record their album, and instead of a bad tune they should have been making advert jingles. It’d have more internal logic (why would Abbey Road be a big expensive studio, who would care to tune the pianos and spend the money to make this happen?) and would also play into the Toymaker’s use of meme in The Giggle.

        This ep’s also interesting to re-visit in the wake of Boom. It positions RTD and Moffat as really having opposite but complimentary strengths. Moffat’s a genius of scenario, Russell of character. 15 and Ruby in Chord and Babies speak and act like no doctor or companion prior. With Boom – which again I love – i was really struck by a sense that in writing the perfect Doctor in 12, and the perfect companion in Clara, Moffat’s never quite going to be able to un-write them.

        also a final note to this long reply – to Elizabeth S herself. How nice to have a Who worth talking about again! I have missed all these communities and blogs terribly.


        • Steven
          May 19, 2024 @ 2:40 pm

          Just want to make it clear I have no clue why my user photo is a woman in a bikini. Not a clue how to change it hahahah


        • Cyrano
          May 19, 2024 @ 6:27 pm

          I don’t think you can call Russell T an ‘up and comer’ when he first came to Who. He was a mature talent. Multiple series he’d created to critical acclaim, talent signing up on the strength of his name, basically able to hold the BBC to ransom by telling them he wanted to do Who. He’d up and come.

          His scripts have always lacked the conscious polish and construction of the best of Moffat’s, which is not to say they’re bad or unprofessional just not structural in that way. Moffat’s scripts often show you all the bits, then show you them fitting together in a way that’s both surprising and inevitable. RTD’s are more intuitive, less intellectual and, to borrow a phrase I don’t think was around in 2005, operate more on vibes (though Wild Blue Yonder and Space Babies have elements of systems out of control, and mystery unravelling we can only call Moffatesque). I think they’re much cleverer than the seat of the pants comment suggest. They feel like they’re flying by the seat of their pants, but designed to land safely.

          No, what surprises me about The Devil’s Chord is that what’s left on the table are such archetypal Davies elements. The half set up but unresolved metaphor about music being a shameful secret. The unsung songs in the heart of the lonely old man. Our hosts often talks about RTD’s hedonistic instinct – life justifies and saves itself with its joys and pleasures. Singing songs and making love. And that was there in the big musical number but it was arbitrary. Lennon/McCartney just press buttons on the piano they don’t Come Out as musicians. The old man’s music remains unplayed.


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