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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.

10 Comments

  1. Aristide Twain
    April 21, 2020 @ 5:48 pm

    Interesting as always! But you write: “the process of history is instead defined by stasis—by the fact that it does not advance, and things do not change.”

    At the risk of being that one person who can’t help bringing up obscure “Faction Paradox” nonsense, I feel as though you miss a trick when you conflate the Time Lords’ attitude to the history of the rest of the universe and their attitude to their own history. A key idea in Lawrence Miles’s take on the Time Lords, and which seems to make sense of this paradox perfectly, is that they made themselves static and sterile precisely so that they could stand as a constant at the center of History — whereas, if they allowed themselves to change, they would be swept up in History, and thus become unable to rule it from the outside.

    Thus, what happens in “The Deadly Assassin” — the Doctor and the Master underpinning their latest shenanigans on rediscovered Time Lord history — is part and parcel of what happens when you have a story set entirely on Gallifrey. Namely, that Gallifrey gets saddled with the usual duties of a Doctor Who setting, and gets swept up in a typical Doctor Who narrative, becoming crushingly banal in the process. The monolithic image of “the Time Lords”, which serves as a constant to most attempts at defining a Doctor Who “mythology”, crumbles.

    So another way to say “the Time Lords cannot get involved in History” is that the “epic” mode of the Time Lords, the one fans get teary-eyed about, is actively inimical to a Doctor Who story, or any kind of story for that matter. They become caricatures as soon as you put them in a plot. (Mr Chibnall, I hope you’re taking notes.)

    You yourself posit, and that is a very interesting lens, that the Time Lords are feudal Lords over Time as the means of production of History. If so, you should no more expect the Time Lords to have History than expect a medieval lord to be tilling the ground of his own banquet hall. But the fact that you never see the Lord farming himself doesn’t mean his concept of “farming” consists of doing nothing at all.

    If there is a sociopolitical metaphor in there, it might be for something along the lines of western civilization’s tendency to sit back on its laurels and assume that progress is only something for the less fortunate to catch up with.

    Reply

    • Mikey
      April 24, 2020 @ 2:20 pm

      Given the fact that Chris Chibnall would fall well within the sorts of people that Robert Holmes evidently enjoyed mocking — harrumphing, pompous, incompetent middle-aged man, stuck in the past with fixed establishment views who wears silly bright coloured clothing, and is worried more about inane “conspiracy theories” (see: last episode) and public perception than having a constructive vision for the future, and he hasn’t realised, there’s little chance he’ll start taking notes now unfortunately.

      Reply

  2. Gareth Wilson
    April 22, 2020 @ 7:22 am

    “Spandrell has possibly the least suitable job for a companion, which is to say that he’s a cop.”
    I see what you did there.

    Reply

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  4. Camestros Felapton
    April 23, 2020 @ 8:15 pm

    I hadn’t noticed before that Spandrell is a space between companions given that spandrels are spaces formed between arches

    Reply

  5. Jarl
    April 24, 2020 @ 7:04 am

    I wonder whatever happened to that Phil Sandifer guy. He must have been so embarrassed after saying the Doctor was from the Land of Fiction that he changed his name and did something else drastically wonderful and discovered a new world of possibility on the other side of it, or something. idk.

    Reply

    • prandeamus
      April 24, 2020 @ 9:42 pm

      De mortuis nil nisi bene dicendum.

      Reply

  6. Mikey
    April 24, 2020 @ 2:04 pm

    “And given that it is comprised entirely of the minds and memories dead Time Lords, it necessarily is a regulation with an eye on the past. Things will run the way they have always run. It’s notable the extent to which this imposes a sense of stasis upon the Time Lords. Never mind their “life of ordered calm” or the fact that they’ve wholly forgotten how their own civilization formed because, apparently, the content of history is not as important to them as the form of it. Consider the rarely remarked upon line about how the Time Lords “turned aside from the barren road of technology.” There’s an overwhelming sense here that the Time Lords have cut themselves off from any notion of change or progress. Things are not supposed to advance. They’re not supposed to change. The process of history is instead defined by stasis—by the fact that it does not advance, and things do not change.”

    When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking of the current Doctor and the last episode The Timeless Children, where Chibnall decided that The Doctor is not just another Time Lord, but the Uber-Time Lord. The one responsible for all that the Time Lords are and when placed in their proper context, how utterly fitting is this for Chibnall’s vision of the show? “The process of history is instead defined by stasis—by the fact that it does not advance, and things do not change.”

    That aside, thank you for writing this. It’s a tremendously insightful piece and I look forward to the next.

    Reply

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  8. Gnaeus
    May 9, 2020 @ 11:49 pm

    “But it’s also a very specific vision of human flaws. The Time Lords’ taste for ceremony and pomp and the derision with which Cardinal Borusa treats Runcible is enough to imply a class system, but there’s no real sense that poverty or deprivation exist.”

    Well, yes, and that’s because it’s basically a piss-take of an Oxford college, with some Vatican flavouring. All the dressing up, but none of the hard realities in sight.

    “Nevertheless, there’s a sense of a government consisting purely of civil servants, carrying out functions without any political leadership per se.”

    Ah yes, the “radical centre”.

    “Its job is “monitoring and predicting” what happens in the capital. This makes some sense of the main ceremonial chamber being known as the Panopticon. ”

    Presumably the joke here is that, capable of watching the entire universe at any point in its history, the Time Lords would rather watch each other?

    “Never mind their “life of ordered calm” or the fact that they’ve wholly forgotten how their own civilization formed because, apparently, the content of history is not as important to them as the form of it.”

    It really is a very good satire of British politics.

    Reply

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