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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.

71 Comments

  1. Daibhid C
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:48 am

    Great post.

    I'd add that, despite Platt's dislike of the half-human Doctor, his obsession with continuity means he can't quite ignore it. So, even though the entire point of the story is the Doctor was Loomed, we also get told that he's the only Time Lord with a belly-button and no-one knows why. Oh, and the first Time Lord child born for millennia is half-human and named after him. Maybe it's a predestination paradox! Only, er, it isn't, because Platt's already told us it isn't.

    Reply

  2. Lewis Christian
    December 14, 2012 @ 2:54 am

    Interestingly, as an addition to this post, Cartmel is revisiting the so-called 'Master Plan' in comic form: https://www.facebook.com/fanfictionmag

    Reply

  3. SpaceSquid
    December 14, 2012 @ 3:24 am

    We can buy "A Death in the Family" where, sorry?

    Very much looking forward to your take on the TV Movie. I've not seen it since it came out, but I remember disliking it less than just about anyone else I knew of.

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  4. Ross
    December 14, 2012 @ 3:32 am

    So the tension of the Other is one of apprehension – what looks like the natural consequence of the storyline seems unsatisfying, but until that consequence plays out the story looks interesting. This happens to also be the crux of the problem The X-Files eventually ran into.

    Wow. Great point. The place where I finally gave up on The X-Files was when I realized that the only possible ways the show could go were "Continue to tease us forever without ever resolving the big story" or "Resolve the big story, which can not possibly end well" (It did not occur to me at the time that they could, in fact, do both. Which they did.)

    Indeed, the only objections anyone bothered to raise against the TV Movie were the ways in which it had violated the larger continuity: the stupid half-human claim.

    God yes. I was going to wait for the TVM article to bring this up, but the TVM was right around the point where I found myself stepping away from Doctor Who fandom. It drove me up a wall that rec.arts.drwho was all alight with people exploding with rage over "Americanization" (The one that sticks with me today is that the theme music was accused of conveying "A generic american sci-fi quest to find his father"), a console room that didn't "look futuristic" (ie. didn't look like a 1950s sci fi movie), "half-human", "the doctor kissed an icky GIRL" and "The Master doesn't have a goatee!" (Admittedly, some people phrased it was "sporting the goat" which is a fantastic turn of phrase). That was all anyone complained about and complaining was all anyone did. And no one said a freaking word about the fact that, upon anything but the most cursory inspection, the TVM did not actually have a plot so much as a series of set pieces that the characters got driven around between, mostly in an ambulance.

    I do have a major (probably disproportionate) issue with both the concept of looms and also Lungbarrow's resolution of Susan, which is sort of metadiagetic and probably more related to my falling out with fandom than with the actual content of the ideas. Namely, everything about the looms and everything theory that has Susan be anything other than the Doctor's literal biological granddaughter has always felt to me like it is a retcon in service to nothing larger than the absolute insistance by a very loud segment of the fanbase that under no conditions should the Doctor ever be allowed to have sex. Looms exist so that fans can believe that Gallifreyans never have icky sex, that the Doctor never had biological children, and therefore never did the thing that one generally does to get biological children. (One of the complaints against the TVM I mentioned above was, quite literally "If the doctor is half-human, he is a hybrid and therefore sterile. Therefore it makes no sense for him to kiss Grace at the end, since beign sterile he would not have any biological reason to bang her.") The insistence on the Doctor's perpetual virginity in fandom has for a long time seemed to me to border on pathological, and it colors my reading of anything to do with looms.

    (It also bugs me the way that Big Finish embraces that particular part, for instance in Bang-Bang-a-Boom, or the Doctor's disproportionately forceful denial that he was ever a father in 'Return to the Web Planet')

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  5. jane
    December 14, 2012 @ 4:21 am

    "What looks like the natural consequence of the storyline seems unsatisfying, but until that consequence plays out the story looks interesting. This happens to also be the crux of the problem The X-Files eventually ran into."

    It's also the problem with LOST.

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  6. encyclops
    December 14, 2012 @ 4:29 am

    I think the things you brought up are just the first most obvious slaps in the face. Details like "no plot, just padding" and the fact that apart from the regeneration drama and the fact that McGann's not a terrible Doctor, there's nothing else even remotely interesting about the set pieces themselves. But this was hardly the first or last time a Doctor Who episode was low on plot and high on padding (somehow that doesn't sound right), and if you're criticizing it as the pilot of a series rather than what we know only in hindsight was all we'd ever see (vs. hear or read) of McGann's Doctor, you can deal with a thin plot (that can always be fixed) more easily than a slate of shitty changes to the premise (which you'll be stuck with for that incarnation of the series).

    I mean, yeah, fans are dopey, but I don't fault their priorities in this case.

    As for Susan: for me, the difficult thing about Susan is not what she implies about sex, but what she implies about a rather large chunk of the Doctor's past (not only children, but grandchildren) that should somehow inform his present but which we never hear about. It's a life that he's run away from, even if they're all long dead (in a war? some disaster? a political purge?), and even though we don't need all the details (for some of the reasons Dr. Sandifer mentions in connection to Lungbarrow), in a proper story they would matter and not just be a throwaway history. Indeed, if Susan is his only tie to a family that presumably includes at least two other people, it's even stranger that he just abandons her. (Is he hiding her in history from someone or something?) So here again I think there are good reasons to find her difficult.

    I for one have no problem with the Doctor having sex. I do find it increasingly dull, especially in the Moffat era, that every woman he meets instantly jumps his bones (or wants to) and of his companions in the new series, all of the "major" ones and at least two minor ones have had the hots for him except Donna. It really limits the kinds of companions you can have and creates diminishing returns and unavoidable expectations simultaneously.

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  7. jane
    December 14, 2012 @ 4:38 am

    "And no one said a freaking word about the fact that, upon anything but the most cursory inspection, the TVM did not actually have a plot so much as a series of set pieces that the characters got driven around between, mostly in an ambulance."

    Good goddess yes. The underlying narrative structure of this mess — or rather, the lack thereof — pretty much dooms what's already a rather dodgy set of intentions in the first place.

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  8. SpaceSquid
    December 14, 2012 @ 5:56 am

    Lost is, I think, a better example than the X-Files, which I think floundered not so much due to a problem with pedestrian reveals to central questions, so much as its tendency to repeatedly reveal those reveals to be untrue. I had little faith that Lost would answer all it's questions to the viewer's satisfaction (rightly, as it inevitably turned out), but at least I didn't spend every season opener assuming the cliffhangers of the previous season finale wouldn't be resolved so much as negated.

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  9. Dr. Happypants
    December 14, 2012 @ 6:05 am

    "The insistence on the Doctor's perpetual virginity in fandom has for a long time seemed to me to border on pathological, and it colors my reading of anything to do with looms."

    That's unfortunate, because I really don't think that was the authors' intentions at all. Quite the opposite. The sterility and sexlessness of Gallifrey is unquestionably portrayed as a bad thing, and it's the Doctor who brings sexy back by bringing Leela into the mix. Not to mention that the Virgin run pretty consistently portrayed him as angsty about his separation from love and sex, quite strikingly in Damaged Goods for example. Even confined to Lungbarrow, I thought Platt established definite sexual tension between the Doctor and Innocet in his youth. Not to mention Chris Cwej, the companion who embodies sexual liberation, staying on Gallifrey too…

    The Looms aren't there to placate Puritanical fanboys. They're there because they fit the sterile atmosphere of Robert Holmes's Gallifrey and make the Time Lords creepier. They can't be there to de-sex the Doctor, because he is more sexual than the other Time Lords.

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  10. Matthew Celestis
    December 14, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    Thankfully, Lance Parkin will save us from this sterile idea of a sexless Doctor and a non-biological granddaughter. His re-sexualizing of the Doctor in Infinity Doctors is one of the best things that happened to the franchise.

    I like the Doctor's past mysterious and the idea that he has a granddaughter and therefore children that we have never seen just adds tonnes of mystery to the mythos.

    Susan is the Doctor's grandchild. And so are John and Gillian.

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  11. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    …actually, I thought that that was implying that said Time Lord child was, in fact, The Other.

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  12. encyclops
    December 14, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    "Which is largely a pity, because it’s rubbish."

    I wanted to cheer aloud at this point. This book and the TV Movie alienated me so much from the show that my interest in it dropped from waning to just about nil until New Who launched, and even then I was deeply suspicious for two and a half seasons of it (ironically, it was the adaptation of Human Nature (which at that point I hadn't read as a novel) that finally sold me on the new show).

    I can see why Platt would think of connecting Gallifrey with Gormenghast, but it really wasn't what I wanted to imagine. I'm not sure I'd agree that no possible answer to the question ("Doctor Who?") of the Doctor's origins could possibly be satisfying…just that this one wasn't, and that the bar was almost impossibly high. I'd agree that no answer to the question is necessary, and I'm deathly afraid Moffat is indeed poised to attempt it (or tease it and cop out, as is his wont, which would be just about as bad).

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  13. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    I dunno, I liked it! <3 Thought it was fanfiction-y, but in a fun way (aside from some padding, both on Gallifrey and in Lungbarrow).

    One thing I was surprised you didn't comment on was Ace's role in all this, especially as it seemed an active repudiation of Dark Ace.

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  14. Abigail Brady
    December 14, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    Reply

  15. Abigail Brady
    December 14, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    I've noticed Platt's other pre-AUC and Susan work tends to undermine the answers here, so perhaps he has thought better of it with time. In Auld Mortality, for example, there's no question but that Susan is the Doctor's biological granddaughter. And Alex in An Earthly Child and Relative Dimensions is hard to reconcile with the looms or the curse.

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  16. Adam Riggio
    December 14, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    In so many ways, I feel like we're putting too much pressure on Phil for a wildly comprehensive, detailed, strange post on the TV Movie that would make Logopolis look like The King's Demons. If anything, our discussing the problems with the fandom will force Phil to make his points in even stranger form, our having anticipated their normal expression.

    I think one benefit of the TV movie was giving the Doctor some kind of sexual bearing, and letting us retroactively read that into the past of the series. Some of the most repulsive fan comments and reactions to McGann did amount to nothing more mature than the most stereotypical male nerd behaviour: as Ross said, "The Doctor kissed an ICKY GIRL!!!" That kind of closed-minded nerdishness is exactly the attitude that was a key part of the aesthetic disaster of the Saward era. It reminds me of a discussion from the dvd commentary of Earthshock, where Davison is discussing how silly it was that John Nathan-Turner had a rule that the Doctor could never have his arm around any of the female companions, for fear it would be interpreted as sexual interest.

    While the immediate reaction may have been negative, a positive development was that McGann's more sexual characterization opened the possibility of further explorations of that idea. So when Russell T Davies got his hands on the show, we had an Eccleston who would flirt with a walking tree or Captain Jack, and a Tennant who couldn't help but get hit on wherever he'd go. Remember that customer service rep at Adipose Industries who outright gave him her phone number? JNT would never have let that happen to Davison, yet in the classic series, Davison was just the person to have that happen to him.

    And we could read sexual or flirtatious details in the past of the series too. I know the paradigm Doctor Who fanon is Season 6B, but my favourite fanon is the interpellation of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward's relationship into the off screen (and off lights) activity of the fourth Doctor and the second Romana. I don't know how much authorial intent is there, but every time I read or listen to a post-Warrior's Gate encounter between the Doctor and Romana, it always sounds a little to me conversation of congenial exes.

    Mind you, of that material, I think Lungbarrow exhibits that flirtatious possibility least. Which doesn't speak in its favour either. Of all the out-of-print Doctor Who novels I've tracked down, Lungbarrow was the only one I read to which my reaction was largely meh. Even with all the cool set pieces, I couldn't get excited about it.

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  17. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    I agree – and that's one advance that the Seventh Doctor, in all of his awesomeness, couldn't have made.

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  18. David Anderson
    December 14, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    The problem isn't insurmountable. To my mind, Ashes to Ashes pulled it off. (They didn't try to pat themselves on the back for being clever about it though.)

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  19. Dr. Happypants
    December 14, 2012 @ 9:32 am

    I think Platt, like most of the authors, knows better than to take his own mythology too seriously, and tries to know his audience. The Looms and the Pythia's curse were very much a Virgin thing, and Lungbarrow is Platt wrapping up his Virgin mythology and giving it closure: it's part of Virgin's distinct and enduring identity. I don't think Platt really expected it to endure after the New Adventures ended. It's all part of Doctor Who's long and glorious history of throwing out its past to try something new: in fact, that's literally what happens to the Other/curse/Looms business during this book! The Doctor jettisons his subconscious at the end and all his Other baggage with it, and natural childbirth returns to Gallifrey when Leela and Andred break the curse.

    In fact, a lot of Lungbarrow is designed not just to expose the secret origins of the Doctor and the Time Lords, but to ditch them too, leaving plenty of room for later creative teams to put their own stamp on matters.

    I still like Platt's Gallifrey on the whole: it feels like a real heir to Holmes's vision, and Lawrence Miles does great things with it in his Faction Paradox universe.

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  20. David Anderson
    December 14, 2012 @ 9:40 am

    Is a hero who isn't sexually active more or less heteronormative than one who is sexually active with the approved gender?

    There is a better reason for not liking the kissing in the McGann movie. It's perhaps the most easily identifiable sign of the ways that the movie was working to assimilate the program to the cult tv norm. Given the genre norms of the time, making the Doctor romantically active assimilated him to either the Kirk girl of the week model or else fixed the companion role as peril monkey (designated love interest version). It's an easily identifiable sign of how formulaic the whole thing was, and it stands in for the whole.

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  21. Adam Riggio
    December 14, 2012 @ 9:47 am

    Oddly enough, your point about how actually revealing clear biographical reasons why the Doctor is the way he is reminds me of a point you made long ago about Lawrence Miles, of all people. Despite his deserved reputation as one of the Doctor Who authors with the weirdest ideas, you discuss how he expressed one of the most pedestrian views of how fiction works: treating the narrative as if it were the biography of an ordinary person.

    I remember your original discussion was about how to do a proper cliffhanger. Miles wrote that a cliffhanger is effective by making the viewer genuinely believe that the protagonist is in danger. But you wrote that this is ridiculous, because there's no way the cliffhanger of a continuing program would actually kill a protagonist, especially one whose name is in the show's title.

    The same urge for the wrong kind of realism makes people think that the presence of questions and mystery in a character requires that they be answered. But the answers are never as dramatically satisfying as the mystery. If the Doctor were a real person, then a question about his past would be an empirical investigation. But he's a television character who exists according to that show's narrative logic. A mystery is a means to intrigue us about the character. And mystery becomes part of the character himself, to the point that revealing the "truth" behind a mystery, giving a causal explanation, harms the character.

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  22. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    Except that one of the best advances of the New Adventures – focusing deeply on a character's interiority – requires treating the character like a real person, far more so than simple continuity does.

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  23. Adam Riggio
    December 14, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    A real person as a character, yes. But that isn't the same as a real person as a set of causes. Actually, comprehensively understanding the character of a real person often means setting their causal history aside, because the causal history of a person tends to underdetermine the peculiar nuances of their character. The same and similar sets of causes can result in very different people. Acting as if the causes of a character explain everything about it is why an explanation lands with a damp squib, because causes don't really explain.

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  24. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 14, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    I've just had to throw out my entire structure for the TV Movie post anyway, since it was an autobiographical one, and I just cannot write about childhood in Newtown the way I normally do today.

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  25. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    Hmmmmmmm! Good point… so the problem is less the "treating like a real person" part and more the "biography" part, as biographies do tend to be the events around a person more than the person's inner experiences (except for autobiographies, of course).

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  26. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    A shame; those are often among your best, and it would've synced nicely with my childhood. That said… yeeeeeeeeah, understandable.

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  27. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    Oh, it's still autobiographical. I just had to jettison the structure and start over from scratch. And now have to, you know, write the best post I've ever written.

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  28. Tommy
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    "Surely thirty-three years of history establish why he’s special well enough"

    If the show ended in 1981 I'd agree. But by 1984, the show undid all that made the Doctor special, turning him into a pathetic figure. It needed reasserting.

    "Does anyone seriously think that the series is improved by this revelation? Does anyone actually find this more satisfying than the original mystery?"

    I've not read the book but the 'Other' theory seems to fit the 'nudge nudge, wink wink, the Doctor's mysterious secret' posturing under Cartmel. Without it, the mystery is a hollow excuse for its own obfuscation. This gives it substance.

    It explains the Doctor's dualism as master shaman and amateur apprentice, and invites more mystery, that the Doctor's past is vaster than we knew.

    "we go back to the most basically lame conception of the books imaginable: books that wish they were television episodes. Stories too sensibly vetoed by John Nathan-Turner for the small screen."

    I see little wrong with turning TV scripts into books or audios, anymore than doing vice versa. Many TV stories are better in novelised form.

    From listening to The Elite, Point of Entry, Paradise 5, I'm sceptical if any stories JNT vetoed were ever vetoed sensibly.

    "But because legend had it that this was the lost destiny of the television program it had to be explored."

    I'd say the show lost its destiny after State of Decay. That seems to be the last story where the show was on track in a way that could be traced back to The War Games- like how Genesis of the Daleks in hindsight always seemed inevitable, despite the makers taking 12 years to discover it. After Season 18 things felt contrived, derailed and sabotaged in a way that made hardly any of the stories feel like any kind of natural outgrowth of the show's roots- and an era where even Caves of Androzani ended up having no impact and making no difference to the show's decline.

    "This is, of course, still prevalent logic – it’s why Big Finish’s Lost Stories line exists."

    Or maybe because those stories deserved to be made, or at least deserved some vindication. We're told Grade was right, that Season 23 would be rubbish, and some fans accept it blindly, but it was time the Lost Season had its day in court so the fans could make their own minds up whether this was a truism or bunk. Certainly it illuminated how the show was already going to take a more light-hearted turn, and might have got the kids back onboard who'd been left behind in 1981.

    "And remember, this is chronologically after the TV Movie. We’d all seen the cult approach dash itself pathetically on the rocks."

    Was this a different TV Movie to the one that was a ratings success of 9 million in the UK?

    "But here the logic of cult television is firmly back in place. You have to do an origin story… to properly worship at the feet of the larger continuity."

    Didn't do Trek any harm at the box office with First Contact and the 2009 movie. Arguably it can be an accessible way in for newcomers.

    "Everyone still seems to believe that if only the TV Movie had been done more faithfully to the original series it would have thrived."

    To be fair most casual viewers I knew said they felt the TV movie lacked the old show's spirit. This wasn't a fan malaise.

    I'd say that was the turnaround, when the public became more affectionately nostalgic for old Who, and felt it could be done justice if done right, and not just production-wise.

    "We’ve got three more entries that are going to go into what will eventually be the sprawlingly massive Sylvester McCoy book – A Death in the Family on Monday (you can buy that here), and then Oh No It Isn’t and Down rounding out the week."

    I'd have liked something on the Klein trilogy, where the dark 7th Doctor retires from the manipulator business and is more forgiving in his dealings with foes till events force him to return to old methods.

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  29. Tommy
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    "There is a better reason for not liking the kissing in the McGann movie. It's perhaps the most easily identifiable sign of the ways that the movie was working to assimilate the program to the cult tv norm. Given the genre norms of the time, making the Doctor romantically active assimilated him to either the Kirk girl of the week model or else fixed the companion role as peril monkey (designated love interest version). It's an easily identifiable sign of how formulaic the whole thing was, and it stands in for the whole."

    I didn't mind the TV Movie much. But well said all the same, let's not pretend that turning the Doctor into a horny lothario, as RTD did, is somehow 'progressive'.

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  30. encyclops
    December 14, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    The great thing about Doctor Who is that you CAN kill the protagonist AND allow him to live to continue as the title character. Of course, this only happens every few years and we generally know when it's coming, but still.

    As for "the answers are never as dramatically satisfying as the mystery"…I don't believe this is true in drama or real life. There's always a delicate balance. If the mystery were all, we'd stop watching every Doctor Who story after episode 1 (or, at least, before episode 4). After all, we get answers at the end, don't we? How can that be satisfying?

    I believe the problem is different: it's much easier to create a mystery than it is to create a satisfying answer. And: a mystery is often unwisely made the core of the story, the destination of the plot, so that far too much depends on its solution and, once it's revealed, the story is over.

    Knowing who the Doctor is and where he comes from shouldn't render subsequent stories uninteresting, unless (a) the answer changes our point of view so drastically that it gets in the way, or (b) the stories themselves were already uninteresting and the secrets were all we were hanging on for. How many times have you watched Hamlet? Does it diminish it for you that you know the title character dies at the end?

    That said, do we HAVE to know about the Doctor's past in order to enjoy his present? No, but if it's presented to us as a mystery (rather than simply unexplored territory he doesn't like to talk about…though even that's borderline), then we do have to know, sooner or later.

    I have all sorts of objections to the way Battlestar Galactica ended, but most of them are details; overall they ended up in the right place, in my opinion. What I found harder to stomach was the way the nature of one character in particular, given to us as a mystery, was left entirely unexplained. Pretty much everyone I know found that dramatically unsatisfying (whether they "should have" or not). The question was posed; the answer was a cop-out, or at best left so subtle that the mystery seemed like a deliberate red herring.

    In short: a veiled past need not be unveiled, but an outright mystery needs a solution. If it's unsatisfying, that's the fault of the writer, not of the act of solution.

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  31. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    Dr. S: Ahhhhh. Gotcha. …good luck! >->;

    Tommy: …horny lothario? I would have thought that most of people's problems with the RTD era's handling of Doctor/Companion would have rested in the over-weepy romantic aspects, not in anything physical. I mean, does the Doctor actually do anything directly sexual at any point?

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  32. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    "The great thing about Doctor Who is that you CAN kill the protagonist AND allow him to live to continue as the title character."

    True! And you can also kill the companions, though that's only happened once. Frankly, Doctor Who is one of the shows that the "no danger from cliffhangers" calculation applies to the least.

    "In short: a veiled past need not be unveiled, but an outright mystery needs a solution. If it's unsatisfying, that's the fault of the writer, not of the act of solution."

    Indeed.

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  33. Tommy
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    Beyond the snog he has with pretty much every female companion or guest companion in the specials, which smacks of a cheap sensationalism of 'we had this happen just so it could go in the trailer in a desperate attempt to make the show look sexy'….. no, no he doesn't go as far as to get a shag onscreen.

    But, his hostile and at times vile treatment of Adam and Mickey reeks of sexual jealousy and territorialism over his 'mate' Rose (made worse by the fact it seems so ubiquitous and programmed as a behaviour that it's a massive shock to the system when he treats Pete with any kind of respect in Father's Day- but then RTD didn't write that one), which does make him come across as a beastial animal. And worse, means that it's clear the dignity and integrity the character used to have has been jettisoned by a tarted up revival program that now has no respect for itself.

    As for the weepy stuff…. it doesn't mean I'm particularly keen on taking things to the other extreme with the Ninth Doctor's regressive, belligerent laddish streak. Nor was I keen on the way the early Series 5 episodes seemed to backlash against the romantic aspect by showing the Doctor being oddly negligent and cold toward Amy, and lacking in his old sense of protective chivalry- particularly in The Beast Below where he pretty much sends her out to fend for herself- that's a minor gripe though with Moffat's era.

    And as Lloyd Rose, one of the authors of Chicks Dig Time Lords said, having the Doctor jump from one female companion to another and being so endlessly chirpy made it hard to buy that he was really as cut up about Rose as the scripts kept trying to force.

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  34. Ununnilium
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    …yeah, I'm just going to find zero points of agreement or even shared consensus reality in that.

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  35. Tommy
    December 14, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    Well I now know better than to waste time replying to you again.

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  36. Spacewarp
    December 14, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    "…Miles wrote that a cliffhanger is effective by making the viewer genuinely believe that the protagonist is in danger. But you wrote that this is ridiculous, because there's no way the cliffhanger of a continuing program would actually kill a protagonist, especially one whose name is in the show's title."

    Yes but when you're 7 years old and you see the Doctor about to get exterminated by a Dalek, it's terrifying, because you believe that the Doctor will get exterminated by a Dalek. Come on guys, can't you remember back that far?

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  37. jane
    December 14, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    "Oh, it's still autobiographical. I just had to jettison the structure and start over from scratch. And now have to, you know, write the best post I've ever written."

    If the TV Movie is truly Campbellian then the structure of The Heroic Journey is there for the taking.

    😉

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  38. jane
    December 14, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    I think Moffat's put it out to generate tension. It's a mystery, and must remain a mystery. Surely he knows this. So the tease isn't whether he will or he won't, but what he'll do to perform the necessary escape.

    It's much like the Doctor's death. We all know he can't die. We all know he'll figure a way out, and there's only so many ways to pull the old Coffin Escape trick. So the only place there's truly drama to explore is the impact of those shenanigans on the people around him: what it means to River to pull the trigger, then to be a co-conspirator; what it means to Amy that it's her daughter who lets her in on it, and not her friend.

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  39. Jesse
    December 14, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    the ways in which it had violated the larger continuity: the stupid half-human claim

    This is where I point out that Merlin is also half-human. Yes, on his mother's side.

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  40. encyclops
    December 14, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

    Do you feel they explored those impacts? I don't.

    I don't understand why Moffat feels compelled to pose these huge conjuring tricks in the first place. Doctor Who fans have always been in it for the little moments, and modern fans even more so. If he put the same kind of energy into ensuring that each individual episode had something meaty in it that he does in coming up with the cat toy that's supposed to lead us scampering through the season, I have to figure people would still keep watching.

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  41. Tommy
    December 14, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

    My theory is that Moffat struggled a bit with Series 6, and indeed with the demands of being head-writer and producer. Sometimes his era looks and feels far more professional than RTD's did, but other times its a bit too obvious it's been rushed in certain departments.

    Now Series 5 was an easy run for Moffat, as he had a portion of the gap year to prepare his first season, and I'd say it was overall a darn good season, regardless of what the naysayers from the cult of Russell say.

    Series 6 felt much more rushed and chaotic though, with an assembling of incoherent flash and noise that was in places an absolute nightmare to sit through. I think several things happened as a result of Moffat's workload. First of all, in coming up with ideas for the season he decided it best to milk his ideas for all their worth. The Silents, a great concept for a single two part episode. But he probably felt they were worth falling back on as an idea for the whole season. And speaking of falling back on one idea through the season, he made the whole thing into the origin story of River Song, and since he wanted the whole season to be about it, it made a depressing kind of sense that he'd makethe ever present Amy and Rory their parents (even Lets Kill Hitler is wrapped up in the arc, whilst feigning a sense of variety by talking place in a setting that has nothing to do with it).

    I'm not sure what happened, but there seemed a marked turn in the second half of the season where, well, all this important stuff began to be treated in a most half-hearted and routine way, and the show and characters felt stuck on autopilot, at best, and at worst felt like a headless chicken, frenetic, yet somehow aimless and lifeless. Amy and Rory seem to get over the horror of losing their daughter far too easily, the Silents themselves become oddly marginalised, and I wish I could say the same for River Song, because she became overexposed and actually something of an irritant.

    It's like there was no actual character shift from any of this. Amy's the same as always, despite being a bereaved mother. We see River Song go through the traumatic period of her life where she was brainwashed and conditioned to commit murder, and yet she's just a more obnoxiously smug wise-cracking version of her usual self. Which made it all fall dead, and marked the point where for the first time I started to find any emotional investment in the show impossible. I do think a part of this is down to Moffat's personality, his rather compartmentalised approach to emotions, and tendency to fall back on flippancy when he's not confident about how else to do a story concept.

    But I also wonder if maybe halfway through the season, Moffat lost confidence in what he was writing, or maybe even realised it wasn't good enough to support the season on (and both Lets Kill Hitler and Wedding of River Song suffer from the fact that River has one function to perform and until then there's nowhere narratively for either story to go, so aimless runarounds and self-indulgence are all those stories can do to fill 45 minutes), or would threaten the usual status quo in terms of the characters, and yet by then he was far too late into production to turn back.

    Reply

  42. Matthew Celestis
    December 15, 2012 @ 1:07 am

    There's still room for a post on UNIT Dominion before we get to the TV movie!

    Reply

  43. ferret
    December 15, 2012 @ 2:35 am

    9 million people may have tuned in to see it in great anticipation, it doesn't necessarily mean 9 million people thought it was any good.

    Reply

  44. elvwood
    December 15, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    Tommy, the fact that you and Ununnilium are never going to agree on this doesn't make you posting your explanation any less worthwhile. For what it's worth I happen to agree with you re Mickey and Adam, and partially regarding random companion kisses and series 5. Whereas before I just thought, "whoah! Where's that thought coming from?"

    Reply

  45. peeeeeeet
    December 15, 2012 @ 4:32 am

    Maybe not, but it did also get the joint highest AI up until that point.

    Reply

  46. peeeeeeet
    December 15, 2012 @ 4:52 am

    I'm broadly with Happypants on this one, and I'm disappointed that this of all places should see another rehearsal of the tired line about fanboys wanting the Doctor to be asexual so they can relate to him as they cry in their lonely bedsits. I for one am more than happy with folks shagging on my television – the L Word is one of the very few shows I'm as fannish about as I am about Who, and other shows I've enjoyed over the years include Coupling, How I Met Your Mother, Queer as Folk and As If. The problem with the kissing in the TVM is that it takes a distinctive character and makes him a bit less distinctive, and I think that's a shame. It's hard to find any heroes that don't equate winning with getting the girl (as Cornell put it way back in Licence Denied) – especially when, unlike say Sherlock Holmes, the character doesn't have to be portrayed as a cold fish to get there. The Doctor can be as passionate, affectionate, silly, friendly, angry, capricious, whimsical and snappy, all without implying he has to be partly motivated by sex to get there. I found that refreshing, and lament its loss.

    LOOOOMS I love, just because it's such an evocative science-fantasy idea, taking a familiar technological or scientific basis and merging it with vivid imagery to produce something fresh, unsettling and that you wouldn't expect to find anywhere else. You know, like the Weeping Angels. It's just a shame it came too late for other, arguably better, writers to make more of the concept. Platt is a good ideas man, but not a great storyteller, and it's a shame that weaknesses in the quality of Lungbarrow are confused with weaknesses of the ideas therein.

    Reply

  47. Ross
    December 15, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    My theory is that Moffat struggled a bit with Series 6, and indeed with the demands of being head-writer and producer. Sometimes his era looks and feels far more professional than RTD's did, but other times its a bit too obvious it's been rushed in certain departments.

    That's interesting, because it's very close to how I felt about series 5. It felt to me like Moffat could write, and he could produce, but seemed to have a hard time doing both at the same time, and the Moffat-written episodes fell pretty flat as a result.

    But then, the moffat era took a long time to grow on me. Despite a handful of good moments, I didn't really like Matt Smith's Doctor until the Pandorica opened.

    Reply

  48. Ununnilium
    December 15, 2012 @ 7:14 am

    It's true. I'm not trying to say your viewpoint isn't worth expressing, just that it doesn't match what I got out of the series at all.

    Reply

  49. encyclops
    December 15, 2012 @ 7:23 am

    I'm typically much more focused on the little stories in between the story arc stuff, and even more so in the new series. So for me season 5 is about "Amy's Choice" and "The Lodger," and season 6 is about "The Doctor's Wife," "The Girl Who Waited," "The God Complex," and "Closing Time." All the big stuff I was supposed to love — the two-parters, the arc stories, and ::gag:: "Vincent and the Doctor" — didn't really do much for me. I loved Matt Smith right away, and there have been a few fantastic stories, but I'm still having trouble warming to the Moffat era as a whole.

    Reply

  50. Ununnilium
    December 15, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    I like Looms as an idea, but not for Gallifrey, or for the Doctor's past. And I'm not entirely sure why. I thought the idea of the Doctor coming out of an exaggerated version of a Victorian childhood made a lot of sense (especially with how the First turned out by the time we got to him), but… I guess I feel like the Looms needed to be described in a way that fit that aesthetic better. (Of course, maybe they are in Platt's earlier novels.)

    Thinking about it, I guess I feel like Lungbarrow isn't just "HEY LET'S DO AN ORIGIN STORY BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT YOU DO". I feel like it's Doctor Who encountering and deforming the Victorian narrative of returning to the old home.

    (The Gallfreyan political parts, though, really do seem to have been included out of obligation. And to get a Romana/Ace/Leela/K9 teamup, which I admit is a noble goal.)

    Reply

  51. Matthew Blanchette
    December 15, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    Yeah… I do see the point, though.

    Come back, Tommy! 🙁

    Reply

  52. Ununnilium
    December 15, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

    Tommy, can you hear me? :/

    Reply

  53. Tommy
    December 15, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    Yes I'm still here. And yes I can see now I probably did take your reply too personally and made a rather knee-jerk assumption that it was harshly meant as a curtly mocking dismissal, when it wasn't.

    And yes it would be nice to have our discussions continue when we cover the New Series. I'd be interested to hear what you got out of the new series that I might not have appreciated.

    Reply

  54. Ununnilium
    December 16, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    Indeed! And I apologize for saying it in a sort of dismissive way!

    Reply

  55. Alan
    December 16, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

    I think the biggest problem with Moffat is the same as RTD's biggest problem: they're both fan boys. For RTD, that meant a fanficish interest in injecting romance and soap opera drama into the series. (Rose getting a "happy ending" with both parents alive, effectively running Torchwood, and then, at the end, getting a clone Doctor to grow old with was about the most "Mary Sue" ending ever.) Moffat, OTOH, is not a romantic but a nerd, and he is obsessed with the possibilities of time travel which lead him to build entire seasons around ontological paradoxes. It's not a new thing for him either. Compare how Matt Smith got out of the Pandorica with how Rowan Atkinson defeated the Master on Tersurus. It's the same thing: make a mental note to go back in time at some point and disarm the trap and, voila, the trap is magically disarmed.

    Reply

  56. Alan
    December 16, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

    It's all well and good to point out the flaws in the movie now in 2012, but I remember watching it when it first aired. I thought the plot was dumb and some ideas (the kiss, "half-human," the Tardis can raise the dead) were incredibly stupid, but I also remember what a revelation it was to see how gorgeous the show looked with some actual production values. Just the scene where the Doctor stepped through the plate glass window alone was a better effect than had ever been shown on TV in the entire history of the Classic series. Imagine what an actually good story would have looked like!

    Reply

  57. jsd
    December 17, 2012 @ 11:07 am

    "It's the same thing: make a mental note to go back in time at some point and disarm the trap and, voila, the trap is magically disarmed."

    I call this the Bill & Ted Option.

    Reply

  58. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 17, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    The NAs, of course, did this routinely – the Doctor going back after the fact and setting up a room for himself and the like is a staple of the series.

    Of course, there's also he hilarious moment in (I believe) Transit where the Doctor makes a note to buy some food for the house at Allen Road and then opens the door to discover that he'll forget. Which is perhaps the best use of that trope ever.

    Reply

  59. Tommy
    December 17, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

    It's fine. To be honest my rather hyperbolic postings have often provoked a reaction of incredulity from people, so it's no worries.

    Reply

  60. Wm Keith
    December 18, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

    I've just had to put to one side "The Rise of Endymion" by Dan Simmons because it looked as if it was getting just too steamy to read while eating my tea. Instead, I opened TE vol.1 at random and read about "Dr Who and the Daleks." Phew.

    Reply

  61. Russell Gillenwater
    December 18, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    I am a little late to the discussion but I too like the Looms. I always found them to fit the Time Lords, especially the Holmesian vision of Gallifery. It never seemed to me out of place for a race of near immortals that were past their prime as a civilization to control the way they reproduced and that is one of the reasons that the Doctor fled Gallifery.

    I would like to add that since this is the last Seventh Doctor NAs (and while not literally it is figuratively the end of the line). I just want to thank Phil for letting me reconnect with book series and give me new insight on the NAs. This blog over the last few months reminded me why the NAs are my favorite era of Doctor Who and while I haven’t always agreed with your views Phil, it has been a great read…so thanks again.

    Reply

  62. liminal fruitbat
    October 7, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    Late to the party, but…

    Why does it matter so much that the Doctor's asexuality was welcomed by a bunch of assholes? I discovered Lungbarrow at the age when I was unsure whether I was asexual or not (turned out I'm not, but still), and if I was, so, it transpired, was the Doctor. And I'm still not comfortable with people saying "but repressed fanboys! Abandon it entirely!".

    The creepiness and sterility do work, imo, but it's still problematic that it's creepifying actions done out of genuinely being asexual (and also sterile), rather than just being repressed old men.

    (Replying almost a year late about my discomfort about depictions of an orientation I don't have… maybe I should go to sleep now…)

    Reply

  63. Ununnilium
    October 9, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    Huh, I just happen to be reading this entry a few days after this comment, and I was thinking about this exact issue. This is a good point; the Doctor as a straightforwardly asexual character is a bit of representation for some people who don't get very much of it at all.

    Reply

  64. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

    Platt's also desparate to retcon the writeout of Leela. (In much the way that Steve Lyons wanted to deal with the writeout of Mel, and Matt Jones wanted to deal with the writeout of Peri.)

    This works… serviceably. I find it hard to think about it, but I liked it, perhaps because I like anything with Leela, and Marc Platt is sympathetic to her character. I suppose I would have read any plot he wrote with her.

    In a certain sense, Lungbarrow is a sidestep, more of a "Doctor Who Unbound" than anything else. And it had to be. That's the only way Platt could write something which would live up to any of the expectations built up for the book — to just write a book which Is Its Own Book. Much the same is true of "The Dying Days".

    Reply

  65. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

    "I'm typically much more focused on the little stories in between the story arc stuff, and even more so in the new series."
    This is always true for me.

    Perhaps it's just my taste, but perhaps it's something essential about the show's format. The Key to Time is basically six standalones, and the other "arcs" in the original series are really thin. Virgin Books's most successful "arc" was the vaguest one. The BBC books tried a bunch of dramatic arcs, none of which were really successful — Dark Sam is probably the most successful — but they had a number of good standalones. Since RTD started, I've been expecting the season finales to be awful, and with one exception, all of RTD's were awful.

    Steven Moffat wrote more "big arc episodes" than RTD, and again I find they're usually the weakest episodes each season. (Not counting The Eleventh Hour, which stands on its own and remains brilliant.) The Pandorica Opens was, as I expected, disappointing to me. Then The Big Bang worked for me mainly because of its weird, low-key approach — the mop and the fez and the social workers and the amazing Caitlin Blackwood.

    Reply

  66. Thomas Banks
    August 22, 2016 @ 7:02 pm

    It’s interesting to hear a different point of view, but I respectfully disagree. In my opinion Lungbarrow is one of the best pieces of Doctor Who. As a novel I feel it works brilliantly, linking in different strands of the plot and exploring contrasting ideas until they come together at the resolution in which it is all wrapped up. Why do I like the novel though? Well for starters, I’m always susceptible to atmosphere, and Lungbarrow gives it in bagfulls! The creeping darkness of the House itself is so vivid, and the remorseful description of the Doctor’s thoughts on his abandonment makes me feel as if I were him. It gives such a great insight into the life of someone who’s grown away from their roots and returns in later life to reconcile with past trauma. The brooding nature of the 7th Doctor is mixed with an underlying melancholy and it fits the nature of the story brilliantly. Lungbarrow also has to be one of my favourite depictions of family life in Doctor Who. The interactions between the Doctor and his family in the House is so interesting to see unfold, the bitterness and resent his cousins view him with is so much more interesting than other DW media’s references to him being “the perfect family man.” The way the Time Lords are portrayed are probably most reminiscent of Holme’s stuffy bureaucratic view of Gallifreyan life. The political machinations of the CIA is a very interesting exploration of a throw-away line, and has continued to inspire other Who related stories. Conceptually the novel could have failed, in a similar way to how the recent Harry Potter play did, but in my eyes, it succeeded greatly! The exploration of Gallifrey’s past gives us the most vivid look into the world, and it plays upon the themes of Gallifrey’s reluctance to change. The Looms play apart in this, they show Gallifrey to be a world where conformity and control are mandatory, and help continue an established rule of archaic values and meaningless rituals. This helps when we see the contrast that the Doctor brings to it. The revelations about the Doctor’s heritage work brilliantly, they show us an alter-ego to the character we thought we knew, his life as the Other represents the life the Doctor could never have- his family, and grounded relation to Gallifrey, his position of power- something the Doctor would never retain, and the Doctor only comes into existance once the Other decides to cast off this persona.

    I really think Lungbarrow is a great novel, and it can still work in context to modern Doctor Who, some fans just get too pernickety about literal terimology, when they should really just focus on story.

    And in response to those who say the Looms “… exist so that fans can believe that Gallifreyans never have icky sex, that the Doctor never had biological children, and therefore never did the thing that one generally does to get biological children…” is frankly ignorant. First of all, Looms exist as a concept to establish Gallifrey’s unchanging nature and as a metaphor for removal from our views of “Humanity” it gives Gallifrey a sterile, alien edge that gives it it’s own unique identity as a planet and helps build it’s world and culture.

    Also the statement that “the Doctor’s perpetual virginity in fandom has for a long time seemed to me to border on pathological, and it colors my reading of anything to do with looms.” First of all, are you suggesting that in order for the Doctor to be a better character he has to have had sex? Most fans probably like the concept of an Asexual Doctor because it works for the character, not because of an inherent fan-fear of sex. I mean that idea is pretty stupid considering the amount of lists fans make about “Who’s the hottest companion!” I think the Doctor’s Asexuality works with the context that he’s different, he isn’t like everyone else, but he still has the ability to topple corrupt governments and go on to help people, it shows he has no ulterior motives, he’s compassionate without wanting “anything in return” and it removes him from the misogynistic portrayals of heroes. It’s also great representation for a community that has little, as an Asexual myself, I love the way the Doctor portrays us in a positive, yet still flawed and three-dimensional light.

    Reply

  67. John Smith
    July 2, 2017 @ 6:15 pm

    Amazing that someone can miss the point of the novel by that much.

    Looms are the best thing to happen to Who and canon, whether you like it or not.

    Reply

    • Wack'd
      July 2, 2017 @ 11:19 pm

      Very convincing argument. I’m sure when people inevitably flood back to this entry to read it you’ll turn them all around.

      Reply

    • Chris C
      July 3, 2017 @ 12:17 pm

      I would quite sincerely love to hear you elaborate on that statement.

      Reply

      • John
        July 10, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

        Yes, more! More! I’m fascinated by the idea that a conncept put into the second last book of an already doomed and now long out of print series of spin-off novels, and then pretty much never referred to again are the best thing that ever happenend to the franchise.

        Reply

        • John
          July 10, 2017 @ 8:36 pm

          I mean, even if looms are a great idea (and I’ve never read either Time’s Crucible or this, so I’ve no idea), they clearly are an idea that had no real relevance for any Doctor Who published since 1997.

          Reply

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