Eruditorum Press

Watch this space, you poor doomed motherfuckers

Skip to content

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.

62 Comments

  1. mx_mond
    May 6, 2019 @ 12:35 pm

    “And while there’s a lot of things that go wrong with the Chibnall era, his disinterest in further developing this stable instead of embracing a needlessly broad clean slate remains one of the most substantially poor choices”

    I can’t believe I’ll be defending Chibnall, but to be fair to him, he met with Dollard, who was too busy to contribute to series 11, and he invited Mathieson to pitch ideas, but in the end decided to go with something else. So it’s not like he just completely forgot about them.

    Reply

    • Matt
      May 6, 2019 @ 2:03 pm

      Furthermore, the new writers he did pick generally did a good job. Blackman, Patel, Wilkinson and Hime all turned in episodes that ranged from pretty good to very good.

      Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      May 6, 2019 @ 8:09 pm

      Yeah, he actually held talks with Gatiss, Whithouse, Dollard, and Mathieson (that we know of), maybe more.

      Reply

      • prandeamus
        May 7, 2019 @ 3:40 pm

        Which is interesting, given that at some point the publicity machine was talking about the writers’ room and a brand new roster of writers as a good thing and what Chibnall intended all along. Well, that’s how I interpreted the announcements, but I don’t read much deeper than Radio Times. Maybe this was more about justification after the event.

        One day, I suspect, the behind-the-scenes story of the Chibnall years will be fascinating reading. I certainly found our host’s explanation of the Saward-related problems of the mid-eighties to be eye-opening.

        Reply

  2. Danil Somatin
    May 6, 2019 @ 12:37 pm

    I disagree.

    Reply

    • thetruelec
      May 7, 2019 @ 12:24 am

      I think you’ll find that Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson were at number one with “Symphony.”

      Reply

  3. Neil Snowdon
    May 6, 2019 @ 12:39 pm

    More than any other writer that came on in Moffat’s tenure, Dollars is the one I’d like to see become showrunner/lead writer. Her instinct for what Who is, and can be is spot on I think. I’d love to see her ltake over from Chibnall.

    Reply

  4. Leslie L
    May 6, 2019 @ 1:16 pm

    I think you can count Neil Gaimen in that list since he did The Doctor’s Wife and …… Nightmare in Silver.

    Reply

  5. AG
    May 6, 2019 @ 4:32 pm

    I derive very little enjoyment from Prestige TV. It seems to have taken the “character-driven plotting” model started by Buffy to a hyperbolic end where plotting is incoherent and contorted to hit character beats the writers think they want, but end up hurting characterization by how half-baked they are.

    I’ve since become much more of a proponent of strong world-building from which character and plot are derived simultaneously, but in western live action media, this approach seems to have been left to procedurals, and so looked down upon as inferior to the super serialized Prestige model. But this episode demonstrates why shows in that mold are so consistently solid, even as they lack viral qualities. You can always return to “the facts” of the world to see where the story goes next, and let the characters organically grow through their logical reactions to a fully realized world.

    Also, out of the entire series this episode does have the closest to matching the characterizations of Bill and The Doctor as they were set out in The Pilot, delivering on the promise of their relationship and the charms of their personalities, so I love it for that, too.

    Reply

    • AG
      May 7, 2019 @ 10:41 pm

      Correction/clarification, “But this episode demonstrates why shows in that mold are so consistently solid” refers to the “from world-building” model, not the “super serialized Prestige TV” model.

      Reply

  6. Nindokag
    May 6, 2019 @ 8:09 pm

    It’s “just” a basic story but it’s very well done, with a focus on character, and ethics, and excellent dialogue. I wish this episode could be the baseline for how Dr. Who was always done.

    “I have never had time for the luxury of outrage” is a great joke coming from the doctor, as is the one about Pete, the companion you don’t remember.

    “There’s something very classic series about this. Certainly it’s closer than really anything else in the Capaldi era to addressing Jack’s complaint that the show isn’t about ideas anymore. Both Thin Ice and Face the Raven are set in places, as opposed to genres.”

    I really, really like being in a place as opposed to a genre. For one thing, “winter fair with elephants walking on the frozen Thames” is not an established trope, so we never would have gotten to visit this extremely cool setting if we were only visiting established genres. Visiting a real place means we viewers can learn something we don’t already know.

    I love the focus on the ordinary, forgotten people of history. It’s a much better message then “Hey, this person is important because you’ve heard of them”. I wish we always did historicals this way instead of The Doctor Teams Up With A Celebrity.

    one thing I really like about the Capaldi era is how much of it is about quietly re-examining the morals of earlier eras and trying to do better. Contrast the way the Doctor sticks up for Bill here against the way the 10th doctor waved aside Martha’s concerns about being black in the past in “The Shakespeare Code”.

    The show is trying to do better and the Doctor himself is trying to do better; the Doctor’s relation to Bill here is very easy to read as “old white guy tries to learn how to be a better ally”, and a big part of the answer is “I serve at the pleasure of the human race”, i.e. being an ally means not making everything about you and your ego.

    This era is so rich with subtext, I love it.

    Reply

    • Vadron
      May 10, 2019 @ 11:35 pm

      “one thing I really like about the Capaldi era is how much of it is about quietly re-examining the morals of earlier eras and trying to do better. Contrast the way the Doctor sticks up for Bill here against the way the 10th doctor waved aside Martha’s concerns about being black in the past in “The Shakespeare Code”.”

      —> I don’t know if ‘morals’ is the right word; more ‘worldbuilding’. After all, in the improbable, ahistorical fantasy of “The Shakespeare Code”, there really is nothing to worry about concerning Martha’s skin colour, and the Doctor is perfectly right to wave off her concerns. It’s in essence the same problem (though coming from a heart in a righter place) as most stories written in less enlightened days where the European heroes gleefully slaughter the evil dark-skinned cannibals; you can very much blame the writer for writing that story, but you can’t blame the in-universe European heroes for acting the way they do, for in their fictional universe the evil cannibals really are horrible, unredeemable beasts.

      Reply

  7. Ozyman.Jones
    May 6, 2019 @ 11:45 pm

    I hated the punch when it happened. I still hate it now. I can see why some rejoice in the moment, but for me, it betrays all that the Doctor should be. It betrays the rising above to be better and buys into something that is so earthly and crass; the Doctor should dismantle this with wit and a sharp tongue.

    A punch to the face is nothing compared to,

    ‘You know, you’re the classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.’
    (‘The Robots of Death’)

    ‘All right. All right, I’ll confess… I confess you’re a bigger idiot than I thought you were.’
    (‘The Deadly Assassin’)

    ‘My dear boy, if they had to deal with a man of your talents, they hardly need fear, need they?’
    (‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’)

    ‘I admire bravery and loyalty, sir. You have both of these. But, unfortunately you haven’t any brain at all. I hate fools.’
    (‘The Crusade)

    ‘I can’t decide whether you’re a rogue, a halfwit or both!’
    (‘The Reign of Terror’)

    …and many more, or Tom Baker’s rage at the Pirate Captain, “But, what’s it for!”

    No, thanks.

    Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      May 7, 2019 @ 12:06 am

      How do you feel about Duggan’s punch in City of Death (of which the Doctor highly approves)? That was written by maybe the ultimate “Doctor fights with words” writer, Douglas Adams…

      Reply

      • Ozyman.Jones
        May 7, 2019 @ 1:48 am

        … or even the 4th Doctor disabling guards very physically in Harrison Chase’s garden, of the 3rd Doctor ‘Hai’ing all over the place in every second episode, or even the 1st Doctor smashing a pot-plant over an assassin’s head in the Romans. There’s a couple of dozen examples or more of the Doctor going in for fisticuffs.

        Like Duggan’s punch, those were all either self defense, or to effect escape/prevent the destruction of companion/earth/universe/time/etc.

        The Thin Ice punch was a loss of emotional control, a resorting to the most human of reactions to punch someone in the face for insulting a friend.

        Reply

        • MattM
          May 7, 2019 @ 8:36 am

          The main difference though is one of tone. It’s not depicted as some serious moment, it’s played for comic effect.

          Reply

        • TomeDeaf
          May 7, 2019 @ 11:20 am

          I don’t see any difference between the moral worth in responding to “verbally assaults my friend” and “physically assaults me”, frankly.

          Reply

          • TomeDeaf
            May 7, 2019 @ 11:23 am

            That should read “responding with a punch”, sorry.

          • Vadron
            May 10, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

            The difference isn’t so much between responding to verbal vs. physical abuse as it is about whether it’s self-defence or vengefulness. Is the punch thrown to prevent the abuser from doing further serious harm, or is it done out of vengefulness?

            (I think it’s plain enough that direct, protective self-defence is more often needed with physical than verbal abuse, though there are certainly situations where it’s not the case. In point of fact, in “Thin Ice”, Bill was in no danger. Sutcliffe was being a horrible bully to her, certainly, but she wasn’t buying it. If Sutcliffe had kept spouting racist insults, I don’t think there would have been any other consequences for Bill than her getting an even stratospherically lower opinion of Sutcliffe’s character.)

    • ScarvesandCelery
      May 7, 2019 @ 9:19 am

      The Doctor also gives an eloquent speech, though? And that wouldn’t have stopped Sutcliffe hurling racist abuse Bill – punching him was by far the best thing to do in the moment. And for all the eloquence of the Doctor’s “that boy’s value is your value” speech, it has no use in stopping Sutcliffe (it’s worth noting that none of the Doctor’s outraged speeches you cite do – the Captain doesn’t respond to “THEN WHAT’S IT FOR?” by saying “my gosh, you’re absolutely right Doctor, I should stop destroying entire planets at once”) – he’s not affected by the Doctor’s words in the slightest. Massive bigots aren’t beaten by eloquence and wit – those are only effective on already sane people who (rightly) want to see a massive bigot put in their place. The thing that s

      Reply

      • ScarvesandCelery
        May 7, 2019 @ 9:20 am

        Cont.

        Stops Sutcliffe is being eaten by a giant sea snake the Doctor and Bill set free.

        Reply

      • Vadron
        May 10, 2019 @ 11:16 pm

        “And that wouldn’t have stopped Sutcliffe hurling racist abuse Bill – punching him was by far the best thing to do in the moment.”

        …What’s so bad about him keeping on insulting Bill? I mean, yes, it’s morally indefensible of him to do so, but I don’t think it’s objectively doing Bill any harm, whatever his intentions. All she’s likely to conclude from his keeping on insulting her is “golly, this guy’s even more of a bigot than I expected of the 19th century”. At worst she’ll be provoked into punching him herself.

        Of course, other moral systems may come to different conclusions, but as a utilitarian I don’t think punching Sutcliffe was morally justified here; certainly not for reasons of“he had to be stopped” at any rate. The pain of getting punched in the face outweighs the practically-nonexistent distress he would have been causing Bill with his insults, no matter how wicked said insults were in theory.

        “Massive bigots aren’t beaten by eloquence and wit – those are only effective on already sane people who (rightly) want to see a massive bigot put in their place.”

        Don’t generalize: the world isn’t only “massive bigots” and “wholly respectful people”. There’s plenty of grays in between — people with unreasoned bigoted attitude they could be taught out of, unwitting biases and all that. That words were of no use against someone as devoutly immoral as Sutcliffe doesn’t mean trying to talk to people you think are wrong never works.

        Reply

        • TomeDeaf
          May 10, 2019 @ 11:43 pm

          I would respectfully suggest that this and your other posts indicate you have not experienced verbal racial abuse. If you have, I apologise, though I am even more surprised by the statement that such abuse is not “objectively doing Bill any harm”, as though (a) that were even true, or (b) objectivity were the way to measure such things.

          Besides, he not only spouts bigotry towards her, he physically intimidates her by towering over her. Who knows whether or not he would have called his henchpeople to have her thrown out into the street if a few more seconds had been patiently, civilly, liberally permitted to elapse?

          Reply

          • vADRON
            May 11, 2019 @ 10:21 am

            It’s not that racial insults are never hurtful; but putting myself in Bill’s shoes, I don’t feel that they would be in this particular instance. I feel like his words shouldn’t have any more impact on her than when Daleks call people inferior abominations. It’s not that being called an inferior abomination can’t be painful in the right context, but the right context isn’t someone whom you already know to be pure evil saying it.

            Of course, it can also be hurtful for the same reason that a Neonazi insulting you can be hurtful; it’s not that you’re hurt that the Neonazi thinks little of you, but rather than you now feel unsafe at this sharp reminder that Neonazis actually exist, and hate you. But that element cannot be at play with Sutcliffe because time travel. It’s expected that Bill should meet horrible racists when traveling back in time, and meets diddly-squat about how safe she is when not visiting racist colonialist periods of British history.

            I dunno. People are all different; perhaps I’m failing to grasp something about Bill’s psyche here. It’s true that I’m of a temperament that makes me unusually impervious to insults (racial or otherwise); maybe I’m having difficulty modeling the reactions of someone who’s more heart and less cold intellect, so to speak? But I don’t think I’d be upset by Sutcliffe in this situation. Annoyed, yes, but not hurt.

            The possibility that Sutcliffe might have used violence himself is more convincing to me and a very good point. The point doesn’t seem to come up very often in discussion of the scene, though.

          • Kim
            May 11, 2019 @ 12:27 pm

            As someone who actually has suffered verbal racial abuse, let me tell you: it does hurt. Maybe not as much as a punch in the face, but maybe so – I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been punched in the face. But it’s not a matter of whether the abuse of a racist represents a clear and present danger – it is a clear and present danger. If someone punched you you wouldn’t be saying “yeah but does this punch indicate that I’m about to be kicked in the balls?”, would you?

            I think more to the point – this kind of abuse is cumulative. If you’ve been the target of racism before – and it’s absurd to imagine that Bill hasn’t – it hurts more the next time. And the time after that. Racism is like being ground down by a mill, or being slowly poisoned; even if the first hit doesn’t get you, do it enough and something will.

            What hurts even more in my experience is seeing people who claim to care about me minimising my feelings or treating me like I’m overreacting, or giving bad guys “too much attention” or “too much control over me”, as if the pain I feel is my own fault. My friends have done that; it hurt me even more than the incidents I’d been complaining about. What I’m saying is I wish I’d had more friends like the Doctor – friends who would have my back and let me know they took me seriously, even if they had to punch a racist to do it. The Doctor was being a good friend here; if he’d done otherwise, he himself would’ve been responsible for harm done to Bill.

            TL;DR, racism sucks, and the Doctor punching Sutcliffe was arguably the only way of not implicitly punching Bill instead.

          • Vadron
            May 11, 2019 @ 7:43 pm

            I think see what you mean; but surely you must understand my point that there is a pretty important difference between a physical punch (which, absent the possibility that the target doesn’t have pain receptors in their flesh, is going to hurt no matter what) and an attempt at an emotional attack (the results of which are a function of the target’s subjectivity)?

            Either way, as I’ve stated in another comment, I’m not against the scene per se. As a very loyal friend with a tendency to go overboard in his “duty of care” to his companions, as the archenemy of the most xenophobic civilization of space super-racists in the universe, and as a short-tempered Scotsman, it is entirely within the Twelfth Doctor’s character to punch Sutcliffe. I just don’t think that from a purely ethical point of view, it was the absolute best thing to do in this situation.

            Apologies for the fact that the following analogy could be read equating a human racist’s malice with a beast’s unreasoned threat (which isn’t the point of the analogy at all), but if someone gets deathly afraid when in front of a cage containing an angry tiger, then surely, even though “ignoring the feelings of the person who’s afraid of tigers” is a very bad call, and even though it’s entirely normal of the person to instinctively be afraid of tigers (cage or no cage)… trying to put down the angry tiger would also not be ideal. The best option is to take the person far away from caged angry tigers, and once the caged angry tiger is out of sight and out of mind, try and teach the person to process their feelings more rationally.

          • liminal fruitbat
            May 13, 2019 @ 8:27 am

            there is a pretty important difference between a physical punch (which, absent the possibility that the target doesn’t have pain receptors in their flesh, is going to hurt no matter what) and an attempt at an emotional attack (the results of which are a function of the target’s subjectivity)?

            Okay, firstly, if we’re talking subjective internal neural states, that’s what pain is, so that’s a false distinction. Secondly, Sutcliffe’s words are as much an “attempt” at an emotional attack as a punch is an attempt at a physical attack – Bill might have been unaffected by his insults, and Sutcliffe might have dodged the Doctor’s punch.

            Apologies for the fact that the following analogy could be read equating a human racist’s malice with a beast’s unreasoned threat (which isn’t the point of the analogy at all)

            Your analogy absolutely does equate deliberate human malice with an animal’s instinctive aggression, and it’s impossible to read it otherwise. The two things are distinct and your analogy is a bad one. Ethically speaking, the Doctor was right to defend Bill, and to show her that she could trust him to defend her against dangers that he is safe from. You said above you’re a utilitarian; I’m largely a utilitarian too, and kindness and understanding the perspectives of those in your care have a high utility value.

          • mx_mond
            May 14, 2019 @ 7:24 am

            In addition to liminal fruitbat’s points, I think your analogy misses the fact that Sutcliffe is not caged; he is a white wealthy man in the capital of a globe-spanning empire, he is in his home, at the centre of his power (as evidenced by the Doctor and Bill getting captured immediately after the punch). In contrast, Bill is a member of multiple opressed classes of people, who’s additionally in a completely alien environment. The punch is a decisive intervention from the Doctor that makes sure Sutcliffe won’t attempt to continue the abuse – but I think we vastly overtestimate how hurt he would be by it.

    • ScarvesandCelery
      May 7, 2019 @ 9:24 am

      I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of an alternative scene where Sutcliffe is racially abusing Bill, Bill asks the Doctor to have her back in any meaningful way, and he says “but Bill, we have to rise above and be better than him”

      Reply

      • Vadron
        May 10, 2019 @ 11:24 pm

        That’s a bit of a strawman there, though; not how the scene would have been written by an actual person actually of the opinion that the Doctor shouldn’t punch Sutcliffe. May I raise:

        Bill: “”Doctor, do something!”

        Doctor: “What?”

        Bill: “I dunno… punch him!”

        Doctor: “Bill, Bill, it’s not that I don’t think that clown over there is despicable, I do, I really do, but you can’t just go around punching people because you think they’re despicable. That’s how you get Daleks.”

        Bill: “Bu—”

        Doctor: “Bill, what is he doing really. Just words. Just random, silly little assortments of syllable. Take anyone not from Earth — heck, take anyone not from England! — those hilarious garbles he’s filling our ears with would mean nothing. Words only have power if you listen to them. Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to listen to that idiotic monster who calls himself a man.”

        both turn their backs on Sutcliffe, who has been ranting at them all the while and stops, stunned

        Sutcliffe: “But… but… you can’t… Come back here! You can’t just———COME BACK!”

        Doctor (without turning around): “Hahah, no, I don’t think so. Places to be, people to save. And a very bad day to you!”

        ———————

        (For the record, my opinion on the scene is that the Doctor, from a purely moral point of view, probably shouldn’t have punched Sutcliffe; but that it’s perfectly in-character, and from a human point of view totally forgivable, of him to have done so.)

        Reply

        • tachyonspiral
          May 11, 2019 @ 3:15 am

          This is tantamount to saying that language is meaningless.

          Not a fan of this alternative version of the scene either, i’m afraid.

          Reply

          • Vadron
            May 11, 2019 @ 10:10 am

            Well, I’m not a professional writer, am I? The idea I was instead trying to get across is more along the lines of “insults mean nothing if you start from the healthy mindset that the one flinging them is an idiot, and they don’t deserve being listened to”.

          • tachyonspiral
            May 12, 2019 @ 3:08 am

            Sure. But if Sutcliffe’s the idiot, why is Bill the one getting the sermon?

          • Vadron
            May 12, 2019 @ 11:10 am

            It came up in an earlier comment that trying to reason with Sutcliffe probably wouldn’t work, not in the context of some weird Scottish guy blundering into his leaving room and sermonning him at least.

            Mind you, I wouldn’t call the way he talks to Bill a “sermon” — more of a life lesson, in line with the teacher-student dynamic. He’s not scolding her for having done something “wrong”, just teaching her a bit of wisdom.

          • Ozyman.Jones
            May 12, 2019 @ 11:17 am

            If there are problems, no matter how the scene is written…. then why write/include the scene at all.

            Which is my main gripe, I suppose.

            It serves no narrative purpose, that I can recall, and does nothing more than show Sutcliffe is a racist prick; but we already know that. The scene is wholly designed to provide the ‘punching nazis’ scenario a moment in Doctor Who, where, in my humble opinion, it doesn’t belong.

          • TomeDeaf
            May 13, 2019 @ 7:07 am

            It may not serve any plot purpose, but it absolutely serves a character purpose – showing Bill that the Doctor certainly does feel the same emotive outrage she has earlier criticised him for not feeling.

        • Kim
          May 11, 2019 @ 12:42 pm

          See, this is exactly the kind of response I refer to in my comment up there – here we see the Doctor

          • minimise Bill’s experience and tell her what she should feel
          • assume a tacit moral superiority over her because she’s hurt and upset and he isn’t (even though it is her, not him, who has been attacked)
          • assert that her being hurt is the fault of her unhealthy mindset (paying the abuser too much attention) as opposed to the fault of the person actually hurting her
          • create moral equivalence between her understandable anger and actually despicable, hateful actions (how is saying “that’s how we get Daleks” any different from saying “people who don’t approve of racists and call them out are basically nazis”?)

          If I travelled with a friend who consistently put me in situations where I’d be attacked, either physically or emotionally, and then responded to my distress in this way, I would stop travelling with them pretty quick.

          Reply

          • Vadron
            May 11, 2019 @ 7:49 pm

            I answered to the wider point above, but:

            “assume a tacit moral superiority over her because she’s hurt and upset and he isn’t (even though it is her, not him, who has been attacked)”

            I think that bringing in that she was attacked and not him is in this instance a bit besides the point. If the Doctor does imply such a thing, it is under the knowledge that if he had been in her place he wouldn’t have been hurt, not just because he wasn’t hurt in this particular instance.

            Compare that if the Doctor, say, claims moral superiority over Davros because he didn’t create the Daleks, it’s not because he factually didn’t create the Daleks as a wandering renegade Time Lord whereas Davros, as Kaled Chief Scientist, did. It’s because he’s saying that if he had been in Davros’s place he wouldn’t have made the same choices that Davros did.

        • Lambda
          May 17, 2019 @ 9:08 am

          No, that’s awful. Being hurtable by words is actually a good thing in general, it’s part of the mechanism through which things like altruism work. If someone criticises you, and they’ve actually got a point, you want to be instinctively receptive to that instead of instinctively defensive. It’s kind of a trust thing, if you’re able to have a mind which instinctively cares what other people say to you, because you can trust them not to abuse that instinct, a group of decent people can achieve far more. If some people are going to abuse that instinct to hurt you, then you need to choose between being hurt, and closing yourself off, both of which are bad.

          The “sticks and stones” ‘cure’ may be worse than the problem.

          How about something like:

          (The Doctor pushes his way in between Bill and Sutcliffe)

          Doctor: “There’s clearly no point in communicating with a creature like that, shall we leave now?”

          Bill: “Yes, this place leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.”

          (Sutcliffe splutters incoherently for a couple of seconds then summons his goons, events proceed in the same way from then on.)

          I like this because it works even if you’re not good at violence.

          Reply

    • David Anderson
      May 7, 2019 @ 11:52 am

      I don’t hate the scene. But imagine the following scene:

      The manly hero (manliness=heroism) accompanied by his female companion confronts the evil villain, who is not manly but effete (effete=villain). The effete villain verbally abuses the female companion. This is a threat to the hero’s manliness and so the hero must assert his manliness, which is to say his goodness, by punching the villain. Because the villain is a villain (i.e. effete) and the hero is a hero (i.e. manly) the hero knocks the villain out in one punch; the villain does not get to punch the hero back harder.
      Put that way it’s a little problematic.

      That one doesn’t see it is I think because it’s so widespread in genre fiction and underlies so much of our political thought. What Nazis share with mainstream politics is the assumption that fundamentally a bad guy with a punch can be stopped by a good guy with a punch. (Mainstream procedural liberalism just limits punching to the officially designated punchers) Which is to say that being good makes you better at punching. (And contrariwise, prioritising being clever and emotionally intelligent makes you evil.) It doesn’t normally strike us as salient that being good means having better things to do than get good at punching people.

      The only versions of the Master I find tolerable, outside Survival, are The Deadly Assassin and Missy; both evade the dynamic.

      Reply

      • mx_mond
        May 7, 2019 @ 12:18 pm

        Well, you’re right – if we changed things about this scene, it would carry different connotations. But the Doctor is not a masculine hero, of course. And we could argue to what extent is Sutcliffe effette.

        “Which is to say that being good makes you better at punching”

        That kinda elides the questions of who you’re punching and why, both of which also seem kinda important. Because when fascists march in and start gearing up to exterminate people, there’s only so much that speeches and legal mechanisms can do.

        Reply

        • Vadron
          May 10, 2019 @ 11:26 pm

          Okay, and if Sutcliffe had trained a gun on Bill you’d have a point. Insults are quite another thing, though. Things hadn’t gotten to that.

          As for the Doctor not being a masculine hero… in the abstract, no. But whenever Capaldi’s Doctor is played as “dark, unpredictable and dangerous”? Yeah, he is a bit. Not in an obnoxious way, but a bit.

          Reply

          • mx_mond
            May 12, 2019 @ 10:40 am

            Yeah, but he’s not that in Thin Ice.

          • Vadron
            May 12, 2019 @ 11:12 am

            David Anderson’s point seems to be that the punch itself is evidence of this side of Capaldi’s Doctor being played up. I certainly can’t imagine Whittaker or Hartnell losing their cool like that, and it would take a lot for most other Doctors to get to that.

          • Vadron
            May 12, 2019 @ 11:13 am

            …oh Rassilon, I just realized we’re discussing the Doctor “losing his cool” in the context of an episode called “Thin Ice”.

  8. David Anderson
    May 7, 2019 @ 10:43 am

    I wonder about an alternative history of Doctor Who in which Survival is seen as era-defining. I say wonder, but in fact because of the way I was watching Doctor Who at the time Survival is one of the stories that made the most impression on me at the time. I usually read the Seventh Doctor as a more improvisatory and empathetic and less calculating figure than the New Adventures reading.

    Reply

  9. Andrew Blair
    May 7, 2019 @ 12:47 pm

    It’s somewhat depressing that, while she wasn’t available for Series 11, the show already had a writer in Dollard who could really make a Procedural version of Doctor Who work in a way that Chibnall hasn’t managed yet. It’s not that Doctor Who doesn’t work that way, just that Chibnall’s kinda Sawarding about trying to get there.

    Reply

  10. Vadron
    May 10, 2019 @ 11:30 pm

    All political concerns aside, I’m still kind of upset at the story for not deigning to explain where the river beast came from. Any old bit of handwave would have done the trick — I could have accepted anything up to and including “it fell through time, crippled but alive”, honest — but the story feels unfinished without addressing the one big almost-literal elephant in the room. Especially with it having put so much into being a mystery that the Doctor and Bill meticulously solve.

    Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      May 10, 2019 @ 11:55 pm

      I dunno, I think the story would lose a bit of wonder if we had to stop and explain it was a Kaloojian from Raxys V. In much the same way as the cosmic dragon in Kill the Moon, it seems representative of the unknowable to me. Putting too definite a label on such things undoes that. Plus, one of the things Dollard has said she wanted to evoke was the fact that there are sea creatures we are still learning about / have no idea about their existence. Creatures of the deep which remain mysteries. Not explaining where it comes from keeps the possibility that it’s indigenous to Earth wide open.

      Fair point about it seeming odd Bill isn’t more curious about the mystery not being answered, though.

      Reply

      • Vadron
        May 11, 2019 @ 7:51 pm

        This feels a bit like a post-hoc justification to me. You certainly can leave the beast’s nature ambiguous and raise the possibility that it’s just an undiscovered Earth species, but… if that’s how you want to play it, actually play it that way. Go and have a scene where the Doctor gets a bit starry-eyed and marvels at the unknowable-ness of the beast. (You know Capaldi would have acted the heck out of such a scene.) Don’t just save it for the interviews.

        Reply

  11. Simon
    May 12, 2019 @ 1:28 am

    Even as a leftie, I disagree with the Doctor punching a rascist. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Both acts are as barbaric as the other.

    Reply

    • Simon
      May 12, 2019 @ 1:30 am

      *racist (typo)

      Reply

    • mx_mond
      May 12, 2019 @ 10:42 am

      That’s based on the assumption that punching a racist in response to him hurling racist abuse at a defenceless woman is a wrong. Which is debatable at best.

      Reply

      • Vadron
        May 12, 2019 @ 11:15 am

        Sure, it’s debatable. In point of fact debating it is precisely what of Simon is doing, coming out on the clear side of “physical violence against other people is inherently wrong”. Some would call this a naive position, but it’s one with a lot of history and background in many moral theories.

        Reply

        • Simon
          May 12, 2019 @ 1:44 pm

          Racism is an example of verbal violence, if you will, while punching is obviously physical violence. In society, any violence whatsoever is counter-productive, as getting along is the best way for people, as a whole, to function effectively.

          Also, the guy was a Victorian and, as such, the product of the times in which he lived. Obviously, not all Victorians were racist, but it was fairly common at that point in history. In the future, classism might be considered just as abhorrent as racism, in which case, they would believe that all the people wandering around right now calling others “chavs” or “trailer trash” deserve to be punched. If the Nineteenth Doctor came back to the 2010s and did just that, the characters around him would think it was weird and uncalled for and someone might even call the police.

          Reply

          • TomeDeaf
            May 12, 2019 @ 8:05 pm

            It’s set in 1814. He wasn’t a Victorian. A nitpick, but people referring to this story set twenty three years before Victoria becomes Queen really irritates me.

  12. (Not That) Jack
    May 12, 2019 @ 3:52 am

    I’m not sure why it happens. Maybe it’s just me.

    I watched both of Dollard’s episodes. I thought they were competent, effective Doctor Who, but nothing spectacular. They were given jobs and hit them square on. They didn’t sparkle to me, not like when I watched Empty Child or Girl in the Fireplace and I went “damn, who the hell is this Moffat guy, he can -write-.” I liked both of them-I adored the scene where the Doctor just hauls off and clobbers the racist, for one-but I just liked them.

    Then I come online and people are gushing ecstatically about these two episodes. Talking about Dollard being an important writer, wishing she had become showrunner, and all of that.

    And I go “Huh. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Maybe I should go back.”

    And I do. And nothing changes. Dollard’s work doesn’t sing to me. She seems to be very good at writing very competent Doctor Who. Which, having watched the show since 1979, I know is not the easiest of tricks. But I don’t feel like if she was given more chances she’d be another Moffat, or another Robert Holmes, or another David Whittaker. I continue to be puzzled by this.

    What am I missing? Or is it just my taste? It seems odd that I’d love the Moffat era-that it was custom made for my interests and my very notions of what is good television- and yet Dollard just doesn’t sing for me, for some inexplicable reason. It’s bugged me since Raven, it bugged me more after Thin Ice, and it bugs me now.

    That being said, I’d gladly trade Chibnall for her, in a heartbeat.

    Reply

  13. Mark Pompeo
    May 13, 2019 @ 9:00 pm

    I remember when this episode aired just how much fun it was to watch. It was the most sheer fun the show had been in a very long time at that point and hasn’t been since with seemingly no hope of it being that fun again until Chibnall leaves.

    But for a wonderful 45 min that, “Thin Ice” was positively delightful. Even the somber parts like the boy dying and the Doctor not really making an effort to save him couldn’t drag down the joy factor on this one.

    And despite existing in an era that was much lighter on the fun factor, I think this is a pretty good introductory episode of the show for someone new. Not the ideal choice, I don’t think – “Rose” will always bear that distinction in my mind because I can’t imagine getting into this show as heavily as I did without that jumping on point – but a very good one nonetheless.

    Reply

  14. Roderick T. Long
    May 20, 2019 @ 3:30 am

    So this post’s final plea is essentially: “For a Few Dollards More.”

    (sorry)(not)

    Reply

  15. Daru
    July 9, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    This was one of my favourite episodes of the season (including the last two) and Dollard’s work really gave me an excited thrill at the possibility of seeing more of her writing in Who.
    Sadly since then I have felt a real void due to her not being a part of it, as she (I agree with you El) seemed like a representation of the ideal direction the show could go in. Also it would be utterly superb to have someone like Sarah not only writing more, but also producing.

    And I love the punch.

    Reply

  16. Lela E. Hanson
    July 16, 2019 @ 7:20 pm

    The difference isn’t so much between responding to verbal vs. physical abuse as it is about whether it’s self-defence or vengefulness. Is the punch thrown to prevent the abuser from doing further serious harm, or is it done out of vengefulness?

    (I think it’s plain enough that direct, protective self-defence is more often needed with physical than verbal abuse, though there are certainly situations where it’s not the case. In point of fact, in “Thin Ice”, Bill was in no danger. Sutcliffe was being a horrible bully to her, certainly, but she wasn’t buying it. If Sutcliffe had kept spouting racist insults, I don’t think there would have been any other consequences for Bill than her getting an even stratospherically lower opinion of Sutcliffe’s character.)

    Reply

  17. Angela J. Little
    July 20, 2019 @ 9:13 pm

    The manly hero (manliness=heroism) accompanied by his female companion confronts the evil villain, who is not manly but effete (effete=villain). The effete villain verbally abuses the female companion. This is a threat to the hero’s manliness and so the hero must assert his manliness, which is to say his goodness, by punching the villain. Because the villain is a villain (i.e. effete) and the hero is a hero (i.e. manly) the hero knocks the villain out in one punch; the villain does not get to punch the hero back harder.
    Put that way it’s a little problematic.

    That one doesn’t see it is I think because it’s so widespread in genre fiction and underlies so much of our political thought. What Nazis share with mainstream politics is the assumption that fundamentally a bad guy with a punch can be stopped by a good guy with a punch. (Mainstream procedural liberalism just limits punching to the officially designated punchers) Which is to say that being good makes you better at punching. (And contrariwise, prioritising being clever and emotionally intelligent makes you evil.) It doesn’t normally strike us as salient that being good means having better things to do than get good at punching people.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.