Incremental progress meets Zeno’s Paradox

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Froborr
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:15 am

    You are totally just trolling bright-coat-and-bravado with that caption, aren't you? I love it.

    scrolls back up to actually read


  2. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:20 am

    I actually thought you could read the episode two ways – that the Doctor saved Gallifrey all along and that he just didn't remember, OR that history was actually changed in this story (but with the same consequences, only now 'doesn't remember saving it' in place of 'pulling the trigger and blowing it up'. Certainly, that would explain how Trenzalore was the Doctor's grave in Name of the Doctor but he didn't die in Time of the Doctor – the difference being that he went back and saved Gallifrey in the middle.


    • Kyle Edwards
      October 29, 2016 @ 3:14 am

      Actually, I always thought that the change in Trenzalore and the Doctor’s relationship was when the Time Lords granted him another regeneration cycle. Both explanations, I’ll admit, work very well with Moffat’s themes.


  3. Froborr
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:23 am

    Bravo! And yes, that was my immediate reaction to the Curator: "Now there can never be an ending." What I didn't do is tie it to the nature of the Time War as a metaphor for cancellation–Moffat not only undoes the cancellation of the series, but renders future cancellation diegetically impossible. Doctor Who still can (and someday will) end in reality, but there is no possible way to film its ending without "violating canon."

    Which, yes, I am on the record as hating that concept, but that is because it usually artificially restricts the stories that can be told. Finding a way to use the vile, constraining concept of canon to guarantee the possibility of infinite stories? That's a stroke of straight-up genius on Moffat's part.


  4. Froborr
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:24 am

    Is there a difference between altering history and altering the memory of the Lord of Time?


  5. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:33 am

    The only criticism I have of the episode is the bit at the end when the 11th Doctor works out how to save Gallifrey. The 10th Doctor gets all excited about the idea, and then a minute later gets excited when he 'gets' the idea in his head. So uh, was 10 just pretending to know what the idea was at the start? Or did he think it was something like "let's triple-genocide them!!!" and then when he got the real idea just didn't mention it, as it was a bit embarrassing.


    • Nick
      November 29, 2017 @ 10:14 pm

      I thought it was a riff on the “Contact!” “Contact!” mind-sharing thing in “The Three Doctors,” but done with all of the Doctors.


  6. Scurra
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:48 am

    Even though I'm still an Eccleston fanboy (although Capaldi is coming dangerously close to unseating him as my modern favourite), it's hard for me to watch Day of the Doctor without thinking how spectacularly petty he was to turn this down.


  7. Adam Riggio
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:21 am

    I think Eccleston's circumstance was that he physically couldn't get away from filming Thor II. It was a scheduling conflict between filming dates, which is very ordinary in show business; nothing to take personally.


  8. Anton B
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:23 am

    I read it as aimed at Ecclestone but it works for sixy too.


  9. Bennett
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:25 am

    Love the title.


  10. Alex Antonijevic
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:26 am

    I wonder if Eccleston will do a Tom Baker and appear in the 100th anniversary in some way.


  11. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:32 am

    We may never know what the version of the story that included the 9th Doctor was like. Perhaps it just really, really didn't work. I think it worked out for the best as having the character of the War Doctor let them do a lot more than if it was just a familiar older Doctor in his place.

    Or, yes, scheduling conflicts, though you'd have thought he could have spared even a day for a cameo.


  12. Anton B
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:36 am

    I guess another way of looking at the change Moffat instigated in the epic meta -narrative of Doctor Who with this story was that he kept the character of the Doctor as one who is constantly running but changed the direction of the flight. Gallifrey was always the metaphor of what the Doctor was running away from; now, post DotD it becomes a metaphor of what he is running toward.

    In other words Moffat has reversed the Doctor's polarity.

    Thank you Phil Sandifer for this post and for the TARDIS Eruditorum as a whole. What started out as a piece of mild curiosity on a blog site has turned into quite the spirit of alchemical adventure hasn't it? I've particularly enjoyed participating in these comments which ended up making companions of us all. Thanks again.


  13. Adam Riggio
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:49 am

    Just as wonderful a post as I was expecting, Phil. And now for my own shameless plug.

    Because you cover a lot of territory that complements my own thoughts on Day of the Doctor that I published on my own blog back when it aired. I cover some of the ethical ideas in what the Moment does for/to the Doctor, offering him his redemption from the most monstrous moment of his life and self, while also dispensing a punishment from a position of harsh moral judgment. Essentially, it makes his centuries of personal trauma and anguish at the memory of having committed genocide a punishment for ever having formed the intention to commit genocide. It not only preserves continuity, it creates a new dynamic for the entire Davies era when we watch it again.

    Day of the Doctor is about healing the break in the show's continuity and setting it up to run forever. I like how you go about it, analyzing the impossibility of bringing back John Hurt in parallel with the impossibility of bringing back Tom Baker. But I look at the appearance of Tom Baker from a more symbolic perspective.

    It's also about how the Time War, leaving the Doctor his moment of intolerable monstrosity, would be a stain on the character that would eventually overtake it entirely. You can only do so many takes on a character that's dominated by this essential trauma before the ability to change the Doctor runs out of steam. Day of the Doctor's ethical redemption of the Doctor frees the actors who play him from Capaldi forward.

    Anyway, enjoy my old post as a companion piece. I've loved the Eruditorum ever since I first discovered it as you were starting the Pertwee era, Phil. I did little else in my free time but binge-read your previous posts to catch up, I was so fascinated by your ideas and perspective. It's been a wonderful part of my intellectual life over the last four years, and an inspiration for me to start a properly done blog myself. So thank you for everything.


  14. Burk Diggler
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:01 am

    Is material social progress set out in another post somewhere? What is it supposed to mean? Yes, better, but by whose standard? Material Social Progress towards what? What's immaterial social progress? What's material progress that's not social?


  15. IG
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:23 am

    Alex – Eccleston 's 50 now, he'd be pushing 100 years of age! (And so would I – so even if he' were capable, I somehow doubt I'll be watching; ))


  16. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:27 am

    What I don't really get is Moffat's reasoning for not including McGann. He stated that "he could never envisage the Eighth Doctor destroying Gallifrey" – which is alright, apart from the fact that the whole point is the Doctor never does/did destroy Gallifrey in the end anyway!


  17. SK
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:35 am

    I asked before and the answer seems to be that 'material social progress' means 'rising living standards' (in which case the best engine for material social progress yet discovered is global capitalism).


  18. Adam Riggio
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:46 am

    You're a delightful troll, SK.

    Actually, I'd point you to Phil's old post on The Brain of Morbius, where his interpretation of the story makes the concept pretty clear. Not clear in the sense that it's easy to summarize in a precise statement or has a specific universal meaning in every instance where it exists, but clear in that you can understand it well.

    My own summary. Say the social order of your culture used to be quite wonderful, but lately, the material conditions of your life (shifts in natural resource bases, environmental issues, new social movements or political events, whatever) have changed such that the old order isn't working anymore. Or at least it isn't working as well as it used to. And maybe there are forces holding onto the old order for conservation's sake alone. "Why should we change? This is what we've always done." When what we've always done stops working or doesn't work as well to maintain the quality of life that your society's had, material social progress is creative adaptation of your culture to its new circumstances, which reverses previous declines and begins a new era of overall improvement.

    Specifically in Morbius: When magical rituals aren't enough to sustain the elixir of life anymore, the Sisterhood of Karn have to re-evaluate their attitudes to personal immortality and learn some chemistry. Their world has changed, and so they adapt to thrive in it again.


  19. Adam Riggio
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:47 am

    And the link. I've been doing this all morning.


  20. prandeamus
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:56 am

    "Half a century down. Forever to go." Very nice.

    I went to see the anniversary special at the Cinema with a couple of friends. I think it went down pretty well in that environment. But the two things that raised cheers, and indeed shivers down the spine, were the Capaldi eyebrows and the reveal of the Curator. Both links to the series' then-future and most-accessible-past.


  21. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:59 am

    Could they have used McGann? Absolutely, but I think the issue is in narrative weight. Remember, this episode was Big, and designed for casual audiences as well as die-hard fans. There's a big difference between a 'secret regeneration' who noone has ever heard of before and a total unknown quanity and 'the eighth Doctor' who has appeared on television. If a large degree of the plot revolves around this character and relies on the audience slowly getting the measure of them, having a character half the audience is very familiar with and half not at all, would have been bad.

    There's this strange thing we have in fiction at the moment (mostly due to how suddenly 'everything' is accessable) that if an old character pops up, the audience MUST watch/experience every previous appearance they had to understand them. It is false, of course, but that is how we are hardwired. If the eighth Doctor popped up, I am sure there would be a large proportion of people who either wouldn't want to watch it as they 'havn't seen his stories and so assume they wouldn't understand' or would go and watch the TV Movie and be instantly put off. Or have lots of hardcore fans witter on about how they NEED to listen to all the Big Finish stories. That sort of thing can be very, very offputting.

    (Night of the Doctor was the perfect way of doing it. No expectations at all, just BLAM, 8Doc)

    Heck, even with the War Doctor, I remember several big casual geek sites, not least Bleeding Cool, inform people after Name of the Doctor that they HAD to go watch 'Trial of a Time Lord' to understand the Valeyard. Imagine being one of those poor, unsuspecting fans!


  22. Sean Dillon
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:21 am

    Well it would be in character for that arrogant bastard. "Hmmm… what would give me more angst than a double genocide? Oo! A triple genocide! Death to the humans!" (Man I need to watch the Davis era instead of basing my opinions on people who don't care for that era.)


  23. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:23 am

    Blueshift, I see what you're saying but I can't agree. I feel McGann would've worked just as well as Hurt. McGann's face had been seen a couple of times in flashbacks, and even if Joe Public didn't really recognise Eight… well, that's exactly the same as having the War Doctor. It's not like the episode would've made lots of references to Big Finish etc; I suspect had Eight been used, he would've just been written exactly as War.

    I may be in a minority but, as a fan, I've always struggled to give a damn about Hurt's Doctor because, well, he just appeared out of nowhere. I can see the appeal, and I can see why some like that because the Time War story probably should have lots of surprises and twists within it, but I would've cared much more had it been Eight (and I say this as someone who's only seen the Movie, and listened to none of his audios).

    Perhaps cynically, I feel like Hurt was more in favour because it allowed Moffat to bump up the numbers (he was never going to not tackle that regeneration limit) and get the draw of Hurt and his fans. I'm not against a 'mayfly' Doctor (basically stunt-casting a big star who'll never do the role full-time, but who is awesome to want/have in the canon somewhere), but I don't feel the Time War was the story for that.


  24. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:27 am

    One thing I agree fully with Phil here on is that Day of the Doctor is like a long string of new setpieces. And that's how I enjoy the story, oddly. I don't care for the Zygon stuff or the Time War retcon, so I ignore or fast-forward through them. But I love the Curator cameo, and the daft helicopter opening so I happily watch those time and time again.


  25. Sean Dillon
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:28 am

    "‘To a,’ Benny paused for a moment, and then smiled, ‘Doctor who might change, but won’t ever die’”

    "not to die but to be re-born
    away from a life so battered and torn….

    "This is the story of a story that can never end. This is the story of how a daft idea from the bowels of the BBC in the 1960s changed everything. This is the story of an impossible man, and his magic box, and everything that happened after."

    "He who binds to himself a joy
    Does the winged life destroy;
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity's sun rise."

    "It all started out as a mild curiosity in the junkyard, and now it's turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure."

    Fantastic post Phil!


  26. ComMaxil
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:31 am

    Bravo sir. I have loved this blog since I discovered it towards the end of 2012. Have devoured all of the books and enjoyed the blog entries. This entry is a peak for me though, beautifully written and for the first time ever I find myself agreeing with every word. The Day of the Doctor is wonderful and knits together the classic and modern era of Doctor Who so well. Before it aired I was disappointed there would be no McGann (because more McGann is always a good thing in my book) but in retrospect having Hurt worked perfectly, and it is a feather in the show's cap to get an actor of John Hurt's stature to play such a major part. Can't really think of anything about the show to fault (except the double McCoy's!).


  27. Glenn Reuben
    January 30, 2015 @ 3:50 am

    I absolutely would've rather had McGann in the War Doctor role, but also have Eccleston alongside Tennant and Smith.

    My reasons are explained here:


  28. Wm Keith
    January 30, 2015 @ 4:11 am

    The Ninth Doctor doesn't have anything to celebrate. Why should he show up for an anniversary party?


  29. David Anderson
    January 30, 2015 @ 4:21 am

    Abolishing slavery is social progress. If, however, the only jobs available are working on plantations at subsistence rates of pay you haven't made material social progress.
    I assume the problem with identifying material social progress with rising living standards is that if you define rising living standards simply with the variety and abundance of consumer goods available without regard to other factors (hours worked, control over one's conditions of employment, leisure time, access to the media of free speech), you're not really describing anything that's social progress. Or, indeed, meaningful material progress either.

    On a related note, the claim that global capitalism has delivered rising living standards needs qualification. It doesn't follow that the purer the form of capitalism the better living standards. The economies that have delivered the greatest rise in living standards have been decidedly mixed, with high involvement of the state sector in the economy, and other impure admixtures. (African nations, which were making some progress in the sixties and seventies, have stagnated since the eighties, due to the forced adoption of purer capitalist models. China and the other east Asian economies have heavy state involvement.)


  30. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 4:29 am

    The Ninth Doctor doesn't have anything to celebrate. Why should he show up for an anniversary party?

    Bringing 9 into Day would've been interesting, especially in light of his series finale where the Bad Wolf Rose creates herself and sees all of time and space. (They also say "the Time War ends" in that story.) Lots of neat parallels and links could've been made. And the tragedy of 9, like 10, learning that he didn't actually destroy Gallifrey… but then not remembering.


  31. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 4:43 am

    I don't know though, perhaps Eccleston didn't like the idea that the Doctor wouldn't have destroyed Gallifrey after all, thus changing his motivation from 'tragic' to 'deluded'. We may never know his exact reasons for not wanting to take part, though I seem to recall one interview saying he'd do it if the script was right, implying that maybe he thought it wasn't. I wonder how much had been written by the time he decided not to.

    As I said above, I like the reading that history changed in DotD, so you can keep the tragic Time War ending which was 100% true up til that point, and change it retrospectively afterwards.


  32. Jarl
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:10 am

    In Moffat's mind (and in our host's interpretation of what Time Lords are), no. This gets a little thorny in the latter half of season 5, when we're regularly confronted with evidence that supports a causal interpretation of "time" versus a memory-based interpretation even though the Doctor continues to stick to the latter, but Night And The Doctor later bridges the gap between the two in a very touching way.

    In other words, did it ever seem like there was a whole lot of Time War crap still left around after the Time War? Like the war that lead to the outright and permanent destruction of all the Daleks didn't really seem to put any stop to them? That the Time Lords don't seem to have much trouble coming back as need be? How can we square the Doctor's belief that the Time War was the well and true end of all that with the reality that the Time War didn't seem to end anything?
    "Everyone's memory is a mess, life is a mess. Everyone's got memories of a holiday they couldn't have been on, or a party they never went to, or met someone for the first time and felt like they've known them all their lives. Time is being rewritten, all around us, every day. People think their memories are bad but their memories are fine, the past is really like that."


  33. Daibhid C
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:18 am

    What I don't really get is Moffat's reasoning for not including McGann. He stated that "he could never envisage the Eighth Doctor destroying Gallifrey" – which is alright, apart from the fact that the whole point is the Doctor never does/did destroy Gallifrey in the end anyway!

    Yes, but the War Doctor has to be the one who could have destroyed Gallifrey. Eighth would have come up with a clever plan to make it look like he destroyed Gallifrey when he didn't all on his own, without the assistance of his future selves. (Evidence: he did precisely that.)


  34. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:34 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  35. Jarl
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:54 am

    In the more immediate, practical sense of casting, I feel John Hurt wasn't really the best choice. I remember reading somewhere some on-set stories, some interviews, and various other things (including on-screen) that gave me the sense that Hurt really wasn't into the whole thing. Ironically substituting one doctor who didn't want to come back for another doctor who won't want to come back. He didn't like doing the technobabble, he didn't seem "into" it, and some of that comes out on screen. It also ties in with what you said about how they've rendered the Time War essentially unfilmable yet again, in a fresh new way. I can certainly think of another big name British actor who's expressed interest in the role of the Doctor before who would have been amazing in the part, I think.

    I kinda wish Target Novelizations still existed because I'd love to read the bit where 10 and 11 had to go back and contact their former selves to convince them to take part in the ALL THIRTEEN scene.

    … ha, I just remembered a theory someone put forth that Gallifrey Falls No More is the painting that the first Doctor picks up and looks at in An Unearthly Child. Seeing as that was a painting he could pick up without needing a dolly, I suspect that's not the case, but it's an amusing mental image, if nothing else.


  36. unnoun
    January 30, 2015 @ 6:26 am

    I don't think anyone should base their opinions around mine. Make up your own damn minds, and draw their own conclusions. I can understand if I'm an influence, because there are certainly people who've influenced me, but.

    That said, no, he'd probably just torture them forever without actually killing them. More his MO.

    Unless there are children involved. Ten's totally down for genocide when the victims are brand-new.


  37. Aylwin
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:04 am

    Not the original of course. But he could have got a print.


  38. Brightcoat
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:12 am



  39. Aylwin
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:15 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  40. Aylwin
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:32 am

    But surely by the end they have very explicitly rejected the idea that Captain Grumpy doesn't count as a proper Doctor. That was just a lie he told himself to feel better, between the decision to plunge into the war in Night and the meet-up at the barn: "This isn't the real me doing these bad things that I have to do. While I'm doing them I'll be someone else, and then when I've finished I'll start being me again".

    When Ten and Eleven come to the barn to back up Hurt they affirm that all of them are basically alike (same software and all that) and that Hurt is as much the Doctor as any of them, which means that any of them could have done it. All of them have their hands on the button, They now accept that all of them are the same man and share responsibility for doing it. And it's that acceptance which leads to the breakthrough that enables them to find a way of not doing it – for which, again, they all share responsibility.

    In effect, the conclusion of Day reveals the magic potion in Night as sheer hocus-pocus charlatanism, or perhaps rather a placebo. Eight taking that drink is like someone blaming the booze for their doing what they were going to do anyway.


  41. Aylwin
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    Basically, I'm saying that you've tricked yourself into agreeing with Moffat 😉


  42. Lewis Christian
    January 30, 2015 @ 7:57 am

    What you've said has just confirmed the fact that it mattered not which actor or Doctor was featured, leading slight credence to the fact that Moffat simply preferred stunt casting over featuring an older Doctor.


  43. J Mairs
    January 30, 2015 @ 9:26 am

    I took it that the War Doctor worked out the Smith Doctor's plan, and then the Tennant Doctor could remember it from the War Doctor. He grabs his head and says "I'm getting it too" or something.


  44. Glenn
    January 30, 2015 @ 9:56 am

    Indeed. And the BBC was helpful enough to isolate the Curator scene in one of their YouTube excerpts for the episode.


  45. Adam Riggio
    January 30, 2015 @ 10:07 am

    Another idea occurred to me about John Hurt's Doctor, Phil. You mention that Hurt's age (and the additional fact that he concentrates on roles in movies by some of the greatest directors of our time like Jim Jarmusch and Bong Joon Ho to sign on to a TV project for much longer than this high-profile one-off) prevents us from seeing a Doctor Who television story actually set in the Time War, other than the Night/Day of the Doctor series.

    We can think of that as Moffat forcing the show into its future. The Time War was a giant, gaping wound not only on the show, and meta-textually on Doctor Who itself as a symbolic expression of its cancellation period, but also on the character of the Doctor himself (which I also mention on my old blog post). The major concern of Day of the Doctor (aside from being a kickass anniversary special) is healing Doctor Who and the Doctor. The conflict that was fundamental to the Time War as an event in the Doctor Who narrative has been resolved. Not only was Moffat resolving this conflict, he was resolving it in such a way that it nudged Doctor Who away from even having to revisit the Time War.

    I mean, ancillary media will always explore the nooks and crannies of Doctor Who's past. But the television show is its main vehicle, and has to keep pushing forward. This is the heart of Moffat's statements at the beginning of the Capaldi era that he has to keep tearing everything apart as soon as it starts to feel comfortable and doing a bunch of entirely new things. Not only is Doctor Who moving toward the future of its own accord, its creator is now actively pushing it into the new.


  46. ferret
    January 30, 2015 @ 10:42 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  47. Daibhid C
    January 30, 2015 @ 10:48 am

    If Helen Mirren were the War Doctor, it would make it a bit more complicated for her to subsequently actually be the Doctor.

    I don't know if I agree that Hurt not being "into it" comes out in screen, or if it does, it works. He's meant to be "Mr Grumpy"; the Doctor who doesn't really feel like he is the Doctor, and to the extent that he does, is an old school Doctor who disapproves of these new Doctors with their catchphrases and trainers and lack of wobbly sets.


  48. Blueshift
    January 30, 2015 @ 11:22 am

    Yes, but he acts before like he knows what the idea is!


  49. ferret
    January 30, 2015 @ 11:52 am

    Fannish observation – if Rassilon had succeeded in pulling Gallifrey out of the TIme War and next to Earth's orbit (i.e. without cocking it up in the end), the War Doctor would have been down there in the barn – negating the timeline where the Doctor travelled to Utopia, freed the Master and allowed him to use the White Point Star to forge a pathway for Gallifrey to escape through in the first place.

    So it was never going to work, seemingly.


  50. elvwood
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

    Lovely comment to a lovely blog entry!


  51. ferret
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

    OHILA: Fat or thin, young or old, man or woman? The universe stands on the brink. Will you let it fall? Fast or strong, wise or angry. What do you need now?
    DOCTOR: Warrior.
    OHILA: Warrior?
    OHILA: (aside) Warrior warrior warrior, I could have sworn I had some warrior around here somewhere – eh, I'll just mix thin, young and fast together.
    OHILA: (to DOCTOR) I took the liberty of preparing this one myself.


  52. ferret
    January 30, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

    If Helen Mirren were the War Doctor, we'd miss out on her being Capaldi's replacement in 5 years time


  53. Carey
    January 30, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

    I always enjoy your essays, Adam, and yours too, Phil: the Erudiorum will be missed.

    There's another way Day of the Doctor prepares for the future so far unmentioned. While it would have been written before Capaldi's casting, by that point Moffat must have known Smith was going to depart shortly after the anniversary special, and may very well have had an idea of whom he wanted as a replacement. Day of the Doctor can be seen as a way of preparing the audience for an older, grouchier Doctor. Indeed, on paper, there's little difference between War and Twelve. But, interestingly enough, I believe Capaldi plays Twelve as Moffat intended War to be, his heart and feelings hidden behind layers and layers of age produced cynicism. John Hurt, on the other hand, recalls a remark from either Smith or Tennant (I forget whom, amusingly in context) about how there was a subconscious competition between the two of them to out act the other, only for Hurt to turn up, and simply do something with his eyes which dominates the scene. Hurt brings a wholly unexpected warmth to the part that I feel Capaldi was missing for much of series 8, and proves that Hurt was exactly the right actor for the part. But hey, this is John Hurt. Of course he was.


  54. Chris Andersen
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

    I've always felt the "you can't change history" aspect of Doctor Who has a huge escape hatch. Yes, you can change history, but only so long as people don't know you've changed it.

    For example, when Ten saved the crew in "Water of Mars" he didn't change history so long as people never found out he saved them. As far as history is concerned, the crew still died. But we know they did not.

    Similarly, The Day of The Doctor posits that The Doctor did save Gallifrey, it's just that no one, including himself, knew it.


  55. Chris Andersen
    January 30, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

    If the Time War was a metaphor for the cancellation of the old series than Gallifrey itself is a metaphor for the old series. NuWho was not allowed to tap the history of the old series (except in a couple of special cases) because it was assumed that newer audiences would be turned off by the need to understand 37 years of programming. It was a weight that would have sunk the new show before it even got started.

    But with the success of NuWho and a perhaps renewed interest by newer fans in the classic series, the time was ripe to bring the classic series back into the fold by metaphorically saving Gallifrey.

    The cycle is complete.


  56. Ben
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

    On the return of Gallifrey: Yes, it's going to happen, but I wonder what it will mean when it does? Determining this might be a job for Moffat's successor. Because make no mistake, it's a difficult challenge. From a writing perspective it might be the hardest task on the horizon. (The prospective change in the Doctor's sex would be a challenge to sell to some fans, but it's now only sensible in terms of scripting.)

    The reason it will be such a challenge is that Gallifrey's eight year period of nonexistence was the only time really that the Doctor regarded it with any fondness. He started out as a refugee who never talked about his home and it was generally downhill from there. The one thing he's never had is a happy relationship with his people. In fact outside of Susan, Romana and Cho-Je, it's hard to think of any other "good" Time Lords.

    So he wants to restore Gallifrey, and eventually he will, but what then? If it's anything like it used to be then realistically he'd go back to avoiding it like the plague in short order. If it's something better that's potentially interesting, but hard to pull off.


  57. TheSmilingStallionInn
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

    Smith and Tennant were doing back and forth interviews, occasionally together, in the extras filmed for the special, so I remember they said that as well. It might have been both of them talking about John Hurt, in my mind, so slightly interchangeable as to who said what.


  58. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    I also suspect that doubling up your high profile stunts and doing both "secret Doctor" and "Time Lords can change gender" at the same time would have been unwise.


  59. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 30, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

    Also, I don't think Hurt disliked the job. On his last day, he made a point of telling everybody that he was honored to have gotten to play the part, and that he didn't think this was a lesser role in the least.


  60. ComMaxil
    January 30, 2015 @ 6:34 pm

    Love this comment. I agree completely.


  61. Robot Devil
    January 30, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  62. Robot Devil
    January 30, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

    The Hurt Doctor is Doctor Hurt.


  63. encyclops
    January 30, 2015 @ 9:40 pm

    Great post. Great comments. Thanks, Phil and everyone else. I know we're not done, but as Phil points out we never really will be.


  64. Anton B
    January 30, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

    Thanks elvwood.


  65. Alex Wilcock
    January 30, 2015 @ 11:56 pm

    This is a story I’m deeply conflicted about, but then if any story were to sum up the whole of Doctor Who, it would have to be part-brilliant, part-running-about-fun, part shouting at the screen, wouldn’t it?

    I think Phil’s spot-on with The Three Doctors; Day always struck me as very much the modern version, not just in having (mostly) three Doctors and restoring the status quo from a form of exile at the end, but that while the earlier story had one Time Lord thought dead but now found just to have been in another dimension, while this does it to all of them. And I grudgingly admire Phil’s argument that the point of this story is to say Doctor Who will live for ever, because that makes sense, and because we all want it to…

    …But at the same time that pushes my own button about what most grates with me: bringing together two of the Moffat tropes that I least admire, the avoiding consequences and the fannish urge to write stories to ‘fix’ other stories he doesn’t like. I still prefer Russell’s take to overwriting it with ‘Just this 597 times, everybody lives’. And not just that no-one ever really dies and that all unhappiness can be undone, but that for one of the cleverest writers in the world, I’m still gobsmacked that the best he could come up with was ‘It just so happens that a war through all time and all space is only around one planet in one time, really, and the enemy can wipe themselves out perfectly to the last Dalek by a circular firing squad’. Or, ‘Gallifrey Ducks’. A line from Sir Humphrey Appleby ran through my head the first time I watched it: “If you must do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.” I expect Moffat to come up with things I disagree with, but I still can’t believe he came up with something so dumb.

    The retconning still makes me want to call the story ‘A Good Man Goes To War of the Daleks’.

    Or there’s the conservative retcon of the whole series, that the Doctor – far from running away – only really wanted to go home. Everyone must grow up and get married and settle down and be like everyone else, and the Time Lords must be nice after all because Children.

    On the other hand, I did love Simon Bucher-Jones’ response to that:

    But back to The Three Doctors, and at the other end of the imagination spectrum, the story that cops out with Moffat’s most incomprehensibly how-could-he-not-have-done-better idea also contains one of his most utterly brilliant ideas. Without Eccleston, the idea of the Warrior instead is for me sheer genius. Then, in the story itself, he works on so many levels. Having the Warrior as an approximation of the memory of all the old Doctors, for all that he’s meant to be ‘not the Doctor’ he’s more like all of them – like the souped-up Troughton in The Three Doctors kicked further down the road (combined with Hartnell’s role in being aghast at the present), or the wooden console room from The Masque of Mandragora that wasn’t actually the old one but felt exactly that should have been.

    So for me, arguably Moffat’s best day and his worst day, all in the same day, but as a love-letter to the series, it works.

    And though I’d much rather have Elton’s homily from the end of Love & Monsters than Moffat’s wanting everyone to settle down, Richard and I did marry last year on our twentieth anniversary last year – the first year that we could – and celebrated with our own mash-up of Doctor Who from November 1963 to October 2014. So here’s our love-letter to the series, and thank you for all your writing, Phil. I think you might approve of our favourite recent moment, as well as the line that our wedding and this article shares:


  66. Daibhid C
    January 31, 2015 @ 3:37 am

    Yeah, given the gusto with which he took on the dragon in Merlin, I don't think he thinks that way.


  67. Aylwin
    January 31, 2015 @ 4:00 am

    wipe themselves out perfectly to the last Dalek

    coughDalek in Dalekcough

    coughEmperor Dalek in Parting of the Wayscough

    coughIn terms of the Time War as a whole, Davros in The Stolen Earthcough choke splutter hack hack gasp

    Not that I disagree with the wider point, mind you.


  68. Jesse
    January 31, 2015 @ 5:36 am

    I also suspect that doubling up your high profile stunts and doing both "secret Doctor" and "Time Lords can change gender"

    And "the woman is the one the others shun and say isn't really a Doctor" seems like a setup guaranteed to upset both sides of the casting-a-woman debate.


  69. Jesse
    January 31, 2015 @ 5:38 am

    …though I suppose that given the end of the story, with the others finally accepting Hurt as a Doctor, it could work on a metaphoric level. Though the 50th anniversary special would be an odd time to work through that particular metaphor.


  70. Alex Wilcock
    January 31, 2015 @ 6:37 am

    Oh, I entirely agree with you on the theoretical point that wiping out every single Dalek then having a massive new army spring up like watercress in polycarbide armour is terrible for drama, and though in general I prefer Russell to Moffat I'm not a knee-jerk partisan – for me, Journey's End was Russell's worst day by a mile (for many reasons), and one of the things I liked about Victory of the Daleks was that the Daleks do manage to start rebuilding (clearly a Moffat decision, if not his name on the script).

    But my criticism here is not that all the Daleks die (as they always do, then all come back again). It's the way that it happens. OK, I might snort at a magic time god doing it or a metacrisis sending all Daleks haywire from their central control, but within the story I can believe each can get every Dalek, in part because each is explicitly targeting every Dalek.

    There's nothing in this story of the end of the Time War that makes me believe that for a second. Why is every single Dalek in the Universe there? How do they manage to be so precise, when Gallifrey ducks, as to exactly shoot every last one of each other? It's the difference between not liking the concept and going 'Oh, no, seriously?' about how it's done.


  71. BerserkRL
    January 31, 2015 @ 7:05 am

    As the term "capitalism" means several incompatible things — — I'm not sure what "purer" versus "less pure" capitalism mean here. If capitalism means the free market, then the more capitalistic countries are more successful (and the u.s. is actually less capitalistic than Denmark — and Reagan and Thatcher were thoroughgoing anti-capitalists). If capitalism means big-business-big-government partnership, then surely the less of that the better,.


  72. encyclops
    January 31, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    ‘Gallifrey Ducks’


    Or there’s the conservative retcon of the whole series, that the Doctor – far from running away – only really wanted to go home.


    Those were my two biggest gripes with the whole thing. The first one I could wave off — of course it's going to be some silly magic thing, because of course no one really cares about how puzzles are solved they just want to, ugh, "punch the air" in excitement about it. Sigh. Okay, whatever.

    The second one's harder to stomach. The Doctor being an intentional expat is one of the things I love most about him. I get that after 50 years, changing his relationship with his home planet is a natural way to think about reinvigorating the premise. But at least let's not pretend "this is what I've always been doing"; if you must, make it "this is what I want to do now."

    After you've been out in the universe for a while, maybe you've learned how to help fix what you never liked at home. But it feels like "a liberal is just a conservative who doesn't have a house, a spouse, two kids, and a dog" and that grates a bit.


  73. David Anderson
    January 31, 2015 @ 8:41 am

    I think the practical effect is the opposite. While Gallifrey is destroyed, and the Doctor is moping about it, the reason he can't settle down on Gallifrey is that it doesn't exist. If it's not destroyed, then the reason the Doctor won't ever settle on Gallifrey is simply that he doesn't want to. At the moment, he's got to find it and go back to it because the absence of Gallifrey has been a big thing for the last seven seasons, but we know the show requires the Doctor not to stay there.


  74. Lewis Christian
    January 31, 2015 @ 9:17 am

    It would've been interesting if they'd cast a female as 12. Because then you'd basically start a whole new cycle with a woman, and she'd come after the lovely "we're all different people all through our lives, times change and so must I" speech. I don't think we've ever had such a wonderful line/speech in a build-up to a regeneration moment before, and the "times change and so must I" bit would've been quite something if he'd then become female.

    I also think a female Doctor would've worked better with the whole "I don't think I know who the Doctor is anymore" angle. As it stands, I find issue with that because Clara's effectively met all 12 incarnations. I get that "her" Doctor has suddenly changed, but I'd be more inclined to go along with that story strand had he had a seriously massive change – becoming female, which even she hadn't encountered before.


  75. Lewis Christian
    January 31, 2015 @ 9:22 am

    Great comment, Adam. I like Moff's comment about 'the end of Chapter One' too, regarding the 50th. That comment, I felt, made it feel really epic. That 50 years was just the first chapter. And even though it's new-series-heavy, the Time War being 'wrapped up' (so to speak) is a wonderful and powerful bookend to it. I feel it's a shame we got Time of the Doctor after it (I personally feel it was a big step-back, somewhat of a mess and I'd rather have dealt with all the Series 5/6 plot strands before 'Day'. I felt as though we had this big End Of Chapter 1 moment, but before Capaldi – ie. the future – could set the ball rolling for Chapter 2, we had to endure this hastily tacked-on episode to wrap up everything else. I'd have felt more satisfied had Day basically been followed immediately by Series 8.


  76. Lewis Christian
    January 31, 2015 @ 9:28 am

    Alex, I agree that all the Daleks conveniently aiming at each other is crazy. So I tie in what happens in Series 1's finale. When Bad Wolf Rose sees all of time and space and destroys the Daleks, that also includes some who were in/around the Time War too. Thinking about it that way means not every Dalek has to be surrounding Gallifrey, and it also means that they don't all shoot each other out of the sky – that process is helped along by BWRose disintegrating a few along the way.


  77. Lewis Christian
    January 31, 2015 @ 9:31 am

    But at least let's not pretend "this is what I've always been doing"; if you must, make it "this is what I want to do now."

    I agree, though it's presented in a clever way. He has been sorting the calculations and whatever all throughout his life… but only since Day of the Doctor when presumably 11 or 12 sends said calculations back through time. (Or have I read the story wrong there?) It didn't happen, but then it always had happened. (Much like the Master never had the drums, up until The End of Time when Rassilon retroactively planted the drums in the kid Master's mind and thus he had always had them.)


  78. encyclops
    January 31, 2015 @ 9:43 am

    Lewis, we might or might not be talking about the same thing. The "this" I meant in what you quoted was "trying to get back home," not "trying to save Gallifrey." But what you said helps me quite a bit with "Gallifrey Ducks," so thanks. 🙂


  79. David Anderson
    January 31, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

    I did think after I'd written it that talking about 'pure' capitalism was begging several important questions in favour of the conceptual apparatus used by the right wing of the neoliberal consensus. But that's perhaps a tangent too far.


  80. Lewis Christian
    January 31, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

    Ah, apologies. Yeah, I agree with you about the "trying to get back home". I just assume "where I've always been going, home, the long way around" is him speaking from the POV of fate/destiny – he hasn't personally been longing to always go home from day one (although Hartnell does say "one day we shall get back, yes, one day" :p), rather he's always been destined to get back home and now realises his journey is headed that way after the outcome of the War.


  81. Matthew Blanchette
    January 31, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

    I would dearly love him to shut up about "material social progress", already. It's mumbo-jumbo; a cover phrase for nothing, a positive-sounding absence of logic. Ludicrous and annoying.


  82. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 31, 2015 @ 4:21 pm

    Well, the blog the phrase is associated with has three more entries remaining, so you're pretty much by definition going to get your wish, but if you find it so "annoying," please don't feel obliged to keep reading on my account.


  83. Prole Hole
    January 31, 2015 @ 11:44 pm

    It's maybe a stretch for some but The Inquisitor is basically good, isn't she? Her ability to do her job is screwed up in a thousand different ways, but there's no real sense in ToaTL that she's doing anything other than what she's supposed to be doing – getting at the truth. She's still standing at the end of the whole messy affair, the Doctor seems to regard her with, if not fondness then certainly indulgence, and she's last seen attempting to take charge of the ruins of Season 23, a task nobody has yet proved up to. (Yes, yes, I know Trial Of The Valeyard is out there. Pipe down at the back). But's she's a prominent Time Lord, apparently decent, and female to boot, yet always gets completely forgotten about.


  84. Matthew Blanchette
    February 1, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

    Oh, but I do feel obliged, since I've loved your blog so much otherwise. Just, the meaningless "material social progress" mantra irks me. It's nothingness.


  85. 5tephe
    February 1, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

    Even more fannish observation:
    Technically, even 11 can't remember any of the events of Day of the Doctor, because 12 was there. So Smith-Doctor doesn't remember that he's not to blame, and that Gallifrey can be saved till after Trenzelore.

    At some point Capaldi-Doctor must go and get involved in that action, and THEN he gets this "Aha!" moment, knowing that he saved the planet and all the people. I like to assume it was the first thing he did, of screen, post regeneration.



  86. John
    February 2, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    Gallifrey's actually pretty cuddly in Invasion of Time.


  87. Glenn Reuben
    February 4, 2015 @ 2:43 am

    Yeah, that bit never made sense to me either! I'm glad I'm not the only one!


  88. Daru
    February 4, 2015 @ 11:45 pm

    For the couple of years I have been reading your work Phil, this blog has really become an important part of my day and I've spent hours binge reading past blog entries.

    Day of the Doctor was a brilliant day for my partner and I as we both dressed up and spent the day in Edinburgh before going to see it in the cinema, where it was such a great experience sharing the story with a cinema full of people. Doctor Who, in the cinema! That I will always remember.

    Experiencing sadness at the thought of the ending of the tardis Eruditorum.


  89. SK
    February 5, 2015 @ 2:02 am

    When what we've always done stops working or doesn't work as well to maintain the quality of life that your society's had, material social progress is creative adaptation of your culture to its new circumstances, which reverses previous declines and begins a new era of overall improvement.

    Ah. So if material social progress is change in response to changing conditions, that means that as long as what you've always been doing keeps working as well as it has, material social progress is not needed — indeed, is actually impossible?

    Good to know.


  90. Seeing_I
    February 7, 2015 @ 8:49 am

    This deserves to be posted here for posterity – a gorgeous art project imagining a 5th Anniversary special starring William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Peter Cushing!


  91. theHamstertronic
    February 25, 2015 @ 6:08 am

    Sigh. There are a few people in the world who like Six's coat for it's "the Sixth Doctor Gives Zero Fucks" value, but I think I'm the only person in the world — except my two elementary school sons — who thinks it's pretty. Colin Baker says "It looks like an explosion in a rainbow factory". Yes! What sad world doesn't think an explosion in a rainbow factory is wonderful?


  92. Blueshift
    February 25, 2015 @ 6:51 am

    6's coat looks much better on McCoy. I think the coat is only half the problem, with darker hair / a more sombre outfit for it to stand out on, it could look good. But combined with bright yellow trousers, a giant colourful neck tie, a blond afro…


  93. Nicholas Tosoni
    March 3, 2015 @ 5:12 am

    One final question:

    …Was that really the Doctor?

    He seemed like such a nice old man…


  94. WhoNose
    April 9, 2016 @ 12:32 am

    I still don’t understand the argument that McGann wouldn’t have fit. I think he would have been perfect. (And technically none of the Doctors ever committed the double genocide, they just thought they had. So that’s not much of an issue.) Eight is, in a very real way, “the forgotten Doctor”. He’s not quite a classic series Doctor, not quite a new series Doctor. He has lots of spinoff material but only one on-screen story (which is what he’s known for by mainstream audiences). The Time War represents the Wilderness Years, but he IS the Wilderness Years.

    The War Doctor’s reveal in NotD would have worked just as well, if not better. All the fans unfamiliar with McGann would have been just as shocked as they were with Hurt, and all the other fans would have still been shocked but also very excited for 8’s first time on the show.

    I think Moffat’s choice has less to do with what works and more to do with fulfilling his desire of having a “mayfly Doctor” .

    Also I understand the point about the Curator being a future Doctor that can never come, which I like and agree with. But who knows, maybe CGI will be so advanced in Doctor Who’s 502nd season that we’ll be able to depict Tom Baker in the role again.


  95. rangerquiet
    April 29, 2021 @ 5:55 pm

    I never got the idea that the Doctor would become Tom Baker again. I just assumed that Smith meets him in a 3 Doctors/5 Doctors sense.


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