We stared into the untempered schism and all we saw was this dodgy CSO effect

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Jack Graham

Jack Graham writes and podcasts about culture and politics from a Gothic Marxist-Humanist perspective. He co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper. Support Jack on Patreon.


  1. John
    August 15, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

    How would you categorize Harriet Jones (MP, Flydale North) in this context?

    It is curious that the Christmas Invasion contains two elements that would come into play later – the Doctor's severed hand (which factors into two season climaxes), and the Six Little Words that led to Harriet's downfall and the political instability that would eventually put Saxon in power. Especially the latter; the Doctor essentially is responsible for the rise of Saxon. What was RTD's thesis statement here?


  2. Jack Graham
    August 15, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

    I think it's pretty simple, to be honest. Depressingly so. Harriet Jones is a comforting soft-left reformist daydream of a particularly revolting kind: the principled, compassionate, unambitious Labour backbencher who will run the country along lines of simple decency, topping up the wages and benefits of the respectable (working) poor, waving the flag in a modest and lovably eccentric way, reclaiming ostensibly British values like fair play and idealism, telling the yanks to piss off ('cos you do realise that everything wrong with British politics is all your fault, right?), etc, etc. Then she fails because such idealism always falters or betrays itself in the face of external threats. The comforting daydream breaks on the rocks of hard reality.

    There is ambivalence at this central part of Harriet's trajectory. Her Belgrano-moment is also a War-on-Terror moment. This is RTD's redux on his initial barbed cynicism about the War-on-Terror in 'Aliens of London/WW3'. By 'Christmas Invasion', things have become (supposedly) more complex. There is a real threat of terrorism that demands hard and brutal measures. The Doctor disapproves of her action, yet his own action against her is hardly presented as untroubling. Indeed, it's part of his (eventually truncated) trajectory in Series 2: that of arrogance. In this case, the arrogance of political idealism in the face of external threat.

    By the final part of the progression, 'Sound of Drums'/'Last of the Time Lords', we see full Blairite cynicism taking over. Notwithstanding RTD's own encoded lashing at Blair in the person of Saxon, the story of the Toclafane is based on just the kind of cynicism which sees Blair as the inevitable end result of the failure of Harriet Jones-esque idealism in the face of ugly reality. People (being fickle moral cowards, natch) vote for the Blairite warlord-in-waiting. And all because humanity tried to reach Utopia.

    Even as it sneers at Blair, this story provides him with an alibi: the masses' Utopian daydream fails, they get scared, so give them mobile phones, a cheesy smile and easy promises and they'll elect you. Take over their brains, it's easy 'cos they're cowardly dummies. Martha's Dad even gets to voice this blame when he shouts to the watching crowd. The only way out, the only route to a happy ending, is yet another strong man. The utopian daydream wins, but the deus ex machina needed makes the victory unconvincing. You can tell the atheist writer doesn't really believe his own story of collective prayer.


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