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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.

64 Comments

  1. David Anderson
    May 4, 2012 @ 12:12 am

    The test for this reading will be Vengeance on Varos, and its revisitation of television as entertainment.
    Likewise, the reason that Colin Baker wouldn't have worked in your reading of Warmonger is that he's already a carnivalesque parody of the Fifth Doctor.

    Reply

  2. Tom Watts
    May 4, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    t the heart of this is the character of Lytton, who rather unexpectedly finds himself thrust into the role of moral center of the story.

    For me this is the first era of DW when misjudgements are made which are completely inexplicable – in the sense that inexplicability is "of their nature"! I took away the impression that Lytton is how Saward thought the Doctor should be played, just as Orcini is supposed (according to Miles & Wood) to be how Saward thought Bayban the Butcher should have been played by CB. And the Doctor's comments at the end about his misjudgement thus represent a declaration of redundancy: "I need to get the hell out of my own show". In the whole of Attack, rewatching it a couple of days ago, I didn't notice a single line which demonstrated intelligence or wit. Fine: sack Colin and hire Michael Brandon or Lewis Collins. But if Lytton had had a tenth of the charisma and charm of Dempsey or the Professionals, we might have been getting somewhere even if it was nowhere very appropriate. But the writing isn't even Italian exploitation movie telegraphese – it's like it's made out of grey, recycled, papery goo.

    But your redemptive analysis is quite a feat and a most interesting take on the show at that time. I had no idea how you were going to do it. Legerdemain or escapology, either way it deserves a round of applause!

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  3. Alex Wilcock
    May 4, 2012 @ 2:08 am

    A fascinating and brave question to ask, and I do like your way of burrowing inside the meaning of this story if taken within the whole show and trying to make it make sense, even if you don’t like it. Bits that particularly stuck out were that “The only London landmark invoked is an imaginary one – Totter’s Lane”, which is now blindingly obvious but in its own way weirder than Mondas, and Colin as the Fisher King; as I alluded less poetically in comments on The Twin Dilemma, the problem is that, once having wounded him, they just carry on wounding him, rather than going on any quest for redemption, and that’s all based on a false reading of him from his first story (the dolorous blow).

    My own feelings about this season – and it suddenly strikes me that it’s one of very few about which I’ve not yet blogged in any detail, so I’ll have to fix that – are complicated and, I think, from a very different angle to yours, but might be summarised as the whole being less than the sum of its parts. When I was a boy, I’d sometimes ‘measure’ stories by adding up the elements in them, and I think it was during this season that that way of thinking hit its own narrative collapse, when I realised that Colin + Pat (both Doctors of whom I was particularly fond) + Sontarans + Jacqueline Pearce + Robert Holmes did not, for some reason it took me a while to fathom, equal the best story ever. So perhaps it’s that one I should look at. Today, I realise that I actually find a lot of the themes of the season interesting and much more coherent than many others, and I still like Colin’s performance, but I can also see why I don’t enjoy watching many of these stories very much.

    And I know you’ve excused yourself from repeating the behind-the-scenes stories here, but I find them difficult to separate, particularly when this season is for me Saward at his most interesting but his least likeable – he’s finally found something to say, but a lot of the time I don’t much like the way he says it. And, clearly, though you’ve made fascinating stabs at explaining them from the inside out (which read well but don’t really convince me, not least because this is the year the series completely loses sight of the differences between Daleks and Cybermen), the reason Lytton is utterly bizarrely the moral centre is because, as Tom says above and many of us noted under Resurrection, Saward understands and likes him but has no clue about or, with Colin, even liking for the Doctor, while Terrance Dicks is hilariously voluble about Saward’s bizarre fetish for the Cybermen. Though perhaps they are suitable for the Fisher King / wasteland conception of this season, as they’re notably far weaker in ‘power’ terms than Daleks or Sontarans, and here are, like, the Doctor, very much on the defensive and falling apart. I find it difficult to see Mondas as being presented “in its full and original weirdness”, though; weird and qlippothic as The Tenth Planet was, here it’s presented instead as part of Saward’s macho ‘reality’, insisting that we accept it as if it makes utter, “grittily realistic” sense and so coming across as less weird than absurd. He doesn’t even manage to use Halley’s Comet to get us into the idea of planets flying around, which is surely the only reason to have it in the script.

    I do still enjoy the Doctor’s obvious joy bounding about the place in Part One, though, before it all gets horrid. As with much of this season, it’s the more interesting ideas that are the most flawed, when Saward tries to do something slightly different with the Cryons (who I notice you don’t mention) but just makes no sense at all of them, even before they end up the way they do on screen. But almost everything seems to go wrong after the excruciating cliffhanger (save, perhaps, the strangely compelling sequence around Flast’s exposition that would probably have been the third cliffhanger).

    Reply

  4. Alex Wilcock
    May 4, 2012 @ 2:09 am

    And as I’m just about to attempt a diet (another reason to watch The Two Doctors…?), of course the Controller’s got a bit bigger since we last saw him… You would, too, if you did nothing but sit by the fridge all day.

    Reply

  5. Exploding Eye
    May 4, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    There must be two versions of Remembrance Of The Daleks doing the rounds. I've only ever seen the painfully amateurish one with cringe-inducing fanwank, rotten acting and wobbly Daleks who can't hit a stationary target. I'm looking forward to one day getting my hands on the version which is an "unambiguous triumph".

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  6. Exploding Eye
    May 4, 2012 @ 2:58 am

    Meanwhile: I watched Attack Of The Cybermen the other day. It was entertaining enough, mainly due to Colin's flamboyant performance, and a fun turn from Maurice Colbourne and Brian Glover. The continuity nonsense was pointless, but less intrusive than something like Remembrance where you really had to be up to speed to fathom what was going on. Here it was just back story for some killing on a cold planet – not Doctor Who at its best, but it passed the time.

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  7. drfgsdgsdf
    May 4, 2012 @ 4:39 am

    Shame that British Cinema wasn't going through anything like a renaissance at the time, although many dearly wanted it to (British Film Year etc). Jarman and Greenaway were doing some interesting work at the time but that was about it.

    I like the idea of a redemptive reading of the last line based only on the text. Maybe the Sixth Doctor's line about having misjudged Lytton could be read as him regretting being so critical of a total mercenary.
    The Doctor now realises that good things can come from being colder and ruthless and this explains his callous, unlikeable behaviour in later stories.
    A natural follow on from the Doctor previously saying "I must change my way" in the last Saward story…oh dear

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  8. jane
    May 4, 2012 @ 5:17 am

    Some additional support for Phil's reading: Here we get a story where the iconic shell of the TARDIS is under attack — by the Doctor himself. The Doctor (and the show) are more concerned with altering the qlippothic shell than working out the heart of the program; this focus on gratuitous iconography as a substitute for the continuity of character arcs is the heart of the problem.

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  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 4, 2012 @ 5:43 am

    The degree to which I am unable to process this comment is best expressed by the fact that I spent ten minutes trying to find which comment had praised Resurrection or Revelation as an unambiguous triumph before rereading yours and seeing that you were slagging Remembrance and not, as I had assumed at first glance, one of the other Rs.

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  10. Scott
    May 4, 2012 @ 6:02 am

    See, to be honest I've always thought it was the other way around.

    Take the Totter's Lane scene in both for example. In "Attack", the Doctor practically jumps up and down waving his arms shouting "Look! Look! This is important, this is!" when he sees the Totter's Lane sign, but we never get a sense of WHY its important; it's just thrown in purely for the sake of it. In "Remembrance" on the other hand, the Doctor looks around Totter's Lane, demonstrates clear evidence of knowledge of his surroundings in a way that's relevant to what's going on, and when questioned merely suggests that he's been there before. If you've seen "An Unearthly Child" you know what he's talking about, if you don't it's no big deal, just somewhere he's been that we haven't seen.

    That's not to say "Remembrance" is perfect when it comes to handling continuity, but from what I remember it's way better to how it was done in "Attack". To each their own, of course.

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  11. jane
    May 4, 2012 @ 6:24 am

    Yes, no reading on the Cryons?

    They're a race played by women. Alchemically speaking, this makes them a dark mirror of the Cybermen. So what's the opposite of the Qlippothic shell? Interiority. The Cryons live inside the planet Telos, never coming to the surface. And where the Cybermen go to sleep in the cold, the Cryons are awake and alive. The Cryons sabotage the hibernation process… how? Through some kind of warmth?

    There's an interesting scene early in Part 2, when the Doctor, Peri, Lytton and Griffiths are trapped in the TARDIS, discussing the history of Telos. When Peri first learns about the Cryons, she says "I don't care about the Cryons," for which Lytton chides her for a lack of compassion. The shot is framed so that one of the TARDIS roundels, one that's been opened up to reveal a dark mass of wiring, is right behind Peri's head, creating a black halo.

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  12. Wm Keith
    May 4, 2012 @ 6:48 am

    I have an uncomfortable relationship with "Attack of the Cybermen". I know it's rotten but, on the other hand, I began watching "Doctor Who" again with it (with part two, in fact, unlike several million others).

    So, having been largely turned off (as a ten year old) by Season 18, and then having failed to make the switch to weeknights, why did I start watching again at this point? Perhaps because "Attack" really does feel like a simple, basic Doctor Who story. And as I joined at episode 2, I wasn't really affected by all the continuity references – it had clearly been a complicated episode 1.

    After the cerebral melancholy which permeated Season 18, Season 22 is not so much a breath of fresh air as a bucket of stage blood flung in the face of the audience. In doing this, it reflects the harsh, violent flavour of the times – not just the miner's strike; 1985 was the year when the Heysel stadium violence resulted in the general demonisation of football fans in general. The tone of Season 22 follows a trend in drama. For example, the National Theatre staged a new production of "The Duchess of Malfi" in the summer of 1985.

    Unfortunately, John Webster was not available to write any scripts for Doctor Who. But Philip Martin was.

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  13. Tom Watts
    May 4, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    But Lytton stands behind Peri so that most of the roundel is obscured by black jumper. And "There's compassion for you" is a cynical line, not necessarily implying that compassion itself is worth very much.

    And then the characters start saying for what seems like the tenth time that they are "confused", doubtless reflecting the muddle and self-dismay of the writer.

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  14. Exploding Eye
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:20 am

    My point is more that the continuity in Attack is just window dressing – they're in Totter's Lane presumably because Ian Levine could have them there – whereas in Remembrance it's tied up with the actual plot. Both, for me, cheapen the origins of the show, but in Attack it's more forgettable.

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  15. Ben
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:20 am

    "The Cybermen oversee a sudden hemorrhage of a quarter of the viewership week over week and then the series gets cancelled."
    I'm not sure that's fair. To get really tedious the ratings for season 21 (according to Shannon Sullivan's) were:

    Warriors Of The Deep 7.6, 7.5, 7.3, 6.6
    The Awakening 7.9, 6.6
    Frontios 8.0, 5.8, 7.8, 5.6
    Resurrection Of The Daleks 7.3, 8.0
    Planet Of Fire 7.4, 6.1, 7.4, 7.0
    The Caves of Androzani 6.9, 6.6, 7.8, 7.8
    The Twin Dilemma 7.6, 7.4, 7.0, 6.3
    Average: 7.1

    And season 22:
    Attack Of The Cybermen 8.9, 7.2
    Vengeance On Varos 7.2, 7.0
    The Mark Of The Rani 6.3, 7.3
    The Two Doctors 6.6, 6.0, 6.9
    Timelash 6.7, 7.4
    Revelation Of The Daleks 7.4, 7.7
    Average: 7.1

    By contrast season 19 had an average of 9.2 and season 20 7.0. So the real question is why did 2 million viewers switch off between those two seasons. I think the answer is obviously that Adric left. I mean without him, what's the point?

    Great post though! There's next to nothing on the net about this era of Doctor Who beyond rehashing the same commentary on why it failed, so this is a much needed breath of fresh air. Thanks!

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  16. Dr. Tom
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    I have to agree with Scott on this one. "Attack" was about, "Look! 1986 is next year! Remember what happened? It's important!) whereas "Remembrance" was about, "Huh! Ace picked up a book on the French Revolution," or–if you were in on the reference–"Oh my gosh! Ace picked up the book that Susan picked up!" Either way, "Remebrances"'s references did not cloud one's entertainment of the story if you didn't know about the references.

    This is similar to things in the new series when they reference "James McCrimmon" in "Tooth and Claw" or "The Macra" in "Griclock." It's cool for the fans, but not necessary for the new fans to know about. "Attack" was about everyone knowing about everything.

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  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    It's misleading, I think, to treat Season 22's ratings in toto, however. The cancellation was announced during The Two Doctors, and the series was heavily in the news for the weeks after that. This is sufficient to explain the ratings bump at the end. While people overstate the degree of ratings drop (About Time describes a drop of 1.7 as "almost three million," seemingly skipping over the number two in its rounding), from Attack 1 to Two Doctors 2 – the episode after which the cancellation was announced – the numbers did indeed lose 1/3, and on a fairly straight downward trajectory with only Mark of the Rani having an odd uptick. (People just love Pip and Jane?) Whereas Season 21bounced around. Frontios's nmbers are particularly interesting – clearly Tuesdays weren't working well that week. Indeed, the show seems to always have lost viewers Monday-to-Tuesday that season. (Which also complicates the ratings averages.)

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  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:37 am

    More important, to me, is that in Remembrance the continuity is a real part of the story. It's the first time the series really cracks this usage of its own mythology after it actually has a mythology. I mean, it managed it back in The Dalek Invasion of Earth by just faking it til it made it, but Remembrance is really the first story after Doctor Who has fans and mythos and scads of books about its mythos where someone comes along and does a story about that mythos. (Save, perhaps, for Mawdryn Undead, which comes closer to that than anyone gives it credit for)

    What's key is that Totters Lane works both diegetically and extra-diegetically. On the one hand it's the right place for the Doctor to have launched an age-old trap for the Daleks simply because it is the cradle of the story. The Doctor and his oldest enemies face off at the very beginning is, as a piece of mythology, just right in a fundamental sense. One can argue whether Doctor Who should be playing with that mythology at all, but that ship had long since sailed by 1988, so we may as well do it right.

    But unlike Attack of the Cybermen, Remembrance manages to have an actual story reason for it too, so even if you don't get the reference (and I suspect that the level of iconicness here is actually large enough that the series can get away with it – even without the particulars I think much of the audience can be expected to key in to the fact that we're harkening back to the start of the series in some fashion here) you can understand the idea. The idea that the Doctor was on the run with a Time Lord superweapon that he stashed in London in 1963 is not unreasonable – it doesn't disrupt An Unearthly Child much at all. It doesn't reveal too much about the Doctor in An Unearthly Child, but it still makes sense with relation to that story, and it makes sense as a thing the Doctor might have done fleeing Gallifrey in general.

    So you have mythology used in a way that still makes sense story-wise but also makes sense as a broader play of iconography. It works for the same reasons The Doctor's Wife or Doomsday do.

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  19. Ben
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:41 am

    Fair enough. I hadn't realised that the cancellation was announced mid season. I'd assumed that the BBC would've waited until it was actually over before killing it.

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  20. Ben
    May 4, 2012 @ 7:54 am

    And maybe they liked Kate O'Mara?

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  21. tantalus1970
    May 4, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    I suspect the drop might be more that Attack 1 got such high ratings because it was a Cyberman story. After the Daleks, they were the most iconic (ie well-known) monsters. Most people had at least heard of them.

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  22. tantalus1970
    May 4, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    In Remembrance, there are things going on in Totters Lane while the Doctor is there. In Attack, the plot is happening elsewhere while the Doctor and Peri walk up and down the street with a beeping machine, being followed by Lytton's policemen, and then go back to the Tardis.

    I don't like Remembrance as much as Phil clearly does (although I do like it) but one thing in its' favour is that it goes like the clappers. I particularly love that the Daleks appear IN the first episode rather than just at the end.

    Whereas Attack is a good example of why I don't like Season 22 in general: Part 1 is just Episode 1 of 4 stretched out to 45 minutes and Part 2 is Episodes 2, 3 and 4 squeezed into 45 minutes.

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  23. gregmcduck
    May 4, 2012 @ 8:26 am

    And the first case of Not Too Distant Future syndrome, I was wondering when that would pop up in this show about time travel. As much as I don't care for the fanwank that's been clogging up the works since the Fifth Doctor, doing a Cybermen story at this point makes sense. Unless I'm forgetting something, the Tenth Planet was the only Doctor Who story up to this point set in a distinct future date that was obtainable by the show's audience, so addressing it again once the date roles around is far more sensible than stuffing Silurians and Sea Devils in a submarine and calling it a day.

    It's just a shame the show doesn't actually do anything here. The Cybermen haven't been interesting since The Invasion, there's no reason for us to return to Totter's Lane, and even though I watched this story two days ago, I have a hard time recalling just what the hell anyone did once we got to Telos.

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  24. Exploding Eye
    May 4, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    That's kinda my point – in Attack, they're just in Totters Lane for no reason. It's rubbish, but it's so irrelevant that it hardly registers on any memorable level. In RotD, the whole story is built around this nonsense. RotD is a story I'd like to like, don't get me wrong, but it's so shoddy in almost every respect that it's just impossible. Attack is shoddy, but at least it doesn't take itself so seriously, it attains minimum levels of entertainment value.

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  25. Exploding Eye
    May 4, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    I'm waiting with baited breath to find out what's actually good about Remembrance.

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  26. Alan
    May 4, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    I wouldn't have minded at all a show touching on the fact that "Tenth Planet" happened in 1986 (although that does raise the more interesting and complicated question of when exactly "The Invasion" happened and why no one in "The Tenth Planet" knew what a Cyberman was). I just minded AotC because it was awful, awful, awful. The Doctor's weepy eulogy for the cold-blooded killer Lytton was ridiculous and came out of nowhere. Peri's only emotions were a whinging sulk and a palpable fear of the Doctor (in there first scene together, I wondered whether something even worse than the strangling scene had happened between TTD and this). The Cryons made no sense at all and left me wondering where they were supposed to have been in "Tomb of the Cybermen." And what the hell was up with Bates and Stratton?!? Roughly 40% of the entire story was devoted to a B-plot about two cyber-slaves trying to escape only to get shot down by a random Cyberman in a very poorly shot scene at the end without them every interacting with the Doctor in any way! And something about time-travel experiments by humans that just sort of peetered off? I think Saward was drunk when he edited this mess.

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  27. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 4, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    Tom Watts:
    "if Lytton had had a tenth of the charisma and charm of Dempsey or the Professionals, we might have been getting somewhere even if it was nowhere very appropriate"

    I reccomend everyone see the "DUEL IN VENICE" episode of RETURN OF THE SAINT. Maurice Coulbourne really plays a total bastard in there, and you just spend the entire story waiting to see him get killed because he's just begging for it.

    It seems a shame that Ian Ogilvy never guest-starred opposite Colin Baker. What a contrast that would have made. (He did, however, guest on an episode oc CAMPION.)

    Alex Wilcox:
    "of course the Controller’s got a bit bigger since we last saw him… You would, too, if you did nothing but sit by the fridge all day"

    Oh my God! If only that had appeared in the script…!!!

    Exploding Eye:
    "a fun turn from Maurice Colbourne and Brian Glover"

    Oh yes. Pity about part 2. Speaking of CAMPION, half the fun is trying to discearn exactly what Brian Glover is actually saying when he speaks. What an accent! (And who would have pictured Glover would have made such a good Doctor's companion?)

    Dr. Tom:
    "This is similar to things in the new series when they reference "James McCrimmon" in "Tooth and Claw" or "The Macra" in "Griclock." It's cool for the fans, but not necessary for the new fans to know about."

    That's a good thing, because "THE MACRA TERROR" is unlikely to turn up on PBS anytime soon, is it? (I still recall the shock and yelling at the TV, "Oh my God! They brought back a Patrick Troughton monster!!! And an obscure one at that!")

    Tantalus 1970:
    "Attack is a good example of why I don't like Season 22 in general: Part 1 is just Episode 1 of 4 stretched out to 45 minutes and Part 2 is Episodes 2, 3 and 4 squeezed into 45 minutes."

    That reminds me of the Letts-Dicks-Baker "HOUND". The first half was perfect, but the 2nd half felt like the last 2/3rds of the story was crammed into 1 hour instead of 2. A shame, other than that, it was by a very wide margin the BEST "adaptation" of "BASKERVILLES" ever, ever done. (Rathbone still has it for the best "movie", though.)

    Jane:
    "The Doctor (and the show) are more concerned with altering the qlippothic shell than working out the heart of the program; this focus on gratuitous iconography as a substitute for the continuity of character arcs is the heart of the problem."

    I was at the Valley Forge convention when JNT introduced the story by smiling and saying, "This story we… PLAY with the TARDIS a bit."

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  28. Dr. Happypants
    May 4, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    That's like asking what's actually good about blowjobs, gin, and mushrooms sauteed in garlic butter.

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  29. timelord7202
    May 4, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

    snicker, re: "two versions of 'Remembrance'".

    The stationary target bit is explained in the novelization (can't levitate and fire at the same time) but the cringe-inducing fanwank is far worse than anything seasons 21 and 22 put out.

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  30. timelord7202
    May 4, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    "Attack" gets off on the wrong foot by its inclusion of 76 Totters Lane and Peri being called every name in the book, with emphasis on "Jamie" (male) – even though it is phonetically identical with "Jaime" (female). Why not "Harry" instead, especially given Peri's American origin?

    The Cyber-history, I thought, was well-done, and it's been YEARS since anything remotely Cyberish had been pointed out. Doc5 alludes to it in "Earthshock", but still requires more knowledge of the Cybermen, and "Earthshock" doesn't remind people of the past while telling the story. "Attack" does, so one needn't know previous stories.

    The best bit is that, in the WHO universe, 1986 had Mondas invading (not our real world). I'm not sure if sci-fi writers in the real world use near-future time periods to coax scientists into doing it for real, or if they're just having fun, especially in the day and age when there was no home video or anything else. Probably the latter. Just like the Jupiter II launching in 1997 or Khan ruling in 1996. If general/mainstream audiences can't realize the show is in its own realm rather than leeching into ours for "association" sake, then sci-fi isn't going to appeal since one's mind has to suspend disbelief… more on that later…

    In 1985, during initial airing, I wanted to see "The Tenth Planet" and see more about Mondas, except the story (its surviving episodes) was never broadcast here. Nor did anything big happen in 1986 because of Haley's comet. 🙂 I knew then that it's just a TV show and to accept the premise and that it is its own entity that is not of our universe. Unlike the Donahue, Oprah, Maury, and Jerry shows, sadly…

    Going back to a previous bit on suspending disbelief: To compare, the RTD era bathes in tying in real life elements directly, instead of letting WHO be its own universe, because audiences are somehow more modern or sophisticated (granted, the same RTD thinks people can't see anyone over 40 and think the character is the Doctor, either…). And RTD's era has dated far worse than any story claiming that incident A would happen on B date (that ultimately happened to take place C.D decades ago in our real life world), with that as being one of the reasons why. Even as postmodern as WHO was in 1985, a line was still kept uncrossed and it shows. Earth in the WHO universe did get attacked, and all involved knew WHO's realm is not the real world. It's dated now, since anybody – even sci-fi fans capable of rationalizing – still feel a twinge of "predicting 20 years ahead is a tad silly" – but still seems easier to overlook by comparison… to enjoy it for what it is instead of it trying to hammer itself unto us (e.g. the 76 Totters Lane uber-fanwank bit at the start, or the new series being so imaginative it couldn't think of anything else except "Anne-Droid" and making the oldest actor to play the Doctor since its 2005 revival to be an incompetent doofus compared to his successors so far… never mind Doc11 is so similar to Doc10 rather than being a contrast, which also shows the producers more afraid of losing a few viewers than to take a chance… but in the realm of this blog, that hasn't happened yet… 😀 )

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  31. timelord7202
    May 4, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    Agreed.

    Doc6's newfound compassion for Lytton made little sense (Lytton was a mercenary. He did what he did for money and had no scruples or emotional involvement, passion, or concern. For all of his chiding of Peri for lacking compassion, Lytton is the ultimate example of being compassion-less.)

    The Doctor may have seen the Cyber-conversion process for the first time and felt excessive amounts OF compassion as a result…

    The Cryon absence in "Tomb" didn't faze me, but "The Invasion"'s lack of time reference (apart from UNIT, so either late-70s, 1980, etc, that does pre-date "Tenth Planet" and therefore creates an irrefutable flaw… except Doc7, amongst others, explained why humans seem to forget these past invasions… "Remembrance", for all of its nostalgiawank, has a rather great line where the Doctor explains to Ace about all the invasions mankind conveniently forgets about…)

    Bates and Stratton – given their demise being inanely thrown in, what was their point… apart from shock value about partial Cyber-conversion…?

    The Cybermen did steal a time machine (but nothing was said about which species they took it from, and it seems tangential to the Time Lords apparently manipulating Doc6 into the fray…)

    Yeah, it's a mess. A few great set-pieces are in this story, but a lot of it is a mess… over-crowded and for little focused reason…

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  32. Zapruder 313
    May 4, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  33. Zapruder 313
    May 4, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

    I'm definitely with Dr. Happypants on this one. Remembrance of the Daleks is no more in need of our critical defence than is a pot of fresh coffee and a huge slice of cherry pie on a crisp, bright winter's morning.

    The answer to "what is actually good about that story?" is surely, erm, "all of it."

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  34. Kavafis1933
    May 4, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

    Jane:
    They're a race played by women. Alchemically speaking, this makes them a dark mirror of the Cybermen. So what's the opposite of the Qlippothic shell? Interiority. The Cryons live inside the planet Telos, never coming to the surface. And where the Cybermen go to sleep in the cold, the Cryons are awake and alive.

    Yes. Thematically, the opposition here may be between the nurturing, emotional warmth of the (female) Cryons against the utilitarian, logical coldness of the (as always, male) Cybermen. As has been alluded to in slightly different terms, the Doctor's sympathy with Lytton is thereby expected to be constructed by the audience in terms of Lytton's appreciation of these values and consequent redemption from his past involvment with the Daleks. It isn't really apparent from the script though, however Colin Baker seeks to play it.

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  35. Wm Keith
    May 4, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

    What if I could control people’s tastebuds? What if I decided that no one would take sugar?

    Reply

  36. Grant, the Hipster Dad
    May 5, 2012 @ 12:07 am

    You do know that, in the TARDIS Eruditorum drinking game, we take a shot every time you use the word "qlippothic" in connection with the Cybermen, right?

    Reply

  37. andrelafosse
    May 5, 2012 @ 12:53 am

    No comment on the "It is a FAT controller!" line?

    Reply

  38. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 5, 2012 @ 2:47 am

    Kavafis1933:
    "It isn't really apparent from the script though"

    A running problem of the entire Eric Sawrd era on the show. We're told in DWMagazine what's going on, and it become necessary for them to do this, because it's not in the scripts that wind up on the screen. NO character development. NO logic behind the way characters treat each other. NO sense in most of the actions in too many of the stories.

    andrelafosse:
    "No comment on the "It is a FAT controller!" line?"

    I did!

    Somewhere, in some other universe, there's a run of DOCTOR WHO in the 80's that was actually done right. Where the production values went up, but the writing didn't go completely to hell. Where JNT left after 1 or 2 years, without having thrown the entire cast of Season 17 out the door first, and where Eric Saward was only hired as a writer, but never, ever, script editor.

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  39. Tommy
    May 5, 2012 @ 5:05 am

    "As has been alluded to in slightly different terms, the Doctor's sympathy with Lytton is thereby expected to be constructed by the audience in terms of Lytton's appreciation of these values and consequent redemption from his past involvment with the Daleks. It isn't really apparent from the script though, however Colin Baker seeks to play it."

    I read the DWM archive on Attack of the Cybermen (which highlighted the Doctor's final line) before seeing the story back when I was 11 or 12. And from what I'd read about Resurrection of the Daleks (which I also hadn't seen, which is a good thing because when I finally did see it, I almost disowned the show entirely), I was under the impression that Lytton was a duplicate who had no choice but to work for the Daleks.

    I thought that in Attack of the Cybermen he would be trying to rehabilitate himself and discover an identity for himself- a bit like the replicants in Blade Runner. That the Doctor had harboured a prejudice about him based on his past actions, and realised the core innocence of Lytton too late. Hence the "I don't think I've ever misjudged someone quite as badly as I did Lytton".

    All of that stuff sounded far more poignant than what we got onscreen. But what we got onscreen was Eric Saward telling us that mercenaries are cool, and adopting a tell don't show approach by having the Doctor, just like in Warriors of the Deep, telling us via hearsay that this cold-blooded mass murderer is actually misunderstood and noble once you get to know them really, despite everything we've seen onscreen. Oh and the Doctor has to yet again do everything to try and save them whilst failing to give a shit about anyone else who died over the course of the story, so we can force a downbeat ending out of the Doctor's 'gilty' realisation of his contrived failure.

    Oh and I get the impression that the scene where Lytton gets his hands crushed was supposed to symbolise his 'penance'. After all this is the 80's- the age of Rambo, Robocop and Die Hard. The age of 'pain builds character'.

    What's particularly annoying is that the Doctor's lamenting of his misjudgement seems less to do with what happened to Lytton and more to do with cursing his own failure to be a good judge of character.

    And frustratingly there are parts of the beginning of the story that briefly make it look like this show belongs on Saturday nights again. Occasionally the dialogue sparks and Colin's theatrics and energy endears, and the opening teaser is pretty atmospheric. But then it meanders and drags, it gets bogged down in continuity details, and then it goes completely stale in the second half.

    I don't think it's a terrible story, per se, but it's very staid and unrewarding. Frankly it's less rewarding than even Terminus.

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  40. Adam Riggio
    May 5, 2012 @ 5:24 am

    I am so excited to see the quasi sentient meta fictional aspects of Doctor Who return to your narratives so powerfully. I have never been as excited as I am now about reading accounts of the Colin Baker era. It seems to me that Phil composed the arc of the Davison entries as a diagnosis of the Saward era's problems, with hints, as in his most optimistic entry, Terminus, of the positive developments of the future. Diagnosis having been made, the action now begins.

    I can't wait.

    Reply

  41. Adam Riggio
    May 5, 2012 @ 6:26 am

    Reading the entry on Terminus again, I came across this discussion of Tacitus, which I read in an illuminating new light, given how Phil has described the howling exorcism of the Colin Baker era. Tacitus tried to conceive the Norse pantheon as a development of the Roman pantheon. Phil describes it as the Roman pantheon slitting its own throat in a desperate attempt to become something weirder. This is exactly how the exorcism works.

    The Whoniverse is a concept that tried to totalize Doctor Who, creating a single canon of events that encapsulate the entire world of Doctor Who. Most importantly, the Whoniverse limits what stories can be told: if a story would contradict events previously established as canonical, a Doctor Who writer would not be able to tell it. Doctor Who stories work by creating a world, and transforming it, a process that happens with every story. The Whoniverse, by creating a single internally consistent overarching world, would determine what could and could not be a Doctor Who story. The show itself rebels against this idea.

    Creating a single world works for franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, because from the start, they were conceived of as single worlds. Doctor Who is not of this type, but in the 1980s, the show was treated as if it were a sci-fi franchise like any other. The howling exorcism strains against this totalizing movement happening among its own producers and fans. But that social pressure is so powerful that the only way out is a desperate move. The Whoniverse concept wants to normalize Doctor Who, but Doctor Who is weird, and wants to become weird again.

    The only way out may be to slit its own throat. The show itself, and the society of producers and fans that have grown up around it, has reached a limit point to its current movement. It has tried to function as a conventional sci-fi show with a single internally consistent world, the Whoniverse. It must kill itself, regenerating into a whole new form, if it is to continue and avoid its final death. It would be the most hideous death of all: becoming just another sci-fi show, becoming normal.

    Reply

  42. Zapruder 313
    May 5, 2012 @ 6:28 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  43. Zapruder 313
    May 5, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    Previous reply deleted because I'm not at all sure I was understanding the tone of the previous question correctly, and I have no desire to enter into a disagreement when I strongly suspect that we are both arguing from the same position.

    Apologies to Wm Keith for any misunderstanding.

    Reply

  44. Tommy
    May 5, 2012 @ 7:31 am

    I think it's possible that whilst JNT was possessive and proprietorial about the show whilst he was running it, he was also aiming on merely being a fill-in guy, just like Graham Williams. He was about keeping the audience interested- ending each season on a cliffhanger, and giving the fans what they wanted (and he definitely did want to make his mark), but probably thought in the long term he was just clearing and polishing the decks for whoever took over next. I think Doctor Who was just a leg up for him.

    Apparently he was only aiming to produce the one season, but the BBC offered him a big cheque and so he stayed. I think then his ambition became to do The Five Doctors and leave there.

    Various things kept drawing him back. He had sought the adulation of fans from the start and now he loved it too much. It was also a bit typically neurotic of him to insist on The Five Doctors being shown on the exact date of the anniversary, bearing in mind that The Three Doctrs wasn't. Infact if you'd put The Five Doctors at the start of Season 20 it would be a better season opener, and you could have Tegan brought back by Time Scoop without relying on the ridiculous coincidence that Arc of Infinity did. But because JNT wanted it done on that date, the BBC told him that it would have to be produced as part of Season 21's block, so he'd have to produce that season as well. And then afterwards he wanted to oversee Colin's era. And after that he felt he had to stay and stand with the show and with McCoy against BBC opposition.

    If he was to leave on Time-Flight, or after a season either side, then things could have worked out far better. I think what trapped him was down to two things. He was seen as being good at managing the small budget that the show was made on, and if the BBC were to continue spending that little money on the show, then he was the only producer who could make that money count for something. Besides the show's lack of money and resources made it a poor draw for other producers who didn't want to work on something so technically difficult and under-resourced.

    The other being that there wasn't anything to move him on to. Apparently he was planning on reviving the 1960's soap-opera Compact and being producer of that, but the BBC rejected it. I sometimes think K9 and Company was another one of his escape routes. The idea being that he'd be abloe to move on and produce that instead from hereon. But of course that didn't last past the pilot.

    But it all begins to demonstrate how the BBC was in financial trouble- which is why Michael Grade was eventually brought in to do some downsizing. Various famous BBC writers were having trouble getting topical drama shows commissioned by the Beeb- Troy Kennedy Martin has said that before Edge of Darkness was accpted he tried submitting so many other political scripts that the BBC didn't accept. Some of this might be to do with the reactionary times, but I think it's mainly that the BBC were having to be careful not to take any risk in how they distributed their TV budgets.

    So if big name writers like that struggled to get their best scripts televised, what hope did an up and comer with little writing experience like JNT have of getting his own show? In this climate, JNT was as stuck as anyone.

    Reply

  45. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 5, 2012 @ 7:35 am

    John Nathan-Turner tried desperately to quit after Seasons 23, 24, and 25. Less after 24, as he was interested in overseeing the 25th anniversary as well, but the idea that he felt like he had to stay is revisionist. He was told he could stay on Doctor Who or quit the BBC outright, as I understand it.

    Reply

  46. jane
    May 5, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    Bates and Stratton – given their demise being inanely thrown in, what was their point… apart from shock value about partial Cyber-conversion…?

    Another play on the qlippothic, men who have been partially converted putting on the cyber-garb… they just weren't good enough to be cybermen, not good enough to pretend, either.

    Reply

  47. Exploding Eye
    May 5, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

    I still don't know what it means.

    Reply

  48. Exploding Eye
    May 5, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    It's a well-known fact that blowjobs are 20% worse when accompanied by a Keff McCulloch score.

    I guess I'll just have to wait and see what's so good about it. Hopefully Phil's critical analysis will go a little deeper than "all of it". 😉

    Reply

  49. Alan
    May 5, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

    If Eric Saward had the faintest clue what "qlippothic" meant when he, er, I mean "Paula" wrote this story, then I'm the new Cyberleader.

    Reply

  50. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 5, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

    Adam Riggio:
    "It would be the most hideous death of all: becoming just another sci-fi show, becoming normal."

    Never thought this would cross my mind, but the star-field of the JNT-era end credits seems too "normal" compared to what it replaced. (I did love the McCoy-era credits, though.)

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  51. Anton B
    May 6, 2012 @ 12:22 am

    Are there any plans to do a siderial piece on the changing credits sequences? I never liked the star field ones and really dislike the Doctor's winking face appearing. I love the original Hartnell/Troughton video feedback sequence. I think it really succeeds in graphically illustrating the medium through which the Tardis actually travels (i.e. distorted, changed TV signals). The star fields just suggest the Doctor whizzes through regular space, like a regular Sci-Fi show. For similar reasons I always hate any shots of The police box hanging around in space. I mean why does it do that? surely it dematerialises in one place and time and materialises instantaneously in another. I can understand the need for expositionary scenes in the Tardis interior but no need for exterior shots of the thing as though it's a regular spaceship. I think it demotes it's mercurial nature.

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  52. Zapruder 313
    May 6, 2012 @ 3:14 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  53. Zapruder 313
    May 6, 2012 @ 3:17 am

    Hopefully Phil's critical analysis will go a little deeper than "all of it". 😉

    That's why he writes the Blog and I just read it! 🙂

    (Previous comment deleted because apparently now I just can't spell.)

    Reply

  54. jane
    May 6, 2012 @ 3:57 am

    "Qliphoth" are the peels, husks, or shells surrounding the holy. It's a rather Manichean notion where physical reality is deemed "evil" to the "good" of the spiritual realm, but more practically speaking it's the sense that the material is an obstacle or an impediment to the spiritual.

    The Cybermen are qlippothic because they seek immortality through the husk of the body, rather than finding eternity through the ever-present Now. To use another metaphor, they are concerned with the state of the light bulb, rather than the quality of the light emanating from it.

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  55. Adam Riggio
    May 6, 2012 @ 6:18 am

    Phil writes, "The past always has more power than its worshipers give it credit for." My constant returning to these comments this late in the weekend may look like the ravings of a madman. But I keep finding new elements for interpretation. Because Phil identified the return of terrifying forces from the distant, mythologized past as a major recurring element of the Hinchcliffe era.

    So the essential insight of Hinchcliffe's Doctor Who, the creative high point of the classic series, is now biting the current production team. John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward's Doctor Who is being haunted by and destroyed by a monstrous return into the material of the show itself of its romanticized, idealized, and misunderstood mythological golden age.

    Reply

  56. J. L. Webb
    May 6, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    Are the rules to this drinking game set out somewhere?

    Reply

  57. William Whyte
    May 6, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    This is a nice observation. And it's interesting to contrast it with Logopolis, where the Doctor's initial desire to tear down the shell of the TARDIS escalates into an attack on the structure of the Universe itself — a much better meeting of theme and iconography than in the case of Attack of the Cybermen.

    Reply

  58. Carey
    May 6, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

    Colbourn's place in the narrative is especially revealing of Sawards desires regarding where he wants to take Doctor Who not because he is playing a mercenary, but because he was lead in the BBC series Gangsters, as written by Phillip Martin, who was to pen the next story and which similarly dealt with narrative breakdown In the final episode of Gangsters the characters actually end up walking off the set.

    More can be found on Gangsters here: http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/534642/index.html

    I'm in two minds about season 22: in man ways it doesn't work, but at the same time I think it the most thematically rich overall season of Doctor Who since season 18.

    Reply

  59. Wm Keith
    May 6, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

    They are set out Everywhere.

    Reply

  60. Matthew Blanchette
    May 7, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    If he had left after Season 18, I think he'd be praised a lot more… but who would've succeeded him? The chain of command wasn't as fluid as it was in the '60s, where a story editor could work his way up to producer (it happened twice, after all)… but maybe it should've been.

    Can you imagine a Bidmead or Holmes-produced season of Doctor Who? :-O

    Reply

  61. Rodney
    January 18, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

    sorry…. but what does "Qlippothic" mean???

    Reply

  62. Nicholas Tosoni
    April 7, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

    …Am I the only one who thinks "Qlippo Marx" would be a good pen-name for our Dr. Sandifer?

    Reply

  63. Bobby McHarthy
    December 26, 2013 @ 8:36 am

    'Qlippothic'… You keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means.

    Reply

  64. Andrew Bowman
    May 13, 2014 @ 12:05 am

    I remember watching Attack of the Cybermen on transmission, and being intrigued by the various continuity references. (I'm a sucker for unknown continuity; makes me want to discover more about the past.) The fact that most of this information was available (via the Target novelisations etc.) meant that it wasn't all that impenetrable to me. In fact, Attack was the first Doctor Who story I remember consciously seeking out to watch (I'd seen bits of Destiny and Meglos, and the regeneration of Four to Five scared the shit out of me, frankly: I also watched the Five Doctors, but it was just on) and I became a fan of Colin Baker's Ol' Sixie on the basis of this. Davison's reign was on at the wrong time for me (weekdays? Really!?) and, I'm afraid, the prediction of T. Baker was correct in my case; I had to make two leaps of the imagination, having known PD from All Creatures… I thoroughly enjoyed (and still do) seasons 22 and 23 as they are from my childhood. I missed the majority of McCoy due to it clashing with Coronation Street. The Colin Baker era, for me, is nasty, gross, visceral and extraordinary: just what a child at the ages of 10 and 11 loves, really.

    Reply

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