Time Can Be Rewritten 33 (The Shadow of the Scourge)
While Paul Cornell is not the most popular writer to come out of the Virgin era, of the major and acclaimed writers of the Virgin era it is perhaps Cornell who is most indelibly associated with it. Kate Orman penned nearly as many novels for BBC Books as she did for Virgin. Gareth Roberts didn’t write for BBC Books, but was always open about the fact that his real home was the Graham Williams era. And nobody was ever going to mistake Mark “any old fucker with an Equity card” Gatiss for a Sylvester McCoy fan. But Paul Cornell was unambiguously a Sylvester McCoy fan above all other Doctors, and given how many of the iconic New Adventures he wrote it is that era, more than any other, that he’s associated with.
And so it was not in the least bit surprising that when Big Finish decided to do an audio set in the New Adventures era they called on Paul Cornell to write it. But Cornell’s association with the New Adventures was in many ways misleading, in that for all his influence on the line he was, in many ways, diametrically opposed to what the New Adventures were most often taken to be like. The New Adventures are, by reputation, the Doctor Who of the dark, grim, and gritty nineties, with the Doctor as a ruthless chessmaster who manipulates the entire universe. It should already be clear that this reputation is only part of the story, but equally, it’s a real part of it. But if the New Adventures are like that and Paul Cornell is the definitive New Adventure writer than it seems like it should follow that Cornell’s work is like that.
And here we get the rub. Back in the entry on The Highest Science we talked about the rad/trad distinction between books, and why it doesn’t quite work. But there’s a second major distinction between types of Doctor Who, which is the “gun vs frock” debate. We should perhaps start by pointing out that this is a spectacularly loaded framing of a debate. In one corner you have the gun, an implement which the Doctor is typically defined in part by his tendency not to carry. In the other you have the frock coat, which the Doctor habitually wears. So it’s pretty clear which side of the debate whoever framed it falls on, and that is in turn something that influences the tone of the debate. Scads of people identify as frocks, but guns are all “those people.”
The rough contours of the debate are that “gun” writers want Doctor Who to be terribly serious and straightforward, full of violence and properly bad bad guys who are scary and terrifying and must be stopped at great cost. Earthshock, if you want a classic series episode, is probably the gunniest of gun stories. Or Inferno. Terry Nation is a reliably “gun” writer. Frock stories, on the other hand, are camp and fun, and tend to feature the Doctor getting villains to bring themselves down through the consequences of their own schemes. The Happiness Patrol would be the easiest example here, or most of the Graham Williams era. The New Adventures, at least in their reputation, are thoroughly gun. And yet Paul Cornell is thoroughly, deeply, and astonishingly frock.
The Shadow of the Scourge is, in many regards, a book concerned with working through the implications of that. It’s not quite fair to say that Cornell is playing against expectations with it – after all, for all the epic heft of his novels his frockish sympathies are blatant throughout them. No Future may have been a big book of anger, punk, and militarism, but it was, in the end, a book about how much everyone on the TARDIS likes each other. Love and War featured a scarring betrayal on the part of the Doctor, but was mostly about his role as a fairytale hero. And after existential horror of Timewyrm: Revelation, the novel’s resolution consists of the Fifth Doctor picking a flower. Paul Cornell, simply put, is a romantic sop.
And yet the period of Doctor Who he’s most associated with is defined in part by its sheer gloominess. Yes, this is an oversimplification. But equally, there’s no way around the fact that a ruthless and manipulative Doctor is naturally a gloomier and darker position. The New Adventures have invested themselves in making the Doctor scarier. That’s inherently a bit gun. And more to the point, Paul Cornell is as responsible as anybody for pushing the Doctor in this direction. Indeed, he’s perhaps the most responsible. His Doctor is the most explicitly manipulative and Odinic of the New Adventures writers. He’s the one who introduced ideas like the Doctor spending his nights setting up elaborate schemes, declaring that he liked to direct the world, not merely act in it, or work in part based on notes from his future self. The basic link we intuited at the start holds: Paul Cornell is the definitive New Adventures writer, and the New Adventures are darker than most of Doctor Who, ergo Paul Cornell is darker than most of Doctor Who.
But we just came off of a story where we quickly and throughly had our memories refreshed about the fact that one of the things Doctor Who is about is taking established stories and structures and subverting them. And there’s no reason that can’t be accomplished with the moody darkness of the New Adventures. This is essentially what No Future did – it built up a big, clanking epic of a story, and then, at the last moment, burst out laughing and reminded us that if you’re failing to have fun with the idea of the Meddling Monk and the Vardans running a set of black block punk terrorists then you’re simply doing it wrong. Yes, the book had numerous dark moments and played at being gun, but at the last moment it dropped the gun, ripped open its military unit, and displayed a swanky new frock coat.
The Shadow of the Scourge is similar. At first it seems to be a big, epic fight against yet another flavor of the “evil since the dawn of time.” The Doctor has a plan, there’s a standard issue “oh no, the Doctor has gone bad” cliffhanger in which the Doctor sets himself up for a solid triple cross. And, inevitably, it all goes terribly wrong, which sets up yet another sequence inside the Doctor’s mind as he faces all of his doubts and failures. As for the supporting characters, Ace gets some properly hard-edged New Ace moment, most boldly when she voluntarily deafens herself to protect her from the Scourge’s mind control. And Bernice gets some fantastic moments of snark. All of this is familiar from the New Adventures. It’s also shamelessly Cornell self-plagiarizing, but given that Shadow of the Scourge came out over three years after the end of the New Adventures line and in a higher profile medium, this is not entirely unreasonable. Big Finish, in the eyes of many, always had a bit more legitimacy simply because it had actual actors in it. Recasting your work for a new audience is fair.
But more to the point, this isn’t just a rote execution of New Adventures tropes. After building quite an edifice of the epically dark, Cornell takes a hard swerve to the story being about friendship and the pleasures of the little things in life. The end of the story hinges on the Scourge being defeated by a bunch of people’s passion for cross-stitching, with a side of how much the Doctor and Benny like tea. The explicit point of The Shadow of the Scourge is that small pleasures of ordinary lives are more important than the big cosmic stuff. This is a point Cornell has talked about in interviews as well, and there’s a charm to it.
It’s also, of course, the thinking behind one of the dumbest things Eric Saward ever wrote, namely the “for some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about” exchange in Earthshock. So why does it work when Cornell does it? Well, first of all, Cornell seems to actually believe it. Saward may give the Doctor some lines about the little things in life, but his entire story is about how, in fact, it’s people with guns who matter. The Doctor gets the line, but it’s immediately undercut by the Cybermen showing the Doctor up by threatening Tegan. So it comes across as a glib moment by a typically weak and marginalized Saward version of the Doctor. Whereas Cornell, and this is key, actually has the cross-stitchers uniting to drive off the horrifying monsters. He has the little things in life wipe the floor with the giant insect fear monsters.
Second, Cornell actually has a knack for characters. Earthshock required Beryl Reid camping up one of the stock roles to have anything resembling humanity in the story. Cornell, on the other hand, packs The Shadow of the Scourge with memorable secondary characters who feel like familiar bits of humanity. You’ve got a man organizing a cross-stitching convention who skimmed money off the gate. An odd couple affair between a fraudulent psychic and a physicist. You’ve got Ace being confronted with the fact that her life is a violent and kind of nasty, and shrugging that she knows that, but she’s still going to blow up some aliens. Which is probably the best moment a post-Deceit Ace has had up to this point in the continuity. And when you have a story that’s actually about people in a meaningful and vivid sense, a resolution that says “the lives of ordinary people matter” actually works.
None of this, of course, constitutes Cornell turning away from the darkness of the New Adventures. Quite the contrary – Cornell’s story here depends on that darkness. The point of Cornell’s story isn’t “the little things matter,” but the more radical and substantive claim that the little things and the epic are not on contrasting scales. It’s not just that the little things are important, but that the little things and the multi-dimensional universe-spanning insectoid fear monsters can go toe-to-toe and have the little things triumph. And to accomplish that you need to make the fear monsters big too. The fact that McCoy’s Doctor has, by this point in time, been made into the most fearsome of the Doctors helps with this. It increases the size of things, which in turn makes the switch towards the little things matter.
But there’s a second part of this, and it’s something Cornell has always kept a somewhat better sense of than some of his fellow Virgin writers. McCoy’s Doctor was, on television, defined not just by the fact that he did things like destroy Skaro, but by the fact that he was grounded in the material and everyday world. He was a Doctor who listened to jazz, chatted with cafe owners, and remembered people’s families. Yes, his era had The Curse of Fenric, Battlefield, and Remembrance of the Daleks. But it also had The Happiness Patrol, Paradise Towers, and Delta and the Bannermen. And Cornell’s take on the Doctor, unlike many of the New Adventures writers, includes those stories instead of limiting the McCoy era to the stories with more gun tendencies. McCoy’s Doctor is, and this is too often forgotten, very, very good at the human level of things. Yes, he’s also glorious at the epic, but that’s the appeal: the Doctor can move back and forth between them.
And so, of course, we have the frock conclusion. The Doctor moves back and forth, but the level he loves isn’t the one with scary monsters, it’s the one with cross-stitching. Yes, the Doctor defeats monsters. He loves defeating monsters. But he loves it so that people can cross-stitch and drink tea in peace. Is this the consistent viewpoint of the New Adventures? No, sadly. There’s plenty of gunnish novels and darkness ahead, even if the novels have turned a corner on their own angst. But it’s the consistent viewpoint of what Paul Cornell did with them. And if he’s going to be read as the exemplary vision of the New Adventures, he really ought get the credit for that as much as he does for the phrase “Time’s Champion” and all of that.
October 10, 2012 @ 2:06 am
I’ve always liked The Shadow of the Scourge, despite its terrible reviews (and NA-homage terrible cover), so it’s nice to see someone else being kindly to it! I think you’ve slightly missed the derivation of ‘gun’ and ‘frock’, though, despite admiring your clever rhetorical flourish to say the Doctor never carries a gun and always wears a frock coat.
Surely it’s not ‘frock coat’, though, which is as you say far too loaded in its favour, but simply ‘frock’? Both terms could be taken as pejorative, sneering at the other as too macho on the one hand, too female, too camp, too gay on the other. A frock coat isn’t especially camp. A frock is a dress that can be put down as too frivolous. So here’s my touchstone. I don’t know who coined the terms and precisely what they had in mind, but I’ve always mentally pictured them by reference to Blake’s 7: when you imagine the Federation, do you think of dark, gritty dystopias and a faceless, helmeted guard firing a gun into a human face for ever? Or is your mental image Servalan striding across a quarry in an inappropriate cocktail frock and stillies, waving perfect nails?
October 10, 2012 @ 3:56 am
I mean, I know you said it to be controversial, but I have a hard time buying that the New Adventures are more "Gun" than anything else. The New Adventures are basically defined by Cornell and Orman, both of which are the frockiest of frocks, as you point out with Cornell. Yes, there are some "Gun" novels coming up, but to say this you need to argue that The Also People, Original Sin, Head Games, anything Gareth Roberts and a host of other novels are somehow overly serious and macho and in doing so miss the inherent fun in a lot of them.
I guess I'd say this. The New Adventures has a lot of "Gun" novels in it, stuff we've past and stuff that is still coming up. But the line is remembered primarily for its "Frock" stories. And it's more important to characterize an era by the stories its remembered by and not the stories that are forgotten.
Also, Alex is right, frock doesn't refer to a frock coat, but to a woman's dress.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:01 am
To be fair, I said their reputation was very Gun, which is quite distinct from them being so.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:05 am
Interesting. Fancy dress in the general case is not my wheelhouse, but when I looked up frock coats to figure out what distinguished them from other sorts of coats I noted that they went out of fashion in the early 20th century. I took the willful anachronism of wearing one as a similar sort of camp overdress.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:17 am
In a "Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies" interview Kate Orman suggests it's Gareth Roberts who coined the terms. Here's a snippet:
Q: Who fandom a basic theory of forms, narrative and their ethics to apply as you are reading these books, and its called ‘Guns and Frocks’ [see below]. We know that there are different kinds of narratives and we know that they have different ethical priorities. In [Kate’s 1996 novel] Sleepy, at the end, Bernice says, ‘Frocks are the purpose of life …’. I think it’s interesting thinking about what Guns and Frocks means – and your commitment to the frocks. Could you just talk about that a little?
KO: "The ‘Guns and Frocks’ thing dates back a few years now. I think it’s Gareth Roberts who said that Doctor Who needs less guns and more frocks…"
You can read the rest of the interview here, although I imagine Dr. Sandifer already has a copy. 🙂
October 10, 2012 @ 4:19 am
I may be misremembering this, but I think Frock / Gun comes from an interview with Gareth Roberts. He was asked about Rebecca Levene taking over the editorship of the range from PD-E and what it would mean for the tone of the series, and he answered "More frock, less gun".
While I would agree that "frock coat" is a bit of a red herring, I think the derivation of the word is the same (and possibly this goes for "dress coat" too) and it's the addition of a "skirt" to a regular coat that makes the difference. So there's definitely something about gender and culture in there somewhere, even if you have to dig further into history to find it that usual.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:35 am
Until recently I honestly believed the New Adventures were all "Gun" stories. Speaking from personal experience they do have an undeserved reputation for being "grimdark" novels where everything is so bleak and nasty it tips over into being ridiculous.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:37 am
Further to the above, the only other reference to a "frock coat" that I can bring to mind is Bowie's "Queen Bitch" from the Hunky Dory album, where it definitely has camp / gender bending connotations.
October 10, 2012 @ 5:03 am
McCoy’s Doctor is, and this is too often forgotten, very, very good at the human level of things. Yes, he’s also glorious at the epic, but that’s the appeal: the Doctor can move back and forth between them.
This is classic Master of Two Worlds stuff.
October 10, 2012 @ 7:11 am
I, too, believed them to be predominantly "gun", based purely on reputation, so you can add that to the anecdotal support.
(I've still never read one, but I recently picked up a copy of "Love and War" cheap, so that will change soon.)
October 10, 2012 @ 7:28 am
I think the reputation of the NAs being mostly "gunnish" comes largely from the r.a.dw debates and the criticisms of those who had become disenchanted with the line. Those who looked at the series and saw a Doctor who, from their perspective was too harsh, too "dark", too manipulative, saw stories which were laced with supposedly "adult" themes and plots which were too grim were very vocal in criticising the whole line for this. Those who were trad and those who were frockish read a few books and were turned off by what they saw as excessively rad and gun elements. To many, it didn't feel like Doctor Who. It is an unfair caricature, but it is one that the series perhaps too often gave them fodder for.
October 10, 2012 @ 8:03 am
I associate the word 'grimdark' with W40K, which is so bleak and nasty as to tip over into ridiculous on purpose. And also the 2000AD aesthetic from which W40K derives. Whereas I'd assume that an aesthetic that thinks all Doctor Who aspires to the condition of Genesis of the Daleks would take itself too seriously for that.
I don't quite see how Phil applies the distinction to the later Cartmel-era though. The Happiness Patrol starts with a camp premise and then treats its premise po facedly with deadly seriousness (which is a way of being subversive of that kind of seriousness of course). Whereas the Doctor having asking after cafe owners families is in Remembrance which Phil describes as more gun. I suppose I'd say that the distinction only really gets interesting when you have the two ends interact with each other.
October 10, 2012 @ 8:22 am
I wonder how much of the darker element (which is present, even if it isn't as ubiquitous as fanlore might have it) is an intentional attempt to darken up Doctor Who, and how much is just that camp is a primarily performative aesthetic, and quite difficult to translate into prose…
October 10, 2012 @ 8:25 am
I agree that Remembrance splits the difference interestingly. As does Battlefield, really. The Happiness Patrol is pretty frock, though. It's played seriously, but frock and insubstantial comedy are not synonyms.
October 10, 2012 @ 9:40 am
Is it possible that 'gun' is being used as the defining term in this contrast? Father's Day, The Unicorn and the Wasp, and Vincent and the Doctor would I assume all be far to the frock end? – but they don't really have anything in common apart from that.
October 10, 2012 @ 10:33 am
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the nature of the division (I don't interact with fans much, just watch the show) but it sounds to me something like the Silver Age vs. Dark Age distinction in comics–wacky campy OTT vs. "realistic" stories about emotional complexity and human frailty (or, more frequently, their cheap substitutes sex and violence).
I'd thus put Father's Day at the gun end, since it pretty much exists to show that (a) Rose has a dark side, and (b) time travel isn't always fun, sometimes it's dangerous and sad. I'd tend to put Vincent and the Doctor somewhere closer to the middle–most of it is very gun, but showing Vincent how the future will see him is quite frock. Unicorn and the Wasp I'd say is straight-up frock, with its metatextual Agatha Christie jokes and hammy acting.
October 10, 2012 @ 11:05 am
Hmm… looking at the Mighty 200 poll that Phil was giving a kick every so often last year, I think it's a gun taste. (Assuming I understand 'gun' correctly.) I'd have thought that the traditional fanbase would go for something moderately gunnish. From what Phil has described, the kinds of things that get knocked as too bleak – the Doctor who is either too manipulative or whose schemes don't always work – crop up in frock writers.
October 10, 2012 @ 11:15 am
My impression of the NAs was always more frock than gun, probably because the ones I cherrypicked to read based on their reputations were more on the frock side. Also, I still thought of the Cartmel / NA era as a single frock piece in reaction to the gunnish Saward era. Of course, I didn't have those terms in my head; I just knew that while I admired stories like Earthshock and Revelation of the Daleks to some extent, I was never going to adore them because Doctor Who was the one show I watched where science fiction could work differently and not derive its power solely from the masculine, dark, violent side of the equation.
I do think David has something of a point; while "Unicorn" does seem to me fairly frockish (and underrated, perhaps as a result), it's more often that you have an absence of gun rather than a presence of frock in the new series.
The more I type those two words, the more reductive they seem. But it's a curiously interesting binary to probe, isn't it?
Who do we think will be showrunner after Moffat? I wouldn't be shocked if it were Gatiss, but I find myself wondering how awesome it would be if it were Gareth Roberts.
October 10, 2012 @ 11:17 am
The gun/frock distinction might be best tested by whether your favorite classic story is "The Caves of Androzani" or "City of Death."
October 10, 2012 @ 11:50 am
Frock is a camp comedy word for dress, rather than a reference to the Doctor's frock coat. There's an interview I did with Paul Cornell in 1995, in which he describes himself as a 'very floral frock'.
October 10, 2012 @ 12:00 pm
all this points out, to me, how important "tone" is to the series, and how incredibly difficult it is to do. For all the people who criticize the williams era as too comedy (and i'm generally one of them) is to forget the deadly ernestness of to'm performance railing at the captain in the pirate planet, or pissed off at the drug dealers in nightmare of eden.
i prefer it when doctor who lives up to its premise of being ANYTHING, which most people take as both sci fi and historical, but which i would like to describe as fun and then deadly serious. I seem to be one of the few people who liked the "romp" aspect of Delta, mixed with the seriousness of a Battlefield or Ghost Light. I think that is why i liked,in the current series, Dinosaurs in a spaceship followed by something much more serious. Or the mix the comedy and seriousness in city of death.
tone people. and being open to having an episode that we can accurately describe as a "romp".
October 10, 2012 @ 12:24 pm
I'm 100% with you on the spirit of what you're saying. I just want to call for a moratorium on the term "romp," in part BECAUSE of what you're saying. "Romp" implies that the story has no ambitions beyond being "fun," nor should it — and while I do think "fun" can be enough," I also think part of the reason it gets devalued is that people think a story can't be fun and also have worthwhile themes at the heart of it. "The Lodger" strikes me as the sort of episode that's vulnerable to being embraced only at the level of "romp" and yet has more actually to say about existence than, say, "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone". And you've already pointed out that "The Pirate Planet" and "Nightmare of Eden" are actually kinda sorta ABOUT something, and that often gets overlooked by people who feel the need to make excuses for robot parrots and cuddly drug monsters smuggled by a guy with a comical accent. I mean no offense to you personally when I say that the word "romp" is an excuse and I think the first step toward that openness you rightly champion is discarding the word we all use for it.
Has anyone ever made a lexicon of words that comprise Doctor Who fandom cliché, such as "romp," "nightmare brief," and "gurning"?
October 10, 2012 @ 12:54 pm
If there is, I'd love to see it. I have no clue what "gurning" is.
October 10, 2012 @ 2:22 pm
Gurning is pulling a face.
October 10, 2012 @ 4:47 pm
"The Shadow of the Scourge is, in many regards, a book concerned with"
^heads up for subbing
October 10, 2012 @ 5:29 pm
I think you are conflating rad/trad with gun/frock.
I definitely wouldn't say that "too bleak" is a feature of "frock" Doctor Who. For "frock" read "Gareth Roberts", "Graham Williams" and "Glam Pertwee". A large subset of "Frock" fans were turned off by some of the tendencies in the NAs that Phil has been discussing.
Trad fans disliked the NAs for different reasons than "frock" fans did. The more gunnish-trads didn't mind a lot of action and violence, but they didn't necessarily want the"rad" 90s psychodrama and angst that came with it, nor the mythologization of the character that began with Cartmel and accelerated with the NAs. Someone who loves Earthshock, Caves of Androzani, and Seeds of Doom could still hate the new emphasis on the Doctor as a manipulator and the tensions amongst the Tardis crew which result.
The Mighty 200 does tend towards "gun" a bit – Caves is very "gun", certainly. But that doesn't mean that you can equate "the traditional fanbase" with "gun". There are Rad Frocks and Trad Frocks, Rad Guns and Trad Guns.
Phil is right to point out that rad/trad are problematic categories, as the series has always re-invented itself, and thus the definition of "trad" really depends on what era you most admired. But it is also true that the NAs were continuing this evolutionary process, and just at every phase in the shows history from The Deadly Assassin on, there were definitely fans who disliked the news stuff for being different from what had gone before.
Perhaps the fans most turned off to the NAs (fairly or not) were the Trad Frocks, which is why I think so many of the debates on radw centered around it "not feeling like Doctor Who anymore". There were many "rad gun" novels, and a few "trad gun" novels. As Phil points out, there were also some truly fantastic "rad frock" stories from Mr. Cornell and Ms. Orman. But for "Trad Frock" there was just Gareth Roberts, and even he was a bit "rad".
October 10, 2012 @ 6:50 pm
Out of curiosity, when does Rebecca Levene take over? What are the last novels commissioned under the Darvill Evans era? We must be coming up to the transition soon, maybe after Parasite?
October 10, 2012 @ 7:57 pm
I want to make a superhero called Rad Frock now.
October 10, 2012 @ 10:12 pm
I can't remember exactly, but ISTR her first major editorial decision was to write out new Ace, so she's definitely in the driving seat by Set Piece.
October 10, 2012 @ 11:29 pm
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October 10, 2012 @ 11:36 pm
To be honest, I think this whole debate suggests the fundamental weakness / absurdity in attempting to suggest that a program like "Doctor Who" can essentially be divided into two binary opposite 'types' and then judged on those types; like 'rad' versus 'trad', it's taking two extreme ends of how the show's format can be realized and then tries to cram every single story into one of those two categories. Of course, some stories fit quite snugly into one category or the other — like someone says, "City of Death" is pretty nicely 'frock' whereas "Caves of Androzani" is fairly 'gun' — but there's plenty which could easily be classed as one, the other or both depending on how they were looked at and who was looking at them ("Revelation of the Daleks", for example, is has some very heavy 'gun' elements operating within some fairly 'frock' elements as well). And then it encourages false divisions based on which one's 'better' or not when the simple fact is that both can be effectively used to tell good Doctor Who stories.
October 11, 2012 @ 12:16 am
Father's Day is about an unheroic and not especially good man giving his life to save his daughter (and the world). It is exhibit A in the case that Cornell is indeed as Phil calls him a romantic sop.
October 11, 2012 @ 5:04 am
That makes a lot of sense. I see a definite change of tone about there in the books. Better, for the most part.
October 11, 2012 @ 8:41 am
"I do think David has something of a point; while "Unicorn" does seem to me fairly frockish (and underrated, perhaps as a result), it's more often that you have an absence of gun rather than a presence of frock in the new series."
I tend to find New Who very gun orientated.
Aliens of London/World War III (very military resolution, nuke the Slitheen), Dalek, Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways, Rise of the Cybermen, The Satan Pit, Doomsday, Planet of the Ood, The Sontaran Strategem, Journey's End, The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, Time of Angels, Let's Kill Hitler, Wedding of River Song….
I think fans will excuse all that business of turning Doctor Who into merchandise and action figures, so long as it keeps the show popular with the kids.
October 11, 2012 @ 9:00 am
In defence of Eric Saward, I think when it came to simply overseeing his own stories, he was very good at the art of visual storytelling, and of keeping the Doctor and the audience on the same page. However the longer he stayed the worse he got (Earthshock was ridiculously close to just being a one-off, before Season 21 came along and changed everything) when he sticks his oar into other people's scripts, especially when Ian Levine is involved, everything abut his judgement goes horribly wrong.
I think he was finally beginning to get his best handle on the Doctor in the final part of Revelation of the Daleks. Fans who complain that the Doctor there is mostly absent from the action, seem to miss the point that when he does act, he shows a very Doctorish understanding of what his role is…. namely to do 'the right kind of a little'. And done with far less desperate overstatement than the Cartmel masterplan or NA business.
October 24, 2012 @ 1:34 pm
I like this article very much. It seems to summarise exactly why I love the bits of Who that I love, much more perfectly that I would have been able to. Have been quietly lurking for a while (second book now on Kindle), but thought I would emerge given how much I like what you wrote here.
I'm still a comparative baby Who fan, in that I was not around for the NAs, so I'd never heard the gun or frock divide before, but it seems like a very important way of looking at the series, and I like it (whether or not frock is frockcoat or not – although I enjoy the idea that it is).
Given that I am de-lurking, I feel I should also link you to this blog post I wrote as a direct result of your Pop Between Realities post on ST:TNG, which is here: http://aralias.livejournal.com/657242.html (it says that, unlike here, you are wrong).
Anyway – thank you for this post, and others. Please enjoy my money in exchange for your book.