Eruditorum Press

A workers state with executive dysfunction

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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.

11 Comments

  1. Alan
    November 9, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    An idea I've been toying around with for some time (and even more so ever since "Amy's Choice" and the fan-wank theory that the Dream Lord is really an alternate take on the Valyard) is that the Valyard is not the logical endpoint of Six, but rather of Doctors Eight through Eleven. The entire arc of NuWho has been about a Doctor devastated by survivor guilt and by the fact that he inevitably loses all of his loved ones. Even Eleven, who has managed to put aside the weepy gloom than hung over his two predecessors at times still seems consumed by a barely concealed existential despair to the point where he openly admits that he needs morally grounded companions to stop him from turning into a monster.

    At this point, I can imagine a progression of the character that leads to him deciding in a moment of weakness to undo everything that had happened over the course of the second half of his life, and thus going back in time as the Valyard to change things at, in his mind, the point at which things went wrong: the Sixth Doctor.

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  2. Adam Riggio
    November 9, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Judging from your previous posts about Steve Lyons' work, I'd say the reason Head Games is less offensive to you is because its story doesn't have anything to do with his philosophy of history.

    As for the story itself, if anything, the fact that it can't quite resolve its themes about the Valeyard and the Sixth Doctor may actually be a positive note for Head Games, whether Lyons intended it or not. I looked back over some of your posts from Season 23(ish) and I think I finally understand what was going on there, and how it can feed into the Valeyard ideas as they came up in this novel.

    The Valeyard presents a problem without a solution, the seemingly inevitable progress of the Doctor toward his moral collapse (and what better narrative collapse could there be for Doctor Who than the moral collapse of its hero, which I think is the point behind Waters of Mars). Alan's fanwank can, coincidentally, provide support for this, as the progress of the Doctor's life since the Seasonish is itself bringing him closer to becoming the Valeyard, or at least an equivalent figure. As he gets older, to control his more dangerous tendencies, he begins to make moral rules for himself (giving his threat to Mme Kovarian in A Good Man Goes to War about having so many rules a sly new meaning), slowly becoming just what Holmes conceived the Valeyard to be: a creature of rules and regulations. Also, it fits with Lyons' conception of history as a progress of inevitability: all that the Doctor does moves him forward on his progress to become the Valeyard.

    Yet the Valeyard is a problem without a solution in that the character makes no sense. This aspect, though, actually supplies a solution. A puzzle so twisted and messy that there's no way to solve it is no longer a puzzle, but just a mess: that's the Valeyard, Trial of a Time Lord, Season 23, and the Seasonish. From this situation, there is no way forward. So we have the only solution: reboot.

    Diegetically, the Seventh Doctor kills the Sixth from whatever pocket of virtual potentiality of a tendency he was in at the time. Meta-textually, all the various regeneration narratives of the Sixth Doctor into the Seventh happen regardless of their mutual incompatibility — Head Games, Spiral Scratch, Time's Champion, whatever other fanwank you can think of. Para-textually, Colin Baker is unjustly blamed for the failure of the show's creative direction and is fired, refusing to film a proper regeneration story, and allowing Andrew Cartmel to begin his tenure entirely fresh. The real-world production and the various fictional regenerations all become different aspects of the same event: the total collapse of Doctor Who itself being avoided through the show itself regenerating.

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  3. Eric Gimlin
    November 9, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Not directly related to this book, but it seems like comments have been dropping off recently. I know in my case I hit my tolerance for reading two Doctor Who books a week a few weeks ago, so I have less to say but am still enjoying the articles immensely. I just didn't want lack of comments to come across as lack of interest; it's just that without having read the books it's harder for me to comment.

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  4. encyclops
    November 9, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    So cool to be mentioned in an actual entry of one of the two blogs I check daily (even when I know there isn't going to be an update)! 🙂 If that part survives to the print edition, I'd be happy for you to use my real name if you like. Drop me a line at encyclops@encyclops.com and I'll send it to you (though it's no big secret). I hope I didn't make you too self-conscious about those terms. The only one I really dislike is "romp" — the rest are just funny ways you know you're talking to a Doctor Who fan.

    It's become such a cliché to bombard our archetypal adventure heroes with moral crises of the "we are not so different, you and I" variety now. All three of the New Series Doctors get it left and right, and of course there's this book in particular and the Valeyard in general. Which of course brings to mind the Sherlock / Moriarty pairing (though, refreshingly, no one expects Sherlock even to be nice in the Moffat series, let alone morally upstanding). And now, outrageously, there's James Bond: I was just watching Quantum of Solace the other night in anticipation of Skyfall, and not only is there M's "stop killing people before we can question them" thing, there's even a Hellblazer "you get everyone around you killed" moment. Really? He's a SPY. He's trained to be the one guy who makes it out of a dangerous situation, not to protect everyone he meets or talk them out of trying to help. I'm not sure what it means or what the alternative is (hopefully not Dexter or Hannibal Rising), but it's becoming so tiresome.

    Alan's theory above, on the other hand, is really fun to think about, especially in light of the fact that Eight is presumably the one who destroys Gallifrey.

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  5. Archeology of the Future
    November 9, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    It just occured to me what the Valeyard is; he's not the endpoint of morally corrupt or violent tendancies of The Doctor, he's The Doctor who has given up his faith in people and the possibility that they can do good works.

    He's The Doctor who has worn out his rebellion and his belief that power can be challenged where it runs contrary to the wishes of people.

    The Doctor operates in the gap between what rules are meant to do and what they actually do, using knowledge to dance around the structures and strictures imposed by systems and precendents.

    The Valeyard is the Doctor who has lost his faith and energy for the freeing possibility from the bounds of power and has instead recognised the great power and possibility inherent in the rules and regulations he had previously danced around so beautifully.

    Knowing how great the power of rules and laws and the way that bringing truth to a situation can defuse them, the Valeyard is The Doctor who moves from either lying or telling the truth to bullshitting because he knows that it is not truth but power that defines reality.

    The Valeyard uses law and rules to make people act, recognising that it is more direct to use power that already exists than to try to democratise it.

    The Valeyard is what happens if The Doctor falls to despair and self doubt, a creature that uses the intimate knowledge gained as a freedom fighter to better build the systems of control and dominance using, rather than challenging, the laws and rules and the shape and constrict people's actions.

    He's basically the Doctor who has 'grown up' and decided to use 'the system' to further his own interests rather than trying to pry possibility from it by undermining it. Looked at like that, The Valeyard isn't just an evil future version of The Doctor but really the embodiment of The Doctor's (and our)fear of growing up and betraying our own ideals.

    It's logical then that the seventh doctor become more politically commited, more of the underminer of rules and more of a ethically rather than law guided figure.

    Though where that leaves his future selves and their appeals to the outside authority of the Shadow Proclamation is another question.

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  6. Archeology of the Future
    November 9, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    I think 'The Doctor Monster as Destroyer of Worlds and Meddler of Time' is a different fear to the fear of becoming The Valeyard. That's quite an interesting fear.

    The fear of becoming The Valeyard is much more mundane: The fear of imposing a rule rather than convincing someone through argument and charm and finding it so much easier. Then doing it again.

    I think the ninth, tenth and eleventh Doctors wrestle with the fear and responsibility of being a god. The sixth wrestles with the fear of becoming a petty despot.

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  7. 5tephe
    November 9, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    Ooooh. I don't mind that – as far as continuity dominated fan ideas go. That's pretty good.

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  8. BerserkRL
    November 9, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

    One of the great things about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (book, miniseries, and movie alike) is that the HERO is the one who gives the VILLAIN the "we're not so different, you and I" speech.

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  9. thepoparena.com
    November 11, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    Kind of wanted to chime in to offer some support to the Eruditorum, haven't really been participating in blog posts and such because I'm trying to speed read my way through the novels, but I'm only up to Terminal. Obviously the contents of the blog have gotten away from me, but I promise to be much more active when we get to the new series.

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  10. Russell Gillenwater
    November 12, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    I meant to post about this on the weekend, but I just want to add that this is one of the best ideas about the Valeyard I have read and that this would make the character finally make sense.

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  11. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

    This is the one of the earliest of the "Consequences of what the Doctor irresponsibly simply forgets about" books.

    The first such story was of course The Face of Evil, but it had been promptly ignored since then; Paul Cornell edged towards the theme in some of his earlier books, then backed away. The New Adventures ran a whole lot of such stories in a row after Head Games, up to Bad Therapy. The theme was taken up again in Aliens of London and more obviously School Reunion.

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