TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Above, Below: Towards a Unified Theory of the Moffat Era

So, I noticed something the other day.

Trying to describe the Doctors to yourself is always an interesting critical exercise. I was doing some of that, and noticed something that I hadn’t before – that the two Doctors of the Moffat era, Eleven and Twelve, are, after a fashion, complete mirrors of each other. Think about it – Eleven presents as a young man, but reveals himself to be impossibly old, contemplative and melancholic; Twelve looks old, but is really an anarchic teenage punk rocker at heart. Eleven dazzles and immediately charms, but reveals himself to be a cunning, sometimes morally questionable, manipulator; Twelve is an abrasive grump, but ends up reveling in kindness. Eleven faces, for the most part, only new antagonists; Twelve is the Doctor that revisits Classic foes the most. Et caetera, et caetera. It’s a pretty superficial bit of criticism, really. But it got me thinking nonetheless. What if, from that simple bit of characterization, you actually mapped a trajectory for the Moffat era, a structural map based on the symmetry between the two three-season chapters that are the Smith and Capaldi era?

Well. No “if” about it. I’m doing it. I’ve done it. We’re doing that. Let’s go.

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GUEST POST – A Mild Curiosity in a Train Cab #1: An Unearthly Woman

by Christopher Pretty

Back in 2018, long before the show reached the air, Chris Chibnall revealed the reason why he decided to have three companions on board:

And of course, three companions with the Doctor… we’re really going back to 1963 – that’s the format of the show! You’re not changing the format, that’s how it started, really – which I only realised afterwards.

A statement made in a metaphorical sense, but let us apply a literal lens to it. Lets presume that Chibnall, consciously or otherwise, deliberately turned to the first two seasons of Doctor Who when commissioning and writing every story. Lets see how early Who handled three companions onboard the TARDIS, and whether there’s any lessons that Chibnall and co can take forth when it comes to the next season.

It all started as a mild curiosity in a broken down train cab, and is now a great spirit of examination … This is A Mild Curiosity in a Train Cab #1 – An Unearthly Child & The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

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GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substitution #10: The Name of the Doctor

by Christa Mactíre

This week’s choice for a replacement episode seems strange on the surface. After all, one episode sufficiently wraps up the various character, plot, and thematic arcs of its season, while providing an exciting preview of what will come next – and the other is “The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos“. But given the startling lack of half-interesting material to work with, I have to make do with what is there.

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THE BIG FINISH ROUND-UP – June 2019: God, Plastic Ducks & Capitalist Flies

by Carrick Nisbet & Samuel Maleski

Welcome to DoWntime’s monthly coverage of all the shiny new audios from the corporate overlords at Big Finish dot com. It’s fresh, it’s exciting, it’s still late. Sorry!

By the way, did you know that DoWntime content is finding its way in a book for the first time? If you don’t, you should go read about Sheffield Steel, out in September!

With that said, let’s proceed. Spoilers ahoy.

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INTERVIEW – Tim Foley, theatre and “Rage of the Time Lords”

Here on DoWntime, we talk a lot about Big Finish. And about the writers working for them, and how a lot of them are doing some fascinating things with Doctor Who, that can easily go unnoticed. Among those, one Mr. Tim Foley, whose Who-writing career started by tackling police brutality and racial profiling in the Torchwood story “The Empty Hand” in 2017, and who has gone on to be one of the newest, and most shining, talents employed by the company.

His latest stories – two episodes of the newest War Master boxset, starring Derek Jacobi and Paul McGann – coming out today, we sat down with him (metaphorically) to talk about theatre, the differences between Who and Torchwood, and what it’s like to get to play with all those shiny toys. Enjoy!

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THE BIG FINISH ROUND-UP – May 2019: Werewolves, Judoon in the Lagoon & Vardan Mood Music

by Carrick Nisbet & Samuel Maleski

Welcome to DoWntime’s monthly coverage of all the shiny new audios from the corporate overlords at Big Finish dot com. It’s fresh, it’s exciting, it’s arrived a bit late this month and we’re very sorry. But to be fair, there is an exciting surprise coming on the blog very soon, so keep your eyes peeled …

Oh, and spoilers.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – A Slitheen Mask for Carnival: “One Mile Down”, Russell T Davies and the Aesthetics of Excess

We’re at some point in May, the sun is shining (well, it’s the United Kingdom, so not really), and Big Finish is just releasing the Tenth Doctor Adventures, volume III, starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate. The second story on that set is called “One Mile Down”, by Jenny T. Colgan.

One Mile Down” is fucking fantastic. That inital assessment led me on a weird train of thought featuring literary theory and farting Slitheen, so, well, hang on, might take a while to explain why.

The politics, are, of course, a big part of this audio’s quality. This tale of an underwater city that has been ruined by tourism board with their own private Judoon police, of capitalism refusing to face the ecological consequences of its greed? Ever so relevant in the current climate. And, sadly, probably better than whatever series 12 is going to cook up regarding the rhino monsters. But you could also point out some weird bits floating around in this tasty soup: for instance, that character being consistently an ass to the native aliens, who ends up being instrumental in saving the day, and gets called “my racist friend” by Donna. And y’know, it’d be pretty easy to just call this a mistake, something the script editors at Big Finish let slip, and be done with it. Making a case for that little, quirky story that starts with “despite that one plotline …”, essentially.

But also, see, I happen to disagree. I think that specific bit specifically denotes an incredibly acute understanding of the mechanics of both the Russell T Davies era and of the role Big Finish should hold when it comes to reinterpreting past structures of Who storytelling.

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GUEST POST – Adventures in Narrative Substitution #9: The Doctor’s Wife

by Christa Mactíre

Every now and then, an episode comes along that is just exceptionally Doctor Whoey. Multi-Doctor episodes fall into this category, since you’re never going to have a movie where Daniel Craig’s James Bond crosses paths with Sean Connery’s (or, more accurately, someone doing a Connery impression) and makes jokes about Connery-era sexism.

Other episodes just have things going on within them that only make sense in the context of being a Doctor Who story, as opposed to a Star Trek episode. As great as something like The Inner Light is, it’s too boring for Doctor Who. Who is a show where a bunch of art-deco saltshakers with plungers and egg whisks attached can become universe-destroying nightmares, or a statue of an angel can become pants-wettingly terrifying. You couldn’t have Weeping Angels in Star Trek, because then it would become Doctor Who with Trek characters (i.e. the Assimilation2comic).

And two of those episodes are the ones I’m writing about today: The Doctor’s Wife by acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman, and It Takes You Away by new writer Ed Hime. Both of these episodes were quite acclaimed, acting as slices of capital-W Weirdness. Only in this show could you have something like the Doctor talking to their time machine or a frog-shaped universe voiced by Sharon D. Clarke.

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TIBERIAN THOUGHTS – Shabogan Ghosts: A Primer on Gallifrey’s Political Meaning

There is no such thing as a Time Lord.

Sure, you have a narrative function, within the structure of Doctor Who, that’s called Time Lord. The Doctor’s species, and so on and so forth. But what they are? Now that’s a complicated question. They didn’t exist to begin with, only spawned by “The War Games” in 1969, and they went through so many iterations afterwards that it becomes extremely complicated to have any sort of synthetic vision of the topic. Doesn’t stop people from trying – Lance Parkin’s 1998 novel “The Infinity Doctors” is probably as good as you’re going to get there; but it’s a complicated little semiotic battlefield. One that, you will note, the New Series has very thoroughly avoided, first destroying Gallifrey, and then bringing it back only to loudly proclaim its irrelevance to the Who diegesis.

So no – no such thing as a Time Lord. Rather, a collection of symptoms, of different writers’ visions (a fancy word for “headcanon”) buttfucking each other without lube in the Shabogan-haunted sands. And nowadays, well, the question is how you choose to interpret that confusing landscape. The synthetic take, well, isn’t really on the table, not anymore, contradiction has been baked into the foundations there. Which, you might say, isn’t that different from Doctor Who in general, but Gallifrey and the Time Lords have a special status. The number of times the Doctor has wandered Atlantis might be a fun little canon query, but it doesn’t really bear with it any noticeable meaning. Whereas, well, the Time Lords rather fundamentally determine and underpin the politics of the show. Because they rather fundamentally determine the status and character of the Doctor. While they have a number of essential features, one of the most important, if not the most, is this strange double relationship of both appurtenance to and rejection of a given civilization – the content of that civilization, the meaning you ascribe to it, therefore, becomes kind of a big deal.

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