Monday, July 30, 2012

Run for Your Life! (Survival)

Wasn't that bit of the Olympic opening ceremonies where Mary Poppins fought Voldemort in defense of the NHS great? Here's a fun fact - in the US, instead of the NHS we have this cool alternative where people can't afford necessary medical care to deal with debilitating illnesses. It's just like the NHS, only instead of being worth celebrating in front of the world in spectacular fashion it's an abiding source of shame that leads to needless suffering. One such person suffering is a friend of mine named Valéria, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while in grad school and without adequate health insurance. As a result, she could really use some help affording her medical bills so that she can keep doing frivolous things like "walking." If you can chip in even a few bucks, pounds, euros, or whatever over here, I'd be tremendously appreciative, and it would make a real difference to someone who could use it. 

Sophie Aldred receives instructions from the director in
the Big Finish studios.
It's November 22nd, 1989. Doctor Who goes out to the tune of New Kids on the Block's "You Got It (The Right Stuff)," which is almost sadder than the cancellation itself. Iron Maiden, UB40, and Big Fun also chart, so really, it's dismal through and through. In real news, a bomb attack on the President of Lebanon's motorcade kills him. The Velvet Revolution takes place in Czechoslovakia, bringing down the Communist government and, in late December, bringing Václav Havel to power in a more or less unprecedented moment of a nonviolent revolution deciding "what we really need is for a playwright to be in charge." Marc Lépine guns down fourteen women at École Polytechnique, blaming feminism for his rampage.

While on television, as mentioned, Doctor Who ends with Survival. One of the things that the dismembering of Doctor Who's chronology engendered by non-linear DVD releases has done is to obscure some of the subtler shifts in what Doctor Who does. For instance, there's a big and often missed shift we pointed out back with The Hand of Fear, a stark dividing line that ended a period stretching back to The War Machines where nearly half of all Doctor Who stories were set on contemporary Earth and began one stretching forward to Survival where only about fifteen percent did. But because most people experience the classic series non-linearly the nature of this shift is obscured - Survival looks like a very standard "Doctor Who in contemporary Britain" story because it came out between Logopolis and Robot, and about six months after The Invasion, all of which spend time there.

In reality, the last time the TARDIS landed in contemporary Britain was Silver Nemesis, where it mostly hung out at tourist sites. The last time it just landed in "ordinary" Britain, so to speak, was Attack of the Cybermen, five years ago. To get one where a majority of the action took place in contemporary Britain you have to go back six years to The Awakening. To get one set primarily in London you have to go all the way back to Invasion of the Dinosaurs. The idea of Doctor Who as something intersecting with contemporary Britain, and particularly with London, isn't something that's a part of the John Nathan-Turner era at large.

In this regard Survival is something of a return to the heart - a checking in on things that the program used to do, just to see what's going on in those ideas. And this occurs on several levels. As Tat Wood points out, there's an inadvertent parallel that gets built here, with both Survival and An Unearthly Child/100,000 BC juxtaposing contemporary London with a primal and prehistoric order. In this regard it's interesting to note that both of the series' "final" stories - the final one made and the final one aired - echo back to its first story.

Survival is also yet another entry into the standard themes of Season Twenty-Six, the show's most conceptually coherent season since Bidmead. Like Battlefield and The Curse of Fenric it's a Cold War story. Like Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric, it's another story about evolution. (Unlike Battlefield, Ghost Light, and Curse of Fenric it's not about the arc of history, but only Curse of Fenric hits all three of the season's big themes.) Once again they're in a new configuration. Where Battlefield lashed out at the moral logic of the atomic bomb and Curse of Fenric dismantled the idea of the Cold War as an inevitable clash, Survival looks at the twin logics of mutually assured destruction and survival of the fittest, dropping the thread of historical inevitability that animated the evolution/history themes of Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric in favor of just delving wholesale into the elision of biological progress and moral superiority.

So this time the fact that survival of the fittest implicitly believes that the less fit have to die. This isn't just a critique of the way in which survival of the fittest is just a restatement of "might makes right," but a way in which the idea that only the strong survive becomes a death sentence for the weak. It's not just that strength leads to power, it's that strength necessitates its own use. And so Munro lays that over the material reality of mutually assured destruction (set up straightforwardly by the Cheetah planet) and proceeds to have fun.

Crucially, however, Munro doesn't treat survival of the fittest as merely a matter of military strength. This is where the social realist strand comes in, and where the return to depicting contemporary London fits in with the story's goals. What's crucial here is the contrast between the euphoric spectacle that London has previously been in the program (even if the spectacle is an apocalyptic one, in which we cheer for the city's potential destruction, there is a euphoria to something like The Invasion) and Ace's London, a dead-ended Perivale. Far from a spectacle, Perivale is presented as a place where nothing happens, where a generation of youth can vanish into thin air without significant concern simply because they've already all but vanished from any cultural relevance.

We're in anti-capitalist territory here, and the neoliberal insistence that profitability and probity are synonyms. Perivale is a collapsing and dead-end culture because it's weak - the sort of outer London area prime for a nice spot of redevelopment. The kids who are disappearing are just "the waste" - detritus to be swept away in capitalism's own form of violence, "creative destruction," missed only because they hurt their parents' feelings. London isn't a glistening monolith to thrill at the potential destruction of, but a setting that has just collapsed into nothingness, twin landscape to a self-immolating wasteland. (Note the way in which the profusion of cat food brands subtly puts the lie to the idea that capitalist competition leads to any notion of the fittest.)

This is in many ways the most virtuosic of the program's riffs on children's television. The actual youth of Perivale are straightforwardly children's television teenagers of the most banal sort. But the story throws them into a surprisingly adult world of working class despair. This is, at this point, something of a standard trick for the Cartmel era, but it's worth contrasting this story with the first real Cartmel-era story, Paradise Towers. There the contrast of children's television and adult themes was a source of gleeful shock. But on the eleventh straight story to play this trick it's not shocking anymore. Instead it seems imbued with a sense of anger and cynicism. The children's television world, in all of its entertaining simplicity, is being allowed to run smack into the brick wall of Thatcher's England.

Implicit in this is something that's been lurking around in the program for a while now, which is the fact that it's been steadily allying itself with subcultures. Not just the straightforward geek subculture of cult television fans, but a broader array of post-punk and alternative cultures. We've talked a little bit about goth culture, which was always an obvious fit for a program with a lengthy legacy of playing with horror tropes, but it's worth remarking on the fact that down the line goth and geek culture do, in fact, execute something of a merger, and that Doctor Who was more ahead of its time than anyone gives it credit for.

But there's a larger issue here. I mentioned a few entries ago that we're at a point where people who grew up on really good children's television are now in a position to make more of it, and that this explains late 80s/early 90s children's television. For all that counterculture remains a youth practice, people who grew up in the subcultures of the past were adults now. It's not just that someone like Alan Moore, who was 15 for the summer of love and 24 for the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" is now a major creator in his own right, or that Andrew Cartmel, who was 19 for the Sex Pistols, is now running Doctor Who. It's that people who grew up in countercultures have grown up, had kids, and are, in more than a few cases, watching television with them. Doctor Who is, in other words, actively speaking to an audience that have themselves been in subcultures, and is speaking to the future freaks of Britain. And it's doing so with an almost casual confidence. But the seeming ease with which the program is making children's television with a foot in adult subcultures - something that other programs are falling over each other with embarrassing ineptness to do - obscures the degree to which this is an incredible feat.

Which is to say that we can see, in Survival, that the program is beginning to strain at the edges of what this "children's television plus adult contexts" phase of the program can do. Survival seems in part to suggest that Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric were as far as that particular idea could be taken, and that going further requires some level of abandonment of the children's television structure.

Of course, this isn't the first time we've been here. In many ways we're just at the problem presented by The Talons of Weng-Chiang, albeit with less ethical cratering. To move forward Doctor Who needs to cut one of two strings. Either it can back away from its adult pretensions and go back to a simpler and more traditional sort of children's television, or it can decide that it's done being children's television and that it wants something bigger. Last time, of course, it picked the former. Graham Williams came in and toned the series down, to mixed results.

But this time that option is off the table. There's no way forward for the program as a children's television program, or, for that matter, as any other sort of television program. Its only option is to go embrace its adult fans, simply because it needs to fund itself in a format where people pay for Doctor Who and adults are where the money is. But let's hold that thought for a moment and ride out the last few paragraphs of Doctor Who on television for a while.

What's notable about Survival is that it seems aware of its crossroads. This is largely what distinguishes it from Talons of Weng-Chiang, where the program seemed unaware that it was reaching a limit. Survival, on the other hand, knows full well that its children's television world is inadequate. And it embraces a sense of moving on. This is where the Master comes in. Yes, he was a late addition to the story, but he's really quite perfect for it, as he introduces a pre-existent myth. The Doctor and the Master are necessarily and fundamentally locked in conflict. It's, on an absolute and ontological level, just what they are.

And in Survival, that absolutism threatens to lead them both to ruin. If they pursue their conflict then they are both going to die. This has the effect of finally making Ainley's Master work. Seeing him nearly out of control, clinging to the edge of the abyss and threatening to drag the Doctor down with him through sheer force of narrative momentum makes him dangerous again. It's a clever subversion - having painted him as a villain the Doctor is sure to defeat, the series puts him in a position where defeating him would be disastrous, and in doing so makes him properly scary in a way he hasn't been since Logopolis.

The Doctor, meanwhile, has to find a way out of his own narrative structure. He can't just be in a Doctor Who story anymore. He has to find a role other than endlessly defeating the Master. Ace, of course, has a similar journey to make, once again working her way through the libidinous. (Again, the televised order is better than people give it credit for. Not only does it make the most sense for Ace to finally be ready to return to Perivale once she's sorted out her past, this story builds gorgeously from the Freudian undercurrents of Fenric.) In terms of Ace, at least, the Cheetah people offer not just an embrace of violence but an embrace of sexuality, and her arc in the story amounts to her learning to take the sexuality without taking the violence, allowing the barely contained eroticism of the Cheetah planet to live on inside of her.

In the end they both settle on the same thing: the identification of the TARDIS as their home. As ever, the TARDIS provides the central moral principle of the series. Fall out of the world. Keep moving. Find someplace new. And here's where Survival's parallelism with the start of the program pays off. Because Survival returns to the very roots of the program - contemporary London and prehistoric savagery - to find a hopeless wasteland in one and a death sentence in the other. Falling out of the world can only mean one thing here. There's only one next step to take. Move into a realm where all the petty limitations of the past and of the show's "format" are gone. Become the subcultural object, separate from the collapsing core of BBC One and mass culture, that you're so obviously scraping at the edges of.

And so Survival picks the route opposite the Graham Williams approach. Instead of giving up on trying to push the limits of what's allowed in children's television, Doctor Who just leaves children's television entirely. Instead of dialing it back, it decides to see if it goes any higher. Where else could it go, after all?

88 comments:

  1. "In reality, the last time the TARDIS landed in contemporary Britain was in Attack of the Cybermen..."

    Silver Nemesis? Battlefield?

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    1. Silver Nemesis. Duh. Yes. Adjusted. (Battlefield, no - that's futuristic Britain.)

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  2. "Survival looks like a very standard "Doctor Who in contemporary Britain" story because it came out between Logopolis and Robot, and about six months after The Invasion, all of which spend time there."

    I think you need to correct that bit.

    "This is where the Master comes in. Yes, he was a late addition to the story, but he's really quite perfect for it, as he introduces a pre-existent myth. The Doctor and the Master are necessarily and fundamentally locked in conflict. It's, on an absolute and ontological level, just what they are.

    And in Survival, that absolutism threatens to lead them both to ruin. If they pursue their conflict then they are both going to die. This has the effect of finally making Ainley's Master work. Seeing him nearly out of control, clinging to the edge of the abyss and threatening to drag the Doctor down with him through sheer force of narrative momentum makes him dangerous again. It's a clever subversion - having painted him as a villain the Doctor is sure to defeat, the series puts him in a position where defeating him would be disastrous, and in doing so makes him properly scary in a way he hasn't been since Logopolis."

    This is why I tend to think the Master should have disappeared from the show almost completely between Logopolis and this story (save possibly for The Five Doctors). Because elsewhere the two just seem to pussyfoot around each other to the point where it becomes pointless and boring, rather than be genuinely locked in conflict.

    Personally though I did find the final fight to be almost rendered an anticlimax by how quickly the Doctor is sent back to Earth again, and that scene with the proto-Jackie Tyler would have been well worth cutting. It's like the story just ends abruptly right when it was getting really interesting.

    I think it would have been far more ballsy to either end the story with the Doctor and Master fighting, and thus end the series on a cliffhanger, or maybe cut from the struggle to Ace weeping and holding the Doctor's hat and then have him show up and say "Mine I believe" and have that same scene play out but with a bit more ambiguity to how the Doctor survived and got back here, and whether he did finish off the Master or not.

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    1. I think it's actually a plus that by this point the Master has become a really rather rubbish villain who engages in dastardly plots just to be dastardly. The greed is good survival of the fittest capitalist ideology is symbolised by a would-be universal conqueror whose current dastardly scheme is wandering around west London egging teenagers on to beat up adults. The bombast is necessary.
      Whether this is worth the price paid in bad Davison and C. Baker stories is debatable.

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    2. "I think you need to correct that bit."

      Philip was referring to the DVD release schedule at that point (though he doesn't make it entirely clear).

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  3. I think you need to correct that bit.

    I think Phil's talking about DVD release order...

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    1. Where was it in videotape release?

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    2. The month after The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep, and before the Kings Demons/Five Doctors Special Edition release, alongside Paradise Towers.

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    3. I'm not sure what it was like for fans who started with DVD releases or video releases.

      I was in the "recording off of PBS and swapping tapes" era, which has its own bizarre logic to it -- the eras are "Hartnelltroughton", "Pertwee", "Robot Through Key to Time", "End of Tom Baker", "Peter Davison", and "Rare Bits From Later Which You Mostly Have to Get from San Jose Fans" (seriously), leading to a very strange narrative feel, especially since "Robot Through Key To Time" was broadcast several times more often than everything else.

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  4. I like your choice of title. I was expecting "It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for" or "Somewhere else the tea's getting cold" but this is perfect -- not just relevant to the story, but a call forward to the precise moment when it was clear that the new series was going to be Doctor Who.

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    1. Bet you anything the first Virgin blog post will be titled either "Worlds Out There" or Work to Do". ;-)

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    2. I'm actually changing my naming conventions slightly for the Virgin/BBC Books/Big Finish stretch, but even if I weren't, I don't use quotes from the incumbent Doctor for a given story. :)

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    3. Well, if nothing else, using a quote from the final monologue of the televised years for the first post of the Virgin era would be... very appropriate, no? :-D

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    4. Not just that, it's also a line from one of Iron Maiden's most enduring songs, isn't it Philip?

      (Although the aforehinted contemporaneous 'Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter' could, at a pinch, have worked as well)

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  5. "Wasn't that bit of the Olympic opening ceremonies where Mary Poppins fought Voldemort in defense of the NHS great?"

    No.

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    1. Well, OK, yes. Let's try "Granting the unfortunate premise that the Olympics happened at all, wasn't that bit where Mary Poppins fought Voldemort in defense of the NHS great?"

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    2. The flight of Poppi was great, but my friends and I thought that since you had multiple villains like Hook, Cruella, et al, they really should have brought in Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes, Gandalf, King Arthur and Doctor Who to fight them off.

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    3. "Well, OK, yes. Let's try "Granting the unfortunate premise that the Olympics happened at all, wasn't that bit where Mary Poppins fought Voldemort in defense of the NHS great?""

      Still no. Sorry.

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    4. Eh, I figured you'd be a tough sell. :)

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    5. "Tough sell" is one way of putting it. I think the more honest term is "embittered husk".

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    6. My answer is "yes yes yes OMG OMG yes".

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    7. In regards to our earlier conversation on Twitter, I have to say I'm still siding with Jack. Us embittered husks have to stick together.

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    8. I think Jack would've been much happier if it were Michael Foot fighting off the dementia ghost of Thatcher... :-P

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    9. Count me as a yes: to children's literature saving the NHS; to clips from Ken Loach films juxtaposed with CND symbols; to Jarrow Marchers; and to everything else that said "The Tories may be in power, but that doesn't mean what they represent is in any way what Britain is about".

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  6. I'm very sad. No more Eruditions on all these wonderfully weird little stories of "Classic" Who. *sigh*

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    1. But now we get Eruditions on the wonderfully weird NAs! Which is probably even MORE exciting.

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  7. Philip Sandifer:
    "So this time the fact that survival of the fittest implicitly believes that the less fit have to die."

    I hate to say this, but... structurally, something is missing from that sentence. (The 8th grade seems so many lifetimes ago...)


    "Again, the televised order is better than people give it credit for. Not only does it make the most sense for Ace to finally be ready to return to Perivale once she's sorted out her past, this story builds gorgeously from the Freudian undercurrents of Fenric."

    Yes, YES, YES!!!!!

    She also looks and acts more "grown up" here. And for much of the story, more relaxed than we've ever seen her.


    "puts him in a position where defeating him would be disastrous"

    As with Ace-- IF she gives in to her usual anger, it will destroy her. What a tough challenge for her to be facing! She has to (as Biroc once said) "do nothing" if she wants to get out of this intact. It's really heart-wrenching. Is it any wonder I actually fell in love with her watching this one?


    Tommy:
    "It's like the story just ends abruptly right when it was getting really interesting."

    And that goes for the series in general. Every time I watch this, I love it... and every time it ends, I think, "This was NO DAMN TIME to cancel the show!!!"

    I guess it's no mystery the novels were a success. At this point, fans really, really desperately wanted and needed more!

    In a better world, McCoy would have kept going until Eccleston came along.

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    1. In an even better world, McCoy would have kept going until McGann came along, and McGann would have kept going until Eccleston.

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    2. Also, really, in this world, McGann would probably be the Ninth or Tenth doctor, and Eccleston would play the Thirteenth (and, perhaps, be haunted by the possibility of becoming the Valeyard).

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  8. I'm not going to bring up the whole "that's not actually what survival of the fittest means" thing, since I'm sure others will. (Besides, it's the show criticizing others who make the mistake.)

    Instead, I'm going to note something. You're fond of saying that Doctor Who isn't really a cult science fiction show. (Indeed, sometimes you've said that it wasn't science fiction!) But I think your comment here shows why it appealed to that audience; it aligned itself with outsiders and subcultures.

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  9. I'm not sure I quite buy your juxtaposition of the Graham Williams era and the Cartmel one. I'm not convinced a retreat into safe, unadulterated children's television is what was going on there, or at least *all* that was going on at any rate. Douglas Adams and Robert Holmes at least seemed perfectly willing to continue to push the boundaries of what Doctor Who could do during that period, they just found ways to push them that were different then what Phillip Hinchcliffe had done. At its best I thought the Williams era was just as brilliantly subversive as Doctor Who always is when it's firing on all cylinders, the really clever bit was how it was disguised as a cheap and tatty bit of Saturday teatime entertainment. The fact it wasn't always like this is another matter.

    On a different note, how does it feel to be finished with the original run of Doctor Who? I must admit I was expecting a bit more fanfare and more of a clear break between the end of the Cartmel era and beginning of the Virgin one, but maybe you don't consider them as disparate as I do. At any rate I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank you for this amazing year and a half endeavour to re-evaluate this series and bring a much-needed new perspective to Doctor Who discourse. I won't lie and say more than a few of these essays haven't opened my eyes and caused me to view a number of stories I thought I was very familiar with in a completely new light. The unabashedly personal thread that runs through this blog is yet another reason it's so good: All critique is by necessity subjective, and it's refreshing to see someone embrace it wholeheartedly. This site and its community make a miserable sociocultural anthropologist happy.

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    1. At any rate I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank you for this amazing year and a half endeavour

      Ditto. Since I usually comment only on what I disagree with, it's worth saying that I think what you've done with this blog is amazing.

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    2. Thirded. This has been a great ride and a great achievement.

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    3. It feels... well, it happened two days into a six day stretch of writing this blog. So it felt pleasantly anticlimactic and like it was time to move on to other things. But yes, I did kind of consciously decide to underplay the break here, in part because I do think that the Virgin era works as a sort of straightforward next step.

      Also, to be fair, I think I compared the Cartmel era to the Hinchcliffe era, not the Williams era. Both were concerned specifically with seeing "how far" they could go within children's television. The Williams era was brilliant and subversive, but I don't think it was invested in pushing what you could get away with on children's television specifically, whereas I think Cartmel and Hinchcliffe very much were.

      The juxtaposition is, I think, more between Virgin and Williams, and I think you do get a pretty vivid contrast there.

      And thank you all for the compliments. :)

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    4. I'd like to add my praise for a fine run of essays Phil, some of which (you know which ones) definitely caused this particular veteran Doctor Who viewer to re-evaluate and reconsider certain stories and long-held beliefs. I'm looking forward to your guide to the non-broadcast material of which I know little. Also...I'd love to read a lengthy deconstruction by you of that Olympics Opening Ceremony. As I mentioned in the previous replies it really echoed the denoument of Alan Moore's recent LoEG Century 2009 for me.

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    5. Can I just add my thanks and congratulations, too? Without the Eruditorum, I wouldn't have embarked on a marathon and my resulting review blog wouldn't exist. It's not wacky, wild and thought-prooking like yours, but nevertheless it's given me (and a couple of others) a great deal of pleasure. And that's down to you.

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    6. Ditto to everything everyone else has said. I've been following since the mid-Troughton era, and I'm amazed that you've not only made it this far, but that you've done so while maintaing a consistent level of excellence and insight. I could say more, but it fees silly to do so when there's still so much left to do. Heck, chronologcally speaking you're only a little bit over halfway through.... :-)

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    7. Hea hea.
      I haven't been commenting much of late, because I stopped watching Who in my late teens, during the Colin Baker years. I tried to revisit it a couple of times and complete the whole classic series, but could never do it. Too much a child of the Hinchcliff era, I guess.
      But reading over the last few weeks has added a new item to my to-do list: watch McCoy through.
      So as everyone else has said Phil - thank you for that, and for all of this.

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  10. Here's a fun fact - in the US, instead of the NHS we have this cool alternative where people can't afford necessary medical care to deal with debilitating illnesses. It's just like the NHS, only instead of being worth celebrating in front of the world in spectacular fashion it's an abiding source of shame that leads to needless suffering.

    The US has a fascist healthcare system, run mainly by the plutocratic wing of the ruling class, that victimises people through high prices and corporate bureaucracy. The UK has a state-socialist healthcare system, run manly by the statocratic wing of the ruling class, that victimises people through rationing and governmental bureaucracy. The idea that either of these oppressive systems is worth celebrating is frankly obscene. Real health reform would mean transferring power away from big business and big government back to free associations of equals.

    This isn't just a critique of the way in which survival of the fittest is just a restatement of "might makes right," but a way in which the idea that only the strong survive becomes a death sentence for the weak.

    Although you don't mention Spencer's name, given that a) the term "survival of the fittest" was coined by Spencer, and b) Spencer has traditionally been accused of favouring "might makes right," and of advocating letting the poor die off to strengthen the breed, it's hard not to read your remarks as allied with the 150-year-old anti-Spencer industry. So let me point out that, first, by "survival of the fittest" Spencer means survival of those modes of behaviour best adapted to social relations, meaning cooperation, compassion, altruism, and mutual aid; second, that Spencer, a lifelong antiwar activist and a foe of every kind of oppression (including of men over women, of employers over employees, of states over citizens, and of empires over colonies), was about as far from the idea of "might makes right" as can be imagined; and third, that Spencer repeatedly explained that the benefits of aiding the weak (so long as such help doesn't reinforce their status as a dependent class) outweigh any concerns about "weakening the breed."

    detritus to be swept away in capitalism's own form of violence, "creative destruction,"

    And now you're giving aid and comfort not only to anti-Spencer mythology but also to anti-Schumpeter mythology. By "creative destruction" Schumpeter doesn't mean smashing the poor to glorify the rich; it would be closer to the truth to say he means the opposite. By "creative destruction" he means the process by which those who currently possess wealth and power aren't guaranteed to keep it -- in other words, it's a concept much closer to subversion and mercurial anarchism.

    You could say it's not Spencer's and Schumpeter's ideas you're attacking but the Thatcherite misappropriation of their terminology. But in allying those concepts to their Thatcherite use one risks becoming an accessory after the fact to that misappropriation. It's like the right-winger's knee-jerk condemnation of the language of class conflict and worker empowerment because that language was misappropriated by Communist dictatorships. In both cases, liberatory ideas are being marginalised because anti-liberatory people made us of the rhetoric associated with them.

    puts the lie to the idea that capitalist competition leads to any notion of the fittest

    But what do you mean by "capitalist competition"? The capitalism you're describing is corporatist and oligopolistic -- and thus fundamentally hostile to genuine market competition.

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    1. For what it's worth, this is from a friend/mentor of mine from when the 2009 healthcare debate in the US was in full swing. Not much, but I thought it was relevant:

      http://technopolis.blogspot.com/2009/07/healthcare-in-sane-countries.html

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    2. Certainly the NHS is open to criticism. However, any criticism of the NHS that doesn't acknowledge its many merits is merely ideological. (That applies especially in the present political climate.)
      The anarchist left in the UK does not make the systematic failings of the NHS a significant part of its criticisms of the UK state.

      By the way, don't confuse the NHS with the UK health system. The UK health system does have, for better or worse, a significant private health care component (which both is kept on its toes by competing with the NHS and uses the NHS to offload costs onto).

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    3. "The US has a fascist healthcare system, run mainly by the plutocratic wing of the ruling class"

      Okay, see... I would really like to have a discussion about this, but I find a statement like that enormously difficult to respond to in a sane way (despite the fact that we almost certainly agree upon the central point that the US health care system is fucked, fucked beyond fuckery).

      (Also, how do I add italics here, anyway?)

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    4. I find a statement like that enormously difficult to respond to in a sane way

      For "fascist" read "corporatist."

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    5. Oh, and you can italicize something by putting a < and then a i and then a > in front of it, and then a < and then a /i and then a > after it.

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    6. The UK has a state-socialist healthcare system, run manly by the statocratic wing of the ruling class, that victimises people through rationing and governmental bureaucracy.

      Eppur si muove.

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    7. Ununnilium thinks I'm too hard on the US system, while David Anderson thinks I'm too hard on the UK system.

      To the former:

      As Jesse says. In economic terms, the difference between state socialism on the one hand and fascism/corporatism on the other is that in the former, the state exercises direct control of the economy directly, while in the latter, control of the economy is undertaken by nominally private but in fact state-privileged corporate entities.

      To the latter:

      However, any criticism of the NHS that doesn't acknowledge its many merits is merely ideological.

      Any criticism of Prison Guard Louie that fails to point out that he only punches the prisoner in the face ten times a day instead of twenty is merely ideological.

      The anarchist left in the UK does not make the systematic failings of the NHS a significant part of its criticisms of the UK state.

      Well, nobody's perfect.

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    8. I prefer not to use "fascist" as a synonym for "corporatist," since there is more to fascism than an economic system (and more than one flavor of fascist economics). "Corporatist" arguably isn't the most historically appropriate term for these public/private partnerships either, but at least with that word people don't get the impression that you're referring to concentration camps.

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    9. Well, it gives that impression to people whose knowledge of fascism is limited to Nazism. And I mean more by "fascism" and "corporatism" than just "public/private partnerships."

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    10. Many people's knowledge of fascism is limited to Nazism. But at any rate, I think there are elements reasonably associated with fascism -- dictatorship, organic nationalism, the fascist party and its paramilitary adjuncts -- that are missing from the U.S. health care system.

      I do not object to using "plutocracy" or "the corporate state."

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    11. Actually, I don't think you're too hard on the US system; I just don't think that it can in any way be described as "fascist" (and what Jesse said is part of that), nor do I think we have a ruling class.

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    12. By "creative destruction" he means the process by which those who currently possess wealth and power aren't guaranteed to keep it -- in other words, it's a concept much closer to subversion and mercurial anarchism.

      That's actually the definition I've heard it before, in a totally non-academic context. The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers is one of my favorite bands, and they make use of this idea in a lot of their early, angry-youth work. Like this lyric from Stay Beautiful, "Deny your culture of consumption / this is a culture of destruction."

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    13. nor do I think we have a ruling class

      See this.

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    14. there are elements reasonably associated with fascism -- dictatorship, organic nationalism, the fascist party and its paramilitary adjuncts -- that are missing from the U.S. health care system

      Socialism comes in degrees; why can't fascism? If someone calls the NHS a "socialist" system, no one thinks that implies Stalinist purges etc.

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  11. Seeing him nearly out of control, clinging to the edge of the abyss and threatening to drag the Doctor down with him through sheer force of narrative momentum makes him dangerous again.

    Alas, that description irresistibly conjures up the finale of the 1996 tv-movie. Why must you do that to me?

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  12. So, Phil... curious to know: How many months 'til the TV movie, and then how many more months after that 'til "Rose"? :-)

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    1. The TV Movie is on Boxing Day. I haven't scheduled out the EDAs and Eighth Doctor yet, but I expect they'll take 3-4 months, with Rose coming up in late April/early May.

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    2. ...with "Curse of Fatal Death" falling sometime after the TV Movie, and "Dimensions in Time" a month or so before? Sounds reasonable. :-)

      Thanks for the heads-up!

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    3. So about nine months. Sounds like a strangely apt period of time.

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    4. I'm kind of disappointed the TV Movie isn't being done on New Years Eve.

      Anyhow I do hope one of the 'pop between realities' will be on the Who-inspired Australian kids series The Girl From Tomorrow (which to my mind is exactly what I imagine a 90's Doctor Who series to have looked like)

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    5. No current plans for The Girl From Tomorrow. I've already had to swap out one planned Pop Between Realities, though, after realizing that I couldn't find copies of the Cartmel-edited episodes of Casualty, so if something like that happens again you can probably consider a Girl From Tomorrow/Crystal Maze entry the most likely substitute.

      Also, Dimensions in Time, in 1993, is going to be more than a month before the 1996 TV movie, especially because I'm going to do all of the Virgin books (thus going through to March of 1997) before the TV Movie. I pondered this a lot, but I think the book versions are going to end up being Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Davison/Baker, McCoy (including Virgin), McGann/Eccleston, Tennant, Smith. And so I want the TV movie in a position where it can be the starting point. (Why, you ask, am I combining McGann with Eccleston instead of doing Eccleston/Tennant? Because a McGann book would be by miles my worst seller, and Eccleston will help fix that.)

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    6. Don't be too sure about that last bit, Phil... ;-)

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  13. There is no better advert for state socialism than the NHS. That's why it is being dismantled.

    And Phil's slightly understated entry on "Survival" is an appropriate way to end one of the best works of art ever written (at least notionally) about 6389.

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    1. There are horror stories aplenty about both the US system and the NHS. It's just that fans of the former only talk about the latter, and fans of the latter only talk about the former.

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    2. I'm an unabashed fan of the NHS, though I admit to knowing little about the US system beyond the horror stories. Here, my mother-in-law was provided with dialysis treatment free for years, and other members of my family have been treated for (shorter term) life-threatening problems at some time or other. Oh, and people with money who feel victimised by rationing and governmental bureaucracy can always buy private healthcare. As indeed I do as well, when I go to see my (non-NHS) osteopath.

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    3. Having some experience with both systems (though substantially more with the US system, admittedly), there's no contest in my mind. Certainly the NHS isn't perfect, but the US for-profit system is the only one that has ever left me seriously wondering if I was going to be able to afford to stay alive (and I'm not speaking hypothetically, here) on several occassions. Equating the basic premise that nether system is Platonic ideal with the suggetion that both systems are equally problematic in their own ways is, in my experience and the experience of my friends who have similar experiences, intellectually dishonest.

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    4. Both my sister and my father have had experience with the NHS, my sister in the course of getting sick while at University in Manchester, my father when he fell and hurt himself quite badly while on a walk in London.

      The treatment both received was in virtually every regard superior to what they have received in the US. While I am well aware that anecdotal evidence is anecdotal evidence, and that serious problems do exist, the degree to which the NHS is held up by politicians here as something to be demonized as the nightmarish state to which US health care could descend is a sickening farce.

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    5. the degree to which the NHS is held up by politicians here as something to be demonized as the nightmarish state to which US health care could descend is a sickening farce

      Well, that's certainly true. But when both systems are built on the violent suppression of low-cost worker-run medical insurance associations, it's hard to get too enthusiastic about defending either one of them.

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    6. The NHS, according to left anti-statists of my acquaintance, is the lowest cost health service for what it delivers in the world. Health services in continental Europe deliver better outcomes for a lot more money. (And the US delivers much worse outcomes for vastly more money.)
      Also, little of the supposed bureaucracy of the NHS is patient-facing. (I feel that the bureaucracy of the NHS is talked up by politicians who want the electorate to think they can squeeze efficiencies out of the NHS that the previous government missed.)

      But medical insurance associations don't address the problem that I think you're trying to talk about, which is not who pays but who employs. In the present society, talk about extending local control of the NHS is code for increasing corporate control. I think that before genuine local control becomes feasible there are more pressing problems to be addressed: income disparities between localities for one and corporate power, especially over pharmaceutical use, for another. Until those are dealt with NHS reform is a matter of the best being the enemy of the good.
      And when you say violent are you referring to specific instances or is this a more theoretical postmodern violence?

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    7. The NHS, according to left anti-statists of my acquaintance, is the lowest cost health service for what it delivers in the world.

      Hmm. My friends who favor socialized medicine usually tell me that the NHS is a bug-ridden system and that the French model is much better.

      I kinda like the Indian system myself, but most people look at you funny if you suggest that there might be a useful model in the developing world.

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    8. If India still counts as "developing world", I'll eat my hat!

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    9. "Developing," not "undeveloped"...

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    10. Well, looking at the official IMF list of "developing countries", I see India's still on there. So fair.

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    11. David Anderson,

      But medical insurance associations don't address the problem that I think you're trying to talk about, which is not who pays but who employs.

      Exactly; see this.

      Until those are dealt with NHS reform is a matter of the best being the enemy of the good.

      The best can never be the enemy of the good.

      And when you say violent are you referring to specific instances or is this a more theoretical postmodern violence?

      See the link.

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  14. The end of this essay displays what, as I look back over the entries since the start of the John Nathan-Turner era (especially Logopolis), is something that Doctor Who fans as a community have had to do for several years now. That's make peace with the success of the show. For so many years, the standard narrative of Doctor Who among its traditional fans (that is, the folks who were part of the fan community during the 1990s and early 2000s) has had the tone of a requiem or an autopsy. But as you put it in the Doctor in Distress essay, that's become even worse than beating a dead horse. The horse is alive again and more successful than ever.

    It's reasonable to look at the failures of the Nathan-Turner/Saward era and understand where the show went wrong, so we don't end up making similar mistakes in the future, whether we're on the production team or enthusiastic fans. But in the history of Doctor Who, the collapse of the Colin Baker era and the cancellation is no longer a death knell leading to our obscurity. Now, we can treat it as our greatest crisis (and there were a great many), but one that was eventually overcome, to roar back stronger than ever.

    I remembered you joking that maybe one day, you'll be remembered as the genesis of a terribly annoying postmodern turn in Doctor Who fandom (again, from your Doctor in Distress post). Your depth and breadth of knowledge is staggering, and it's what makes the Eruditorum so distinctive. But more than that, it's a narrative where we can look at the classic series as a means of moving forward, overcoming obstacles (even the ones of our own design), and triumphing over adversity.

    All this is a long-winded way of saying "Thank You, Phil."

    Now, when is the damn Troughton book coming out already?

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    1. September. It's in the hands of the copy-editor, who has finished the first fifty pages and is well into the next fifty.

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    2. Thanks indeed for an unfailingly engaging, challenging, and interesting blog.

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    3. Long time reader, first time commenter. Congratulations on reaching this milestone and thank you for your consistently interesting posts.

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  15. I find it vaguely amusing you managed to get through S25 and S26 without mentioning the "Ace's girlfriend of the episode" schtick once

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    1. I wasn't going to say anything, but secretly I'd been hoping he would...

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  16. Okay, here's something I noticed about this one, something I see an awful lot of in the Revival. Ace becomes like the monsters, the cat-people, whose monstrousness is ambiguous at best. How many times has, say, Amy Pond taken on the attributes of the monsters they're fighting? Or the Doctor, for that matter.

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    1. Midge and the Master become like the monsters they're fighting. Ace's transformation happens at least in part because she opens relationships with the monsters other than fighting them. The story's not so trite as to hammer in the message but Ace's transformation takes her over much less than Midge's.

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    2. Amy has a particular pattern of being physically violated in ways that are (for me, at least) more disturbing than the repeated killing of Rory. I keep meaning to make a list of all the times it happens and compare it to how often it happened to other New Series companions; I'm pretty certain it's a LOT more, and more often than Rory's deaths.

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  17. Just adding my voice of congratulations to all the others! I might not always agree with you, and some of your posts have admittedly made my head hurt, but you've provided not only consistent food for thought and a fresh way of approaching the series, but a damn enjoyable and interesting read -- your posts are always something I look forward to seeing in my RSS feed.

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  18. I might have commented once way back, but would like to add my thanks, Looking forward to turning that thanks into cold hard cash when your Troughton book gets released.

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