Thanks so much to The Androzani Team for describing me as having a devious and cruel mind, and for saying that they enjoyed my Jumbo Crossword immensely. Now that I have some worthy opponents, perhaps I should ramp up the difficulty slightly…
This crossword has a theme, which means that a reasonable number of answers relate to it, as do some of the clues (though clues that relate to the theme don’t necessarily have answers that do, and vice versa). The theme can be found by answering this clue: “TV series that if treated as a command could lead to another one (from the 70s)” (6,3)
(There is also a secondary, related theme to do with clues 23 and 11, which should in itself be a clue!)
1 Old fashioned entertainment during Xmas? Questionable! (6)
1 Wilfred went first, well spotted (7)
This is a cryptic crossword, but not too difficult (i.e. not quite up to Araucaria’s standard).
The theme is given by the solution to this clue:
Empty dude goes through door and finds most of prostitute (no, it isn’t “Torchwood”) (6,3)
(Which indicates the level of difficulty, I guess. Alternatively, you can just look at the blog header!)
Or if that’s too easy, this might be a bit more of a challenge.
The theme this time is given by the answer to this clue:
Programme returns fish to rock outcrop? Head off cries of joy! (6,3)
Note – clues in quotes share a common attribute, and star the (slightly concealed) person to whom they are attributed.
When I heard that Michael Moorcock was writing a Doctor Who novel, I felt strangely compelled to write a pastiche of an overview. Which I will now foist upon anyone who stumbles across this blog, should that unlikely event (ahem) materialise…
Being a Scientific Romance of Doctors the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth by Michael Moorcock
Part One – The Wanderer of the Time Winds
The Doctor is disillusioned when he discovers that the events depicted in the TV Movie were carefully orchestrated by the Time Lords as part of their war with the Daleks, and that the Daleks only allowed him to return the Master’s ashes to Gallifrey as part of their retaliatory strategy. Tired of being a pawn in their schemes, he retires to Earth to live in a mildly homoerotic relationship with the character played by Hugh Lloyd in “Delta and the Bannermen”, to keep bees and write his memoires, disguised as works by H.G.Wells which he intends to publish in a parallel universe. But his sleep is troubled by dreams in which a voice calls him to go to Avalon and take his rightful place as Merlin; but when he is finally drawn into the past, he discovers that all is not as it seems, he has again been drawn into the Time War and this time he is forced to destroy the planet he loves and the Human Race, which he has grown fond of and even come to view as a rather large pet, in order to prevent a total Dalek victory.
Alone and even more embittered, he sets the TARDIS controls to take him to the end of time, trillions of years beyond the extinction of the last star. He at last finds peace in a universe in ruins, where not a single creature survives – except, as he eventually discovers, for the planet Gallifrey, saved from the ravages of Entropy behind its Transduction Barrier. He is startled, then disgusted to discover that the Time lords have lost all sense of morality: they have become decadent, engaging in sexual practices so bizarre they would make Captain Jack run away screaming. The only thing he approves of is that this society appears to have no leaders; it is devoted totally to the pursuit of aesthetic and carnal pleasure. One of its leading lights, who calls himself the Bishop of Marylebone, is a consumate artist who has devised the most ingenious amusements imaginable: he has, for example, recreated specimens of races that were once the Time Lords’ enemies, but now devoted to entertainment. Daleks and cybermen, Yetis and Slitheen parade around with strange sexual attachments in an endless orgy. His latest creation, however, is something more strange, and perhaps more sinister – part of the universe as it once was, including the planet Earth and a few other worlds, all cunningly arranged within a bubble of hyperspace to be almost indistinuishable from the real thing when viewed from the inside, in which the Time Lords can have specially arranged “adventures”. The Bishop is, however, a reclusive figure, disdaining to participate in the amusements he devises for the increasingly jaded appetites of the Time Lords. He is also the leader of a small but devoted religion known as the Brotherhood (though it includes members of any of the many sexes available).
Part Two – The Ennui Within
The Doctor hovers on the margins of this society like a pensive ghost, at once attracted and repelled. He is particularly attracted to the recreated Earth, and visits there, finding it is set to the time period of the early 21st century. He has a sexual encounter with the recreated Rose Tyler, and later with someone who appears to be his human mother (or is she, too, just a recreation?). He becomes a follower of the Bishop (or appears to, as he is the only person who is at all mysterious, and hence of interest, in order to find out more about him) and learns that he is, of course, really the Master. “Ah, Doctor, I have at last found a worthy society in which I actually feel at home – on in which I actually crave, and have found, social acceptance…” He tells the Doctor that he, too, should join in wholeheartedly – “Now that you have, so to speak, penetrated my inner circle, you should do so in earnest – we should consummate the sado-masochistic relationship that has always simmered beneath the surface of our rivalry, either using these bodies or in whatever form you would care to take. Oh come, come, Doctor, do you really think I couldn’t have killed you a dozen times during our previous encounters? But then, you see, I could never bring myself to kill my own son…”
But the Doctor realises that the Master has an even more sinister plan than just scoring an ultimate victory by corrupting the morals of his stiff-necked son (assuming he wpoke the truth, and wasn’t simply a fan of “Star Wars”) the Master is still his old self, his “Bishop” persona is merely a front for an almost unthinkable plan of his own, to return to the Dawn of Time, take the place of Davros and rewrite all of history as a victory for the Doctor’s ancient enemies the Daleks, who, as he says, “Have no sense of irony, no scruples, no idea of pity – they are perfect, like a crystal, and shall under my command bring perfect order to this meaningless, chaotic universe!”
But is this really the Master’s plan, or is it merely another, even more extravagant, entertainment he has devised to amuse the Doctor, who clearly still yearns for their old rivalry? The Doctor can’t be sure either way, but decides he has no choice but to as though it is the truth – and the Master, of course, as usual discovers that his “hidden agenda” has been discovered, captures the Doctor and places him in some bizarre leather and rubber restraints, crowing: “So, Doctor as a villain, I must stick to my script! I must first corrupt you, then ravish you, then destroy you! I have already done the first, you have disdained the second, so now I shall finish the job by taking away that which you prize the most – your ego! You will be reprogammed as my mindless slave! Farewell! Hahahahaha” He goes to use the Mind Probe on the Doctor, but (by a strange quirk of fate, almost as though it was intentional) the Doctor manages to escape – he is, however, affected, losing his memory of recent events, and being forced to regenerate.
He recovers consciousness in a new body, apparently on 21st century Earth. He has confused memories – there was a Time War, and he had to destroy Gallifrey – he is, ne believes, the last Time Lord. The story moves onwards kaleidoscopically, skimming over a series of adventures . . .
He doesn’t realise for several years that he is merely within the Master’s simulation. But gradually, flaws start to appear – the TARDIS will only visit a few planets, events resolve themselves for no obvious reason. people act out of character, he gains almost godlike powers he never had before – and he find that his character is being subtly subverted as a result, becoming more like an avenging angel than one who rights wrongs. Indeed, he wonders whether his whole ideas of “good” and “evil” were ever realistic, or merely sentimental. Eventually he begins to have strange dreams, and comes to suspect that his entire reality is merely a vast game in which the Master seeks to subtly corrupt him, as a prelude to the ultimate seduction . . . and what of his vague memories of the Master’s master-plan, and of another universe in which Daleks will cannot be easily defeated by Rose, Donna, or a vaccuum cleaner . . . ?
But the Master can’t resist joining in with the game, and eventually other Time Lords reappear, even though he saw them all destroyed. And things move to a new level as he tries to escape back to the real world, to – perhaps – save the real universe . . .
I occasionally get into robust discussions as to whether “Doctor Who” is or isn’t science fiction. A pretty important point, up there with global warming and the decline of the West, as I’m sure everyone will agree. I generally take the view that it is SF – more or less, give or take. After all, when the announcer said “And now, the BBC presents a new science fiction series…” was he pulling our legs?
Mind you, it certainly isn’t “hard” SF, at least in my humble opinion; but surely a programme about a time-travelling alien is either SF or fantasy, and IMHO Who has generally tended to emphasise the science rather than the fantasy side. At least, it did so when I used to watch it, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
However, I may have to revise my opinion. I recently came across an interview in which a certain person said:
Traditionally, women aren’t the primary watchers of science fiction, so I’ve addressed this imbalance by filling the series with strong female characters.
My view is that Doctor Who fits very well into the science fiction genre – and that that shouldn’t be taken as in some way detracting from either the programme or the genre. Those who object that Who isn’t SF often say that this is because “the science isn’t the point” (and nor, they may add, are trivia like plot mechanics and self-consistent resolutions). However, this seems to me, at least, something of a straw-man attack. What they’re really saying is that they have read some SF and didn’t like it, they do like Who, therefore Who isn’t SF. QED.
However that seems a narrow view of SF, which is a hugely diverse field, encompassing many sub-genres. It has been, perhaps rightly, characterised as the most important literary movement of the 20th century; perhaps its defining literary form. Of course we aren’t very far into the 21st century as yet, but it looks as though that identification may continue to hold for the forseeable future (with perhaps a swerve towards the post-apocalyptic side of the genre after 2050…) It’s hard to come up with many significant events from the last century that haven’t had at least a passing connection with SF. Obviously one of the biggies was the Apollo moon landing, but also the nature of war, society, politics and religion in the 20th century were all influenced by, and commented on by, works of SF – the best known examples being “1984”, “We”, “Metropolis”, “Brave New World”, “Player Piano”, etc, but there are many others.
Also notable, by the way, is the way that SF has permeated into other genres that wouldn’t have given it the time of day 50 years ago. It is now perfectly respectable to make use of SF tropes if you are a mainstream author (Martin Amis’ “Time’s Arow”) or making a romantic comedy movie (e.g. “Peggy Sue got Married”).
Back in the mists of time, SF was seen as “geeky”. When Doris Lessing started writing it, for example, she found it a very enclosed, ghettoised field, snobbishly looked down upon by the literati. People would talk about it dismissively as being all about space ships and ray guns. And that attitude still clearly lingers in some quarters.
But the fact that Doctor Who is SF (if it is) isn’t something to be ashamed of. SF long ago came out of its ghetto, into mainstream literature and film and popular culture.
Doctor Who clearly has borrowings from many other genres, e.g. fantasy, horror, social comment, satire and so on. But SF that includes elements of other genres doesn’t stop being SF; no one would claim that “Alien” isn’t SF because it’s also a horror film, that “Foundation” isn’t SF because it’s based on “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” or that “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” isn’t SF because it’s full of humour and satire.
But does it really matter? So long as you enjoy watching the programme, who cares what label is hung on it?
Well, of course, that’s perfectly true. The problem of definitions only arises when you stop just enjoying the programme and try to discuss it with other people, perhaps on one of those new-fangled internet forums. At that point it does help to know what you’re talking about. To give a parallel, does it matter that we identify “Ozymandias” as a poem? Well, not unless someone starts claiming it isn’t. “It can’t be, because I don’t like poetry!” he might say – at which point he might find himself engaging in a robust debate.
Or perhaps the key component is the Doctor, and the other trappings largely irrelevant? It could, one might argue, equally well be set in the time of Marco Polo or the French Revolution, or even on someone’s back lawn with bizarrely shrunken heroes (are you taking notes, Mr Moffat?) – and it wouldn’t matter, because the key thing is the character of the Doctor, and what he represents.
Hmm. I must admit that stopping the Doctor being a 900-year old time-travelling alien and making him, say, own a bookshop in Paris is the 1920s might work. Making Sherlock Holmes Maori or James Bond female might work, too – but would it be the same programme? I must admit to having my doubts. I think too much of “what he is” comes from “what he can do,” personally.
But perhaps I’m misrepresenting the counter-argument here. As the Master said, he’s the Doctor, he makes people better. Does it matter that he does so in a world of SF trappings? The important thing is, as it were, the moral: if everyone thought “What would the Doctor do?” it would be a better world. Whether the science works or not doesn’t matter a jot.
This last point (about the science) is a view with which I broadly agree. In fact, my problems with “new Who” have been almost exclusively to do with the stories and characters; I care not a jot for the technobabble, so long as it’s embedded in a good story, which all too often it hasn’t been since that fabulous day in 2005…
But anyway, let’s see what the new showrunner has to say on the subject.
Doctor Who is not a show for beginners, it’s a show for people who really know what they are doing and who also really ‘get’ Sci-Fi. — Stephen Moffat
Yay! Thank you, Stephen!
Oh, but wait…
For me, Doctor Who literally is a fairy tale. It’s not really science fiction. It’s not set in space, it’s set under your bed. It’s at its best when it’s related to you, no matter what planet it’s set on. Every time it cleaves towards that, it’s very strong. Although it is watched by far more adults than children, there’s something fundamental in its DNA that makes it a children’s programme and it makes children of everyone who watches it. If you’re still a grown up by the end of that opening music, you’ve not been paying attention. — Stephen Moffat
Although, actually, I happen to agree. I think fairy tales have had a bad press (or should that be a too-good press?) since the Brothers Grimm and Disney got their bright, breeezy, sugar-coated hands on them. If Moffat is talking about the real thing, then I totally agree. Doctor Who at its best is a fairy tale which also happens to be SF.