Sunday, May 12, 2013

Journey to the Center of the TARDIS [7:11]

Years ago, when I didn't know any better, I wrote, in the sense of planned out in my head, a Doctor Who story which might have been called "The Pillars of Hercules".[*] The Doctor, for good and adequate reasons, has to travel further than he has ever travelled before — to the very edge of the Universe, pursued by all his worst enemies, who want to get there first. The Doctor narrowly wins the race, and discovers that the Universe does indeed have a literal, physical edge, marked by a big scary door. He steps through the big scary door (which is blue) and discovers that on the other side is...a junk yard at 76 Totters Lane. The whole of Time and Space has always been inside an old fashioned police phone box. 

I also "wrote" one in which, for equally good reasons, the Doctor has to go on a long journey through the TARDIS. The further he goes, the stranger it becomes, corridors going from white hexagons to bricks and eventually to landscapes and planets, a whole universe in its own right. As he travels, horrible monsters confront him, until he finally gets to the very centre of the TARDIS where he finds a white hotel room, an astronaut and a big blue monolith a four poster bed, asleep in which is a familiar figure in a floppy hat and scarf, endlessly dreaming.

The trouble with both these ideas — the trouble with all self-begotten, masturbatory fan fiction — is that they are not stories. They aren't even ideas for stories. They are just free-floating ideas in the mind of someone who has spent too much of their life immersed in one particular TV show. Suppose the Doctor and the Master were brothers, we exclaim! Suppose Holmes and Moriarty were the same person! Suppose it turned out that Daleks were the human race, way, way in the future! Suppose it turned out the Doctor's worst enemy was actually an evil future incarnation of himself! 

Okay, supposing they were and supposing it did. Why would that be interesting, particularly? What follows from any of it? Nothing whatsoever, so far as I can see. A long journey is a long journey, even if there is a quite a good punch line at the end of it. 

Not that all self-begotten fiction is automatically bad (and not that there is anything reprehensible about fans thinking up new stories about characters they love.) When you have a very well defined "universe", then very interesting stories can sometimes bubble up from inside it; some universes are created specifically as cooking pots in which stories can stew. Tell a writer that a cowardly, dishonest trader has been forced into a marriage of convenience with an obsessively honourable warrior woman, and he could probably develop a rom-com, a tragedy or a farce from that basic idea depending on what kind of writer he was. It doesn't become a less legitimate rom-com, tragedy or farce because you can state the premise as "The one in which a Ferengi has to marry a Klingon." It's perfectly good shorthand; a perfectly good way for viewers and actors and producers to grasp the idea behind the story without pages and pages of exposition. It may even be that if no-one had thought of Star Trek, no-one would have thought of telling that particular story; that "Ferengi" and "Klingon" are conceptual tools which faciliate "The House of Quark" and  "Spock" and "McCoy" are conceptual tools that facilitate "City on the Edge of Forever". 

But Star Trek is — to borrow an expression — a story-making machine. Doctor Who really isn't. "Mad Dalek" doesn't evoke narrative possibilities in the same way that "Klingon Civil War" does.

I am sure that we have all sometimes thought "just how big is the TARDIS; how far does it go; are there parts of it that the Doctor never shows us, parts of it that he himself doesn't know?!" But answers to those sorts of questions are, at best, components of stories, and not even the most important components. They are not stories in themselves, and they are certainly not things you can serve instead of stories. 

Tell me that the Doctor is going to show us parts of the TARDIS that we have never seen before, and my first question is not "What parts?" but "Why?". And you had better have a good answer.

I may possibly be giving out the impression that I don't really  have anything to say about "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS." This is because I don't. For anyone keeping track, it scores 8% on the Ril/Mof scale: I barely made it past the opening credits. I am honestly tempted to type the words "beneath contempt" and pass on to next weeks story. 

I suppose I had better cover the things I liked about it. I liked the title, although I am fascinated by the theory that a target audience who are assumed to be spooked out by Scooby-Doo ghosts are also wryly amused be references to Jules Verne. I liked the big spaceship; I liked the idea of a space salvage team; I liked the Aliens-out-of-Red-Dwarf imagery; I thought that the characters had a little bit of potential and wouldn't mind seeing them in a story where they actually had things to do. I quite liked the way parts of the TARDIS seemed to be quite like Hogwarts School: the idea that a Time Lord encyclopaedia is something you drink rather than something you read. I believe that the Great Big Story Arc that started in the final Sly McCoy season and was partially completed in the first few novels would have turned Gallifrey into Gormenghast. I started chucking things at the screen when the TARDIS was inside the big spaceship being manipulated by big mechanical claws. 

When Doctor Who was a 60s throwback, an embarrassment to the BBC made on a shoestring budgie and kept running only because cancellation would generate adverse reaction from people who hadn't watched it for years, aberrations like "Time and the Rani" and "Timelash" were perfectly understandable. When Doctor Who is such a major part of the BBC brand, hailed on Radio Times covers and Christmas idents and expensive exhibitions in Cardiff, you would imagine that someone would be making some kind of attempt to control quality a little bit. I can only assume that the Power That Be have a genuinely phobic reaction to science fiction — they don't understand what it is about or what it is for, can't focus their mind on it for more than a couple of minutes, and assume that The First Men in the Moon, Ben 10, and Do Andrews Dream of Electric Sleep really are all pretty much reducible to "Mr Gobbledegook was walking down the road." Since none of this stuff makes any sense, why should they care that this particular bit of stuff doesn't make any sense? 

Oh well. Very little harm was done. At least there weren't any Big Revelations. There is always a danger that a Terrible Writer will introduce a Terrible Idea that other Terrible Writers feel the need to follow, and suddenly "Time Lords Have Twelve Lives" or "The Doctor Is Half Human On His Mother's Side" is one of those things about Doctor which everybody knows. (There are still fans who seriously believe that Matt Smith's successor will be the final TV Doctor because someone once said that Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times and that can't be unsaid.) I suppose we got to see the engine room and the Eye of Harmony (which was actually kind of cool) but there is no reason to think that the Engine Room and the Eye of Harmony will look anything like that the next time we see them. When a show has been running for fifty years, we sort of accept that the sets and the costumes will not be completely consistent from decade to decade; but I think it was a shame to enshrine the idea that the TARDIS interior looks like whatever the Doctor wants it to look like quite so explicitly in the story-internal series mythology. The tension between "rickety old box of tricks" and "most advanced ship in the universe" is one that it would have been better not to have resolved. The Series 1 - 4 console room was rather nicely re-imagined as being made of coral — because TARDII are grown rather than constructed; but it had lots of random bits of anachronistic technology stuck on because as the Doctor travels, naturally he repairs it from what's available The insight that the TARDIS is like a camper van, both a vehicle and a home — was a spot on observation. Now we have to pretend that he had merely configured the desk top to look like that.

Back in 1964, in the twelfth and thirteenth ever episodes of Doctor Who, it was established that the TARDIS was intelligent, sort of, and there has always been a yummy ambiguity about whether the Doctor personifies the TARDIS in the way sailors sometimes personify their boats, or personifies it because it actually is a person. Neil Gaiman, generally accepted to be the Second Greatest Living Author [**] contributed a silly story last season in which the TARDIS accidentally becomes incarnated as a dippy goth chic with a crush on the Doctor whose one-liners aren't quite so good as Delerium's. Like a lot of things in New Who, it was a clever twist on the established mythos that we should have grinned at and then never spoken of again. Instead, it's become another of those things which everyone knows and which has to be smirked over in every subsequent episode. The Doctor would make a good Dalek, ha! The Doctor once wore a fez ha-ha. The Doctor and the TARDIS are like an old married couple, ha-ha-ha! 

You could have done something with the idea of the TARDIS being violated by salvage men. I think they probably needed to be cosmic salvage men from a higher dimension who regarded Time Lord technology as mere junk. The amount of gobbledegooks that had to be invoked to create a situation where three ordinary guys with a big spaceship could, or thought they could, steal bits of the ship made it hard to even think of the thing as a story. Turning off the TARDIS's indestructible button so Clara could learn to fly it? Setting the TARDIS for self destruct? Pretending to set the TARDIS for self destruct? Stealing bits from the special cosmic TARDIS Christmas tree room? I really wish writers would take the trouble to rub out their construction lines. Yes, in the first Alien movie there is a human who surprisingly turns out to be an android, and the look and feel of the space craft today is a little like that in Alien so of course one of the characters is an android who surprisingly turns out to be human. Possibly because his comrades have tricked him into thinking he is as a black joke, or to steal his inheritance.  

So, all that is left is two bits of information about the extremely interesting and fascinating great big story arc.

1: Clara's Thing

The Doctor asks Clara why she keeps dying and coming back. Clara doesn't know. No-one really expected Clara to know. So we can ignore that bit. (I am pretty sure that Clara's thing will turn out to have something to do with the TARDIS, because there have been so many references to the TARDIS not liking her. Perhaps she is the reincarnation of the Master's TARDIS.)

2: The Doctor's Thing

Clara reads a passage from a book which Aslan has specifically told her not to read from. The book reveals the Doctor's (oh, god) True Name. She is mildly surprised and asks him about it; he is mildly surprised that she is mildly surprised but there is a big red reset button and everyone stops being surprised and forgets. So it appears that:

a: His name isn't "Doctor" or "Who", which were my first and second bets

c: It is a name which means something to Clara: he has an identity, he is someone other than who he claims to be.

c: It isn't a name which is significant within established mythos — he isn't Rassilon or Omega or The Other because Clara would have no reason to recognise those names. 

d: It's got something to do with the something he did in the bloody Time War.

Ho hum. I admit to being intrigued as to where Moffat is going with this; he's been at it for years (since the story which introduced River Bloody Song, in fact) so he is obviously going somewhere. The "who is River Song" reveal was quite cleverly handled, sort of; I suspect he has got either a very clever answer or (more likely) a very clever twist about why we aren't going to here the answer after all. 

But the trouble is, like the episode, it's self-generated fan-fiction. "What is the Doctor's name" is the kind of thing, like "Who ws Susan Foreman" an "What happened to Peter Parker's Mum and Dad" which is only interesting to someone who is already quite interested in Doctor Who. And it's not like it's really a "secret". It's not like every produce for 50 years has known the Doctor's names and origins but not told us, and when the secret is revealed we will see all the previous stories in a different light. It's not even as if a secret sealed manuscript by Sydney Newman has been discovered and opened in the presence of twenty four bishops. No-one knows the Doctor's name because he hasn't got one. Moffat is going to make something up. If it's a very good thing, then it will become a true thing, like the Doctor being a Time Lord, and no-one will really believe that there was a time when we didn't know it. If it's a silly thing, then everyone will just ignore it and the series will carry on as before.

It's just such an amateur, sophomoric way of writing. "There's this thing called the TARDIS. No-one knows how big it is" "Then let's do a story in which we find out how big the TARDIS is!" "There is this character called the knows his name" "Then let's reveal his name! It will be the Biggest Thing Ever! And while we are at it, let's give Harpo a speaking part, and introduce us to Conan's Mummy and Daddy and take Judge Dredd's mask off, reveal the name of the second Mrs De Winter; write a prequel to Watchmen."

Why only twelve disciples? Go out and hire thousands. 

Beneath contempt. Move on.

[*] As everyone knows, the Pillars of Hercules stood at the very edge of the Ancient World. Spanish Pieces of Eight had an engraving of the two pillars with a serpent wrapped around them: that is where the US dollar sign comes from.

[**] Terry Pratchett


Anonymous said...

Beautifully done. Although I've not yet seen this episode due to internet access problems, I pretty much guessed it would be like that. Moffat doesn't seem to understand the value of mystery or ambiguity...

Anonymous said...

(Sorry, that and this are from Andrew Hickey, don't know why Blogger posted it as Anonymous, because I'm not...)

Mike Taylor said...

Okay, supposing they were and supposing it did. Why would that be interesting, particularly? What follows from any of it?

This is a very good and important question to ask.

Nothing whatsoever, so far as I can see.

And this is a very unimaginative answer to give.

"Suppose a great evil power placed some of his power in a ring", John Ronald Reuel says. "Suppose that meant he could survive what would otherwise be physical dealth, but made him vulnerable to the destruction of the ring."

"Okay, supposing he did and supposing it did. Why would that be interesting, particularly? What follows from any of it?" you might ask.

"Nothing whatsoever, so far as I can see", John Ronald Reuel does not answer.

SK said...

And that's a good example of how some supposings lead to stories; and other supposings don't; and that part of being a proper writer is meant to be being able to tell the difference.

Mike Taylor said...

It certainly wasn't meant to me. It was intended as a demonstration that a story premise is what you make of it. I could certainly write a really bad story based on the dark-lord's-ring premise.

SK said...

The point is not that it's possible to write a bad story based on any premise; of course it is.

The point is that it is not true that it is possible to write a good story based on any premise.

You may have fallen into the trap of thinking that the opposite of 'all Cretans are liars' is 'all Cretans are congenitally honest', rather than 'there exists at least one Cretan who has at some point told the truth.'

SK said...

A bad engineer can build a roadbridge out of concrete and have it collapse. A good engineer can build a roadbridge out of concrete and have it fulfil its function.

Neither a good nor a bad engineer can build a roadbridge out of cheese. The goodness of the good engineer lies not in his ability to build a roadbridge out of any material, but (in part) in his ability to distinguish suitable from unsuitable materials for bridge-building.

The badness of the bad engineer lies not in the fact that he built the cheese-bridge badly, but that he wasted his time trying at all.

Mike Taylor said...

"The point is that it is not true that it is possible to write a good story based on any premise."

I agree that's not true.

I don't agree that "the Doctor and the Master were brothers", "Holmes and Moriarty were the same person", "Daleks were the human race, way, way in the future" or "the Doctor's worst enemy was actually an evil future incarnation of himself" are premises of that kind.

I think it's perfectly possible to write good stories based on any of these premises. (Amy's Choice is arguably one such.) And either Andrew is very lacking in imagination (which I don't believe for a moment) or his claim that "nothing whatsoever follows from" these premises is not one that he actually believes.

Mike Taylor said...

"Neither a good nor a bad engineer can build a roadbridge out of cheese". True. But those four ideas are not cheese.

SK said...

The only way to prove that, though, would be to tell, or find, a good story that follows from one of them.




Mike Taylor said...

I would propose a short story-writing competition between the readers and author this blog. But since the only other two contributors to this discussion so far have an interesting in proving that only bad stories can be written from these premises, I am not optimistic about the likely results!

Graham MF Greene said...

I'm going to abuse my position as a friend in the interests of truth and point out that all evidence suggests that the author of this blog, while an interesting and talented writer of non-fiction, needs no ulterior motive to write very bad stories.

Andrew Rilstone said...

My point, as I suspect you could tell, is that there is a certain kind of ...fanwank.... which thinks that MINDBLOWING REVELATIONS are interesting in themselves. Could an interesting story be written about a hero secretly mentoring his son without revealing who he is? Certainly. Does your common or garden crime story become interesting because it contains the MINDBLOWING REVELATION that Bruce Wayne is Dick Grayson's daddy. Nope. No more than your post holocaust survival tale becomes interesting when we reach the MINDBLOWING REVELATION that the last man is named Adam and the last woman is named Eve. Of course, it may still be a decent post holocaust survival story in its .

Tolkien's one ring seems to be a singularly bad example. As a matter of documented fact, he didn't come up with the idea of the Dark Lord's Achilles Heal and then work out what followed from it, He worked out roughly what kind of story he wanted to tell -- a long journey, taking in much of the history and geography of middle-earth, and the gradually, and never quite satisfactorily , came up with a ring that had the kinds of attributes needed to motivate that kind of a story.

I'm sure there must be an example of a good story based in a fan fictiony premise of the "what if it turned out that Billy Bunter was the Scarlet Pimpernell" variety, but they are rather hard to think of. The Flashman series, maybe? It is notable that Douglas Adams' guidelines for writing Doctor Who, and the Virgin guidelines for Doctor Who novels, both said -- don't use established monsters and characters as the jumping off point for your story -- it's characters, suspense, action that makes a story, not a clever new take on the Macra.

Andrew Rilstone said...

@"graham" That was a very long time ago, and besides, the wench is dead.

Mike Taylor said...

Interesting that you interpret compositional history as an important factor here.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Okay: if you want me to to go away from compositional history, I could phrase it thus: The One Ring is not a particularly interesting idea, nor is it the premise of Lord of the Rings; nor is it what makes Lord of the Rings a good book. The premise of Lord of the Rings is " two very weak characters have to undertake a suicidal journey into the stronghold of their enemy (and during the journey, the history of their world is "shown forth"). "

The Ring is in fact what Alfred Hirchcock would have called a McGuffin , although after it has McGuffed it also gets used as a metaphor.

"A man who believes in honour but not in ghosts is told by a ghost that honour requires him to avenge his father"; "a man who believes in god but loves his son is told to kill his son by god" .... These are the kind of premise from which something follows -- many different things depending on what kind of a writer is working with the story,

Mike Taylor said...

I don't disagree very strongly with any of that. What I disagree with it your assumption that "the Doctor and the Master were brothers", "Holmes and Moriarty were the same person", "Daleks were the human race, way, way in the future" and "the Doctor's worst enemy was actually an evil future incarnation of himself" aren't also "the kind of premise from which something follows -- many different things depending on what kind of a writer is working with the story".

I suppose my point here is that nearly everything comes down to what actual story is told using the premise. As it happens I thought JttCofT was rather a good story (as will become apparent if I ever catch up on my own reviewing) but I recognise that you disagree. I thought the Rebel Flesh premise was fascinating, but that the story badly muffed it.

I think what's going on here (and it's taking me a while to figure this out) is that I'm bothered that you write as though the failings of the story are the fault of the premise. I think they're the fault of the story.

Gavin Burrows said...

To me it's less a bridge made of cheese and more the equivalent of actors bumping into the furniture. Sometimes people bump into furniture in real life, of course. But if it happens in a play it draws attention to the furniture and away from the play. It calls into question all the stuff which should work either as assumptions or as narrative conceits.

Nick Mazonowicz said...

The Ring is in fact what Alfred Hirchcock would have called a McGuffin

I would say that the Ring is as far from being a MacGuffin in the Hitchcock sense as you could possibly get. Surely a MacGuffin is an object which is totally irrelevant in itself but just motivates the protaganists and antagonists (for example, the statue in North by North West could've easily have been a consignment of drugs; a bag of diamonds, an incriminating document etc...all that matters is that James Mason wants to get it and Cary Grant tries to stop him).

On the other hand, it's almost impossible to see how
the Ring could be replaced by anything else and still have anything like the same story.

Thomas said...

The Ring can be replaced by a Terrible Secret Weapon that the Hobbits want to detonate at the center of Sauron's stronghold. Of course their enemies want to avail themselves of this Secret Weapon.

Re: Mike Taylor's first comment: I hadn't realized the One Ring is actually a Horcrux.

Mike Taylor said...

I hadn't realized the One Ring is actually a Horcrux.

I didn't make the connection myself until I was typing the comment.

Nick Mazonowicz said...

The Ring can be replaced by a Terrible Secret Weapon that the Hobbits want to detonate at the center of Sauron's stronghold. Of course their enemies want to avail themselves of this Secret Weapon.

If you did replace the RIng with a 'Terrible Secret Weapon'; you would then have to explain why exactly it is that the Hobbits are chosen to take the ring.

Nor why Boromir would object to taking the Terrible Secret Weapon into the Stronghold.

Nor why Smeagol is so determined to get hold of the Secret Weapon himself.

SK said...

Because it's a Secret Weapon so terrible that anyone but a hobbit would be tempted to keep it for themselves. Or because the Terribly Secret Weaponsmiths realised that danger, so they magically made it only activatable by hobbits.

People these days seem not to have a clue what a 'MacGuffin' means. The point of a MacGuffin isn't that you could just drop anything in that slot in the story, or swap it out for something else. You couldn't switch the MacGuffins of North by Northwest and The Maltese Falcon around, because why would spies be interested in a jewelled bird and what would crime bosses want with some secret plans?

The point of a MacGuffin is that it is something constructed so that in the story it's in, everybody wants it (and wants it in a way which enables the story to happen, which might mean, for example, that it can only be retrieved by a rag-tag bunch of convicted criminals). Its form follows its story function, rather than being inherent in it. In a spy story it's secret plans, or the list of all the SIS agents in the world, or whatever. In a crime story it's untraceable bearer bonds, in a sci-fi story it's the super computer programme that can decrypt the everything. The Ring is what it is because that is precisely what is needed to motivate the quest.

The fact that it couldn't be replaced by anything else is precisely what proves it's a good MacGuffin: it is exactly what is required to cause the plot to happen, no more, no less.

Thomas said...

You would then have to explain why exactly it is that the Hobbits are chosen to take the ring.

Because Hobbits are often overlooked and would raise the least suspicion. Also, they're tougher than they look. Same as in the book, really.

Nor why Boromir would object to taking the Terrible Secret Weapon into the Stronghold.

Because Boromir fears Gondor will fall before the Hobbits have reached the stronghold. He wants to use the Secret Weapon for Gondor's defense.

Nor why Smeagol is so determined to get hold of the Secret Weapon himself.

Okay, this one is tougher. He wants to sell it to the highest bidder? He needs money to pay for a cure or to satisfy an addiction? Illness or addiction might account for Gollum's obsessive behaviour.

What would crime bosses want with some secret plans?

Sell them, of course. Secrets are money.

Andrew Rilstone said...

There is probably no such thing as a pure McGuffin. "The Venetian Monkey" would not have been the same as the Maltese Falcon; the Six Segments of the Key to Time feel different from, say, the six sections of a lost treasure map.

I don't think the distinction of the Thing which exists for the sake of the plot, and the plot which exists for the sake of the Thing is that fine a one, though.

I think that there are lots of stories which start from an idea, and say "What would follow from that idea". I think that there are lots of stories where the writer already knows what he wants to happen, and comes up with some device or excuse to get to the scene he wants to describe.

I think that "Frankenstein" and "The Invisible Man" are in the first category -- Shelley dreamed up the idea of the artificial man, and then worked out what she thought followed from it. A different writers might have developed it in a completely different way. I think that "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" is in the second category: the idea of the theft of Earth's magnetic core is not very interesting, and thought up after the fact, in order to provide a pretext to depict a conquered and subdued London. I think that there are many grey areas in between, and clever writers are clever at covering their tracks. (Many of John Carter's adventures would be the same if he were trekking around Mars looking for a stolen weapon or a treasure; but John Carter would be a different person is he were motivated by greed rather than love, and its part of the charm of Barsoom that it is full of incomparably beautiful princesses that men fall in love with at the drop of a hat.)

Mercy said...

I agree with the general criticism of fan-wankery stories, but I don't think it actually applies here. Or rather, the fan-wank is getting in the way of two perfectly serviceable story premises.

One is: a normal girl is visiting the house of a friendly but mysterious wizard, who warns her not to stray from her suite and the hall. She wanders off and is menaced by various strange features, which seem to imply the wizard has sinister designs on her, until he rescues her at the end and reveals their innocuous purpose.

The second is: a gang of three bandits have a fairy at their mercy. He offers them a great treasure if they will let him go, but while leading them to it tempts them to breech the terms of their agreement. The two wicked brothers do so, and lose everything, the virtuous brother sticks to the original deal and is rewarded.

Both perfectly fine fairy stories that have been done well in sci-fi ish media before (the first one turns up in All Star Superman for instance). It's just the fan story stuff gets in the way.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Yeah, I think that's right. I might have said 'the writer is so enamoured of the fan story stuff, or thinks the viewer will be, that he doesn't bother to do anything with the fairy story." But that may be basically what you mean by "gets in the way."

Nick Mazonowicz said...


The utterly authoritative TV Tropes says that "The One Ring from The Lord of the Rings (though commonly cited as an example) is explicitly NOT a MacGuffin, as its power to corrupt anyone who comes near it is a major driver of the plot, and it is arguably an independent character in its own right"

So there.


The fact that Hobbits are tougher than they look is something that comes as a surprise to all of the major non-Hobbit characters. So why would the Council start out entrusting the Secret Weapon to seemingly slow and stupid farming folk (that is if they've even ever have heard of Hobbits) when there are characters such as Legolas and Aragorn who are both hardy fighters and able to move stealthily? Unless of course you, for example, start the Secret Weapon off in the hands of one of the Hobbits AND make it such a powefully addictive Secret Weapon that it would be impossible to make the Hobbit give it up.

Also, if the Terrible Secret Weapon can be used in Gondor's defence, why bother trying to detonate it in Sauron's realm when it could so easily fall into enemy hands? Why not take the rational step, as advocated by Boromir of using it to defend allied territory? Unless, say, you make the Terrible Secret Weapon one that can't be used in the defence of Gondor because it will corrupt the wielder and has to be destroyed in Mordor?

However, I don't see that saying "You could replace the One Ring with something with the exact same qualities as the One Ring and it would still work" is a particularly profound statement

Andrew Rilstone said...

But you do see the point about Tolkien giving the Ring those particular attributes as a driver of the plot, as opposed to thinking of the idea of the Ring and then spending 1000 pages working through what followed from it?

Nick Mazonowicz said...


Mike Taylor said...

Re-reading this comment thread, for some reason. My favourite part is SK's observation "People these days seem not to have a clue what a 'MacGuffin' means." I love the efficiently which which he evoke those heady golden days of yore when everyone knew what a 'MacGuffin' meant. Truly, things were better in the olden times.