Friday, April 26, 2013

Cold War [7:9]

Today I unveil a new metric for the testing of New Who episodes: the Ril-Moff scale.

Every Doctor Who story gets a rating based on how many minutes I was able to accept and enjoy the story on its own terms for, before giving up and yelling "Oi! Moffat! Stop!" compared with the overall length of the episode.

Cold War scores an impressive 84%.

From time to time, someone sends me an e-mail saying something along the lines of "Oh, writing a critical assessment of Lord of the Rings, are we; well, until you have written a thousand page fantasy novel with made up dialects and really boring descriptions of forests and changed the course of twentieth century Beowulf scholarship, you should just shut up about it." I regard them as being on about the same level as the ones who can't tell the difference between comparisons and analogies.

But on the other paw.

I have over the last few months occasionally idled away the odd minute by strumming on a ukulele, and no, that is not a euphemism for anything at all. This has greatly increased my tolerance for musical support acts. The fellow singing the not terribly good songs about American ladies, trains and whisky before the act that I paid money to hear may not be all that good, but he generally shows signs of knowing more than three chords, and being able to do one thing with his left hand while doing an entirely different thing with his right hand, and often singing at the same time. 

"Well" I often find myself saying "I certainly couldn't do that."

I came around some time ago to the idea that while I was quite clever at doing things with words, I didn't have the knack for arranging them into stories or scripts. And this makes me slightly nervous about accusing someone who can clearly construct a script, write dialogue and get it commissioned and filmed of being a rank amateur who I could do better than.

He clearly isn't and I clearly couldn't. I even quite like Sherlock.

But for goodness crying out loud sake!

Yeah, I get the idea of doing Alien with an Ice Warrior, and I get the idea of it doing it on a nuclear sub so you can turn the jeopardy up to 11 and I get that it has to be a Russian sub because a Brit or American sub would be too obvious and I get (obviously) that if that's what you are doing then it has to be in the 1980s when T.B.W was trying terribly hard to help Reagan (who believed in the literal truth of the book of Revelation) to start a nuclear war.

But couldn't think of a better way of reminding the young people that this is the olden days than by having the elderly, Russian scientist obsessed by young English people's music? 

At least Clara resisted the temptation to say "What was a 'tape' Doctor".

I wish I'd been a giant maggot on the wall during the script read through. I don't have to read this rubbish. I was King Lear and the Cardasian in that episode of Next Gen.

Is this the story where a monster gets loose on the Russian nuclear submarine? Or is it the one in which an Ice Warrior gets loose on a Russian nuclear sub-marine? Or is it the one where an ICE WARRIOR does some stuff somewhere or other, it doesn't really matter, a nuclear sub will do?

How exciting, basically, do you find the arrival of an Old Monster?

Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors. Daleks and Cybermen and Ice Warriors go together like lions and tigers and bears. The Daleks appeared, what, fifteen times? The Cybermen appeared seven or eight times. The Ice Warriors appeared twice, in a very good story imaginatively called The Ice Warriors, which the BBC have lost, and in a rather weak one officially called the Seeds of Doom, but usually known as Invasion of the Bubble Bath (by me, at any rate.)

They also had a supporting role as one of a number of alien races attending a parish council meeting in The Monster and Curse of Peladon. Their function in that story is to be Old Monsters; former enemies of the Doctor who the Doctor naturally suspects of murdering the Lord Chancellor, even though the Hound of the Baskervilles dunnit.

It's almost as if the Ice Warriors whole job is to be Old Monsters. Iconic monsters. (I wonder if this is really because the kinds of people who drew the Doctor Who Monster Book and the Weetabix Picture Cards grew up during the Troughton era?)

There is no reason why, when the Ice Warrior comes on stage ten minutes the Doctor shouldn't say "Ice Warriors...Ice Warriors...who the hell are they?" as we presumably did when the Macra appeared at the end of the one with Father Dougal. But he doesn't. He says "We go way, way back" and it's one of those old fan validation moments. 

"So do we" we all cry out "So do we!"

I think that what Cold War wants to be is THE ONE WHERE AN ICE WARRIOR TAKES OFF ITS ARMOUR. If you are in the fan party, then you have been waiting to know what a naked Ice Warrior looks for forty years. At least, the episode seems to have been constructed on the assumption that you have. I am not sure I ever even realized that the Ice Warriors were wearing armour. I think I thought it was shell. I think I thought they were ancient warlike Martian turtles. Still, I thought the final scene where the Warrior takes off his armour so he could look the Doctor in the eye was rather nice, and the creature was both alien and sinister and pathetic.

I think that maybe the original brief was "Do Alien, but set on a Soviet Nuclear Sub." The problem with that brief is that the Aliens in Alien are slithery lizard-like spider-like vagina-like penis-like things you can hardly see whereas Ice Warriors are great big clunking space vikings who talk like Worf. 

No problem, says Gatiss, we'll detach the Ice Warrior from his armour, and have him slithering along corridors like a green slithery thing. He can have big long scary fingers which can hug people's faces like an Alien Face Hugger. And we can do that scene where someone says everything's all right, and then a big alien hand comes down and grabs them from above. And then we can do it again.  And then we can do it again.

On the other hand, maybe Moffat looked at the first draft, in which an Alien Soldier was trapped on a sub with Human Soldiers (and was eventually beaten by the Doctor holding his nerve and threatening to blow everybody up) and said "This is great Mark, really really great: it's just that in Doctor Who, everyone including evil green space vikings has to have a sensitive side. And I really, really like the idea of reintroducing an Iconic Alien Race by just showing how threatening one single individual who thinks he is the last of his kind can be. But we did that once before. Could you go and dig up the first season story with the Dalek in it and make this one more like that?" 

Which would explain why Ice Warriors have become scary pathetic creatures in a big metal suits; and why "what does the Ice Warrior look like?" was done as a big reveal, and why the situation was finally resolved through dialogue, and why we had the wholly gratuitous and nonsensical scene in which the companion is locked in a dark room with a chained up monster just before it gets loose.

If you were going to do the Naked Ice Warrior plot, wouldn't it have been cleverer to have a green slimy thing running loose around the sub for 30 minutes, and then finished Act III by revealing as a total out of the blue surprise that actually it's an Ice Warrior? But that, I suppose would have risked the mainstream audience crying out "An Ice what?

Mostly, I really liked it. It was an old fashioned, traditional Doctor Who story, made in a modern style with modern special effects and modern sensibilities. Put this Ice Warrior alongside a Troughton-era Ice Warrior, and it would be very clear that we were looking at a new version of the original creature: jazzed up a bit, more animatronics, and, of course, in colour, but definitely the same beast. The New Silurians and the New Cybermen really only had a coincidental similarity to the original versions. (This is also true of the Daleks, except insofar as anything with a dome and a sink plunger is unmistakably Dalekoid.)

The look and feel of the story — the individual shots, the pictures we see on our magic screens — were far prettier and far more atmospheric than anything that ever happened in the original series. I felt this was how the original series would have looked if it had had the time and the money. Doctor Who not as it was but as it should have been. Doctor Who as we remember it being if we are the sort of people who embellish old TV in our heads or only know Fury From the Deep from the novelisation. The Doctor and the Ice Warrior facing off in extreme close up; the Russian commander's finger, and the the Warrior's claw, hovering over the big red button; the sheer smallness and wetness of the sub — I kept thinking that it looked like and exceptionally high quality 1980s fanzine, when fans with pen and ink could pull off special effects that the BBC couldn't.

Doctor Who has been a lot of things in its time. It has been costume drama and nerdy sci-fi and action adventure and whacky and unpindownable surreal stuff with Douglas Adams and a robot dog. But if we say "This is a Doctor Who story" I think we know the kind of story we are talking about. Aliens invading London; plucky soldier boys trying to help, boffins saving the day. Big galactic empire at war; broken down freighter ship caught in the middle; Doctor mistaken for a spy. Moonbase full of scientists besieged by nasty robots. Polar base full of scientists besieged by nasty robots. Oil rig full of scientists besieged by nasty sea-weed. Lighthouse full of Victorians besieged by nasty balloon.

I do not think that the return of the Ice Warriors is a Good Thing In Itself. But once I spotted that Cold War was going to follow the good old Base Under Siege format, I certainly stood up and cheered "Hooray! Proper Doctor Who! At last!"

The attempt to do a very traditional Doctor Who story shows how wrong New Who has been allowed to go  at any rate, how far it as departed from its original format. I myself would be happy for the Doctor to be trapped in some interesting environment — submarine, temple, space ship — full of interesting non-player characters  threatened by interesting monsters on an almost weekly basis. I think that would be much better than running through five different styles in five episodes. But the Base Under Siege is no longer Doctor Who's natural storyline; Horror of Fang Rock and the Web of Fear are simply not tell-able in Moffat-style. Moffat has killed the thing he loved.

And that's OK, change is good and only the dead don't change and  a stopped clock gather no moss and so on;  but we should all accept that this is what has happened and move on. We shouldn't keep harkening back to forty year old stories in a style we've decided to jettison. Old Who was about a boffin with a magic box that he couldn't steer, who was stuck wherever it put him with nothing but his wit and his companions to help him. New Who is about a god-brat with a magic wand and an infinite supply of fairy dust. The New Doctor could have taken Skaldac back in time 5,000 years, dropped him off on Mars, fixed the submarine (or nipped back in time to a point before it was broken) and been on his way before the opening credits rolled. To set up the trapped claustrophobic scenarios that used to be the Doctor Who hallmark, there had to be a silly plot device to put the TARDIS our of action and a silly plot device to separate the Doctor from the sonic screwdriver to say nothing of a really silly plot device (and what the TV Tropes People would call a Gilligan Cut) to engineer a scene in which Clara gets to be heroic and important and the equal of the Doctor in every respect.

The B.U.S format emerged in a world of four and six part serials, long on atmosphere and suspense, punctuated by cliffhangers. There is, I grant you, some good dialogue between Clara and the Prof. I get the impression that we are meant to think that there is a sub-plot about the young Russian Officer who thinks that triggering nuclear Armageddon would be a good career move, but it gets too little screen time for us to really notice. It's structured and paced far more like a trailer for an episode than an actual story.

This is okay, too: the manic pacing works really well for mad stories like Let's Kill Hitler and silly stories like Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. But it completely prevents this kind of suspense / horror story from being either suspenseful or horrific.

Unless, of course, I missed the point again and it wasn't meant to be a suspense / horror story but a serious human drama about the futility of war which happened to borrow part of its form from the suspense / horror genre?

You may remember that Patrick Troughton never appeared in a story entitled The Slightly Different But Probably Equally Valid World View of the Daleks. During the golden age of Doctor Who monsters were evil and that was that. Some corners of the galaxy have bred the most terrible things; they had to be fought. But that doesn't work in the touchy feely 21st century emotionally literate version of Doctor Who. The Ice Warrior can't be defeated and obliterated. It has to be shown the error of its ways; and we have to have a go at seeing things form his point of view. 

I have spent the last eight years complaining that the Doctor too often defeats enemies by having a special Enemy Defeating Device in his back pocket. So I am hardly going to complain that this week the Doctor defeats his enemy by talking to it and persuading it that it doesn't really want to be quite so evil after all. 

As a matter of fact, I really liked this scene. It made sense on its own terms and in terms of the metaphor about the "ice warrior" and the "cold warriors" (and the fellow from the Red planet being trapped with the Red soviets). The idea of nuclear weapons and mutually assured destruction has been spelled out to those of us who haven't got that far in our history lesson yet. The Ice Warrior has spotted that by firing a single nuke, it can trigger a war that will wipe out the whole of the human race. Declaring war on a whole planet because one human prodded you seems a bit harsh, but he is the baddie. So when the Doctor announces (once he gets his sonic screwdriver back) that he would rather blow up the submarine himself, it makes perfect sense. It's the only way he can think of (deprived of his magic box but reunited with his magic wand) to save the earth. It's his own version of mutually assured destruction. The Ice Warrior takes off his mask, looks the Doctor in the eye and asks who will blink first. It was a really good ending. It really pleased me.

Thirty eight minutes. I'd been on board up to this point. Thirty eight minutes.

First, bloody Clara intervenes, and instead of appealing to the Ice Warrior's military honour, or facing him down tactically, she appeals to his sense of mercy and family ties. You aren't really a soldier, deep down, she says, you are really a cuddly fluffy bunny who wants to skip through the dead Martian meadows singing Ultravox songs.

I suppose that this is the only, and I used the term advisedly, politically correct ending available. If the Doctor's plot had worked it would have meant that in the end M.A.D was right and T.B.W won the cold war by outfacing Communists with nukes, but because in the end everyone decided that they'd just rather be nice. 

"Okay" says the Ice Warrior "Fair point. I won't blow up your planet after all" and is instantly beamed up by a passing Ice Warrior mothership. This is almost exactly as believable as a frozen Alexander the Great being discovered at the North Pole, and the first thing he does after he's been defrosted is send out a carrier pigeon and 40 minutes later a Greek Aircraft Carrier arrives at the North Pole to take him home. 

Yes, I know it's not meant to be real.

Third, we find out why the TARDIS vanished. This is so appalling it's actually brilliant. The Doctor has been fiddling with the TARDIS and has accidentally switched on a plot device which makes the TARDIS fly away whenever there is danger. He calls this the Hostile Action Displacement System. What is utterly wonderful is that the HADS were alluded to in once before, forty four years ago, in a story called the Krotons. (The Krotons was the only extant four part Patrick Troughton story until another one was discovered, so it was the one shown in 1981 as part of a repeat season to commemorate the departure of Tom Baker. So fans of a certain age know about the HADS.) The genius of this is that older fans, who are the only ones still paying attention, are so busy jumping up and down in excitement that they don't actually have time to notice that this was the Worst Plot Device Ever. Why did the TARDIS vanish? Because it did. But never mind. He referenced the Krotons!

Good concept, good execution, tolerable script, terrible ending, shows that classic Old Who Stories don't really fit into the New Who Format any more and the Clara's natural accent is Northern. But that's okay. Lots of planets have a North. Move on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If you have not read the comments after my last Doctor Who review, the following will probably not make much sense to you

Furthermore, if you have read the comments after my last Doctor Who review, the following will probably still not make very much sense to you.


Is the problem that we are using "empirical" and "rational" as if they were the same when actually they are very nearly opposites? 

(Rational: Only what a man in dark room with no knowledge of the world could work out from first principles is really real; Empirical: Only what you can see and touch and weigh and measure is really real.) 


I think that the existence of this question is more interesting than which side is right. 

Remember C.S Lewis's use of Haldane’s paradox. (My reason tells me that my brain is composed of atoms; if my brain is composed of atoms than my thoughts are the result of non rational chemical atomic and subatomic processes, if my thoughts are the product of non rational processes then I have no reason to believe what they tell me, therefore I have no reason to think my brain is composed of atoms.) One side thought that the problem was unresolvable, the other side couldn't see what the problem was. 

(We all know the story about how the philosophix pulled this argument apart when Lewis tried to use it to disprove the non-existence of miracles; what's often missed is that she thought that it was a proper grown up philosophical argument and that his second version was a great improvement. A.N Wilson delivers an impressive punch to Lewis when he points out that Lewis only became convinced by this argument after he became a Christian.) 


Some people say that there is nothing apart from what can be weighed and measure and expressed to four significant figures, or proved logically from first principles. 

Those people often say that beliefs about how you should live and how you should act (in particular the ones they don’t agree with) are superstitious or literally meaningless...something we should all have grown out of, like the belief that bears will eat you if you stand on the cracks in the pavement. 

So if I say that it should not be permissible for a physician to kill a patient (even if that patient is very sick and wants to be killed) (which I wouldn’t necessarily say, i incidentally) they say that i only think this because I believe in various entities who’s existence cannot be proved from first principles or weighed and measured and expressed to for significant figures -- the soul, angels, god, morals. The nice ones say that its quite okay for me to believe in such things in the privacy of my own homes, laws should only be based on things which you can weigh and measure and prove. What some of us sometimes find confusing is that it often turns out that those very same people have very strong beliefs that are very important to who they are -- that hurting people is wrong even when it is useful; that men and women should be treated the same; that you shouldn't eat horses or show your willy to strangers; that Wagner and Dylan and Picasso have a sort of floaty goldy magic regeneration stuff in them that One Direction basically don’t. When you say “but hang on a minute, you didn't find those things out by weighing and measuring or by working it out from first principles “ they often literally don’t understand the question and say “Oh, i suppose you think that only people who believe in the tooth fairy can be good, do you?”

When Mr Spock talks about logic, he is sometimes actually talking about logic, in the sense of deriving conclusions from premises. He would have no problem with saying that if I believe in such and such a thing, I would also have to believe in such and such another thing and behave in such and such a way, without committing himself on whether it was right of me to believe in the original thing or not. Vulcans are often portrayed as having very strong mystical beliefs and a very strong sense or personal honour (they are, after all, mutant Romulans, or possibly vice versa.) But they follow through on the implications of those beliefs, like an orthodox Rabbi who regards the Torah as non-negotiable but will take on all-comers in a rational debate on what it means and how you apply it. Nimoy was Jewish. 

But very often, "Logical" just means "sensible", or "scientific" or simply alien. (If Spock describes some aspect of human behaviour as illogical, he often just means "I don't understand this" or "I don't approve of this". Nimoy recorded a song, god help us, in which he argued that it was highly illogical that 

a: if a lot of people own cars and use them for short trips, they sometimes find it hard to find a place to park them and 

b: however much two people love each other, when they have lived together for a long time, each of them can start to find the other irritating. 

Terry Nation (or was it Terrence Dicks, or even Douglas Adams) thought that being logical meant being stupid. Davros, like a very primitive computer, could draw conclusions from premises but could not conceive that those premises were false. Which is true as far as it goes: I can't find out from a maths book how much money is left in my current account. But I imagine that a brilliant scientist, however mad, might have spotted that you need accurate data to work from. 

The Doctor's collywobbles about wiping out the Daleks is a bit mixed up, of course. Partly, he's worried about interfering in history at all: he doesn't really know what a history of the universe rewritten without the Daleks in it would be better or worse. Partly, it's based on the idea of absolute values -- you don't kill children or commit genocide no matter what. Partly, I suppose, it is about empathy: Sarah thinks of the Daleks as being like a deadly virus; the Doctor at some level thinks of them as people. At the beginning he accepts the Time Lord's judgement that the Daleks will eventually wipe out everything else in the universe and that this would be a bad thing. But how is that any more than an aesthetic judgement? -- it would be bad because variety is more pleasing than uniformity, it would be bad because humming birds are prettier than Daleks. If Darwinian logic says that eventually the race most perfectly adapted to survive is the only race which survives, how is that different from Newtonian logic telling us that eventually the the universe will run out of energy and there will be nothing at all? 

Forty years of fandom has inscribed Genesis of the Daleks with a meaning that Terry Nation never really intended it to have. It's all about Time Lord self interest. A Dalek dominated universe would be bad for the Time Lords so they used the Doctor as their pawn to strike the first blow in the great time war. 

When I said that I might have been happier if Clara's leaf had been defined as a "magic" leaf I think I was thinking of Tolkien and or Lewis's definition of magic as "objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed". The Key to Time is clearly magical: rules established early on state that "if you put these six bits of crystal together and make a cube, time will stop. It just will." I don't think anything would have been gained by expanding on that and saying that its made of Timestopanium which will cause the the higgs boson wifi quantum to atrophy... 

I think that the difference here is between those of us who think that if you believe in morals at all, you must believe that morals are magical, like the Key to Time: things which are there because they are there and can't be further analysed; and those who think that people worked them out or divided them or constructed them based on something else. Do you say that you should follow the Golden Rule because you should follow the Golden Rule because it is a good rule and you should follow good rules because it is good to follow good rules; or do you say that the Golden Rule is a sort of approximation, based on trial and error, of the kind of behaviour which will, all things being equal, make you and those around you fairly happy, most of the time, probably. As a matter of fact following traditional morality probably will make you and those around you fairly happy, most of the time; but if a moral rule is a moral rule and not a sort of actuarial utilitarian estimate then you have to apply it even on days of the week when it is going to make you and those around you miserable. That's why magistrates always asked pacifists whether they would stand aside if a German officer was about to kill their children: they were prepared to excuse him from military service if he really believed "Thou Shalt Not Kill" was a rule -- not if he turned out to actually think it was more of a guideline. 

The great theologian Johnny Cash said that he hoped that his preference for dark coloured clothes would draw attention to those people who didn't know about Jesus "path to happiness through love and charity". The idea that Jesus offered agape as a sort of self help system, on the lines of "a path to weight loss through yoga and cabbages" is completely off the wall: only one step up from the fellow who says "become a Christian so that your business will prosper." (Terrific song, though.) 

So the problem is not that there is an opposition between "rationality" and "morality." The problem is with people who say. "There are no magical things. Everything can either be worked out from empirical observation or derived from first principles -- oh, apart from that thing over there. That's a magical thing, obviously." 

Sadists and racists often tell the following story. 

A dusky skinned foreigner from a non-specific middle-eastern country has planted an atomic bomb under a skyscraper. He is now in the custody of a special agent who has only (for the sake of argument) twenty four hours to find the bomb. The dastardly terrorists, while brilliant in many ways, were not clever enough to train their guy hold out under torture for a short period of time, or to move the bomb to a new location should their operative be captured. So: is our special agent (lets call him "Jack" to simplify things) entitled -- indeed, morally obligated -- to horribly torture the dusky skinned foreigner in order to force him to disclose the location of the bomb? Is he, entitled -- indeed, morally obligated -- to horribly torture the dusky skinned foreigner's five year old son (who is conveniently also in his custody) in order to force him to disclose the location of the bomb. And if the suspect were to say "Actually, I can deal with torture, but like all dusky skinned followers of queer native religions I am a colossal paedophile, so if you will allow me to brutally molest your five year old son for an hour or two, I will happily tell you the location of the bomb" is Jack morally obliged to hand the little boy over. (The third example, you will note, is exactly the same as the first two, unless you have smuggled in the idea that the terrorist suspect deserves to be hurt for being a terrorist suspect and the terrorist subjects son deserves to be hurt for being the son of a terrorist suspect -- or, indeed, that white kids matter more than dusky skinned foriegn kids.) Logically, one screaming child is preferable to six thousand screaming children. But when people talk about "morals" they generally mean "I don't care if it useful or not. Torturing children is off the agenda."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Rings of Akhaten (7.8)

Here's the problem. If the Rings of Akhaten had been a Tom Baker four-parter, we would have quite liked it at the time and now think that it was about due for a thorough critical reappraisal. It would have been the weird, sentimental month of the six months of Doctor Who we were allowed each year — in between the funny month, the gothic month, the UNIT month and the genuinely not very good month. Some of the subordinate characters would have been better developed, and some of the more obvious wrinkles in the plot would have been straightened out. This would have militated against doing such a heavily symbolic story to begin with. 

But nowadays, when we are only allowed nine episodes of Doctor Who a year, every one of them has got to be sensational, particularly when Steve Moffat spends quite so much time telling us that every one of them is going to be sensational. And it's all over and done with too quickly to be sensational. It feels...there is no other way of saying this...slight. If you are doing a story about some Victorians on a lighthouse, you can afford to feel slight. If you are doing a big epic about gods and time and religion and the nature of memory and the soul and grief, you probably can't.

Yes, I know that we are all supposed to close our eyes and pretend very hard that we are still watching Season 7. You can say that the six stories we got in 2012 and the nine stories we're getting in 2013 are all part of the same season all you like, and it will remain true that the BBC is making less Who than it used to. It will also remain true that this block of stories, while not, definitely not, being a new season, does have a new theme tune, a new title sequence, a new TARDIS design, a new costume for the Doctor and introduce a new plot "arc.". (When Hislopp printed the story about the BBC cutting back on Who, Moffat went all flouncy. It turned out to be largely true.)

And here's the problem. There is the character Matt Smith is actually actually playing, the young old schoolboy, owing almost as much to Peter Davison as William Hartnell, thrilled by the universe, but out of his depth in it, who knows he is the Doctor and knows that he can't ever quite live up to being the Doctor, always thinking that the next threat is the one he can't actually cope with. Of course he can never really be out of his depth: it will always turn out that he has a thing and that thing is the exact thing he needs to save the day. In fairness, this was also true in the olden days when the world was black and white, but the writers used to take slightly more trouble to cover their tracks. Increasingly, the Doctor has not even needed to produce a canister of Antiplastic from his Doctor Utility Belt when he is fighting the Plastic Monster. Increasingly, what he pulls out of his pocket is himself: the very fact of his Doctorness defeats the enemy. (Like everything else in New Who, this can be traced back to Curse of Fatal Death: the Doctor is finally and irrevocably dead, but rises again because the universe itself can't bear to be without him.) The Doctor doesn't have a deus ex machina: the Doctor is a deus ex machina. But Matt Smith is so much more luminous and entertaining when he's being the bumbling uberboffin than when he's trying to be the messianic god-brat. 

And that's a shame, because otherwise I rather liked the story. 


Last week we had the the silly one where the Doctor tries on new clothes, meets a new companion and defeats an alien invasion by typing really, really quickly. This week we had the sensible one set in the not very well lit metaphor, where there is a huge monster-shaped plot device intended to reveal the Doctorness of the Doctor. (It all turns on compassion, especially compassion to children.) I wouldn't be surprised if next week we had the one that put an iconic monster in the middle of an historical war.

I think that this kind of metaphorical fantasy is very much the thing that Doctor Who should be doing because it is very much the kind of thing that only Doctor Who does. 

I think that Doctor Who started out as a costume drama and should go back to being a costume drama from time to time. 

I think that its nice that the Doctor is actually going to wondrous alien planets instead of just talking about them. 

I liked the final cut from the defeat of the big alien monster thing to Clara's front door, without any wrap up or exposition. 

I quite liked the use of music, although honestly an alien lullaby that's been going on for a million years ought to sound more like Gregorian chant or the Muslim call to prayer and less like something that that Andrew Lloyd Weber put in the shredder in 1986. 

I even quite liked the metaphysics although I do think that allowing someone called Cross to write about the Magical Power of Stories when the week after next you've got Neil Gaiman is a little like buying a humanoid alien dog creature called Doreen and then barking yourself. 

I did not like the pre-cred about the Leaf. The idea that this leaf is the most important leaf in the universe because it caused Clara's parents to meet is quite a nice one, and sort of kind of made sense at the denouement of the story, but the idea that Clara's father should actually say "This is the most important leaf in the universe" to Clara's Mum seemed a little bit completely impossible to swallow and not at all the kind of thing people actually say, ever. I wasn't completely convinced by the "every individual human being is unique and therefore miraculous and this refutes the idea that a purely materialistic world view is ultimately value-free" when it was put forward by a giant with a big blue willy; I wasn't any more convinced when we reprised it twice in one episode of Who.

I liked the idea that the soul is made of stories, but this only works if you equivocate shamefully about what you means by "soul" and, indeed, "story". "Soul" is a sort of a metaphor — a tool of thought — for whatever makes you "you". [*] When we talk about "souls" we mostly mean "how we think about human beings when we think of them holistically, rather than as collections of atoms and organs". So when the Doctor says that the soul is made of stories he is saying that what makes you you is the sum total of your memories and experiences. But the episode only makes sense because the word "soul" can also do service as meaning "a sort of invisible ghost that hides in your body somewhere but is separate from it". Golden glowy regeneratey stuff that vampire monsters can suck out of you and feed on, in other words. 

Nothing wrong with having a religious view of the soul hanging around in scientific universe. Nothing wrong with the Doctor respecting both ways of looking at things. But no-one had thought it through. At the start, he seems to be respectful of the aliens' religious beliefs: when Clara asks him whether all life in the universe really originated on Akhaten he replies "Well, it's a nice story." But five minutes later he is proposing wobbly scientific rationalism to the girl as a better story. Which it isn't. We don't value scientific rationalism because it's a more aesthetically pleasing narrative (which is what "good story" means) but because it is truer and more useful, for certain values of truth and usefulness. People without no imagination might say that the very quality of being true make it a better story by definition, but only because they don't understand what "story" means. And that doesn't fit in with the Doctor liking alien religions because of their aesthetic beauty and any way, I don't see how Merry being unique in a Dr Manhattan sense (unrepeatable specific arrangement of atoms and chemicals) confers on her the sort of glowy floaty soul that  aliens can eat. 

It's the same cop out as in Daemons where the Doctor debunks all kinds of faith — Jo's Aquarianism, Mrs Hawthorn's wiccanism, both the Satanism and the Anglicanism of the villagers — and then says at the end, when everyone starts Morris Dancing and drinking beer, that it's okay, there is still magic in the world after all. To which the answer is "only because you've decided to use 'magic' in two different senses, you over-dressed old phony". 

I think that this contradiction in the Doctor's personality — how the ultra-scientific, ultra-rationalist is combined with the ultra-romantic and ultra-moralistic is worth thinking about. But I am not sure that "each individual leaf, each individual little girl, each individual stereotyped welsh coal miner, each individual snow flake and presumably each individual cancer cell and each individual turd is unique, unrepeatable and infinitely valuable" actually gets us very far. 

The twists are clever, but they are arbitrarily clever. They sit there being clever twists. Clara meets a little girl who is afraid: we assume that she is afraid of baddies who want to hurt her but she is actually afraid of officials who want her to give a public performance. The Doctor says "we never walk away from trouble" but it turns out that he means that sometimes they have to run. We are led to believe that the alien mummy is the god; but it's actually the whole planet that they are in orbit around. I am told that anyone with a basic knowledge of musical theory can be taught how to write a catchy tune; I suspect that if you went to a creative writing course to learn how to write a TV script, this the kind of TV script they could teach you to write. 

The solution was rather clever, sort of, a little like one of those folk tales where the only thing bigger than the very big thing turns out to be the very small thing. (Like the one about the two cafes in the bidding war: the first one puts up a notice saying "Best coffee on this street" and the second one says "Best coffee in this town" and it escalates ... the best in the state, the best in the USA, the best on earth, the best in the galaxy, the best in the Universe. The first one thinks for a bit and realise he can still win by going back to "The best coffee on this street.") It was playing off our expectations of how Doctor Who stories work nowadays. The Doctor goes from being out of his depth, having no idea how to solve the problem, but thinking he'd better have a go because he's the Doctor, to suddenly going into one of his "I am the oncoming storm, I killed the time Lords, I have a big pointy hat and I'm not afraid to use it" speeches. I cannot help feeling we have seen this once too often. In the one with the weeing angels, and the one with the big metal cube and in the one where he first met Amy. More problematically, we've seen it parodied in the Lodger. ("No violence, not while I'm around, not today, not ever. I'm the Doctor, the oncoming storm... and you just meant beat them in a football match, didn't you?") When a series starts parodying its own cliches, it needs to find another set of cliches. Unless it can come out the other side and be post-modern about it, which it appears that it can't. 

Structurally, I liked it: the soul-eating monster wakes up and wants to feed; the little girl, who knows all the stories and histories of the planet, wants to sacrifice herself, but the Doctor won't let her; he tries to sacrifice himself (with all his infinite knowledge of the whole universe) but this doesn't satiate the Monster, so instead Clara offers her mother's pressed leaf, which we have already established is the most important leaf in the universe. The trouble is that the leaf is only the most important leaf in the universe because he father once said so; and this being Doctor Who and at least nominally science fiction, we have to at least have a stab at a better explanation than that. So we claim that while the Doctor may have memories of practically everything which ever happened in the universe, which is vast, the leaf contains all the things which were lost when Clara's mother died, which is infinite. 

I get the idea that when people invest an object with significance, they somehow invest them with Psychic Energy. I get that people have Psychic Energy inside them, and people with more memories (the Doctor, the little girl) have more of the stuff than people who have led sheltered lived. I get that the leaf could be exceptionally potent because it is exceptionally important to Clara. But I don't buy that because it is of infinite importance to Clara it actually contains an infinite amount of energy. Obviously Clara's parents are the more important to her than the whole universe but only is so far as everybody's loved ones are more important to everybody than the whole universe, in which case there is so much psychic energy available that the big monster thing would have died of indigestion a long time ago. 

"But Andrew: if, as you say, the story is based on a metaphor, isn't it unfair to be complaining that it didn't make logical sense."

Well, yes and no. I would have been relatively happy if we had said that it was a magic leaf and left it at that. But the Matt Smith has to talk for several minutes on why the leaf is more powerful than his memories, or indeed the memories of an entire civilisation, and the more he talks, the more obvious it is that he is talking rubbish and the whole episode is predicated on a metaphysical cheat. 


Clara brings nothing to the table which Amy didn't also bring. She has a thing. You may remember that Captain Jack also had a thing. Captain Jack's thing was that he had been kicked out of the time police and lost his memory. We never found out the solution to this thing. But then he got a new thing. His new thing was being immortal. The solution to that thing was that he was immortal because he had been made immortal by an immortal-making-you-thing. Amy's thing was that she had a crack in wall. I don't think we ever heard the solution to that one, either. Clara's thing is that the Doctor keeps meeting people who look like her and have similar names. He wants very badly to find out why. It isn't quite clear whether this is a cosmic thing, because he thinks that she's important to the universe, or a personal thing, because he feels bad for not saving souffle lady and is looking for a stand-in. The solution will be plucked out of the air in the final episode of the season. That solution will be the plot of the big fiftieth anniversary story. There is no point in trying to guess it because it will be made up on the spot.

As well as a thing, Clara has a personality. Clara's personality is that she wants to see the universe but also feels that she has responsibilities on earth. This was also Amy's personality. She is spunky and wise-cracky and can do one-liners and stand up to the Doctor and give him silly nick names. This was also also Amy's personality. Clara has a book called 101 Things To See. I have a horrible terrible feeling that the solution to the book will be that a malicious fairy put a curse on it so that she cannot die before she sees all the things in her book, so the Doctor, by showing her the universe, is actually killing her, but that's okay because better is one day in the TARDIS than a thousand years elsewhere. 

In the olden days, when the companion was basically a confident for the Doctor, this would not have been that big a deal. There was the one who asked the Doctor questions and said "groovy" a lot, and the one who asked the Doctor questions and went on and on about women's lib, and the one who asked the Doctor questions and stabbed people. Now the programme is a proper serious human drama about the relationship between two equally important characters it would help if you could tell the difference between this season's supporting cast and next season's supporting cast. (Sorry,   between the first half of this season and the second half of this season.) Or maybe the format is now about the Doctor and the wisecracking spunky girl and we are intended to forget that Clara is not Amy in the same way that we were meant to forget that the second lady policemen in Juliet Bravo wasn't technically the same person as the first lady policemen in Juliet Bravo. 


The Doctor last visited Akhaten with his grand-daughter. The aliens call their soul sucking alien god-planet "Grandfather". Just saying.

[*] Some people don't think that there is anything which makes you "you" and pretend that when anyone says "soul" they always really mean "glowy ghosty thing that lives invisibly in you brain" even when they don't

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do Not Let Your Happiness Depend On Something You Have Quoted Out of Context

What the internet says C.S Lewis said

"Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose."
C.S Lewis

"Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away."
C.S Lewis

What C.S Lewis actually said.

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation into which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him. Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Do not put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don't spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love, none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as "Careful! This might lead you to suffering."

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to this appeal, I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground -- because, so to speak, the security is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a friend -- if it comes to it, would you choose a dog -- in that spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves,  before one calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St Augustine's Christianity than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic "apathy" or neo-Platonic mysticism than to Charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and who, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he "loved". St Paul has a higher authority with us than St Augustine -- St Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died. 

The Four Loves (p110 - 112)

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Songs To Listen to on a Wednesday Morning

"Play it fucking loud."
Bob Dylan
And who am I who dares to keep
His head held high while millions weep?
Why the exception to the rule?
Opportunist? Traitor? Fool?
Or just a man who grew and saw
From seventeen to twenty-four
His country bled, crucified?
She's not the only one who's died...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Okay, let's take this very slowly. 

1: In pantomimes, the baddie is often called "the Witch" or indeed "the wicked Witch." The goodie is often "the Fairy", "the good Fairy" or "the fairy Godmother".  

2: In Frank Baum's anti-Christian parable "The Wizard of Oz", the heroine Dorothy (accidentally) causes the death of a character called "The Wicked Witch of the East". All the Hobbits are pleased that "The Wicked Witch of the East" has died, because she was wicked. 

3: In the 1939 movie version of "The Wizard of Oz", they sing a song of celebration. It is a very catchy song presumably suggested by the operatic version of "Hansel and Gretel". "The "Wizard of Oz" is the very epitome of camp. It is very much in keeping with this tone that the little people sing a funny happy song when someone dies. 

4: There is also a Wicked Witch of the West and a Good Witch of the North. 

5: Mrs Thatcher was an English politician. She became Prime Minister in 1978 and remained in office until it became clear that she had become insane and was ousted by members of her own party. [The neutrality of his section is disputed.]

6: She died last Tuesday.

7: The Daily Mail Apocalypse Cult, with the full support of Her Majesty's Alleged Opposition, has announced that mourning is compulsory, that anyone criticising T.B.W in any way is part of  "The Left" and therefore an un-person. 

8: The Left, who, on this definition, represent the overwhelming majority, are not bloody having it. They felt that the singing of a happy camp song celebrating the death of a Baddie in a children's movie would be an amusing counterpoint to the compulsory mourning. They bought lots of copies of the record from I-Tunes, in the hope that the BBC would have to play it on the Radio 1 Chart Show which I understand is a bit like Top of the Pops only with fewer paedophiles.

9: The point of playing a camp happy song celebrating the death of a baddie in a children's movie is that it is a camp, happy song celebrating the death of a baddie in a children's movie. The point is not that all females or all female politicians are witches. Neither do the left, on the whole, think that female neo-pagans should have houses dropped on them. Everybody knows that wiccans do not wear pointy hats or fly on broomsticks, in the same way that everybody knows that members of the Society of Friends don't particularly like porridge. 

Lighten up, for god sake, can't you. Bloody Chumbawamba use "ding dong the witch is dead" as part of the soundscape on their Thatcher album. Trying to be more right-on than Chumbawamba is like trying to be more catholic than the bloody pope. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Actually, "dissent" is completely the wrong word. The overwhelming majority of people either hated her guts or else are totally indifferent to her.

I don't think it is particularly funny, and I think that there are better ways of showing dissent. But I take it for granted that when a Nazi enters the room, every decent person present will claim to be Jewish.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

If she were (as those who knew who said she would have wished) having a quiet, private funeral in a   dignified location, attended only by family, close colleagues and maybe one invited photographer then political demonstrations of any kind would be unthinkable. 

Someone would probably still think about them, but they would be unthinkable. 

As it is, her funeral is being orchestrated by the Tory party as a Tory party political event to beatify a former leader of the Conservative Party.

Falklands themed funeral? Falkands themed funeral? With some Chalky White jokes from Jim Davidson, a revue by the Black and White Minstrels and a special celebratory episode of Jim'll Fix It, I shouldn't wonder. The policing of the funeral has actually been code-named "Operation True Blue".

So the question is not "Should we desecrate a private, religious event by holding a party political demonstration?" Of course we shouldn't. I understand that after his assassination, Osama Bin Laden was given as dignified a funeral as possible, according to the tenets of his faith. Myra Bloody Hindley was given a quick, dignified send-off in a municipal crem. [*]

But that is not the question. The question is "Given that the Tory Party has already decided to take what should, indeed, be a private, religious event and turn it into a party political demonstration should the Left a: do nothing or b: have a demonstration of their own to show that no, actually,  there is NO consensus, NO unanimity and that T.B.W is NOT the best loved English person since Churchill." 

Only a complete shit would march into Canterbury Cathedral and disrupt a solemn mass on Easter Sunday because he doesn't like the political views of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But if the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he was going to hold a special mass to pray that all members of the banking profession should be damned for eternity, followed by the ceremonial excommunication of Sir James Crosby, I think that would probably be the wrong moment to say "I don't think it is right for the Banking Community to complain about what is essentially a private, sacred, religious event." The more strongly the Left threw up a police cordon around the Cathedral and said that dissent had to be prohibited because there was no dissent and everyone agreed with the Bishop anyway except the Right who don't count, the more important it would be for some kind of  counter demonstration to be hold. 

English British Prime Ministers don't generally have big public funerals. Churchill is the last one who did. That was a state funeral. This one technically won't be. The Daily Mail thinks that this proves that the Queen and David Cameron have been infiltrated by The Left. It is an "insult" that T.B.W will only have the same kind of funeral as the Queen Mother and the Princess of Wales, in the same way that is an insult to Christians that vegetarians also have a legal right to have their beliefs respected. (This is perfectly true and not something I made up.)

The whole point of the posthumous exaltation of T.B.W is to manufacture a false consensus. Love of T.B.W and support for the Conservative party, like love of the Queen and support for the Monarchy are not political points of view, they are a base-line neutral position which all British people agree with. [**] If you don't love the Queen, T.B.W and the Tory Party then you aren't British. Once we ignored all the dissenting voices then 100% of those questioned agreed with us. There will be no art, no science, no literature, no enjoyment, no laughter, but the laughter of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no love but the love of Margaret Thatcher. 

[*] Cats are to kittens as calves are to cows. "But that's ridiculous, Andrew: have you ever tried milking a cat?" 

[**] What is the British equivalent of Motherhood and Apple Pie? "The Church of England and Steak and Kidney Pie, perhaps?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who Remembered Hills (10)

People sometimes say that something is "so bad it's good", but that's hardly ever true. Plan Nine From Outer Space, often said to be the worst movie ever made, isn't so bad it's good: it's so bad it's incredibly boring. It does sometimes happen that someone spectacularly fails to do what he set out to do (say, write edifying, tragic poetry) but inadvertently succeeds in doing something quite different (say, writing comic verse). That's why we still read William McGonogal: the things he does by accident -- bathos, mixed metaphors, mismatches between subject matter and tone -- are exactly what a skilled comedian does to raise a laugh. And it's all the funnier because he doesn't know it's funny: skilled comedians never do. (Except I think he probably does. I think that, far from being the World's Worst Poet, he was a clever man who knew precisely what he was doing.) [*]

There are people who get pleasure at watching someone fail at something: people who go along to the talent competition in order to laugh at the guy who can't sing a note. But that's really only one step up from picking on the fat kid who came last in the sack race. There were bullies who liked to laugh at Doctor Who's shortcomings. One of them was head of the BBC from 1984 to 1987. But I don't think that's what people who think that its home made quality was part of its charm are talking about.

There was a very good story called Kinda which famously contained a very bad monster: a giant pink snake that was obviously a puppet. I do not think that the giant pink snake was so bad it was good. I do not think that the giant pink snake was "part of Kinda's charm". I think that the giant pink snake represented a weakness in the script. I think that it was a mistake for the metaphorical, psychological evil to manifest in physical form in the first place, and certainly a mistake for the physical form to be a giant pink snake. The DVD version replaced the unconvincing puppet with a more convincing CGI animation. This did not remove any of the charm from the story. It didn't improve the story very much, either. It was a giant pink snake. 

Christopher Bailley (the writer of Kinda) was reportedly disappointed with the way in which his story was mounted. It was, snake apart, a pretty polished and professional piece of work. But he felt that the jungle planet looked like a garden centre and the natives looked like extras in a shampoo advertisement. The sequel, Snakedance looked fabulous; but it still looked like a fabulous stage set, not a fabulous alien planet.

It's interesting to try to imagine Kinda being remade today. Exactly the same script, mind you, but location work in a real jungle, actors who really look like aboriginal natives -- or, better yet, CGI aliens, possibly with blue skin. I don't know if this would remove any of the episode's "charm", but I do think it would change the whole tone of the exercise. I think that dialogue which worked fine when spoken by BBC actors in a studio would seem stilted and artificial on a location shoot; I think that the whole idea of an alien worlds being used as the crucible for an experimental morality play would be harder to swallow if we half-believed that this really was an alien world we were looking into. For one thing, our attention would be focused on the wonderfully convincing alien shrubbery, when it ought to have been focussed on the script.

Gerry Anderson died recently. I used to love Thunderbirds. It was always on on Sunday lunchtimes. The episodes weren't shown in any particular order. I swear they showed that one where the explorers get stuck in the alien pyramid twice in three weeks. I remember the boy next door saying that he would like Thunderbirds better if it was real -- people rather than puppets, he meant. I think that he had missed the point of Thunderbirds. If you are going to make a series in which spaceships fly to the sun and property developers physically move the Empire State Building, and where skyscrapers, space ships and pyramids can be guaranteed to explode before the third advert break, then the thing has to be done with models. Most of the time, we couldn't literally see the strings, but it was important that we could see them metaphorically. It's not that the machines are unconvincing: they are incredibly convincing. The best models anyone has ever made; far better than anything Doctor Who ever had. But still obviously models. That was the point. Gerry Anderson had better toys than we did, but they were toys and he was letting us play with them for an hour. 

And isn't that what people mean when they talk about Doctor Who's homespun quality being part of its charm. Sometimes, the special effects were genuinely bad; more often, they were pretty good; but  they always looked like something someone had made. It was never really true that the sets wobbled: no more so than in any other TV show of the era, anyway. But it is true that there was an awful lot of running down corridors. And the line "all these corridors look the same to me" really did turn up: and not always ironically. And we all understood the reason: it was filmed in a studio; there were a finite number of sets available, so you couldn't always construct an impressive location for an expository scene to happen in, so you had one all purpose length of corridor and put the minor scenes there. 

This, particularly in the Baker era, created a feeling that there was no real geography, no transitions: Tom could pop up wherever he needed to be, wandering about spaceships and nuclear bases with apparent impunity. That capacity to walk into the boss's room and say "I'm the Doctor, this is Romana, would you like a jelly baby?" is far more believable in a universe which we know (deep down) consists of six sets, one corridor, and no space in between them one which plausibly consists of the whole of London, if not the whole of space and time.  The Doctor, like Gandalf, has the capacity to be always exactly where he needs to be. New Who uses, and overuses, devices like psychic paper and the bloody sonic screwdriver to explain how he gets there. In Old Who, he didn't need them so much. We accepted, at some level, that he was in a model universe which someone had built and he could, when he needed to, simply nip behind the scenery.  

So, then: the child man who is both inside and outside your TV is also both inside and outside of the scripts. He knows he's in a play; he knows the walls are really just flats, and he can nip backstage, look behind the backdrop, slip between the cracks. That character is easier to believe in if his world, at some level, looks like a stage set. Looks like something someone has made.

What I am describing as the texture of Doctor Who was -- of course -- the result of the physical limitations of low budget TV. Clearly, nothing of that texture can possibly survive in a programme made on a high budgie, with your newfangled CGI special effects and good actors and well written scripts. And I am not suggesting that it should. The idea that New Who should be made on the same shoestring as Old Who is as silly as the idea that all children should listen to Dick Barton and there should be no TV cookery show but Fanny Craddock. But the idea of the Doctor became what it was because, or partly because, of the physical limitations of the show, and it was, in the end, that idea which made people like Doctor Who in a way that no-one has ever loved any other television programme. 

So it's to Matt Smith we have to look: has he found a away of embodying the idea of the Doctor -- both child and adult; both inside you TV and outside it; both real and fictional; not bound by the script -- in this new modern thing? 

Or is just doing a funny affectionate portrait of a clever autistic man trying to form relationships that Benedict Cumberbatch does much better in Sherlock? 

Mr C.S Lewis once wrote an essay called "Hamlet - The Prince or the Poem?" He argued that critics were too keen to focus on the psychology of the Hamlet himself, a subject that Shakespeare was demonstrably uninterested in, and fail to talk about the structural ambiance of the actual play. (This theory was one of the chief causes of Planet Narnia.) 

So I guess I could have called this essay "Doctor Who: The TV Show or the Time Lord?" Or "The Corridor or the Cosmos?"

Actually, the title it really needed is the one which Andrew Hickey has already taken. "So, Do I Even Like Doctor Who?"

And I could probably have kept it shorter by giving the answer "Yes. Oh yes." 

[*] e.g But accidents will happen by land and by sea
Therefore, to save ourselves from accidents, we needn’t try to flee
For whatsoever God has ordained will come to pass
For instance, ye may be killed by a stone or a piece of glass.