Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


We're All Stories In The End
June 15, 2011 9:51 AM   Subscribe

In other words, months before The War Games, The Mind Robber has quietly given us an origin story for the Doctor that is almost, but not quite, what we eventually get from the later "official" version. - Philip Sandifer discusses an alternate origin for Doctor Who.
posted by Artw (43 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Miles and Wood go to great lengths to arbitrate this, coming up with one of the best distinctions between science fiction and fantasy I've ever seen. Science fiction, they argue, is about man's relationship with his tools, whereas fantasy is about man's relationship with symbols and language.

I'm really tickled by this description, not least because of the dilemma presented by things of that span both sides of it, like programming languages.
posted by weston at 10:10 AM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm more accepting of this idea than I am of half of the most recent season's plots.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've noticed a distinct uptick in Who discussion in the blue lately (and even a bit in the gray). I expect that at the current rate of acceleration we'll reach the Who singularity, where every post will be Who-related, sometime in the early Fall. NOT WHO-IST
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd expect a bit of a drop off.
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Doctor's origin will always be opaque and ambiguous. His past changes from time to time. We don't even know the man's name.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2011


I'd expect a bit of a drop off.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. They did that with the end of the Tennant/RTD run and I had the shakes for months.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dammit. 2012 is going to be a rough year in our household.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:34 AM on June 15, 2011


The alternate origin is freaky cool.

The alternate scheduling for 2012, not so much.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:47 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm more accepting of this idea than I am of half of the most recent season's plots.

I had a tiny bit of a fear that Gaiman would try to cram something like this in, which would have been a bit of an awkward cliche from him. Glad he didn't - he's smart enough not to be a parody of himself.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Need to go back and re-watch "The Mind-Robber," if I can muster it now that I'm getting used to the updated production standards.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:11 AM on June 15, 2011


Cool, "The Mind-Robber" is on Netflix Instant Watch.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:15 AM on June 15, 2011


Well, we may not know his past, but we do know his future - getting it on with his half-human sorta-kinda love child.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:53 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's my crazy idea for how Doctor Who should finally end... The Doctor dies but regenerates into the first Doctor. His life was a Timey-Wimey mobius strip.
posted by drezdn at 12:33 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's my crazy idea for how Doctor Who should finally end... The Doctor dies but regenerates into the first Doctor. His life was a Timey-Wimey mobius strip.
posted by drezdn


I don't see a reason why Doctor Who should ever end. It's not like they could run out of stories to tell in all of time and space, or personalities for him to have.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:36 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's an interesting idea, but having watched a lot of Doctor Who on DVD with the info text on (including The Mind-Robber), I think it way overrates the amount of overall canon-frame thinking that went on in early Who.

If you don't watch with the info text on, you're missing a lot of fun. Also, it makes some of the really unbearably slow early episodes go a little faster when you have the info text on screen. Sadly, I don't think you can get info text on streaming Netflix.
posted by immlass at 12:51 PM on June 15, 2011


"The Mind Robber" is, probably, my favorite Troughton story that exists in full and this is an interesting theory -- though it's not even my favorite fan created theory about Season 6.

I'm interested to see more "academic" readings of the show from those viewing it through the media studies type lens -- because the more of it there is, the better chance that some of it will actually be worth reading... which hasn't been the case in my experience so far. Pre-Internet... or at least my access to it... I tracked down a copy of Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text after reading about it somewhere, and it was a horrible disappointment. After that, I went through my pretentious collegiate phase and probably would have liked it had I discovered it then -- though having taken a look at it again recently, my teenage opinion of it still stands.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:07 PM on June 15, 2011


Ooo, I haven't watched The Mind Robber in a while. I know I've got a copy somewhere. I think I'll do that this evening. Troughton's my favorite. He had that whole "distract someone with conversation so Jamie can sneak up from behind and hit them over the head" thing going.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:08 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting idea, but having watched a lot of Doctor Who on DVD with the info text on (including The Mind-Robber), I think it way overrates the amount of overall canon-frame thinking that went on in early Who.

I don't think the author is arguing that original group of 1960s DW writers and producers had a huge canonical universe in mind when they created the character, but rather that through the process of television series production they stumbled upon an archetypal figure embodying a set of meanings far beyond anything that they could've consciously put into it.

Not that this is unique: Superman started out as a cod 4-color knockoff of Doc Savage and other more forgettable pulp characters, but he's grown in the telling into a straight-up embodiment of American cultural dominance and a modern messiah besides. All stories are at some level about the stories that came before them, and there's almost always something fairly profound when you break through to the bottom-most layers.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2011


Hmm...

@steven_moffat: Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I'm not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we're ready. Hush, and patience.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on June 15, 2011


I don't think the author is arguing that original group of 1960s DW writers and producers had a huge canonical universe in mind when they created the character

I think that saying they had anything like that in mind is way overrating what they were thinking about. To say they were even considering anything like metafictional analysis doesn't seem to follow from what the surviving production people talk about in commentary and documentary features.

That Doctor Who survives and thrives because he embodies archetypes is easy to argue. To say the Land of Fiction has anything to do with a consistent and coherent theoretical background--to the extent that there is one--for the series is entirely different. I don't think the blogger is carrying his burden here; YMMV.
posted by immlass at 1:32 PM on June 15, 2011


I live in the US so I'll come back and click on those links in a week. Don't ask why, there's no good reason.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 1:53 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


@steven_moffat: Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I'm not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we're ready. Hush, and patience.

Good on him for holding firm. Worth noting that he tweeted that twice.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2011


The Mind Robber is my favorite Classic Who, period.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2011


This isn't a one off post. Sandifer's covering every story, starting right at the beginning, and as he's six months in there's every chance he'll do them all. Nobody will agree with every point he makes but there's a ton of interesting material in there.
posted by joannemullen at 4:40 PM on June 15, 2011


The AV Club is alsorecapping classic Who.

I've also figured out the plot of the next episode. The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River intend to keep looking for young River, but the Tardis drops them into Vienna in 1907. Thinking that his 'sexy' wants him to relax before searching in earnest, The Doctor takes the group to a cafe and they get involved with a group of hot young bohemians. River is instantly taken with one of them, an intense young art student. It plays out much like the first half of 'Vincent and the Doctor', only the attraction between River and the unnamed student is mutual. After spending the night together, River sighs and says 'you're the best man I've ever known'. Then she shoots him in the head.


We later find out that she's not in Stormcage for the murder but because killing Hitler is such a massive violation of causality.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:50 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Science fiction, they argue, is about man's relationship with his tools, whereas fantasy is about man's relationship with symbols and language.

[keanu] Whoa. [/keanu]
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:53 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, like all of Gulliver's lines, it's actually from Swift, but we are, I think, meant to assume that what he says is true, if oddly phrased) The obvious answer is that the Doctor is originally from the Land of Fiction. In fact, if we take Gulliver's line at face value (and there is admittedly some reason not to, though it seems to me given the rest of the story there's more reason to), the Doctor must hail from the Land of Fiction. You cannot be a traitor to a land you are not from.

...aaaaand you lost me when you tried to build a 'must' on a foundation of 'assume' and 'face value'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2011


We later find out that she's not in Stormcage for the murder but because killing Hitler is such a massive violation of causality.

There was actually a Midnighter (the badass gay Batman-analogue from The Authority) comics story a few years back that dealt with a similar theme.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:09 PM on June 15, 2011


So, talking of River's victim.... does anyone else think it's reasonable to assume that it was someone Father Octavian was acquainted with? I watched Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone again recently, and I've been thinking about his conversations with River and the Doctor. It seems to me that while they're certainly vague, they hint at more than secondhand familiarity on Octavian's part.
posted by weston at 6:13 PM on June 15, 2011


From what Octavian said, it seemed like someone the Doctor knew…I'm guessing she killed the Doctor. In the first episode of the season. Thus the "Of course not." when she tried to shoot the astronaut when it was walking back into the water. Also, the quick camera change after the Doctor said "It's okay, I know who you are." and as it raises the visor.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:03 PM on June 15, 2011


The show wants us to assume she killed The Doctor, so she probably killed Rory. Unless it's a double fake-out.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:22 PM on June 15, 2011


It's quite possible Moffat will go to the Rory dying well so many times that everyone will finally go "No WAY he's going to die this time!" just in time for him to die.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:38 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about his conversations with River and the Doctor. It seems to me that while they're certainly vague, they hint at more than secondhand familiarity on Octavian's part.

Also, when River introduces the Doctor to Octavian ("I promised you the equivalent of an army"), Octavian look like he knew of the Doctor.
posted by prettypretty at 5:15 AM on June 16, 2011


I think I've figured out more or less exactly what's going to happen, given all the different loose threads and plot points up to this point in the series, but I'm not going to say (spoilers). My wife's sworn me to secrecy because my track record's pretty good in the area of plot forecasting. Still, I'm gonna write my speculations down and put them in a sealed envelope until after the second half of the season, just to see how accurate they turn out to be. "Who" is the rare kind of show that (for better or worse) often defies my expectations.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:33 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


What defines Doctor Who is the fact that its story never has to end. That any story worth telling can be told as a Doctor Who story, and that there is no upper bound to the number of Doctor Who stories that can be told. Of course the Doctor is the destined and designated Master of the Land of Fiction. Who else possibly could be? What other person in the universe, real or imaginary, could possibly have the job of telling every story that ever was?

And that right there is the whole reason I keep watching the show. Every once in a great while, when the Doctor isn't shacking up with a woman he's technically known since she was a baby, or rescuing dumbasses in hazardous factories or mines in the not-too-distant future, there will be a line here or a subplot there that scratches the surface of just how big this story can be. Those bits make the episodes with pirates, or human female TARDISes, or people kissing David Tennant, almost worth it.
posted by Saellys at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every once in a great while, when the Doctor isn't shacking up with a woman he's technically known since she was a baby

I was pretty skeeved out by this, but maybe they'll explore it in the 'I'm actually 900 years old. All human lives are brief to me' way they do in vampire romances.

Wait.. that sounds horrible.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:53 PM on June 16, 2011


I seem to be the only person not skeeved out by the Doctor and baby situation. He only saw her as a baby for what, less than 3 minutes? It's not like they had any kind of bonding in that time. It could have been the baby of any other companion and he would have reacted in much the same way. To me, it's about on the level of seeing someone's baby photos and thinking they're cute. But maybe I'm missing something?
posted by harriet vane at 12:23 AM on June 17, 2011


To me, it's about on the level of seeing someone's baby photos and thinking they're cute. But maybe I'm missing something?

What I've gleaned from the story so far and from theories and hints is that it's not the last time he'll meet River before they hook up. I think it actually creeps me out more from River's perspective--he's kind of a father figure to her. In a way, her "love story" with the Doctor echoes Amy's obsession/infatuation with him from the time she was a little kid. I'm also just sick and tired of companions falling in love with the Doctor, and I hoped that crap would end when Tennant left.
posted by Saellys at 7:33 AM on June 17, 2011


It's more complicated than just a father figure relationship, though. She's going one direction while he's going another.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:42 AM on June 17, 2011


Also she was engineered as a weapon to destroy him. That's an added wrinkle not generally present in any kind of similar situation. Also he first kissed her in his timeline BEFORE he met her as a baby. So he's excluded from being considered creepy for it.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2011


As tired as I am of the companions falling in love with the Doctor, I will say this for River (and for Jack Harkness before her): at least she's a time traveller in her own right, and that gives her some sophistication that makes her more of an equal to the Doctor than the 20-ish human girls he likes to travel with. I'm less skeeved by River and the Doctor than I am by the idea of him getting it on with (comparatively) naive and innocent Earth girls who have no idea about time travel or the universe beyond Earth until they meet him. To me that feels far more like an icky abuse of position and power than the Doctor making out with another time traveller that that he eventually finds out is the child of another companion and that he saw as an infant (or at least saw a duplicate of the infant form of).

I've never been bothered by the companions wanting the Doctor (although I think in some cases the writing has been reductive of more complex emotions), but I feel very strongly that the Doctor should be a better man than to give in even if he feels a return spark. River is a lot less "Don't Stand So Close to Me" than Amy; I'm glad Moffat addressed the issue with Amy even if he's letting River mack on the Doctor.
posted by immlass at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched the 'Mind Robber' last night in response to the blog post in the FPP. I was actually kind of disappointed - this post made it out to be way more involved than it actually was. Yeah, it was kind of trippy but in the end it was about 1/10th as deep as it was made out to be. At the end, when it turned out to be another "we will conquer the Earth" alien menace I was really let down.

I then read the rest of the blog and realized that the blogger would be perfect for MetaFilter - he has the power to contemplate the mere potential of a bean on a plate for hours on end.
posted by charred husk at 7:12 AM on June 24, 2011


This is unrelated to the Mind Robber, but does anyone know of a Mindless Ones-style take on the Time War? Especially since we'll probably never see it onscreen, it seems ripe for an over-educated blogger's fan fic take on it, one that would be more enjoyable probably than anything we'd ever get onscreen. It would be pretty easy to, say, loop the Genesis of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks, even the TV movie into a sort of timey wimey narrative of a secret war.

The end of the RTD/DT era seems to have made this a moot issue, especially now that we've seen Gallifrey with Dalek saucers strewn about it, but the loss of the Time War basically means two things in the Moffat era: first, there's no more general context, no continuous universe, shared by the characters; second, the Doctor doesn't really have a story arc of his own anymore, which is partly why I imagine SM created this "Who killed the Doctor?" serial, which unlike the Time War doesn't actually tell us much about the Doctor's character.
posted by johnasdf at 12:00 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older The Triumph of New-Age Medicine...  |  William Temple Hornaday was an... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments