monoliths

This is a repost of something I wrote several years ago now which I mentioned (will mention?) on the latest (next?) episode of the podcast and therefore thought I should make available. 

It’s something I noticed first reading (of course) Lawrence Miles, and it was odd: the idea that Doctor Who, the show I was watching on the TV in 2008 or whenever it was I first encountered Miles, was in some way fundamentally different from the thing that I consumed in paperbacks and VHS tapes borrowed from the library. It seemed seemed very odd to me. It’s called Doctor Who! It’s a television programme about a Time Lord called the Doctor who travels in a blue box called the TARDIS with a series of pals and has cool adventures. Moreover, it’s in-continuity – how could it be any different?

(Similarly, reading Andrew Rilstone here (which is what made me think of this) talking about how profoundly different Star Wars the film and Star Wars the extended universe are: it just would not have occurred to me as a Star Wars-loving kid. It’s Star Wars, it’s all one thing! It's got the logo on and everything! Look, in the back of this novel that’s the conclusion to a years-long series about extragalactic invasion they had round-robin discussion between all the authors where they talk about having a meeting George Lucas and his giving the go-ahead!)

I was never nearly as interested in the behind-the-scenes aspect of the show (never watched much Confidential, though that was largely down to our only having the terrestrial channels at the time), so I guess it probably didn’t really start affecting my thinking until I read Miles’ Last Interview Ever Ever Ever which I think might now be lost to the internet winds. The key thing about that was his talking about how Doctor Who writers had arguments about how things should go, and, indeed, personal drama and disagreement between some of them.

Arguments? Drama? Disagreement?

The thing is, especially as a younger person, I didn’t really care about who was making the things I liked (I suspect this is an attitude more common in people who aren’t in the habit of e.g. writing thousand-word screeds about the latest episode of Doctor Who, and that in being peculiar among the peculiar I am, in fact, being normal). Sure, I knew their names, but I wasn’t really that interested in how the Hinchcliffe era differed from the Nathan-Turner era in theme and tone or whatever. I viewed the things I watched and read and listened to as undifferentiated masses, monoliths that sprang into being through some distant, unseen creative effort, with no thought for the realities of production or any potential compromises that had to be made. I didn’t, and didn’t really want to, think about the fact that there might have been people within the production team who disagreed about the direction of the show.

This isn’t a death of the author thing or what-have-you; there was no sound rational basis – I just didn’t really want to know whether this or that thing was changed for budget reasons. I wanted my stories to be pure, unalloyed by the grubbiness of practical considerations. I suppose, though this is probably misusing the terminology slightly, I was a Watsonian trying not to think about Doylism at all. I guess there’s probably some point about how I’ve been conditioned not to see these things as works but as brands, one big ongoing story with (quality considerations aside) interchangeable creative teams doing A Run until they pass out and the next round of poor souls are strapped into the machine (you know, like they do with comics). That mention of the Star Wars logo earlier wasn't flip, either – I distinctly recall being concerned about the canonicity and official-ness of things. Were they sanctioned by the Correct and Proper Authority? This is probably why I never got into fanfiction.

The idea that things that share names are sometimes profoundly different types of things is a mindset that I still haven’t completely internalised. I acknowledge that it’s valid and as far as it goes, probably “correct”, but it’s still not a natural mode of thinking for me.