Day of the Doctor

I went to the theater and saw the latest Dr Who episode in 3D . My verdict: more than well worth it.

Steve Moffit is one of my favorite science fiction writers. I say that without making any distinction between media SF and magazine SF, a distinction which I think it proper to discard as irrelevant since around 1990, when GHOST IN THE SHELL appeared on American telly, and we entered the Golden Age of SFF Television.

I am saying that Moffit has written scripts for DR WHO which are stories as good as THE TIME MACHINE by Wells, as good as BY HIS BOOTSTRAPS by Heinlein, as good as DINOSAUR BEACH by Laumer, as good as THE BIG TIME by Lieber, as good as any and every other time travel story or time paradox story you’d care to name. The days when literary SF types could look down their nose at media SF types are dead.

My friend Keith de Candido has praise of this episode (with spoilers) over at Tor.com. http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/a-moment-of-heroism-thinky-thoughts-on-doctor-whos-qthe-day-of-the-doctorq

I agree with his compliments and disagree respectfully with his criticisms. I thought the spaceman thing was perfect, and perfectly set up. I thought all the Christmas Specials were fine (except for the wee thing that none of them mention what Christmas is, which I believe has been illegal in England since Cromwell or since the modern version of Cromwell, Political Correctness.)

Happy Birthday, Doctor.

 

36 Comments

  1. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    I was wondering if you made it and how you enjoyed it.

    I am saying that Moffit has written scripts for DR WHO which are stories as good as THE TIME MACHINE by Wells, as good as BY HIS BOOTSTRAPS by Heinlein, as good as DINOSAUR BEACH by Laumer, as good as THE BIG TIME by Lieber, as good as any and every other time travel story or time paradox story you’d care to name. The days when literary SF types could look down their nose at media SF types are dead.

    Hmm… I disagree, but it is a very fine, very close disagreement. While I do enjoy a Moffit’s tales (and his style more than Davies)…

    Moffit’s blessing (and curse, really) is that he writes stories that do a good job of sticking in the audience’s brain. (what we all wish for as creators, right?) However as they stick in the brain, being turned over and over one can find problematic holes in the narrative; ones that often become really really hard to gloss over.

    For example. The episode Blink. Good, even great episode in general. Except at the beginning, where did the object that Sally had to duck come from? Did the weeping angel throw it at her? If your nigh unstoppable without your prey looking at you, why would you do something to get their attention?

    Or consider one of my favorites, the Impossible Astronaut 2 parter. All pretty awesome except: why was Melody Pond able to call the president? Wait, before you answer, think about it a moment: Why did the little girl’s kidnappers leave her with a cell phone? (especially one set to dial Nixon) I mean I’ve never kidnapped anyone before (nor have any plans to) but I’m pretty sure one thing you should do if you do that is to make sure to not leave a phone with your victim!

    Yet I will gladly and fully admit that Moffit makes GREAT narrative payoffs, it’s only the build up where I find he stumbles, which is why I think he’s more in the silver class than the gold of your nominees as those were often air tight.

    Though I will totally give Moffit this “episode” (movie, really). So far it’s pretty tight plot wise. Yeah I have some trepidation from a meta perspective (isn’t “time-locking” the war a really huge deal?) but you know what? It was the payoff and climax that a property which has survived for 50 years earned. It actually makes me look forward to the 100th anniversary (which I might survive) and it’s 12D feature. (maybe once we’ve mastered that format, John can finally get his Chaos Kids trilogy made)

    I agree with his compliments and disagree respectfully with his criticisms. I thought the spaceman thing was perfect, and perfectly set up. I thought all the Christmas Specials were fine (except for the wee thing that none of them mention what Christmas is, which I believe has been illegal in England since Cromwell or since the modern version of Cromwell, Political Correctness.)

    I’m still going through some of the Christmas specials, but you enjoyed even the Narnia spoof? I mean I have a friend who doesn’t like Narnia near as much as I know you and I do and he really disliked that episode so I could only imagine how wretched I might find it. But I trust your tastes and if you say it was worth the time…

    Also, have you gotten to enjoy:
    http://nerdalicious.com.au/whovian-news/doctor-who-the-fiveish-doctors-reboot-a-comedy-short-by-peter-davison/

    ?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I thought it was implied that the war was not time locked because The Moment unlocked it. The weapon had a conscience and enough power to destroy a galaxy. She was the one who arranged for the Doctors to revisit themselves without causing a paradox. They even said, at one point ‘We should not be able to travel into our own past.’

      • Comment by Nate Winchester:

        Oh no, I got that part. More on a meta level. Like… isn’t the only way to stop a time war to time lock it? That sort of thing. Yeah it was awesome to see all the doctors work together to win but if you think about it, isn’t it a hollow victory? I mean if it’s a time war, then just because you moved the planet today, just means the enemy goes to yesterday and blows it up instead.

        But I’m letting it slide in my head since this could be explained in future narratives. (it could even be a quality episode of the doctor having to deal with the not-quite solution)

        Which reminds me! We’ve got the Superman story you would write if allowed (which I link to people in recommendation all the time), what would be the Dr Who story you’d write if could? Come on… it’s his 50th! Give him a birthday present. :D

      • Comment by blainemono:

        In “Harvest of Time” by Alastair Reynolds, The Master states the fact that you can’t cross your own timeline is a lie told by the Council of Gallifrey to hold power. That being said my most prized collection is an on set used screenplay for Farscape written by DeCandido. His work on Farscape and Andromeda is some of the best space opera worth watching. I look at projects he works on and they are put on my must see list. Give him my praise for a job well done in sci-fi media.

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      As a fellow Narnian, I found The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe delightful. The Christmas specials written by Moffat have been, I think, the best of the bunch, though I am still holding out for an episode where the Doctor arrives in Bethlehem as the Fourth Wiseman and saves the Christ child from Herod’s Cyberman army. Throwaway lines in some episodes indicate he was present at the first Christmas and Easter, as does the apocryphal Gospel of Moffat.

      I really enjoyed the superversive moment when Ten and Eleven flat out declared utilitarianism to be the nonsense that it is. I was worried when it looked like they were going to burn Gallifrey nonetheless to ease the burden on the War Doctor’s mind, which made their decision to save Gallifrey all the more eucatastrophic. Speaking of which, I’d say this episode had one of the happiest eucatastrophes I’ve seen in a long time in an SFF story.

      My only complaint with this episode was that the Gallifreyan military forces did not live up to my expectations. I envisioned Gallifrey as protected more by an elite warrior class armed with weapons similar to the Paradox Proctor Special Unlimited from Metachronopolis. A single Time Lord warrior should be an force to be reckoned with. Also, I would have liked to see a bit more of John Hurt’s Doctor actually fighting in the Time War, but perhaps that is best saved for another special.

  2. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    Oh, and you’re a friend of Keith de Candido? He’s written my favorite Supernatural books! (so cool when you see connections in life) I’ll have to get him to autograph one of those sometime…

    Wish they would let him write for the show.

  3. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    Much as I love the “bowties are cool” ethos, or the idea of John Hurt as the “War Doctor”, I can’t bring myself to become emotionally invested in a series that retains a homosexual lizard-woman and her human partner-in-sin as recurring associates of the protagonist.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You make a good point, and I deeply sympathize. But if I were to turn my nose up every time a Leftist with a pen decided to put in a little sucker punch mocking Christianity or advertising for the antichrist, I’d have to turn down roughly half the science fiction field. I am not going to impose a Bechdel test on my own enjoyment.

      But I completely agree, the constant little advertisements for sexual perversion in Dr Who, especially in the episodes written by Davies, are annoying.

      • Comment by Nate Winchester:

        Actually I was more annoyed by the out of nowhere swerve reveal with Mark Sheppard’s character at the end of “Day of the Moon”. I mean… gah!

        I am not going to impose a Blechel test on my own enjoyment.

        I’d say amen to that but I can’t find anything on “Blechel test”. Did you mean “Bechdel test”? (and don’t even get me started on that)

        But I completely agree, the constant little advertisements for sexual perversion in Dr Who, especially in the episodes written by Davies, are annoying.

        This is one of the reasons I’ve watched little to nothing of Davies run. (only Moffit’s) What’s even more annoying is that it seems like (from what I’ve read and clips I’ve seen) they’re ALWAYS just about perfect characters. Like… being gay or whatever removes original sin. Everyone else gets to be complex and morally ambiguous characters.

        It’s like playing an RPG where you have to take flaws with your character to get bonuses and skills and such (one of my favorite things about the Cortex system). Apparently in those worlds, “gay” or “other” gets you enough flaw points that you can build a super awesome, Mary Suish character.

        Note: All ” in this comment are quote quotes not scare quotes. Seriously, can we all figure out some way to differentiate scare, quote, and sarcasm quotes from each other?

        • Comment by Nom de Guerre:

          It’s like playing an RPG where you have to take flaws with your character to get bonuses and skills and such (one of my favorite things about the Cortex system). Apparently in those worlds, “gay” or “other” gets you enough flaw points that you can build a super awesome, Mary Suish character.

          Your hard-core perversion-pushers would likely argue, in the case of your hypothetical game, that this only demonstrates further how disadvantaged are the poor little dears.

          Modernism is an unfalsifiable proposition.

        • Comment by Pierce O.:

          Unless I am completely forgetting something, the only gay character I remember from Davies run was Captain Jack Harkness, who always struck me more as an over the top James Bond parody (anything that moves) than a serious apologia for homosexuality.

  4. Comment by bear545:

    I am a bit mixed about rescuing Gallifrey. If I understand what happened correctly, The Moment was not deployed and therefore the war was not time-locked. From previous seasons, this is a Bad Thing. The previous Doctors all stated how the Time War had warped the Time Lords, until they were as bad as the Daleks. The point was driven home in The End of Time, when the Time Lords plotted to erase all of reality so they could continue on as beings of pure consciousness. Furthermore, as the Doctor warned the Master, the horrors spawned by the Time War could now be free, with the Skaros Degradations, the Nightmare Child and The Could’ve Beeen King and his Army of Neverweres and Meanwhiles all now running loose. The Doctor sought to protect reality itself from the Hell the War had created, and now…?

    On the other hand, it could make for some really awesome future episodes….

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am not mixed about the Doctor rescuing Gallifrae. He is supposed to be a doctor, someone who saves lives.

      If you wanted to have someone let the planet die, it should have been someone else, let us say a Time Lord named The Executioner, the guy in charge of making sure the Dinosaurs died on time despite the efforts of meddlesome Time Tourists, everyone from Professor Challenger onward, to resurrect or rescue them.

      Also, in a Time Travel story, trying to stop the Doom which has already been written into eternity with stone is the basic dramatic thrust. Can the Doctor stop the corruption of the Time Lords?

      The Doctor versus the Executioner. Hmmm… let me imagine….

      The Executioner Again!

      • Comment by bear545:

        Was it an execution? That is how it was presented in this episode, but prior to that I was more under the impression that what had happened was that he sealed the Time War away from the rest of reality. As we saw in The End Of Time, the Time Lords “still” (if that word has any meaning under the circumstances) operate within the boundaries of the Time Lock, and within the boundary they are trying to escape and destroy all of reality. In that episode he could have helped his people return, but instead he sent them back because saving them would have meant the death of everything. In that way, he was saving lives, though at a terrible cost. Has saving his people now doomed everyone else? Or are the Time Lords now going back to being better, the good guys once more?

        I suppose the question for the show is now this: Can the Doctor heal his own people? Previously, the show said no, he couldn’t. But telling the doctor no has never stopped him from at least trying, and usually succeeding.

        At least we should be able to get the Master back now.

      • Comment by bear545:

        As an addendum to my last comment, what I was trying to say in my poor fashion is not that I am concerned that the Doctor brought back Gallifrey, but that the writers did, and my concern is that they will now ignore all the problems they underlined so thoroughly in previous episodes. I think it would be excellent if they show the Doctor dealing with the aftermath of bringing Gallifrey back, healing the wounds of the Time Lords and the horrors they and the Daleks unleashed. I think it would be considerably less excellent if they had a “We’re back! Everything’s fine now! Let’s throw a party!” conclusion.

  5. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    if I were to turn my nose up every time a Leftist with a pen decided to put in a little sucker punch mocking Christianity or advertising for the antichrist, I’d have to turn down roughly half the science fiction field. I am not going to impose a Bechdel test on my own enjoyment.

    I really rather prefer to turn down roughly half the science fiction field. I find Warhammer 40,000 to be more in keeping with historical Christian culture, insane as that may sound, than 90% of contemporary space/fantasy fiction anyway.

    Of course, even WH40K is not entirely free; Sandy Mitchell, for example, seems fond of randomly dropping women afflicted by the love that can’t shut up, as Steve Sailer calls it, into his stories, but these are walk-on parts in the books of one author among many, dealing with very small, ultimately fairly insignificant groups of people amongst the incomprehensible trillions populating the Imperium, and as such, can be more easily dismissed (like the sodomite lieutenant that Karen Traviss saddled Boba Fett with in Legacy of the Force, and which no author seems in a hurry to ever mention again). It’s not like Who, where these characters are interacting on a first-name basis with the main character of the entire franchise who also happens to be its personification of Goodness, or at least its foremost champion in that particular universe. It would be like the God-Emperor exchanging small-talk with a benign daemonette of Slaanesh and her corrupted Sororita companion whilst all three were on a joint excursion to investigate the Eye of Terror.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      WH40K is the like Dune or Gormenghast’s reputation. It is such an alien society, so inhuman, that it is difficult to sympathize with or appreciate the characters.There is not a human character in any of them, nor do I remember a single moment of joy or wonder at beauuty. It’s all slaughter, death, and nihilism in WH40K.

      That is, in my limited reading.

      • Comment by Pierce O.:

        There’s a few.

        Also, my friend wrote a rather nice piece on why he plays Blood Angels over on Bolter and Chainsword, which managed to even make an impression on a self described ‘staunch atheist’. An excerpt:

        “How can I look at the Noble Sanguinius, a nigh-seemless artistic combination of Saint Michael the Archangel and Jesus Christ, and not be shot through to the core with the Glory of it? Here we have a character which takes the fight to the “devils” and casts them down alone before the golden gates, in a display of iron resolve and nigh-unmatched martial skill. A character who shines almost as bright as his father (Michael means “he who is like God”, and many a priest has remarked to me that it was Saint Michael’s purity and rejection of taint that drove Satan from Heaven, that the force of his Fiat alone was enough for the battle to be won.) and who is bourne aloft by samite wings and shines in golden armor above the dirty bloodbath below.

        And most glorious of all, a character, who like the one being I love more than all else, knew at the outset that he was to die at the hands of those he loved, and without Pride or Vainglory sallied forth on his appointed day to meet the Enemy and be struck down so that Humanity might not just survive, but truly live.”

        • Comment by Nom de Guerre:

          Indeed. Where else in contemporary space/fantasy fiction, I might add, can one find grim but noble inquisitors, heroic, armoured warrior-monks (the Ultramarines in particular seem to subtly reference the Cistercian order), holy relics, haloed saints driving back demons and other explicit acts of divine intervention, all presented with the straightest of faces and without even a hint of irony or satire?

  6. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    It is, at first glance (though I do wonder exactly which lie to which you refer), but WH40K rather interestingly turns the usual Manichean dualism on its head by casting the spiritual, rather than the earthly, realm as the domain of the evil god(s), with the exception of that part of the Warp purified and controlled by the Emperor’s presence, while the Warp itself and its chaotic denizens are presented, not as having been evil from the beginning of time, but rather as having been subject to corruption from an initial state of purity. There is the old idea that the Emperor is a gestalt composed of the souls of pre-historic human shamans psychically binding themselves together to guard the nascent human race against the emerging threat of Chaos (with the Warp becoming more and more corrupt due to the interference of the decadent Eldar, among other reasons), but this particular bit of fluff so far as I’m aware, hasn’t been mentioned in years, is internally inconsistent with a number of established in-universe facts, and seems to be something that the franchise has begun moving away from in recent years; the most recent mention I can think of was in the Inquisition War trilogy originally published in the early 1990s, whereas the most recent, Horus Heresy books seem to be taking the tack that the Emperor is something completely different. Whereas in 1990’s Draco (or so I recall), the psychic Inquisitor Draco regards the (then) gestalt nature of the Emperor quite matter-of-factly, 2008’s Legion by contrast has the immensely powerful, immortal human “psyker” John Grammaticus being deathly frightened by what he sees of the Emperor’s (undescribed) true nature, and 2010’s First Heretic has demons recoiling at the very mention of the Emperor and referring to him as the “Anathema”, which suggests some very interesting implications, depending on how one chooses to interpret that word.

    As for “meaningless horror”, well, in some ways, this impression is the result of the exaggerated nature of 40K. Tanks are huge (ever see a Baneblade to scale with Guardsmen minis?), guns are huge (the emblematic Bolter is a fully-automatic, magazine-fed, .75 calibre rocket-propelled grenade launcher) men are huge (especially Catachans), and Space Marines are even huge-er (and they use chainsaws as swords), so it stands to reason that the drama and angst is going to be similarly amped up. In others ways, it’s really only like our world, isn’t it? Like Nietzsche, Chaos and its servants are continually asserting that “God is dead”, so to speak, playing upon and to certain degrees embodying the incomprehensible, madness-inducing, uncaring vastness of the universe as conceived of by Lovecraft, taking Darwin’s ideas to their logical conclusion, which leaves the Imperium to grimly defend the idea that mankind isn’t just the result of a random throw of the evolutionary dice but instead exists for a reason, and as such, is worth fighting for. It may be horrible, but it certainly is not meaningless from their perspective, not when Colonel-Commissar Gaunt realises that the nun who’s been chatting with him has, in fact, been dead for several centuries, or when Remembrancer Euphrati Keeler fends off demonic manifestations armed with nothing but her faith in the Emperor, or when rough-and-tumble Space Wolf Ragnar Blackmane is left in awe by a personal experience of what can only be described as the presence of God.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      I admit to reading an old sourcebook for WH40K for my information, plus a novel recommended by a friend which was little more than angsty ultraviolence with a high body count. Well-crafted pulp, to be sure, but still very pulpy.

      I guess it comes down to what the Emperor is. According to my memory, the Imperium believes the Emperor is a god, and meanwhile the best-kept secret is that the Emperor is not a god, merely a contingent being. This formerly human creature is now stuck on life support waiting for the moment his body finally dies and the Imperium is overrun by Chaos. Unless there is some other thread behind the side of good, and of a deeper and more lingering origin than Chaos, the universe is atheistic. This means that however they feel about it, the good guys fight an absurd losing fight against demons who will, in the end, defeat the Imperium and consume the cosmos.

      It’s very British, really. Spiritually, it evokes an honest atheistic worldview complete with the trappings of a high science. It retains a lingering Christian memory of evil, and it expresses a longing nostalgia for the days of Catholic England. This nostalgia is self-aware, cynical, hateful and hopeless. England wants her knights and brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and England misses her empire, and England hungers for faith. Meanwhile, England believes these to be impossible lie, which is, however noble, in the end doomed to failure. They have more faith in the devil to win than in God to exist.

      I find it very tiring to immerse myself in that universe. It is illuminating, of course —

      — “illuminating.” What a word.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      Now that I’m looking it up, I’m finding more to support the comparison between England and the WH40K universe — Lorgar, author of the holy book of the Imperial Cult, attempted to worship the Emperor and was rejected by the Emperor. That’s when Lorgar looked for gods, and found them, and they were unspeakable Lovecraftian horrors.

      It is inverted, definitely.

  7. Comment by Nom de Guerre:

    I admit to reading an old sourcebook for WH40K for my information, plus a novel recommended by a friend which was little more than angsty ultraviolence with a high body count.

    Which sourcebook, if you don’t mind my asking?

    Well-crafted pulp, to be sure, but still very pulpy.

    I think our host might take offense to that attitude. ;)

    I guess it comes down to what the Emperor is. According to my memory, the Imperium believes the Emperor is a god, and meanwhile the best-kept secret is that the Emperor is not a god, merely a contingent being. This formerly human creature is now stuck on life support waiting for the moment his body finally dies and the Imperium is overrun by Chaos. Unless there is some other thread behind the side of good, and of a deeper and more lingering origin than Chaos, the universe is atheistic. This means that however they feel about it, the good guys fight an absurd losing fight against demons who will, in the end, defeat the Imperium and consume the cosmos.

    That’s not an unreasonable conclusion to draw from a superficial assessment of the franchise, but the actual texts of the novels tend to give the lie to it. As I mentioned previously, the idea of the Emperor as a contingent being doesn’t seem to have been directly touched upon in the fluff for a couple of decades now, if I’m not mistaken, and might actually be actively contradicted by current accounts (the Chaos gods, on the other hand, are very contingent), but also, the Emperor is consistently shown to be more powerful than Chaos, both personally, and via the faith of the protagonists, and while it’s generally acknowledged that the Emperor will likely die one day, what happens next is not certain. There are various theories floating about, some more hopeful and others less, but the most ancient of the Space Marine chapters (and the 100% psychic, demon-hunting Grey Knights, who should know better than anyone), bolstered by prophetic visions of their mysteriously-vanished founding fathers, maintain that on the Last Day, the Emperor will rise from his throne, and, accompanied by all the heroes of the Imperium’s long history, will defeat Chaos once and for all.

    It’s very British, really. Spiritually, it evokes an honest atheistic worldview complete with the trappings of a high science. It retains a lingering Christian memory of evil, and it expresses a longing nostalgia for the days of Catholic England. This nostalgia is self-aware, cynical, hateful and hopeless. England wants her knights and brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and England misses her empire, and England hungers for faith. Meanwhile, England believes these to be impossible lie, which is, however noble, in the end doomed to failure. They have more faith in the devil to win than in God to exist.

    A stirring statement, but again, I’ll have to disagree, primarily with the assertion that 40K is atheistic, which completely goes against the basic fundamentals of the Warhammer universe, those being that Good exists, Evil exists, actions have spiritual as well as material consequences, death is inevitable and thus life should be spent virtuously in the service of a higher cause than one’s own pleasure and God not only exists but also actively intervenes in the doings of Man.

    I find it very tiring to immerse myself in that universe. It is illuminating, of course —

    — “illuminating.” What a word.

    I find it invigourating. The starkness of its world-view is a wonderful antidote to today’s pervasive, fuzzy Liberal/New Age sentiments, and the fact anything so completely contrary to the spirit of the age could not only survive but also thrive is tremendously cheering to consider.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      Which sourcebook, if you don’t mind my asking?

      Forget what it’s called, but its the main rulebook. I also leafed through codices for the Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, the Imperial Guard, the Tau and the Necron; those don’t have much extra content to them.

      It was an old copy, torn and tattered, so that might be my problem.

      I think our host might take offense to that attitude. ;)

      No need! I love well-crafted pulp, ex. Batman: The Animated Series. That said, only some of Mr. Wright’s stuff is really all that pulpy, and all of it has something more to it besides. The Hermetic Millennia is deceptively pulpy, but there’s some real brilliance hidden in how that book is structured — that’s not even touching on the subtleties of The Golden Age or the Everness books.

      That’s not an unreasonable conclusion to draw from a superficial assessment of the franchise, but the actual texts of the novels tend to give the lie to it. As I mentioned previously, the idea of the Emperor as a contingent being doesn’t seem to have been directly touched upon in the fluff for a couple of decades now, if I’m not mistaken, and might actually be actively contradicted by current accounts (the Chaos gods, on the other hand, are very contingent), but also, the Emperor is consistently shown to be more powerful than Chaos, both personally, and via the faith of the protagonists, and while it’s generally acknowledged that the Emperor will likely die one day, what happens next is not certain. There are various theories floating about, some more hopeful and others less, but the most ancient of the Space Marine chapters (and the 100% psychic, demon-hunting Grey Knights, who should know better than anyone), bolstered by prophetic visions of their mysteriously-vanished founding fathers, maintain that on the Last Day, the Emperor will rise from his throne, and, accompanied by all the heroes of the Imperium’s long history, will defeat Chaos once and for all.

      Really interesting stuff, right there, the transformation of the franchise. What I wrote would have to be modified — WH40K was at one point definitely atheistic, but has grown to incorporate more Christian trappings. Similarly, England has hit or will soon hit life at the bottom, and is beginning to look up toward the stars, to paraphrase Wilde.

      Is it still canon that the Emperor refused worship, and preferred a state based on “science and reason?” Or was that, along with his origins, also retconned out? Similarly, if the desiccated corpse on the Golden Throne is not really dead but living and active in the lives of the people of the Imperium, then that is a really different picture than the old sourcebook has it, which paints a more existentially absurd picture, and is more absolute about the casual, purposeless, meaningless deaths of characters.

      The starkness of its world-view is a wonderful antidote to today’s pervasive, fuzzy Liberal/New Age sentiments, and the fact anything so completely contrary to the spirit of the age could not only survive but also thrive is tremendously cheering to consider.

      What I mean by illuminating: It is good to get inside the mind of a popular franchise, especially one full of hyperbolic extremes, because to do so teases out a lot of what people are thinking. It is good that it is stark, and it is refreshing that it is very masculine, even hypermasculine. Folks are definitely hungry for that.

      What was no so pleasant for me was the sense I had that it is so bleak and hopeless. That it was, at the time of my reading, bleak and hopeless was a sign that it is not very Christian but rather atheistic at the root. Christian hope in the resurrection is what rejuvenates the way we look at the world, and WH40K didn’t have that. If it does now, that really is an extraordinary transformation.

      There was no hope, and there was no resurrection, but it seems there is now. If that of all things is being changed, what does that say about what people are thinking? That is really incredible.

      In which books of the franchise could I find these things?

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        Ah, I see your original comment has some recommendations.

        Has anyone else besides yourself noticed or commented on the implications of this shift in WH40K?

        • Comment by Nom de Guerre:

          Not that I think of, at least off the top of my head. This page has a brief summary of 40K apocalyptica though:

          http://www.belloflostsouls.net/2010/09/40k-lore-end-times.html

          You’re quite correct that the franchise has changed over the years. Going by what I’ve read, I’m guessing the codices you paged through were from the 3rd Edition, which has been noted by fans to have been far more nihilistic than any version before or since; these days,things tend to be, if not exactly sunny, at least a bit more optimistic, as in the book Imperial Glory, where almost the entirety of a veteran Imperial Guard regiment is slain trying to (ultimately successfully) defend a small colony from an Ork horde, but are then immediately reunited in the afterlife. Even the art’s different: back in the day, John Blanche was more or less the 40K artist, and he was fond of making the Imperials just as debased and corrupt-looking as the servants of Chaos. These days, however, the glory-boy is Raymond Swanland, whose luminous, heroic imagery couldn’t be more different:

          http://www.blacklibrary.com/Images/BL/blog/2011/10/big.JPG

          As for recommendations, I can’t think of a better place to start than the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Being as it focuses on a Guard Regiment, rather than Space Marines or Psykers or Inquisitors, you get a more human-scaled perspective on the universe, and there’s a fair bit of reference to religious practice, including confession among other things (Necropolis has a particularly nice bit where the series’ eponymous Colonel-Commissar Gaunt is spiritually re-energised by listening to the choir of a hive-city’s main cathedral singing hymns glorifying the Emperor). After that, I’d suggest perhaps the Shira Calpurnia books, which follow the exploits of an officer in the Adeptus Arbites (which is sort of like the Imperium’s version of the FBI crossed with Judge Dredd) and also cover a lot of details of day-to-day life for various classes of people in the Imperium as well as more details on (Catholic-esque) religious practices, and then William King’s Space Wolf books.

  8. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    For those so interested, the entertaining Chuck of SFDebris has released his review of Day of the Doctor. I liked it as he did bring up many of the points that bugged me.

    Now the real question: While of course I will say nothing against John Hurt (who I always picture having some role in every SF story I end up reading, the man rocks), what episode might we have had had C.E. shown up to play his role?

    If given a TARDIS, who here would like to see that episode and how it would have turned out?

    • Comment by Nom de Guerre:

      Some fans have seen Hurt as Ayatani Zweil, the itinerant Imperial priest who slips into the role of Regimental Chaplain in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts books. I have to say I think you’re on to something…

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