At Least One Regeneration Ago, Composing, 23/07/2017

As you know from my posts on Patreon, Twitter, and Facebook, I’m going to spend the next six months or so editing my philosophical essays on Doctor Who from 2014 to this coming Xmas into a single volume on the Capaldi era as a whole.

But that means doing something that most writers dread – I have to read stuff that I first wrote nearly three years ago.

Back to the early days. Not that early, though.
It’s not painful, per se. But I can definitely see how much I’ve grown over the last few years as a writer. Especially as I got used to the norms and conventions of writing on the internet.

I’ve gotten a lot better through writing this blog at expressing myself clearly, in comprehensible chunks, still holding the argument together, with the kind of jabbing punches and weaves that the dynamics of reading online require. It’s a tricky balance.

I did a much better job of getting over the pretensions of academic prose than a lot of other phds. Probably because I always hated the most pretentious, pedantic, and long-winded hot air flaming up at me from the pages of those turgid, wretched journals. So I never wrote like them at all.

I tended to overlong sentences in the old days, as you can tell from pretty much any of the posts you look at before about . . . . oh, 2014 in the start of winter, I’d say. My business communications program was a big help, actually. It dunked me back into the basic skills that you need to write accessibly.

It’s one of the unfortunate paradoxes of how humanities education works today. We’re great at teaching students to write technical, disciplinary essays. But the typical undergraduate curriculums in disciplinary humanities programs train you to write like an academic. You have to go somewhere else to learn to write like a real person.

So what do I see in these old Doctor Who essays? Well, the very first one about “Deep Breath” is a bit of a grab-bag that focusses on several different ideas. But the most important one has to do with misdirection.

That narrative slight-of-hand that’s Steven Moffat’s most perfect technique. He makes you think a story will go in one kind of direction, but then it turns in another. When you look at the whole narrative, you see the setup for the turn just as you saw the setup for the expectation. But the evidence for the turn is hidden, while the expectation is broadcast and flashed for you to see blatantly.

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Samuel Anderson made a
beautiful story together, unique in the history of Doctor Who. It'll
be a joy to revisit their story for this project.
Yes, literally narrative slight-of-hand.

When I start editing “Deep Breath” for the book, which I’ll probably get to around the end of August and into September, I’ll focus on this theme of narrative misdirection much more. The ways that it plays out in the main text of “Deep Breath” and in the promotional material surrounding the start of the Capaldi era.

As well, how that first slight-of-hand – that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor would be darker, somehow, than the previous portrayals since 2005 – shaped how the entire four years of his time would proceed.

A major aspect of the Doctor’s character in the Capaldi-Coleman period is the Doctor’s alienation from his human companions and friends. Yet, as the 2017 season shows us, that didn’t need to be how Capaldi’s Doctor worked out.

That’s a very curious tension in the character that I want to explore in my rewrites. This was a project that began on impulse, as something that I liked to do as I figured out what the next phase of my career would be. Now I get to add my own grand narrative to what at the time was an improvisation.

Should I?

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