Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled
setsuled

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The Attractive Volcano



It's possible I spent too much time thinking about Doctor Who yesterday. I did my laundry and started sewing buttons on trousers for suspenders and, as I did so, I listened to two Doctor Who audio serials, the Sixth Doctor story The Apocalypse Element and the Seventh Doctor story The Fires of Vulcan. If the latter story's title makes you think of the Tenth Doctor episode "The Fires of Pompeii", you're not alone. But the resemblance doesn't end there--the broadcast from September 2000 also features a story about the Doctor travelling to Pompeii a day before the volcano is to erupt. I assumed the Wikipedia article would have a note about how the episode was inspired by the audio play, which has been the case for a few episodes of the new series, but it doesn't.

Anyway, I was compelled to watch the episode again last night to see if there were any other similarities or if the Doctor makes any mention of his previous visit to Pompeii at the very same time. The "canonicity of the audio dramas, as with other Doctor Who spin-off media, is unclear"(Wikipedia) but since the Eighth Doctor rattled off all his audio play companions in Night of the Doctor, and in the article for the serial preceding The Fires of Vulcan, The Apocalypse Element, Russell R. Davies is quoted as saying the adventure is an "opening skirmish" in the Time War, it seems like the new series is at least in part interested in acknowledging the audio plays.

The only possible reference I could see in Pompeii to Vulcan was that people in Pompeii had a tendency to call the TARDIS a "temple". In Vulcan, it's mistaken for a temple of Isis and the Doctor and his companion Mel are taken for messengers of Isis.



Here's the main point where Pompeii is superior to Vulcan--Mel is justly considered one of the worse companions of the series and her chatty, bubble headed wanderings in the city become kind of grotesque compared to Donna's heartbroken concern for the doomed inhabitants. Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor conveys a sense of real sorrow but he has his own problems to worry about--the story also concerns the Doctor's memory of the TARDIS being excavated in Pompeii in the future, meaning the Doctor has possible foreknowledge of his death, a story recently used by Steven Moffat in the Eleventh Doctor's final season.

Other points of contrast include the usual greater focus on more domestic characterisations of the Davies era--I do love the natural rapport among the family Ten and Donna encounter. And another contrast is the audio play's more frank allusions to sex. This has been a sort of fascinating aspect of the audio dramas, I guess the writers assume children aren't listening to audio plays. But The Fires of Vulcan prominently features a prostitute character and the brothel where she works. Mel's anger at the injustice of slaves forced into prostitution constitutes a cultural shock that might have strengthened Pompeii.

Pompeii and Vulcan don't exactly contradict each other. It's possible Ten just never mentions to Donna that there's another him running around town. I found myself contemplating some more superficial things, like the fact that Pompeii features two actors who would go on to be main characters on the show, Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillen. It occurred to me that both Scottish performers concealed their accents for the episode and then I realised that every Scottish Doctor--Sylvester McCoy, David Tennant, and Peter Capaldi--have in some way visited Pompeii.

So. There's that.

Twitter Sonnet #676

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Tags: david tennant, doctor who, peter capaldi, pompeii, sylvester mccoy
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