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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

35 Comments

  1. inkdestroyedmybrush
    December 24, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    and this is exactly where it all really falls apart, even from a discussion point, I agree.

    Viewing it fell apart back in the first 10 minutes of the Pirate Planet, because it is clear, more so because of this blog than just about any other place i've seen, that the first three stories of the Key to time are far more interesting to talk about than to watch.

    And thats a problem for a television programme.

    there is little to nothing on the screen that is interesting to look at: its all poorly shot on video and either overlit or blurry in a way that doesn't allow for anything to be easily focused on, the direction is amateurish a lot of the time and the producer, by this point, has just thrown his hands up. what a mess. no wonder Doctor Who got hte reputation for being rubbish in the states. Far from seeing the relentless rush of ideas and sometimes chilling performances, we saw the scripts finally go the way of the sets.

    And that is not a good thing.

    Got my book, btw, a fun read. hope that you're getting lots of orders and support.

    Reply

  2. Jack Graham
    December 24, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

    I think the reason this story is so unpopular is that it gets just a little bit too close to the bone. Maybe Holmes was bored, pissed-off and contemptuous… but that seems to have unleashed him. I don't think this story is cynical at all. I think it's ANGRY.

    It is specifically angry about capitalism and race, and explicitly examines the place where these two incendiary subjects meet. Doctor Who has 'done' both subjects before, of course… but rarely does it 'do' their meeting point, and hardly ever does it 'do' how they interrelate. In fact, the show almost never puts the two themes next to each other in one story. Race makes hardly an appearance in 'The Sun Makers'. Capitalism is very definitely and carefully left out of 'The Savages'. 'Kroll' puts them right next to each other in the form of empire and its thesis is clear: capitalism causes racism via imperialism.

    This may not be a particularly novel or scary idea for academics. For fanboys – many of whom seem pathologically incapable of getting to grips with the concepts of race, racism and how they manifest in Doctor Who – it's another matter. Yeurch. Scary. Uncomfortable. Don't wanna know. fingers in ears Balalalalalalalalacan'thearyoulalalala!

    Thawn's racism is the most intelligent ever depicted by Doctor Who. He hates the Swampies not because they're green but because they're in the way of 'progress', where 'progress' means industrial exploitation of conquered lands.

    Reply

  3. John Callaghan
    December 24, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

    I was feeling rough and popped my head around the door of the living room, where my housemate was watching part one of Kroll. "I'll just watch five minutes", I said to myself. Of course I ended up watching the whole thing, enjoying it a great deal, and I felt fine afterwards. Kroll cured me!

    The "probably looked more convincing from the front" moment is one of the best cliffhanger resolutions in the show, if not the best. Encouraging the audience to buy into the unconvincing horror and then pointing a finger at them is done with eye-rolling chutzpah.

    One change, though: instead of having a climax and then another crisis and resolution tacked on (giving us two consecutive moments of the Doctor being Superman) they should have staggered them. The Doctor goes out to be a hero, but becomes trapped and can't reach the tracer. Meanwhile, Romana coolly stops the rocket explosion, which shakes the platform, so the Doctor can get the tracer… And he returns to the control room expecting to be lauded, but everyone's treating the apprentice as a hero instead, the one he's been patronising for five stories. Perfect.

    Reply

  4. Jack Graham
    December 25, 2011 @ 1:22 am

    Also, 'Kroll' does the capitalism/imperialism/racism thing without most of the comforting safety-nets you find in, say, 'Avatar'. The Swampies aren't mystically enlightened, they're not wise, they're not morally pure, they're not 'untouched'… in short, they're not cyphers or symbolic reproaches to whitey. They're people. Flawed. Some are smart, some are dumb, some are cynical, some are nobler, some are cowardly. They're scripted to mirror the humans at the refinery. Ranquin is as cynical a BS-merchant as Thawn, Varlick is troubled by his boss but too hesitant to do anything about it – just like Fenner. And white guilt over the decimation of native peoples isn't soothed by the fantasy of the white guy becoming the leader/liberator of the natives. The Swampies help themselves without accepting any of the humans into their ranks. Only the conspiratorial aspect – with the genocide being Thawn's idea rather than policy – is toothless.

    Reply

  5. Jack Graham
    December 25, 2011 @ 1:29 am

    AND the Swampies don't get their planet back, unlike the natives in 'Dune', 'Avatar', 'Kinda', 'The Mutants', etc., etc. They won't be chucked off their reservation but neither will they get back their real home, no more than will the Nez Perce. So, again, no concessions to the customary mechanics of the white guilt relief fantasy story about colonialism.

    Reply

  6. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 25, 2011 @ 2:50 am

    I don't know what's stranger – that Blogger posted this 24 hours before it was supposed to (it is, of course, Monday's entry) or that it got five comments already on Christmas.

    Reply

  7. talestoenrage
    December 25, 2011 @ 5:15 am

    I thought it was odd to see it on Christmas too, but I thought maybe it was in the spirit of the Doctor Who Christmas specials.

    Reply

  8. Jack Graham
    December 25, 2011 @ 5:47 am

    It would be less if Blogger Comments had an edit function. Merry Xmas!

    Reply

  9. BerserkRL
    December 25, 2011 @ 8:18 am

    Occupy doesn't need a platform, it is a platform. Or so I hear.

    Reply

  10. WGPJosh
    December 25, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    I was wondering what that was doing up! I suppose this just means we can pick it all up on Monday.

    Merry Christmas to everyone here at TARDIS Eruditorum! Hope you all enjoy tonight's special.

    Reply

  11. Iain Coleman
    December 25, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    I can't help having some fondness for this story, for all its faults, because I still remember how the giant Kroll scared the shit out of me when I was five.

    Reply

  12. William Whyte
    December 25, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    For the first time in memory it’s becoming very difficult to formulate a decent answer to the question of what Doctor Who is for. There’s a real sense that it’s just about the man in the scarf, his witty and attractive sidekick, and the tin dog.

    I don't know. It was only two stories ago that you were saying it was hard to find words for how good this season is. If you're really saying this, it seems you need more to hang it on than one insubstantial story and one bad one. Is it a problem with the whole season, which should have come up earlier in your critiques, or is it just that we've had eight weeks that didn't add up to much? In particular, I think that with The Armageddon Factor (which I inexplicably like) coming up next, we have a story that does make an attempt to be about something.

    Reply

  13. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 25, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    It's rather the way in which these past two stories have been flawed. The first half of the season is great in part for its towering ambition. But for two stories in a row the show has been floundering about in a way that undermines the ambition. I mean, the most succinct way to put it is that I gave the first three stories some benefit of the doubt. There were terms on which they seemed to be validly takable in which they were extraordinary pieces of work. But the last two, and particularly this one, have at least partially discredited that hypothesis for what the show was doing.

    Reply

  14. 5tephe
    December 25, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    Yep – you're getting to the meat of the problem now. But I don't really have anything to add on that point, so I have to simply say this:

    WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT VIDEO?

    That is fantastic. Never seen it before.

    Reply

  15. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 25, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

    The video was found by the good WGPJosh, who brought my attention to it on Twitter. It's what it appears to be – a little holiday outtake featuring drunken K-9 singing.

    Reply

  16. BerserkRL
    December 25, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    At the current rate, we won't hear what Philip thinks about the 2011 Christmas special for quite a while. But I have some feminist grumblings about it here.

    Reply

  17. WGPJosh
    December 26, 2011 @ 8:24 am

    @Phil, 5tephe

    Glad you enjoyed it! I first found that clip several years back on YouTube while doing some catch-up. I'm not entirely sure where it came from, but it's a fabulous and charming little holiday bit. Since we're covering the tail end of 1978 on the blog and it was Christmas anyway I thought it couldn't have been more perfect to share. Probably my favourite Doctor Who Christmas special!

    @BerserkRL

    Not to derail the thread too much (I mean "Power of Kroll" has a lot problems sure, but you kind of have to watch it if you want to watch The Key to Time story arc so it's a moot point-Just like "The Daemons", "The Sontaran Experiment" and "Silver Nemesis") but that's a trend I've noticed in Moffat's writing too-I've always had problems with how he writes women and you articulated it very well. I'd just add I think it's more the irresponsible carelessness that has always characterized his writing than it is outright misogyny though.

    Reply

  18. SK
    December 26, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

    Ah, motherhood, that ancient tool of the patriarchy.

    Remind me, what things aren't tools of the patriarchy?

    Reply

  19. Wm Keith
    December 27, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    If you don't realise everything's a tool, you're a tool. Even if you do realise, you're probably still a tool.

    Reply

  20. Keith
    December 27, 2011 @ 9:14 am

    From what I recall, the Christmas clip of Tom Baker, K-9 and Mary Tamm was a gag scene for a BBC staff Christmas party. It is also one of the extras on the DVD set for THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR as well, titled "Merry Christmas, Doctor Who", I believe.

    Reply

  21. Wm Keith
    December 27, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    I don't think Moffatt's a misogynist. Quite the reverse. He puts Woman on a pedestal and worships her. Nothing wrong with that, except that he accords this complete, worshipful status only to women who have borne children. Which is why the Oldest Question Ever To Be Asked will have to be "Who's the father?"

    Reply

  22. Matthew Blanchette
    December 27, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    I'm still surprised, in retrospect, that they went with Ted Lewis's script, "The Shield of Zarak" for so long (he turned out to be a self-destructing alcoholic, and the producers were forced to replace it at short notice with the above-reviewed story) without ever thinking of further developing Ted Willis's script, "The Lords of Misrule", which could've been a sight better than "Power of Kroll" (and might've kept Robert Holmes on board for Season 17!); as per the very useful Shannon Sullivan site, here is the plot outline for Willis's story:

    "The people of the planet Tetran are enslaved by the cruel Shadowlords, who rule from an orbiting castle. The Shadowlords hunt their subjects using wolf-life Prowlers, and force them to duel one another. The Doctor discovers that the Tetrans are actually descended from the survivors of a crashed mining ship, while the Shadowlords are security robots, disguised and maddened due to their connection with the pilot, who is held on the brink of death by the vessel's computer. K-9 severs the pilot's link with the ship, deactivating the Shadowlords. The Doctor and Romana recover the fifth segment of the Key To Time, concealed as a massive crystal powering the Shadowlords' castle."

    Reply

  23. WGPJosh
    December 27, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    @ WM Keith

    No, Moffat's not a misogynist, he's just a sloppy writer who tries too hard to stuff as much content and as many big ideas as possible into any given script without taking note of all the plot holes he leaves in his wake. Inevitably, this takes him well into unfortunate implications territory more often than necessary in everything he writes and it happens with particularly worrying frequency when he writes women in my opinion. But my problems with the New Series are fuel for another discussion on another day.

    @Matthew Blanchette

    "The Lords of Misrule" sounds like yet another tragically lost story with tantalizing potential. There are ever so many of them in this era. Well, we can only hope it's one that's given another shot at life as a Lost Tales Audio Play once Mary Tamm joins Big Finish as a regular in a year or so.

    Reply

  24. Jack Graham
    December 28, 2011 @ 4:27 am

    Putting a group of people on a pedastal and worshipping them is a way of objectifying them, marginalising them, confining them, grouping them together indiscriminately, defining them by traits other than their common humanity and making them the 'other'. It something that mysoginists do to women all the time.

    Of course, Moffat writes 'strong' woman characters… but there's something inherently dodgy in this whole "the female characters are strong" argument even at the best of times. Depicting women as 'strong' isn't the same as depicting them as equal. It implicitly says that women must be noticeably 'strong' in order to be equal… this wouldn't be so bad if it was an attempt to take into account the fact that, in a sexist society, women must work harder than men in order to be seen as adequate… but that's not how it comes over in practice, especially when Moffat does it. His idea of a 'strong' female seems to be one that can manipulate men by flashing her legs, make her boyfriend horny by shooting his enemies or be a good mother. Female 'strength' seems to be a weapon that his female characters use to lead their menfolk around by the nose, even as they (the females) are themselves slavishly dependant upon their male playthings. Hence the repeated stalking-as-romance thing.

    Mind you, it is a little unfair to single Moffat out. One can hardly turn on the TV without being assailed by imagery and storylines that denigrate women, either crudely or in more subtle ways. Classic 'Who' was hardly guiltless in this respect.

    Reply

  25. WGPJosh
    December 28, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    @ Jack Graham

    Excellent points, and you are of course right. Really I'm only differing from you in the technical details of defining terms. I only use the term "misogynist" when I am certain of someone's vocal, explicit, outspoken and violent hatred of women. Otherwise, just plain old "sexism" suffices for me. Sexism certainly abounds in Moffat's writing, as it does everywhere in media because we still live in a world where horrifically sexist and gendered mores and associations are intrinsic to society. However, I haven't seen any evidence that Moffat consciously hates women and actively goes out of his way to marginalize them. He certainly does marginalize them, but I'm presuming more out of ignorance and simply not knowing any better than malicious intent. Like so many male writers, he's not aware of the implications his words carry.

    And of course the Classic Series had problems too, I never said it didn't. My disdain for characters like Susan, Dodo, Victoria and Sarah Jane are well documented, as are my huge objections to the fates of Vicki, Zoe, Liz, Jo and Leela. However, as Phil said, on the whole it did better with its treatment of female characters in the context of the time than a lot of people give it credit for.

    Reply

  26. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 28, 2011 @ 10:15 am

    And for what it's worth, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find much in the world of action-adventure stories today that goes as out of its way as Doctor Who does to be for female audiences as well as male ones. Yeah, it's got its flaws (though I don't really think the Christmas special was particularly egregious in this regard. That said, a solid 80% of my feminist rage at the Moffat era is centered on one line in "The God Complex.") but…

    I was at Dragon*Con this fall. And in the course of the con, by miles the two most popular female costumes were Kaylee from Firefly and Amy Pond. That, I think, speaks volumes. Even more volumes, however, are spoken by the fact that there were at least a dozen instances of women dressing as male characters from Doctor Who – whether the Doctor (I saw female versions of multiple incarnations, with the female Troughton being one of the single best costumes and performances I've ever seen at a con) or Captain Jack.

    Regardless of its flaws, I think one has to give some real credit to the fact that Doctor Who is visibly doing more to create space for female fans to enjoy the show on their own terms than almost anything else out there. In a patriarchal world there's really no such thing as perfect feminism. But there is such a thing as doing a good job, and I do think Moffat's Doctor Who by and large does it.

    Reply

  27. WGPJosh
    December 28, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

    @Phil

    I think that's just an absolutely perfect summary of it. The New Series in general, not just Moffat's take on it, has not only always done a good job at cultivating a female fanbase but it's also been wonderfully and overtly GLBTQ friendly. As you said the show always has been since the Pertwee era, but it's explicit about it now. There's Captain Jack of course, but there are excellent little bits sprinkled across all six years. The one that really jumps out at me is when Smith's Doctor tells us about his friend The Corsair in "The Doctor's Wife", thus confirming the long-held fan notion that gender doesn't matter to Time Lords and they embody the best of the whole spectrum. Of course, this renders the whole "weak/strong" debate in this year's Christmas special to be a titanic, Grand Canyon-sized plot hole, but that gets back to Moffat being a sloppy writer. Taken in the context of Gaiman's original work, the statement still stands. The New Series is still possibly the best, most feminist and GLBTQ friendly TV show out there right now (Glee doesn't completely count), at least in terms of sci-fi and action-adventure.

    As for "The God Complex", I generally despised that episode on the whole, but if you're talking about the line I think you're talking about then I second you 100%. "Mrs. Williams" indeed: Another example of Moffat being careless and ignorant. It's intended as a turning point for Rory to become more assertive and self-confidant, but it comes across as a total attack on Amy's own assertiveness and self-confidence.

    Doctor Who may have feminism problems, but it does tend to do the best job it can to be better than the norm for its time. We may not fully see the show's feminism problems go away until we see a canon female Doctor (which I desperately hope will happen soon) and/or another female showrunner if even then, but until that point it will hopefully remain a broad guideline on how to do things a little better.

    Reply

  28. Matthew Blanchette
    December 29, 2011 @ 6:54 am

    @WPGJosh:

    Well, I don't think "Mrs. Williams" was a turning point for Rory; we'd already seen his character pivot several times in the prior series, so I don't think it's a question of his being unassertive — rather, it's more of a gently letting Amy down, to go back to the life she might've gone to had the Doctor not reappeared on June 26, 2010… like a father giving away his child, sort of.

    As for "The God Complex", what exactly did you despise about it? I don't want to joust points with you having made prior assumptions… :-S

    Reply

  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 29, 2011 @ 6:58 am

    "Amy Williams" is the line that horrified me, yes. I'd bang out my feelings on it, but I'm going to have a hard enough time phrasing it better than Anna Wiggins did when I write the entry on it, so instead I'll link to her post on it: http://stringofbits.net/2011/09/19/doctor-who-the-god-complex/, with which I agree with completely.

    Reply

  30. Jack Graham
    December 29, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

    I haven't seen 'God Complex' but Moffat has certainly done the 'growing up (for females) = getting a man' thing before. Most noticeably and arbitrarily in 'Blink'.

    Reply

  31. Jack Graham
    December 29, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    For "Moffat" in the above post read "Moffat's Who". O for an edit function.

    Reply

  32. WGPJosh
    December 30, 2011 @ 8:53 am

    @Matthew Blanchette

    Not to get too much into Series 6 (as I'm sure it will be a lively point of discussion once Phil gets there and after all we're supposed to be talking about The Key to Time and Season 17 right now, which I would far RATHER talk about), but I personally found the overarching themes and morals of this entire season to be incredibly uncomfortable and distasteful and "The God Complex" is the moment at which all of those themes become central and explicit.

    To me Series 6 is Moffat's attempt to do a non-racist, non-colonialist and non-youth hating version of the John Wiles era which I think is not just a misguided task but an impossible one. It has a happier ending then "The Daleks' Master Plan", "The Massacre", "The Ark" and "The Celestial Toymaker" sure, but I don't think there's any way to separate the themes and motifs of the Wiles era from its ugly associations and implications. It's an irresponsible, misguided and potentially series-ruining thing to do, especially in 2011, a year already full of misanthropy, horror, fear, uncertainty and dangerously unstable social unrest.

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  33. Alan
    January 2, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    "Amy Williams" rather horrified me, but I also felt like I was supposed to be horrified. That whole scene was about the Doctor deliberately shattering all of Amy's illusions about him because that was the only way to save her life. It reminded me greatly of the scene in Curse of Fenrik where McCoy coldly mocks Ace as an emotional cripple because her blind faith in him was endangering the whole human race.

    Reply

  34. Henry R. Kujawa
    April 25, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    Jack Graham:
    "Thawn's racism is the most intelligent ever depicted by Doctor Who. He hates the Swampies not because they're green but because they're in the way of 'progress', where 'progress' means industrial exploitation of conquered lands."

    Excellent!

    John Callaghan:
    "One change, though: instead of having a climax and then another crisis and resolution tacked on (giving us two consecutive moments of the Doctor being Superman) they should have staggered them. The Doctor goes out to be a hero, but becomes trapped and can't reach the tracer. Meanwhile, Romana coolly stops the rocket explosion, which shakes the platform, so the Doctor can get the tracer… And he returns to the control room expecting to be lauded, but everyone's treating the apprentice as a hero instead, the one he's been patronising for five stories. Perfect."

    YES!!! Seriously, that scene is the one thing in the entire story that really bothered me, the writer in me, the pacing was just so "wrong", like those anti-climaxes they stuck in "DIAMONDS", "LIVE AND LET DIE" and "GOLDEN GUN", presumably because "OHMSS" had one. (Truthfully, "DIAMONDS" did have an anti-clmiax in the book, but it was much better than the crap in the film, which was crap from start to finish.) I love your "fix". Why didn't someone think of that at the time?

    WGPJosh:
    "you kind of have to watch it if you want to watch The Key to Time story arc"

    I'd compare this more to "COLONY IN SPACE", only I find "KROLL" more watchable (and, it's only 4 episodes– and shorter than usual episodes at that). Come to think of it, both stories have some "mining" group out to kill settlers– even if this time, the settlers had been forced to be there.

    I loved Mary Tamm's outfit, and the way she's coming along so nicely as a character and her developing friendship with the Doctor. I thought Kroll looked GREAT. As usual, Baker's Doctor refuses to take things seriously, even though if he did some people might not be quite so suspicious of him. Then again, Thawn was the cause of the whole problem, he would have been suspicous of anybody, as most people have a tendency to only see everyone else through their own eyes.

    A pity Madoc & McCarthy didn't swap roles.

    This has always been my least-favorite story of this season, yet, there's so many other WHO stories I like less than this. Which makes it just "watchable", which is hard to fault.

    Strange thing… over at Page Fillers, more than half the reviews mentioned something I never noticed until tonight, when I noticed it myself for the first time. That is, the plot similarities between "KROLL" and "ANDROZANI". (Probably because I read your "ANDROZANI" post earlier this afternoon!) It's as if, when he was invited back, Holmes thought back to his real disappointment, and thought, "There's a good story in there…" –and then set out to prove it. I've done that myself.

    Reply

  35. alex smith
    September 3, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

    Reply

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