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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.


  1. Wm Keith
    February 15, 2013 @ 12:32 am

    "television is just a better medium for long-term serialization than novels are"

    Or is it just that television/radio dramas are often subject to tighter editorial control than were the EDAs? Compare the tightly edited RTD years with the flabby "soap opera" aspect of the Davison era.


  2. Commander Maxil
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:47 am

    It’s been a long time since I read this one, but my memory of it is that it was the best of the earthbound arc, an arc which, on the whole was pretty strong, though probably one (and possibly two) books too long. Certainly I remember feeling it was such a shame that after such a strong book as this that the arc finished with the appalling mess that was Escape Velocity (as well as the decision to keep the Doctor’s amnesia in place, which never made any sense to me once he had left earth). As I recall the book finishes with the big confrontation with the aliens who had come to kill Miranda, don’t remember the exact details but it always felt a bit weird that after all the events of this book, and a great ending, the Doctor had to go back to earth and spend the next 15 years waiting to go and meet Fitz in some nightclub to collect the Tardis.

    I have to say Lance Parkin is probably my favourite of the authors who wrote novels in the wilderness years (certainly up there with Paul Cornell and Steve Lyons), I like the description of him given in this article. He does seem to start from a different place than most of his contemporaries but he always has the writing chops to deliver on whatever weird premise he starts with (what if the Doctor had never left Gallifrey, what if the Doctor had a daughter, what if Davros and the Doctor worked together for a corporation). He is, for me the one author from the book range who hasn’t written for the TV series that I would have loved to see commissioned.

    On the subject to the audios though, I can’t wait for next week, I love the Big Finish Eighth Doctor Audios with a passion that even outstrips my love for the EDAs


  3. Stephen Jeffers
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:51 am

    Doctor Who is a weird one. It's an 'authored' TV show in a way that very few shows, even with 'showrunners' are. It's not just fan OCDness that allows us to spot when Saward's writing it one week, Robert Holmes the next, Philip Martin the one before.

    And that goes double for the novels, which lack the semiotic thickness of actors, designers and directors adding their contributions.

    The Doctor's Daughter is a great example of a good lead and winsome young guest star managing to distract from a, um, shit script. A script that doesn't really support the 'tightly edited' theory.

    It's not really a series, is it? It's an anthology with the same lead characters which occasionally pretends that a one line mention of a previous story makes it a 'soap opera'.


  4. Phil
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:52 am

    "It’s notable that the book uses the language of Factions and Houses to describe Miranda’s people. The chronology is just rough enough to make it tough to be definitive about intent."

    As you say, intent is easily the less interesting way to approach this (and, indeed, most things), but if it helps the first two Faction Paradox audio scripts are dated April 2000, and they've got Houses all over them. So I've no idea if Parkin would have known that terminology yet, but Miles had definitely come up with it by then.


  5. Scott
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:56 am

    Fully agree with what you say regarding continuity here; the 'ignore it and maybe it'll go away' approach that the EDAs tended to display around this period was ultimately just a bit counter-intuitive. By desperately trying to pretend it wasn't there and going to such ostentatious lengths to try and get rid of it, often they just ended up called more and more attention to it and it became a bigger and bigger elephant in the room. Contrast (again) with RTD's approach, which was to just quietly do it's thing and every so often nod to something from the past and say "Hey — remember that?"


  6. Ross
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:56 am

    My sense of the amnesia arc is that for some of the writers some of the time, it wasn't simply "the Doctor has forgotten his past", but rather "The Doctor's past doesn't exist any more, so there's nothing for him to remember," this being part and parcel of the whole "Everything's different now" angle they were going for (Indeed, I always sort of suspected that part of the reason for the conspicuous absense of UNIT was that they did not want to commit to the UNIT era still having "really happened". The view that "wins out" is "Nah, it really is just amnesia," but that really only happens at the very last minute — in the mean time, my feel is that some of the people involved felt that as long as the Doctor didn't remember his past, his past wasn't nailed down, and they liked it that way — it's not going to be too long before they go so far as to say "Yeah, screw everything that's happened so far, let's give the Doctor a new origin story"


  7. Stephen Jeffers
    February 15, 2013 @ 3:04 am

    "He is, for me the one author from the book range who hasn’t written for the TV series that I would have loved to see commissioned."

    While individual ideas from other books have been nicked for the new TV series – 'the Doctor goes weird without a companion', the TARDIS translation stuff, the Doctor's body having genetic treasure in it – Parkin's the one who (1) is lock stock and barrel just ripped off by the new series over and over and (2) he did it better.

    I don't really understand why he's not been commissioned. The best Doctor Who story of 2008 was The Eyeless, by light years.

    I think the word I'd use to describe his stuff is 'sly'. He sneaks in all sorts of things. It was a re-read (and some online comments) before I clocked that Father Time is a Dalek novel.


  8. Stephen Jeffers
    February 15, 2013 @ 3:06 am

    The books (including Father Time IIRC) explain that the Doctor's in Asia in the seventies, so that's why he skips the UNIT era.


  9. Stephen Jeffers
    February 15, 2013 @ 3:30 am

    Isn't it just as likely that Miles read a draft of Father Time and took it from there?


  10. Commander Maxil
    February 15, 2013 @ 3:39 am

    Agree about RTD's approach to continuity, concentrate on making good stories, occasionally make nods to the past to show it’s the same character with the same memories, beyond that don’t get too caught up with what has gone before. It’s the approach that was taken for the first 18 or so years of the classic series and worked well and yet it seemed (to me at least) completely radical when nu-Who started in 2005. Indeed, I remember people on the internet in the run up to the first series fretting about how the events of the EDAs would; play into the series. It seemed weird when the series started that it didn’t keep going on about things from the past, but of course it is by far the best way to make a series like this and keep appealing to new audiences. I have confirmed this to myself this by trying to get my young nephews interested in the classic series (they are 8 ad 11), they love Doctor Who but just don’t care about stuff that happened on TV 20 years before they were born or in books 10 years before and of course, why should they.


  11. SK
    February 15, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    There's no mystery here. This idea of 'Houses' comes from Lungbarrow. If you want to refer to Time Lords without using the name, it's an obvious choice (next most obvious would be 'Chapter', but the impression is that there are a very limited number of chapters (three, five or six) but scope for many many different houses).

    Parkin's use of 'Faction' is definitely to tie in to Faction Paradox, but 'Houses' is two authors, either independently or not, coming up with the same, fairly obvious, way to talk about Time Lords without ever using the words 'Time Lord'.


  12. SK
    February 15, 2013 @ 4:33 am

    You're forgetting that at the time, there was a certain vocal section of the readership of the opinion that if the Doctor got his memories back then 'obviously' the first thing he would do is find a way to restore Gallifrey from never-having-existed to its rightful place. To have him remember destroying Gallifrey and not immediately 'fix' continuity would be, to this lot, intolerable.

    Most of those who had a problem with the amnesia (which was, frankly, 'TV amnesia' anyway, where the character would remember and forget whatever it was convenient for the plot to have them remember or forget) were of this school, or so it seemed, so given that a Gallifrey-less universe was what was desired, ending the amnesia early would have achieved precisely nothing. The same people would still have complained and the stories would not, for the most part, have been materially affected (few of them from this point even mention the amnesia, certainly far fewer than base their premise on some aspect of 'the world is a wilder place now the Time Lords aren't keeping it straight any more).


  13. Andrew Hickey
    February 15, 2013 @ 4:42 am

    Parkin isn't my very favourite of the novelists, but he's right up there. I assume that the only reason he's not been commissioned is that he's never written for TV before (though he has worked in TV, but as a production assistant rather than script-writer).


  14. elvwood
    February 15, 2013 @ 4:45 am

    "the novel leaves the reader in the strange position of wanting all the annoying bits about space ships and intergalactic war to go away so we can get back to Miranda at a party having her heart broken"

    Yes! I really enjoyed this book – and I'm thankful to Dr Sandifer that the blog has encouraged me to read some more of the EDAs – but I had exactly this reaction. It could have done with having twice the space to expand on the mundane aspects of the story.

    Good points about the advantages of a dramatic medium, too – though ironically a Doctor Who budget at that time would have struggled with transformer cars and buildings made of flowers and giant spaceships, so the book probably has better visuals for the SF elements!


  15. Aaron
    February 15, 2013 @ 5:07 am

    "(which was, frankly, 'TV amnesia' anyway, where the character would remember and forget whatever it was convenient for the plot to have them remember or forget) "

    God, this is the frustrating part of the whole thing to me. I'm fine with them wanting to explore an amnesiac Doctor. It was necessary after the first half of the range, where spouting off a couple of continuity references every 30 pages constituted a character for the Doctor. But almost none of the authors actually wanted to write about an amnesiac Doctor! Raynor simply has the Doctor "not think" about using the sonic screwdriver and it works in EarthWorld, rather than, you know, exploring a Doctor that doesn't have these sorts of tricks. The Doctor doesn't get surprised by things, he just pretends to know about them, so that authors don't have to deal with a Doctor that might act at all differently. The worst part was that authors didn't even drop continuity references: They'd have the Doctor do the same thing he always did, saying "oh yeah, I remember when the Zogs attacked the Zog planet…" but then follow it up with the obligatory "But then as soon as he remembered it, it was gone." This frustrates me to no end. The whole point of the amnesia was so that authors stop doing these lazy continuity references, but they can't be bothered, so they do them anyway.

    I really like the idea of the line exploring an 8th Doctor that has no memory of the past. I just wish any of the authors past Father Time actually cared enough to explore ANY of the implications of this.


  16. SK
    February 15, 2013 @ 5:14 am

    I really like the idea of the line exploring an 8th Doctor that has no memory of the past. I just wish any of the authors past Father Time actually cared enough to explore ANY of the implications of this.

    Again, you miss the point. The main reason for giving the Doctor amnesia was not to explore the implications of a Doctor with no memories, it was to answer the question, 'Why doesn't he bring back Gallifrey?'

    The amnesia should be seen in the same way as the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. It's a handwave to stop the question, 'But why doesn't…?' and then get on with the story.

    I was there. I have the scars.


  17. Ununnilium
    February 15, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    The main reason for giving the Doctor amnesia was not to explore the implications of a Doctor with no memories, it was to answer the question, 'Why doesn't he bring back Gallifrey?'

    The new series has gotten on perfectly fine without that, though.


  18. Ununnilium
    February 15, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    Honestly, I enjoyed The Doctor's Daughter. It had some weak points, but the big twist threw all of those in a different light for me.


  19. Elizabeth Sandifer
    February 15, 2013 @ 7:55 am

    Yeah. "I can't." Issue fixed.


  20. Ununnilium
    February 15, 2013 @ 7:58 am

    "this book reveals a basic problem, which is that television is just a better medium for long-term serialization than novels are."

    I disagree. There have been a lot of successful serialized novel series, including both ones that work much like a TV show, with multiple authors coming out every month, such as Animorphs or Warriors, and ones that are just done by one author and come out over longer periods but show similar levels of serialization, such as The Dresden Files or the Stephanie Plum novels. The former model seems to only be really big in the kids' market, but there's no reason why it couldn't work for adult novels.


  21. Ross
    February 15, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    Yeah. I think it's more accurate to say that long-term serialization doesn't work the same way in prose as it does in television, and that the people making the BBC books never worked out how to account for that. (Though in my recollection it does seem like this kind of serialization in novels is invariably the work of a single author, rather than the "many writers with one showrunner working to bring everyone together into a coherent narrative voice" model that seems to work well in TV, so perhaps you really can't get tight enough control in prose when you're a franchise of many writers. All that said, my impression is that the Star Trek Universe's recentish novel series relaunch is also an attempt to bring everyone together in a more coherent serial narrative than they'd done previously, and I have no idea how well that's going)


  22. Elizabeth Sandifer
    February 15, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    Yeah, I should have specified multi-author serialization. I'll fix it when I'm at my computer.


  23. jane
    February 15, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    I too like The Doctor's Daughter, right in the wheelhouse of the season's eschatological concerns.


  24. Ununnilium
    February 15, 2013 @ 8:29 am

    That makes sense.


  25. spoilersbelow
    February 15, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    I wouldn't be terribly shocked if it was intentional. Parkin and Miles get along alright, from what I understand. Parkin contributed to the Book of the War, but his entry was cut for space considerations, and he also wrote the (absolutely fantastic) Warlords of Utipoa for the Faction Paradox line.

    From Miles' Last Interview: "Why are we talking about Lance Parkin, though? Change the subject, quick. He's one of the few other writers who's still talking to me."


  26. David Anderson
    February 15, 2013 @ 11:24 am

    It does have an air about it of Parkin having done his own personal set of Pop Between Realities for the Eighties, and fitted them all in. The transformer works, partly because of course a story set in the eighties is the right place for one to crop up, and partly, because it's a villain and there's no point in having robots in disguise if they aren't going to be villains.
    The other idea that Parkin takes on that is a risk is the Doctor as Eighties management consultant. I think he pulls it off, probably by wedging his tongue in his cheek.


  27. SK
    February 15, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    You obviously weren't there.

    These people were firmly convinced that the Doctor would never stop trying until he got Gallifrey back. 'He can't' was not a good enough answer. If he had his memory back, every single book would have had them saying, 'Why is he off having adventures instead of trying to get Gallifrey back? The Doctor NEVER admits defeat. Could you just go gallivanting around the universe if Earth had been erased or would you be trying to bring back all your family and friends?'




    The new series got away with it because it began with 'Gallifrey gone' as the status quo, so there was no one clamouring to bring Gallifrey 'back' as it had never been there to start off with.

    I mean, maybe the same people still complain, but nobody listens any more. Back then, people had to listen, because the room was smaller.

    And there weren't all these damn kids.


  28. Elizabeth Sandifer
    February 15, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

    "I can't. It would be changing my own past. And there's a reason I destroyed it."

    I mean, there would still be some people who complain, I'm sure, but the strange division you have whereby the old guard of Doctor Who fans insisted the Doctor would bring back Gallifrey no matter what whereas new fans who didn't grow up with Gallifrey didn't care seems… difficult to credit.

    I mean, were there fans who wanted Gallifrey back? Sure. Still are. And I'm sure as t approaches infinity eventually someone will restore Gallifrey. But the insistence that the Doctor would start altering his own personal history to undo something he did in the first place seems a strange consensus, to say the least.


  29. SK
    February 15, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    You obviously weren't there.


  30. Dan Abel
    February 16, 2013 @ 1:48 am

    At the time parkin said that he wrote the sections as the kinda books that Miranda might have been reading. Perhaps that's where that feeling comes from?


  31. Adam Riggio
    February 16, 2013 @ 2:29 am

    The Doctor's Daughter is a complex issue for me. A very interesting idea, and a solid, if intense and sometimes too-fast, episode for the Doctor and Donna. I think what dragged it down from this level of a very strong B was that Martha ended up in the episode and the writer didn't know what to do with her. It failed the test of adapting an extra character.

    And because we all had Girl in the Fireplace on dvd, we could refer to the episode that adapted to the unplanned extra character best. Mickey's comedy moments on the spaceship rivalled the main plot of the Doctor and Reinette in entertainment value, while also doing a really good job of exploring Mickey as a person.

    The 2005 and 2006 seasons are the ones in the new series I wish had actually lasted two years. Not in the sense of dragged out seasons we have now, but as producing 26 episodes. 2005 has an embarrassment of riches that could have used expansion: More Christopher, of course, but also the prospect of a half-season travelling with Adam (a groundbreaking character if he'd stuck around through the end of the season, the companion whose trust we gradually lose until the breaking point), and a whole second Eccleston season with a Chris/Rose/Jack team.

    And I would have liked an expansion of the 2006 season so we could have a whole season of Mickey. Join in School Reunion as happened, then stay until the end of the season. The season finale of imagined-2006-season-two would have had Mickey coming back from the parallel universe and Rose leaving as we saw. But that would have been a whole season of duo David/Rose adventures.


  32. jane
    February 16, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    "I think what dragged it down from this level of a very strong B was that Martha ended up in the episode and the writer didn't know what to do with her. It failed the test of adapting an extra character. "

    I was thinking about this a while back, and realized that her role in this story was quite central to making it work. It's through Martha that we come to know the Hath, so we can see them as people rather than as monsters; otherwise it would have to be Donna, but I don't think it would work as well since Martha's a "doctor" in her own right at this point.

    I think what it is is that Martha's story in here isn't "fun." While the Doctor, Martha and Jenny get plenty of time to play off each other and form an interesting dynamic, Martha's by herself and being stoically heroic, suffering in her trip across the Wasteland, and while it's clever she can understand the burbling Fish-speak, it's not emotionally satisfying. And yeah, I think that's the whole point of this side-trip, to show the utter darkness of life out there, and it kind of has to be to repel Martha away from more traveling with the Doctor, but it's not an easy thing to watch.


  33. elvwood
    February 16, 2013 @ 6:17 am

    @Jane: I hadn't spotted it, but I think you are right that Martha's journey is important to The Doctor's Daughter. Unfortunately, for me this is one of the main things that lets it down, because we don't see enough of it to care about the Hath she is with, or really understand why she is so devastated by his death. And this is one reason why I think the story needed to be a two-parter to fulfill its potential.

    @Adam: I like your plan for expanded 2005-2006 seasons! Though I think you could get away with only one extra set of 13 episodes if you split Autumn-Spring so that the regeneration comes halfway through the middle season…


  34. Matthew Blanchette
    February 16, 2013 @ 8:26 am

    Obviously. 😛


  35. Stephen Jeffers
    February 16, 2013 @ 10:52 am

    I think what impresses me most about Father Time is that it's about the Doctor. A lesser author might have, by accident or design, have ended up with a book where Debbie Castle or – more likely – Miranda are the central characters. Father Time keeps it on the Doctor, even when he's not in the room.

    Parkin's basically the architect of New Who isn't he? Doctor Who wasn't like The Dying Days, Davros and Father Time when those stories came out. They'd fit right in now.

    The other thing he does: TV and film rely on punch-the-air moments. Novels usually don't. But Father Time's just full of them. It's not so much that he steals a space shuttle, it's the next bit, where it flies up to Ferran's giant ship (Worldsphere technology, I believe, so basically a Culture GSV) in that space shuttle and wins. And I don't think that's even in the top ten.

    I don't want them to adapt it for TV. They'd fuck it up. It's way too good.

    It's a novel where the Doctor blows up a Transformer by driving a Ford Cortina into it. Nuff said.


  36. T. Hartwell
    February 16, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    "but also the prospect of a half-season travelling with Adam (a groundbreaking character if he'd stuck around through the end of the season, the companion whose trust we gradually lose until the breaking point)"

    Dunno if I'd be able to take a half-season's worth of Bruno Langley, though. Plus in practice he serves more as a prelude to Rose's actions in Father's Day- his initial irresponsibility helps set up what Rose does and why the Doctor reacts so strongly against it.


  37. ferret
    February 17, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

    "His books consistently feel as though they were written in response to dares – he takes ideas that sound like they cannot possibly work and tries to make them work."

    This is how I've always imagined Agatha Christie to have written her books too. "A murder where every suspect is guilty? Challenge accepted!"


  38. encyclops
    February 19, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

    I don't know if I could take a half-season's worth of Adam, a theoretically potentially interesting character but also yet another flawed male companion in a disappointingly biased line: Adric and his sympathies for the villains, Turlough and his mission to kill the Doctor, Mickey and his pouty second fiddle status. Somehow from the 80s onward it's crucial that female companions be perfect and that male companions be at best slightly dim and at worst duplicitous and corruptible. I loved Mickey, liked Turlough, and at least wanted to like Adric, but starting with JNT the (televised) show has been determined to tell me that the only really honorable male on the TARDIS crew has to be the Doctor. I REALLY dislike that.

    That said, I could take way more than a half-season's worth of Bruno Langley. Delish.

    As for The Doctor's Daughter: I've only watched it once, and am dreading its return when I get to that season in my rewatch. Not a fan.


  39. encyclops
    February 19, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    I really like this entry, but especially the part where you talk about the differences in how emotions are conveyed on the page vs. on the screen. I love novels, always have and will, but it's frustrating when people don't understand that they aren't The Ultimate Way to tell a story. As you point out, there are some things that work best in a visual medium and/or done by actors, and those aren't trivial.

    I also have to credit you, Dr. S, with getting me interested in tracking down and reading these novels after having given up on them when they were in print. At Gallifrey One this past weekend there were a couple of tables selling tons of them and I was like a kid in a candy store. There was also a terrific panel discussion of the novels that I would have ignored if not for this blog. Cheers.


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