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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. Steve H
    May 4, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

    “Flagrant racialism”?

    Susan is warned to beware of the Thals because they are horrifically deformed by radiation. Not because they are African or Slavic in appearance. So, how can one read a racial context into her surprised remark “but you’re perfect”. She’s saying that the Thals are perfect because they’re not hideously deformed, not because they have blond hair and (presumably) blue eyes.

    I wonder if this ties in with what you say about the differing history of racial friction in the US and UK. Maybe the post-60s culture of the US tends to have a default assumption of racial tension unless proved otherwise. That’s not nearly so much the case in the UK and certainly wasn’t in the 60s. That’s not to say that the racial tension wasn’t there.

    You go on to say that DW treats racism in “a manner that can only be called uncomfortable.” Really? The baddies in this story are clearly the Daleks. There’s no attempt at even-handedness in painting them as having and understandable point of view. And the Daleks are defined as hating those who are different, specifically racially different. So these murderous, would-be genocidal baddies are defined by their racism. How is that an uncomfortable treatment of racism?

    As for pacifism, it’s a perfectly valid argument to say that pacifism in the face of aggressive racism is profoundly illiberal and that fighting against it is the genuinely liberal approach.


  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 4, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    The problem is that the camera is telling its own story here – the cut to the chiseled Adonis of a Thal as Susan speaks of his perfection – not his normality, but his perfection – is a racial commentary. There's no way around it, for me. Is it an intentional one? Well, perhaps not, but it's a flagrant one.

    I'd also point out that the Daleks-as-Racist-Nazis idea post-dates this story. These Daleks don't hate the Thals for being different. They just hate the Thals because they're a threat to Dalek survival. But the larger comment about the show's uncomfortable treatment of race is meant to apply to the Hartnell era at large – in particular stories like Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Ark, and The Celestial Toymaker, and to the extreme whiteness of 1960s Doctor Who in general.


  3. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 15, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    "I'd also point out that the Daleks-as-Racist-Nazis idea post-dates this story. These Daleks don't hate the Thals for being different. They just hate the Thals because they're a threat to Dalek survival."

    I disagree. When Alydon asks why the Daleks hate them Ian answers: "A dislike for the unlike. … They're afraid of you because you're different from them." And the clipped voices and heiling eyestalks seem like a direct development of standard cinematic portrayals of Nazis.


  4. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 15, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    I don't know why my ID came out like that!


  5. SK
    August 19, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    Apart from the blond hair, what specifically marks the Thals as 'Aryan'?

    Yes, there's an uncomfortable association of 'physical perfection = moral perfection' at work. The Thals are good and know to be good because they are handsome and beautiful and strong, and the Daleks evil because they are deformed and ugly and so weak they need to encase themselves in metal just to move around.

    And they have blond hair because that's what's traditionally considered attractive. It's what gentlemen prefer, after all. I guess you could claim that that is itself a racist ideal, but that still puts the racism at one remove from 'Doctor who' — being guilty of adopting unquestioningly a possibly-racist standard of beauty is very different to being guilty of even inadvertently putting in an actually racist message.

    (Besides which, it's been that way for a while — doesn't Aphrodite traditionally have blonde hair? Where the Greeks — not themselves known for their fairness — being racist?)

    I can't help thinking that if this story were to be made today, the production team would have included black Thals — tall, muscled, handsome black Thals — and that this would have been exactly the same as the original, with the same dubious message of 'handsome = good'.

    In short, with regards to this story (and only this story: in the wider context of the Hartnell era you may be right, I haven't got there yet) you seem to be hanging a very serious charge on the very flimsy evidence of a few strands of blond wig.


  6. Nicholas Tosoni
    February 15, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Regarding the Thals:

    John Kenneth Muir, author of "A Critical History of 'Doctor Who' On Television," believes that the blond hair and blue eyes of the Thals is a much more plausible link to the Eloi from Wells' "The Time Machine" than anything to do with Aryanism.

    Also, there's the line from "Dr. Who and the Daleks," which was a little more ornate in the TV version: "If they call us monsters…what must they be like?"


  7. Marionette
    August 10, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

    This is secondarily true of Troughton, but with a big asterisk we'll get to later, and actually may not be true of Hartnell, but we're years away from getting to that bizarre retcon.

    You throw in this kind of foreshadowing a lot. It would be nice if you could throw in a link here and there, now it's all written, so those of us not in the know could find out what you were alluding to.


    • Nathan
      April 3, 2020 @ 6:05 am

      I suspect it’s a reference to the Season 6B theory that the time Lords actually turned the Troughton Doctor into an undercover agent after the Trial in The War Games and before regenerating him into Pertwee.


  8. Chris
    October 20, 2013 @ 7:30 am

    The Daleks in this story are high-tech(for 1963, at least) versions of the mad hermits Vincent Price played in the Corman Poe films. At one point they were intelligent, sophisticated noble figures who made one fatally catastrophic decision at a moment of crisis that has led to their current confined fearful state, and that fearful state it what makes them currently dangerous monsters. The Daleks are as neurotic as Roderick Usher in their first serial.


  9. Chris
    October 21, 2013 @ 8:03 am

    It's a;sp worth mentioning that, at this point on children's TV in Britain, we had no prior murderous, scary alien monsters of any description. The nearest were robots on puppet series liKe FIREBALL XL5 or SPACE PATROL. But they were interacting with puppet humans – not live actors – and never as homicidal as the Daleks. Little wonder they caused such a stir. You cannot judge this serial in anything other than contemporary attitudes. Their impact on child viewers had a visceral punch at the time. Speaking of which, will you be doing the shows of Gerry Anderson in HOME IN TIME FOR TEA. Their influence on Dr Who – eg the scientific bases and jargon of the Troughton serials – cannot be underestimated.


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