Nuke this site from orbit. Only way to be sure

Skip to content

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. John Toon
    May 16, 2012 @ 12:50 am

    Hmm – Necros, planet of the dead, stitched together from bits of other worlds. A Frankenstein environment. Very nice idea. The channel-hopping reading hadn't really occurred to me before.

    "the third story this season to involve lots of watching people watch people" – Varos, obviously, but what's the other one? Are you talking about the Rani's scanner?


  2. tantalus1970
    May 16, 2012 @ 1:46 am

    I haven't seen this in a while, but one thing that struck me about it was that Colin Baker's Doctor didn't really seem that bothered by the Daleks or by Davros. Isn't there a scene in a corridor where he runs into two Daleks and simply gets out of their way? (IIRC he says something like 'they went that way' but I'd have to check)

    All I remember of his confrontation with Davros was his quip 'no 'arm in trying' after Davros had his hand shot off. That's almost a line from a bad James Bond movie.


  3. Gaius
    May 16, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    Someone should have told that to Lis Sladen too when she went "That's not as 'armless as it looks" in The Hand of Fear.


  4. Gnaeus
    May 16, 2012 @ 2:03 am

    I think the more essential thing about Necros – stemming from its original form as "Whispering Glades" in The Loved One – is its total artificiality. This is what connects the cheery, if horrendous, tackiness of it, with its being stitched together out of other worlds. The pastiched, ugly mish-mash of the necrosphere itself is matched by the pastiche of televisual forms we get. This is, after all, at base Evelyn Waugh given some postmodern self-commentary over the top.

    Actually, I think Waugh is central to this, though it's not just The Loved One which is important. Vile Bodies (note title) also brings something to the table, here. To cut a good novel dangerously short, key sections of the book consists of people being terribly bored at parties. In short, people exhibit the wrong reactions in supposedly thrilling contexts. So here, too, we get the Doctor and the Daleks failing to actually produce the expected reactions in the correct context. As with the constant failure for fun to happen in that novel, so here we are constantly waiting for the point to arrive – either for the characters (the President of the Galaxy, or whatever-he-is), or for us (the confrontation).

    Again, we can bounce this back onto Necros itself: far from being a frightening and phantasm-filled world which is expected of a necropolis, it's instead grotesque simply because it's all so naff.

    Everything on Necros is phoney. Even the Daleks are fakes – constructs made from the wrong parts by a fake Davros. It even affects the Daleks who arrive from outside – who instead of destroying the impurities, simply intend to absorb them.

    Where does this leave the Doctor? Difficult to say. His actual interaction with the world is peripheral – literally. As I recall his only actual action in the entire serial is to (fail) to hypnotise the mutant in episode 1. But then, this Doctor already stands exposed as a hollowed-out character. And what can he do against a thoroughly fake world? Nothing. He avoids contamination precisely by being entirely , and, in that sense, useless.

    Again, this is reminiscent of Waugh – the only character to be entirely untempted and corrupted by the world in Brideshead Revisited is Bridey, who achieves this by totally failing to peform his duties in any sense, or indeed, to do anything at all. He floats along on the surface of the novel, unaffected and unaffecting (by and large – he does, at one point, react – but it has little actual effect because of the clumsiness of the attempt. Sound familiar?)

    So the Doctor and the Daleks have been injected into another world – the world of Evelyn Waugh, where everything is exhausted, corrupted, contaminated, and inadequate to the task. Of course neither the Daleks nor the Doctor can function in this world: nothing else does.

    (There may be another parallel here – between the Doctor's episode 1 trek to find Tranquil Repose and Tony Last's search for the City in A Handful of Dust, but I can't be bothered to turn this into a fully-fledged reading.)


  5. Gnaeus
    May 16, 2012 @ 2:07 am

    Addendum: action and inaction can also be read as a commentary on living and dying. In this sense, it's amusing that Jenny Tomasin gives such a lacklustre performance as Tasembeker, because – by killing Jobel – she is one of the few characters to actually be act and live in this.

    The key revelation here, it seems to me, is that both the Doctor and the Daleks "have no life in them".


  6. Scott
    May 16, 2012 @ 2:49 am

    "The real problem is that, whatever frustration one might have with the fact that the show is Doctor Who and that maybe the Doctor should be in it, the truth is that he’s just about the least interesting thing in the first episode. And, worse than that, the bits with other characters are markedly more interesting than anything we’ve seen since Martin Jarvis was on screen. Yes, the deck is stacked against the Doctor here due to him having nothing to do, but really, most of the first episode is the best the show has been all year."

    I think that this can simply be explained by the fact that Eric Saward was, by this point, obviously interested in almost everything else EXCEPT the Doctor.


  7. Gaius
    May 16, 2012 @ 3:33 am

    There's also the impression here that Saward is basing his work on the two writers that impressed him the most: Holmes and Philip Martin. Hence the fun double acts and the DJ narrating events to the camera. It's as if the plundering of the series' own past is finally catching up with the present until there's nothing left to eat anymore.


  8. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 16, 2012 @ 4:35 am

    "It's as if the plundering of the series' own past is finally catching up with the present until there's nothing left to eat anymore."

    Oh, that's good. "SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE!!!!"

    I loved Orcini in this. Had totally forgotten William Gaunt, in another life, was one of the stars of THE CHAMPIONS, a fun short-lived show that mixed spies and sci-fi. He is, in effect, a vastly-better version of Lytton, a mercenary with an unshakable moral code, who thrills to the idea of being hired to kill the most evil man in the entire galaxy. But of course, he doesn't trust his employer (and for good reason). He was by far the best character in the story, and I loved the bit where he crosses paths with Colin Baker, by slamming a door in his face (almost exactly as happened in "STATE OF DECAY"), then, instead of teaming up, warns The Doctor that if he tries to follow him, he'll kill him. As if everyone else on the planet wasn't already trying. "Only I would be stupid enough to attack a Knight of the Royal Order of Oberon!" Well, look what he's wearing and how he's treating his gorgeous companion. Of course he's stupid!

    Eric Saward actually had the nerve to say he hated "RESSURECTION" (and he wrote it, what a blithering idiot), but that it was something he "had" to get out of the way, because of The Daleks' confusing history. WHA'…? So, this was the Dalek story he really wanted to write. Why didn't he just write this one, first? (The whole of "RESSURECTION" could have been compressed into a single line of dialogue. News that a Dalek task force attacked the prison where he was being held to free him, but it got blown up in the process and no one's sure if Davros escaped or not. There, see? Actually, if that had been the entire story, without ALLLLLL the stupid, pointless sub-plots, that might have been a better story than it was.)

    I love this story. And I've got a copy of "THE LOVED ONE" hiding around here somewhere I've been meaning to dig out for the last 2 years to watch again and compare… if I could just find the damned thing. Yes, The Doctor is reduced to doing nothing, because Saward doesn't care about him. The one thing he does is at the very end, where he suggests turning the planet into a farm to feed the starving billions. My main problem is, after Saward creates such a wonderful character as Orcini, not only does he fail to kill Davros, but Saward KILLS him off– just like Lytton– and doesn't even allow him the satisfaction of taking Davros with him when he blows himself up. That's just monstrously stupid. You don't just throw away a terrific character like that. Why was this idiot still working on the show at this point? Nobody else wanted to hire him, maybe?

    Eleanor Bron is terrific in this. Wouldn't it have been so funny if her sidekick had been played by John Cleese? Or would that have been too weird even for this story?

    Finally, it's often overlooked that THIS was the first TV story to show Daleks had anti-gravity hovering ability. Why? Because despite the skill and artistry of Graham Harper, the one shot you see it in is SO badly done, I saw the story 3 times and never noticed it, and had to read about it in the magazine, then watch the story again to verify that they didn't just make it up. Yep, it's there, but boy, what a botched shot. No wonder most people thought TV Daleks couldn't hover until Sylvester came along.


  9. Seeing_I
    May 16, 2012 @ 4:38 am

    And yet, this is somehow the most entertaining, watchable and modern-feeling story of the season. Funny, that.

    One thing I really appreciated about this story is that it managed to give Davros a lot of depth (relatively, anyway). Up until now he's always been exceedingly cold and clinical, with outbursts of ranting. But Saward does a lot to make Davros more interesting. Now he is seen wheedling and flattering Kara, making morbid bon mots ("consumer resistance") and playing on Tasembeker's sexual jealousy. "If someone had treated me the way he has treated you…" That last one really blew my mind as a kid. One never expects to hear Davros talk about a romantic betrayal! It gave his character some unexpected facets. Certainly he's never been in love – but he can imagine such a thing and how it might make those weaklings feel. Great stuff.


  10. Adam Riggio
    May 16, 2012 @ 5:12 am

    A wonderful story for this season, Phil — the diagnosis and acknowledgement of its flaws, which is also just an enumeration of what a Doctor Who story is.

    It reminds me of what you said about Terry Nation's writing style in Destiny of the Daleks. Nation had been writing Dan Dare style adventure sci-fi long past its sell-by date. And it literally is a matter of its date. The Terry Nation adventure style was never really done badly; the world changed, and that kind of adventure was no longer appropriate. Season 22 was the same acknowledgement process for Doctor Who.

    There was a kind of Doctor Who story that, despite the show's moments of experimentation, had never really changed. Perhaps the ordinary Doctor Who story is something like Timelash: The Doctor arrives in a world, fights monsters or a villain or both, changes the world in doing so, then leaves. By Season 22, Doctor Who had solidified into a single style, like Dan Dare. The production team certainly acted as if Doctor Who was only one type of story. The Whoniverse is this concept that makes the show into one more generic science-fiction franchise. But when Doctor Who becomes ordinary, it can't compete with everything else being done on television. It's out of date.

    Phil mentioned in the Timelash entry that Season 22 was the last time the classic series, or Doctor Who generally tried a lot of these story ideas: the generic monster race, the companion without character, and so on. The traditional Doctor Who story had run out of energy. Contrary to what a couple of the commenters have said over the last few months, there really is no way for the series to continue if it had stopped in 1985. It wasn't that the stories didn't have interesting elements; the show had exhausted itself.


  11. Gnaeus
    May 16, 2012 @ 5:45 am

    I'd recommend reading "The Loved One" rather than watching it. The film is, by all accounts, a pretty poor substitute for the book.


  12. Jesse
    May 16, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    I haven't read the book, and I would not be surprised if it's better than the movie. But the movie is pretty damn great.


  13. BerserkRL
    May 16, 2012 @ 9:29 am

    He avoids contamination precisely by being entirely , and, in that sense, useless.

    Was there suppose to be another word after "entirely"?


  14. tantalus1970
    May 16, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    Sarah's quip is an attempt to relieve tension, whereas the Doctor's putdown to Davros sums up his whole attitude. He just doesn't seem to rate Davros (IIRC; I need to re-watch it to be sure, but that was always my impression). There's an air of 'Davros. Daleks. OK. What's for tea?'


  15. Gnaeus
    May 16, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    Er, yes. Sorry. Please read "… entirely inert, and…" for "… entirely , and…".


  16. BerserkRL
    May 16, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

    Alchemically inert!


  17. Gnaeus
    May 16, 2012 @ 3:09 pm



  18. ferret
    May 17, 2012 @ 4:40 am

    The Davros/Doctor confrontation is rather good – mostly down to Davros, who really seems to see nothing wrong in his day-to-day activities of turning corpses into food and selling it to the living. He doesn't really rant or rave about this at all, so long as you keep him off the subject of Daleks.

    Davros: "I am known as The Great Healer! A somewhat flippant title, perhaps – but not without foundation. I have conquered the diseases that brought their victims here. In every way I have complied with the wishes of those that came in anticipation of being returned."

    "The humanoid form makes an excellent concentrated protein. This part of the galaxy is developing quickly. Famine was one of it's major problems."

    Colin: "You turned them into food??"

    Davros: "A scheme which has earned me great acclaim!"

    Colin: "But did you bother to tell anyone they might be eating their own relatives?"

    Davros: "Certainly not! That would create what I believe is termed 'consumer resistance'. They were grateful for the food: it allowed them to go on living."

    All seemingly reasonable, and Davros even brings the LOLs.


  19. Aaron
    May 17, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    He means Timelash as the third. Took me a second too, but the Borad is watching everyone constantly in that one, and everyone lives in a completely suveilled world.


  20. Adam Riggio
    May 17, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

    "Doctor Who grapples, in real time, with a simultaneous death and recreation."

    Doctor Who regenerates. It is a bit dodgy, this process.


  21. ferret
    May 17, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    It's interesting that throughout season 22 the Doctor keeps referring to his regeneration, almost as if it is still ongoing and still (or yet to begin) settling down. For all his protestations of "this is men, whether you like it or not" even the Doctor is aware that he's just not himself, that this is unexpected, off-kilter, unfinished – maybe even plain wrong.

    I find it odd that the alleged plans for various different character arcs put forward by production staff to explain his negative personality have absolutely no evidence of occuring in what was broadcast (as if you would leave it entirely for future seasons!) and yet this thread clearly runs through the serials of season 22, and yet nothing was done with it either.

    It would have been so simple (if a little underwhelming) to allege the Valeyard had been somehow mentally affecting the Doctor (via the same device implanted in the TARDIS that spys on and captures it) in order to show him as out-of-control and give reason to bring the Doctor to trial, and that the really off-character scenes in Mindwarp DID happen thanks to this psychic interferance. And I just made that up this second – it would have been easy to make good on it and give Colins term a more satisfying feel.


  22. William Whyte
    May 18, 2012 @ 1:12 am

    I very much like this take on the story. One of the questions the story doesn't answer within itself is why all these exciting things (Orcini, Davros taking against Jobel, the Dalek war, the Doctor arriving) are all happening at the same time. Your proposed answer — well, why are all these different people doing all these different exciting things on my TV at 8 every weeknight? — is great.


  23. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 18, 2012 @ 9:41 am

    Seeing I:
    ""If someone had treated me the way he has treated you…" That last one really blew my mind as a kid. One never expects to hear Davros talk about a romantic betrayal! It gave his character some unexpected facets. Certainly he's never been in love – but he can imagine such a thing and how it might make those weaklings feel. Great stuff."

    Who knows? He may have before his accident. And then of course, there's always Nyder…


  24. ferret
    May 20, 2012 @ 2:22 am

    hah "this is men" should have been "this is me" although for all the "abused spouse" conversations in the comments, it still seems appropriate.


  25. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 24, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

    Watched again tonight. As always– WOW!

    But I really wish the music and sound mix wasn't totally botched. And it only got worse from here onward.

    Philip Sandifer:
    "not being recognized by the Daleks is a cutting insult to this version of the show"

    It also stand in rather odd contrast to the fact that, somehow, Davros DOES recognize The Doctor, in fact, has spent considerable time and effort to lure The Doctor there, by somehow letting him know of Arthur Stenglos' death (how DOES one contact a Time Lord who flits thru time and space at ramdom, anyway???), and set up the fake statue of Colin Baker that falls on him. It's almost like "SON OF FRANKENSTEIN"– you feel as though there's an entire "Davros" story in between the last one and this one that's missing.

    "he even comments that it looks like this will be his last regeneration, which, to be fair, it very nearly was"

    The silly thing about that scene is, Peri worries, "If you die here, what happens to me? I can't fly the TARDIS!" Apart from that being a concern at all times, wherever they go, in this case it seems silly because, if The Doctor were actually dead when that statue had been set up, it would have happened in the past, NOT in their current present. So they would have had to have left and gone somewhere into the past, first, before he could be killed.

    "Isn't there a scene in a corridor where he runs into two Daleks and simply gets out of their way?"

    One of my favorite bits. "Ah! There you are. They went THAT way!" "YOU WILL COME WITH US!!!" (He was almost Tom Baker there.)

    Just a thought: watching Hugh Walters (Vogel, Kara's secretary), who played "Runcible The Fatuous" in "THE DEADLY ASSASSIN", it struck me his voice reminded me of Michael Wisher's. A shame HE didn't play Davros in these stories.

    "It even affects the Daleks who arrive from outside – who instead of destroying the impurities, simply intend to absorb them."

    Shortly before being killed, Arthur Stenglos, while in "Dalek" mode, rants about eliminating impurities. Yet, by Dalek standards, what could be more impure than turning humans INTO Daleks?

    It's kind of pathetic as Davros is led away how he tries to order the Daleks to obey him, because he's their creator, and he can make them "all" supereme.

    Oh, and I really took note if the brief scene where Davros hovers. Orcini's right leg is seen in back of Davros, yet, the perspective is all wrong. Davros is too small, he's too far away for Orcini's leg to possibly reach that far! Who screwed that shot up???

    As usual, everything connected with The Daleks, and especially Davros, is sick and diseased, and should be put down like the mad dogs they are. Will we ever see a true "final" Dalek story? I'd like to hope so…

    Once again, Orcini is the best thing here. Every scene he's in, I can't take my eyes off him. His every word, every gesture, is sheer poetry. What a shame he blew himself up, but Davros got away.


  26. Kevin Stafford
    September 19, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    Interesting that you should reference vegetables in the caption, when you have Phil Collins performing on Easy Lover with a cereal grain!


  27. orfeo
    April 20, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

    Interesting post. I think you may have something there about the “channel surfing” nature of the story with its large array of different plots.

    And yes, parts of it (usually parts of it without the Doctor) are indeed very good. The scene where Natasha encounters her Dalek-transformed father is a highlight.

    But the overall effect… this is quite the strangest story in a long time, with so many different tones that it’s difficult to get involved. Whether it’s the bizarre DJ character, the unnecessary commentary on Peri’s weight, the poor sound production that makes dialogue difficult to hear or the staring at cameras, I just found too many things that had me struggling to tell the difference between intentional oddities and accidental ones.

    It feels like there could have been something great here (and judging by the guides archived on the BBC website, some people thought there WAS something great here), but for me the end result is merely a different kind of failure than usual.


  28. Toby
    August 23, 2022 @ 10:36 am

    First off, I’d like to acknowledge that it’s 10 years after you wrote this (and since I first read it) and I still come back to these entries to help me think about Doctor Who episodes I’ve just watched. This whole project really is incredible.

    This is my favourite Colin Baker story, because it’s so high concept (it’s an entire planet given over to funerary rites!) that then focuses on minutiae (office romances, a hospital DJ for the dead, making sure everything’s presentable for a guest – even the daleks’ scheme is quite mundane and capitalistic, if gruesome and morbid). Your reading of it as Doctor Who and the daleks invading the rest of TV (or vice versa) really solidifies what I love about it.

    Onto what actually made me write this comment, can the idea that this season is pre-occupied with surveillance be contrasted with Troughton’s habit of looking out of TV screens? Camera’s used to be under the Doctor’s power, now they’re something to be feared and to be used against him.

    I think this then becomes quite interesting looking at the Two Doctors, where we’ve got the Doctor who displayed the most power over cameras, not quite himself, returning; the scene where a hologram of the Doctor is killed and tortured is then particularly interesting – a camera is used to literally kill an image/symbol of the Doctor. For a decent chunk of the story, this death is treated as equivalent to an actual death, before being revealed as “just” an image of the Doctor (in this story, as you point out, that death catches up to him).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.