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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.

12 Comments

  1. Gavin
    November 16, 2011 @ 12:53 am

    Small proofreading comment: Patrick Hillery

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  2. SK
    November 16, 2011 @ 2:20 am

    Continuity, Canon.

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  3. Alex Wilcock
    November 16, 2011 @ 3:38 am

    Refreshing to have a piece about the books focusing on Terrance’s subtle asides rather than some of the more famously expansive works. And I like your mirroring of the beginning of Doctor Who, with these stories as a new beginning… Though, as I’ve written in more detail before, there’s another, I suspect more deliberate mirroring in them.

    Back in 1977, after a month or two’s break, this was promoted as a “New Series” for the second half of Season 14 – much like this year’s split season. And by way of underlining the season’s themes of battles for the mind, growing up and dark religion, each of these latter three stories mirrors the earlier half: a masked, post-death villain from another time mixes technology with religious trappings at the climax of each mini-season (Assassin / Talons); a self-styled scientific messiah wants absolute leadership over the people they’ve made (Hand / Robots); and most blatantly, though you’re right that this one goes even further than the last – you only have to look at the Whitehousephobic working title, The Day God Went Mad – each half starts in a blatantly Catholicism-inspired parable with an evil god stirring it and it’s all the Doctor’s fault, an Adam, a Prometheus, or arguably here an absentee father (Masque / Face).

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  4. col1234
    November 16, 2011 @ 3:44 am

    Much agree with the praise for Louise Jameson, one of the best actors the show ever had. The tragedy of Season 15, IMO, is how a fascinating character like Leela is slowly reduced into a generic "companion," with Jameson fighting every inch of the way. Leela's sudden dispatch-by-marriage at the end of "Invasion of Time" is the final insult.

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  5. Matthew Celestis
    November 16, 2011 @ 7:43 am

    I hate the idea of the Doctor trying to civilize Leela. It just seems so Victorian.

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  6. inkdestroyedmybrush
    November 16, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    I always thought that this story was very smart in the way that it touched upon the fact that the Doctor has adventures that we don't see, making him more complex and interesting since before we could assume, if we wished, that we've basically been seeing all his adventures since Unearthly Child. Now we know that this is not the case.

    And the series had to shake itself off from the departure of Sarah, and nicely sidestepped the disaster of a direct replacement by going with some one from a completely different time period and planet. Now the viewer identification shifts entirely to the Doctor getting to show the new person around the universe. very clever that.

    Deliciously meta as you point out that Leela is a creation of both the Doctor and Xoanon, born from both the calm and the mad sides of the time lord's personality. makes her less stable.

    But in bringing up the Great Man theory in your prior post, i see Face of Evil as a refutation of that, almost an apologia. The great man struts in, screws up, and never bothers to look back at the misery he's caused. Except when forced to here. Taking Leela on is a one person apology to make up for it. And indeed, instead of making sweeping changes in society in every story, for the next couple he'll settle for making small changes: saving the women of victorian london from Greel, saving the people of the Sandminer, trying to save, and failing, the lighthouse staff from Rutan. He did not, for instance, try to change to whole world's reliance on the robots like he did the Gangers in the most current season. The great man pulls back to the personal for a bit.

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  7. WGPJosh
    November 16, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    I'm so glad you spent time talking about the Cargo Cult aspect of this story, as it's what's always irked me about "The Face of Evil" and the next season or so in general. Anytime a story like this is done it runs the danger of winding up smack in the middle of a number of seriously unfortunate implications: It's just awkward and uncomfortable. I really like your reading of this serial because, for me, awkward and uncomfortable is exactly what "The Face of Evil" felt like.

    With this serial, we begin a period of Doctor Who I've always been uneasy about. On the one hand, these were some of the first stories I was able to watch regularly and repeatedly and the first era of the show I was genuinely a fan of. I loved, and still love, the Doctor/Leela double act-It's one of my favourite TARDIS teams. As a kid I immediately gravitated to it primarily because of Leela, who I enjoyed watching far more then Sarah Jane because she seemed more proactive, independent and self-sufficient, as opposed to Sarah who seemed to have an alarming predilection to getting kidnapped and needing to be rescued. As I've said before, I have no tolerance for characters who do little except get captured and rescued and I never have. As an adult, I love it for the same reasons, but also because Louise Jameson is a terrific actress, has great chemistry with both Tom Baker and John Leeson and is one of the few people who can keep Baker in line. To this day Leela's still one of my favourite companions.

    Despite my fondness for her and the fact I'm writing this with my Character Options Leela Action Figure staring back at me, I must confess I've always found her character fundamentally…troubled. The fact that she's constantly referred to as a "primitive" or a "savage" really rubs me the wrong way and the condescending way The Doctor treats her gets tiresome and borderline offensive for me. Admittedly a lot of that, at least in her first few stories, is due to Baker's disdain for both Leela AND Jameson and this is tempered a bit once Jameson reams him in and makes him respect her, but even so there are still plenty of lines throughout her tenure where The Doctor chuckles at her "primitive" and "unevolved" mind and she gets very few moments to defend herself. Even when the series allows Leela to go from "savage" to "noble savage" that's really not much of an improvement and is still arguably rubbing unpleasantly close to colonialism.

    Aside from the fact the show is screaming toward unfortunate implications with the way it overtly treats her, the other side of this is that Leela was conceived of as an "Eliza Doolittle" character…That is so frightening in its implications I can't even begin to approach it properly. At the risk of getting myself into more hot water, I utterly despise My Fair Lady: It's an appalling piece of romanticised Neo-Victorian classism and sexism that completely misses the point of Pygmalion's satire. The fact that Leela was supposedly inspired by it just horrifies me. I say My Fair Lady and not Pygmalion because it's explicitly said that Leela was supposed to "learn" from The Doctor: Its a fundamentally top-down, paternalistic relationship whereas the pint of Pygmalion was deconstructing that very relationship and showing who destructive it is. This is also borderline offensive because while it's OK when The Doctor acts that way towards humans in general, when his companion is a pretty obvious Native American/Pacific Islander analogue it becomes INSANELY awkward and carries a lot of unpleasantness about it.

    (cont'd)

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  8. WGPJosh
    November 16, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    Even then though this still could have worked, provided Leela had a scene (preferably a number of scenes) where she proves The Doctor's top-down paternalistic attitude wrong and shows that her indigenous knowledge is just as valid as his advanced knowledge of time and narrative, almost like what Ms. Hawthorne did to Pertwee in "The Daemons" but more so. Even better would be a story where The Doctor catastrophically screws up and Leela has to come and save the day. But she never does, that never happens and we're left with a really cool character who nonetheless is extremely dangerous to write for because in the wrong hands she has the potential to derail the series in a muddled, broken mess of -isms.

    I don't mean this as an indictment of Leela or this era at all: I really like both her and Louise Jameson and quite a number of the next few serials rank as some of my favourites (I even like "The Face of Evil" overall). However, in basing her off of Eliza Doolittle and giving her a Cargo Cult backstory, the writers and producers made Leela needlessly problematic from the beginning and weighed her down with unnecessary baggage. It doesn't help at all that Louise Jameson and Tom Baker had such a rough start, although by all accounts the troubles didn't last long and, after all, they're working together again today. Even so, as it is Jameson's 15 second scene with Sylvester McCoy in Dimensions in Time is warmer and more affectionate than almost anything in her actual initial tenure.

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  9. Jesse
    November 16, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    I prefer to think of My Fair Lady as a love triangle, with Professor Higgins torn between Eliza Doolittle and Colonel Pickering.

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  10. BerserkRL
    November 16, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    In the Leslie Howard film (of Pygmalion), Higgins and Pickering are irresistibly reminsicent of Homes and Watson.

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  11. Adeodatus
    November 19, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

    So … it's about the Doctor having to deal with the experience of being a character in a Doctor Who story, yes?

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  12. Henry R. Kujawa
    April 12, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    "Sarah who seemed to have an alarming predilection to getting kidnapped and needing to be rescued"

    Yes, my very 1st impression of here WAS "an English Lois Lane", right down to the bossy attitude. I sometimes wonder If I'd liked her sooner or taken longer than I did, IF my 1st Sarah story had been "THE TIME WARRIOR" instead of "ROBOT". Despite myself, I did fall for Sarah (midway thru "THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT"– guess I do have a weakness for "women in distress"). So, by default, I resented Leela at first, simply for her not being Sarah. Because the Philly PBS station ran the stories totally out of sequence– and, I somehow missed a few episodes here and there– my very first view of Leela was her running thru the sewer in "TALONS". No, really. When the rat grabbed her, I remember yelling at the TV, "YEAH! GET HER!!!" I'm sure I wouldn't have done that if it had been Joanna Lumley. (see "GNAWS")

    "THE FACE OF EVIL" has always annoyed me as a story. I've slowly come to terms with it over the years, the really irritating parts I'm used to and the confusing parts (some of which were a DIRECT result of the savage editing done for commercial time, before someone realized it was PBS stations running the show here, NOT commercial stations) I've figured out. I think what helped was my giving the story a sarcastic nickname: "PLANET OF THE IDIOTS". Seriously, it's a toss-up who's dumber in this story: Sevateem, or Tesh. "Yes, Lord!" I mean, the Tesh leader's actually STUPID enough, after recognizing The Doctor, to believe, "No, you are NOT the Lord of Time come again to save us!" Some people are too dumb to deserve saving.

    Leela is such a breath of fresh air. Of COURSE she became an outcast. STUPID people ALWAYS harrass and persecute SMART people. Leela may not know much, but she IS smart. Which is why she connects with The Doctor so fast. She sees him as a source of knowledge. Maybe love as well, but Baker's Doctor being who he is, that vanishes pretty quick. "Don't you like me?" "Well, I suppose I do like you, but I can't go carting everyone I like around with me." After the number of times he repeatedly LURED Sarah into his TARDIS, again and again (who says Time Lords don't fall in love?) this is something very different.

    So what we have here may be my LEAST-favorite Leela story. On the other hand, she probably looks her best here– especially when she goes to some extra effort for the last scene. Which doesn't work, so she has to take matters into her own hands. NO WAY she was just gonna let him LEAVE that awful place without her!

    Just noticed a parallel between Leela and Rose. Both abandoned a man who cared very much for them, as it was clearly a one-way street. Who knows? Maybe Tomas became the new leader.

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