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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. John Callaghan
    September 12, 2011 @ 3:22 am

    As a chap with a Midlands accent myself, I'm not comfortable with the idea of "a strong Midlands accent" being synonymous with "bad acting". There's a school of thought which seems to maintain that having an RP accent confers legitimacy on the character, whereas talking like a normal person is scoffed at. It's a pet peeve of mine. Occasional reviews will mock Devonshire Vervoids or Cockney Sontarans, as if another accent would make any more sense.

    It's perfectly possible I've misunderstood what you've written, though, in which case I'll just slope off with a sheepish K-KLAK.


  2. 5tephe
    September 12, 2011 @ 3:25 am

    Oh, nuts. I was going to post "K-KLAK!" myself.


  3. Steve Hogan
    September 12, 2011 @ 3:55 am

    As a kid I used to have the American edition of this book, and I must sadly report that the cover was devoid of K-KLAKing.

    Good point about there being too many characters tied into Operation Golden Age. One of the problems I have with a lot of conspiracy theories is that they're too big and unweildly. It isn't clear to me how the various people in this story would've come together on this. It seems like an awkward conversation, going from talking about pollution to proposing erasing the majority of the human race from history.

    And that's my other big problem: the well meaning villains are incredibly thick about how awful what they're doing is. That Yates thinks that the Doctor might potentially endorse their efforts is ridiculous. When you consider that in 2011 we've just had an extremely depressing episode that deals with the horror of wiping out one person's alternate timeline, the Operation Golden Age guys have really underdeveloped moral imaginations.


  4. SK
    September 12, 2011 @ 4:14 am

    Actually I found the Operation Golden Age people quite convincing (in the novel): once you've decided that the problem with the planet is overpopulation, isn't it kinder to make the excess people never have existed than to kill them all?

    It's like Darius Jedburgh said: 'People who put trees and flowers before people, they're beyond reasoning with. You can never appeal to their humanity, because they don't believe in humanity, except as a form of moral pollution. '


  5. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 12, 2011 @ 4:44 am

    John – it was more that an 11th century character is not actually going to have a 20th century regional accent. On television we accept this as one of the myriad of differences between what Doctor Who looks like and what reality looks like. But there's no reason for that difference to exist in the book, so consciously giving a character who is also explicitly said to be speaking middle English a 20th century modern English accent is a deeply incongruous detail that appears to be a sly comment about the unreality of the story.


  6. Steve Hogan
    September 12, 2011 @ 4:50 am

    Well, even if you don't like people very much, rolling back a million or so years of history is going to wipe out a lot of puppies and kittens too.

    I think the hardest part is that Yates gets so radicalized so fast. Giant maggots are pretty awful, but sheesh. He's downright suicidal at this point.


  7. William Whyte
    September 12, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    Again, seemingly the entire production staff of Doctor Who fails to quite get what it is that makes conspiracy thrillers work, which is uncertainty.

    As with your Inferno review, I think you underrate the grim pleasure of realising that we're all fucked.

    In many ways, these books were more influential in the fan consensus about the Pertwee era than the actual episodes.

    I think the Pertwee books benefited hugely from coming out during Tom Baker's era — no matter how well you remembered the original, you couldn't help but imagine the joke lines delivered with Tom Baker's light charm rather than Pertwee's irritability. In almost every case that's a huge improvement.

    The fake space ship is a clear jab at the naive and reflexive embrace of space stories

    You think? I think of it more as Hulke yet again being the only person who can find a real twist on the earth-bound formula. It's a spaceship! is one of the great cliffhangers, and it's not a spaceship! is one of the great mid-episode twists. Why would Hulke be bothered about embracing space stories? He was the one who wrote two of them for Pertwee and one of the strongest advocates for doing them more.


  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 12, 2011 @ 6:56 am

    I probably should have been more specific. By "space stories" I did not merely mean stories set in space, but stories that were specifically about near-term advances in human spaceflight – a genre that in Doctor Who really begins with The Seeds of Death, peaked with The Ambassadors of Death, and has been in decline since. In this regard, Hulke only wrote one and a half of those – Ambassadors being the half, and Colony in Space, which was already beginning to get away from the basics of that sort of story and towards something else – being the full one. Notably, Frontier in Space is not – it's a return to a far future milieu in which space is a way of creating new and unusual settings, as opposed to a real thing that humans are working their way through.

    So to my mind, the sort of space story being teased here was a brief subgenre of science fiction that provided, I think, much of the initial justification of the earthbound format ("We should refocus on realistic spaceflight anyway, look how popular it is") only to flame out along with the space race after Apollo 11. And part of what is going on here is that it's being exposed as the dead end that it turned out to be, and being used by implication as a comment on how silly the Pertwee era that was so indebted to it turned out to be.


  9. Wm Keith
    September 12, 2011 @ 7:39 am

    I know this is not a review blog. But your not-a-review felt strangely hollow, given that the purpose of the blog is to "track the story of Doctor Who" and that the Pertwee phase of your blog project is "a story about utopian ideology in the aftermath of the 1960s", it's as idiosyncratic as we should expect from this blog that you choose "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", a story about creating utopia, to moan about the special effects, and particularly because of hopes raised by the story title.

    The full title, "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is as misleading (though not so playful) a title as "Carnival of Monsters". The short title for part 1, "Invasion", is just a downright lie.

    The effects, of course, are a disappointment – although Pertwee using a mop to fend off a pterodactyl-on-a-string is one of the defining images of his era.

    And I think you are missing the picture about British politics in 1974. You've made the analogy of Carter/Reagan, but that misses the point in a big way.

    In 1976 Carter was elected as president with a narrow national majority of votes, with clear Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate.

    In 1974, Britain twice proved itself incapable of electing a stable government. Not only were the Labour and Conservative parties virtually equal in terms of votes cast, but also third parties – the Liberals and the Welsh and Scots nationalists had a huge vote which was not reflected in seats won.

    The previous five years had seen violence and the suspension of elected government in Northern Ireland. Martial law? "Looters will be shot"? There was a real possibility that the United Kingdom might break up, a not unfounded fear that civil government in Great Britain might cease to function; and some unrealistic scaremongering about the possibility of a military coup.

    In short, many people wanted to turn back the clock and go back to the days before Britain was ruined by "moral degradation, permissiveness, usury, cheating, lying and cruelty".

    And, in passing, the Spaceship-in-the-basement is a fantastic idea, and handled very well. You liked it in "Enemy of the World". Here it is again, only with an extra twist.

    Would write more but it's time for my tea.


  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 12, 2011 @ 7:47 am

    All of this is true. But to my mind, the most glaring point about Invasion of the Dinosaurs is that the tension between all of that and what the program that actually hits TV screens under Barry Letts's tenure are irrevocably forking. Where they used to be able to be kept in a fairly stable balance, there the two aspects of the program have begun actively sniping at one another.

    Yes, Hulke is writing a blistering political parable about Britain in late 1973/early 1974, he's spot on, and he's thinking very seriously about the question of what privileging the maintenance of law and order over other concerns means for the people involved.

    But equally crucially, Letts is slapping together a "last hurrah of UNIT" story and figuring that he can get viewers via dinosaurs. And the two modes of production are becoming openly antagonistic.


  11. John Callaghan
    September 13, 2011 @ 10:12 am

    Philip – amusingly, I have a 20th century Midlands accent, but I'm actually from the Middle Ages.


  12. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    September 18, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    But really, who isn't.


  13. harbqll
    October 17, 2011 @ 5:55 am

    To echo William Whyte's comment, above – I also read the American novelization as in kid, in 1979 or so, long before I ever actually saw the episode. But my version explicitly stated this was a 4th Doctor adventure, so I just assumed this was an early Tom Baker story that I missed somewhere along the way.

    After having read the book multiple times growing up, with #4 in the starring role, you can imagine how jarring it was when I finally saw it in the late 80's, with Pertwee in the lead.


  14. breyerii
    January 19, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    We have a character named Whitaker. In one scene he's having a broken glass be made whole again. And other things I noticed as I was watching it.

    I thought at the very least it was a shout out, but apparently I was seeing things, because no one so much as mentioned it…


  15. orfeo
    June 1, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    The reason everyone in the story is in on the conspiracy is because the 8 million people who weren't in on the conspiracy have been evacuated from London. Whether you like the resulting structure or not, the script does at least account for it. The conspirators ensured that they would be in charge of responding to an emergency, and then created the emergency.


  16. Henry R. Kujawa
    October 20, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

    Strange but true: this was my 1st Pertwee-Sladen story…. because I read the novel, way back when only Tom Baker's 1st 4 seasons had made it to America. And about 5 years before the story itself turned up on PBS.

    All these years, I've put up with parts 2-6, and to this day still don't have part 1 in my collection.

    But LAST WEEK, I finally watched part 1 online. What a strange sensation, to be watching what was, for me, a "brand new" Sarah Jane Smith story!

    And Pertwee was so DELIGHTFUL in it! He reminded me even more of Troughton in that episode than he did in "SPEARHEAD". I like him so much better once he was able to use the TARDIS again. And of course, since getting that back, he seems better at it than we EVER saw him before. Witness his absolute on-target jaunt to 12th century England, within sight of the castle. (Of course, he had a tracking device to help set the coordinates.) Presumably, he had the coordinates for the return trip programmed in beforehand, which explains how he was able to get back… even if he appears to have deliberately missed the research center.

    I couldn't help but think, though, the Aurora "Monster Scenes" model kits would have looked more convincing than the critters they used in this story.

    And wouldn't it have been as better twist to learn that General Finch WASN'T one of the bad guys? He's such a bastard to begin with. It hit me that John Bennett's character in "THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD" got KILLED by Jon Pertwee's character. That film had so many "WHO" connections.


  17. Ross
    May 27, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

    I think the story works reasonably well as conspiracy thriller, but who are the conspirators supposed to be exactly? Enviromental extremists or the mad fringe of the Conservative Party and their mates in the army? The latter were probably a more genuine threat in 1974. Maybe Hulke, a member of the Communist Party, was trying to suggest that both were backward looking.


  18. Mr. Sin (twentyone)
    August 3, 2017 @ 3:47 am

    Always found it strange when people disliked this story … I, for one, find it delightful and very entertaining (plus it confirmed my theories about Mike Yates secretly being an antagonist). Still, you do make some very good points, but I find it does help to sometimes not watch all Who with your brain switched on to such a high level!

    Great post, mate.


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