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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.

17 Comments

  1. peeeeeeet
    August 31, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    Fierce writeup. It's also worth noting, given your recent thoughts on the importance of ordinary people in these types of stories, that the guest cast here are probably the best so far in the NAs; Christopher, Roisa, Maire, Jan, Julian and even Phaedrus all hold their own, which is no mean feat when Benny Summerfield just walked onstage. Cornell wins his argument at least in part by demonstrating how valuable the lives are that the sacrifice is made for, and his willingness to stare unflinchingly at the life to be sacrificed strengthens rather than weakens his position. In a way it saddens me that this novel has been such an influence on the modern series, since without that deftness of touch the various components don't always come together anywhere near as well; "The Girl Who Waited" is a case in point, with a sour and alienating conclusion to a promising setup.

    I would say that at the time fans were talking about "Ace fatigue" and that everyone was aware the character would have been written out quicker if the TV series had continued – coupled with the initial bi-monthly schedule for the NAs I don't think they could have put off creating a new companion much longer. If anything, the first unforced error the series made was to bring her back so soon and in the way they did. But that's all to come…

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  2. Darren K.
    August 31, 2012 @ 1:10 am

    Currently rereading Love and War, so I skipped your write-up, but I am quite looking forward to it. Hopefully nothing that I am posting here is covered in your writing. However, I think skipping 'Nightshade' might be a bit of a mistake. It and 'Love and War' coming out back to back, right after the barely connect Cat's Cradle books, really emphasised to me how much of a mess these early books were. In the case of 'Nightshade' and 'Love and War,' it was the depiction of Ace and her love life. I'm writing from twenty-five year old memory here, but both seemed to put a fair bit of emphasis on Ace's relationships outside of the Doctor, and the two books were wildly incompatible in that presentation, particularly coming one right after the other.

    In terms of narrative gaps in an ongoing story – which is how the New Adventures were being presented – it was disarming. It seemed like no one was in charge. In both books, Ace undergoes a similar experience of falling in love, but they are depicted in very different ways, with 'L&W' making no reference to what had just happened in the book before, despite on the surface being the same story in many ways for Ace. It made the books seem even more separate from each other and what made up "Doctor Who". Obviously, some of these differences between stories are inherent in the series itself, but at this point the New Adventures were feeling like each new book was simply a different fan-fiction under an umbrella title.

    I assume you write about 'L&W' being a relaunch in many ways for the New Adventures, a new pilot that everything after came from, but I feel that the strength of this is really emphasised if you have read 'Nightshade' as well. Which is a fun book and worth reading anyway.

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  3. SpaceSquid
    August 31, 2012 @ 3:10 am

    I'd disagree, actually. Indeed, Nightshade's status as an entirely throwaway book (which it most certainly is, albeit a pretty entertaining one) just becomes all the more obvious when you compare it with Love and War. Reading the latter might make the flaws/missed opportunites of the former seem more obvious, but I don't think anything flows in the other direction.

    After all, watching the Twin Dilemma does not add anything to The Caves of Androzani, other than irritation regarding how everything gets pissed away so quickly and so completely.

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  4. Cameron Dixon
    August 31, 2012 @ 3:36 am

    I'm going entirely off memory here as my source material is currently packed up in boxes stacked under other boxes, but I believe there's a deleted scene in "The Curse of Fenric" that made its way into the novelisation: when Ace goes to Maidens' Point with Jean and Phyllis, they point out the name and say, "Well, that's us ruled out," and Ace laughs and says, "Me too."

    It's couched in metaphor and implication, there's always the chance that Ace is an unreliable narrator joking to fit in, and of course that line didn't actually make it to the original broadcast; but the television series did at the very least get close to considering Ace's sexuality or lack thereof. Especially given the famous subsequent "Professor, I'm not a little girl."

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  5. drfgsdgsdf
    August 31, 2012 @ 5:10 am

    You could make an argument that Nightshade is notable by being so traditional and throwaway. It's become a cliche to say 'I hated all the NAs-except Nightshade' It's also a wishlist for frustrated Hincliffe fans in the 80s:dark, violent, Hammer horror, and in a churlish moment the Doctor snapping at Ace for calling him professor.

    IIRC Vanessa Bishop posits it as a road not taken in DWM. After this it splits from the TV Series irrevocably with a new companion

    But Love and War blazes a path for the NAs by being a recognisable Who adventure-with a massive emotional difference. It uses the language of a Who alien invasion story, with possession, body horror and even back references to tell a different kind of story

    A lot of contemporary fanzine press dismissed Revelation and Crucible as aberrations, the oddball episodes-both were compared to Warrior's Gate, and Warhead was just a non Who novel that Cartmel had altered slightly( this is all rubbish of course). But this book made it clear that things could never be quite the same again-at least in the Virgin line

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  6. SpaceSquid
    August 31, 2012 @ 5:43 am

    "You could make an argument that Nightshade is notable by being so traditional and throwaway."

    Fair point, though I'm not sure it could be spun out particularly far. "Hinchcliffe revival with added racial awareness" is fine as far as it goes, but aside from ticking off the ways in which Nightshade nods to the past, I'm not sure how much could be said from that perspective.

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  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 31, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    Honestly, part of my hesitation with Nightshade was that, having done The Roundheads and been surprised by how hard it was to get a full entry out of it, I am somewhat twice shy over Gatiss, whose traditionalism I just find boring. I'm going to have enough trouble dealing with all his new series stories.

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  8. Russell Gillenwater
    August 31, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

    I have to say that I have looked forward to your review, Phil, of Love and War and it didn’t disappoint. This book was a seminal Doctor Who moment for me. The Ark in Space was the first my first TV story and that was a big moment and as the first NA I read, Love and War reignited my love of Doctor Who after I began drifting away from the series after it was cancelled.

    The book also holds for me the distinction of being one of five stories to be my favorite Doctor Who story ever. The first three happen when I first started watching Who (The Ark in Space which was replacing by Genesis and then Pyramids of Mars). Love and War was the story that supplanted Pyramids and was only later passed by Human Nature, which is still my favorite Who story to date.

    It is this book more than any other for the reason why I love the NAs. It introduced one of my favorite companions (Bernice Summerfield) and other concepts that hooked me on Who again. However, one of these you mentioned the line that he is “what monsters have nightmares about!” At the time I thought this was cool, but it is one of those horses that the Modern Series has borrowed and beat to death. Oh, one other observation is even though I liked it, if you think Nightshade was a throwaway, trying reading Love and War first.

    Anyway, as mentioned one of my favorite parts of the novel is the introduction of Benny. I don’t know if you have mentioned this but will you cover her solo stuff (novel, audio or both) more in-depth after you finish with the NAs. I figured you would might since there might not be any Big Finish Doctor Who audios without those Benny ones that came first.

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  9. SpaceSquid
    September 1, 2012 @ 12:05 am

    I suppose there might be something in the central image of the novel – an actor from an old sci-fi TV show discovers the monsters he fought on-screen are chasing him in the real world – but the book doesn't really do too much with the idea, IIRC. Though for those who care about such things, it's an interesting antecedent to Gatiss & company's League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse.

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  10. Ed Jolley
    September 1, 2012 @ 5:34 am

    I think you're right.

    Also, according to one of the early NA writers' guides from Virgin, it's implicit in the Dragonfire novelisation that Ace had her first sexual experience on Svartos.

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  11. Adam Riggio
    September 1, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    An interesting tangent occurred to me as I was reading through the essay, Phil. It may anticipate some of what you'll cover when you get around to the EDAs, which you briefly describe here as the line that ends up pushed aesthetically so that, despite the title, it loses its nature as Doctor Who. My reasoning is a little convoluted, but I think it makes sense.

    I remember you mentioning, long ago, that the Time War in the new series works in terms of Doctor Who having lost its master text, the narrative that could hold all the disparate ends of the show together. I also remember you mentioning that of the three major continuations of Doctor Who and the wilderness years, the only one whose ideas had no influence on the new series was the EDAs. Even so, the closest thing we had to an actual Gallifrey-destroying Time War in the wilderness years was The Ancestor Cell, an EDA. And in the storyline of the EDAs, the destruction of Gallifrey in The Ancestor Cell resulted in the Doctor forgetting who he was. This reminded me of another earlier comment of yours that the show, over time, tends to make the Doctor an increasingly pivotal figure in the universe of the show by the accumulating weight of the series itself being about him.

    So I have a statement that seems in part to be text, paratext, metatext, and commentary. The Doctor forgetting his identity in-universe coincides with the storyline that destroys Gallifrey and explores its aftermath, which has pushed the EDAs as a novel range itself outside the nature of what Doctor Who is. Catastrophic memory loss is, literally, the loss of one's own master narrative, which it the metatextual interpretation of the Time War on Doctor Who as a media franchise. From a perspective inside the narrative, the Doctor committing double genocide as the climax to a war (even becoming a warrior himself, as some dialogue in Dalek suggests), is so outside his character that to see it on the show would break any connection of the Doctor to Doctor Who. So the mistakes and blunders of the EDAs are themselves the real-world version of the Time War.

    Having written this down, I can see how ridiculous this is. Of course, it's no more ridiculous than your story of Robert Holmes and Graeme Harper being incarnations of the Doctor invading our world to extend his own life past his 13th regeneration. So I think I'm okay with this idea.

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  12. Ununnilium
    September 2, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    Nothing to do with the current entry, but: I've been reading the Shada novelization, and it's quite good. Gareth Roberts certainly does a lot better faux-Adams narration than Eoin Colfer.

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  13. cardboardrobot
    September 3, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    "I am somewhat twice shy over Gatiss, whose traditionalism I just find boring."

    I completely agree. Nightshade just wasn't very interesting to a non-traditionalist and there isn't much to say about it. The only TV script of his that I like is "The Unquiet Dead," but there isn't much to say about that either. I'm a fan of the Hinchcliffe years, but I'm glad the show moved on from that approach — this book demonstrates that not just anybody can do it and make it interesting. (I'm not sure it would work without Tom Baker's Doctor either, anyway.)

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  14. Kit
    September 4, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    Also nothing to do with the current entry, but congrats on the 33? acceptance!

    (The Shada novelisation is a bit pointless and sad for existing, but the audiobook has a certain degree of fun in hearing Lalla Ward do Tom's voice, and Leeson playing K-9…)

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  15. Seeing_I
    August 30, 2014 @ 10:24 am

    I will say this for Witch Mark, it's got one of the most attractive pieces of cover art to grace the New Adventures.

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  16. deepest_mummerset
    October 15, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

    If you are still reading these comments after all these years, please do review Nightshade; it is the most important piece of work Mark Gatiss has done for Doctor Who even if (sadly) it’s potential legacy was never picked up on (especially by Mark Gatiss himself).

    All the rest of Gatiss’ writing for Doctor Who is about nostalgia FOR Doctor Who, Gatiss just wants to keep writing traditional Doctor Who adventures in keeping with his childhood memories of the show from the 70s.

    On the other hand, his first published work for Doctor Who, Nightshade, is about nostalgia AND Doctor Who and here nostalgia is dangerous. People are drawn away from their real lives by enticing glimpses of the past which turn out to be deceptive, false and ultimately hollow to their terrible cost. As such, it has an emotional depth and a degree of self awareness which we, regrettably, have not seen from him since.

    It’s only a shame that Gattiss never seemed after to take on board the message of his own book so that the rest of his writing for Doctor Who, despite his evident talents, does not reach beyond shallow recycling and pastiche in the same way that Nightshade did.

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    • deepest_mummerset
      October 15, 2017 @ 7:11 pm

      P.S. I appreciate your point that Nightshade is a stand alone novel as it doesn’t add to the story arc of the New Adventures but thematically and emotionally it echoes down the range of novels and into the new series by cutting to the heart of the rad/trad debate.

      Thanks

      Reply

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