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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.

29 Comments

  1. John Callaghan
    October 29, 2012 @ 1:32 am

    I've been silent lately because even though I'm enjoying your essays, they have convinced me that I was correct in all the impressions I had about the NAs (and that's why I didn't read them). Each to their own, of course. A friend of mine got into Who through them.

    I did read Human Nature however. While it's deserving of its plaudits, I do actually prefer the TV story. In the book, the Doctor returns to Joan and says "I can't feel the same way any more" and she blithely shrugs it off. On TV, he returns and claims the opposite – that he can still love her. And she shrugs him off.

    I was beginning to get annoyed with the cocky superbeing Doctor, and HN felt like it was acknowledging him as someone we weren't expected to like; it made John Smith feel like a hero.

    I could do without all that "wonderful fire and ice and Pinky and Perky" nonsense, though. And saying that travelling in the TARDIS is as dangerous as being in the First World War seems almost distasteful to me. (I would have gone with "in the trenches… they'll need a doctor.")

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  2. Pete Galey
    October 29, 2012 @ 1:34 am

    I'd like to hear more about why you think the book is superior to the TV version – one big one for me would be that the premise seems to fit the seventh Doctor at this stage in his development better. It's telling that everyone comes to the same conclusion as to why he does what he does, even though it's never explicitly stated, whereas the tenth Doctor version has to be at pains to explain why he does it because otherwise we'd have no clue. Also, Benny's role in the story is vastly better than Martha's; it's possibly Martha's worst showing after the Doctor's Daughter.

    I think there are a couple of way in which the TV version is better, though; the fixed running time leads to more disciplined plotting in the second half (since I tend to find Orman's solo books rather meandering and padded, I'm not convinced her contribution is a net gain, though I appreciate it's impossible to tell who came up with what), and the villains are overall more memorable. I can't keep the book baddies straight in my head, even though I've written TWO fanfics inspired by this story!

    [OpenID seems to be b0rked – I am the same fellow who is peeeeeeet]

    Reply

  3. Simon Moore
    October 29, 2012 @ 2:25 am

    Hi, you're off on your latin derivations I'm afraid. Monster derives from the noun monstrum (portent, rodigy, etc), rather than the verb monstrare (to show,as you say).

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  4. Andrew Hickey
    October 29, 2012 @ 3:06 am

    I suspect that the Death Takes A Holiday influence here is actually via Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man from three years earlier. I'm surprised actually that you haven't done a Pop Between Realities on Pratchett yet, because in the UK in the early 90s he was quite clearly the single most important figure in SF/F books…

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  5. SK
    October 29, 2012 @ 3:08 am

    The main thing which sticks out for me as confirming the book as being better than the TV version is that in the book, Smith has to go confront the aliens pretending to be the Doctor. but he's not — he's still just Smith. He doesn't have the Doctor's knowledge or powers, he doesn't have a plan, but he still has the courage, even as a mere human, to do what has to be done.

    While in the TV version, the Doctor goes to confront them while pretending to be Smith. Something which takes a lot less courage. He has a plan, he knows what to do. He is confident he can defeat the aliens. Where in the book Smith's confidence was fake but his courage was real, on TV the Doctor's fear is fake and so his courage is also fake: you don't need courage if you know you're going to win.

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  6. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 29, 2012 @ 5:46 am

    I think you'll find that monstrum and monstrare are themselves related words.

    Reply

  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 29, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    I don't believe that's how the book ends, though – in the book he's already made the switch, which is why when August attempts to use the pod he gets overwritten by John Smith – because John Smith is in the pod at that point.

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  8. SK
    October 29, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    No, it's not how the book ends, but I believe — unless I'm very wrong, but I think I checked at the time — that the 'Smith confronts the aliens' scene is in the book, but didn't make it into the TV version.

    And the TV version is weaker for the lack.

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  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 29, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    Ah, I think I know the scene you mean. It's not Smith pretending to be the Doctor, though, it's Smith and Benny impersonating the aliens to try to rescue Joan.

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  10. Janjy Giggins
    October 29, 2012 @ 6:51 am

    Speaking of the Latin being off, as a classicist it always bugged me that this book gets its Latin for 'bigger on the inside than the outside' wrong. Particularly since, with more than 10 years to check it up, they got it wrong again for the TV version…

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  11. Ununnilium
    October 29, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    Agreed!

    Reply

  12. Ununnilium
    October 29, 2012 @ 7:45 am

    "This is the future: an aesthetic that recognizes that irony, camp, and outright silliness are not only compatible with drama, they make it better and more effective."

    YES.

    Yes yes yes.

    YESSSSSSSSSSSS.

    Yes.

    Reply

  13. Daibhid C
    October 29, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    I've been saying that for a while, and corroberating it by referencing Sir Terry wherever possible in the comments.

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  14. Daibhid C
    October 29, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    Good point about "serious frock". I'm reminded of a GK Chesterton quote (which I think I learnt from Pratchett; see, it all comes back to him eventually!):

    "Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else."

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  15. BerserkRL
    October 29, 2012 @ 8:26 am

    Phil is right, they have the same root. BUT it's not the monster that is shown; the monster shows (i.e. point to, is a sign or portent of) something else.

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  16. David Anderson
    October 29, 2012 @ 9:56 am

    The quote finishes:
    Mr. Bernard Shaw is funny and sincere. Mr. George Robey is funny and not sincere. Mr. McCabe is sincere and not funny. The average Cabinet Minister is not sincere and not funny.

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  17. David Anderson
    October 29, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    And ditto. Especially when we're talking about combining outright silliness with drama.

    The other big omission – apart from Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time – is still the Robin of Sherwood tv series.

    From Paul Cornell's blog on the death of Richard Carpenter:
    such an important writer to me, one of the greats of British telefantasy, his Robin of Sherwood being utterly central to everything I've done, never mind that he actually changed 'what everyone knows' about the Robin Hood myth, that his RoS novelisation became the art-cover definitive young reader edition…

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  18. John Callaghan
    October 29, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    I take your point, SK, and agree. In fairness, in the TV show Smith has his moment of bravery; submitting to the certain loss of his identity to a powerful and unknowable alien. The frightening force he confronts and sacrifices himself to is our 'friend' the Doctor.

    In addition, it's one of the moments that I felt made it clear we weren't expected to like Doc 10.

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  19. Adam Riggio
    October 29, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    John, that's a very interesting take on Human Nature the TV story. David Tennant's charisma, and the fact that all the supporting characters loved him so much, made his Doctor seem like such a wonderful person. He could do all the Doctorish things, entertaining and inspiring us as the situation called, that viewers love in the character. But he was also terrifying. And vengeful. And a jerk.

    Actually, my biggest beef with the eventual adaptation is that they depicted Tim as a soldier in the epilogue sections, when in the novel, he became a medic. To me, that seemed to ignore the core lesson that the Doctor was supposed to teach: that being sucked into the historical force of a war like that is no reason not to alleviate it in your own way. I took the core message of the story as that even a small difference counts. Tim becoming a medic instead of a soldier is one of those differences that the televised version papers over.

    However, although I haven't yet heard the audio version of Love and War, if it turns out to be as good as I hope, it would be amazing to hear an audio version of Human Nature too, with Sylvester McCoy, Lisa Bowerman, and Jessica Hynes. That would be definitely trippy casting.

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  20. Roderick Thompson
    October 29, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    The mention of Richard Carpenter brought back fond memories of Catweazle with the wonderful Geoffrey Bayldon (who, according to Wikipedia, turned down two offers to play the Doctor, but then appeared as a version of the first Doctor in the Doctor Who Unbound series with Carole Ann Ford.)

    Reply

  21. Laurence Price
    October 30, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    Indeed. It all stems from the days when monstrous births (cows with two heads, sheep that looked like Elvis, all of that sort of thing) were seen as portents of bad luck. Thus the monster (in the monstrum sense) de-monstrated (in the monstro, monstrare sense) that bad things were going to happen.

    But back to Human Nature. One thing that the TV series shied away from is the most shocking image in the book: the aftermath of the nuclear explosion with the terrible parody of the school, with the figures turned to glass. Now I presume that Paul Cornell wanted to juxtapose the worst of the First World War and the worst of the Second here- the combination of doomed youth from 1913 and the utter instant devastation that we had to wait until 1945 to experience.

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  22. Iain Coleman
    October 30, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    I interviewed Cornell at a con a few years ago, and I asked him about myth/religion in his work. Specifically, how come when he uses (e.g.) Arthurian myth it's all very explicit – Excalibur, the Round Table and all that – whereas when he uses Christian myth it's implicit – Human Nature doesn't mention the incarnation of Christ, Father's Day doesn't mention Gethsemane.

    His response was that he is a Christian, but he doesn't want to be known as a "Christian Writer", so he deliberately keeps his very strong Christian influences subtextual.

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  23. Iain Coleman
    October 30, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    Adam,

    I share your objection to the revised ending in the TV version. It's the thing that makes the TV version worse than the book, as opposed to just different.

    I have a theory about it that I was going to save until Phil gets to the TV story, but since you raise the matter…

    At the time of the most recent Iraq war, Cornell was espousing views online that most resembled those of the self-described "Decent Left": that it was right to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was oppressing his people, and the war was therefore justified on humanitarian / liberal interventionist grounds. The very significant change in attitude to military service between the book and the TV show seems to me quite consistent with Cornell changing his political views to be more pro-war as a result of the polarising effect of the Iraq invasion.

    Of course, Cornell may have changed his views since then, so I wouldn't assume he is still as pro-war as he was then – I have no idea one way or another.

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  24. Daibhid C
    October 31, 2012 @ 2:37 am

    Yeah, I wondered about that as well. On the BBC website there used to be an annotated Human Nature, in which Cornell said that the final scene, with Tim wearing a white poppy, was his favourite. But I don't know when he wrote the annotations.

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  25. Froborr
    November 1, 2012 @ 5:28 am

    "This is the future: an aesthetic that recognizes that irony, camp, and outright silliness are not only compatible with drama, they make it better and more effective."

    Meanwhile, in Japan…

    Or more accurately: Meanwhile, in the U.S., Joss Whedon has been watching a lot of anime and decides to revive an old project of his as a live-action magical girl show…

    Reply

  26. Tiffany Korta
    November 2, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    There are a couple of caption boxes at the end of Cornell run on Captain Britain which I think sum up his approach to story telling. If anyone is interested I post the quote up.

    Reply

  27. BerserkRL
    November 5, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    I'm interested.

    Reply

  28. Tiffany Korta
    November 5, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    Okay here goes :

    (A bit of context here, Cap is explaining how another character will have to deal with his new situation with "A very British Compromise –")

    "Living with something terrible, dealing with it in Domestic terms."

    "Tragedy right up against sitcom, in a way other cultures don't really get."

    There's a tiny bit more, but I think those two line's sums it all up.

    Reply

  29. BerserkRL
    November 5, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    Thanks!

    Reply

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