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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.

23 Comments

  1. William Shaw
    July 8, 2024 @ 11:02 am

    This feels like the moment the mainstream press started turning on the show; that Guardian “Too Woke? Nope.” article dropped shortly after this story went out.

    Reply

  2. Citizen Alan
    July 8, 2024 @ 12:54 pm

    “And Chibnall’s big idea was to roll the character back to John Simm by way of Anthony Ainley.”

    That is grossly unfair to Anthony Ainley, whose Master comes off as subtle and nuanced compared to Dewan’s performance, which takes everything I hated about Simm’s Master and cranks it up to 11.

    You know, sitting here reading this, I just had an epiphany about how Dewan’s Master could have actually worked. Instead of the Master being consumed by hatred of the Doctor because of some Timeless Child bullshit, have it be a continuation of Missy referring to Capaldi’s Doctor as her “boyfriend.” This time, the Doctor is the female and the Master is a stalkerish male who genocided Gallifrey in a twisted desire to take revenge on the Timelords for what they did to “his girlfriend.” And the Master’s insane plan to kill the Doctor by “becoming” her in “The Power of the Doctor” is the result of her definitively rejecting him romantically or at least placing him firmly in the “Frenemy Zone” at the end of “Timeless Children.” I could see RTD making that work, but not the hapless Chibnall. (Moffatt would be iffy with that given his personal baggage.)

    RE the mind-raping of Ada Lovelace. It was just as appalling as when Tennant’s Doctor did it to Donna. I genuinely wonder if RTD saw this, had a realization of just how morally wrong the Donna resolution was, and resolved then and there to come back just to undo Donna’s mind-wipe.

    RE Noor Inayat Khan. Saying “Good Luck” to someone you KNOW will die in a Nazi concentration camp was the moment I began to wonder if Whittaker’s Doctor was a sociopath.

    RE turning the Master over to the Nazis. Oddly, this didn’t bother me as much as it did Elizabeth or others. Yes, she was turning a POC over to Nazis, but it was a POC who had been /working as a Nazi while magically passing as white/. God knows how many innocent people he executed while he was cosplaying as a Gestapo while waiting around for the Doctor to show up. And anyway, it’s the Master. Delgado orchestrated world-conquest schemes from /inside a prison./ I suspect escaping the Nazis was only slightly more challenging than escaping a Girl Scout troop.

    RE the whole “O” thing. I loved Missy for many reasons, but by far the biggest was that in her every appearance, she was just “Missy.” For once, she abandoned the Master’s bizarre obsession with method acting a disguise for months or even years (even when no one was around to watch him–I’m looking at you, Khalid from “Time-Flight”) just so he could reveal his true identity at a dramatic moment. I honestly think the Master built his entire concept for “O” around being able to make a “Spy Master” pun at a dramatic moment. Of course, the worst was still Ainley in “Mark of the Rani,” when he disguised himself as a scarecrow and hung himself on a post in a field just so that he could watch the Doctor and Peri walk by while completely ignoring him.

    Reply

    • weronika mamuna
      July 8, 2024 @ 1:23 pm

      “And the Master’s insane plan to kill the Doctor by “becoming” her in “The Power of the Doctor” is the result of her definitively rejecting him romantically or at least placing him firmly in the “Frenemy Zone” at the end of “Timeless Children.””

      or romantic desire + gender dysphoria after being “detransitioned” from Missy. the ultimate “do i wanna be her or with her”

      Reply

      • Citizen Alan
        July 8, 2024 @ 1:44 pm

        I thought about Chris Chibnall trying to do a storyline about gender dysphoria with any semblance of sensitivity or intelligence and nearly made myself sick.

        Reply

    • Passerby Boy
      July 9, 2024 @ 1:56 am

      “RE the mind-raping of Ada Lovelace. It was just as appalling as when Tennant’s Doctor did it to Donna. I genuinely wonder if RTD saw this, had a realization of just how morally wrong the Donna resolution was, and resolved then and there to come back just to undo Donna’s mind-wipe.”

      I think that if RTD didn’t realize that mind wiping of Donna was morally wrong, he wouldn’t have written Donna’s family’s reacting to it in such a negative way. Even the doctor was distraught that they had to do it.

      A lot could be drawn from how the three modern eras have handled their respective mind wipes.

      RTD – A tragic lesser of two evils and an end to Donna’s time with the Doctor. The Doctor still helps Donna from afar as penance for what they had to do to her.

      Moffat – A twist on the previous mind wipe’s premise. Now the companion has agency in the event, neither Clara or the Doctor know who will lose their memories and the entire episode teases the audience with this uncertain outcome for drama.

      Chibnall – Mind wipes two guest characters back to back in a single episode and acts like this has always been the norm when meeting historical characters.

      Reply

      • Frezno
        July 9, 2024 @ 6:51 am

        “Chibnall – Mind wipes two guest characters back to back in a single episode and acts like this has always been the norm when meeting historical characters.”

        What has always struck me is that, two episodes after this, we have two more historical guest characters who both learn that aliens exist and they get to keep their memories. It’s an odd inconsistence and it particularly stinks when you realize that it’s two historical women who get mindwiped in this, but the two historical men later face no such consequence.

        Reply

        • Einarr
          July 9, 2024 @ 9:32 am

          Especially given how big a deal in that episode it is that one of these two men is very prone to exploiting and stealing other people’s ideas like a magpie. If anyone would palm some future tech and use what they saw of the SF world to get ahead and change history in doing so, surely it’s Edison!

          Reply

          • Citizen Alan
            July 11, 2024 @ 2:23 am

            Oh yeah, thank you for reminding me that we have an episode coming up that is ostensibly “Doctor Who meets Nicola Tesla” that somehow inexplicably makes /Thomas Edison/ the most likeable and sensible character, while also making a case for the positive aspects of predatory capitalism.

    • Einarr
      July 9, 2024 @ 9:37 am

      “Yes, she was turning a POC over to Nazis, but it was a POC who had been /working as a Nazi while magically passing as white/.“

      The hilariously stupid thing about this is that by dobbing in the disguised-as-white-Nazi Dhawan as a British agent but also simultaneously deactivating his filter that allows him to pass as a white Aryan, the Doctor should actually have just ensured that Dhawan no longer resembles the guy the Nazis are looking for.

      “RE Noor Inayat Khan. Saying “Good Luck” to someone you KNOW will die in a Nazi concentration camp was the moment I began to wonder if Whittaker’s Doctor was a sociopath.“

      Weep for the lost edit of this episode that might’ve been, in which they actually scripted and filmed Noor Inayat Khan’s execution at Dachau. Cut before broadcast, but that is a real scene the people making this show almost put out on television.

      Reply

    • Przemek
      July 9, 2024 @ 1:08 pm

      The funny thing is, I feel like Dhawan’s Master is actually a pretty good dark mirror of the Eleventh Doctor, from his sense of style to his manic energy. Maybe he’s a pre-Missy incarnation who wanted to kill Eleven but accidentally crossed paths with Thirteen… He’s clearly not meant to be but at least that would make more sense.

      Reply

      • Citizen Alan
        July 11, 2024 @ 2:25 am

        I would honestly like very much to believe that Dawan’s Master is actually a pre-Derek Jacobi Master so that I don’t get depressed over Missy the Magnificent turning into … this.

        Reply

    • wyngatecarpenter
      July 10, 2024 @ 8:38 pm

      I’ve just watched Mark Of The Rani for the first time since broadcast. That bit is mind-boggling (as is much of the rest of it). How long exactly has The Master been standing in the field disguised as a scarecrow? Why? Presumably just for the satisfaction of not being spotted by the Doctor , and being able to let out a villainous chuckle. The story reminds me of 1960s Batman but without the intentional comedy.

      Reply

  3. David Cook
    July 8, 2024 @ 1:41 pm

    A story built around Noor Inayat Khan would have been fantastic, instead she is just basically a cameo in a Master run around. What a waste.

    Reply

  4. Einarr
    July 9, 2024 @ 9:40 am

    If the truism is that art speaks for itself, then the fact that on the DVD commentary for “Spyfall Part Two”, there is an entire ELEVEN MINUTES of silence in which Chibnall, Whittaker, and guest actor Sylvie Briggs don’t utter a single syllable really says everything that needs to be said.

    (For those interested, yes, it is the diciest sequence of 13 and the Master meeting atop the Eiffel Tower and the whole ‘handing him over to the Nazis’ stuff).

    Reply

  5. Przemek
    July 9, 2024 @ 11:02 am

    Chibnall’s writing is bad in many ways but one of his most perplexing aspects is the complete lack of character economy. A large TARDIS crew with nothing to do. Multiple side characters who perform the same plot function. Villains acting in pairs. It’s like he just can’t stop creating new characters.

    Reply

    • wyngatecarpenter
      July 10, 2024 @ 8:33 pm

      A tribute to the Davison years perhaps, where despite having three companions they would then have a guest star such as Nerys Hughes or Liza Goddard act as a substitute companion for the duration of the story while actual companions have a nap in the TARDIS or crawl around in ventilation ducts.

      Reply

  6. Ross
    July 9, 2024 @ 11:25 am

    I think it’s another example of Chibnall having a solid grounding on what the eras of Doctor Who he likes DID but little understanding of why they worked. Classic Who had large casts and a lot of redundancy, because they had a tight schedule and were spreading the story out over a month and a half. Chibnall is thinking about how back in the old days, the Doctor and company would have to deal with the Master, AND with the aliens the Master was working for, AND the duplicitous lieutenant who was going to backstab the sympathetic leader alien after he’d seen the error of his ways, AND the Doctor would get locked in a room and have to escape three times AND there would be a companion who disappeared for half the story so the actor could take a vacation, and he isn’t thinking about the fact that those things all filled three and a half hours of television, and neither home recording nor the internet existed so half the audience had only fuzzy memories of the beginning of the story by the time they got to the end.

    Reply

  7. darkspine10
    July 9, 2024 @ 4:55 pm

    There’s a fascinating ineptness to Spyfall, in that it keeps setting up these vast ideas linking modern-day espionage to the history of computers and encryption throughout centuries as if it’s building to something marginally effective, some thesis on the surveillance state or how governments can condone horrors in the vague ideal of ‘security’. But then nothing ever resolves, there’s no building of ideas, simply a presentation of disparate nuggets of thematic potential left entirely unexplored. Never has a script been stuffed with so much and done so little to craft any coherent narrative.

    A probably related fact is that I’ve literally never seen a single person in the last 4 years ever even mention the actual resolution of the Kasaavin plot, which is that they have this magic sculpture thingy in both the Victorian era and present which acts a McGuffin to let them come through to our universe (I think), and the Doctor… fiddles with it offscreen so that it backfires. We’re never given any history to this magic silver sculpture or why it’s in any way tied to electric inter-dimensional shadow beings, it just exists. The resolution is such a mind-wrenching non-event that we don’t see it happen.

    The story doesn’t even have that ‘part 1 illusion of quality’ of something like Before the Flood, which on first viewing felt like it could go somewhere. Here it’s just tired Bond action scenes and spy plots that don’t add up.

    Of course there is also Gallifrey, the fate of which is probably best left discussed for the finale. It’s shocking in how not shocking it is, a rote, eye-roll inducing moment of incredulity that leaves one wondering why they even bothered.

    Reply

  8. Jake
    July 10, 2024 @ 9:04 am

    Dhawan’s Master is tricky for me because I find his performance genuinely hard to watch, but that may be the point? He’s constantly bristling with this manic energy but how it’s expressed is, for lack of a better phrase, cringey as fuck. His first proper scene in the plane demonstrates this well- the little exhale after revealing his name, the awkward way he bends over and starts clapping his hands, the forced laugh, it’s all genuinely uncomfortable to watch. Ultimately the mania that defines the new series Masters is there with none of the charisma. All ham, no camp. Like watching a half-rate Joker impression, it’s try-hard nature is vaguely embarrassing.

    But even large swathes of this blog would agree that “vaguely embarrassing” is an accurate description of the Master, and if anything it’s an understated description of the Chibnall era at large. What’s more, an aspect of the Chibnall era that goes curiously under-explored on this blog is Chibnall’s regression to a cheap impression of RTD’s DW, which ties nicely into El’s description of Dhawan as “John Simm via Antony Ainley”. And of course, Dhawan’s commitment to making big choices that don’t work reflects the trajectory of the show till POTD.

    With all that in mind Dhawan’s performance is an honest representation of the current state of Doctor Who and even of the kind of character The Master has always been. It’s the embodiment of the show’s failures made monstrous, fittingly demonstrated via the Doctor’s own dark shadow. In that regard it’s terribly effective. I hate watching it, but it made me feel something, which lowkey makes it the best part of Chibnall’s tenure.

    All of which is my cope explanation of how an actor I quite like could have delivered such a heinous performance.

    Reply

    • Jesse
      July 12, 2024 @ 3:01 pm

      I found Dhawan’s scenery-chewing reasonably entertaining, in the same way (though not to the same extent) that I found Simm’s scenery-chewing reasonably entertaining. If they had at some point revealed that he was a pre-Gomez incarnation, I might even think of him as one of the better aspects of the Chibnall era (a low bar, yes). It is the pointless destruction of what Gomez and Moffat did with the character that I can’t stand.

      Reply

  9. wyngatecarpenter
    July 10, 2024 @ 8:45 pm

    The single thing that irritates me about Spyfall the most is actually the title, just an utterly rubbish pun (slightly less bad than Arachnids In The UK though) that’s just there to say “Look, we’re doing a Bond pastiche – please watch”.

    I like the idea of the Master as an obsessive Doctor Who fan, I thought that’s where they were going with O at first. Better than ther other thing he is this season which seems to be continuity announcer, appearing at the end of episodes urging us to watch next week because “Everything is going to change”

    Reply

    • Andy
      July 11, 2024 @ 5:59 am

      It’s an incredibly lazy pun but the thing that pushes it into irritating for me is that it’s a spy pun on the name of a James Bond film, not a spy pun on the name of a Doctor Who episode. Like it would be OK to release an actual Bond parody film called Spyfall but here it’s just weirdly orthogonal. Far better would have been to start with one of those aphorisms that sounds like a Fleming title and bend it into a Doctor Who title.

      Reply

      • Stephen
        July 11, 2024 @ 6:52 am

        Chibnall could’ve literally used one of his trademark Scrabble-bag planet names in a “From ____ With Love” format and we’d all have got the joke just as easily.

        Reply

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