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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. Sheโ€™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. Andrew
    January 28, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    "The answer, it seems, is right here, as mysterious, haunting theme music gives way to an iconic shot. Never mind that the shot cannot possibly be read as iconic in this original context – everything about the camerawork and the music tells us it is iconic."

    This made me squee a bit with delight. (Demythologizing cult/iconic objects is, from one PhD candidate nerd to one post-doctoral nerd, where I get my rocks off.)


  2. William
    March 17, 2011 @ 5:19 am

    The Halsbury Committee on Decimalisation reported to Parliament in September 1963, so decimalisation was no more a surprise in November 1963 than was the prospect of a female Prime Minister in 1975.

    I do agree, though, that "An Unearthly Child" is a discrete story followed by a three-parter.


  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    March 17, 2011 @ 7:28 am

    True enough – the writers could have known about it, but it was hardly a certain proposition. And unlike Terror of the Zygons (which falls into the maddening problem of figuring out when the UNIT stories are meant to be set) decimal currency was in no way a sure bet in November of 1963 – it was a conscious decision to make a disjunct between the viewing public and Susan – one that has, ironically, failed completely in hindsight because now Susan is actually closer to the viewing public due to that guess. The Unearthly Child she originally represented has become the somewhat stranger Our-Earthly Child.


  4. Anton
    April 16, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    Absolutely spot on. Next time someone doesn't believe me when I not only cite Hartnell as my Favourite Doctor but go as far as to say the show never fulfilled the giddy avant garde promise (or premise) of it's earliest episodes I'll point them in the direction of this blog. Well done.


  5. inkdestroyedmybrush
    May 17, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    Its the pregnant pause at the end of the episode, when the TARDIS vworps off into the unknown that we first have the inkling of what it is that makes Dr Who special. We have mysteries piled upon mysteries and, given that the machine defies physics and space and time, that one dematerialization puts us anywhere, at any time, in the universe. Thats the biggest tabla rasa in the history of storytelling right there.

    And I bet that it doesn't eventually say "hello sweetie"


  6. timelord7202
    April 28, 2012 @ 4:37 am

    Or "timey-wimey" (a creation for the 10th Doctor, but sadly continued (and given more prominence) for the 11th… ๐Ÿ™

    It is indeed fun to watch the same show over the decades and see how different producers use it… and each era can reflect the era in which it's made as well… social mores, fears, allusion, allegory, metaphor, etc…


  7. kuyanhjudith
    May 16, 2012 @ 5:38 am

    On whether this should be seen as part of 100,000 BC:

    Here in Australia, channel 2 showed most of Old Who at an episode a day between 2003 and 2006, free to air and without ads. I, then a child, watched it. To me, it seemed very clear that An Unearthly Child was a one episode story, followed by a three episode story.

    And in general, the division between stories did seem pretty clearcut, despite the linking cliffhangers.


  8. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 31, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

    "But– it's so much bigger inside! How…?"

    "In electrodynamic theory, space expands to accomodate the time necessary to encompass it."

    …sorry, WRONG version!

    : )


  9. John Seavey
    August 28, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

    As much as I enjoy these reviews, I can't tell you how much I disagree with your decision to treat "An Unearthly Child" as separate from the episodes that follow it. It'd be like announcing that 'The Wizard of Oz' was actually two movies shown back-to-back, one set on Earth and another completely different one set in the world of Oz, and you can tell when one movie ends and the other begins because one of them is in black-and-white and the other is in color. Or like saying that 'Alice in Wonderland' is actually two novellas, published together in an anthology, with one set in the real world and the other in Wonderland.

    Stories like this, about people falling out of the world and going on an adventure, are inherently going to have an opening that feels very different from the rest of the story, because you have to establish the world they're falling out of in order to get people to empathize with the protagonists' disorientation. (And yes, at this point, Ian and Barbara are the protagonists.) If you wanted to argue that the story doesn't end with "The Firemaker", and that in fact the first story doesn't really end until "The Planet of Decision" when Ian and Barbara returned to Earth, I'd buy it more readily than I do your assertion that Part One is a different story than Part Two.


    • Nathan Laws
      February 11, 2020 @ 9:22 pm

      I have to agree on the point about this being a single serial. Coburn may have had to truncate his original four-part version of 100,000 B.C. to accommodate the introduction of the TARDIS crew, but he actually works it in fairly well. The introduction of Za and Hur, characters who are as far behind Ian and Barbara as they are from the Doctor and Susan sets up an interesting examination of the role of civilization in compassion versus competition. It’s only when the Doctor realizes that teaching the cavemen how to cooperate is the solution to the Kal problem that he also starts accepting Ian and Barbara as allies and friends. Despite its other flaws, I always think Serial A (not going to get into the naming semantics) is probably one of the best thought out examinations of a theme in the entire series.

      I also have to say that predicting the eventual decimalization of the British currency is like Star Trek predicting that we’ll all be on the metric system in the 24th century. Yeah, there’s no way that you can be 100% sure that will happen, but we know it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. has to drop the metric system. In the same way, it was well known at the time that Britain would eventually go to the decimal system. It was just a matter of when.


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