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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. landru
    April 18, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    I'm sorry, but the writing and production in the McCoy years is worse … proving only one thing: this is an opinion … and a sadly jaded, ass-kissing one at that. You want to join the professional fans like Shearman, Hickman, and whoever else gets interviewed on dvds but seldom if ever works on the show. Colin's first season has 2 classic stories in it.


  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 18, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    Well, I'd normally let a trolling flame go, but since you're actually my first flame of the blog, congratulations, you get a response.

    First of all, the writing in the McCoy years is not worse than this. I mean, I suppose it's true that I haven't watched Greatest Show in the Galaxy or Silver Nemesis in years, so I may be forgetting something, but I'm pretty sure neither one depend on undoing twenty-three episodes of character development in order to get the plot started, nor that Ace or Mel ever decide they'll just accept that they have to go get their heads chopped off because they're afraid of rats/feeling a bit queasy. Both of which have to go down as some of the worst plotting in Doctor Who history. I mean, I honestly have trouble calling this an opinion. Those are both bad writing. Flat out. I don't think anyone can mount a particularly straight-faced defense of Susan vs the rats as compelling drama.

    Second of all, I'm not certain why you'd assume I want to work on the show. As an American with no television experience, I'd be a fairly wretched choice to work on a high profile British television show. Nor do I particularly aspire to DVD commentaries. I mean, I'm not saying I'd turn either down, but to say that I'm aspiring towards either makes rather a lot of very strange assumptions about me.

    I'm also not sure what's particularly ass-kissing about hating The Reign of Terror. I mean, have I missed the massive Dennis Spooner backlash in fandom that I accidentally jumped on? If so, it's a pity how I thought The Romans was pretty OK and quite liked his work on The Daleks Master Plan. And, you know, the whole period he was script editor. Definitely screwed up the pandering there.

    As for Colin Baker's first season, I count three classics in there, personally. I also count a lot of missteps, with the low points – Attack of the Cybermen and Mark of the Rani in particular – being markedly worse than anything in Season 21 or even frankly 20. And the high points aren't as good as Earthshock or Kinda or Enlightenment or Caves of Androzani. Whereas two of the three classics in 22 – Vengeance on Varos and Revelation of the Daleks – are the troubled genius sort of classics – great ambition and great fail in equal measures.

    But even the high points aren't enough to avoid the fact that there are bits of Colin Baker that are unambiguously why the show got cancelled – Attack of the Cybermen and The Twin Dilemma being the two most obvious culprits for "the episodes that killed Doctor Who."


  3. Anton
    April 18, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    You may take it as a compliment that your flame troll response here was the first time I realised that you weren't a British Doctor Who fan. Once again I take my fez off to you sir!


  4. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 18, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    Why thank you, faithful non-troll reader. 🙂


  5. Don Alsafi
    June 17, 2013 @ 6:02 am

    Hi, Philip! I don't know that I've commented before, but I've been reading your Hartnell blog for a while now, and buying the books as well. And when I saw your recent news about doing a second edition of the book, and asking for any feedback, I thought I should drop a line regarding my thoughts on something above.


    "It is worth briefly commenting on the way in which the initial premise of the series has been simply discarded by now. Originally, the reason that the Doctor couldn't get Ian and Barbara home is that he needed precise readings on where he was departing from. […] If one is to try to impose continuity on Doctor Who – never a safe bet – then one has to read his explanation of why he can't bring Ian and Barbara home as a lie, presumably cooked up because he wants Ian and Barbara to keep traveling with him."

    As I've been doing my own re-watch of Hartnell Who, I've been reading the entries from your book to my girlfriend, as we both find your level of critique and insight entirely fascinating. However, in this case we were both surprised at the above statement, since that's not how the initial situation with the TARDIS struck either of us at all.

    A bit of context here: I started watching Who from the beginning, with William Hartnell. (Not back in the '60s – I wasn't even born then – but around 2006.) I didn't even start watching New Who until my classic Who watching had gotten to Pertwee. Which made the first time Eccleston uses the TARDIS something of a shock to both myself and my roommate at the time: "Oh! So … I guess at some point he figures out how to steer the TARDIS? That's new."

    Because everyone I know who has watched the series from the beginning (even if they don't watch all the episodes) – as opposed to fans who started with either New Who or Classic Who in the 70s or 80s – seems to get that same impression from these early years: That the Doctor has this AMAZING ship … which, by and large, he doesn't know how to operate. Notice how the excuse he gives to Ian and Barbara seems to subtly change from one moment to the next, and how even when he's intending to steer the TARDIS to a specific time and place – as in The Reign of Terror, for instance – he still get it wrong (a practice that continues to the current day). Taking that into account, which sounds more plausible: That the Doctor knows how to fly his ship through the complexities of time and space with precision, and he's lying to Ian and Barbara for some undiscernible reason (and which, as you point out, makes no sense)? Or that he only has a vague idea as to how to steer his TARDIS – understandable, given the later revelations about it being a "faulty model", and his having presumably been in a hurry when he and Susan stole it – and that his excuses about why he can't take Ian and Barbara back home are simply that: excuses and bluster. After all, it would certainly deflate the image he projects of himself were he to baldly admit he doesn't entirely know where he's going, wouldn't it? (Compare to the stereotypical male refusing to stop and ask for directions when lost.)

    I forget if you've written about when you first started watching Who, but I could especially understand this possibility slipping past someone whose first conception of the Doctor was formed by the near-omniscient interpretations of the Tom Baker or McCoy years. (By which point he certainly had either fixed his TARDIS and/or figured out its workings.) But I think if you rewatch these early stories with the above idea in mind, it largely holds up.

    Heck, here's a test: How many times in the '60s years do we ever see the TARDIS appear somewhere that's shown to have been his intended destination beforehand? I'm guessing very, very few…


    • Nathan
      October 20, 2020 @ 4:38 am

      I think that you’re talking at cross-purposes here. What Sandifer is referencing is what the series-to-date has expressed. You’re taking your knowledge of Doctor Who in-total and trying to come up with an in-universe explanation for it. What Sandifer is saying is that they already established that the reason why the Doctor can’t get Ian and Barbara home is that he has to fix his starting point precisely. This doesn’t take away from your suspicion that the Doctor only vaguely knows how to operate the Ship, but it makes sense that if whatever memory bank that the TARDIS has has failed, that he’d need to calibrate it from some starting point for it to be able to fix reliable destinations. I suspect that the Time Lords did this during The War Games, so that they could steer the TARDIS for sending the Doctor on missions, which explains why after The Three Doctors the Doctor can always get to where he wants to go when he really needs to. I’d argue that Marco Polo is a contradiction to this, because the Doctor did leave in a hurry and didn’t have time to establish the exact point of departure. I assume one has to be more precise than just the name of the city and a date. It probably needs precision to a precise within a few microns in space and a femtosecond of time.
      I’d also argue that this story doesn’t contradict it either. They had plenty of time to hang around the Sense-Sphere before they left, because the Sensorites were happy with them. We don’t know how much time took place before getting the humans out of the aqueduct and their departure. It’s possible that the Doctor believes that he has precisely fixed his position in The Sensorites which is why he’s so confident at the start of this one that he can steer the Ship now.


  6. John binns
    June 12, 2022 @ 1:45 pm

    I think it’s clear that the doctor can’t steer the tardis, but is not necessarily being straight about why. We find out in the war games that the one place he could steer it to if absolutely necessary is gallifrey, and (arguably) in the two doctors that he could steer it when and where the time lords wanted. I suspect if you traced the apparently voluntary trips between then and the deadly assassin, there would be very few …


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