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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. J Mairs
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:32 am

    B-b-b-but! I thought the New Series was hashed together from bits and pieces by people who didn't know how to make television and whose only goal is to have a laugh at the expense of everyone who is watching!

    Have I been misinformed?


  2. sqrnookle
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:37 am

    While there often is some fascinating material in Confidential, where it suffered was that large swathes of the show ended up being clips of the episode that you just finished watching – not even behind-the-scene perspectives, but actual scenes lifted wholesale. This problem was made worse when it got extended to hour-long episodes (the 'Voyage of the Damned' confidential in particular I remember being excruciating to watch in this regard).


  3. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:07 am

    Like any BBC programme, "Confidential" would live and die by it's viewing figures, and they were consistently strong enough that the thing that finally finished it of was budget cuts, resulting from the UK Government's decision to freeze the licence fee.

    So it may have had it's faults and flaws, but it's audience appeared to be regular, and enjoyed watching it.

    My personal bugbear with Confidential was not the fault of the programme itself. It was simply that after 4 years of explanations of FX explosions, green-screen, and actors dangling from wires, I'd kind of seen it all. Of course you could say that about any TV programme, and kids too young enough to have watched (or been interested by) the early Confidentials would enjoy their first look behind the scenes of Doctor Who whenever they started watching.


  4. Andrew
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    The first couple of series of Confidential were great. They explained the whole premise of Dr. Who step by step for anyone who happened to be new (This week, we give a potted history of the monsters known as 'Daleks'!) as well as revealing the mechanics of it all which had only been done once or twice since 1963 (e.g. a South Bank Show documentary on the making of Talons of Weng Chiang). Confidential also made people like Phil Collinson and Nick Briggs regular 'supporting characters' if you like.

    But by the time we got to around the Matt Smith era, it really had run out of things to say, and lacked a purpose. It seemed to be mostly watching how Matt, Karen and Arthur spent their time mucking around between takes, which wasn't so interesting for me, I have to say. And also, it sort of takes you out of the whole drama. It reminds you that Matt Smith, actually, is just an actor playing the Doctor, and these are his friends, who aren't really called Rory and Amy after all. If anything, Confidential started undermining the drama, rather than supplementing it. So, I wouldn't be surprised if there were legitimate creative reasons why it didn't continue.


  5. Andrew
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:23 am

    Just as an addendum to the above!

    If you have 'Confidential' following on from, let's say, Rise of the Cyberman to reveal a whole backstory of Cybermen, with contributions from luminaries from the past, that consolidates and expands upon the story you've just watched.

    However, if you go from, let's say 'Time of Angels' to Matt Smith in an anorak, chatting with the nice lady in a mobile van who serves him with warm coffee and hot dogs whilst he's in a damp Welsh location, then that just diminishes what you've seen. No?


  6. Ross
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    Don't forget that it was made by RTD to show his hatred of Doctor Who, that he went to all this trouble to make Doctor Who come back to the airwaves exclusively so that he could retroactively ruin the decades of material that came before and destroy the show forever. And turn your children gay.

    (This article really speaks to one of my most hated things in fandom: the belief that you can handwave things away by saying "It's just a TV show, the people who made it probably didn't care about _____. Why can't you just turn your brain off and enjoy it for what it is?")


  7. Bennett
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:48 am

    In Australia we only ever saw the Confidential Cutdowns, and strangely enough these seemed to favour scene-lifts and clip montages over the behind-the-scenes insight. This is why I find it very hard to miss having Confidential.

    However I do find it acutely painful that we no longer get commentaries for every episode. They were often as insightful as they were hilarious, even if there were duds like "Director Brian Grant's audio descriptive track" and "A discussion of Human Nature with Martha, Latimer and the monster choreographer" (note that there's actually a commentary track where Davies, Collinson and Gardner begin by apologising for the other commentaries).


  8. elvwood
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:51 am

    Oddly enough, the thing I liked about Confidential – once the initial rush of "things I didn't know about creating a TV show" had worn off – was that it was a useful tool to take the sting out of particularly frightening episodes. My children were a bit freaked by The Waters of Mars, for example; but once we watched Confidential and saw them trying all sorts of methods to make the water come out of the monster actors it was okay. So diminishing can actually be useful.

    The main problem for me towards the end was the length. There was always a little to say about each episode, but to make the doco as long or longer than the program itself inevitably meant far too much padding. I was sorry to see it go because I didn't have that backup to handle scares, but I'd stopped paying attention to it round about a series before it finished.


  9. elvwood
    June 5, 2013 @ 2:53 am

    Darn – that was meant as a reply to the previous comment, specifically Andrew's post about diminishing rather than enhancing. Sorry!


  10. Andrew
    June 5, 2013 @ 3:15 am

    @ Elvwood …

    Well that raises another important point about Confidential and its function (which I'm not sure this blog has addressed yet).

    Up until Survival, I was watching the programme live, in my living room, VCR at the ready so I could watch it again (maybe).

    The TV Movie, I happened to watch for the first time on a plane months after it was originally broadcast. By the time the 9th Doctor comes around, I'm watching on a computer screen, usually a day or two after it comes out. And now, I would imagine a huge proportion of the audience is not watching 'as live'.

    So the idea that a viewer watches the main show, then immediately 'switches over' to Confidential gets disrupted by changing viewing habits, and is probably another factor in Confidential's removal from the scheme of things.


  11. Alphapenguin
    June 5, 2013 @ 3:19 am

    "We should pause here to note that making a fanvid is bloody hard, doubly so if you insist on a measure of quality in the end result. Syncing events well to the music, getting the events selected to form a narrative, having clips long enough to be recognizable and intelligible but short enough to remain punchy and varied – these are hard things to do. And while there are no shortage of crappy vidders in the world, there are also ones who routinely demonstrate that they’re as good at editing as the professionals."

    I know of at least three people who will really appreciate this – they've been making fanvids since the 80s ๐Ÿ™‚

    Given how hard they are to make now, in the wonderful world of modern editing software and youtube, just imagine for a moment how hard it would've been in the 80s, where you'd've had to daisy-chain several VCRs in order to record the right footage in the right sequence. If you got the sequence wrong too many times the VCR would eat the tape and you'd have to start over. The whole process could take days. It goes without saying that in the days before widespread internet access you either had to know somebody or figure it out yourself through trial and error.

    And all of this work was done to, for example, synch up footage from "Dirty Pair" with Tommy Shaw's "Girls with Guns".


  12. AndyRobot800
    June 5, 2013 @ 3:54 am

    Since the topic of fanvids came up, and since this is something I did a lot during the first two years of the new series… oh what the heck, here's one I did, based around the events of "Parting of the Ways," and including every regeneration up to that point (as well as my attempt to show a McGann/Eccleston hand-off…) Music by Placebo, because I made it 2005.


    And yeah, most of the clips of the old Doctors were taken from the episode of Confidential discussed here. Enjoy. Or, at least, tolerate. ๐Ÿ™‚


  13. Iain Coleman
    June 5, 2013 @ 4:26 am

    "The nightmarish workload that Series One consisted of (and that appears to have been the crux of why Eccleston left)"

    The wording of this is a bit unfortunate. On Eccleston's reported account, he left because he felt that senior members of the production team were being pricks to members of the crew.

    Now, it's not unreasonable to imagine that this was in some part caused by the extreme pressures of the production, but the phrasing above suggests a more direct relationship between the workload and Eccleston's departure.

    This – however inadvertently – does Eccleston a disservice and glosses over his allegations about the working environment of the show at that time.


  14. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 5:37 am

    Probably not the place to discuss this, but I've never quite been able to get my head round this account of CE's. It sounds like he's saying there was a culture on the DW production set where the top guys were dumping on the cast and crew. At one point he says his choices were "stay and eat s***" or walk and keep his integrity. Now I don't understand this. An actor of Eccleston's stature being upset by the behaviour of some suits but feeling he could do nothing about it? RTD has gone on record several times about what a major coup it was getting someone of Chris's acting stature on the show, something they couldn't wish for in a million years. They admire him, they look up to him, they couldn't believe they got him…and he feels he can't tell them to treat their staff better? What, does he think they're going to sack him? And if they did, why would he be bothered?

    Sorry, but it just doesn't hang together. If there was an undercurrent of unpleasantness during that first year, why has there been absolutely no sign of it from anyone else involved? Barrowman, Piper, Collinson, Davies, Gardner, even David Tennant, nobody says anything (Barrowman certainly would). None of them seem like the kind of people that would be cowed enough to sit by and let happen what Chris says happened. Of course the BBC don't even confirm or deny what Chris has said. Instead they completely ignore it and cite the punishing workload.

    Occam's razor tells us to take the simplest answer, and in this case it would seem to be that he wasn't prepared to go through another year of that tough schedule so he declined the second series. Of course he's still got to get work elsewhere, and the fact that he left Doctor Who because he couldn't hack the hours isn't going to endear him to future producers. So he and the BBC keep politely quiet about his reasons, but in the meantime he drops hints about having to leave to maintain his integrity. You can certainly detect a current of anger from him when he says this, but it sounds suspiciously to me like someone who's trying to fake righteous indignation. After all, if you're still that angry about an injustice done to other people (not you) after five years, why haven't you spoken about it more? Why wait till you're taking an acting class to let rip on the crappy culture in the Doctor Who production team?


  15. Scott
    June 5, 2013 @ 5:55 am

    You both forgot that the BBC only brought it back in the first place so they could run through all the remaining Doctors in the regeneration cycle and then cancel it for good, laughing demonically all the while.

    (Seriously, I actually saw someone suggest this in all seriousness in 2003-2004. The 'laughing demonically' bit was implied.)


  16. Spoilers Below
    June 5, 2013 @ 5:58 am

    If we're sharing favorite fanvids, I'm a big fan of the work Babelcolour has done in the past couple years.



  17. Aaron
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:04 am

    According to Eccleston, it is less that the higher ups were dumping on the crew, insulting them, or making them do unfair things, but instead that the long hours required to make the series, combined with the fact that everyone was learning to make a show this big, combined with the fact that RTD often improvised and changed things on the fly, meant that the making of the show was often hazardous to the smaller contributors. Like they might find out that the Slitheen costume they were using had an obvious zipper (to make up an example) and so in order to make the deadline, costume people would have to put in an all nighter and they'd have to reshoot everything, making the camera operators have to put in extra hours too. Or RTD would rewrite something at the last minute, forcing everyone to quickly learn new lines, only for him to change it again. That sort of thing.

    Eccleston relates a story in which, during Aliens of London filming, because of the chaos and the improvised nature of the shooting a sofa was dropped right next to, and almost on top of, some extras without warning. Eccleston thought mistakes like this, while probably being symptoms of the production team not knowing how to handle their time making the show, created a sloppy work environment that could hurt people. That's why he left.

    Now, while RTD, Billie Piper, etc haven't ever said anything negative about the production of the first series, they all have been open about how gruelling and chaotic it was to film so much in so little time. And we all know that RTD would change things around quite a bit, and that the early filming blocks had some production problems. So I find Eccleston's story quite plausible. At the same time, I'm sure much of this got fixed when making series two, because now they know what they are doing, and some of this probably was exaggerated because Eccleston wasn't accustomed to the frenetic production that series one had. But the meat of the story makes sense, and Eccleston seems justified in his complaints.


  18. Anton B
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:20 am

    What? But I thought 'Doctor Who' was a video news diary that the TARDIS sent to the BBC who, over the years, have developed better and better technology to broadcast it. (except for a brief gap due to the Time War) My life is RUINED forever!


  19. Iain Coleman
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:27 am


    That has got to be the maddest thing I have ever read.


  20. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:31 am

    I'd not heard those examples, so yes I can kind of see what might have riled him. I've also read "The Writer's Tale" which echoes the horrendous schedule, some of it due to RTD's inability to produce a script on time! However for a lot of the crew it was definitely a labour of love, so they stuck with it and just endured the ulcers and stress. If Chris was the only one who walked, then to be honest he probably wanted out anyway. He's certainly said he doesn't regret taking the role, but I suspect deep down a part of him now regrets leaving it so soon.


  21. BerserkRL
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:33 am

    the BBC only brought it back in the first place so they could run through all the remaining Doctors in the regeneration cycle

    And given their plan, what idiots they were not to count the Shalka Doctor. Or, hey, the Fatal Death Doctors.


  22. ferret
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:37 am

    "The Girl Who Waited" had a particularly excruciating Confidential – after such an intense episode I was expecting perhaps some insights on the concepts of different-speed-parallel-timestreams, grandfather paradoxes, the ethics of robotic palliative care, the challenges of playing the same character at different ages… but instead we got Arthur swimming with sharks and Karen driving at a racetrack.

    Being in Australia we only got Confidential Cutdown, I can't imagine what they managed to pad out the full version with. Matthew Waterhouse on a helter skelter?


  23. ferret
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:49 am

    Vaguely related, I found the "Love and Monsters" edition of Confidential interesting when they were commenting how much quicker and easier it was to stage and shoot shots that were intentionally recreations of scenes from Series 1 (e.g. the Autons attacking shoppers in the street). It surprised me because – at that stage – I had no idea that seemingly the entire Doctor Who crew were such novices at making television drama. I'd always assumed the BBC would have drawn most crew from it's reliable existing staff, but this really didn't seem to be the case. I still can't understand it.


  24. ferret
    June 5, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    He is excellent – I find his trailer for the first 3 Hartnell stories very compelling:

    and his recolouring efforts of Harntell and Troughton are incredible:


  25. Pen Name Pending
    June 5, 2013 @ 7:05 am

    They occasionally ran out of production stuff to show ("The Lodger" and "The Girl Who Waited" especially), but coming from someone who started watching full-length Confidentials in series 5 and 6 and have only just started series 1…I loved them. There were often interesting insights into the episodes and what the jobs are behind-the-scenes, and I loved watching Smith, Gillan, and Darvill joking around.


  26. Theonlyspiral
    June 5, 2013 @ 7:11 am

    I have a couple I love as well (although not Babelcolour)


    Which is an absolute blast of a trailer.


  27. IG
    June 5, 2013 @ 7:15 am

    Well, he was good enough to get the job of colourising Mind of Evil 1, and having just watched it I'd say the results are fantastic ๐Ÿ™‚


  28. Multiple Ducks
    June 5, 2013 @ 7:38 am

    "Or, hey, the Fatal Death Doctors."

    Ha, you've stumbled! This only proves that Moffat is the true mastermind of DW's demise!!! Since under RTD and Tennant (peace be upon him), the show became so popular, so Moffat is trying to turn all the fans against it. Tumblr was our only hope, but now that Yahoo has openly declared war on all fandoms, it is dwindling fast.


  29. James V
    June 5, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    I think every New Series boxset should include an optional commentary by Peter Davison and Janet Fielding on every episode.


  30. Adam Riggio
    June 5, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    It wasn't so much that they were rookies at television drama per se, but that no one had ever worked on a show so incredibly complex, with so many simultaneously moving parts. There were few precedents in BBC television for a show that large. Compare Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, and Doctor Who. Modern Doctor Who is vastly more complex than most anything else on British television before, and certainly without precedent in the previous years of Doctor Who itself.


  31. Assad K
    June 5, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    And if we're talking the skill in synchronization.. lookit how McGann is saying 'Time' even as the song hits that word in Babelcolours video set to 'What About Everything'.. it's magic! And his fusion of all the titles sequences into one title sequence is something that I DEMAND be used for the 50th!!


  32. HarlequiNQB
    June 5, 2013 @ 8:50 am

    Would you happen to have a link to that last? I couldn't find it (though I admit I was cursory at best due to being at work.)

    that coloration work was amazing though.


  33. Matthew Blanchette
    June 5, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    Unfortunately, the Beeb made him take down the three parts of his "Ten Doctors" special that he'd put up; judging by how painstakingly he put multiple Doctors in the same frame and made it look seamless, the BBC may have a lot to answer for come November 23rd.


  34. Assad K
    June 5, 2013 @ 9:48 am

    HarlequiNQB, it's in the 'What About Everything' video, starts around 2.19..



  35. Pen Name Pending
    June 5, 2013 @ 9:58 am

    I generally don't like fanvids – mostly because I'm not a fan of the music chosen – but "What About Everything" was one of the few I watched and I can't get enough of it.


  36. elvwood
    June 5, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

    Didn't Joe Ahearne also complain about the conditions? He didn't come back after the first series either.


  37. J Mairs
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    What do you think of deleted scenes within the context of the above, and do you intend to write an entry discussing their impact. Should an episode be solely what appears on screen, or should deletions and rewrites be considered as part of the larger episode?

    I don't know where this first becomes an issue in the RTD era, but a lot of Moffat era stories have critical scenes removed which answers criticism that key "plot holes" weren't considered (I'm thinking "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Power of Three" as two major contenders)


  38. Adam Riggio
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    Deletions, and especially rewrites, in the Davies era are especially problematic in terms of working out the meaning of a story. Consider Dalek as an example: remember that Rob Shearman and Davies went through 14 drafts of that story as they worked out the basic structure of the episode and dealt with the obstreperous Terry Nation estate over whether they'd be able to use the Daleks in the show at all. Given how much Davies would rewrite most scripts anyway, each episode becomes haunted by so many ghosts that all the other versions (sometimes radically different) would hang on the actual broadcast episode.

    In The Writer's Tale, Davies describes his original idea for the 2008 series companion, Penny. I remember a line he wrote describing Penny literally walking past the TARDIS not knowing what she even missed. A significant piece of the Doctor Who canon just left in a parallel universe, always potential and never actual.

    I have absolutely no idea what to do with this thought.


  39. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

    For the record, I will be covering Confidential again. Probably not with S2 (which already has the TARDISodes and Totally Doctor Who to cover), but certainly this isn't the last entry on it.


  40. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    Aaron – do you have a source on any of that? I've always found it maddening to get details on Eccleston's objections.


  41. Aaron
    June 5, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    Well, it looks like I was conflating a number of things. First, the actual statement given by Eccleston, which I'm sure you've seen, is here: http://badwilf.co.uk/?p=820

    Secondly, in the thread about it on Gallifreybase, a number of people mentioned that Eccleston had been spotted yelling at Keith Boak, the director of the first block of filming. Apparently that sofa incident happened during that filming block.

    So it looks as though I'm putting two and two together, though I remembered reading something more definitive. I still totally believe that this is the way events played out, and that Eccleston had objections to the way the first block production happened. However, my apologies that as it turns out the sources I had were flimsier than I remembered.


  42. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

    To be honest this is why I have a problem with what is rapidly becoming the "official" version. It's based solely on what Chris Eccleston says, and he is, by his own declaration, the injured party. It hasn't escalated into two opposing viewpoints of what did and didn't happen. It's a totally one-sided explanation from one man, and there's no way of knowing how true it is, if it's just how it looked from his side, or if it's just a face-saving exaggeration. There's no no evidence to the contrary, as the BBC (quite rightfully so in my opinion) have refused to respond to his allegations. As far as they're concerned the matter is long closed, but fandom still leaps on every word Eccleston says and assumes it's the absolute truth. To be honest, if he's the only person who's ever going to talk about it, I wish he'd put it behind him as well.


  43. Scott
    June 5, 2013 @ 10:10 pm


    To be fair, it seems to be have been less 'novices at making television drama' and more 'novices at making "Doctor Who".' It was, after all, the BBC's first serious stab at an ongoing sci-fi action series in a fairly long while.


  44. Abigail Brady
    June 5, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

    In retrospect it seems mad that they didn't do a pilot.


  45. Ewa Woowa
    June 5, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

    Best not think about it I'd say…


  46. SK
    June 5, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

    If they'd done a pilot they never would have made a series. It would have been hugely over-budget, over time, and proved the whole idea was unworkable.

    (British TV isn't set up to do pilots. They are a very expensive way of doing things. The British attitude is you get it right before you spend millions of pounds; you don't spend vast amounts of money with the intention that more than half the time you will decide not to go ahead.)


  47. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

    "What? But I thought 'Doctor Who' was a video news diary that the TARDIS sent to the BBC who, over the years, have developed better and better technology to broadcast it."

    That reminds me of a friend's theory that Playschool was actually therapy sessions in an adult psychiatric hospital, where patients were put in a room with toys and their reactions filmed and broadcast.


  48. Spacewarp
    June 6, 2013 @ 12:01 am

    Previously with only the BBC and regional ITV networks making their own series the idea of a pilot was fairly unnecessary, since it would be a case of a TV company trying to sell an idea to itself.

    However now that external companies are making programmes and selling them to the broadcasters, I suspect the UK is moving more towards the US model. For example a pilot was made for "Sherlock", which was produced by Hartswood Films and then sold to the BBC.


  49. HarlequiNQB
    June 6, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    Thank you kindly, that was amazingly impressive, if a little short. The rest of it was pretty damn impressive also.


  50. George Potter
    June 7, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    Very nicely done. ๐Ÿ™‚


  51. Jef Hughes
    June 9, 2013 @ 1:05 am

    If it was so 'Confidential', how come so many of us know about it?

    I suggest we agree to keep a lid on this, lest others discover the truth…


  52. K Log
    June 15, 2013 @ 1:01 am

    Spacewarp I'm only aware of him speaking about it once. You have to remember as well that the BBC put out an explanation that they were forced to retract, leaving a vacuum for many years. Of course CE's explanation of why he left is going to be "how it looked from his side". Ultimately it was his decision, so he is actually the one who truly knows the reason.

    You're suggesting that it's not true because other actors haven't repeated the criticism that crew were bullied. I can tell you that crew are often bullied and exploited on film sets due to time and budget pressures, which we know were bad. If you want to apply Occam's razor, you can put the probability that that happened at about 99.9%. I don't have any problem believing that complaints about it would be ignored. The competing theory that he wasn't able to cope with the workload and is lying to try to hide it isn't really that consistent with someone who's been pretty up-front about what he sees as his failings on other projects.

    In my experience actors generally would never complain publicly about workplace gripes. In fact they're great at putting a good face on things. However, they tend to be a lot more frank when talking to students, which was the case here. There is a strong tradition that senior artists should pass on ideas about professionalism and what they've learned about the craft to the next generation. Often these discussions go to the decisions actors face in their careers and the competing priorities of profile, artistic satisfaction, finances, and ultimately resolving these according to personal values. CE obviously believes that his ability to deliver as an artist is dependent on not compromising his core values, and the example he gave was the tough decision to leave Dr Who.

    Personally I found it a pretty inspiring story about truly standing by your beliefs, even though as someone who loves the show you hate to think that it wasn't a joy for people to make as well as watch. But, as Phil points out, making TV drama of this standard is an intricate and demanding business that involves a lot of people working very hard, so it's not surprising that it would have plenty of lows as well as highs.


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