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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. Ewa Woowa
    July 19, 2013 @ 12:27 am

    Still watched it at the time… It was rubbish, but it was DrWho related…


  2. Chicanery
    July 19, 2013 @ 12:27 am

    I would say this is the second most cynical Doctor Who spin off, Top Trumps Doctor Who for the PlayStation 2 may edge it out in laziness.


  3. Mike
    July 19, 2013 @ 1:18 am

    I remember watching this as a 12 year old mainly because I liked Barney Harwood and was getting increasingly obsessed with Doctor Who. And I quite liked it at the time, but as soon as it went off air…well, I didn't actually notice or particularly miss it.

    I daren't go back and watch it to see if it's naff or not, and happy to just fondly remember the Russell T Davies episode (it was only reading this that sparked the memory of how thrilled even I was when the Yeti question was asked.

    In all honesty, I probably wouldn't have watched all of it if it wasn't for The Infinite Quest. It was a new story, and that's probably why I was so desperate to see how it ended. And so, I'm sure I was dissapointed with it when it was finished. I definitely remember seeing the omnibus version and realised how badly it hung together as one story rather than a serial, where it was as variable in its locations as TV Who hadn't really done.

    I'm really loving these recent posts purely through the nostalgia of watching them the first time as exciting new Doctor Who things. I wonder if you'll do the Monsters and Aliens book which was, for me and probably most kids my age, the first real History of Who (of sorts) I had and first contact with classic stories, even if some of the finer details flew over my head (the Cassandra bio demonstrates how brilliant Davies was at getting away with adult jokes in essentially a kids format).


  4. Iain Coleman
    July 19, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    To be fair to CBBC, they are responsible for "Horrible Histories", which is genuinely one of the best shows on TV. There's clips all over youtube, for anyone who wants to check it out.


  5. Nick Smale
    July 19, 2013 @ 2:29 am

    Totally Doctor Who played on BBC 1, not just CBBC. I watched every episode with my then-seven year old, Doctor Who obsessed small person; she wasn't that engaged by it. I remember thinking that it felt like a 70s Doctor Who annual on TV; distant, disengaged, only vaguely related to its supposed subject matter.

    I enjoyed The Infinite Quest, though; there should be more animated Doctor Who in the world.


  6. Ross
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:05 am

    The problem here, in essence, is that Totally Doctor Who gives every appearance of thinking its audience members are stupid. It's cynical and believes that they won't notice the complete lack of any effort or thought that has been done here.

    Oh. Oh no. Just no.

    My shameful dirty little secret that i spent the first decade of my adulthood learning to accept is that I love children's television. Good children's television is a thing of beauty, and even not-especially-good children's television tends to hold something magical that happens just as a side-effect of being made by actual human beings and being relatively free from the constraints of having to target the all-important Men Aged 18-24 demographic.

    And then you have the ones that just clearly do not give a crap. The ones that exist so that people who argue about television can smugly try to one-hit-kill any sort of discussion about a TV show by declaring "Oh, it's just a kids show, they didn't think the kids would notice that the plot made no sense."

    The idea that children are stupid and undiscerning as consumers of television is just about the most pernicious institutional lie used to justify making terrible TV.

    As an aside, my wife got my son an old alphabet-themed picture book of animals yesterday. On the D page, the central feature is a dinosaur or a dragon or something. But off in the background is a vaguely Tom Bakerish Doctor being chased by a Dalek.


  7. John Voorhees
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:06 am

    All together now … "This is not a review blog!"

    Seriously, I'm almost glad to be reminded this exists. Never watched it, and now I'm glad of that.


  8. Froborr
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:59 am

    To quote Lindsay Ellis, "Television and movies are the only things about which people say, 'Who cares if it's crap? It's just for my kids.'" Completely with you on being enraged by that attitude.


  9. Bennett
    July 19, 2013 @ 4:11 am

    An excellent essay covering one of those rare parts of Doctor Who that I have absolutely no interest in experiencing (though I'll happily sit down and watch black and white footage of Valerie Singleton making a Dalek cake).

    For further reading on this subject, Clayton Hickman gave a candid and humorous interview about his involvement with Totally Doctor Who on a Tachyon TV podcast (available at http://www.tachyon-tv.co.uk/podcasts/pod1/index.html).


  10. Chadwick
    July 19, 2013 @ 4:29 am

    No good comes from putting the word "totally" in a title. (See: Miley Cyrus).

    CBBC is a dumping ground, whereas CBeebies has charm. I find Horrible Histories to be post-modern, revisionist pap btw.


  11. Adam Riggio
    July 19, 2013 @ 5:31 am

    Sounds like it's a review, but really it's an exploration of the ancillary material around Doctor Who, and its implications for the production of the show itself, and for mapping out the entire cultural phenomenon. I contrast this with some of the conclusions Phil reached about Pip & Jane Baker in the Colin Baker era. They were writers who thought that you didn't really have to try to be innovative or put effort into producing television that had children as part of its audience. They have the same attitude that Jane from Coupling had about entertainment for children: all you have to do is bounce your head a lot and act really excited all the time.

    One of the most wise things Phil has put on the Eruditorum is that kids can tell when you're phoning it in, when you've designed your show around the principle that they're stupid. Like children watch television for scary spectacle, but don't actually remember any of the details of what they've seen because when the credits hit, they're running after a puppy or an ice cream. Like they seriously believe that there is no Tom Baker, but only the Doctor, and that he will have his head held underwater for a whole week when the action starts again. That they can't tell the difference between a character and the actor who plays him, or they can't understand that television shows aren't real events, and are broadcast plays produced by teams of highly trained professionals.

    Pip & Jane Baker and Totally Doctor Who are the good hearted side of the same attitude that got us Mary Whitehouse.


  12. Multiple Ducks
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:26 am

    Totally agree. I distinctly remember a previous animated series supposedly based on Horrible Histories which, while not without merit, was rather Americanised and seemed to just be in it for the branding. The CBBC version on the other hand, feel like I've come home to my old well-worn Terry Deary Books, and I can hardly stop smiling whenever it comes on.


  13. Corpus Christi Music Scene
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:33 am

    Agreed . Im surprised that there isnt a bigger market for Animated DW. Its awesome that they are animating a few of the missing episodes for the DVDs but it would be cool to see an original animated series.


  14. Multiple Ducks
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:35 am

    Is it perhaps this page?


    Because if so, your wife has excellent taste. Pretty much every picture book by Graham Base is simply beautiful, and 'Animalia' is no exception.


  15. Ross
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:45 am

    That's it. I've only had time to look at just the one page so far, (Since the small one immediately shouts "Mine", and then we have to move it out of range because he can't really be trusted with books that aren't made of board just yet)but it looks really cool.


  16. Pen Name Pending
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    When I was in kindergarten we has that book and each week or so someone would be assigned to list as many things as they could find for a certain letter. I was unlucky and got Q, but I wonder if the kid who got D knew what was up…it's just funny finding Who references in media I consumed when I had no idea what Doctor Who was.


  17. Pen Name Pending
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    Apparently this almost happened


    Not sure how introducing two new companions would "fill in some gaps", but it looks awesome anyway.


  18. Clay Hickman
    July 19, 2013 @ 7:19 am

    Hahaha! You really are too kind, Phil. To me, if not poor old TDW as a whole. But I feel I must point out that our judging bits for 'Companion Academy' were recorded at the same time as the kids did their, uh, challenges. We were basically locked in a dark cupboard for three days watching a bank of little monitors and commenting 'live' on the shenanigans happening in the main studio next door. Then between each task we had to vote one poor little mite out. So it was as 'real' as it could be. But you'll notice how the segment gets shorter and shorter each week as if people realised it was all a bit rubbish and wanted it out of the way as fast as possible. I remember being edited down to about half a nod one week! Still, it meant one kid got to visit the DW set, so it was probably worth it.



  19. Daibhid C
    July 19, 2013 @ 7:23 am

    I don't remember hating it (because it takes a lot more than "not good" before I'll hate something), but it was the only Doctor Who related show where I would not only forget it was on, but couldn't be bothered firing up the iPlayer for. I've never felt such apathy for Doctor Who programming before.

    Well, not until Miracle Day, anyway. Still have the last couple of episodes of that recorded, may even get round to watching them some day.


  20. Daibhid C
    July 19, 2013 @ 7:29 am

    I'm not sure using "post-modern" as a perjorative is going to get a lot of agreement in this blog…


  21. Ununnilium
    July 19, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    Yeah, I had literally never heard of this. Even though I've seen Infinite Quest!


  22. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 19, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    I don't think I've ever suggested that the blog will never discuss the question of quality in a piece of Doctor Who. It's merely that its primary purpose is not to provide a guide to the good and bad bits of Doctor Who. The significant thing about Totally Doctor Who in terms of the history of the series is, frankly, that it sucked and that Davies made sure the next attempt at a children's version of Doctor Who didn't. The interesting thing isn't that it sucks, but why it sucks, and how its low quality fits into the larger narrative of Doctor Who's development.


  23. encyclops
    July 19, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    The best way to engage kids with Doctor Who is, duh, to show them Doctor Who.

    I'm not the biggest fan of the Tenth Doctor, but it makes me so happy to think about a lifelong fan getting to play him, and the way you describe Tennant in this is a perfect example of why. I love what you say about Davies, too.


  24. BerserkRL
    July 19, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    So you missed the ending of Miracle Day where Romana, Ace, and the 5th Doctor show up to save Jack Harkness from the Yeti?


  25. Nyq Only
    July 19, 2013 @ 11:05 am

    It isn't even a very good use of the term for a history program that spends a lot of time focused on Kings and Queens and similar "Great people" of history.
    I can think of multiple criticisms of the BBC Horrible Histories but it is clearly not a TV program that underestimates the value of kid's TV.

    Other good output from CBBC included The Legend of Dick and Dom – which was pitched at kids but had some genuinely funny moments. I still get a chuckle from Alan the Vampire Baby.


  26. Theonlyspiral
    July 19, 2013 @ 11:07 am

    If anything it's a mark in it's favour…


  27. Froborr
    July 19, 2013 @ 11:18 am

    Vampire babies are no laughing matter!

    (No, seriously, while anesthetized for surgery more than a decade ago I had horrible nightmares about vampire babies. They recurred semi-regularly for the next five years, until a friend pointed out babies don't have teeth. I never had the nightmare again.)


  28. Froborr
    July 19, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    Yeah, my little four-year-old niece is a complete addict, and I don't think she's ever seen anything but core Doctor Who. She got into it entirely on the basis of (carefully parentally filtered) episodes of the reboot series, and is now watching the Doctor-a-month classic Who airings on BBC America. (As a result of which, her favorite is now "flute Doctor," by which she means Troughton. Tennant is "cool Doctor," Smith is "bowtie Doctor," and I don't know her names for any of the others.)


  29. Alan
    July 19, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    Until today, I had no idea Totally Doctor Who existed. And I feel fine. I DO know of Infinite Quest, but have never seen it. That said, I am disappointed to hear that it is rubbish as well, as I think there's a place for animated Doctor Who. In particular, I had held out hope that the BBC would do some kind of animated 50th anniversary event featuring all Eleven Doctors, since it doesn't matter how old Tom Baker looks when he's voicing a cartoon (plus you could get David Troughton and Sean Pertwee to voice their dads and, I dunno, Argus Filch to voice the First Doctor). Sadly, twas not to be. Still, if I take care of myself, maybe I'll be around for the 75th.


  30. encyclops
    July 19, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

    If it happens again, let me know. I speak Vampire Baby.


  31. Corpus Christi Music Scene
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

    I wouldnt say it was rubbish. Its an amusing diversion that is definitely aimed at younger viewers but can be enjoyed by adults as well. I think it best fits in between Gridlock and Daleks Take Manhattan . In fact I find it more enjoyable than that particular Dalek 2-parter.


  32. William Silvia
    July 19, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

    I hope this isn't in place of a separate review of Infinite Quest!


  33. jonathan inge
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  34. jonathan inge
    July 19, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  35. Corpus Christi Music Scene
    July 19, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

    Excellent points. Having just rewatched it , I agree it does probably fit better after Blink.


  36. William Silvia
    July 24, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

    It's things like the fact that some of the answers to Doctor Who trivia questions they ask are actively wrong. In all seriousness – they ask what song Cassandra plays on the jukebox in The End of the World, and then declare that "Toxic" is the wrong answer because it's actually "Tainted Love."
    I'm not sure what you're at here. I thought that "Toxic" was the song that played here, and it may play later in the episode, but I'm watching the episode now, and the song Cassandra put on was "Tainted Love", so I'm not sure what you mean about this being wrong.


  37. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 24, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

    The problem is that there are two accurate answers – Tainted Love and Toxic both play. The kid gave one, and was told they were wrong because the question-writer wanted the other one. Which is terrible trivia writing.


  38. William Silvia
    July 27, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

    Okay, now I understand you better. It was the case of a poorly worded question thereby making multiple choices seem palatable. That's the sort of thing that even the most modest test-screening will find and fix; the sort that probably didn't happen here.


  39. Dean Law
    April 29, 2020 @ 5:23 pm

    There’s a channel on YouTube that have the entire Totally Doctor Who collection, worth a watch to relive!


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