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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.

19 Comments

  1. Scott
    October 3, 2012 @ 12:48 am

    I remember reading about "The Dark Dimension" in Jean-Marc Lofficier's "The Nth Doctor" (for those unaware, basically a summary of the various pitches to either make a film of the show or to bring it back after it was cancelled) and thinking it sounded really awesome. It seemed like the best of all the other ideas.

    But then, considering I was a kid and that the other ideas all seemed to pretty spectacularly miss the point of the show to some degree or another, that's perhaps not as glowing a tribute now as it seemed back them.

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  2. daibhid-c
    October 3, 2012 @ 2:30 am

    I first heard about Dark Dimension when I went to a talk by Colin Baker in 1995. His main criticisms were firstly, that if there was a "main Doctor" it should have been McCoy ("current" Doctor) or Petrwee (oldest surviving Doctor), and secondly that there probably shouldn't have been a main Doctor.

    He described complaining to Rigelsworth that giving him a trial scene and Davison a impassioned speech to the Cybermen was perhaps a bit of a superficial understanding of their eras. Apparently, Rigelsworth replied that he could just swap them round, which pretty much proved Baker's point.

    The other thing I remember about that talk is that when I suggested the BBC themselves had seen Dimensions and Time as a panto, he retorted "No, you've been reading Dreamwatch Bulletin, haven't you?" It was actually TV Zone, but I took his point…

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  3. arcbeatle
    October 3, 2012 @ 6:01 am

    I do have to disagree heavily on one point: While I haven't rewatched More Than 30 Years in the Tardis since I was a child, the scenes where parts of the original show were remade with 90's special effects was the most memorable part for me. I remember vividly watching the Documentary over and over because of how wonderfully more real then the show I loved those effects looked, especially the shot of the child entering the Tardis with the interior of the Tardis viable through the door.

    While the effects may not hold up well over time, they were better then what we'd seen on the show, at least as I remember, and it influenced my ideas of what Doctor Who was and would be greatly.

    And, as it would seem from how the new show did the Tardis door, Russel T Davies.

    (Oh, and long time reader, first time commenter! Love the blog!)

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  4. Tommy
    October 3, 2012 @ 7:28 am

    "But the fact of the matter is, he got the show made. Repeatedly. He kept it going through two situations that should have outright killed it: the departure of Tom Baker"

    Foregoing my personal bias that the show ending there would have been a more preferable, dignified fate for it, the BBC seemed to have a lot of faith in the show around that time. They brought back Barry Letts to oversee things, they granted JNT unprecedented slots for one-off specials like K9 and Company and The Five Doctors. The BBC was showing a lot of good will to the show, and any producer would have done well with that kind of support. But we could always count on the show under JNT to spit that good will back in the BBC's faces.

    Infact Tom's final season was a ratings disaster, and it was the BBC's decision to move it to a nnew timeslot to try and improve the ratings. Which it did at first, until the double whammy of Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity began to chase them away, and each successive charmless, fannish casual-viewer-repellent season opener proved the production team had learned nothing.

    "and the self-inflicted wounds of the Colin Baker era"

    The self-inflicted wounds of the 80's began long before Twin Dilemma. And in any case, when it comes to the 'self-inflicted' it boils down to the fact that a producer less savvy about saving the show from such a fate probably would not have caused that cancellation crisis in the first place. Hardly an achievement, it hardly even cancels out the preceding mistakes.

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  5. peeeeeeet
    October 3, 2012 @ 7:36 am

    Yeah, I was going to mention that shot of the child walking into the TARDIS as being impressive for the time.

    On the subject of the Dark Dimension, it's worth noting that Graeme Harper was signed up to direct and apparently loved the script, so it might not have been the disaster everyone assumes if it had been made.

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  6. Adam Riggio
    October 3, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    Given what you've said and what I've scrounged from around the internet about The Dark Dimension, it seems to be exactly what a successful series didn't need: a script composed of the worst kinds of continuity porn, a storyline that worshipped the Tom Baker / Philip Hinchcliffe era, a vision of the show that hadn't existed in two decades, and the aesthetics of 1990s pessimism superficially coating the whole production would have resulted in a pretty terrible piece of TV. At least with Dimensions in Time and 30 Years in the TARDIS, we could understand the role the show played in the culture, even if it was indefinitely dormant.

    However, Cyberman as Terminator would have been derivative, but cool. Now, a combination of Mondas-style Cyberman ideas with Terminator activities and timey-wiminess, that could have been good.

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  7. David Anderson
    October 3, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    Jumping forward two years – are you planning to look at Downtime? (Not that it had really crossed my radar before about ten days ago.)

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  8. Scott
    October 3, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    While I think I'm a lot more generous to the JNT years than you appear to be, the fact that the wounds of the Colin Baker era were also "self-inflicted" kind of questions exactly how much praise we should lay at JNT's door for this as well — if the wounds were indeed self-inflicted, then as producer it stands to reason that JNT was in part responsible for inflicting them. Overcoming them thus arguably becomes more a case of him cleaning up his own messes (or, less generously, finding other people who are able to do it for him) than him persevering in saving the show.

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  9. Scott
    October 3, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

    Another example for me personally — the "Thirty Years" scene of the Daleks parading across Westminster Bridge knocks the equivalent one from the series into a cocked hat. I saw the former well before the latter ("Thirty Years" was a formative part of me becoming a fan as well), and must admit to being underwhelmed by the latter having seen the former first.

    Now, of course, we can argue that this is somewhat unfair to the series, and that we have to make allowances for low budget 1960s-era production values. Which is of course true, but it also opens up the rebuttal that if we're extending such generosity to low-budget 1960s production values, it's only fair that we extend the same generosity to low-budget 1990s production values.

    And I agree that the shot of the child entering the TARDIS is very impressive — and, I think at least, quite effective. For it's time, of course.

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  10. Henry R. Kujawa
    October 3, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    I was wondering if "The Stranger" would get a look, considering all the WHO-related actors involved. I particularly liked the 2nd installment, "More Than A Messiah", as it seemed the closest it ever got to being "almost WHO but not quite".

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  11. Tommy
    October 4, 2012 @ 6:11 am

    I used to be more generous to JNT. I used to adhere to the fan camp that forgave him all his mistakes because he did give us Caves of Androzani. Then I learned JNT hadn't wanted Robert Holmes on the show at all, and realised that under a different producer we could have had a dozen stories of that quality. And bit by bit, I realised how little Caves actually ends up standing for, given what surrounds it and how much disgrace and damage everything else did to the Doctor's status as a public hero, and I began to think the whole era could be better off lost.

    I'd always hated the fanservice of Warriors of the Deep and Resurrection of the Daleks, but I did feel that a producer who wanted to make the fans happy deserved some slack from us, especially in light of RTD who showed absolutely zero good will towards the fanbase.

    Then I read The Unfolding Text and realised the kind of undesirable Ian Levine type fans it was being aimed at (in concert with visiting certain lunatic asylum forums where those views still exist), and realised it was no wonder the show began to feel so ugly, petty-minded and mean-spirited under him. And frankly hearing JNT slag off the Williams era before him, when at best it was fun in all the ways JNT's era wasn't, made anything said against his era seem fair game, and made it clear how little clue he had for the show's vision apart from giving us the anti-Williams era, which quickly became the anti-Doctor Who.

    All that really left was the post cancellation crisis period, where surely anyone would have to feel sorry for the man, and take their hat off to him for keeping the show going. Then I read Sophie Aldred's recent DWM interview describing what he was like toward her at first (which is to say he was an utter shit to her), and I think the last of my sympathy died there.

    I think had there not been such a hush up about the decisions made (or a pro-active effort by the man to control what DWM said about his stories so that nothing critical got printed), which spoke of a rather paranoid production environment, then there wouldn't be any campaigns for the truth, or obsessive autopsies on the era. And of course it would be easy to let the defence rest if most of the praise of his era didn't focus on him fixing the things he'd broken in the first place.

    Ultimately the problems tend to be nowhere near as complex as made out. Convoluted yes (as Phil's piece on the stacked deck of idiocy behind The Twin Dilemma proves) but ultimately all that was wrong with JNT's vision is that the guy was a bit of a drinker, and resultantly we ended up with a very misjudged era, a very volatile working environment, and the show adopting something of a wino's vision.

    The thing is, I do think the cancellation was so wrapped up in economics that it would have been inevitable no matter how good the show was. But when it happened, Doctor Who needed all the public good will it could muster to survive. And it wasn't there. It was something the show had been squandering since Time-Flight, and the reduced ratings afterwards reflect that. And I could forgive Time-Flight if they'd learned from it. If it weren't for how they followed up with Arc of Infinity and made that the new, fannish repellent model for the show.

    The show got a bit of a ratings boost in Resurrection of the Daleks, and a renewed burst of publicity with Colin Baker's casting. But in those circumstances, Twin Dilemma really needed to be good, or at least decent. And it wasn't.

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  12. Iain Coleman
    October 4, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    That's it, Tommy, show us on the doll where JNT touched you.

    Reply

  13. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 4, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    I'm not doing Downtime or The Stranger, but I'm doing two other similar projects.

    Eh, you know, scratch that. I was going to do Shakedown, but the heck with it. We'll do Downtime. Sure.

    Still no on The Stranger, though.

    Reply

  14. Spacewarp
    October 4, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    I've still got The Stranger "In Memory Alone" because the bit in the caves was filmed in the sub-basement of the building I worked in, and until I left and they closed the building down, the robot costume was still there in a heap on the floor, gathering dust. Honest.

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  15. daibhid-c
    October 4, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    Just rereading the post about The Five Doctors, and the "bucket list" approach of "Pertwee needs a Cybermen scene 'cos he never got one". And I remembered that Dimensions In Time, of course, found it necessary to check the Brig off Colin's list. And say what you like about Business Unusual, at least it has some sort of reason for the Sixth Doctor to meet the Brigadier, whereas Dimensions just seems to be saying "Colin and Nicholas in the same scene. That's sorted, then."

    Reply

  16. Ben
    October 4, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

    I also found the remake/new scenes with 90s production values a big part of my enjoyment of More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS. A glass of water to a thirsty child in the harsh, Who-less desert of 1993? Maybe? A tantalising glimpse of what might be achieved in the alternative universe where the program was still going and maybe Richard Griffiths was now the Doctor? Probably.

    I agree about The Dark Dimension, however. Aside from the brilliant idea of explaining Tom Baker's age by having the Fourth Doctor never regenerate in Logopolis and having him become listless and forgotten in a world that should never have been, I find it all goes downhill after there – and the puritanical need for seriousness is probably a major part of this. Perhaps one day, we'll get to see Ian Levine's 're-creation' of the script and find this truer than ever.

    Without it, 1993 could be little more than a nostalgia-fest. What with 'The Paradise Of Death' and Pertwee recreating the cliffhanger to part 3 (?) of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, I can't help thinking that if someone had suggested remaking a classic story with the (then still-living) original cast from 20 years earlier or even knocking together a new one – either way pretending to ignore the fact that they were all 20 years older – it would have been a success.

    Then again, I've just watched the first episode of Red Dwarf X, which surely is an exercise in doing very nearly the same thing!

    Great blog, by the way. Long-time reader, first-time poster.

    Reply

  17. ferret
    October 7, 2012 @ 3:08 am

    It's 1996, I'm – goodness, I'm 16 – and Dimensions in Time is on. The reason why Dimensions in Time was instantly and unequivocally hated has less to do with fans being blind to it's status as a charity special fun piece, and more to do with the fact that this was the first piece of televised Doctor Who since the cancellation, and without knowing the future: all our hopes rested on this.

    If Dimensions in Time could be good for just 10 minutes, maybe they'd commission a new series!

    Oh. Oh, it was embarrassing crap. That's Doctor Who dead forever then.

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  18. Matthew Blanchette
    October 7, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    Dimensions in Time aired in 1993, though; the TV movie was in '96.

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  19. Gavin Schofield
    October 7, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    The blog's caught up with my lifetime now, this was the first Doctor Who I ever watched live, age 6. Dimensions in Time / 30 Years in the Tardis that is, I don't live in some weird parrellel dimension where Dark Dimension was actually made.

    Reply

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