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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.

21 Comments

  1. Scurra
    August 2, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    This and Random Shoes were the stand-out episodes of S1 TW for me, and I think it's precisely because of the attempt they make to see things sideways and with a bit of bleakness thrown in (perhaps that's why I like L&M as well – although, oddly, not Blink.)

    Reply

  2. Spacewarp
    August 2, 2013 @ 1:56 am

    I did find this story to be something of a triumph of style over substance, a trap that Torchwood continually hovers on the edge of (and sometimes falls in). As Phil points out, the characters are very much reduced to ciphers based on their own characterisations here – Jack, being an enigmatic Immortal, does little more than play the part of "the enigmatic Immortal", preferring to resolve the situation by arriving somewhere, observing, and then allowing events to take their course. While Gwen is reduced to a neophyte companion learning from the master.

    The comparison with S&S is valid, as this story has Ethereal Otherworldly Creepiness in spades, but does it work well as an episode of Torchwood? Possibly, if bookended with other stories with a similar atomsphere (as S&S obviously was), but not immediately following "Cyberwoman", which is as far from "Small Worlds" as anything could be.

    This far into its debut series, Torchwood is beginning to resemble nothing so more as a dumping ground for scripts from different genres and shows. It is showing a lack of consistency in characterisation and style which may be the cause of its bad press within fandom (who are noticeably less tolerant of lack of consistency).

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  3. Daibhid C
    August 2, 2013 @ 2:27 am

    It’s a fair question why, out of the thundering mass of “hidden worlds” mythology, it’s fairies – the ones with an overt connection with children – that have risen to the top in recent centuries. Why, in other words, is there not more interest in Annwn or Mag Mell or Avalon?

    I think I'd add that part of it, at least, is that the world of fairies is also the least well-defined of the Otherworlds, so it becomes the "default" one, and if you want to throw in elements of the others you can. So Tir Nan Og becomes just another name for Fairyland, and the Sidhe are elves, and Arawn is probably the same guy as Auberon or something.

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  4. Ross
    August 2, 2013 @ 3:13 am

    it would work just as well as an episode of Doctor Who, or, perhaps more cuttingly, one of Sapphire and Steel

    Except for the bits where stuff actually happens and there are visual effects. (So basically "Sapphire and Steel without the boring parts")

    Reply

  5. Adam Riggio
    August 2, 2013 @ 5:23 am

    Or would it be better to say "Sapphire and Steel with money"?

    Reply

  6. elvwood
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    Is it also possible that the episodes where we are slightly distanced from Torchwood tend to work better? This and Random Shoes were my favourites from series 1 too, but Everything Changes also worked well as an introduction partly because we were looking in from outside.

    Of course, having Hammond writing this really helped; From Out of the Rain is my favourite from series 2.

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  7. sorrywehurtyourfield
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:23 am

    Though I've always maintained that, whilst things like Classic Who and Blake's 7 succeed despite their low budgets, Sapphire & Steel is a rare example of a series that succeeds because of it. Seriously, I think it has a nightmarish quality that comes specifically out of that enclosed, confined, studio-bound VT aesthetic – it uses it more compellingly and imaginatively than anything else I've seen. As a result I get very sceptical of S&S revival rumours, because there's no way they'll recapture that unique quality.

    Reply

  8. elvwood
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:32 am

    I've been doing a mini marathon to catch up, including rewatching the episodes I've only seen once. I've concluded that Day One isn't quite as bad as I remembered, but Cyberwoman is still dreadful. Small Worlds, though, which I had watched since, is very good but with just a couple of flaws for me.

    First, I wish they'd kept the fairies out of direct shot. As with Vincent and the Doctor, it's a case of less is more.

    Second, I didn't understand why they killed Estelle. Everybody else who died was killed because they attacked a chosen one, but not her. It could have done with more of an explanation than a vaguely implied "getting too close to the truth."

    Still, these are both minor complaints about a really successful outing.

    Reply

  9. elvwood
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:33 am

    I was intrigued by one thing Philip said:

    "the industrial revolution shifted labor requirements sufficiently that the date at which children were required to work receded by several years."

    Is that right? I thought the industrial revolution just moved children from working at home and in the fields into factories where conditions were worse, and that it took concerted effort on the part of social reformers to make that childhood space.

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  10. Chris Andersen
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:46 am

    It occurs to me that this story might also be compared with Children of Earth in that that story also concludes with the sacrifice, by Jack, of a child.

    Reply

  11. Dave
    August 2, 2013 @ 9:01 am

    Petty bourgeois children. The rest of 'em were sent to hard labor printing Dickens novels.

    Reply

  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 2, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    Which was still sufficient to invent childhood at that time.

    Reply

  13. Josiah Rowe
    August 2, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Tiny error: Lang's colored fairy books were, of course, published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not the late 20th.

    Reply

  14. Jack Graham
    August 2, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    "Childhood as we recognize it is a relatively recent invention – dating, in fact, to the nineteenth century, when the industrial revolution shifted labor requirements sufficiently that the date at which children were required to work receded by several years. This meant that childhood came to be treated not just as a period in which a person learned the skills they would need for eventual labor, but rather a state of protected innocence that ought be preserved for its own sake."

    I think it's worth remembering that the above, while true, only ever really applied to middle class children. The labour (paid or unpaid) of working class children in industrial economies continued to be vital to the maintenance of their families (and thus, by extension, to the production and reproduction of capital) well into the 20th century.

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  15. Nyq Only
    August 2, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    "Empire is, of course, the easy one – Torchwood is an imperial organization, at least in original concept. Torchwood Three is clearly pitted as a reaction against that, but thus far, at least, the terms of that reaction remain oblique at best."

    Which is yet another answer to the question "Why Cardiff?"
    How do you set heroic protagonists in the context of the British Empire in a post-Imperial Britain? Make your protagonists provincial is one answer.
    The movie "Zulu" is an interesting example (as well as a codifier of the Base Under Siege).

    Reply

  16. Jesse
    August 2, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

    This was a good episode, but I don't think I've ever mentioned it when I recommend to people the small handful of Torchwood stories I like. You know why? Because I completely forgot that it was on Torchwood.

    Reply

  17. Aaron
    August 2, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

    Well, true enough, but it was a slow shift that hit middle class families first and then slowly became the norm for working class families as well.

    Reply

  18. elvwood
    August 3, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    I'm not disputing it happened, it's just that saying the industrial revolution caused it felt to me like saying the Atlantic slave trade caused emancipation. But I'm speaking from limited knowledge, which is why I used the word 'intrigued' rather than saying it was an error.

    Reply

  19. Ross
    August 3, 2013 @ 5:41 am

    Never has a TV show done so much by doing so little. Even if it's paced like Star Trek The Motion Picture on valium.

    Just like Blake's 7 and The Tomorrow People, I can't imagine a remake of S&S that wouldn't remove everything that made it the sort of show that people still remember thirty years later.

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  20. Ross
    August 3, 2013 @ 5:44 am

    The industrial revolution did cause the increase in production which eventually resulted in the invention of "not working dawn to dusk every day of your life," even with the horrors of child labor.

    Reply

  21. Seeing_I
    October 8, 2013 @ 5:18 am

    I watched this again last night and my roomie asked the same question. I can only assume it's because she violated their sacred space by taking photographs. Poor Estelle! She and Jack were so sweet together – I was genuinely moved by her death.

    Reply

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