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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.

33 Comments

  1. BerserkRL
    January 6, 2014 @ 12:45 am

    I think Kaagh deserves some props here as a somewhat interesting Sontaran, which we hadn't seen for a while.

    Reply

  2. Bennett
    January 6, 2014 @ 1:09 am

    Only Sylvia fails to ever get this sort of redemption, instead becoming, as Series Four wound on, an increasingly unlikable and, ultimately, staying that way.

    Sylvia isn't likeable in The End of Time? Obviously I'm watching it wrong.

    Reply

  3. Spacewarp
    January 6, 2014 @ 3:13 am

    She's not really. The only times she's ever nice to the Doctor is when it involves asking him to save her daughter (which he wouldn't hesitate to anyway). At the end, when Donna has been returned to her, saved from brain obliteration, and basically reset to Donna default, Sylvia all but kicks the Doctor out the door without a word of thanks.

    She gets a couple of seconds of possible redemption right at the end when the Doctor mentions he got the pound coin from her dead husband and she finally seems to realise what the Doctor is all about, but quite frankly it's too little, too late.

    Which is fine. Sylvia's ok as she is – one of RTD's "funny" (read "damaged") mothers.

    Reply

  4. Ross
    January 6, 2014 @ 3:16 am

    The probic vent is a classic example of the little weak spot you target on the heavily armored enemy to damage them. Its only flaw is its failure to flash and to open and close according to a pre-established pattern carefully synchronized to the Sontaran’s attacks.

    One of the many lovable things about the Metal Gear series is that when Otacon, a massive geek, explains that Metal Gear Rex can only be destroyed by shooting the big flashing red bit, it instantly becomes clear that Otacon can't even conceptualize why you wouldn't have a big flashing red weak spot on your otherwise unstoppable megaweapon. It's literally there because Otacon is a geek and everything he knows about giant unstoppable megaweapon design comes from anime and video games.

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  5. Chris Andersen
    January 6, 2014 @ 5:06 am

    A fatal flaw in an otherwise unstoppable foe is a very old trope (Achilles' heel being the oldest example I can think of). What makes them groaners is not their existence but the lack of a reasonable explanation for why they exist in the first place (again, Achilles' heel works because it is where is mother had to hold him while she gave him his dip in the river Styx.)

    I've yet to see a classic episode with the Sontarans so I don't know if any reasonable explanation for this weakness has ever been given.

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  6. jane
    January 6, 2014 @ 5:25 am

    Isn't that where Sontarans feed on energy?

    Reply

  7. Theonlyspiral
    January 6, 2014 @ 5:59 am

    Doesn't some Sontaaran or other claim that it's so none of them would flee from the field of battle?

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  8. Ross
    January 6, 2014 @ 6:04 am

    In context, the "so no one will flee" bit is presented less as "That's why they have it" and more as "That's why it never occurred to us to just put a steel plate over it"

    Reply

  9. Alan
    January 6, 2014 @ 7:55 am

    (Sarah, of course, can be forgiven for forgetting this particular bit of Doctor Who trivia.)

    Did she ever have the chance to learn that? IIRC, she wasn't present when Pertwee originally gave the plot exposition about the vent, and it wasn't used against Styre in Sontaran Experiment.

    Reply

  10. BerserkRL
    January 6, 2014 @ 8:37 am

    Thetis should have given him a second dunk, holding him by the other foot.

    Reply

  11. BerserkRL
    January 6, 2014 @ 8:42 am

    The probic vent is a classic example of the little weak spot you target on the heavily armored enemy to damage them.

    On this point see here.

    Reply

  12. Steven Clubb
    January 6, 2014 @ 8:48 am

    If Davies ever has his "Scandal in Belgravia" moment, I would expect his Bad Mothers thing to be a major part of the thrashing. While Moffat got grief for turning every female character into a mother, at least they were still dynamic characters in their own right (and filled the same sort of niche as the fathers), while Davies had a very bad habit of marginalizing them and making them little more than obstacles from their daughters to overcome.

    Reply

  13. Lewis Christian
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:09 am

    I agree. I'd put Kaagh up there with Linx and Styre.

    Reply

  14. encyclops
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:18 am

    I think jane has it, yes. For a while I scoffed at the probic vent, but then humans have the throat, and male humans have the testicles, so the mere fact of having a vulnerable part of one's anatomy is not as overly convenient as it seems. And Ross has the other part: they don't just put the equivalent of a gorget or codpiece over it because in the Sontaran culture that makes you a coward.

    It makes at least as much sense as gold in the chestplate or mud on the eyestalk….

    Reply

  15. Bennett
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:21 am

    See, I don't equate "likes the Doctor" with "likeable character" – particularly during this time in the show's history.

    But like I said, I'm probably watching it wrong.

    Reply

  16. encyclops
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:26 am

    I adore Jackie. Certainly by "Aliens of London," if not "Rose" itself, she was one of my favorite characters in the series. I don't know how much of that is down to Camille Coduri, though. I also like Francine, though probably not quite as much, and what I do like is probably Adjoa Andoh selling me on Francine's point of view.

    Sylvia, though…yeah. And I finally had a chance to read Damaged Goods recently and there are two gratuitously, outrageously awful mothers in that one. Largely absent fathers, though — I'm not sure it gets more marginalized than "not even around."

    Reply

  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:28 am

    To be fair, Wilf was originally written as Geoffrey Noble, but the actor who played him in The Runaway Bride was too ill to reprise the part, so they hit on the idea of bringing Cribbins back.

    Reply

  18. David Anderson
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:36 am

    Funny doesn't seem quite the right word for betraying your daughter to the Master.

    Reply

  19. encyclops
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:37 am

    And he's Sylvia's dad, so he'd count either way, I suppose. And there's a sense in which are both "sainted" dads, even though one's a bit of a ne'er-do-well and the other kind of kills the Doctor.

    Reply

  20. Steven Clubb
    January 6, 2014 @ 11:20 am

    Just to clarify, I don't think Davies should take grief over it, since I think he (as well as Moffat) genuinely likes women and wants to include really interesting female characters in his works… but like Moffat should get some criticism for his tendency toward Male Gaze, Davies should get a bit more criticism for resorting to the Bad Mom stereotype.

    It doesn't invalidate the good things he's accomplished, but we do need to shine more awareness on how using a trope can make your narrative say unintentional things. With this Sarah Jane episode, you can see how big of a blast it could have been if a mother had become an active participant in her daughter's life, with a proper mother/daughter team fighting aliens side-by-side instead of putting the mother in the role of stick in the mud.

    Reply

  21. Matthew Blanchette
    January 6, 2014 @ 11:30 am

    It's funny to Davies… don't know why; perhaps the man has an odd sense of humour?

    Reply

  22. encyclops
    January 6, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

    I love it, absolutely love it, when the Doctor is in a situation where not everyone falls to the floor instantly to kiss his feet. I feel the same way about that new Muppets movie; the Muppets are far more interesting and appealing to me when they actually have to win over the people they meet, many of whom are looking around wondering who let in the zoo.

    So I really appreciate the RTD era's mainstay of a mom who doesn't trust the Doctor any farther than she can throw him. It makes a nice and even necessary contrast to the feet-kissing attitude so many of his other characters take. And it makes sense that it should be someone as close to the companion as possible. (Amy's got Rory, at least for a while, playing both the Mickey and the Jackie role but with a lot less authority than either.)

    That said, in the end an ass-kicking mom is at least as much fun as a shit-giving one, and I'd agree it's satisfying when the same character gets to grow from one role to the other.

    Reply

  23. Steven Clubb
    January 6, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

    The problem is Who really can't do much with a nay-sayer character. If you look at Francine, she's 100% right. Her ambitious daughter is throwing away her career to chase after a very dangerous man who quite clearly doesn't love her… and the show can't spin that around into a narrative positive like they did with Jackie, Mickey, and Rory.

    So the show mostly vilifies her, who sells out her daughter to a villain out of misguided love… while never seriously dealing with her concerns, which are just sort of swept under the rug in one of the periodic "but the Doctor is wonderful" moments where all his sins are washed away with minimal consequences.

    At which point, you sort of have to question the wisdom of raising these points if you can't follow through with them. Either there's something seriously dodgy about the Doctor spiriting away young women and we seriously deal with that… or it's a fantasy where such concerns are hand-waved away if anyone attempts to bring them up. The middle path just ends up being schizophrenic and not terribly satisfying.

    Reply

  24. Ross
    January 6, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    Also, if Sontarans developed codpieces for their probic vents, I assume they would end up winning every time they're introduced. Not because they'd be invulnerable; because the humans would all die from hypoxia while incapacitated with laughter at the concept of a neck-codpiece.

    Reply

  25. encyclops
    January 6, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

    the show can't spin that around into a narrative positive

    I would say "didn't spin," but otherwise I'd agree with you. There are reasonable answers to the challenge — such as (in Rose's case) "she can stay here and work in a shop or she can come with me and help save entire worlds, including this one, and oh by the way see the universe for free and stop back by to have Christmas dinner with you seventeen nights in a row if she wants" — but as you say we'd have to "seriously deal with that."

    One of the many things I miss from the classic series is that every once in a while someone would stow away, or need a lift off a planet where they had no future, or otherwise not be just a young beautiful woman on Earth with a regular job who becomes his not-girlfriend. I wonder which showrunner is going to be the one to really, genuinely buck that pattern?

    Reply

  26. Steven Clubb
    January 6, 2014 @ 3:36 pm

    I did like how Davies played with the issues in the first couple of series, where he kind of lightly broached the subject then turned it into something mildly comic. Such as the Doctor essentially kidnapping young women, which leads to the serious-tinged joke of Rose being missing for one year.

    It's not played so seriously that it can't be laughed off, but does cast a shadow over the Doctor's actions, where his actions are having unintended consequences. But the whole thing requires a very deft touch which Davies messed up as often as he succeeded. Martha's mother is one of the best examples as it helped undermine quite a lot of series three as very serious questions about the Doctor's character are being raised which the show is ill-prepared to deal with. Then again in the Donna's finale where both she and Davros point out another Davies cliche, which is everyone's character arc is to be transformed into a gun-toting defender of Earth… and you can see the show awkwardly shuffle around a bit until the audience gets distracted by something else.

    Reply

  27. Josiah Rowe
    January 6, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

    BerserkRL, in some versions of the myth, Thetis fully intends to fully immerse Achilles, but is prevented from doing so by Peleus.

    Reply

  28. Daru
    January 6, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

    Yeah it was great the way Yasmin Paige held that early series together. I have to say I got a lot out of the way Chrissie's character was played, the way she threatened to upset the narrative at times and then saved the day at the end of this story. I do get the general points about the 'difficult mothers' thing with RTD, but I also simply really enjoyed Juliet Cowan's performance.

    Reply

  29. Galadriel
    January 7, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

    I noticed the Maria-Rose parallels while we were covering seasons 1 and 2, but I hadn't considered Chrissie's role. When we finally get to seeing Clyde's mother, she's a fairly respectable figure, though Gita is annoying.
    Overall, I prefer Maria to Rani, though both are well-written characters. And part of that is that Rani is "the future journalist," just as Luke is "the genius" and Clyde is "the funny one." Maria is just Maria, who happened to kick-start the whole thing and really cares about people.

    Reply

  30. Ian Caldwell
    January 7, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

    I'll bite here. I thought the critical thing with Silvia was when she gets told, rather bluntly by the Doctor, that she doesn't show any appreciation for her daughter at the end of 'Journeys End'.

    Come the End of Time we see Mother and Daughter having a jolly good laugh together over a rude Christmas card, which stuck me as a sigh things were allot more open and friendlier between them now. Also Silvia prays to the Doctor when Gallifrey appears in the sky. The Script even specifies it. So she's one of the faithful now.

    Reply

  31. heroesandrivals
    January 8, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

    @Ross
    It's called a probic VENT, so maybe they need it open even when not feeding for some reason? ('vent' makes no sense for an intake port.)

    Reply

  32. heroesandrivals
    January 8, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

    I thought Maria was a detective?

    Reply

  33. Ross
    January 9, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

    But we never see anyone hurting a Sontaran by plugging it. They hurt them by whacking it. They could put a steel cage around it and it'd still function as a vent and be un-whackable.

    Reply

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