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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. Carey
    October 1, 2014 @ 12:28 am

    A slight correction concerning ratings: iPlayer ratings are counted in the +seven day final ratings, but only if iPlayer is viewed by connecting a device to an actual television. It is any iPlayer viewing via an unconnected computer, tablet or mobile device that is not counted. The rough calculation (taken from the BBC's only independent poll) is that the current iPlayer statistics (ignoring repeat viewings) miss out roughly 40% or so of the iPlayer viewership.

    In regards to whether the Moffat era has higher or lower overall viewing figures (or reach) than the Davies era, it's likely to be the same. For all that doctor Who has a massive iPlayer audience, the BBC3 repeat audiences have dwindled since the days they were regularly in the BBC3 most watched programmes of the week, and it's quite likely that the audience for iPlayer comprises those that no longer watch Doctor Who via freeview, cable or satellite, and the missing BBC3 audience.

    Anecdotal, I know, but since the birth of my son in 2011, I haven't been able to watch live at all, and I went from Sky+ for the second half of series 6 to iPlayer via laptop from 2012 onward. Meaning, were I on a Barb panel, my viewing would not be counted in their survey for series 7 and 8.


  2. evilsoup
    October 1, 2014 @ 1:03 am

    iconic cliffhanger that casually owned popular culture for a while in its wake, and again in the lead-up to its resolution.

    It might just be because I don't generally have my finger on the pulse, but… I don't remember it being that big a deal? Certainly nobody I knew was obsessing over it, or even talking about it after a day or two. Not in the real world, anyway.


  3. curlyjimsam750
    October 1, 2014 @ 1:19 am

    Put another way, for all the complaints about Season Six of Doctor Who (complaints that, again, weren’t really reflected in the ratings), Moffat has not only completely refused to back down in his approach to the show, he’s generally speaking unapologetically doubled down on his approach, in a way that seems at times to actively bait his critics.

    Really? Two of the biggest complaints about Series 6 were (a) the complexity of the plot arc; (b) the split season. Is it coincidence that the season is no longer split and the current plot arc (so far at least) seems to be deliberately written to be as easy to follow as anybody could reasonably hope for?


  4. TD
    October 1, 2014 @ 2:19 am

    It's totally anecdotal, but Sherlock is one of the most popular shows among my Taiwanese friends (beaten perhaps only by Sherlock). There's maybe one person who watches Doctor Who, but EVERYBODY watches Sherlock.


  5. John
    October 1, 2014 @ 2:33 am

    The split season wasn't a creative decision, though.


  6. Ombund
    October 1, 2014 @ 3:21 am

    Even though I've watched this episode 3 or 4 times now I'm still unable to watch it "without the giddy excitement of context", which is certainly a power in and of itself.

    Thanks for writing these episode entries. Sherlock interacts with the Doctor Who mother-text in such a substantial way, so it was important to include them. I look forward to reading about series 3 in the book.


  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 3:27 am

    I'm really looking forward to writing about them. Especially "His Last Vow," because I think it's the weirdest thing Moffat ever wrote – a public advocacy for the murder of Rupert Murdoch, which he doubled down on in interviews, saying that people like Magnussen should be killed. That's… a really messed up and beautiful episode.


  8. That Guy
    October 1, 2014 @ 3:30 am

    Moffat, on the other hand, is a golden boy who seemingly makes a hit out of everything he touches.

    I notice you've carefully avoided Adventures of Tintin, and are presumably likely to keep avoiding it (given it came out in 2011, and the Sherlock episodes you've just covered came out in 2012)


  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 3:34 am

    Mainly because my impression is that the final product isn't much by Moffat. I don't doubt it would have been better had he been able to do the rewrite himself.


  10. SK
    October 1, 2014 @ 5:28 am

    Certainly nobody I knew was obsessing over it, or even talking about it after a day or two

    Nobody in the real world was obsessing about it but a couple of hundred people on the internet were, and the nature of the internet echo chamber is such that to each of those couple of hundred people, it seemed like it was all anybody was talking about.

    (A bit like the whole 'Is Moffat a sexist?' thing, which a couple of hundred people talk about non-stop but which most people in the real world have never heard of).


  11. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 5:32 am

    Certainly the media attention was basically indistinguishable from the climax of Doctor Who Series One and the "Bad Wolf" obsession. Wasn't just Internet Echo Chamber – it was that seemingly every site that covered popular culture ran a "how did he survive" piece.


  12. SK
    October 1, 2014 @ 6:00 am

    every site that covered popular culture

    That is the internet echo chamber.

    About .05% of the population ever read a website that covers popular culture.

    But they all think that because everybody they know does it, it's a normal thing to do.

    But it's not: they are the weird ones. Most people will never come into contact with any of this stuff unless it appears on ITN, and probably not even then.

    (It's a bit like how people who follow politics think that Miliband's speech fiasco was a big story: in a survey, 3% of people were able to remember it as 'something that happened last week).

    When the Sherlock thing did enter the public consciousness was in the run-up to the next series, and that is only because the BBC has got considerably more media-savvy about cross-promotion between the drama, news, light entertainment, and current-affairs departments, and so had the stars on Breakfast and Graham Norton, while mentioning the return on the Nine O'Clock News.

    That's what gets things into the popular consciousness. News websites? Only a few thousands nerds ever read those.


  13. SK
    October 1, 2014 @ 6:01 am

    (Oh, and The One Show, of course, which mainly exists to be the BBC's big guns for whatever new programme it wants to promote.)


  14. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 6:03 am

    This definitional argument is neither new nor interesting.


  15. Scaedura
    October 1, 2014 @ 7:03 am

    Well, there's a certain joke in Tintin about not realising the room you've been locked up in, isn't locked at all.

    That being said, even though Moffat was rewritten by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, I don't really recognize their styles in the film either and they have their own very unique styles as well. I feel the writing is very much overshadowed by the animation and Spielberg's own overwhelming presence. I don't think that even if Moffat had been the only writer on the project, the end result would have been very Moffat-y.


  16. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 7:36 am

    “The Final Problem” was not written to allow a way out.

    I disagree; I think it was written with a wide open door out. Because — unlike in Moffat's version — we're not shown the fall and we're not shown a body. Watson simply finds evidence of a struggle and infers a fall to death, thus leaving our confidence in Sherlock's demise to rest not on Watson's considerable skills as a physician but instead on his far less impressive skills as a detective. That's why I've always doubted that Conan Doyle sincerely intended to kill off Holmes for good. If he'd wanted that he could have ended with an autopsy. As it stands he made it incredibly easy to bring Holmes back. By showing us and Watson the fall and — albeit briefly — a body, Moffat actually makes bringing Holmes back much harder than it was for Doyle.

    Incidentally, no comment on how both Sherlock and Doctor Who turn on the protagonist's faked death this season?


  17. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 7:38 am

    Sherlock is one of the most popular shows among my Taiwanese friends (beaten perhaps only by Sherlock).

    I suspect the second occurrence of "Sherlock" was supposed to be something else?


  18. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 8:20 am

    By the way, Hound of the Baskervilles was my introduction to Holmes, not through the book but through the beautiful and quite faithful 1975-76 Marvel Comics adaptation, which I'm happy to see is online: part one; part two.


  19. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 8:31 am

    I think the problem with Tintin is that there are too many major creative talents to get any spark going. It's like those terribly bland supergroups that sound great on paper and end up using everybody's third-best ideas.

    Had you just had Moffat writing a Spielberg film I think you'd have had something really interesting. Particularly if Spielberg sent it back to Moffat for rewrites.

    I think adding an additional two brilliant writers who are stuck mediating among their own ideas and those of Spielberg and Moffat is a situation nobody could make a winner out of.


  20. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 8:32 am

    Oops, that comment was intended for the previous post.


  21. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    It's an interesting example of Moffat not really caring about certain types of criticism. Basically, only people who both dislike Moffat's work and are obsessive enough to actually pay attention to the concept of "Steven Moffat's career" are going to notice it. Otherwise, it looks no weirder than Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj coming out with songs about butts at the same time.

    As is often the case with Moffat, and indeed with any good writer, he recognizes that attracting criticism is in no way the same as failing to attract acclaim, and understands that he's paid to accomplish the latter, not avoid the former.

    He's tackling the original faked death on Sherlock and realizing how it works (and the answer is that the solution lies in the textual gaps of Watson's observation, as you point out, which is what Moffat ultimately uses in Sherlock, laying clear gaps in the visual and narrative grammar. Which were then so extensively discussed that they ended up sending up the mystery when they finally returned to it), and realizing that you can do a Timey Wimey version of the same trick so that the Doctor discovers, solves, causes, and then fixes his own murder. So he does, because it's a good idea, and knowing where he got it from won't actually affect anyone's enjoyment, it'll just give a further piece of evidence to critics on both sides.


  22. Jesse
    October 1, 2014 @ 9:45 am

    In news, the Scottish government announces that the independence referendum it’s been promised will go forward in 2014

    I wonder how that will come out.


  23. peeeeeeet
    October 1, 2014 @ 9:53 am

    while mentioning the return on the Nine O'Clock News.

    I drunkenly read that as "mentioning the return of Not The Nine O'Clock News and was, for a moment, INSANELY excited.


  24. Jesse
    October 1, 2014 @ 9:59 am

    Why aren't you covering them on the blog? Is there a chronological issue here that I'm missing, or is season 3 just something you've decided to hold in reserve?


  25. Theonlyspiral
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:08 am

    I have a feeling they'll make the right choice.


  26. benny whitehead
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:30 am

    Darts, the general synod's life of Christ, I like trucking! . Need I go on. Wrong blog, great telly. Off back to lurk now.


  27. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:30 am

    I doubt it.


  28. BerserkRL
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:32 am

    Basically, only people who both dislike Moffat's work and are obsessive enough to actually pay attention to the concept of "Steven Moffat's career" are going to notice it.

    Since I'm mostly a Moffat fan and I noticed it, I present myself as a counterexample to the generalisation.


  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:42 am

    Sorry, I should have said "object to it" not "notice it."


  30. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 1, 2014 @ 11:43 am

    Yeah – they aired after Time of the Doctor, which is where the blog will end. (Insert cheeky line to the effect of "and just wait til you see what I have planned for that essay.")


  31. Theonlyspiral
    October 1, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

    Oh but they will. A nice solid vote with good turnout, the proper result and little bit of a riot led by orangemen. What more could we ask for?


  32. Champiness
    October 1, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

    Pedantry: the Taylor Swift sing isn't really about butts, it just featured a twerking sequence in the video. Whereas Meaghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" makes for a contemporary, "Glee"-ready affirmative competitor to Nicki.
    I partake of a lot more music than television, as you can see.


  33. 5tephe
    October 1, 2014 @ 8:58 pm

    Interestingly, BeserkerRL's comment wasn't an objection yet you responded to it as one. More just an observation about a synchronicity between the two shows being discussed here, and your decision not to mention it.

    It seems to me Phil that you are becoming more defensive about Moffatt as we go on.

    I find that interesting because I am becoming more of a Moffatt fan as this season goes on, and add I read more of this blog.

    If however you are leading up to defending the decision to have Sherlock murder Murdoch at the end of season 3, then I for one will be disappointed not to be able to debate that with you here.


  34. Matthew Blanchette
    October 2, 2014 @ 11:16 am

    Surprised I'm the first to mention the seemingly obvious parallel with that now-iconic shot of Sherlock, about to fall, to the Romantic painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog — I wonder why they'd choose to echo that painting, in particular?


  35. David Anderson
    October 2, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

    I'm not really seeing the resemblance. They're both observed from the back and wearing coats. I suppose that in both cases we're thinking about the act of looking, but Sherlock we're not looking at the same thing that Sherlock is looking at.


  36. Jarl
    October 2, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    His Last Vow asks us to go back to this episode and ask if Moriarty could have survived. Frankly, I don't see it. Either the most potent character interaction he and Holmes had in their entire relationship was actually with a remarkable body double, which is a cop-out of such absurd scale that a season 6b fan wouldn't suggest it, or he faked his own suicide while 6 inches from Sherlock Holmes's face, which is just about implausible enough for me to decide it can't be the case.

    Still, I love that moment, when he finally shows Sherlock that surprised face he promised back in The Great Game, puts his gun in his mouth, and then the music roars at us. Great scene.


  37. BerserkRL
    October 2, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

    We don't know for sure that Moriarty is back. He might have planned some postmortem nastiness involving (but not limited to) pre-recorded messages.


  38. Alan
    October 2, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

    My suspicion is that Moriarty set up some absurd revenge scheme before his encounter with Sherlock on the roof just in case he died somehow. It's the sort of nonsensical overcomplicated scheme this supremely annoying incarnation of the character would use. Like Ainley's Master, he'd get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line.


  39. BerserkRL
    October 2, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

    In completely unrelated news, here's David Cameron getting ready to introduce the Toclafane. He even says one of Jacobi's lines:


  40. Matthew Blanchette
    October 2, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

    Some other people have already noted the resemblance, it seems:,550×550,075,f.u1.jpg

    …and here:

    So, it seems there's something to it.


  41. Aylwin
    October 3, 2014 @ 12:35 am

    It's funny because it's wretchedly depressing. I mean true.


  42. Matt
    October 3, 2014 @ 2:29 am

    This had a big impact on me. I saw it on a tiny, crappy headrest screen during a bout of insomnia on a transcontinental flight in 2012. I saw Hounds of Baskerville as well but this was the one that persuaded me to check out the rest of Sherlock (which I had never heard of prior to then).

    The first time you watch it, it barrels along. The tension ratchets up. The situations get more bonkers (the crown jewels! rigged trial! children & sweets! assassins!). The confrontations between Holmes & Moriarty get more intense and hammy (altho they do start off pretty hammy).

    On repeat viewing, a few things become apparent. Firstly, the plot is more riddled with holes than the swiss cheese presumably available at Reichenbach itself. It makes almost no sense. Which I do not think is an accident. The Reichenbach Fall is not designed to be rewatched. This is event television. Seen once. Shock and awe. Then: who cares. Its job is done. The plot exists purely to provide spectacle and opportunities for the characters to bounce of each other like Dodgem cars.

    The next issue is Moriarty. And this isn't down to Andrew Scott, who pretty much locks the controls onto "theatrically deranged" and works that in different registers. Rather it's that Moriarty is not really a developed character but instead a plot engine. Interesting things happen to other characters as a result of his actions but he himself doesn't change much in any way. That's also the role he plays in "The Great Game" but there he had very little screen time. Where as here, the character is given much more space to fill but those scenes are mostly carried by the performances.

    Perhaps the most interesting character development is when Moriarty kills himself because being alive then dead is at least a change (a point that he himself acknowledges in the "staying alive" spiel). Which is why I'm not that buzzed about his return next time.

    All that said, as spectacle, this episode works. The jumping off the roof scene gets its emotional charge because the hero seems trapped by both the consequences of his hubris and his love for his friends. Holmes might just end it all. Altho we know that Holmes cannot be dead – not because that would mean ending a very successful TV franchise but also because that would mean that Moriarty has won. And we already know that Moriarty is a dick. Entertaining but a dick nonetheless. And "dicks win if they are moar cleverer" is not the narrative logic of Sherlock.


  43. Jarl
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:30 am

    I agree, that's definitely how I see the situation turning out.


  44. encyclops
    October 6, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    Otherwise, it looks no weirder than Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj coming out with songs about butts at the same time.

    You've written a lot of sentences on this blog. This one might very well be my favorite.


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