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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.

27 Comments

  1. Tobias Cooper
    October 9, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    Dear Dr Sandifer
    I love this blog, but I have one request: please stop using "myriad of" it jars horribly.

    Reply

  2. Alex Antonijevic
    October 9, 2013 @ 1:02 am

    On a more positive note, I have been using the word 'shambolic' a whole hell of a lot.

    Reply

  3. Spacewarp
    October 9, 2013 @ 2:05 am

    And the same goes for the Letts era: come up with some mundane aspect of the modern world and have aliens take it over. Instant Pertwee story.

    You've just reduced my favourite Doctor's era to a couple of lines! You bastard!

    Reply

  4. Jack Graham
    October 9, 2013 @ 2:19 am

    Oh yeah. Dumbledore's gay. And why? Not because he ever evinces any sexual feeling for anyone in the course of any of the stories. Oh no, it's because he wears purple silk, has a florid turn of phrase and once had a crush on a future wizard-Hitler… whereupon he retired into tragic, damaged celibacy, afraid to ever love again in case it re-unleashed his single moral collapse. So, that's a story about 'tolerance' then, ain't it? Bleurgch.

    Sorry, but you did bring it up. 😉

    Reply

  5. Spacewarp
    October 9, 2013 @ 3:27 am

    Interesting that if a writer explicitly says a character is gay but offers no proof, our first instinct is to react as you have. Similar to certain fans' assertion that the Doctor is asexual because between 1963 and 89 he showed no sexual feeling for anyone in the course of any of the stories.

    If Rowling had said Dumbledore was heterosexual but given no evidence of a prior relationship other than a crush, this would have been accepted…and the florid turn of phrase and purple silk would have been ignored.

    In that sense, stating Dumbledore is gay should have no more impact than him being hetero. The clothing is a red herring, because they're all wizards, so it comes with the territory. I'm more worried about the lazy symbolism of Snape having dark greasy hair and wearing black, just because he's supposed to be evil.

    Reply

  6. Adam Riggio
    October 9, 2013 @ 3:42 am

    Today's post: What can we learn about SJA (and children's television as a whole) from a script that was clearly phoned in.

    What interests me about your analysis of SJA is that it appears to be a model that your previous analysis of Doctor Who indicates shouldn't work: fanservice. But it's a peculiarly creative form of fanservice, where the service rendered to the fans is updating the story structures of classic Doctor Who explicitly so that they'll be just as loved by the current generation of children as they were by the ones that are now their parents. You could think of it not as the mission of the Wilderness Years, but its dream.

    So the writers have to imitate not only the form of the old stories, but the effects they had on the audience. Gladwin seems to be the only writer for this season who doesn't understand that, and he doesn't understand it because he never experienced those effects watching Doctor Who in the first place. Really SJA is the ultimate show for insiders insofar as it explicitly seeks to capture people at a young enough age to forge them into new insiders. And the producers actually understand the subjective phenomenon of becoming a fan, so can craft their stories to produce that phenomenon.

    Reply

  7. BerserkRL
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    It’s just that it doesn’t really inspire passions among the (largely adult) fandom that the other two series do, largely because it’s not trying to be complex in the same ways.

    Well, sometimes it does; there are some more ambitious episodes in the mix.

    Reply

  8. BerserkRL
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:01 am

    I'm more worried about the lazy symbolism of Snape having dark greasy hair and wearing black, just because he's supposed to be evil.

    Though part of the point is that he's less evil than we are led to think.

    Reply

  9. Spacewarp
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:16 am

    @Phil.

    Can't remember if you mentioned this before, but are you watching these all for the first time?

    Reply

  10. David Thiel
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:30 am

    I was annoyed by the "Dumbledore is gay" revelation because it struck me as an unearned claim of diversity. If she'd wanted to present one of her most beloved characters as a gay role-model, she had seven books and more than one million words in which to do it. Making the declaration several months after the publication of the final volume seemed cheap and, frankly, a bit cowardly.

    Reply

  11. Alex Wilcock
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:36 am

    I feel slightly ashamed, having not watched this for a while and just assumed it was a Phil Ford story because it wasn't very memorable…! While Mr Ford's first script is for me much more interesting on at least one level, and reminds me of School Reunion: the A-story is very clichéd and off the shelf (Image of the Fendahl did a far more original take on the Gorgon three decades earlier), but the story of the characters is much more thoughtful and emotionally resonant. There you go – I hope that makes up for not having had enough comments on that post…

    Anyway, back to this one: like School Reunion, perhaps it's because it was written by someone less steeped in Doctor Who that the writer came up with such an obviously Who-ish plot it had already been done several times before and no-one had the heart to tell him. In this case, the novels Toy Soldiers and, very recently, Winner Takes All aimed at much the same audience as The Sarah Jane Adventures. And unlike an awful lot of other modern Who inspired by the novels, neither of those were very inspired to begin with, which might be why it's the only one of that first SJA season I've not watched again in the last few years.

    Reply

  12. Bennett
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:38 am

    Merriam-Webster recognise that "myriad" can be used in both noun and adjective forms. To my eyes, it is quite comfortably read as a noun, and I support its future appearance as such within the TARDIS Eruditorum.

    (Yep, you're right…it's difficult finding something to say about The Sarah Jane Adventures…)

    Reply

  13. Theonlyspiral
    October 9, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    Now I love Letts…but he's right. And he's right about Hinchcliffe as well. It doesn't make them any less or more satisfying.

    Reply

  14. Theonlyspiral
    October 9, 2013 @ 6:40 am

    No, he’s gay because he likes men. He sprouts overwrought turns of phrase and wear’s purple silk because he’s a wizard. His sexuality is a component of the character but not the defining part. He’s not “the Gay Wizard”, he’s not cast as some damaged and repressed coward. He’s cast as a mentor, a figure of great power, and frankly any positive depiction of any marginalized group is welcome in mainstream media.

    Reply

  15. benny whitehead
    October 9, 2013 @ 7:28 am

    Indeed, a myriad of uses.

    Reply

  16. BerserkRL
    October 9, 2013 @ 7:34 am

    I was annoyed by the "Dumbledore is gay" revelation because it struck me as an unearned claim of diversity.

    But Rowling didn't put it forward as a claim of diversity. Someone asked her about his love life and she answered something like, "Oh, to be honest I always thought of Dumbledore as gay." It wasn't some big announcement.

    Reply

  17. inkdestroyedmybrush
    October 9, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    now you've hit upon the important aspect of the show: using SJA as a gateway drug to getting new, young fans to love the Doctor Who universe. I hooked both of my girls on SJA as well as Doctor Who 2005 going forward. Getting them into new Who took a bit longer, but they loved SJA, and it provided them a window into classic Who, specifically, Baker/Sladen adventures like Ark in Space, that they were suddennly intersted in. I don't think that it can be understated the need to add to the adudience and get those younger viewers that will reinvent Doctor Who twenty years from now. Its really, really important.

    Reply

  18. Ross
    October 9, 2013 @ 9:28 am

    Or you could just show them regular Doctor Who and start them very young.

    I say this mostly as an excuse to brag about my kid, who will sometimes demand "More Docta Woo", ("No Doctor Who until you clean up your toys" is one of the most fun sentences I have ever said in my life), and will flail around with my Sonic Screwdriver Projector Pen shouting "TARDIS FLYING!" as it casts the image of a police box on the wall (Sometimes, in his excitement, he'll elide "TARDIS" and "Doctor Who" and call it "Tattoo"). He's almost two.

    There's a tragic lack in Doctor Who merch oriented toward the under-three crowd. We've got a Star Trek board book that my son loves, and I'm sure if someone put out something similar for Doctor Who, we could start grooming future fans before they could walk. (And if there was ever a thing that was screaming to be made into a toddler activity table, it's the TARDIS console)

    Reply

  19. jane
    October 9, 2013 @ 10:45 am

    The myriad myrmidons rise in defense!

    Merriam-Webster devotes a lengthy usage note to the word, citing recent criticism of "myriads" and "a myriad of" as reflecting a mistaken belief that it's only an adjective. Ironically, the myriad was originally a noun, and such usage predates the adjectival form by over two hundred years. Milton and Thoreau both used it as a noun, and "it continues to occur frequently in reputable English. There is no reason to avoid it."

    That doesn't mean, however, that its overuse wouldn't jar.

    Reply

  20. David Anderson
    October 9, 2013 @ 11:05 am

    As I understood it, she'd vetoed a line in one of the films that would have implied Dumbledore was straight. (Normally authors can't veto lines in films, but presumably being J.K.Rowling gives additional clout.)

    Reply

  21. Seeing_I
    October 9, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    Agreed. I quite like SJA, I find it charming and loveable and, well, "aw, bless!" but not, somehow, entirely essential. However, several episodes are quite touching and sad (including the one coming Friday if I'm not mistaken), lots of it is more ambitious and "adult" than anyone could have expected it to be, and it's full of hilarious moments like the Judoon stubbornly obeying traffic laws. I am very glad to have Sarah and her Scooby gang in the Doctor Who universe.

    Reply

  22. Anton B
    October 9, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

    'And if there was ever a thing that was screaming to be made into a toddler activity table, it's the TARDIS console'

    My God you're right! In fact in Eleven's Tardis it IS a toddler activity table. I've often suspected his console doesn't actually do anything, the TARDIS just made it to keep the Doctor busy while she takes him where he needs to be.

    Reply

  23. Ross
    October 9, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

    Since I started spending time near playground equipment (Boy doesn't that sound sketchy?) it's occurred to me that the perfect TARDIS Interior for Eleven would have been one made out of a big piece of playground equipment.

    I can even hear the exchange:

    Companion: This is a space ship that can travel all over time and space? And you operate it from a jungle gym? Why?

    Doctor: If you had a space ship that could travel all over time and space, and you could operate it from a jungle gym, why wouldn't you?

    Reply

  24. Galadriel
    October 9, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

    And the temporary TARDIS in The Doctor's Wife was actually designed by children (a Blue Peter contest, I think)

    Reply

  25. Galadriel
    October 9, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    As for moralizing, I felt that Wizards vs Aliens was worse–especially "Rebel Magic", which boiled down to "Stealing is bad and don't hang out with cool kids"–but I really didn't notice any blatant morals in this episode.

    Reply

  26. elvwood
    October 9, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

    "writing a 1970s-style Doctor Who story is dead easy"

    To be honest, in so far as this is true I don't think it's particularly meaningful. You can pick many genres where there are a lot of popular examples (sword & sorcery, say, as opposed to the kind of story Italo Calvino wrote) and it's easy to do. What's hard is making something like that sparkle – in fact, it can sometimes be harder because of the "been there, done that" factor. You pick up on this with your bit about Gareth Roberts; in the only Mark Gatiss book I've read set in the 1970s era of the show, Last of the Gaderene, he takes the opposite tack and makes it so perfectly of its time that it tickles my nostalgia bone. And that's what makes them special: that they can do something that is fairly easy to write in a hacky way and turn it into something worthwhile.

    I think the fact that it's not easy to do well is, unfortunately, shown by the Big Finish 4th Doctor adventures. They've got Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, but of the three I've heard only one (Wrath of the Iceni) has that sparkle – which is a pretty low hit rate for someone like me who tends to lap up the BF audios.

    Reply

  27. liminal fruitbat
    October 9, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

    Theonlyspiral: nowhere in the books is he presented as liking anyone romantically or sexually, unless you read the account of his relationship with Grindelwald with slash goggles to begin with. His "just because I'm dead doesn't mean I can't spend an entire chapter delivering convoluted exposition" scene might have been interesting if he'd said "I was in love with Grindelwald", but even then Rowling didn't give us anything to go on. (And as to whether he's cast as a damaged and repressed coward,he has no other romantic relationship that we know of; he spends years behind his desk while Grindelwald runs around being Wizard Hitler because he's scared Grindelwald might make some unprovable claim about who killed Ariana; he refuses to let anyone but his most loyal servant know how he covered up for Tom Riddle's psychopathy; and he grooms a child to commit suicide by dark wizard because destiny says so, rather than do the right thing and not send a child to fight the second-most powerful wizard in the world. YMMV, but I don't see anything admirable in Albus Dumbledore, and that's not touching his exploitation of Snape's psychological issues or his godawful running of Hogwarts.)

    Reply

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