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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. Anton B
    October 11, 2013 @ 3:28 am

    I know everyone's a little diverted by other news today but can I just thank you for another excellent SJA post. I never considered this as a narrative collapse which might affect the parent show and your tying it to the father/daughter relationship and the effect of non-existence. Rose's father being defined by his virtual absence while Andrea becomes defined by our own existance in a world in which she doesn't exist, even in the form of her absence.

    ' …the Trickster’s motivations…are at once straightforwardly evil (destroy the planet) and oddly impersonal. The Trickster is destructive not out of malice, but because that is the Trickster’s nature: destructive chaos. Its very presence harms the narrative.'

    I think The Trickster is an underused and underdeveloped adversary for the Doctor (who has himself been described as a trickster, there's a potential plot right there). I'd love Moffat or whoever comes next to revive the character to play against the Capaldi Doctor.


  2. Seeing_I
    October 11, 2013 @ 4:25 am

    I agree, he's a great character, and the makeup is genuinely creepy (when done right, which it wasn't quite in his next appearance). I found the scenes of Andrea demanding to know why her existence was less important than Sarah Jane's to be very moving. And in a GREAT piece of meta-textuality, Andrea was played by Jane Asher, who was considered as a casting choice for the new companion before they hired Elisabeth Sladen!


  3. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    October 11, 2013 @ 4:35 am

    What other news? The OPCW winning the Peace Prize?


  4. elvwood
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    Don't worry, Lord, I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunity to talk about it during Saturday Waffling!


  5. Theonlyspiral
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:14 am

    The other news would be the newly released "Enemy if the World" and "Web of Fear" serials starring Patrick Troughton.

    I'll take the other tack and say that I don't like the Trickster that much. He just doesn't hook me in any way, shape or form. I don't really see his make up as memorable, and he's got one really good plan: Remove the hero (Sarah Jane, Donna) from the narrative and let things happen. Take with the fact that "Random Chaos" isn't really that interesting as a motivation and he's really just a second string baddy. Maybe one of the GI incarnations?

    I will cop to the fact that the "Wonderful Life" story is one of my least favorite narratives, and that this may bias me against the Trickster. I first saw the movie when I was 9 and it stuck with me as one of the most horrific things that could happen. I had nightmares for weeks. Every time a show does this story, I end up loving it a little less after.


  6. elvwood
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:17 am

    One thing that often gets me about this blog is that it takes a story and then proceeds to explain to me why I feel as I do about it – something I'm not very good at doing on my own. So thanks for that! (Other times, of course, it explains to me what other people get out of a story; and occasionally, in so doing, it allows me to give things another chance.)


  7. Ross
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:38 am

    The Trickster, for me, is one of those characters who seems deliberately coded to seem epic, but never actually does anything to justify it. He's all "I'm a big spooky chaos god from beyond the outer wastes… Who mostly sets up adventure-game puzzles to ensnare amateur alien fighers and gets handily defeated by children on a regular basis."

    I do notice, though, that every time he shows up, his opening move is to take Sarah Jane out of the equasion, sidelining her so that the kids have to save the day on their own. So it's a nice touch that his agent who appears in 'Turn Left' does exactly the same thing to the Doctor.


  8. Anton B
    October 11, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    I feel The Trickster has more potential as a recurring character than the Master (panto-villain motives and overly convoluted plans) or the Great Intelligence (unclear motive and even more convoluted plans involving surrogate third parties) The Doctor needs to face off against an agent of entropy to show him the dark side of his own chaotic nature. We've seen it manifest as the Valyard and the Dream Lord but an external force which mirrors his potential for temporal anarchy would be a fantastic foe.

    Ross I take your point but it's the very childish and petulant but also deadly nature of the Trickster which appeals to me. Setting up 'adventure game puzzles' reminds me of the best comic book villains like the Joker or Mr. Mxyzptlk.


  9. inkdestroyedmybrush
    October 11, 2013 @ 8:36 am

    this is where SJA starts to veer back and forth over more adult territory, hinting at the more difficult aspects of taking sarah jane out of reality, not only the meta reality of her own universe, but out of our universe, taking her out of our lives as there would be no Ark In Space, no Genesis of the Daleks without Sarah, Harry and the Doctor. It is a narrative collapse that threatens our own memories as we try to understand how different the 4th Doctor's era would have been wthout Liz Sladen. But while it hints at some of the nihilistic aspects, it, of course doesn't dive into them. Like a skiff, the story tacks and forth. One season in, Sarah Jane is trying to figure out what sorts of stories it can tell. And this is one that profoundly affects those of us who were happiest to see Liz is School Reunion, those of us who had watched her walk out of the Tardis post-Eldrad too many times.


  10. jane
    October 11, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    With the return of the lost episodes, this one might get overlooked. Which would be a pity, as it's really quite excellent — especially given how rich it is with modern esoteric symbolism.

    First off, this is a story that's structured like the significant symbols within it. There's the puzzle box — this is a puzzle-box story, not unlike the puzzle-box story we got in Blink. More interestingly, the significant emotional moments in the story happen in front of mirrors, and the mirror is perhaps the most apt way to describe the underlying design of the story.

    The most obvious mirroring is between Sarah Jane and Andrea — they switch places at a moment of death, and Andrea takes Sarah Jane's place. She steps into Sarah Jane's house, appears in photos where Sarah Jane once appeared, befriends people Sarah Jane befriended. But there's also the mirroring of Maria and her father — when she is taken from the world, he is put in her place, remembering someone who's lost, and struggling to get anyone else to believe him.

    But what really makes this prescient is how it conflates Death with Remembering. These are huge themes in the Moffat era, and there's a lot of Moffaty touches in this story — not just the mirrors and boxes, which have littered the past few years, but things like Trickster monster, which is "no one" and has no eyes and looks astoundingly like the Whispermen of the Series 7 finale. There's a trip to the Library, where the original death is discovered. Andrea/Sarah Jane's death happening over a body of Water. The oft repeated question, "Who are you?" A close-up on a Eye, and a couple of "eye" jokes — the Tricksterman has no eyes, but feeds on "blind chance" and is "no one" which means he has no "I".

    We also get a place that could very well be "death." It's white, it's vaguely cloudy, and both Sarah Jane and Maria end up there when they're removed from the world. It's a place of nothingness, a "limbo" according to Sarah Jane, a place where they are "lost." But this is also the place where Sarah Jane and Maria themselves are mirrored, the two lost girls removed from time. When Maria is returned to the world, all the gaps in Alan's life are filled in. Likewise, when Andrea throws the puzzle box into the mirror (the place of reveresed identity) to go back on her deal, all the gaps in Maria's life are restored.

    This is also a story that subtly invokes the Divine Feminine. Alan asks Andrea what she remembers about Maria, and in trying to cover up she invokes "Ave Maria," which is a prayer. The "Hail Mary" (????? ????? ???????????? in Koiné Greek, or chaíre María kecharit?mén?) asks for the blessings of a woman at the hour of death.

    Finally, time travel's a beach.


  11. Lewis Christian
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

    Quick OT note for Phil: Is it just me, or are some Hartnell links missing from the Eruditorum archive (/p/tardis-eruditorum.html)? When the list loads, it begins with The Ark for me…?


  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 11, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

    There's a bug in the code that generates the archive that results in the ToC having a maximum length, which we've now exceeded. It's being worked on.


  13. BerserkRL
    October 11, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

    In an odd but not entirely inappropriate coincidence

    Are you sure it's a coincidence? I always figured it was probably deliberate. Google tells me that the case got a fair bit of coverage in the British press.


  14. Galadriel
    October 12, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

    The premature departure of Maria was, in context, rather like the loss of Rose in season two (never realized that before your post on Martha. ) Maria was the first character we met in the pilot, so we really were seeing through her eyes. And even when she leaves, we see her in a supporting position later.
    What I found really interesting about this episode didn't show up until I rewatched it after Sladen's death. The story makes a meta-narrative point about lost stories, one that is even more relevant with the recent retrieval of Web of Fear and Enemy of the World. When the Trickster removes Sarah Jane prematurely, the only person who remembers her is Maria. This "missing episode" threatens universal collapse, and only by the dedication of those who remember is the world restored.


  15. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

    Ah, the beginning of the Gareth Roberts masterpieces for Sarah Jane Adventures. For some reason he really found his footing here.

    And I have to say, I love 30 minutes episodes.


  16. Terry
    January 2, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

    What I'm wondering is thus: will the TARDIS Eruditorium, when it comes around to the Tennant era being released in book form, include the SJA or will there be a separate book on the SJAs?


  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

    There will be a Torchwood/Sarah Jane Adventures/Sherlock book. (Probably. There's a slight chance of me moving Sherlock into the Smith and Capaldi books. But definitely a Torchwood/Sarah Jane book.)


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