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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. SK
    January 18, 2012 @ 1:01 am

    Inevitably bitty…

    Or maybe it's just that after Firefly it's tough to swallow the same basic show being done by Terry Nation.

    Or, the other way around, that after Blake's 7 I found it impossible to like Firefly because it's all too nice. I mean, yes, production-wise Firefly is better. The witty lines may not match the heights of Blake's 7 ('I don't follow you.' 'Oh but you do, that's the problem.') but they come with greater frequency. It maintains a higher baseline quality of plotting.

    But there's never any real sense that these people aren't, fundamentally, on the same side. That they aren't just a big family that may bicker but, when the going gets tough, will pull together. and the fundamental reason for that, for the safety that robs it of its edge, is that it takes the best character in Blake's 7 and changes him from a cold, intelligent, scary genius into a comedy buffoon.

    As a result there is no credible threat to the Captain's leadership, and the whole thing slips into being a spacefaring version of the Waltons, only worth watching for its dialogue which does, it has to be said, sparkle. But yawn.

    As for Alien and its concentration of experience, that is completely true. I first saw it as a child, on VHS, in a friend's living room, and was utterly unimpressed. I could not see what the fuss was about. Boring people were hunted by a not-very-interesting monster. More yawn.

    Then a few years ago I went to see the re-release and was gobsmacked. Because in a cinema, it works, and it doesn't matter that the people are boring or that the monster doesn't do anything interesting other than follow them around and kill them because you are on that spaceship. When it's dark all around, and you can't pause it to go and get a drink, and you aren't listening for your friend's parents coming home because you're not supposed to be watching an 18, you stop caring about the story and it becomes a visceral experience.

    I'll never watch it again on television, but now I know what it's about.

    Sapphire and Steel on the other hand is quintessentially television and I must watch more of it. I often think the best thing about the DVD era is the phenomena of the Complete Set: whereas because of the cost of making and distributing, not to mention of storing, VHS tapes, stories had to be released one-by-one at high price points (which is how I obtained the wonderfully enigmatically-named 'Adventure One'), the low cost of reproduction of DVDs has meant that it is economical to release all of the series in an affordable package. So I must get that.


  2. John Callaghan
    January 18, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    Another interesting article, Mr. Sandifer.

    You're being slightly unfair on Blake's 7 fans though, I feel. Every series ends with a cliffhanger and series four is no different. Chris Boucher has said that the characters whose actors wanted to come back were alive and the others weren't (hence Blake being shot with a different gun to the others). The series three climax was originally intended to be the actual conclusion to the show (which makes for a better story, in my opinion). Most of all, though, it's fun to play "what if?" with the shows ones enjoys.

    And Sapphire & Steel is pure gold!


  3. John Callaghan
    January 18, 2012 @ 1:29 am

    "The shows ONE enjoys".


  4. Wm Keith
    January 18, 2012 @ 2:18 am

    Like the condensed format. Looking forward to a "blipvert" entry for Max Headroom.


  5. ahouse
    January 18, 2012 @ 2:46 am

    I don't generally like to play "Hey, what about this one?", but it seems that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a notably missing here. Not that I think it's a stellar film by any means, but it is significant as the return of the franchise, at least. The effects are also solid, but I'm not sure if they're anything special relative to films.


  6. Jon Cole
    January 18, 2012 @ 2:57 am

    I thought I would wave hello at round about this point – partly because I've been stuck in the nebulous territory of trying to work out which was the first Dr Who story I could genuinely remember (bits of Kroll, all of Destiny, none of City, everything from Creature, repeats of the Krotons etc etc.) However the observance about Day of the Triffids (great and truly scary) vs. Buck Rodgers (fun but empty) did ring a proper bell, so here I am, waving.

    Not that I have a huge amount to add – I couldn't get on with Firefly – it was ok, but didn't have the magic of youthful nostalgia to let it complete with Lorne Green in space. Unlike Sapphire and Steel, (I somehow never saw any of it until the 90's and not the whole lot until the DVD's a few years ago) which manages to be brilliant with no need for a child's pov, and both as thoughtful and scary as its broadcast slot could allow.

    Looking forward to the dissection of the JNT era – which pretty much coincides exactly with my experience of the series from my childhood, and I'm wondering quite what you can make of it all – and all those other things we watched or failed to watch at the same time.


  7. Zoe Anderson
    January 18, 2012 @ 4:45 am

    Your entry from hell reads very well. I'm really enjoying the blog.

    Like Jon Cole, I'm starting to recognise things, and to remember their impact. When I was at primary school, my friend Helen had seen the TV Day of the Triffids and my friend Catherine had read it. So they turned it into a playground game. Groups of us stood in lines, hand in hand: several blind people (eyes shut) led by one seeing person (eyes open). Then you'd get chased by somebody being a Triffid, who would make a t-t-t noise so the blind people could hear them coming. Though it's hard to say t-t-t loudly, so if you could hear it, the Triffid was probably close.

    Playing as a blind person was scariest: you'd be led through the noise and confusion of the playground, then suddenly be yanked into a run, complete with lurching, Triffid-dodging changes of direction, while hoping that your leader didn't run you into a wall or any bigger children. It was brilliant.


  8. Jesse
    January 18, 2012 @ 5:29 am

    One significant difference between Alien and The Ark in Space: In-between there was a little movie called Halloween.


  9. John Peacock
    January 18, 2012 @ 6:26 am

    I would have thought it was obvious that Wyndham's Day of the Triffids was the first modern zombie text but everyone I mention it to is deeply sceptical. There is even scoffing. But everything from Dawn of the Dead to The Walking Dead draws from it in some way.

    There's a terrific BBC radio version from the late 1950s, if you seek it out, when all the details of the book could be reproduced with a straight face.


  10. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    January 18, 2012 @ 6:43 am

    Quatermass 1979 is the only Quatermass I've seen, so I'm going to come out and disagree with you slightly. I do accept the flaws you point out in it, but I think the series really works tonally. Yeah, Old People Save The Day, but they do so by NUKING THEIR OWN CHILDREN, and Quatermass dies as well. There's no heroic congratulatory moment. This isn't about Reactionary Triumphs in the face of youth, this is a story about despair. The whole thing is gloomy – the only people seem helpless, the young people seem clueless, the few middled aged people we meet, like the guy who lives in that observatory, (the weird television director doing that big banana dance number) are so wrapped in their own obsessive problems that it takes Observatory guy's family being killed for him to really kick into gear.

    Quatermass is viciously depressing, because to me it suggested that no matter what the old guard might do to save their society, it would ultimately be destructive. Yes, its reactionary, from my standpoints its a reactionary's admission that their own period has passed, and any interference they might do would be just unhelpful as inaction.

    SO depressing.


  11. BerserkRL
    January 18, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    By coincidence I watched Alien last night on dvd — the first time I've seen it since it was in theatres in 1979 (when I was a kid and it was the first R-rated movie I'd ever seen). That first time I just thought it was cool and scary, but this time around I noticed just how incredibly beautifully designed, lit, and shot it is. (I also noticed a number of nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey.)


  12. BerserkRL
    January 18, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    By the way, I still can't agree about the Dominators. It's not an attack on hippie pacifists and youth culture; it's an attack on stodgy conservatives who lack curiosity and fear novelty, passively accepting the known and vehemently denying the unknown. They don't oppose war because they're antiwar per se; they oppose war because it's new and different.


  13. Dougie
    January 18, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    I think if you viewed Quatermass in the context of the Winter of Discontent it seemed very plausible in 1979. Yet again though, if you didn't live through it, how would you know there were still hippies in Glasgow even in 1984, smoking dope in the Student Union, listening to Santana and busking Dylan songs in Argyle Street?
    You can read about the Metropolitan experience of London but it would be fallacious to assume it reflected the whole of Britain in the late 70s.


  14. Matthew Celestis
    January 18, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    Oh absolutely right. Flesh-eating monsters that shouldn't be able to move preying on humanity…

    Though I think the idea of a flesh-eating sunflower is even more terrifying than zombies.


  15. inkdestroyedmybrush
    January 18, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    completely agree about sapphire and steel, which works on so many different levels that its what completely bums me out about the JNT years: their lack of cohesion and tone. JNT was so utterly tone deaf that it is left to the occasional script editor and writer to actually get something right.

    After all, when you're in the Letts era, or the Hinchcliffe era, or the RTD era, you know where you are. in S&S, you can feel how cohesive the production is, from top to bottom. It is a high watermark of sci fi television for me. If my main complaint of the Williams era is that its more fun to discuss the ideas that actually watch the programs, then S&S gets it really right: its creepy fun to watch and interesting to dissect as well.

    and mccullum is clearly the template for the seventh doctor. without the damn jumper.


  16. Spacewarp
    January 18, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

    I agree with you there. Although this was only 2 years after punk had peaked and died, the long-haired hippy decked out in beads and afghan was still a common stereotype, having lasted from '68 till '75 or so. For the purposes of Quatermass' youth, dazed and dippy, the archetypal hippy fit the bill far better than the punks, who were still seen as aggressive and violent. I have to say, in hindsight (having lived through those years) that the punk aesthetic is seen as more important now than it was back at the tail-end of the 70s. Back then the punks appeared to have gone, absorbed into the mainstream after flaring brightly and so briefly.


  17. Alan
    January 18, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

    It amuses me to no end to note how resolutely everyone keeps ignoring the mention of Buck Rogers.:) I was ten at the time and even then I was just … horrified by it. Criminally stupid writing. B-Actors in ridiculous costumes (Frank Gorshin was probably the best actor to guest star in the first season). Gary Coleman showing up twice. And perhaps worst of all, the insinuation that not only would disco survive into the 25th century, but that roller disco would be considered a culturally important art form. Shudder.


  18. David Bateman
    January 19, 2012 @ 12:17 am

    Surely, the end of Sapphire and Steel is much better than the end of Blake's 7, isn't it?


  19. Dougie
    January 19, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    I saw a late-twenties punk dad earlier tonight in the shopping centre. Mind you, I live in the Highlands now.


  20. elvwood
    January 19, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    David Bateman: Surely, the end of Sapphire and Steel is much better than the end of Blake's 7, isn't it?

    Actually, the end of Buck Rogers is best of all – because it means it's finally over! πŸ˜‰


  21. BerserkRL
    January 19, 2012 @ 11:55 am


    I was ten at the time and even then I was just … horrified by it.

    Buck Rogers was made by the same team that made (the original) Battlestar Galactica. But as cheesy as the latter could be, it had something that raised it above the level of Buck Rogers. As a kid I certainly felt the difference. That little robot was the Jar Jar of my childhood. Beedeebeedeebeedee, man.


  22. BerserkRL
    January 19, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    I did like Erin Gray though!


  23. Alan
    January 19, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    Erin Gray's a freakin' Highlander! Wiki says she's 62, but I've seen her at Cons and she could pass for 40 easily.


  24. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

    One of the things that makes Alien so visually effective is the excellent design, and in particular the fact that it features two totally different designers. All the man-made stuff is designed by Ron Cobb, and he does a splendid job of creating a very solid, credible, convincingly engineered world for these truckers in space. It's a great example of hard-SF-as-aesthetic. Then of course the utterly alien design of HR Giger invades this space, just as the alien invades the community of humans. The clash of these two aesthetics, each internally coherent, each utterly incompatible with the other, is the great visual triumph of the movie.


  25. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Buck Rodgers was glossy and exciting and had spaceships whizzing around and blowing things up. That's what six-year-old me remembers, and in that respect it was real competition for Doctor Who, however obviously rubbish it may be to more grown-up eyes.

    I don't think I watched Blake's 7 until the final season. I remember finding it very confusing, in so far as there weren't seven of them, and none of them were called Blake. Imagine my delight when an episode called "Blake" was broadcast. At last! this Blake character is going to show up and they'll all have adventures together! Oh.

    On more recent viewing, that final episode of Blake's 7 really is astonishingly well written. The key repeated phrases – "sooner or later…", "nobody's indispensable…" – the palpable sense of doom, the subtle character work, particularly between Blake and Deva, his almost-replacement for Avon… it's a strong candidate for Chris Boucher's best script.

    Funny thing about Buck Rodgers and Blake's 7, for me anyway. They were both broadcast at much the same time, and I was too young to appreciate such things at any conscious level, but in retrospect it seems clear that Servalan made a far bigger impression on my young mind than Wilma Deering. Jacqueline Pearce has a lot to answer for.


  26. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

    Oh, and Day of the Triffids scared the fucking shit out of me.


  27. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    That's a brilliant story!


  28. Exploding Eye
    January 19, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    The main part of my fascination with zombies is from seeing the BBC Day Of The Triffids as a kid.


  29. Exploding Eye
    January 19, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

    I see Blakes 7 and Firefly as tonally unrelated enough not to be comparable (even though one is clearly inspired by the other – both even contain the same gag with the same wording: "I was aiming for his head"). But Blakes 7 is very specifically '70s Britain (all dystopian concrete, campy disco, random death and confused sexuality) and Firefly is very specifically the inside of Joss Whedon's big girly head. I love them both, but both are very different things.

    I hope there will be an entry on Firefly when the time comes, because I actually think it's the biggest single influence on the new series, outside of Doctor Who itself; I also think that Moffatt and RTD are too superficial to quite pull it off (compare interviews with either, with the commentary of Objects In Space).


  30. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    You reckon? Whedon is clearly a big influence on Davies' Who, but via Buffy rather than Firefly (at least, so far as Davies has openly acknowledged).


  31. Exploding Eye
    January 19, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Maybe I haven't watched enough Buffy…


  32. Iain Coleman
    January 19, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Oh, and I would make a fairly large bet that Joss Whedon played Traveller in his younger days. Firefly is basically Traveller on telly (with added Space Whores).


  33. David Bateman
    January 19, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    LOL. Well, yes, that wins hands down!

    Except that, I bet, narratively speaking of course, it N-E-V-E-R ends!

    Imagine that! They go on rollerdisco-ing into the 22nd century and beyond.

    The horror, the horror…;)


  34. zapruder313
    January 19, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

    Exploding Eye: if you haven't seen all seven seasons from start to finish, you haven't watched enough Buffy. It is a utter joy, and, sadly, way better than RTD-era Doctor Who.

    RTD's constant citing of Buffy as an inspiration was basically a bit like a crap indie band going on and on about how they are influenced by The Beatles in interviews in the hope that people will think that means they have even a tenth of the talent or innovation.

    On a more general note, wasn't Sapphire and Steel just the best thing ever? Can't believe I'd never noticed until now that Sylvester McCoy was basically playing Steel. Explains why I love his Doctor so much!


  35. Alan
    January 19, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    I'm a huge fan of Buffy, but I wouldn't call "the Beatles of genre television." Seasons 2 and 3 were sublime, but once they got out of high school, the central metaphor of the show collapsed and it never quite recovered (despite some moments of pure genius in the later seasons — Hush, The Body, Conversations with Dead People).


  36. Dougie
    January 19, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    If someone hasn't started a blog called "Joss Whedon's Big Girly Head" now, then I'm a Transuranic Element.

    I really want to watch the Sapphire and Steel WWI soldier story now! It's been about thirty years.

    I would like some clarification of the connections between Firefly and Who- don't see that…

    Buck Rogers is one of the campest things I've ever seen. In an iredeemably bad way.


  37. SK
    January 19, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

    Though, when I caught Buck Rogers in a '90s repeat and managed to make it through most of one episode, it seemed that the sets and costumes (bar the robot) weren't that much better than ('80s) Doctor Who: flimsy-looking plain flatboard, studio floors, etc. The inside of Mawdryn's ship looked better than Buck's.

    The space shots looked a lot better, of course, and I guess the laser effects did too. And that's probably what kids noticed.

    Buffy, the Vampire Slayer has some good gags, and a smattering of great moments of high drama, particularly in the second series. But there are also hugely tedious monster-of-the-week episodes spread all the way through, and like the man says it suffers a serious case of going downhill fast as it goes on and characters who were created for exploring adolescent angst are uncomfortably forced into plots that are supposed to speak to early adulthood instead and it never quite works.

    It really should have ended at the end of the second series, with Buffy leaving town after being forced to kill her boyfriend to save the world. That's the highest point of melodrama in a series all about melodrama, and what the whole premise was building towards. After that they start having to bring the boyfriend back, undermining their one triumphant moment, and bringing in extra tedious characters like the ex-demon or the rogue vampire slayer, who get some good lines (as does everybody) but are fundamentally obvious patches to extend an idea which has already reached and passed its natural climax.

    I couldn't remember whether it was Firefly stole the 'I was aiming for his head' gag. Shameless.


  38. Iain Coleman
    January 20, 2012 @ 3:17 am

    In fairness, Blake's 7 nicked/adapted the line from The Magnificent Seven: "I was aiming at the horse". Chris Boucher and Paul Darrow were both big western buffs, and Boucher enjoyed giving Avon these sorts of lines.


  39. Exploding Eye
    January 20, 2012 @ 3:38 am

    "I would like some clarification of the connections between Firefly and Who- don't see that…"

    Mainly the humour; but as Ian pointed out, it's probably a general Whedon thing originating with Buffy (which I don't like and never watch).

    …Which sounds like a small thing, but the humour is so relentlessly dense in the new series, and of a very specific style, that it's a big component of the show. It's very much in the Joss Whedon mode of glib wise-crackery (which works fine for me for space pirates, less so with high-schoolers).

    Also the characterisation (especially in Moffatt's era, who I think is more a Firefly than Buffy man) of smart, tough, knowing and wise-cracking women, and somewhat clumsy, well-meaning but hapless, but also self-knowingly hapless, men. Rory in particular is very similar to Wash in both personality and looks.


  40. SK
    January 20, 2012 @ 4:05 am

    Ah, showing my ignorance of westerns there.


  41. zapruder313
    January 20, 2012 @ 5:19 am

    Ah, no, sorry: you are quite right, Alan. I didn't mean that at all. Bad phrasing on my part!

    I simply meant that, in the interviews around the 2005 relaunch, RTD came across like one of those "NME This Week's Best Band In The Whole World Ever" acts who cite something immeasurably better than their own work as an "influence" in the hope of grabbing some reflected glory. He kept on saying how Buffy was "the show to beat", and then failed utterly to even get into the same ballpark.

    Buffy, much as I love it, and much as it completely outshines New Who (distressing as that is for a lifelong Who fan to admit), is absolutely not "The Beatles of Genre Television", no. Doctor Who is.


  42. Wm Keith
    January 20, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    Mal, of course, shot the horse.

    Isn't "Firefly" somewhat inspired by the idea of taking "Wagon Train to the Stars" extremely literally? And doing it as unlike "Star Trek" as possible?


  43. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 20, 2012 @ 7:00 am

    It's not even that unlike Star Trek. It's just Star Trek where Kirk is working against the Federation instead of for it.


  44. BerserkRL
    January 20, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    Iain Coleman,

    The clash of these two aesthetics

    Actually I think it's more subtle than that. One thing that struck me is how for the Earth tech in Alien they took the basic spaceship look pioneered by 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars and tweaked it in an organic direction. Not anywhere near as organic as the alien ship, of course, but subtly displaced in that direction. Notice the quasi-organic bulges on the wall panels in the Nostromo. And notice also that the reason the alien was able to hide in the shuttle at the end (sorry if that's a spoiler for anyone on earth) is that its head looked just like the pipes in the wall. So I see continuity more than clash; it's as though the humans have already taken one step into the alien world from the start.

    Exploding Eye,

    especially in Moffatt's era, who I think is more a Firefly than Buffy man

    Moffat tweeted just the other day that he was just watching Firefly for the first time, so if there's been influence on him it hasn't been direct.

    I can certainly see the Buffy influence. "This is my timey-wimey detector; it goes ding when there's stuff" is definitely Buffyspeak.


  45. zapruder313
    January 20, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    "This is my timey-wimey detector; it goes ding when there's stuff" is definitely Buffyspeak.

    Absolutely: but in Buffy, it is funny, because the person delivering the line is a teenage girl, and we have Giles to shake his head, take off his glasses and rub his eyes in weary acceptance of how the fate of the universe rests on the shoulders of someone who calls her favourite stake "Mr. Pointy".

    In Doctor Who, Buffyspeak is just really irritating, because the Doctor isn't meant to be the Buffy figure, gleefully ignorant of respect due to the Ancient Mysteries of the Universe: the companion is. The Doctor is meant to be Giles, the older, mysterious guide along the way.

    The fundamental expression of where New Who has just plain Got It Wrong is that the "Classic" Doctor was (in some unseen adventure) Merlin: not the hero, but the hero's mentor. In New Who, he'd have been Arthur.


  46. BerserkRL
    January 20, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    But while the Doctor may not have been ignorant about them, he was frequently devoid of respect for the Ancient Mysteries of the Universe. It's not too hard to imagine Tom Baker saying "This is my timey-wimey detector; it goes ding when there's stuff." The Doctor isn't Giles or Buffy; he's not a solemn stuffy timelord or a smartmouth rebellious teen, he's a smartmouth rebellious timelord. He has Giles' knowledge combined with Buffy's insouciance.


  47. John
    January 20, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  48. BerserkRL
    January 20, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

    Well, when the authors publicly say one thing and the show they've written clearly says another, I go with the show. Whatever they may have thought they were doing, the show they actually produced isn't even an incompetent attack on hippie culture — it's not an attack on hippie culture at all. If I say I'm building a swimming pool and I actually construct a suspension bridge, that doesn't make the bridge a swimming pool — not even a bad one.


  49. John
    January 21, 2012 @ 4:29 am

    Nice analogy BerserkRL πŸ™‚ If you’re suggesting that a production team can take a script and alter it or present it in a way that it no longer presents the originally intended themes this is very true but I don’t believe this to be the case. The Dulkan’s are clearly presented as pacifists; they are named as such several times. Their pacifism is clearly represented as unwise and mocked not only by the Dominators but by The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe and within the narrative it is proven to fail. So I certainly wouldn’t say the anti-pacifism theme is non-existent. Are you suggesting this or just that it fails as an attack on hippie culture as perhaps the Dulkans aren’t clearly representative of the hippies [perhaps afghans and beads would have got the point across better :)].
    It is true early in the narrative the Dulkans are criticised for their unwillingness to accept the Dominators existence. I feel this is introduced to present the Dulkans as weak and fearful of danger not to the unknown. After all war is not unknown to them their weapons base shows they’ve known war in the past. As for lack of curiosity, the Dulkan’s are shown to be very curious. They form survey teams to study the waste lands and once the Dominators are proven to exist they discuss them in great detail. Perhaps you’d like to present some evidence to support your theory as it has always saddened me that Doctor Who has produced what I consider a mean spirited serial and I’d rather like your theory to be true πŸ™‚


  50. zapruder313
    January 21, 2012 @ 6:01 am

    I can see the Tom of "The Tom Baker Show" saying that, definitely! Doctor Who is a broad church — that is one of the best things about it. The Doctor Who Speaks Buffyspeak and the Doctor Who Is Steel are both equally valid.

    I'm more a fan of the "Merlin/Gandalf/Steel" Doctor, and also the "Victorian Adventurer Who Built His Own Time Machine" Doctor, myself, but there's no denying that for vast swathes of the show, the "Tom Baker IS the Doctor" version was what most of the viewing public wanted their Doctor Who to be like.

    When Stephen Moffat calls me and says "I fancy a long holiday, will you run the show this year?", you'll be getting 13 episodes of "Basically Sapphire and Steel, only starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred", true: but if my line is busy and he calls someone else instead, you might equally well get Tom Baker saying "This is my timey-wimey detector; it goes ding when there's stuff." Both these things — and many, many more — are valid "Doctor Who".

    (I remain completely unconvinced by the "David Tennant whinging about his girlfriend" version, mind, but that conversation will be upon us all too soon, I fear . . . )


  51. Keith
    January 21, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  52. Keith
    January 21, 2012 @ 7:32 am

    On the topic of influences for ALIEN, you could go back much further to the writing of A.E. Van Vogt, a Canadian science fiction author. He had two stories, DISCORD IN SCARLET and BLACK DESTROYER which are collected in his 1950 novel, "The Voyage of the Space Beagle".

    If I remember correctly, 20th Century Fox ended up being sued by Van Vogt for plagiarism, and were forced to make a public acknowledgement of Van Vogt's "contribution" to their work on ALIEN, along with a payment of some sort. Amongst the similarities were an alien stalking a crew onboard their ship, and an alien that would lay eggs inside crew members. Memory is a bit fuzzy, but there may have also been a sequence where the crew abandons the ship to get away from the alien.


  53. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    there may have also been a sequence where the crew abandons the ship to get away from the alien

    My memory's fuzzy also, but I think it was rather that they tricked the alien into an escape pod or lifeboat and then jettisoned it.

    In Alien, the plot with Ash strikes me as borrowing from the Hal plot in 2001 — the A.I. with the hidden agenda and three-letter name who turns on the crew. And just as HAL is one letter backward from IBM (though the creators claim this is a coincidence), ASH is one letter backward from BTI, a prominent British computer company of the 1970s (though that may be a coincidence too).

    There's even a very similar-looking scene in which Ripley/Bowman is trying to get through a door that Ash/Hal won't open. Though alas, Ash doesn't sing "Daisy" as he gets decapitated and incinerated.

    (The final shot of Ripley sleeping in her cryo-chamber also looks a bit like the final shot of Superbaby Bowman floating above earth.)


  54. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    Fairly irrelevant, but: the android in Alien is named Ash. The one in Aliens is Bishop. (No android in Alien 3.) The one in Alien Resurrection is named Call. Now I know my ABCs.


  55. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    (But Alien 3 broke the sequence of names from Joseph Conrad.)


  56. Keith
    January 21, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    Looks like my bad memory got things reversed. You are correct; the alien was jettisoned in the lifeboat not the crew – at least according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_of_the_Space_Beagle)

    I never noticed the ABC pattern before, but then again I like to pretend that ALIEN RESURRECTION was never made. πŸ™‚


  57. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    When Stephen Moffat calls me and says "I fancy a long holiday, will you run the show this year?", you'll be getting 13 episodes of "Basically Sapphire and Steel, only starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred"

    While I'd give them the 6th Doctor and Adric versus the Quark/Slitheen alliance.

    But only for the April Fool's episode.


  58. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    I wonder how successful Alien would have been if they'd titled it Voyage of the Space Beagle.

    I realise it's a reference to Darwin's ship, but alas, that's not the first image that "Space Beagle" brings to mind. I fear Vogt must have had his mind in the null-A position when he chose that title.


  59. John
    January 21, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    p.s Sorry it's Dulcians not Dulkans πŸ™‚


  60. zapruder313
    January 22, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    While I'd give them the 6th Doctor and Adric versus the Quark/Slitheen alliance.

    Brilliant! If you can just make the opening line "Hello! My name's Doctor Who. I haven't been to this planet since just before my grandchildren John and Gillian were Loomed", you could probably bring down the entire Internet!


  61. BerserkRL
    January 22, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    I don't deny that they're pacifists; what I'm saying is that their pacifism is presented as being an expression of their hidebound conservatism and lack of curiosity, and that would hardly be a diagnosis of the 60s counterculture.

    As for curiosity, Cully says, "this girl's got an enquiring mind; she can't possibly come from Dulkis," and also, "typical Dulcian behaviour: something strange, something you don't understand and you switch off," to which Balan replies "we don't all have your childish curiosity."

    The Dulcians initially deny the possibility of life on other planets; but once it's proven, they accept it with the same calm passivity with which they earlier denied it; one says "We are taught to accept facts, it being foolish to contemplate fantasy in the face of reality."


  62. BerserkRL
    January 22, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    Especially if he adds something about being half human on his mother's side.


  63. John
    January 22, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    Thanks BerserkRL this is all true πŸ™‚ I wonder if these themes were added by the production team or were already there and they decided to bring them to the fore. It would be interesting to here the producers and directors thoughts on the themes they were presenting. I haven’t got the DVD, have you and do you know if they give any incite? I know Meryn Haisman and Henry Lincoln fell out with the production team partly due to changes to the story but from what I’ve read the reason was the loss of a sixth episode. In the DWM interview I quoted in my original comment Mervyn Haisman suggests he was perfectly happy with the aired story and the fall out was primarily due to the BBC giving away the rights to use the Quarks in TV Comic without his permission. Perhaps he was unaware of the productions teams refocusing of the stories themes [like the rest of the population] or perhaps he’s giving false information.
    It’s a bit like something I came across when researching ‘The Day the Earth stood still’ for a college project. Some people excuse it of having an underlying fascist message as the aliens force earth to comply with them through threats. But that’s exactly the opposite message the production team wanted to present πŸ™‚


  64. John
    January 22, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  65. John
    January 22, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  66. John
    January 22, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

    *It would be interesting to hear the producers and directors thoughts on the themes they were presenting. I haven’t got the DVD, have you and do you know if they give any insight?


  67. William Whyte
    January 22, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

    zapruder313 wins this post.


  68. John
    January 22, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

    I still find the remaining underlying anti-pacifist theme a little distasteful but I’m pleased to have been presented with evidence that the production team may have honourably tried to alter the theme.
    Thank you for instigating my reassessment of a story I once saw as an unredeemable blotch on Doctor Who’s otherwise principled philosophy and showing that perhaps The Dominators isn’t so mean spirited after all.

    I wonder if the character of Cully featured in the original script and if so was he personified in the same manner? As although he’s played by a man approaching forty, he seems to be representative of rebellious youth battling the rigid old order, which seems like if anything an endorsement of the counterculture.


  69. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 3, 2012 @ 5:45 am


    The better comparison would be between Servelan & Princess Ardala. Pamela Hensley did, I discovered on watchig the show again after a 20-year break, the ONLY good acting in the pilot. (And the feature film version was much better than the re-edited and expanded TV butcher job.) Every time Servelna was onscreen, I kept screaming at the TV, "It's that BITCH! When are they going to KILL that BITCH???" But Ardala… here I just wanted to F***.

    Tragic I've never seen "SAPHIRE AND STEEL". Have to take everyone's on it's influence on the 7th Doctor. I guess Sylvester McCoy is what you get if you CROSS David McCallum and Floyd Vivino.



  70. GarrettCRW
    June 21, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    The only explanation I can possibly give to Buck Rogers' popularity in the UK is that the PAL-related time compression (the reason why all arguments that PAL is a better TV format are invalid, IMO) somehow make the series more bearable.

    Come to think of it, since the PAL compression made the show go by quicker, it was better than what we got in the US. πŸ˜‰


  71. Kat42
    July 3, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    I also think that some people just took it seriously because they wanted to imagine getting to see Avon again on screen. He was an insanely popular character. I hated the ending when I first saw it, because I was very young and it shocked me, then as I grew older I saw just how brilliant it was. Having said that if Paul Darrow was younger I would put up with a bad rewrite of the ending just to see him on screen as Avon again.


  72. Alex
    July 11, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    The hospital-wake-up scene at the beginning of 28 Days Later is a direct reference.


  73. encyclops
    December 17, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

    Having finally seen the first assignment of Sapphire and Steel, I'll chime in 2 years late with an "…I dunno…" on the 7th Doctor / Steel connection. I see where you're coming from, but at least in what I've seen so far, McCoy is WAY cuddlier than McCallum all through the 7th Doctor era. When he gets tough, I can see a little Steel in there, but Steel never even cracks a smile, let alone a joke or a wistful monologue. Their methods aren't a million miles off — maybe that's what you mean. But their personalities couldn't be more different in tone, unless he gets way more charming as S&S goes on.

    The show's great, though. So weird, so eerie, so unapologetic. I'd only ever seen Joanna Lumley in AbFab and she's wonderful here.


    • Elton Townend-Jones
      November 24, 2021 @ 7:22 am

      Steel is the Doctor and Sapphire is the TARDIS – it’s a prequel!


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