Eruditorum Press

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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.

15 Comments

  1. Aaron
    April 25, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    I thought you were going to save the Avengers for when you covered the Invasion, given that that episode is basically a scene by scene Avengers episode with Cyberman in it.

    Reply

  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 25, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    I thought about it, but my general rule of thumb is to put the pop between realities posts right before it will first be useful to refer to them. Obviously The Invasion has a huge debt to The Avengers, and I'll bring it up in that entry, but ultimately so does Power of the Daleks.

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  3. Bill Reed
    April 25, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    I just wrote a giant comment and Blogger ate it, the bastard. Let's see what I can reproduce:

    1. I disagree with you on Batman. Yes, Burt Ward is a dreadful actor, but he's trying to keep up with Adam West, who is amazing, doing Shatner before Shatner was doing Shatner! Yes, they're aware it's a comedy– note how Adam West can barely keep a straight face when he says lines like "I can't have you riding Bruce Wayne's thoroughbred, Dick. People might think it was weird." As John Cleese taught us, the only way to play comedy is to not play comedy.

    I've been watching Batman reruns consistently on an obscure cable channel, so it's all fresh in my head. I love it because it works on two completely different levels. When you're a kid, you take it deathly seriously, just like the characters. When you're an adult, you suddenly get all the (dirty) jokes, and you realize it's a mad comedy, just like the actors. Doctor Who has a similar audience of children and adults, but it only pitches out the one tone/level. Batman has two going at once, which is genius. Also, the fights are great.

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  4. Bill Reed
    April 25, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

    1. I just saw some of The Avengers for the first time a few weeks ago, just as it was expiring from my Netflix Instant queue. I agree with you whole-heartedly. Emma Peel became my favorite female fictional character over the course of about a dozen episodes. She's cooler, sexier, and tougher than Steed, but she also doesn't feel the need to flaunt it; Mrs. Peel is clearly the archetype for every tough female character who followed her who has since appeared in any genre fiction.

      In fact, The Avengers as a show (well, the color ones I saw) is clearly an influence on pretty much everything I like in any medium, be it film, TV, comics, what-have-you. Current Doctor Who owes just as much to The Avengers as it does to the Doctor Who of old.

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  5. Bill Reed
    April 25, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Basically, you hit my current sweet spot with this post. Thanks for writing it! I'll shut up now.

    Reply

  6. BatmanAoD
    April 25, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    I haven't seen actual episodes of the 60's Batman TV show since I was a kid, but speaking as a huge Batman fan, I have to say that the movie, which I have seen fairly recently, is in my opinion a pretty fantastic piece of comedy. Of course the "Bat shark-repellent" and "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb" scenes are probably the most famous, and they're pretty funny, but there are great moments throughout, including when Alfred joins Robin on a surveillance mission wearing his standard Butler-clothes plus a simple eye-mask that does nothing to actually disguise his identity, and when Batman and Robin independently conclude that the answer to the riddle "What's yellow and writes" must be "a ballpoint banana."

    Oh, and if you ever find out whether My Neighbor Totoro came before or after Grave of the Fireflies in the double-feature presentation, let us know!

    Reply

  7. Anton
    April 26, 2011 @ 2:48 am

    these would have been the titles showing in 1965

    http://youtube/tvmgrnsaE1U

    Does the same job but, perhaps oddly, more succinctly. The stop-frame technique turns Steed and Mrs. Peel into posturing shop window dummies.

    Really enjoyed that article. Pretty much agree with all you said. Particularly this –

    '..the TARDIS crew being completely the wrong people for this sort of story. In its original form, this is clearest – two schoolteachers, a teenager, and an old Victorian inventor walk into an alien planet.'

    and this –

    'Whereas the central idea of Doctor Who has always been to put the ridiculous and the everyday on the same screen and have them both steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that the other doesn't belong.'

    As a kid I loved Adam Adamant but even then I had the feeling it wasn't quite living up to its own concept. The Avengers of course created a whole genre but personally I was very disapointed when Doctor Who began adopting the tropes of the 'charismatic male and sexy assistant fight monsters' show.

    I have problems with the Batman TV show. I understand what it's trying to do and it does it brilliantly but there's a little six year old on my shoulder saying 'this is stupid, Batman's meant to be scary and Doctor Who's on the other side'

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  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 26, 2011 @ 7:14 am

    Bill – I actually don't think Burt Ward was that bad – he was certainly unflappable. It's just that his curt delivery can have a habit of sounding like he's plotting Adam West's demise. I'm more skeptical of West's acting abilities, but perhaps my irritation is more the failure of the scripts to work with their two levels. I agree that there's the superficial action level and the deeper "my god this is staggeringly gay" levels are both there, but there's no interaction between the levels. Doctor Who, when it works, collapses the two levels into one level and just lets the juxtapositions play out naturally, which seems to me the more complex approach.

    But I agree with you on The Avengers. It's staggeringly more influential than its reputation would suggest. (Not that its reputation is bad, just that it's not the reputation a show that influential deserves)

    Reply

  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 26, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    BatmanAOD – I do have a soft spot for the movie, I will confess – perhaps because it seems to me to be the exact right length for that joke. There is some cleverness in the Batman series, but not nearly enough for the number of episodes existent.

    Reply

  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 26, 2011 @ 7:19 am

    Anton – One of the major themes running through fan debates on the Troughton era is the extent to which Innes Lloyd turned the show into an unceasing parade of bases under siege. I tend to think that's a bit harsh based on what I've seen of Troughton, but there's a lot more that's new to me in this era than that's familiar, so that's a tentative hypothesis. But you're far from alone in being a bit disappointed by the sense that Doctor Who somewhere in the late 60s just gives up and tries to be The Avengers.

    Reply

  11. Anton
    April 26, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    It reaches its high point in the early seventies with Pertwee and Jo Grant. He's basically a cape twirling alien Adam Adamant and she's even supposed to be some kind of karate kicking secret agent seconded to UNIT isn't she? Bloody hell he's even got a souped up old jalopy. It pretty much carries on into the re-boot era. Except the Doctor's were channeling other sixties tropes. Ecclestone is The Prisoner meets Z Cars and Tennant is Joe 90 crossed with the Saint. Funny how both Martha and Rose ended up as dimension hopping SAS girls. Dunno what Matt Smith is up to but at least it looks like he might be trying to play Doctor Who.

    Reply

  12. BerserkRL
    December 17, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    Reply

  13. timelord7202
    May 5, 2012 @ 6:44 am

    You should try the early season 2 Catwoman episodes (Hot off the Griddle"/"The Cat and the Fiddle").

    SPOILERS:

    There is nothing more memorable than Catwoman trapping Batman and Robin in a room, where she sighs and states how she could have a thing for him if they weren't on opposite sides of the law. Then goes on to say how the Joker called her for a date and that she liked him except for his green hair, and then goes on to say – and I quote "and the Penguin is too small for me". Holy double entendre, Batman! The "Some days you just can't rid of a bomb" line is hilarious, but that Catwoman scene takes the cake.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZH2rGNDQ4s
    About 3:40 in is when the fun begins… but try at 2:50 and the alliteration is so wonderfully silly… and yet "epicure" is a word that's been long absent from television, too… 🙂

    But that whole two-part story is riotously funny (laughing with it, not at it), and it's a shame the series isn't on DVD.

    I also recall a later story, also Catwoman (Newmar), where Batman is running toward a building and there are rectangular signs all around it saying "CATWOMAN'S HIDEOUT", "CATWOMAN IS IN HERE", etc, complete with arrows. Camp? Yes. Funny? They made it work in ways that would be "cornball" for any other show.

    And Adam West could do a whole show with alliterations and it would hold up today…

    Granted, season 3 did go downhill – Eartha Kitt had the right voice and rolling the "R-R-R-R" bit, but the scene where she introduces a "hair-raising bomb" at a woman's cosmetology convention was as shocking sexist as it got. Unless they were sending up or lampooning a stereotype, but it looked more like Catwoman was playing into it for cheap laughs.

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  14. Henry R. Kujawa
    August 6, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    Strange but (apparently) true: Fox exec. William Best regularly hung out at the Playboy Mansion on "movie nights", where friends gathered to watch old films, get drunk and laugh themselves silly. One night (or two?) they ran the 1943 and 1948 BATMAN serials. I happen to be one who feels the '43 serial is more authentic to the characters in the original comics than most, and so I don't find it (as at least one person described it) "laughably bad". But Best apparently did, and was inspired to do a BATMAN tv series.

    He handed it off to William Dozier, who hated comics and had no interest in doing it. Perhaps resenting his "assignment", he decided the "only" way it could work was to play it for laughs. The pilot (with Frank Gorshin) reportedly got the lowest ratings ever for a "preview audience". But the show got picked up anyway. The plan was to do a feature film for the summer of '66, then debut the weekly series in September, but ABC's ratings were so bad, they moved the series up to Jan'66 and did the feature between seasons 1 & 2.

    Incredibly, BATMAN (like THE A-TEAM many years later) hit #1, and shows like LOST IN SPACE, WILD WILD WEST and MAN FROM UNCLE all mis-guidedly changed their styles to try and imitate it. The balance of adventure and comedy somehow worked, though DC Comics' editors were horrified as they were hoping for something less silly (see THE GREEN HORNET for an almost perfect excample of a half-hour adventure show).

    Unfortunately (and many fans of the show seem oblivious to this), the tone and balance was lost when they finally got around to the feature, and moreso when season 2 started. Instead of an adventure show with humor, it became more like a sitcom with costumes. Instead of actors cast to play established villains, villains were created so actors who wanted to appear on a popular program would have something to play. It got a bit better in the 2nd half of season 2… but then things fell apart completely in season 3, for a large number of reasons (which included the simple fact that the format had normally been an hour– split over 2 nights– instead of a half-hour each week).

    So the 3 seasons of BATMAN are really like watching 3 very different series. On the whole, the actors who did the best were the ones who played it "straight"– Adam West, Alan Napier, Frank Gorshin, George Sanders, Julie Newmar. Even Joan Collins. (Although, I'll give leeway to Victor Buono, if only because he's just so damn funny.)

    A big problem with season 2-up was they promoted the show's worst writer– Charles Hoffman– to story editor. Great. The worst writer they put in charge of everyone else's scripts. For contrast… Lorenzo Semple Jr. understood the balance needed between "adventure" and "camp humor" to make it work. Stanley Ralph Ross (he did many of the Catrwoman & King Tuts) skillfully combined drama and outright comedy. Hoffman just did "stupid". His scripts weren't funny– just dumb. But apparently that's what William Dozier really wanted, since he was the one in charge. The show could have been so much better… if only someone, damn near anyone else, had taken it over.

    Reply

  15. orfeo
    January 3, 2013 @ 3:07 am

    We have just bought a season of The Avengers on DVD for my father for Christmas, having recalled his massive enthusiasm for the show and for Diana Rigg. I definitely plan on borrowing the set from him now.

    Reply

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