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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. Ewa Woowa
    September 19, 2012 @ 12:25 am

    I don't know anything about these RTD's shows, but your book turned up from Amazon at 7am this morning and so I thought I'd post here.

    My wife did want me to go to work, but I hid under the duvet and shouted "go away, I have an intellectual book of very long words on Doctor Who and I'm going to skive off today and read it."

    It's excellent, and I'm really enjoying it, even though it's about the rubbish black and white stuff that Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker weren't in. Thanks.

    also, don't you wish you done a doctorate in philospophy, so you could style yourself dr. Phil. Phil. ???


  2. Bob Dillon
    September 19, 2012 @ 2:55 am

    I finally got the DVD of this six months ago and it was just as good as I recall, even if the first triplet ended with a suicide egged on by Marcie. She was, however the methadone I needed.

    A similar series called Springhill on Channel 4 was written Paul Cornell but has dropped off the radar. In a thread on OG in the first half of last decade Paul asked our opinion of his work, and I reminded him that he wrote it! A bizzare mix of the supernatural and clubbing with a few comming out stories thrown in. I wish I could find out if was as good as I remembered.


  3. David Anderson
    September 19, 2012 @ 3:11 am

    There's a difference I think between a camp approach of the sort typified by the 60s Batman and a postmodern approach such as Buffy or Jane Austen. (Postmodernism begins with Cervantes.)
    That is, Austen isn't simply treating the romance novel as the occasion for a romp that she happens to love; she's also showing that there is potential in the romance novel for seriously looking at human life/ society, once you recognise that the romance novel isn't a perfectly transparent window on human life and society. You can use a form of double vision because to tell the truth you have to tell it slant.


  4. BerserkRL
    September 19, 2012 @ 4:43 am

    Moffat would never come up with a character like Wilf, while Davies would never have come up with River Song

    Well, that certainly gives the edge to Moffat.

    why be insincere in your love of the camp?

    That reminds me of "let's revamp, make more camp, a sci-fi show from yesteryear," which in turn reminds me to ask, do you have any plans to cover "The Ballad of Russell & Julie"?

    In these the process of reassembling or exposing the conventions of the narrative isn’t done in order to critique them

    Would you call movies like Scream and Cabin in the Woods the critique-style or the romp-style of exposing horror conventions? Or some of each?


  5. BerserkRL
    September 19, 2012 @ 4:58 am

    David Anderson,

    Postmodernism begins with Cervantes

    Why not with the Greeks? Euripides has Electra comment self-consciously on the conventions of the Electra story. In Aeschylus's version, Electra had recognised that her long-lost brother Orestes was in town because she finds a footprint and a lock of hair that perfectly match her own, and again later because she recognises his robe as her own handiwork. But in Euripides' play, when these same tests are suggested, she replies: "How should our hair correspond? His is the hair of a gallant youth trained up in manly sports, mine a woman's curled and combed; nay, that is a hopeless clue. Besides, thou couldst find many, whose hair is of the same colour, albeit not sprung from the same blood. … How should the foot make any impression on stony ground? and if it did, the foot of brother and sister would not be the same in size, for man's is the larger. … and even if I had woven him a robe, how should he, a mere child then, be wearing the same now, unless our clothes and bodies grow together?"

    What is Euripides, then, but a clever, kibitzing fanboy who finally gets a chance to write for his favourite show? He's one of us!


  6. BerserkRL
    September 19, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    Ewa Woowa,

    don't you wish you done a doctorate in philospophy, so you could style yourself dr. Phil. Phil. ?

    "He's a man, who's not really a man; a Doctor, but not really a doctor! Like Dr. Phil — but awesome!" — Crag Ferguson, from the Doctor Who cold open


  7. jane
    September 19, 2012 @ 5:16 am

    I'm horribly late to the party — I would have pegged Melville's Confidence-Man.


  8. SpaceSquid
    September 19, 2012 @ 5:25 am

    On a very minor level, there's also the idea that Marcie never tells the villains what her name is meaning, like the Doctor, the forces of naughtiness must always describe her, rather than identify her.


  9. Adam Riggio
    September 19, 2012 @ 6:04 am

    I've noticed lately that some of your pops between realities, like this one and Press Gang, have grown concerned less with the present era of Doctor Who, and more focussed on tracing the seeds of its resurrection in the future, even though none of that future history could have been known (or even predicted) in the 1990s. In a way, it violates the original mission statement of the Eruditorum to follow the present of the show as it exists in that moment. But I'm not about to complain. In fact, I think this focus on the 1990s as sowing the seeds of the future renewal is incredibly important for the fan community, and the institution of Doctor Who studies and history.

    Frankly, I think that as a community of fans, we still need a solid antidote to the hangover of the Wilderness Years. That period of Doctor Who was most definitely characterized by the misery of a slow decline into a painful and lonely death, all the wonderful potential of the show and its ideas torn up and shoved in a school desk. In the 1990s, Doctor Who was a dead show, an outcast from its people, the British public, slowly becoming just another weird little obscurity. You touch on it in White Darkness: Doctor Who is afraid to embrace what it was; its writers are developing an inferiority complex. This was the show that was cancelled. No matter what vibrant and interesting ideas were going on, Doctor Who was still a defeated entity, essentially post-mortem.

    That paragraph was fucking depressing to write. And it was probably just as fucking miserable to read. It's exactly why we need entries like this one and Press Gang. Because I think there's still this anxiety in the fan community that 15 years of slow, obscure dying has created. This applies only to people who were fans before the revival, though. And I think it still accounts for some of the distrust of some pre-2005 fans for post-2005 fans. I remember SK back in July describing the McCoy years as "real Doctor Who" as opposed to the Davies and Moffatt eras. He had his own aesthetic reasons of course, but I think the split of people who were fans of the classic series first vs the new series first is based on a much deeper schism than a hipster-ish "I liked it before everybody else did."

    I remember the uproar of fear on the internet when the hiatus year was announced. Half of us had heart palpitations just when 2009 was described as a hiatus. That word strikes fear into us all, and does make companions of people who fell for the classic series first, exclusive of the others. In a way, Ian Levine spoke for the fears throughout the fan community that Doctor Who would be destroyed again. You were right to call him out on it, because that fear was completely moronic and irrational.

    But the irrational fears are the hardest to remove, because no matter how many reasons we find in the world not to have those fears, they recur. That's why I think we as Doctor Who fans need a project like the Eruditorum. The Wilderness Years weren't just about the misery and the sadness; they were also about the fear and the shame. White Darkness has that feeling that it doesn't really want to be Doctor Who because of that shame. Doctor Who in the Wilderness Years isn't something to be proud of, but something to hide. And I see the Eruditorum transforming the dominant narrative of the Wilderness Years not as a terrible blow that struck us down, not as a time of shame and humiliation, but as the greatest adversity over which we and Doctor Who have ever triumphed.


  10. Ununnilium
    September 19, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    Wow, this pretty perfectly encapsulates the type of storytelling I love. Marvelous.


  11. BerserkRL
    September 19, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    In a way, it violates the original mission statement of the Eruditorum to follow the present of the show as it exists in that moment.

    But I don't think this blog has ever committed itself to looking only sideways and never forward, as it were. Indeed, way back with "Unearthly Child" Phil was writing:

    "Already, in the first episode, Doctor Who is about its own mystery. About the question of what Doctor Who is going to be. … It doesn't know what it will become. Doesn't know the history and wonder that's coming. …
    But that history is here. Right here, in this first episode, with its haunting theme music and impossible knowledge of the future and obsession with a Police Box. … It's impossible. The fact that a Police Box would look out of place everywhere in the universe within six years, that the theme and TARDIS console would be iconic, that Britain would go to decimal currency, none of this could have been there in 1963. But watching it, that knowledge does not feel like a secret history, but like a real history, there and unfolding in front of us. And when we stare into it, it is impossibly big."

    I remember SK back in July describing the McCoy years as "real Doctor Who" as opposed to the Davies and Moffatt eras.

    And then there's Tea With Morbius, whose author seems determined to dislike anything post-1989.


  12. Matthew Celestis
    September 19, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    The wilderness years were a fruitful time- all those novels, the birth of the audio medium. I don't think it was a time of misery at all.

    I'm positively looking forward to the next 'wilderness years' when the current show gets cancelled. We will see some really interesting and creative developments, I am quite sure.


  13. Matthew Celestis
    September 19, 2012 @ 8:24 am

    BeserkRL, you obviously haven't read any of my reviews of Virgin novels, BBC novels, Big Finish audios or the lastest post on Death Comes to Time. I love some of the post-1989 stuff.


  14. Wm Keith
    September 19, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    I have to agree with Matthew. For me, the early 1990s seemed to be a time of great creativity as writers in all kinds of media, free from the tyranny of canon, gleefully created their own various futures for Doctor Who. And then it was 1996.


  15. daibhid-c
    September 19, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    "Marcie acts Doctor-like, yes, but the explicit reason she’s able to be Doctor like is that she’s watched a lot of television. This means that she’s not just the most capable person on the screen, she’s capable precisely because she recognizes the genre of her own show."

    I know I keep droning on about Terry Pratchett, but it is interesting (well, to me at least) how what he was doing in the 90s reflects what Doctor Who and Who-related stuff was doing in the 90s. In this case, as soon as I read that passage I thought of something Terry said about the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, published 1991-1996:

    "One of the things that makes the books both harder and easier to write is that both Johnny and Kirsty, and to a lesser extent the rest of the gang, have indeed got a sophisticated volcubulary of weirdness. They've read the books about kids having adventures, they've seen a thousand re-run sf movies and all the current blockbusters and all the TV sf soaps. So when they end up somewhere 'adventurous', in a sense they know the script.

    "So when a certain mysterious elderly character was introduced early in the book, I knew two things: that the readers would instantly start guessing, because of their familiarity with the nature of the genre, and that Johnny himself is like the reader. There's not point in pretending it's some major shocking plot point, because it can't be."


  16. Matthew Celestis
    September 19, 2012 @ 11:25 am

    But after 1996 things get really interesting; with Death Comes to Time ignoring the TV Movie, Scream of the Shalka offering a new Doctor and the Eighth Doctor novels doing fascinating things with the Time Lords.

    I became a fan in this time and it feels really special to me.

    In the Wilderness Years, Doctor Who belonged to fans and we were able to enjoy Doctor Who in a way that people can't enjoy it now that Doctor Who is the stuff of the popular media.


  17. Wm Keith
    September 19, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

    OK, I'll agree with Adam instead, save that the slow death of the JNT era was as nothing to the traumatic full stop that was the TV movie. "He's back…" marked the end of my activity in DW fandom, and that of many of my friends. I'm glad that something survived to inspire Matthew and his contemporaries.


  18. Ununnilium
    September 19, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    Note that the TV movie was actually the first Doctor Who I ever saw! Mind, I'd heard about it (as one of those "cool British shows that people watch on PBS, except none of the stations in your area carry it, loser"), but that was the first of it I watched. And I enjoyed it! I mean, I could see it was cheesy, but I didn't care – I was at the point where I could consciously enjoy over-the-topness for the fun factor. (MST3K helped with this, though I admit, growing up on Power Rangers factored in.)


  19. Matthew Celestis
    September 19, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    Wm Keith, I agree that the TV Movie was awful. I remember watching it aged 15 and hating every minute of it. But it led to some really interesting stuff regardless.

    I think the TV Movie was taken by a challenge by so many writers to come up with something better.


  20. David Anderson
    September 20, 2012 @ 4:13 am

    I think what Euripides is doing there is one of the basic ways that literature establishes an aura of realism: a work points at earlier works of art and says, 'how unrealistic'. The work by doing that implies that its methods of representation are closer to an ideal of realism than the earlier work. If Don Quixote were all about a madman charging windmills it would be a paradigm example; Flaubert's Madame Bovary is a good example as well.

    Postmodernism (or literary modernism in general – I don't think there's a valid distinction) does that too, but then goes a step further and also highlights the flaws in its own attempt to be a transparent depiction of reality. And Cervantes is the first major master of techiques of doing that.

    Not that I'm sure you couldn't find examples of Greek writers doing that, and I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Euripides doesn't do it somewhere; but I think on the whole he's more of a realist than a postmodernist.


  21. Christopher Haynes
    September 20, 2012 @ 7:02 am

    By contrast I'd lost all interest in Doctor Who after being exposed to Virgin's New Adventures. It was the TV Movie that rekindled my enthusiasm.


  22. Matthew Celestis
    September 20, 2012 @ 7:51 am

    Christopher, that was another great thing that the Wilderness Years brought: Choice.

    You could buy the NAs if you wanted, then the Virgin Benny books, then the Big Finish audios if you wanted something more traditional. If you liked the McGann Doctor, you could follow the BBC EDAs, or if you hated him you could read the BBC PDAs. Then when Lawrence Miles fell out with the BBC editors, you could get into his leftfield Faction Paradox books.

    The wilderness years shattered the idea that there was one fixed way to do Doctor Who or one version of the Doctor Who mythos.


  23. BerserkRL
    September 20, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    True, but to have the characters themselves point out the unrealistic nature of earlier versions comes close to their acknowledging that they're in a fiction — which is not realism.


  24. encyclops
    October 2, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    The TV Movie and Lungbarrow were the one-two punch that killed my interest in Doctor Who for years. I was pretty slow to start watching the new series, and even slower to start liking it, largely because I was afraid it was just 1996 all over again.


  25. Katherine Sas
    June 19, 2014 @ 4:14 am

    "Well, that certainly gives the edge to Moffat."

    I'll contest that. As always, it comes back to a yin/yang difference of styles between Moffat and Davies.

    Yes River Song is innovative and exciting and forward-looking and all those wonderful things, but there's the sense of a clever idea having limited scope. I'm not anti-River, but it's hard to deny a sense of diminishing returns – as though every time she's brought back she's a little less exciting than that first appearance.

    Whereas Wilf is comfortable and nostalgic and feel-good, sure, but authentic and real and warm. Each time he back he got even richer as a character.

    Again, I'm not saying one is better than the other. Frankly, Doctor Who is as great as it is because it can encompass characters even as disparate as Wilf and River. And the show would be poorer without both Davies' and Moffat's voices and styles.


  26. papereyes1871
    July 5, 2015 @ 11:56 pm

    This really is just Dr Who.

    Opening 90 seconds – "Nothing in the world can stop us now" and then a very bass heavy intro with time tunnel graphics.

    This is basically just Dr Who.


  27. SeeingI
    April 24, 2023 @ 9:14 am

    I just watched Dark Season for the first time and adored it! Without wishing to impose retroactive knowledge onto it, it really is hard not to view it as the missing link between Survival and Rose. Not least because the first episode has that Underwater Menace line, and the final episode contains a line Rose will repeat in The End of the World. But that aside, every beat, every trope is taken from Who, but their construction and pacing points to new Who. That first episode in particular is masterfully constructed, and I can easily see why it got commissioned.

    I adored spiky, grouchy, sarcastic, brilliant Marcy. Her patter is half McCoy, half Eccleston, but she’s a teenager and pulling it off brilliantly. It’s easy to imagine her as the Doctor, and indeed that’s the space she occupies in the narrative, but ye gods, what a great companion intro story this would have been. Save McCoy for the very end of Episode 1, and make Marcy a replacement for Ace – complete with paddle! -and we’d have a classic.Indeed if this had been Who’s new direction, spending a whole season based around this weird school, I can see it working very well. Just change the name to Coal Hill…

    Plus, I did not realize how much my life needed Jacqueline Pearce in a turban digging up an ancient MOD computer she regards as half god, half child.


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