Skip to content

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. Jonathan
    April 8, 2013 @ 12:47 am

    "What should we have expected Russell T Davies's Doctor Who to look like," – going to do a 'Pop Between…' for The Second Coming?

    "Life in Britain was seeming pretty peachy," – bit of a stretch.

    "Modern day social realism," – surely it's unambiguously a conspiracy thriller? That's what it felt like to me at the time. It owes loads more to Edge of Darkness than Cathy Come Home and genre fusion might be overemphasising this a little. The ways in which big political events impact on normal families in significant ways has always been a staple of that kind of thriller. Neat telegraphing for Children of Earth though. Social realism never went away, but it wasn't to be found here.


  2. David Anderson
    April 8, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    The Shadow Line, which seems more directly comparable, got about three million viewers on its first episode, and ended up hovering about two million. (Source: Wikipedia.)
    (That The Shadow Line has viewing figures much less than Sherlock is not surprising though.)


  3. Jonathan
    April 8, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    The Long Firm will be a much better yardstick to compare against than The Shadow Line or Sherlock.


  4. Matthew Blanchette
    April 8, 2013 @ 5:58 am

    Thatcher's dead.


  5. God's Gift
    April 8, 2013 @ 6:38 am

    Please let this be one of the few places on the internet where we don't descend into slagging 'her' off.

    I appreciate that british politics comes into the discussion by the nature of this blog and it's attempts to place DW in the wider context of Britain / the world at the time of whatever story we are reviewing, but…

    Understand that some of your fellow readers / posters really liked her, and are already fed up (after only 4 hours!) that the whole world seems to think that we need to hear their opinion on her!!!


  6. God's Gift
    April 8, 2013 @ 6:40 am

    More importantly, how do I get the f****** apostrophe in my name to show up correctly…
    What's a #39 when it's at home???!!!


  7. Theonlyspiral
    April 8, 2013 @ 6:46 am

    An apostrophe apparently. He has to get all dolled up when he goes out.

    And this is what happens when a public figure dies. There is a fervor. More so with someone like Thatcher who was…controversial to put it kindly. She inspired strong feelings in a lot of people. I got 2 invitations to parties celebrating her passing before I got to the office this morning. Now THAT is a legacy.


  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 8, 2013 @ 6:48 am

    I've nothing to add to the year or so of coverage of the Thatcher era I've already done, including, admittedly, today's post, which still reels in her legacy.

    But I'm not going to stop anybody in comments either.


  9. Matthew Blanchette
    April 8, 2013 @ 6:59 am

    Oh, and David Yates directed only four Harry Potter films, not five.


  10. Theonlyspiral
    April 8, 2013 @ 7:03 am

    God's Gift (and others) I want to phrase this comment in a way that is not trolling and not looking to start a fight. I am honestly looking to understand:

    What is it about Thatcher that makes her so compelling? Especially in the face of massive deregulation (even in areas where there wasn't really a competitive field) and her frankly atrocious treatment of the Unions? I don't understand why she's held in such high regard.


  11. JohnB
    April 8, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  12. Theonlyspiral
    April 8, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    I've read the entry…but it covers what Thatcher stood for, from the point of view of Dr. Sandifier. I somehow have the feeling that the point of view from the right sees things very different. When I think about her, she's synonymous with things she did like escalating the Troubles, wire tapping Union Bosses, destroying Social Assistance Frameworks. I can't see where this reverence comes into the equation. I don't know how you get past the order to sink a retreating Argentinian vessel that is outside the exclusion zone.

    But I want to understand, even if I'm never going to agree.


  13. JohnB
    April 8, 2013 @ 8:29 am

    @ Theonlyspiral –

    I refer the Hon. Gentleman/Gentlewoman to this post:

    Which, oddly, I read a couple of weeks ago (and discovered the Pete Wiley song).

    I think this sums up why she's such a powerful totem, an article written after she was forced out of office, from 1990 – still resonates today:


  14. peeeeeeet
    April 8, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    From BARB's website:

    Part 1 – 5.78m
    Part 2 – 4.58m
    Part 3 – 5.55m
    Part 4 – 5.28m
    Part 5 – 4.67m
    Part 6 – 5.27m

    … so a little better than half Sherlock's audience


  15. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 8, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    Thanks. I'll update the post later with the actual information. (I'm surprised it was so low for such a landmark – though if I recall they debuted parts 2-5 on BBC3 or 4 right after the preceding part aired, which probably lost at least a non-trivial number of viewers.)


  16. Iain Coleman
    April 8, 2013 @ 9:42 am


    I've never had any liking for Thatcher – I can't even stand to hear her hectoring, patronising voice – but I can have a go at explaining the opposite perspective to your own.

    She took a hard line on the IRA – well, they did kill a number of her friends, and came damn close to killing her. And her hard line was an insistence on treating terrorists as criminals. Would that later administrations – in the UK and the US – had stuck to that hard line.

    She took on the unions – the unions were widely regarded as having been taking the piss for a good decade, and her greatest union opponent, Arthur Scargill, was explicitly trying to bring down the democratically elected government.

    Sinking the Belgrano – the exclusion zone applied only to neutral shipping, not to Argentine naval vessels which were fair game anywhere at sea. The sinking is regarded as a legitimate act of war by, inter alia, the Argentine Navy and the captain of the Belgrano himself. A war, by the way, fought in defence of British people against a brutal dictatorship, which succeeded against all the odds and with only three civilian casualties, and which led to the ending of that regime in Argentina.

    There are many things one could add to this. She won three elections, because many people in Britain regarded her as a strong leader standing up for them.

    It's interesting that so many of the things that Thatcher's critics fix on are the great conflicts, where her supporters can argue that the fights were necessary and the price worth paying. I would actually criticise Thatcher for some policies that were not at all necessary, and that have been very harmful – the sale of council houses, for example, an exercise in social engineering that has decimated the affordable housing stock and resulted in tremendous economic and social pressures that persist to this day.

    But I would also recognise her positive actions that are not widely appreciated. Her personal support for UK involvement in CERN, important to basic science, and also to the creation of world wide web as an open, universal network. Her early recognition of the problem of climate change, and her founding of the Hadley Climate Centre. As Education Secretary, her reversal of her predecessor's decision to close the Open University, one of Britain's finest institutions.

    One of the things that shapes her cultural impact and shapes her legacy is that she was (or seemed to be) an utter philistine with respect to the arts. Doing something interesting, useless and expensive was something she could happily support in science, but she couldn't understand or accept in the arts. Consequently, the storytellers and mythbuilders have always hated her, and her public image for good or ill is conditioned by the stories people tell as much as by the measurable effects of her policies.


  17. BerserkRL
    April 8, 2013 @ 10:18 am


  18. David Anderson
    April 8, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    I doubt BBC3 has ever had a non-trivial number of viewers. (Even Being Human never reached two million.)

    I don't think landmark necessarily translates into wide popular appeal. I see from wikipedia that in the same year that Bill Nighy won the BAFTA for Best Actor at the National Television Awards the Best Actor went to David Jason in Touch of Frost. I think the success of Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and Doctor Who is that they simulataneously appeal to both audience demographics.


  19. Pen Name Pending
    April 8, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

    State of Play was actually aired last year – or maybe 2011 – on BBC America. I think it was the show they picked to start their "Wednesday Drama" slot.


  20. Pen Name Pending
    April 8, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    Also, wasn't Paul Abnett supposed to write a series 1 episode where Rose was revealed to have been engineered by the Doctor to be a perfect companion? It was replaced by "Boom Town" because he didn't have enough time to write it. I like to imagine that there is an alternate universe where it was broadcast. Imagine how different the show would have been (and still be)!


  21. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 12:07 am

    Mmm, it sounds like a fairly icky, uncomfortable idea to me, TBH, I'm glad it never made it to screen. From his comments , it sounds like RTD wasn't very happy with the idea, so I suspect if Abbott had gone on to write an episode he'd have been guided into writing about something else.


  22. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 12:08 am

    (This referring to the Doctor engineering Rose idea, BTW, sorry for posting to the wrong place!)


  23. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 12:16 am

    I wonder if State of Play's stock has risen partly in retrospect. I have no real evidence for it, other than the fact that it completely passed me by at the time, but myself and various friends have subsequently discovered it on DVD. The Hollywood film adaptation might have given it something of a boost, as might the fact that the lead actors, whilst by no means unknown as you point out, nonetheless went on to do some especially high-profile and/or popular things over the subsequent years such as Life on Mars and Love Actually.

    Whilst it's hard to compare things eight years apart, Sherlock felt to me like a bigger deal right at the moment of its first broadcast. It has a few advantages over State of Play in terms of giving it an immediate boost: based on an established character who everybody knows, who'd recently returned to the spotlight in a (slightly) more traditional mode with the Ritchie films; written by writers of that popular Doctor Who thing with Sherlock's debut scheduled to be around the time of Who series 5, possibly as a conscious effort to piggy back on that audience appeal.


  24. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 12:40 am

    I find it very interesting that your coverage of contemporary television seems to have become more and more guided by auteurist concerns. This is certainly not intended as a criticism; it's definitely a useful way of understanding how Doctor Who was reinvented and may perhaps provide the best understanding of the general trajectory of TV drama. Still, I can't help feeling that the biggest deal in terms of genre/thriller television in the Greg Dyke period of the BBC lies somewhere outside of the Davies/Abbott/Moffatt community of writers.

    I would sugges that this was Spooks, a programme which the BBC really pushed as a flagship series, which tangibly became "watercooler" event TV and which was demonstrably popular enough to achieve a ten-year run, the core of which ran in parallel to RTD's Who. It's a show which I find especially fascinating as it superficially adopts the state-vs-terrorists model of 24 and Blair-Bush discourse, yet is continually wracked with a particularly British sense of post-imperial anxiety and guilt. I used to flippantly describe it as a right-wing series written by left-wing writers, and that was before I discovered the faintly mind-boggling fact that Howard Brenton regularly wrote for the early seasons.

    Overall, I would argue that Spooks is perhaps more significant than State of Play for Doctor Who's revival narrative in terms of demonstrating the success of multi-author, long-running, somewhat outlandish genre television with high production values and greater export potential serving as a tentpole of the BBC's schedule. In addition, I would suggest that when RTD Doctor Who goes 'political thriller' with episodes like Aliens of London and The Sound of Drums, its substantially riffing on Spooks yet semi-deliberatley subverting the the latter's bleak, earnest and super-serious tone with colour and whimsy.

    (If you're about to write about Spooks in the next few weeks, then this post will look kinda silly and premature, but I'm assuming you probably won't as you've missed its 2002 debut and gone for a different thriller from the same period.)


  25. Nick Smale
    April 9, 2013 @ 5:50 am

    Spooks seems particularly relevant at the moment, given Neil Cross's emergence as a writer for Doctor Who…


  26. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 9, 2013 @ 6:07 am

    I thought about Spooks – it also had the bonus of having been mildly successful in the US, albeit under a new title (MI-5). Ultimately I didn't feel like doing both in a post, and picked State of Play partially because I enjoy it far more and partially because I felt like the Abbott/Davies connection was a useful bonus.


  27. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 6:08 am

    Indeed. I actually find it slightly incredible that, despite the long runs of both programmes, the large episode counts and the large numbers of writers employed, it's taken this long for any writer to get to write for both Spooks and Doctor Who.


  28. sorrywehurtyourfield
    April 9, 2013 @ 6:13 am

    Fair enough – State of Play is more fun!


  29. gervase_fen
    April 9, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    David Tennant talks about auditioning for the role of Tom Quinn in a DWM interview conducted just as he was leaving Doctor Who – I paraphrase but his sentiments were 'clearly the best man for the job got the role' (and also what a fantastic role it was).


  30. Iain Coleman
    April 9, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

    James Moran (writer of "Fires of Pompeii") wrote an episode of Spooks in series 7.


  31. Mark Pontin
    April 9, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    Yes. EDGE OF DARKNESS — from the 1980s and the Thatcher era — is the relevant yardstick here. It's still widely reckoned as possibly the finest thing the BBC ever did and STATE OF PLAY can only aspire to be its palest shadow.

    EDGE also has the advantage of being far more truly "genre fusion," since its concerns with "the Nuclear State" (and that state's enemies) keep on expanding till they take on truly apocalyptic proportions by the last episode.


  32. Ununnilium
    April 9, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    Same. At the very least, it'd be the wrong thing to do with the very first New Series companion, the intro to the concept for the audience. It'd make the Doctor seem really skeevy.

    (Mind you, at this point, there's been enough Doctors on TV that we could introduce one that had an arc of skeeviness and have it be seen the way it's supposed to be.)


  33. Matthew Blanchette
    April 10, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    So… where's the Wednesday update? :-/


  34. Spacewarp
    April 10, 2013 @ 5:50 am

    Phil's probably too busy watching the fallout from Mrs T's death.


  35. Seeing_I
    April 10, 2013 @ 5:51 am

    "Doctor Who: The Arc of Skeeviness" tonight on BBC-1.

    I remember hearing about this as well, and I really worry that Clara will turn out to be a version of this idea.


  36. BerserkRL
    April 10, 2013 @ 10:40 am

    And now, Carson on Thatcher:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.