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.

42 Comments

  1. Neo
    March 23, 2019 @ 9:34 am

    This definitely seems a gain to me, certainly not a loss. Covering the umpteenth boxset written by the same men, with the same characters and basically the same stories, does no one any favours. Thinks like the continued employment of Dreyfus, the straightwashing of Clara, women-lead boxsets written entirely by men time and time again, it’s just gone beyond absurdity at this point. I think this stance will lead to more interesting essays in future books even, as the orthodoxy of McGann’s audio adventures (my fucking face when someone uses Night of the Doctor to argue they’re ‘canon’, and his other stories ‘aren’t’) and the like have an understandable but tasteless privilege over the other non-TV content these days, which could be better served with coverage. Seems a good, forward stance for the site to take.

    Reply

  2. Sleepyscholar
    March 23, 2019 @ 12:34 pm

    This seems like absolutely the right decision. You’ve persevered with Big Finish for a long time, shovelling through that huge pile because you love Doctor Who and you’re conscientious. With your Eruditorum entries you manage to find something positive and provocative to write about pretty well all Who, even when it’s at a low ebb, but the Big Finish entries have probably been the weakest in this respect, and I for one got the impression that this was their fault not yours.

    I listened to a relatively small amount myself (basically the 8th Doctor stuff and a few other bits and bobs), and I reached the stage where I found it mainly tedious, interspersed with annoying tics. Essentially it is Doctor Who being produced as if it were The Archers (but probably with less socially-conscious plot lines).

    Reply

    • CJM123
      March 23, 2019 @ 2:15 pm

      Don’t go insulting The Archers. That’s a show that has recently attempted to greatly increase its scope and scale, to create story-lines that were unthinkable a decade ago.

      Big Finish, it seems, hasn’t.

      Reply

      • Sleepyscholar
        March 24, 2019 @ 4:54 am

        I wasn’t insulting the Archers (I commented about it having socially-conscious plotlines). I was commenting that making Doctor Who as if it were a conservative version of The Archers is not a recipe for success.

        Reply

  3. Kazin
    March 23, 2019 @ 12:41 pm

    There was a time when this post would have made me sad, but seeing as I’ve basically gone through the same change of heart about the company, I’m just sitting here thinking “yeah, I wouldn’t want to write about them anymore either.” They’re indefensible at this point for all the reasons you listed.

    Reply

    • Kazin
      March 23, 2019 @ 5:51 pm

      A++++ image selection as well, btw, El. Way to back up your fucking point lol

      Reply

      • Christopher Brown
        March 24, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

        Agreed 100%. 😀

        I’ll still go back and enjoy their old stuff, but I decided to stop supporting them after they announced the Talons prequel right after the DWM scandal. Way to throw themselves on the wrong side of history.

        Reply

      • Jeff Heikkinen
        March 26, 2019 @ 5:52 am

        Yes, “swarm” indeed, plus whoever thought The Invisible Enemy needed a sequel should be brought up on charges for crimes against taste.

        Reply

        • Sleepyscholar
          March 26, 2019 @ 8:00 am

          This is exactly the BF mentality, though: everything in Doctor Who needs a sequel, in principle. The Unbound story He Jests at Scars includes references to:
          Trial of a Time Lord
          Logopolis
          Genesis of the Daleks
          The Silurians
          Colony In Space
          Four To Doomsday
          Warrior’s Gate
          The Space Museum
          The Horns of Nimon
          Delta and the Bannermen
          Dragonfire
          (and maybe more I’m unaware of)

          I think your charges of ‘crimes against taste’ are inadequate!

          Reply

        • Paul F Cockburn
          March 27, 2019 @ 5:31 pm

          Well, that’s capitalism for you. If they think there are a sufficient number of fans willing to pay for a sequel to “The Invisible Enemy”, to make it worth their while making one… then they will.

          And here’s the thing: if YOU don’t want to, you don’t have to.

          Reply

          • Kazin
            March 28, 2019 @ 4:56 pm

            brb, adding “sequel to invisible enemy is financially viable” to the list of reasons capitalism sucks

  4. WCC
    March 23, 2019 @ 1:02 pm

    I am quite excited that you’re covering Doctor Who and the Pirates, your take on it should be informative and interesting.

    I don’t follow social media, so it’s nice to have your full thoughts about BF here.

    Reply

  5. Kat
    March 23, 2019 @ 1:13 pm

    Sounds like the right decision.

    Reply

  6. Lambda
    March 23, 2019 @ 6:12 pm

    It sounds rather like they’re trying to do a sort of mass production. I’m guessing their writer pool is a consequence of scripts needing to be optimised for very Big Finish-specific requirements of producing something which will fit the patterns that their audience are looking for as efficiently as possible, rather than any notion of artistic quality. Regardless, I think the output of Rob Shearman still consists of over half of what I’ve listened to from them, and I think that might be the ideal way to experience them.

    Reply

    • Dan
      March 25, 2019 @ 2:53 am

      I wish they’d optimised for the very specific requirements of producing something which will fit the patterns their as yet unfound and Dr Who loving – but so far alienated in the terms of the points Liz makes – audience are looking for as efficiently as possible within reason and allowing for long and very pleasant lunch breaks. Such as me.

      Reply

  7. Bennett
    March 23, 2019 @ 10:55 pm

    Absolutely the right call.

    I am obsessed with Doctor Who (natch) and thrive on audio content, and I still can’t justify following any of Big Finish’s current output.

    Several years ago I was a satisfied consumer of theirs, but admittedly it was because a) they were heavily discounting titles from the brief moment of time they were a relevant force in Doctor Who history and b) pricing incompetence. For CDs they undercharged on international postage, and for downloads they were applying a 1:1 conversion rate for all overseas currencies but that too is coming to an end https://www.bigfinish.com/pages/v/important-information-for-our-customers-overseas

    I can’t fault them for moving to a sane pricing model, and am way too ignorant to say whether their pricing is justified for the cost of audio production – but their competition is all other content providers, and so many are providing so much more for so much less that I can’t in good faith recommend Big Finish to anyone. I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to be sustained by the same segment of fandom that buys off-air recordings of Galaxy 4 on vinyl, but they don’t have to try very hard for that market and it seems like they aren’t.

    All that said, I’m very glad to hear you will still be writing about Doctor Who and the Pirates. It’s one of my absolute favourites and definitely worth your while.

    Reply

  8. Annie
    March 24, 2019 @ 8:09 am

    I remember reading the unit assembled post and agreeing with everything there.
    The fact is that apart from the torchwood range, which has more diverse writers and can consequently get away with more interesting themes, Big finish has been using the same handful of writers for the last five odd years to churn out scripts, and it’s the same stories over and over again.
    And I don’t understand why they’re so Conservative, particularly with the new series; I suppose the case could be made for the old series that traditional fans wouldn’t enjoy that kind of thing but New series fans are generally more diverse and supportive of LGBTQ, removing the trans-character from Rose was just bizarre.

    Reply

    • Dan
      March 25, 2019 @ 3:07 am

      And yet a huge percentage of old series fans would surely enjoy something a bit different, so maybe it’s just the custodians of Big Finish that are a bit conservative.

      I think the point that chimed most with me in this statement was the “squandering” aspect. They have the income and resources to use all these amazing classic series actors, including Doctors, to make new Doctor Who involving them, and yet…well, Liz has said it, and nothing I can say is likely to make any difference. I’m not even majorly a part of fandom, yet it still makes me sad. Especially as otherwise I might buy and enjoy some of this stuff.

      (N.b.I do wonder if old and new series fans could ever be compared in terms of some kind of metric of progressiveness, since it seems that history is on a retrograde cycle at present.)

      Reply

  9. Christopher Brown
    March 24, 2019 @ 10:52 am

    Will you still be covering The Unknown in Volume 7? I was looking forward to reading as you rip it to shreds 😀

    Also, I quite like your Death in the Family essay…will that remain?

    Reply

    • Christopher Brown
      March 24, 2019 @ 4:39 pm

      Oh whoops! Missed the bit about “already written” essays which I assume includes the Unknown at this point. I paid good money to see that eviscerated…muhahahahahahaha! 😛

      Reply

      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        March 24, 2019 @ 4:44 pm

        I have not written that essay yet, and it’s probably first in line for getting dropped in favor of an essay trying to work out Dalek chronology.

        Reply

        • Christopher Brown
          March 25, 2019 @ 5:22 am

          While I’d ask you to consider consulting your backers on that one since some of them may have paid for that essay in particular (hey, anything’s possible…), honestly, The Unknown fits the points above to a tee. River and Seven run around a spaceship with mutual amnesia, preventing any truly interesting reactions…the Doctor is a useless idiot
          who chides River for shooting the monster that was about to kill them in five seconds – and then dies attempting to reason with the mindless monster when he and River are just going to reset the timeline anyway!! Basically, the story is written for Chibnall’s idea of a generic Doctor rather than specifically Seven. 🙁

          So yeah. Much as I wanted to see it snarked…as a Kickstarter backer myself, I hereby give you my blessing to not waste time on it 😛

          Reply

  10. Daru
    March 24, 2019 @ 11:56 am

    This feels like a really sound creative choice for you, as I can imagine that writing (what must feel like) endlessly about mediocre conservative pieces would just be soul crushing.

    I have really struggled to not only listen to Big Finish but also just found it impossible to keep up with. I wholeheartedly agree with all the bullet points above – they all feel equal to me, but I do despair at how little they have really used well the audio format, and it really is ridiculous how they have kept to the classic series episode style and cliffhanger as a norm. There are so many places they could go.

    Reply

  11. David Moran
    March 24, 2019 @ 6:37 pm

    They could indeed go anywhere, but are locked into their pattern. Currently Nic Brigg’s big project for BBC R4 Extra is, of all things, an audio remake of The Prisoner. They’ve got some poor fella in who is doing a really appalling McGoohan impersonation, had him recreate several of the iconic images from the show, despite him looking like no-one so much as Graham ” Father Transphobe” Linehan and shoved rethinks of the original episodes under his nose.

    So it’s all there – recreations of memorable scenes done badly, explicit descriptions of visually exciting moments, and awful music that sounds almost, but nothing like, Ron Grainer. Bet the boxset will look pretty, and cost a ruddy fortune.

    Reply

    • MattM
      March 25, 2019 @ 1:51 pm

      They released that a while ago and yes it cost a silly amount of money, and yes everyone was confused as to why they adapted tv scripts.

      Reply

      • Sleepyscholar
        March 26, 2019 @ 8:21 am

        Adapting TV scripts may well have been a rights issue.

        There was a project to do audio versions of Robin of Sherwood a little while ago, and they had the problem that the creator of the series, Richard Carpenter, was dead. It was clearly so much easier to work with stuff he had already approved that they approached me to adapt the Robin of Sherwood gamebooks I’d done into audio adventures.

        I think this demonstrates how much these things are driven by script ideas (ie not at all!). Can you imagine what an audio drama based on a gamebook might be like? (If it was actually done as an audio choose-your-own adventure, it might have some merit, but the people who approached me didn’t even seem to know what a gamebook was).

        Reply

      • Tom B
        March 26, 2019 @ 6:04 pm

        I think the second collection had a new story in it. It doesn’t address the question of why they aren’t all new stories (except for Arrival, which I could see having an audio adaptation for)

        Reply

  12. Przemek
    March 25, 2019 @ 8:20 am

    Can’t say I disagree. I’m glad you won’t have to waste your time on BF anymore.

    Reply

  13. MattM
    March 25, 2019 @ 1:50 pm

    On the one hand it’s nice that BF exist and that you can still get stories with the original actors but on the other hand yes, yikes. So much and there’s a lot that’s very bland, very samey. I’ve still got piles of newer ones to listen to, and the other week I found myself listening to some of the really early stuff as opposed to stuff I’d not listened to before. Anything past 50 (and definitely past 100) all sort of blur into one for me. Especially those boxsets!

    I can understand wanting a small writer pool who really understand how writing in the format works, but 1) it seems the well of ideas is dry and what’s being produced anyway isn’t particularly amazing and 2) There has to be some middle ground between barring the door apart from a dozen writers, and the early ‘open submission’ process.

    Reply

  14. Tom B
    March 25, 2019 @ 3:59 pm

    Will you be covering any of the BBC audios? I know they’ve been putting out some new stories, really more audiobooks of new stories, but they are covering the new Doctors. As it’s the BBC I suspect they have to follow the BBC guidelines also, so would have to be in line with the company’s diversity policy.

    I haven’t listened to any of the ones in the past few years (actually I think the last one I listened to from the BBC was the audio for Neil Gaiman’s story for the 50th, and before that the Tom Baker stories by Paul Magrs) but would like to know if they’re worth it

    Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      March 25, 2019 @ 4:13 pm

      They’re certainly possibilities. It’ll be a case by case basis past that. Audiobooks are less interesting to me, but original productions are tempting.

      Reply

  15. Brian B.
    March 25, 2019 @ 6:26 pm

    Elizabeth, purely from curiosity: I know you’re familiar with the blog Downtime, which probably means you know they keep writing about a politically/ socially progressive creative revitalization of Big Finish as an ongoing thing. I have no opinion (haven’t heard any Big Finish except six audios from the cheap early main range yet), just: do you have any idea, in your own head, how you guys are hearing such different things? Or are you stumped?

    Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      March 26, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

      It’s not so much hearing different things as listening to different things. The stuff the guys on DownTime praise as being really good and the stuff Elizabeth writes about and rightly eviscerates are almost never the same thing. So basically, she hasn’t heard the most recent good stuff, unfortunately, and has the bad luck to sit through shit UNIT box sets instead.

      Reply

      • Brian B.
        March 27, 2019 @ 3:46 pm

        Thanks. In a year or so I figure I’ll have heard the $2.99 range’s highlights and be ready to explore further. It’s nice to have some reason to think I won’t regret it.

        Reply

      • Ziggy
        November 3, 2020 @ 7:41 am

        Like the War Master or Doom Coalition stuff?

        Reply

  16. strudwick
    March 25, 2019 @ 9:08 pm

    ah well… I agree with all of the points mentioned in the post, but then again Liv Chenka is my favourite companion in Doctor Who, so I will always keep listening to audios that feature her. A lot of it might be down to the way Nicola Walker plays her, I guess, but I do like the writing as well – Liv just doesn’t take any shit from the Doctor ever and is very vocal about it, and very funny. I wish she would appear on TV at some point… and I’ll definitely keep following any BF audios from Lizbeth Myles, if there will be any more. I really liked her Aphra Behn / 12th story. Having audios from other production companies with a (lot!) more queer content would of course be great as well… but that probably isn’t possible for copyright reasons, right?

    Reply

  17. Paul F Cockburn
    March 26, 2019 @ 8:14 pm

    “…in the face of the booming podcast industry I have zero doubt that it would be possible for the BBC to find people who are eager to take the opportunities that Big Finish is squandering and do something interesting with them.”

    Possibly… BUT isn’t this missing the most important point? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that it’s the BBC – specifically the branding team in Cardiff – that licence BF and give them nod to everything they do. Doesn’t that, in fact, suggest that the real “problem” here is that Chibnall and his team are perfectly content with what Nick Briggs and company are doing? If that’s the case, things aren’t going to change any time soon.

    Reply

    • Chris
      March 27, 2019 @ 11:00 am

      In 2016 Big Finish had their licence to make Dr Who audios extended to 2025, so I don’t think Chris Chibnall and the current team have any say in the matter.

      Reply

      • Paul F Cockburn
        March 27, 2019 @ 5:21 pm

        Fair point re the licence dates, BUT it’s the current team that surely approves what BF are now putting out, in the same way that they keep an eye on the BBC Novels, DWM, etc. (We know, from Russell T Davies, that the team in Cardiff checked his novel of “Rose” and highlighted some of the changes he’d unconsciously made. Though, obviously, in that case they didn’t try to change them back.)

        Reply

  18. Vadron
    April 29, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

    As concerns additional War Doctor stuff — seems a bit late now, but the “Squire” storyline in the Eleventh Doctor comic had some additional War Doctor material, and was generally quite good.

    Reply

    • Allyn Gibson
      June 25, 2019 @ 4:05 pm

      A late reply, and I’m sure you won’t see this, Vadron, but I’ll write it anyway…

      Titan Comics’ Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two was fanwanky to its core — River Song! Abslom Daak! Shada! the Jacobi Master as a child! the War Doctor! the Time War! — and I loved it. It was madder than Mad Jack McMadd. The sheer audacity of doing a Time War story without using the Daleks directly (since Titan didn’t have a license for them from the Nation estate) worked to the story’s benefit, since they were an off-stage presence and thus scarier. And the ending of issue ten was an utter gut-punch, and one of the two times that Titan’s Who comics actually made me tear up. (The other being the ending of Tenth Doctor Year Three when the Doctor says, IIRC, “I’m not a hugger anymore” to Gabby… and then hugs her back.)

      I’m not saying Titan’s comics are great or even for everyone. They’re fanwanky about as often as not (heck, the thirteenth Doctor comics just began a storyline with the Corsair!), and if you weren’t already a Doctor Who fan these comics really aren’t for you. But they’re fun, and I’ve enjoyed them on that level.

      Reply

  19. Bob Maltravers
    February 10, 2021 @ 1:52 pm

    What a ridiculously pompous post!

    Best giggle in a while.

    Reply

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