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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. CJM123
    April 6, 2020 @ 3:44 pm

    Loved the essay and frankly I’m surprised Holmes even wrote a black character into his script. I remember with one obvious and terrible exception his work being very white. I wouldn’t realise he would even notice Nazis.

    And the only thing that stopped Maggie Thatcher from being a full-blown fascist is that she lacked even the sordid imagination of other possibilities that even Fascism requires.


    • prandeamus
      April 9, 2020 @ 12:41 pm

      Without necessarily going all the way down the “Talons” discussion about racism, it does raise some interesting problems about how much in a given story is the writer’s intent and how much comes from the director and all the other creatives. Classic Who is, in hindsight, extremely well documented, but how much of this is known for other stories. (I’ve heard tell here that one director had a habit of swapping at least one male role to a female one, but cannot recall who it was.) Do we know how frequently race and gender were changed from script to screen?


      • Fox
        April 10, 2020 @ 9:00 pm

        I think that director who you are thinking of is Pennant Roberts. He cast Ingrid Pitt in Warriors of the deep against the written male roll I believe he did it in Pirate planet as well.


        • wyngatecarpenter
          April 11, 2020 @ 12:39 pm

          I once went to a Record and Film Fair in my home town where they had attempted to drum up some business by having Ingrid Pitt as a special guest to meet fans, sign stuff etc. I got there mid afternoon and she was sat at a table with a minder and no one paying any attention. I felt quite sorry for and thought about going over, but the only thing I could think to talk to her about was that scene in Warriors Of The Deep, so I didn’t. I thought it would only make things worse


  2. Christopher Brown
    April 6, 2020 @ 10:44 pm

    I never liked The Ark in Space as much as other folks despite the adorable bubble-wrap grub, and I think it was because I never found an underlying emotional connection with it. Even without the horrifyingly plausible Nazi reading, the story collapses too easily into us vs. them re: the Wirrrrrrn.

    Just curious El, would you still personally rate the story a 10/10? 😛


  3. Brimstone
    April 7, 2020 @ 3:37 am

    I’ve always been obsessed with this inspiring Alien and Ridley Scott originally being meant to design the Daleks…. alternate futures… histories….


  4. The Not Quite Handsome Doctor
    April 9, 2020 @ 4:56 am

    I suppose I’ve always liked this one about on the level of its reputation — enough to go back and watch again more than once, anyway. But now that I’m thinking of it, I’ve always thought the first episode was the best by far, focusing on the new core cast and how they’d be functioning together, and on exploring Nerva and dealing with its dangers. That means that in effect there was always a slight feeling of disappointment when the main story actually began.

    In any case, the old serial I’ve just started watching yesterday, for the second time, is The Web Planet (El’s perspective on which having been quite useful to help me appreciate the first time around). Given the relative reputations of the two stories, I’m enjoying the realization that there’s at least one fundamental way the earlier one is superior: its ethics with respect to human-insectoid relations.


    • prandeamus
      April 9, 2020 @ 12:51 pm

      In a relatively rate positive comment about Gary Russell novels, I do think that the novel “Placebo Effect” tried to ask the question: what was so terrible about what humanity did to the Wirrn? The book made no impression on my in hindsight, so maybe the answer wasn’t very satisfactory.


  5. Fox
    April 10, 2020 @ 9:05 pm

    Even as a child I always found the bit about humans basically wiping out they’re children and colonizing the Wirrn home planet as plane wrong. Always felt like the Doctor should of been on the Wirrn side on that one.


  6. wyngatecarpenter
    April 11, 2020 @ 12:33 pm

    Much as I like this story I can certainly see the problems raised here, but my view of it is that we aren’t meant to admire the human society that we find. The first impression of Vira is of a cold , humourless character, and if I rememebr Noah’s first action when he is revived is to attempt to find and kill The Doctor. My interpretation would be that it is trying to show a human society that has become little different to an ant colony – as the Doctor says it is “highly compartmentalised”, all individuals within it have a specific function and have difficulty thinking outside that role (with the exception of Rogan apparently, but I suspect Holmes just got bored with writing such functional characters). From there the logical conclusion is metamorphosis into actual insects. The story is resolved when Noah manages to reassert his humanity.
    I agree that Robert Holmes’ politics are nowhere near as left wing as some fans like to think, but at the same time I doubt he was intentionally writing a pro-eugenecist story inthe same season he was script editing Genesis Of The Daleks.


    • David Ainsworth
      April 11, 2020 @ 5:55 pm

      Oh, it’s clearly the case that this story criticizes these humans: see, for example, one of Harry’s moments of comedy that aren’t, when he gets indignant at Vira’s question about Sarah’s value. Tom Baker’s delivery of the Doctor’s response (“The answer is yes”) coupled with his subsequent association of his own position with Harry’s makes quite clear what the Doctor thinks of the question.

      In addition to having the “displaced by colonization” explanation, which quite frankly renders the story less plausible because the Queen must have galaxy-hopped to get to Earth, this story also makes the remarkable maneuver of having the Doctor’s solution be to send the “base-under-siege” invaders into space to save them as well as the humans. If Noah hadn’t sabotaged the ship, the Wirrn would have survived, leaving a story where multiple humans were killed by alien invaders who are themselves left almost entirely intact.

      Couple that with a few other gestures–Noah’s brilliant “No more aliens!” comment, the story’s open with a POV shot from the monster’s POV coupled with the Doctor’s later “mind meld” of sorts–and Ark in Space is remarkable in the degree to which it invites the audience to sympathize or even identify as much with the alien invaders as it does with the beleaguered humans.

      The problem, of course, is that the set-pieces, especially in the last two episodes, function in such a traditional way that they undermine that framing and shift us back into identifying solely with the human characters.


  7. Przemek
    April 16, 2020 @ 8:32 am

    I really liked this one. It shows how easy it is to create a work that accidentally or at least unintentionally says horrible things. And how fascism lurks everywhere if you’re not actively trying to banish it.

    (I gave “Ark in Space” a try when I made one of my several failed attempts to get into Classic Who. Unfortunately, the special effects made it difficult for me to enjoy this story. Yes, everyone believes their bubble wrap, but it still looks like bubble wrap.)


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