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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. David Anderson
    October 8, 2016 @ 9:16 am

    Thank you for organising this. It’s been fun.


  2. Jack Graham
    October 8, 2016 @ 9:21 am

    That’s a fairly respectable Top 50. Some entries have no business being there, but it’s not bad on the whole. It’s nice to think I might’ve helped Ghost Light a bit.


    • Wack'd
      October 8, 2016 @ 9:38 am

      I think the only genuinely surprising inclusions here are Inferno and Genesis. Everything else, even if I don’t personally like it, I can at least look at and say “yeah, I see how that got here”. (I remain baffled by the subculture’s obsession with Deadly Assassin.)


    • Brian B.
      October 8, 2016 @ 6:55 pm

      You helped “Gridlock” by a minimum of one vote (mine). I enjoyed it plenty on watching, but your “Abide with Me” essay, one of your best, really sold it to me.


  3. Wack'd
    October 8, 2016 @ 9:32 am

    I’m not really sure how you can call “Day of the Doctor” a piece of silly froth and then call “City of Death” a worthy winner. Sure, “City” has a superior wordsmith on its side, but neither is a particularly insightful or incisive piece of television. They’re both excellent fun.

    Hell, if anything, I’d give “Day” the edge–it functions well as a metacommentary on the series as well as a good character piece. “City” is really only superior in the jokes department.

    I’m sure you’ve got an excellent counterargument that I’ve failed to consider, not least of which because it’s 5:30 in the morning and I can’t recall a word of your “City” Eruditorum piece. Hell, I’d probably be lying if I said I preferred one to the other especially, but whatever.

    I can almost grantee this is leftover bitterness from the battering “Day” has gotten from folks who overinflated its sense of importance but in the opposite direction.


    • Andrew
      October 8, 2016 @ 11:38 am

      But City of Death somehow managed to provide a template for the New Series, nearly 30 years in advance. That’s some achievement.

      I can’t imagine Day of the Doctor being particularly influential in the 2030s.


      • Wack'd
        October 8, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

        I disagree–not that “Day” will be influential fifteen years from now, but that “City of Death” is the reason we have time-bending nonsense in the Wales series. (At least I assume that’s what you’re on about, as I can’t imagine anything else being particularly influential.) Contrary to the English series’ reputation, it’s neither the first nor the last time the series will use narrative-internal time travel, and even if it was I’d be genuinely shocked if RTD and Moffat didn’t decide to prod at that concept without it.


        • Andrew
          October 8, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

          I wasn’t thinking of the time-travel element, actually. (I don’t think the RTD era has a tendency to use time travel in plots.)

          I was thinking more in terms of how the character of the Doctor is presented, and how he functions in story. How the show regards itself, how it treats the viewer, and so on. I’m really no media critic (as you can tell), so can’t explain myself well. But City of Death is way ahead of its time in 1979. It took until 2006 for Dr Who to catch up with it what City of Death was doing.


          • Paul M. Cray
            October 8, 2016 @ 11:49 pm

            “City of Death” is an absolute delight. Some of that is simply watching Lalla Ward and Tom Baker in Paris in love speaking Adams’s dialogue, allthough there are lots of other good things in there. It’s even got a cameo by bloody John Cleese when he was still funny.

          • Andrew
            October 9, 2016 @ 5:25 am

            In fact, there’s a shooting script floating around the net which shows that Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were improvising some of the dialogue. The ‘shall we take the lift or fly’ bit, for example.

          • Paul M. Cray
            October 9, 2016 @ 6:25 pm

            Perhaps we need to arrange Doctor/companion pairing of the basis of whether they really are in love and then send them to Paris

        • Twicezero
          October 8, 2016 @ 9:34 pm

          City of death gets reported as a significant influance on the start of the new series…


    • Dan
      October 8, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

      City has a far more entertaining and interesting plot.


    • Lambda
      October 8, 2016 @ 12:53 pm

      I think the moment City of Death changed in my mind from “it’s nice, but there are things with actual depth which are much better” to “it’s pure brilliance” was when I noticed how many other things the line “Serves them right. If they have to x-ray it to find out whether it’s good or not…” could apply to.


    • ScarvesandCelery
      October 8, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

      I think city of Death has a lot of intelligent and valuable things to say about Art and artifice – the value we place on art and notions of authenticity that have nothing to do with how we actually experience art. Phil puts it far more eloquently in his essay than I do.

      As you say, Day of the Doctor’s also more than pure froth – to add to your points, it’s actually a very meticulously crafted script, juggling three different timelines and weaving them together in a way that the more seemingly complex but actually more linear “Heaven Sent” and “Blink” really don’t.

      I’m glad that both did well here (though I personally voted for “City” and not “Day” in my top 20 – the latter just missed out, whereas City was top 5, IIRC), as I like Doctor Who’s ability to make something deep out of apparently silly froth, which isn’t valued enough in mainstream fandom, but I like to think is respected a lot more on this site.


      • Wack'd
        October 8, 2016 @ 7:27 pm

        I’ll grant you that “City” has some good commentary on the nature of art, but it’s very much a footnote in that story, contextualized more as a snide remark than something the serial is actually trying to be about.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      October 9, 2016 @ 1:36 am

      It’s just better when Douglas Adams does it.


    • taiey
      October 10, 2016 @ 8:46 am

      Day of the Doctor just isn’t as interesting.


  4. Max Curtis
    October 8, 2016 @ 9:42 am

    The 50th shouldn’t have done THIS well, but I think there’s a strong case to be made that it’s no more “silly froth” than something like Listen is “grim froth”. If nothing else, explicitly making “the Doctor” a performative role is one of Moffat’s biggest additions to the character.

    I wish it’d done more with genocide, but unequivocally stating “this isn’t something the Doctor does, even if the Time Lord who plays him might consider it” elevates it above the silly froth of the first hour.


    • Dan
      October 8, 2016 @ 11:55 am

      What do you mean by “performative role”? Apologies if I’m being ignorant.


      • ScarvesandCelery
        October 8, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

        The idea that “The Doctor” isn’t just the adopted name of the time Lord the Series is about, but an ideal he strives to live up to. Or, as the Twelfth Doctor says to Davros:

        “There’s no such thing as the Doctor. I’m just a bloke in a box, telling stories. And I didn’t come here because I’m ashamed. A bit of shame never hurt anyone. I came because you’re sick and you asked. And because sometimes, on a good day, if I try very hard, I’m not some old Time Lord who ran away. I’m the Doctor.”


        • Dan
          October 8, 2016 @ 3:51 pm

          Thanks. It’s true. That makes explicit something that hadn’t been before.


  5. Tom Marshall
    October 8, 2016 @ 9:47 am

    I think Heaven Sent is an interesting case, because Phil has never seemed as wowed by it as most fans. But it seems tough to argue with the stance that it is more or less objectively the best directed, the best acted and probably the best put together story the show has ever had (I mean from a “piece of TV” point of view). Doctor Who shot by Ingmar Bergman. Which means whether or not one ranks it highly comes down purely to whether or not one likes what it’s doing/how much its whole “thing” is to one’s personal taste.

    As it’s more or less a Rob Shearman thing, it is very much to my personal taste.


    • Wack'd
      October 8, 2016 @ 9:58 am

      I think it suffers from being an experimental episode with nothing to say that’s sandwiched directly between two fairly bog-standard episodes that also happen to be what I think I can call without exaggeration the best examination of Who’s gender politics that’s ever been done.

      In any other season–hell, at any other point in Series 9–it would’ve been fantastic. In its existing placement it’s a decent diversion from more interesting material.


  6. Tom Marshall
    October 8, 2016 @ 10:21 am

    I agree about the gender politics of the surrounding episodes being an absolute pinnacle of what Who can do (which is why I love the whole thing as a three-part story)…

    …but nothing to say? Really? It’s Who’s most profound examination of grief and loss, on the endless cycle of depression and mania, and then finding the hope within that to carry on. It does the whole “is this an accident or design”, it does free will vs fate, it does gods vs no gods, it does Hamlet and Hieronymous Bosch and Kafka and Dante and Escher and Jacobean drama, and says all their trappings are as nothing compared to finding hope in the midst of the darkest darkest night we call life. Nothing to say??????


    • Przemek
      October 8, 2016 @ 12:05 pm



    • taiey
      October 10, 2016 @ 8:52 am

      Nah, not really.


      • Tom Marshall
        October 10, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

        Not really what? It’s not a very convincing riposte as ripostes go.


    • Jarl
      October 10, 2016 @ 9:35 am

      I see it as a commentary on us. In Heaven Sent, the Time Lords are the fans. Namely, they’re the part of us (meaning here “the demographic in the fandom who wants this” and also “the part inside every fan who wants this”) that wants to know what the Doctor’s secret origin and terrible destiny are. They’re the part of us that wants to know about the Valeyard and the Other, and about how they relate to the Doctor. Really, that’s all the Hybrid is, it’s the Sinister Alternate Doctor. The Hybrid is the Valeyard, the Other, Grandfather Paradox, the Curator, the Time Lord Victorious, the Dream Lord, whatever. And the Time Lords, like that pernicious part of fandom, they really want to know how the Doctor relates to this mysterious villain, so like the fandom has ever since the Trial of a Time Lord, they put him through the wringer over and over to try and pry it out of him.


  7. Chris C
    October 8, 2016 @ 10:26 am

    I think it’s a bit churlish to begrudge Heaven Sent its success. For all that it’s a story about a white man lamenting a dead woman (completely subverted next episode), it’s still basically a piece of formal mastery that’s trying to help people through grief and mourning by depicting it as a puzzle castle the Doctor can defeat. I don’t think it’s recentism bias either, it’s going to top polls at least as long as Blink.


    • Tom Marshall
      October 8, 2016 @ 11:01 am

      Hear hear!

      As I hint above, part of its brilliance is HOW its slots into the two around it, even if it does stand up magnificently on its own.


    • Dan
      October 8, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

      This is the first time that I have come across the depiction of human grief in art devalued in this way. So much great music, paintings, poetry and so on on that are are primarily about this (regardless of race). So I feel this comment unnecessarily does Heaven Sent down even as it moves to its defence.


      • Tom Marshall
        October 8, 2016 @ 4:36 pm

        I don’t follow. Chris is pre-empting the standard criticism that is likely to be aimed at HS, that it follows the “brooding white male mourns a fridged female character” template. He’s not himself criticising the episode from a racial standpoint.


        • Dan
          October 8, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

          Ok fair enough.


        • Chris C
          October 8, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

          Well, I don’t know if it’s that /likely/ to be raised, but it’s there. :p I think Heaven Sent is an episode that – despite being unarguably a masterpiece and generally agreed a good, valuable, important thing – may prove uninteresting by itself from the Eruditorum’s perspective.

          This is because amid a bunch of stories revelling in Doctor Who’s unique power to juxtapose and doing bold, creative work with gender and politics, Heaven Sent is the one where there are no other characters (especially not that troublesome Clara – in fact this has proven an ideal episode for the rabid Clara haters), the Doctor is alone in an artificial environment designed around him rather than in the world interacting with people (meaning we’re essentially in his mind the entire time and totally detached from the material world where awkward things like society or other people’s stories exist), and it hinges on deploying straightforward and indisputable technical cleverness (in all areas of craft including editing and music) in order to depict an emotional triumph of the spirit rather than of ideology or iconography. To phrase it in Eruditorum terms, it’s not doing a whole lot to advance the idea of material social progress, even though it’s a beautiful tale on a personal level. Basically, and I mean this in the nicest and second least trolly way possible, there’s very little that would deter even a raging fascist from enjoying it…and that might have played a role in its unanimous popularity. 😛


          • Tom Marshall
            October 9, 2016 @ 10:27 am

            That’s a good summary. Personally speaking, I’m more interested in triumph of the spirit than of ideology (and I think the best literature is, too) – but it’s Phil’s blog, not mine, so I’ll shush now!

          • Chris C
            October 9, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

            I think the best literature is a bit of both.

          • Dan
            October 9, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

            I agree – a nice summary. Perhaps we’re different in that I won’t think any less of a work if fascists can enjoy it. Yeats was a bit of a fascist etc. etc. I also don’t elevate the material social process level above the personal level. I don’t know how much the blog is really balanced between personal concerns and socio-economic ones, and so on, not having all of it , but for me the primary place given to alchemy, and indeed Hermes Trismegistus, tends to the former. But clearly Phil may have a different or more nuanced view.

            I would have replied this morning but my PC kicked in with an unprompted update that lasted until I shut it down.

  8. David Anderson
    October 8, 2016 @ 11:03 am

    I don’t know Heaven Sent would consistently make my top five Moffat stories. I voted for seven. When it was broadcast I’d recently read two memoirs, about grief among other things, H is for Hawk, and The Iceberg, and I think Heaven Sent stands up in the company.


  9. Przemek
    October 8, 2016 @ 12:03 pm

    I gave “Heaven Sent” my top vote simply because no other episode moved me as much as this one. The katharsis of that final montage of breaking the wall… magnificent.

    “Day of the Doctor” was my second place because it was just so much fun.


  10. Daibhid Ceannaideach
    October 8, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

    I’m still really not a fan of Kill the Moon, but I’m glad an episode Phil likes that much made it into the top 50. And if it happened because I decided to vote with a stupid, and in retrospect possibly trolling, joke, then at least that achieved something. (And if it had occurred to me to downvote spinoffery, Kill the Moon would have dropped off that list pretty damn quick.)


  11. Nathan Mahney
    October 8, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

    Super-stoked to see that The Happiness Patrol made the top 50; top 25, even! It’s properly brilliant, and if I’d known about the poll in time to vote I would definitely have ranked it high.


  12. Lambda
    October 8, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

    I think my favourite result here is that McCoy gets three stories on the board before any other doctor even has two.


    • Aylwin
      October 8, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

      Me too. Mind you, I am someone who looked at the surprisingly high placement of Battlefield and had a Tywin Lannister moment: “Man give it last place. I want his name, and I want his head”, so am maybe not the most balanced of observers.


      • thesmilingstallioninn
        October 8, 2016 @ 5:27 pm

        Where the heck is Battlefield? I’ve looked, and I just can’t see it.


        • Aylwin
          October 8, 2016 @ 7:15 pm

          115 (and pretty much exactly one third of the way down the list of televised stories). Would have made the top 100 without that last place. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as it got a favourable reception when it came up in the Tardis Eruditorum, and was probably always likely to do relatively well with the EP crowd, but it was still above a bunch of things I might have expected to beat it.


  13. Sean Dillon
    October 8, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

    Top stories for each Doctor:

    1-An Unearthly Child (45)
    2-The War Games (11)
    3-Carnival of Monsters (30)
    4-City of Death (1)
    5-The Caves of Androzani (4)
    6-Jubilee (36)
    7-The Curse of Fenric (5)
    8-The Chimes at Midnight (39)
    9-The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (3)
    10-Blink (9)
    11-The Day of the Doctor (6)
    12-Heaven Sent (2)


    • Dan
      October 8, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

      How appropriate for Colin Baker that his highest story is Big Finish. (Paul McGann’s situation is quite different of course.) This poll might be a way into the Big Finish world for me.


  14. inakamono
    October 8, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

    The top 50 televised episodes, by Doctor:

    Classic: 27
    New: 23

    TBaker: 9
    Tennant: 8
    McCoy: 7
    Smith, Capaldi: 6
    Troughton: 4
    Pertwee, Davison, Eccleston: 3
    Hartnell: 1
    CBaker, McGann: 0

    Percentage of stories featuring each Doctor to make the top 50:

    0%: CBaker, McGann
    3%: Hartnell
    13%: Pertwee
    15%: Davison, Smith

    19% is the par score here

    20%: Troughton
    22%: TBaker, Tennant
    25%: Capaldi
    30%: Eccleston
    58%: McCoy

    Some serious McCoy love going down.


  15. ScarvesandCelery
    October 8, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

    Gonna be that guy – Seven Moffat Stories made the top 20, not six – “The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances”, “Blink”, “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang”, “The Day of the Doctor “Listen”, “Heaven Sent”


  16. Dan
    October 8, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    Has anyone else put all these in an A4 document and added the numbers to their own votes? (It comes to 34 pages.) Anyway, if I had remembered Voyager I would have voted for that and City of the Damned wouldn’t have a place at all. The other comic strips I voted have done quite well. End of the Line is remembered!

    Fascinating/fun poll. I doubt there’s been any other like it, and thank you. Although more voters would have been nice. There’s a lesson there somewhere.


  17. The Not Quite Handsome Doctor
    October 8, 2016 @ 5:45 pm

    Amusing (to me, anyway) and worth noting: Day of the Doctor is also technically the highest-placed UNIT story, and Dark Water/Death in Heaven technically the highest-placed with the Brig, just edging out the highest-placed original UNIT/Nicholas Courtney story.


  18. Paul M. Cray
    October 8, 2016 @ 11:25 pm

    Chibnall ought to commission a version of “The Chimes of Midnight” as the 2018 Christmas special.


    • Tom Marshall
      October 9, 2016 @ 10:25 am

      I don’t think this will ever happen but I would be SO on board with it.


  19. John
    October 10, 2016 @ 6:11 am

    Interesting how much this is Phil’s list, especially for the classic series. A lot of typically well-regarded Hinchcliffe stuff that Phil doesn’t much care for (Weng-Chiang, Seeds of Doom, Pyramids of Mars) don’t make the cut; Remembrance ahead of Genesis, etc.


    • Sean Daugherty
      October 11, 2016 @ 2:46 am

      Well, I mean, at this point I think we all know what Phil’s preferences are, and I suspect the people who are diametrically opposed to those preferences left half a decade or so back. This list isn’t anything close to “definitive” (whatever the heck that means), after all: we’re a somewhat weird little niche in fandom.

      That said, there are obviously some disagreements, like “Inferno” (which I argued with Phil about way back when he talked about it the first time and proudly voted for this time), and “Heaven Sent” over “Hell Bent” (which, to be fair, I tend to lean more towards Phil’s view of preferring the latter). For what it’s worth, I think I also voted for Seeds of Doom, but I didn’t keep a record of my choices, and it may have slid right under the cut-off point.


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