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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.

27 Comments

  1. Yonatan
    October 7, 2011 @ 3:52 am

    The Genesis/Slipback cassettes were the first Doctor Who stories I remember. I got them while on vacation when I was no older than 12 and was transfixed by them. Me and my sisters (4 and 8 years younger) listened to them constantly and were scared out of our little minds by Genesis. ( it also didn't help that that year we were staying in a large wooden cabin up a mountain when we got it. I still feel that the Daleks are at their best on Audio, the Dalek Empire series is terrifying.

    Reply

  2. Matthew Celestis
    October 7, 2011 @ 6:17 am

    I listened to this story before seeing it as well. I was on holiday in Cyprus at the time.

    I loved it again when it was repeated on the BBC in 1993.

    These days I am a lot less happy with this story. I just hate the idea of the Doctor trying to change history. He shouldn't even be asked to do that.

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  3. Adam B
    October 7, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    I love when you rise to the occasion like this. This stands with your Mind Robber and Three Doctors entries as the very best you've done so far.

    I also am very intrigued by the bridge between classic and nuWho you're building. I'm not quite sure how to describe it yet, but I see what you're doing, and I think I like it.

    Reply

  4. Herms
    October 7, 2011 @ 7:16 am

    Just to nitpick, the idea that the "strong survive and the weak must die" isn't really Darwinism, but rather a caricature of Darwin's views popularized by later writers, mostly non-biologists trying to misapply his theories as a moral law for human society. Darwin himself saw evolution as shaped by reproductive success (ie which individuals leave the most surviving offspring), something that could be achieved in many ways besides direct physical competition. Later evolutionary biologists have found more and more ways that things like cooperation and mutual support can be effective reproductive strategies, so the idea of "only the strong survive" is less relevant than ever.

    I also always hate to see the term "Newton's sleep", because of how hilariously off-target Blake's conception of the guy as some single-visioned arch-rationalist are. The real Newton was extremely religious, and an alchemist to boot.

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  5. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 7, 2011 @ 7:24 am

    Darwinism is at least as related to Darwin's views as Marxism is to Marx's, so I'll plead consistency in this case.

    As for Blake and Newton, I don't think that Newton's religiousness or his alchemical leanings actually invalidate what Blake is critiquing there. It's not the rationality he objects to so much as the fixity and unity of it all – the phrase is, crucially, "single vision and Newton's sleep," with vision and the visionary being important broad themes in Blake. The phrase may be used lazily by people who just want to score cheap anti-science points, but there's a deeper and far more interesting sense of it.

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  6. Aaron
    October 7, 2011 @ 8:38 am

    Excellent post. I'm curious to see where this line of thought goes as we continue the Hincliffe era.

    With your talk about embracing the idea of time can be rewritten and postmodernism, I'm really excited for what you have to say about Alien Bodies, Unnatural History, and most of all, Book of the War. But, we've got quite a way until we get to those.

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  7. inkdestroyedmybrush
    October 7, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Philip, why not tackle something simple next – like demythologizing Sgt. Peppers in terms of what it meant for pop music?

    You hit the nail on the head by making the point that Davros is a better evil Doctor than the Master. The Master, by virue of being a villian, is always going to lose, and with each loss, become that much less effective. Davros is perhaps more brilliant and inventive than either of the time lords; he is Alan Moore's Gragunza in Marvelman: a caveman who finds a cassette tape and builds a recording studio by reverse engineering from that.

    Davros, instead of the Master, inherantly wins, since the Daleks are created. He is already greater than the Master, has had more success and, portrayed by Michael Wisher, has a couple of the greatest scenes in Who's history. Wisher and Baker talking ethics is far more fascinating than Nation's dialog would have us believe on the script's black and white page.

    So, this is a game changer in just about every way, especially since it does mark the change in Time Lord society and their relevance to history. both changing Doctor Who's internal continuity and forcing us to recognize it at the same time.

    Postmodern that.

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  8. WGPJosh
    October 7, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    I've been admittedly very harsh on the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era so far and I'm about to get even harsher, but even I adore "Genesis of the Daleks" and I have to tip my cap to you once again.

    Your analysis of the emergence of postmodernism in Doctor Who was brilliant and a piece-by-piece rundown of why the Tom Baker era is so special in my opinion. Though I would argue postmodernism doesn't become the main thrust of the show for a few more years, "Genesis" can absolutely be seen as the point where the concept fully blossoms and becomes a major part of what it is and what it can do. The name then, ironically becomes very apropo it could be argued.

    Once again I'm going to second Aaron and say I'm very much looking forward to seeing you continue on this path as we move through this era and the next.

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  9. cmattg
    October 7, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    OK, I have to ask – what were you going to title this one before the season finale last Saturday?

    (I suppose saving this one for "The Face of Evil" would be a little on-the-nose.)

    Reply

  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 8, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    cmattg – Tough to say. I usually come up with titles the day I write the post. I mean, Dalek titles are easy – I find a suitably epic speech about the Daleks and pick a suitably epic line. But I just went looking for a second choice, and I'd probably have ended with "To Fight a Bigger War."

    Reply

  11. This I Did Not Do
    October 9, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    I've just caught up reading this blog from the very beginning. Your writing is really fantastic stuff; you've said things I felt far better than I could have done and shown me many aspects I would never have understood by myself. Thank you for writing these, I feel I have grown reading it.

    Reply

  12. William Whyte
    October 9, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    Re Davros being the evil Doctor, one thing to notice is that he is explicitly the scientific advisor to a military organization. So it's not just that the series is using the Hartnell-era signifiers of being a scientist: it's also taking on directly the heart of the Pertwee era, the idea that a scientist can spend their time mainly hanging out with the military and not have that go wrong. It's a much more effective stake in the heart of UNIT, and reminder of where Doctor Who's true heart is, than any of the more explicit walking aways (such as Pyramids of Mars) or the cold shoulders like Ark in Space.

    Another very effective element of Genesis is the fact that it's all about family, in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Psycho kind of way. Davros in his large skirt with his precise way of moving is a mad Victorian Gothic mother protecting the Daleks, her children. This works because it makes the story all about the emotional intensity the bad guy feels (even though, "ironically", the key confrontations are as you point out couched as if it's all about rational discussion). This is an area where the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era scores heavily over Pertwee: the Master is a theatrical shell, the Silurians and Sea Devils and Axos and Operation Golden Agers are moved by somewhat impersonal issues of power and possession and how things should work, but the Wirrn and Davros and Vorus and Sutekh and the Master and Taran Capel are full of passion. Davros is the poster child for this: he kills his whole race because he wants to protect his children.

    On smaller issues: when you say this is where the series starts to go truly postmodern because of the apparent change in what the Time Lords do, I wonder how much weight we can put on that. This is, after all, a show written over a long period of time by a lot of people who weren't always paying attention to what had gone before. You can think of the Time Lords' role in this story as arising simply because they wanted to do Genesis of the Daleks and couldn't think, in the time available, of a better way to get the Doctor there and keep him involved till the story was resolved. In terms of Time Lord behavior, it's really only a small step to here from warning the Doctor in Terror of the Autons or crossing the timelines in The Three Doctors. If you want to make sense of it, you can argue that they ended up agreeing with the Doctor's (very bad) argument in The War Games that it's okay to intervene so long as you're the good guys, and that the Pertwee era and on to Genesis show them gradually tampering more and more.

    (and then, of course, lapsing into decay and unconfidence in The Deadly Assassin. So, picking up on your idea that Genesis is the first battle of the Time War, maybe between then and The Deadly Assassin was the first campaign, and they lost it. That would explain why they're so different from Deadly Assassin on. Alternatively, that would also be explained by it being a show written over a long period of time by a lot of people who weren't always paying attention to what had gone before.)

    Final very minor point: the true giveaway that this is a Terry Nation story is the rubbish cliffhangers. Does any other story have such a shocking divergence between quality of story and quality of cliffhangers? I really can't think of any.

    Reply

    • Matt Moore
      March 2, 2019 @ 10:17 am

      Either the cliffhangers are some avant-garde jazz reinterpretation of traditional storytelling – where the beats are put out of time for psychedelic syncopation.

      Or they are the result of incompetence.

      Reply

  13. William Whyte
    October 9, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    Oh, one thing I forgot to mention re both family and deconstructing UNIT: Genesis can also be looked on as a bitter riposte to the whole idea of the "UNIT family". You think that's a family? it says. This fucked up shit, THIS is a family. What you have there is just a gang at best, a clutter of actors in a studio at worst.

    Reply

  14. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    October 10, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    "he kills his whole race because he wants to protect his children."

    Which irresistibly reminds me ….

    DOCTOR: Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole universe.
    RORY: She is to me!

    RIVER: I'll suffer if I have to kill you.
    DOCTOR:: More than everything living thing in the universe?
    RIVER: Yes.

    Or as Moffat wrote in a different show: "Love is a psychopath."

    Reply

  15. Henry R. Kujawa
    March 31, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

    William Whyte:
    "Re Davros being the evil Doctor, one thing to notice is that he is explicitly the scientific advisor to a military organization. So it's not just that the series is using the Hartnell-era signifiers of being a scientist: it's also taking on directly the heart of the Pertwee era, the idea that a scientist can spend their time mainly hanging out with the military and not have that go wrong."

    BRILLIANT observation!

    As for the story… This was only my 4th Dalek story ever. (After "INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D.", "DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS", and "DAY OF THE DALEKS", in that order.) Definitely mind-blowing. What it MOST reminds me of is DARK SHADOWS' 1795 sequence, or, "The Origin Of Barnabas". It's a TRAGEDY seen by someone thrust back in time, where NOTHING anyone does can avoid in inevitable BAD ENDING for all concerned. The big difference is, DARK SHADOWS took 6 months to tell theirs, DOCTOR WHO only 6 weeks.

    I can't really criticise this story. Except, on a level of personal taste, it's EXTREMEMLY painful to sit through. It's a NIGHTMARISH HORROR. It's one of those things like Bill Cosby described, where you can watch over and over, and each time, you keep HOPING the characters will NOT keep making the same mistakes. But of course… they do.

    I've seen this story, essentially, TOO MANY TIMES. 2 years ago, I decided to watch my entire WHO collection again, from start to finish. Even the "bad" ones. Even the ones I CAN'T STAND to watch anymore. Even… THIS one. And the WHOLE time I was watching, 2 years ago, I kept thinking… I'll probably never watch this one again.

    I just watched "ROBOT", "THE ARK IN SPACE", and "THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT". Tomorrow night: "REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN". I know it's irrational of me… but I really LOVE that one!

    Reply

  16. Nickdoctorwho
    November 22, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

    History did change in this story, and the Doctor did delay the Daleks: after "Genesis," Davros still lives. Take a look at the pre-Genesis stories–they're always about "Daleks vs.the Time Team + Everyone Else."

    After Genesis, though, the focus shifts to "True Daleks vs. Not-True Daleks vs. the Time Team + Everyone Else." Their forces are spread a little more thinly than they were before.

    So, before the Doctor's arrival, Davros' hubris and arrogance caused his death at the hands of his own creation. But the Doctor warned the madman about his own children, and so he planned ahead. So, instead of dying for real, Davros plays dead, lays low for a while (suspended animation?), and waits for the right moment to makes his next move. And when he does…sibling rivalry.

    Ooh, one more thing: Do Davros' withered/aged appearance and dependence on machinery make him Qlippothic?

    Reply

  17. William Whyte
    April 15, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    Yes I can! The Robots of Death.

    Reply

  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 15, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    I love that upon realizing this fact you went and replied to your eighteen-month old comment.

    Reply

  19. Daibhid C
    July 26, 2013 @ 7:36 am

    "Imagine the Nazis trying to invade Russia and failing in 1942. Now imagine the Nazis – i.e. the same tanks and planes – trying to do it in 942. (Or, within Doctor Who, imagine Remembrance of the Daleks set in 963. Edgar the Peaceful is totally wicked.) Clearly a thousand year delay is enough to cause massive changes to the entire future."

    Well, yeah, I don't think anyone's ever denied that if the Daleks invade Earth in 3157 instead of 2157, that'd be very different. The question, if you care about canon and continuity, is whether that's what actually happens.

    (If you don't care about canon and continuity, which is a perfectly reasonable position, it doesn't matter if that's what happened or not.)

    And I don't think the evidence supports it, any more than it supports Evil being the final end. In Remembrance, the Doctor says the Daleks conquer Earth in the 22nd century. The invasion is featured in Big Finish audios and New Adventures novels. There's no indication that anyone involved in Doctor Who ever thought Dalek history was offset by a millennium following Genesis.

    Yes, the Doctor says he's delayed them for 1,000 years. By which he means just that; it'll take them 1,000 years to get out of the bunker. He doesn't say he's thereby changed their history, any more than he "changes history" by being directly responsible for the burning of Rome. Nobody wonders what Ian and Barbara's original Rome-not-burnt history was like, because that's clearly not how it works.

    Or look at Pyramids; in that one the Doctor explicitly does change history … and he changes it to be the exact same history Sarah-Jane left. It's if he doesn't change it that everything's going to be different.

    With all this in mind, it makes more sense to me to think that without the Doctor's interference, if he'd packed up halfway through the story to prove a point like he did in Pyramids, the Daleks would have invaded in 1157.

    Reply

  20. David Gerard
    November 29, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    Saw this one as a child first time around. I thought even then the Doctor's "have I the right?" speech was a bit hamfisted. But then, I'd been reading Marvel comics where Stan Lee had Spiderman making that level of speech a lot and compared it to that. (Lee's great innovation being to take superheroes from one-dimensional to two-dimensional.)

    Anyway, child me thought this story was great and enjoyed it a lot. So there.

    Reply

  21. arse bandit
    June 24, 2014 @ 8:02 am

    If the Master is Moriarty, Davros is the show's Richard the third – a twisted deformed personification of evil but a consummate actor able to manipulate those around him. To his Kaled superiors, he is the devoted servant of the State
    only too willing to do their bidding: to his juniors in the Elite, he is the all-powerful, feared but occasionally benevolent and encouragnig boss: to the Thals, he is the war-weary defector who supplied an easy victory – it even extends to the Doctor to whom he presents himself as a scientist/philosopher.

    Reply

  22. Henry R. Kujawa
    November 25, 2014 @ 4:49 am

    "(Lee's great innovation being to take superheroes from one-dimensional to two-dimensional.)"

    Untrue. Lee's crime was taking Jack Kirby's three-dimensional characters & concepts and dumbing them down to two dimensions. (Jack Kirby WROTE every story he ever drew. Lee merely wrote dialogue, which often was completely at odds with the REAL writer's intent.)

    Reply

  23. Braulio Lopes
    February 2, 2015 @ 10:16 am

    Hey Phil,

    Nice entry as always.

    I'm a brazilian fan of yours and sorta-kinda new to Doctor Who fandom (began watching in 2012). So I just finished watching Genesis and, as has been my custom since I began watching the Classic Who episodes, came here straight away to read the Tardis Eroditorum entry (and now with the reviews have been coming here after each New Who episode also…)

    Just have to make a minor nitpick about the second paragraph. The city of Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Rio de Janeiro state, not of Brasil, in 1975. Rio de Janeiro was Brazilian capital up until 1960 when Brasilia was founded (current capital). Between 1960 and 1975 the area around the city of Rio de Janeiro (former Federal District) became the new Guanabara state (while the existing Rio de Janeiro state continued to have Niterói as it's capital). In 1975 the states of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara merged (that part is right) and Rio de Janeiro – the city- became the capital of Rio de Janeiro – the new state.

    I don't know if this has been corrected already in the printed volumes of Tardis Eroditorum (since I only have the first two). But I had to make this comment, cause I figured not many people would care…

    Anyway keep up the good work. It has been both fun and enlightening.

    Braulio

    Reply

  24. Craig
    August 4, 2015 @ 3:55 am

    This story also provides one of my favourite action moments featuring Sarah Jane – the climbing of the tower. Lis Sladen portrayed a terrified but determined Sarah Jane brilliantly… climbing forever upwards, never knowing if each breath would be her last due to the bullets whizzing through the air. It never fails to get me on the edge of my seat.

    Reply

  25. Christopher Brown
    July 15, 2017 @ 2:37 am

    There’s a very relevant piece to be written on how this story portrays the danger of giving hateful extremist ideology a voice in democracy, specifically the collapse of it that follows the Kaled scientists giving Davros allowances and power in their debate.

    On an entirely unrelated note, I recently found out that Richard Spencer lives nearby and used to attend my gym (I was there during the incident that got him kicked out). Scary.

    Reply

  26. Matt Moore
    March 2, 2019 @ 10:28 am

    Watched this with my son tonite. First time I have ever seen it in one piece. I saw the abridged version as part of Dr Who and the Monsters in 1982, read the novelisation & had the audio version. It’s surprisingly well-paced for at least the first 4 episodes.

    Watching it in 2019, there are some modern resonances. The first is Davros as Silicon Valley mogul. His technological creations are, in his eyes, worth destroying his own species for. Just add some California sun and a vegan sushi restaurant, and his bunker could be the HQ of DLK Inc.

    The other is the version of forever war that we see in the Middle East. Yet another are the references to fascism. Which seem unhappily timely.

    Reply

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