Less the heroes of our stories than the villains of some other bastard’s

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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. Rob
    February 16, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

    I completely agree with you regarding the Doctor as a mythic figure. Bang on really.

    I've always hoped that the Doctor will return for Susan (say after David dies). I really think that they could have a Doctor/Romanna type relationship.


    • ladysugarquill
      June 2, 2017 @ 11:51 pm

      There is an Eight audio where they reunite. It is not a happy story (because nothing is ever happy for Eight), but their relationship is wonderfully written.


  2. Anton
    April 18, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    Is it just me or does anyone else think that David Campbell here bears a striking resemblance to a certain scottish actor also called David? Precognitive Gallifreyan timey wimey freudianism anyone?


  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 18, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

    The About Time books in fact have a side-comment about how, if this were made today, they'd surely cast him as David Campbell.


  4. Steve H
    May 4, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

    Can I start off by saying that I'm enjoying this blog enormously?

    To argue that there is no dramatic tension in DW though necessitates separating the child from the adult.

    Whereas it's quite true that an adult will usually watch DW rather knowingly, more interested in what happens next than in worrying for the Doctor's survival, I think that a child does exactly the opposite. A child watching DW is very much worried for the safety of the Doctor and of the less annoying of his companions. The plot and what happens next are merely hurdles the Doctor has to pass to get to safety. Exciting and scary hurdles maybe but mere hurdles nonetheless. To a child the importance of the hurdles lies in the ability of the Doctor to surmount them safely, not in their intrinsic interest.

    I can remember as a child along with most of my generation not caring a toss if the Daleks destroyed London or conquered the universe so long as the Doctor and his companions weren't hurt.


  5. Craig
    February 7, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    I'm so glad I just discovered this blog. One small point though…. aerodynamics don't really matter when flying through space as there is no atmosphere, so flying the Earth as a spaceship, while a bizarre concept, is imaginable.


  6. Mike
    March 11, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    "You don't want to see the Doctor just blow up the Daleks from afar. You want to see him mock them first, then go defeat them."

    Why do I have a feeling you're going to have a problem with 'Rememberance of the Daleks?

    Just been catching up on this, really interesting perspective of these stories, love that you're tracking the development of the show – makes really fascinating reading!


  7. Henry R. Kujawa
    April 1, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    The "mythic figure" business; you've just explained to me why, when I did this in the very FIRST story I wrote about one of my own characters, way back in high school, it made that series so damn much FUN to write.

    As for piloting a planet with a giant engine… it's been pointed out that this was NEVER really dealt with the way it should have been… in either the 1933 FLASH GORDON newspaper comic strip or the 1936 movie serial. But the 1979 Filmation feature film DID finally SHOW the engines, which might have stepped out of the film FORBIDDEN PLANET. And isn't it crazy that the Gravis in "FRONTIOS" had the same idea?

    The last time I watched this story, I made sure I watched ONE episode per day (even though I only have the edited-together "movie" version). As I consider this the single MOST devastating alien invasion story ever done on WHO, I wanted to experience the full, horrifying impact of it. Also, some of it tends to drag too much to wanna sit thru it all in one go.

    That said… the 2nd Peter Cushing movie was my intro to WHO, and remains my #1 FAVORITE Dalek story ever. The first time I turned it on, a bit late, not knowing what it was, the very first thing I saw was Cushing & Cribbins walking on the waterfront when suddenly this… THING came out of the water. What a place to come in! I know I'm an odd man out, but I prefer watching the 2 Daleks films to their TV counterparts. Better pacing, infinitely better visuals, and Susan is just so adorable! I wish they'd done more of those films. (Maybe we could have eventually had Christopher Lee as The Master… and Nigel Green as the Brigadier!)


  8. T. Hartwell
    February 3, 2013 @ 12:50 am

    Except that the Doctor does mock Davros at great length before destroying Scaro- "unlimited rice pudding" and all that.

    Plus he ends up defeating the black Dalek by basically mocking him to death.


  9. John Binns
    September 6, 2013 @ 3:40 am

    The Doctor's line as delivered is actually 'What we're seeing here is about the middle history of the Daleks', which is stranger and more open to interpretation than the more often quoted 'middle period'.


  10. David Gerard
    November 24, 2013 @ 3:43 am

    You had to remind me The Boat That Rocked existed, didn't you. http://rocknerd.co.uk/2009/04/10/the-boat-that-rocked/


  11. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    FWIW, we now have inside information from the original showrunners as to their thinking — I forget where I saw it.

    Basically, they decided that the Doctor was forcibly infantilizing Susan and that as a result she had been made a character who would never voluntarily leave. They decided he needed to kick her out in order to prevent the relationship from getting any creepier. They also decided that because he was the abuser, he was not going to be able to do it in an appropriate manner.

    This puts a particularly nasty spin on the whole of season one, a nastier spin than most modern critics have ever put on it, and yet you can see why Lambert and Whitaker took this reading. It actually fits, unfortunately. There may be something about 1960s culture versus modern culture that caused that reading to come to the top of their minds, and not to the top of ours.


    • Dan
      March 30, 2018 @ 1:00 am

      I know I’m replying to an old post, but it’s a real shame you don’t know where you saw this – it’s quite important to have a source for something like this. I have no idea if it’s true so have to take a simpler interpretation.


  12. Spacewarp
    August 8, 2014 @ 2:24 am

    The departure of Susan had no practical difficulties in 1964, for the reasons Phil states. She was expected to live a normal life, grow old and die, as any ordinary human(oid) would. It wasn't until the 2nd Doctor's line about "living forever, bar accidents" that the first rumblings began of the awkwardness of Susan's fate.

    By the time we get to The Deadly Assassin Susan's departure is now extremely problematic, and from about this time onwards we start to get fan conjecture about whether all Gallifreyans are Time Lords, or if the ability to Regenerate is something all Gallifreyans have, or whether you have to attend "The Academy" to gain the ability.

    This gave fandom a bit of a way out for the Susan issue – yes she was the Doctor's grand-daughter but either she came from a time before Regeneration, or she wasn't granted the ability.

    This is of course an old argument, and one that will never be resolved, simply because there is no possible resolution. "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" was written from the viewpoint that the Doctor and Susan had ordinary length life-spans, and the idea that they came from a long-lived race of super-beings (rather than just from "the future") wasn't even a gleam in the script-writers' eyes.

    However let's take a look at the fairly recent "Day of the Doctor". The Gallifrey battle scenes show a lot of screaming, running families. Mums, Dads, and kids trying to escape the Daleks whilst pleading for their lives. The scenes are deliberately constructed to show the terrified desperate population of an ordinary city being overrun by a ruthless, merciless, alien force.

    But these aren't an ordinary population. They're Gallifreyans. Doesn't that mean they're Time Lords? Every time we've seen Time Lords they've kind of lived up to their name, by either being pompous, or aloof, but generally "lordly". We saw them in "The End of Time" and we see them here in Gallifrey High Command. Striding along in robes and armour, a bit desperate, but generally keeping in together in the way that Time Lords do. The screaming populace outside don't come over like that though, and neither to be honest do the soldiers. They behave like people who have only lived as long as the age they look, who are desperate to avoid death, and who mostly seem to have had children in the last 10 years or so. They don't come over like people who know that if they get wounded or killed, they're going to regenerate and get a new body straight after.

    Even hearkening back to "The Deadly Assassin" there was an unspoken sense that some Time Lords were "lordly" whereas others (Runcible, or the Citadel Guards) were just ordinary blokes, with ordinary attitudes and only one life.

    Was this deliberate? Almost certainly not. It was most likely dictated by the needs of the script. If you want to show frightened people running away from Daleks, you script them like ordinary people. You give them kids for that family feeling, you make them plead for their lives, you make them terrified. You don't make them sound or behave like the Doctor, the Master, or the Rani. Because if you did, the scene wouldn't work. Similarly Gallifrey High Command do need to be portrayed as Time Lords, because they have to be seen sweeping through dark corridors in majestic robes for their scenes to work.

    2.47 billion children on Gallifrey at the Moment of it's destruction? Presuming that Gallifreyan children age at the same rate as human ones (and the ones we saw certainly seemed to be acting their apparent ages), this would seem to be the typical number of children in the Gallifrey population at any one time. If these are all going to grow up to be near-immortal (barring accidents), then at the rate of 2.4 billion babies being born every 18 years or so, Gallifrey must have one hell of a population problem.


    • ladysugarquill
      June 3, 2017 @ 12:00 am

      I think it is stated that Gallifreyans and Time Lords are different things – one is a species, the other a caste. And Regeneration and such are given by the Time Lords at the Academy, AND they can make non-Gallifreyans Time Lords – there were plans for Ace to be made a Time Lady, and Susan and David’s son on BF’s Eight audios (which are canon thanks to Night of the Doctor) was supposed to go.

      However, it’s still ambiguous whether Time Lords are made at the start of the Academy or at the end, which is relevant for the character of Susan, since she did some Academy, but not all. So, her actual life span remains up in the air.


  13. 548b456c-3afd-11e4-a474-dbe08f324ad4
    September 12, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

    The Doctor hasn't visited Susan yet, but it's not like Susan knows that. Capaldi (or Who-ever) could drop in for tea in the year 2200 or even drop off a new pair of shoes ten minutes after Hatnell left. So I think the real Problem of Susan is that the showrunners haven't done this yet. Carole Ann Ford was all over the 50th anniversary specials, so presumably she'd be willing to reprise the role. But if not, the Doctor can pop in after her first post-Susan regeneration and see if Susan 2 would like to return to the TARDIS for a while. They can even address all the problematic aspects of the original abandonment.


  14. kristinking.org
    May 2, 2015 @ 4:44 am

    Just found your blog and — squee! Love it. I went to this episode first because "The Problem of Susan" is also the topic of a Neil Gaiman story, with a different Susan (Narnia) but a strangely related theme — abandonment and sexuality. My preference with Susan is for the Peter Capaldi Doctor to return to her, and for her to REFUSE to travel in the TARDIS with him.


  15. Aylwin
    July 26, 2015 @ 2:14 am

    Shouldn't the title line for this post be "Why they would want to push a planet around I've no idea"?


  16. ladysugarquill
    June 3, 2017 @ 12:04 am

    Oi. I love Pirate Radio, there’s not one thing bad about it.

    Also, the Doctor’s speech to Susan is an absolute tear jerker. Bill Hartnell was wonderful in it.

    Then again, Bill Hartnell was wonderful in general.


  17. Dan
    March 30, 2018 @ 1:04 am

    One possibility is that Susan can be a matriarchal figure among the humans for many generations, as well as providing her many-greats grandchildren with the possibility of meeting their x-greats grandmother.


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