We stared into the untempered schism and all we saw was this dodgy CSO effect

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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. Alex Antonijevic
    June 4, 2013 @ 2:46 am

    Despite not being a review blog, none of those scores surprised me based on the posts you wrote. Your opinion still comes through pretty strongly.


  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 3:16 am

    Well, that's probably good – I mean, I certainly don't try to hide my opinions, at least not in most cases. But they're also not the point, and I'm certainly not prone to numerical ratings under normal circumstances, so I figured if I was banging them up on Gallifrey Base I may as well port them over here.


  3. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 3:25 am

    'The Keys of Marinus' is certainly one of those stories that are much better in my childhood memories than in reality, however I feel there is some potential for a redemptive reading. The most interesting element are surely the Voord. That eery name that suggests both void and word, the way they are presented as both monsters and Spy-Fi secret agents with their acid-sea faring one-man minisubs worthy of 'Stingray' or 'The Man From Uncle'. Surely they are also the first contenders for the 'man in a rubber suit is actually a man in a rubber suit' trope? Indeed more disturbingly the first example we see is in fact only an empty rubber suit; presenting the intriguing possibility of an 'empty' monster until we realise that, shockingly, the man inside has been disintegrated by the acid because his suit is torn. I also enjoy Grant Morrison's later latercomic strip attempted retcon of the Voord as progenitors of the Cybermen. Then there is poor old Arbitan on his island of tech in a sea of acid who has endangered his own daughter and who inveigling our own shipwrecked crew into his own ownAlchemical schemes is a worthy echo of Prospero. The subsequent key-quest begins intriguingly with the perception filter gimmick but does rather peter out, however, it is surely the inspiration for the 'Key to Time' season?


  4. Ross
    June 4, 2013 @ 3:51 am

    Before this blog taught me how to enjoy 60s Who again, Keys of Marinus was the only Hartnell-era serial I found watchable. For its other sins, it has the massive advantage of the fact that stuff actually happens in it, on a fairly regular basis, for almost all of its running length (It falls apart a bit at the late-middle, of course, as they all do).

    I also tend to point this out as the one and only respect in which the Cushing films outshine their source material: they tell two hours worth of story in two hours, rather than padding it out to three


  5. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:11 am

    The Cushing films continue to improve with age. I've gone from childhood grudging acceptance of their technicolor sugar-rush take on my favourite show's monochrome moodiness to cherishing them as an adult like an indisposable keepsake and though Peter Cushing wasn't my Doctor he presented a worthy alternative and peculiar pre-echo of regenerations to come. They've certainly been an influence on Moffat's tenure
    if only for the blueness of the Tardis with its backlit white painted window frames and the 'Power Ranger Daleks'.


  6. Reinder Dijkhuis
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:43 am

    Now if only he'd give those Daleks some lava lamps, we'd be golden.


  7. Jesse
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    I actually thought you liked that bleak streak better than you apparently did.


  8. Jesse
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:34 am

    By the way: Am I supposed to be hearing the title of this post as a Public Image Limited song, or is that just me?


  9. Arkadin
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:49 am

    I have an irrational fondness for Keys of Marinus, but I haven't actually seen it. It's probably better that way.


  10. jane
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:52 am

    must not make list

    How fascinating — I didn't realize how much Phil despised Keys of Marinus. But this is surely one of those stories I've internally retconned thanks to the Target novelization, which is a pretty spiffy read. And I'd never seen The Chase before the redemptive reading here, so I found it a lot more interesting than a 2: it really does work at a meta level. I much prefer seeing it as a self-conscious work, even if that means giving Terry Nation more credit than he probably deserves.

    Or maybe he does deserve it — after all, he unloads the "man in a rubber suit" joke a year before Whitaker, although not nearly as well told.


  11. jane
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:54 am

    I think he liked how his imagined 60's audience would have reacted better than he liked the material itself.


  12. T. Hartwell
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:58 am

    Basically all the Terry Nation stories are what surprised me based on the blog- especially Keys of Marinus and Dalek's Master Plan, both of which I thought you liked a good deal more than it turns out.

    I am curious, though, as to what your scores for the films would be in relation to the serials they're based on.


  13. T. Hartwell
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:01 am

    I've only ever seen Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150, but to this day I'm still amazed the steam guns weren't ever actually utilized on the show.


  14. Pen Name Pending
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    Well, I'm not of a "certain age" and I loved and laughed at The Romans, and it's probably my favorite Hartnell story in terms of rewatchability (there's a reason my DVD want list starts with The Rescue/The Romans set, if only because The Mind Robber is on Netflix). Yes, the rape stuff was uncomfortable, but I thought the rest was very clever. That said, I also love The Chase for being absolutely ridiculous. But all hail Barbara/Ian/Vicki!

    I generally don't like rating TV that is 50 years old, or assigning numbers to stand for something for that matter, but I have a feeling you gave The Web Planet a 10/10 just because no one else would. I love it visually like you do, but I could never get engaged with the actual plot.


  15. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    I find assigning numbered ratings to a long list of things an absolutely farcical task, and will freely cop to the Web Planet's 10/10 being performative on my part. As is insisting that The Celestial Toymaker requires an off-the-charts low score instead of just giving it a 1 and moving on. Or slagging The Daleks with an eye-catching 3/10 when I could readily have justified all the way up to a 6 without compromising any critical integrity. (3 being about the bottom of the range that isn't self-evidently unreasonable.) They're a fun medium to play with, however, and play I did, while remaining basically sincere.


  16. Jesse
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    I actually would have given a 10 to The Gunfighters, and not just for performative purposes.


  17. Bennett
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:42 am

    As Doctor Who fans revel in pointless statistical information, it may be of interest that I calculated the Spearman's rank correlation coefficient of Phil's Hartnell story rankings* compared to their rankings according to the Mighty 200 poll as -0.02, indicating the two are almost perfectly unrelated. Which is the way it should be really. As has been covered on the blog, the Mighty 200 is largely a fan fallacy, and for the Hartnell stories doubly so.

    And yes, I do want the time I spent calculating it back.

    *For equal scores, I took the liberty of using review tone as a tie-breaker.


  18. James V
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:33 am

    I'd more or less agree with a lot of these ratings. Some I'd disagree with (I adore both "The Time Meddler" and "the Romans), but then, I don't read this blog to change my opinion of a story, (though that has happened. Notably with "The Rescue" and "The Celestial Toymaker") but simply to gain a new perspective on it.

    I'd definitely agree that most of the Nation stories are a bit of a slog, (I do love Invasion of Earth though) and staunchly defend the Peter Cushing movies in that regard. When I imagine the adventures that the Doctor has actually had, I tend to just, in those cases, picture the movies, but with the proper 60s TARDIS crew. And I certainly can't blame Moffat for co-opting those Daleks. The Daleks have rarely been cooler than they were in those movies.


  19. encyclops
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:47 am

    I've finally seen (most of?) the first Cushing movie thanks to Rifftrax, and I must say all of the heckling is richly deserved. Maybe I'll find something about them charming once the shock has worn off, but "Ian" alone is so insufferable as to scuttle the whole thing, and Cushing himself isn't much better. The best part of it for me was the riffing when "Susan" is motioning to "Ian" what to do with the Dalek camera.


  20. dprisoner
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    "The Web Planet: Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles critiqued it as looking like television from the 1920s, missing the fact that there’s no such thing as television from the 1920s"

    But there was Television in the '20s. (http://www.bairdtelevision.com/firstdemo.html), and at 30 lines resolution and static shots, it wasn't terribly exciting…


  21. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    Like I said it's all about the Voord. Now I'm going to have to re-read Phill's post on Keys of Marinus just to see what specifically gets his goat about it


  22. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 8:38 am

    I'm hearing it too.


  23. Spacewarp
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Well I like the films so much I made a Tardis model!



  24. JJ Gauthier
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:21 am

    Wow, I really thought you liked Masterplan more than that. Maybe my own love of the serial influenced that, though – it is my favorite Hartnell, despite lacking may favorite crew (Ian, Barbara, and Vicki, of course).

    Thanks for writing all this! While Eruditorum is obviously about other things, it's great to see what you really think, so to speak. Most of it simply confirms what you suggest in Eruditorum, but it clears up some of the ambiguities in whether or not you actually, you know, liked certain stories. It really was fun to read, and I'm looking forward to future ones.

    It'll be especially interesting to see your thoughts on the Davison era, since Eriditorum was largely concerned with its pre-death autopsy of the show and such. And what you think of Colin Baker's stories when you're not desperately out to redeem them. (I imagine you still enjoy a few.)


  25. Matthew Blanchette
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:00 am

    Thought for sure "Master Plan" would easily be 8/10, but I guess I should've known better, since the tossed-off "The Ark" somehow magically soured Phil on the whole era when he'd previously been praising it to the skies.

    The racism of "Toymaker", on the other hand, should probably be laid squarely at the feet of Gerry Davis, for whom there are numerous other examples of such over the following season or so of Hartnell and Troughton.

    Blame him, not Wiles or Tosh; Tosh is the one who wrote that gem of a monologue for Episode 4 for "The Massacre", after all…


  26. David Anderson
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    But what is the Spearman's rank correlation efficient of Phil's rankings compared to Sue's from Wife in Space?


  27. Jesse
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Since Phil argued that Master Plan is actually multiple stories nested within one another, he really ought to give us his rankings for those…


  28. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    A bit of a misreading of my argument regarding The Ark. It's not that it soured me on the era so much as that I opted to ride the era's highs before letting it crash into inadequacy at the end. Because, well, that's usually how I handle any sort of era shift – by making an argument for the creative necessity of the change. The Wiles era necessitated doing that in a somewhat abrupt manner, but you'll find the seeds of it in things like my horror at the idea of killing Vicki off.


  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    Jesse – 6 for Mission to the Unknown through The Traitors, 4 for Counter Plot through The Destruction of Time, 2 for the rehash of The Chase that runs from Feast of Steven to Escape Switch.


  30. Matthew Blanchette
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:40 am

    Phil — They were never going to kill Vicki off. They wrote her off. They wanted to kill off someone, but it was never going to be Vicki they killed off. They spared Vicki because they DIDN'T want her to die.

    You viewed it all wrong, man. 🙁


  31. JJ Gauthier
    June 4, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    I averages the numbers, and it looks like this:

    SEASON ONE: 4.9/10
    SEASON TWO: 6.7/10
    SEASON THREE: 5.1/10
    SEASON FOUR: 6.5/10

    OVERALL: 5.6/10

    Which means, for another (mild) surprise, on average you liked S3 more than S1. S2 got really solid numbers, but I imagine when you review the others, Hartnell will be on the low end with Pertwee, and probably both below C. Baker.

    I do wonder if you would have retroactively liked Masterplan more if Massacre and The Ark had delivered a vision of Who that wasn't so mean-spirited. After all, the darkness of Masterplan is at least in keeping with the general spirit of what the Daleks represent.


  32. Spacewarp
    June 4, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    If anyone's interested, I've slowly been charting the viewing figures of the classic series. Here's the average of each season.


    The devil is in the details as they say, but even averaging out the seasons you can see how viewers got on with the Doctor over the first 26 years.

    Hartnell begins strongly, then everyone seems to go wild over his second season. However by 1966 the public appear to be getting bored with the good Doctor. Troughton manages to perk things up a bit, but even he's having problems by the end of his tenure. Pertwee brings the colourful 70s with him and a corresponding rise in viewing. Then Tom comes along and raises the game once more, until Davison drags things back down again. He briefly rallies in his second season but then it's downhill all the way. Colin does nothing to help matters and it's left to McCoy to switch the lights off on his way out, with the ratings in the gutter.

    Sorry. Didn't mean to turn this into the GB Ratings thread!


  33. elvwood
    June 4, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

    I make it +0.20, so a little more related but not hugely so. I've not seen The Tenth Planet, but assigning it middling rank gives +0.42 for my scores.


  34. elvwood
    June 4, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    I was surprised by his rating for Keys too. It starts and ends poorly, but it has a wonderful second episode (my second favourite from the first season), and the Millennius section is pretty good as well. A below average aggregate score, sure, but unwatchable? Surely not!


  35. Bennett
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

    D'oh. I forgot the version of Spearman's that corrects for tied data values. I may have to hand in my Badge for Mathematical Excellence.

    Using that methodology (and now, an online calculator) I get –
    Eruditorum vs. DWM Poll : +0.0057
    Wife in Space vs. DWM Poll : -0.1003
    *Eruditorum vs. Wife : +0.1795

    So Phil and Sue agree more with each other than with "fan consensus", but not to any statistically significant degree.


  36. T. Hartwell
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

    I'm tempted to see what a graph of that would look like by serial instead of season. >.>


  37. T. Hartwell
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

    (though it's worth noting that S18 is mislabeled as a Davison season when it is in fact Baker's final season).


  38. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 12:01 am


    D'oh! You're right. Coloured it in wrong. Fixed now. Which means my sarky paragraph is a bit wrong, and it's Tom who takes the plunge in Season 17, while Peter bravely fights back in his first season.

    As to graphs serial by serial, yes I have them too, but I'm not sure how to present them yet. Possibly a PDF. Watch this space.


  39. Spacewarp
    June 5, 2013 @ 1:41 am

    @T.Hartwell (and anyone else who's interested).

    Ok, they're up. Easier than I thought. My HTML is pretty basic, but it does the trick. There may well be better sites out there that show this info, but I haven't found them yet.



  40. goldroger437
    June 5, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    I would love to see more of these. I'm trying to view the best of who and these are the best reviews I've seen by far.


  41. Scott
    June 5, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    The film TARDIS is a thing of beauty (both in general and yours, Spacewarp). No wonder Moffat based the TARDIS on it when he took over the series.


  42. velvetjacket
    June 6, 2013 @ 12:10 am

    For those interested, there's a fresh take on ratings (plus lots of other nitty gritty Who facts) in Time & Space Visualiser: The Story and History of Doctor Who as Data Visualisations – http://www.wonderfulbook.co.uk/visualiser


  43. nwhyte
    June 11, 2013 @ 5:20 am

    Apparently the reason why there are no return-to-Steven stories is that Ian Stuart Black, and subsequently his estate, refused permission for anyone to re-use the planet of the Savages.


  44. William Silvia
    June 30, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

    I agree with TH here. The Chase in particular, I had gotten the impression that you liked more than the average person. I find it interesting that our opinions on the Terry Nation stories seem diametrically opposed; Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Chase are two of my favorite Doctor Who serials, period, and Keys of Marinus I see as a story that gets bogged down in pacing but is otherwise not terrible. Celestial Toymaker I can't help but disagree, as the concept alone earns that story several points in my book, and it may be a context issue, but I have trouble reading any of the racism that you've mentioned in the story from simply watching it.


  45. William Silvia
    June 30, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

    Based on that graph, it's really the combination of the hiatus and ToaTL that shot the series in the foot. Other than that, Colin was doing better than JNT's first year (which notably butchered ratings based on that chart).


  46. TheOncomingHurricane
    November 25, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    …and neither was The Web Planet. (Over a year and a half late, but I could not let that one go)


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