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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. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    July 1, 2011 @ 6:51 am

    Getting these three times a week is not nearly often enough. I demand detailed, lengthy articles like this one twice a day, minimum! Demand I say!

    Says the guy who hasn't updated his blog in over two months. Hypocrite Demanding Crusaders AWAY!


  2. Bill Reed
    July 2, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

    Another barnburningly brilliant piece.


  3. The Old Bean
    July 2, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    Not that I wanted to criticise your excellent discourse, but you mention that Troughton bids farewell to Victoria and Jaime, rather than Zoe and Jamie.


  4. Elizabeth Sandifer
    July 2, 2011 @ 4:13 pm


    (I love having an edit button.)

    (Also, thanks for the catch.)


  5. JJ
    July 3, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

    The War Games is actually my all-time favorite Who. The way it starts so small – relatively – and builds to something so epic is staggering.

    It has a gallery of fantastic supporting characters. At the time I watched it, I knew nothing of the Pertwee era, and actually hoped that Carstairs and Lady Jennifer were going to join on as companions. Even the minor characters have vivid personalities.

    And the villains and their relationships are all kinds of fantastic. General Smythe and Captain von Weich are wonderfully threatening; the tension between the Security Chief and the War Chief crackles; and Philip Madoc's brilliantly underplayed War Lord quietly dominates the final episodes, even with such a great variety of villains.

    The War Chief stands in retrospect as being incredibly Masterish. It's not an uncommon retcon to say he is, in fact, an early version of the Master, given how perfectly his modus operandi, general demeanor, and even the "rubbish beard" match him. It certainly makes a vastly superior version of a Second Doctor encounter with the Master than The Dark Path.

    And the Time Lords are so vastly powerful and deeply mysterious here that I was actually a little bit disappointed when they turned out to be so corrupt and petty (although I still appreciate Deadly Assassin; their later appearances, not so much).

    Anyway, even as someone who deeply loves this serial and has studied it several times, I still found your review (as usual) very insightful and engaging. Bravo!


  6. Deinol
    July 4, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

    Being the end of the 2nd Doctor, which of the existing episodes would you show to a friend who wants a taste of the Troughton years? I know too many of the best ones are missing.


  7. Wm Keith
    July 6, 2011 @ 3:35 am

    This story could almost have been called "The Trials of a Time Lord".

    Over and over again in "The War Games", the Doctor has to justify his behaviour and convince people of who he is.

    Sometimes he persuades them he's someone else entirely.

    Twice he's formally brought before a court, in the opening and closing episodes.

    Until, finally, the Doctor actually becomes someone else entirely.

    And, although he's spent ten episodes restoring people to their true selves, his own friends have their identities rewritten.

    On this reading of "The War Games" as being about the impossibility of retaining personal identity in the face of a dehumanising war machine, there's no room for a season 6B.


  8. landru
    July 12, 2011 @ 4:32 am

    The end is near, but the moment has been prepared for …

    Now this is an excellent breakdown of the series to date. I don't always agree with you story for story, but here you have managed to pick a point to make a grand show of what you have learned. And, it is precisely this kind of overall analysis that I think makes this blog special.

    Yes, too many people just look at the end as if it were the entire point (and perhaps it actually is) of the 10 episodes. The Time Lords are merely a revelation of another layer in the mystery of the Doctor. Too much gets made of the origins. If you really think about it, all we have is a name to his race of people … we've known most of the rest before (Time Meddler, etc.) And, though I don't dislike the Time Lords as many do these days, their card was played a lot after this story. However, they provided a nice balance to the Doctor and his ways in many a good story in later years.

    Yes, there is something very cryptic and ominous about the way the story ends. You can’t help but feel sorry for Jamie most of all. Loyal, brave, but also growing in intelligence … it all gets erased. Easily one of the Doctor’s best friends in the series and that relationship is stolen (it barely existed in the Highlanders). It's also a great yarn. Again, we focus too much on the Time Lords, but it was surely known that Troughton was leaving the show. Low ratings aside, the fans must have known. That’s an interesting question. I’ve never really come across any announcements of his leaving the show, but surely it must have been publicized. Troughton (and the story itself) runs through his entire 3 year repertoire in these 10 episodes with the Doctor even putting on a character of a German again. The story seems to be structured so you can feel the inescapable nearness of his Doctor’s end.

    p.s. I can't help but think Black Adder looked at this for its fourth series (sure, that's easy to say, but "Paths of Glory" they both are not!)


  9. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 17, 2011 @ 10:42 am

    "The phrase 'war is hell' started here"

    Actually from General Sherman in the u.s. Civil War. Which was pretty hellish. (And, given that slavery was replaced by a hundred years of Jim Crow rather than by genuine emancipation, not much more inspiring.)


  10. Neo Tuxedo
    July 28, 2014 @ 7:33 am

    "he might throw himself into a crisis, but he'd never throw himself into the aftermath."

    I was re-reading my print copy of Volume Two earlier today and that sentence jumped out at me. Specifically, it reminded me of a couple of observations RTD had Margaret Blaine make in "Boom Town":

    "I bet you're always the first to leave, Doctor. Never mind the consequences, off you go. […] your funny little happy go lucky little life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on because you dare not look back."

    Were you consciously nodding to the scenes in Bistro 10, or was it just one of those things?


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  15. John Binns
    October 4, 2022 @ 12:57 pm

    One of this story’s revelations, which it seems has since been forgotten or ignored, is that the Doctor’s apparent inability to control the TARDIS has been a pretence all along. It’s there in the dialogue, soon after the War Chief has outright laughed at the idea, where the Doctor programmes the SIDRAT to avoid detection by making adjustments in mid-flight, effectively randomising their journey and thereby making it impossible to trace. Jamie’s line, echoed by the Doctor – “just like the TARDIS!” surely tells us that this is what the Doctor’s been doing from his ‘exile’ until now, to evade capture by the Time Lords.


  16. Paul Fisher Cockburn
    May 24, 2023 @ 8:05 am

    Is the arrival of the Time Lords the end of (1960s) Doctor Who or the real beginning of the Who mythos? For at least one generation of fans around my age, there’s surely a sense that it’s at least partly the latter, given how Terrance Dicks included the end of the Doctor’s trial as the opening scene in his debut novelisation, “Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion”. As has been suggested elsewhere, many deeply-held opinions on certain stories are based not on their original “broadcast once and never seen again” but the Target-published novels, and Auton Invasion was among the first and most influential. Certainly part of me was genuinely surprised, when rewatching Spearhead from Space for the first time (on VHS), that it didn’t feature Troughton at all…


  17. Chris Marton
    August 25, 2023 @ 11:23 am

    You could argue that Seeds of Death subverts the base under siege concept since the Ice Warriors have already captured the base and the Doctor and his allies are the ones putting it under siege by sneaking around though secret entrances – like the Cybermen in the Moonbase – and sabotaging the Martians’ smooth running schemes. They retreat back to Earth when events prove too much, then regroup for a final thrust.


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