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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.

25 Comments

  1. Exploding Eye
    April 23, 2012 @ 1:05 am

    I've never read a spin-off novel, but this sounds hilarious. From an outsider's point of view, it sounds as much a spoof of spin-off or fan fiction as it does Saward or Holmes: taking something as beloved as Doctor Who, and darkening and mythologising it into unrecognisibility. This compulsion to make the Doctor a mighty leader, leading armies in conquest, or some kind of dark godlike creature from the dawn of time, that sort of thing. Tearing a companion's arm off, having her gang-raped. It sounds nuts.

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  2. 5tephe
    April 23, 2012 @ 2:44 am

    Wow! Now you've made me WANT to read it, Phil.

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  3. Scott
    April 23, 2012 @ 2:50 am

    This may be the most glorious example of a redemptive reading in the history of text, Phil — kudos. And I mean that entirely sincerely. Seriously, I can't WAIT to read this one now.

    "Second, Terrance Dicks is surely way too smart a writer to pen a book this bad by accident. In fact, it is my firm conviction that this book consists of Terrance Dicks, elder statesmen of the Doctor Who world, in his 34th year of working professionally with Doctor Who, just unrepentantly fucking with the audience."

    I'd add in Uncle Terry more-or-less writing for the paycheck by this point knowing he can get away with any old rubbish if he wants and the fanboys would shell out for it — I haven't read this one, but to be honest, there's no way some of the stuff he managed to get published for BBC Books would have gotten anywhere near a printing press if it hadn't had 'Terrance Dicks' on the front cover.

    "The first is that Terrance Dicks, Uncle Terrance himself, writer of the Target novelizations we adored as children, has, in fact, just written a character who jokes about how he likes to gang rape people. The second is that the dedication to Robert Holmes was serious."

    I'm actually not so sure the first can be discounted so quickly, considering that practically EVERY book Uncle Terry wrote for BBC Books (even the ones that can't be read as a glorious satire on the era they're lampooning), and I'm fairly certain a few of the Virgin ones (although I haven't read all of them) had at least one scene where the Doctor's companion or another female character was threatened with being raped at some point. To the point where, frankly, it started to get more than a little creepy.

    I usually put it down to Uncle Terry trying to adapt to writing "Doctor Who" for an older audience after writing for kids so long but mucking it up; the other alternatives it suggests make me quite uncomfortable, to be honest.

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  4. David
    April 23, 2012 @ 3:29 am

    I'm not quite sure what Terrance Dicks's motivation would be for satirising the Eric Saward era so long after the fact, though if it's a choice between that and him just writing the worst Doctor Who novel ever by accident then I'll plump for the former.

    Incidentally, are you going to cover one of the 5th Doctor, Peri and Erimem audios?

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  5. Andrew Hickey
    April 23, 2012 @ 3:32 am

    Yeah, the stuff it's doing is as much a part of the books (at least the bad ones) as it is the Saward era. I tend to agree with Philip's reading, though, simply because Dicks really hated that period of the show, though mostly because of personal dislike for the people making it (one of the lines he trots out at conventions these days is to say casually "people like Hitler or Himmler or Nathan-Turner or…").

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  6. David Anderson
    April 23, 2012 @ 3:48 am

    If you're going to parody the Saward era, then Nathan-Turner's awkward prudery about the Doctor and female companions is one of the things that's there to parody? And given the clash between that and Nathan-Turner's sexualised presentation of Peri for the dads, Peri's certainly the companion a parodist should use to address that.

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  7. John
    April 23, 2012 @ 3:59 am

    Really enjoying your blog. Can't wait for you to cover 'the Caves of Androzani' and the Seventh Doctor era.

    Disappointed you're not covering 'The Holy Terror' though 🙁

    Also be good to hear your opinions on the Sixth Doctor and Jamie audios even if it's just a few words in response to this comment 🙂

    Reply

  8. Exploding Eye
    April 23, 2012 @ 5:04 am

    For a moment there, I thought Peter and Nicola had collaborated with Eminem.

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  9. Janjy Giggins
    April 23, 2012 @ 6:53 am

    I'm now imagining an even stranger version of 'Doctor in Distress'.

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  10. Stephen
    April 23, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    This is, indeed, one of the most glorious redemptive readings I've ever seen. It's better than the one I'd assumed, that it was a conscious parody of bad fanfiction (the only element missing is shipping, and Who fandom didn't get into that in a big way until 2005).

    Incidentally, I've managed to miss the reviews you've seen that treat it as a guilty pleasure, rather than simply a train-crash of a novel, a classic example of bad fanfic, and/or horribly offensive because of the rape references.

    "The first is that Terrance Dicks, Uncle Terrance himself, writer of the Target novelizations we adored as children, has, in fact, just written a character who jokes about how he likes to gang rape people. The second is that the dedication to Robert Holmes was serious."

    I'm surprised you've forgotten what you said about Mr Dicks' attitude to rape when you covered Moonbase 3. The first explanation is entirely in keeping with what you said then, the second isn't. Though, having said that, the two possibilities aren't mutually exclusive.

    And, as for guessing the books you're going to cover:
    The first is clearly a missing season one. I'm going to guess The Nightmare Fair, though I consider Mission to Magnus to also be a possibility.
    The next probably has to be Business Unusual, because I can't see you skipping Mel's debut.
    That means the virgin has to be Millennial Rites
    And the only other book I can think of featuring Mel is Time's Champion.

    Sadly, the order stated means you won't be doing Killing Ground (best use of the Cybermen that you haven't yet "reviewed"), and only doing one BBC book means you can't do Shadows in the Glass (which has an awful lot you could write well about), and you won't be doing The Quantum Archangel, a novel which I am one of the few people who absolutely loves (if you choose to do it for the paper version, I'll direct you a copy of the review I wrote for a fanzine a while back singing its praises).

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  11. tantalus1970
    April 23, 2012 @ 8:45 am

    "Or go with my personal favorite moment, in which the Doctor, after getting his uniform as the Supremo, is sadly informed that his jackboots aren’t quite ready yet."

    Never heard of this book, but that line alone is enough to sell it to me, no matter how mental the story is.

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  12. JJ Gauthier
    April 23, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    "The second point where Dicks really just seems too nice for his won book, and the one I imagine everyone is going to disagree with me on in the comments, comes with Peri’s drunken pass at the Doctor. The Doctor turns her down, comparing it to incest. The problem, frankly, is that this is just kind of an oddly prudish line for Dicks to draw in the sand – and it very much comes off as the one thing that he’s just not willing to do. I mean, I’m not arguing for the Doctor to be shagging companions in the general case by any measure, but if you’re writing a story that’s deliberately kicking sand in the faces of taboos, raising the issue of Doctor/Companion sex just to have that be the thing you shoot down as beyond the pale is a bit much. Just go for it and make sure you piss everyone off, really."

    Isn't that part of the joke, though? I mean, if his whole point is to satirize the era, the Doctor's complete lack of physical affection for his companions in the JNT/Saward eras makes sense to throw in there. I mean, the era itself draws that line – all the violence in the world, but the Doctor can't even touch his companions for fear the fans will think he slept with them. There can't be even the slightest sexual tension between them. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, per se, but the unrestrained approach to violence is in pretty stark contract. So bluntly throwing that out at the end of the book as where you draw the line is a perfect counterpoint to the era's own line in the sand.

    Otherwise, this is yet again a fantastic essay, digging deep into a largely dismissed story and finding some real gold. Now I'm wanting to read it.

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  13. David
    April 23, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    "Now I'm wanting to read it."

    This could be the most incredibly dangerous essay in the blog so far.

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  14. Henry R. Kujawa
    April 23, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    By the description of the story, I can just picture The Doctor (take your pick for which one) walking into a book store, finding a whole line of books supposedly based on his real-life adventures, and on reading the plot sypnopsis of this one, being shocked, and saying, "THAT never happened!!!"

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  15. Stephen
    April 23, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

    Just realised I'd forgotten to comment on this bit:

    "This explains one of the things that people bring up when talking about this book, which is that it’s far easier to imagine the book working with Colin Baker than it is with Peter Davison. And of course it is. That’s the point. What Dicks is doing, in effect, is taking the Saward approach to its most horrific conclusions while remaining totally faithful to the basics of the approach. So since Saward covered both Davison and Baker, Dicks picks Davison, since that’s by far the more extreme and absurd angle."

    My understanding is that this was originally pitched as a sixth Doctor novel, but – as often happened with both the MAs and PDAs – got changed to a fifth Doctor one at some point before the manuscript was finalised. It's usually been assumed that the reason it sounds so much like Colin is because large chunks of the Doctor's dialogue were written as him.

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  16. Sean Daugherty
    April 23, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

    That sounds suspiciously close to the plot of much "Trial of a Time Lord," actually….

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  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 24, 2012 @ 3:55 am

    The problem I have with that reading is that the book already goes further with sexuality than the era would have allowed in that Peri does make a pass at the Doctor. Once you've gone too far there's not really a good reason not to keep going.

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  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 24, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    I don't think its quite comparable. I almost discussed it, but I worried that excessive references to past posts would be tempting fate this close to Attack of the Cybermen. 🙂

    Moonbase 3, for all its egregious faults, does two things very different from Warmonger. First, it sanitizes rape. It doesn't mention it by name, and instead acts as though what it's depicting isn't blatantly rape. That's markedly different from the casual discussion of gang rape here. Second, it treats rape as something that happens in extraordinary circumstances. It's using rape to depict the extremity of what's going on, whereas this is banality-of-evil rape. So I don't think that the existence of one poor treatment of rape necessarily implies the other.

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  19. drfgsdgsdf
    April 24, 2012 @ 6:44 am

    I don't think so. I remember an interview with Dicks when he said he was asked by Justin Richards to write a Fifth Doctor book, who added "You remember him, the pleasant open-faced one". This caused Dicks to wonder if he was to predictable, and made him want to write something differently. He asked himself 'What if the Fifth Doctor didn't have a pleasant face?' What if the Doctor had to behave differently?
    So the book is a reaction against some of the (perceived) cliches of the Fifth Doctor.

    Interesting because, as Saward and JNT found out 15 earlier, when Dicks reacts against the Fifth Doctor he gets…the Sixth Doctor. For me this book is Dicks unconsciously repeating the same impulse and getting a similar result: Many feel that this is a Sixth Doctor book

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  20. drfgsdgsdf
    April 24, 2012 @ 6:50 am

    Also Phil, maybe for the ebook, have you considered the two Doctor Who computer games? 'Doctor Who and the Warlord' is quite interesting as it was written by Graham Williams. Like parts of Nightmare Fair, it gives us a much more whimsical version of mid 80s Doctor Who

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  21. Stephen
    April 24, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    So why did I, Who 3 claim it began life as a sixth Doctor story called Prelude?

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  22. drfgsdgsdf
    April 24, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    Dunno. Here's the Dicks interview
    http://web.archive.org/web/20060314193942/http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/news/cult/news/drwho/2004/01/01/13706.shtml

    (Highlight the text)

    "So I was thinking about this and I thought 'Suppose he had a closed face, suppose he had a harsh, closed face. That might be another way into it.' Put him into a situation in which he was forced to act against his nature."

    Maybe Terence is misremembering, maybe I,Who is wrong. Maybe he used a Sixth Doctor synopsis he already had (although Terence doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would write or plan a word without a commission). It was about the Fifth Doctor when it was commissioned in 2000 (2 years earlier), according to Craig Hinton. Interestingly it was called "Prelude" Prelude to what?

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  23. drfgsdgsdf
    April 24, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    Just realised-Spoiler: It's a prelude to Brain of Morbius. How could I forget

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  24. John Seavey
    April 24, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

    Well, here was a bit from my review, from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide:

    "Ultimately, I have to recommend this novel, although you should read it with the understanding that it's a "good bad" book. However, I do wish he'd chosen a different Doctor/companion combo for it. Sixth Doctor/Peri would have worked a bit better… but in a perfect parallel universe, it was Warmonger and not The Eight Doctors that kicked off the EDAs."

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  25. Kit
    April 25, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    "Disappointed you're not covering 'The Holy Terror' though :("

    I'm hoping that we'll at least get introduced to Frobisher in a reading of Grant Morrison's The World Shapers, if not a wider overview of the Whifferdill / Ridgway Era of DWM.

    Reply

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