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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. Carey
    May 25, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    It's my understanding that Matthew Robinson (of Resurrection of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen fame) was slated to direct "The Nightmare Fair" and had actually started preproduction when Doctor Who was put on hiatus.


  2. drfgsdgsdf
    May 25, 2012 @ 1:34 am

    I remember thinking how different this was from so much 80s Who before it. Not only was it (as you say) engaging directly with part of 80s culture but also it's markedly more whimsical and offbeat than the past 4 seasons. Nightmare far includes a friendly giant crab technician and a nostalgic broken cyborg warrior. How starved has 80s Who been of nostalgic cyborgs!

    Graham Williams also wrote a little known text adventure in 1985 Doctor Who and the Warlord, which also presents a much more eccentric take on 80s Who


  3. Alan
    May 25, 2012 @ 1:55 am

    Just to play Devil's Advocate, if you have a story about a malevolent alien whose M.O. centers around games and you have a preexisting character who is a malevolent alien whose M.O. centers around games, why wouldn't you use him? So long as the plot of "Nightmare Fair" didn't actually turn on some obscure plot point from 1965, it's really just an Easter egg for the devoted fans that goes over the heads of the casual viewers without confusing them. Sort of like Eleven name-dropping the Nimons in "The God Complex" — why would you go to the trouble of coming up with a second minotaur race just to avoid a passing reference to a 30-year-old Baker story. Similarly, I thought "The Unicorn and the Wasp" missed an opportunity by not identifying the alien as a Wirrn. Old fans like me would have said "hey cool!" while younger fans would have just thought it was just another alien and the story wouldn't have been affected at all. The Doctor is constantly running into people with whom he's had prior off-screen contacts (the Rani is a good example) and no one gets confused, so why should it matter if the Doctor bumps into someone who HAD been in a prior episode if it's appropriate to the theme of the story.


  4. William Whyte
    May 25, 2012 @ 2:05 am

    the absence of an overt video games/computers story in the mid-80s is a strange gap for Doctor Who given that everything similar in the 80s did at least one, if not more

    I think you can argue that Vengeance on Varos is close enough to being an overt video games story that it scratched that itch.

    Not even his iconography works this time. Michael Gough in a Mandarin costume amidst a bunch of Victoriana was part of an overall aesthetic that was at least plausible effective. Michael Gough in a Mandarin costume in Blackpool, on the other hand, has little to recommend it

    Yes — I think no matter how Williams tried to handle it, the racism would have been a more obvious problem here. At least in The Celestial Toymaker the overall aesthetic was one of Victorian kid's surrealism, and having a random talking Chinese doll as the main villain comes with that territory. Here — here's Chinese? Really?

    . So to see that there was a real chance of Season 23 opening with what would have felt like good, solid, classic Doctor Who is heartening.

    Or it might have felt like a show that didn't have any new ideas… as illustrated by the fact that this comment of mine is recycling two of my previous comments.


  5. William Whyte
    May 25, 2012 @ 2:06 am

    BTW, typo, "Gallifray".


  6. William Whyte
    May 25, 2012 @ 2:15 am

    Or the Macra.

    I agree in principle with the "why not?" argument, but it has to be looked at in the context of the show being attacked for recycling itself. Given that, having a reappearing villain would perhaps draw too much attention to how unoriginal the rest of the script was too.


  7. drfgsdgsdf
    May 25, 2012 @ 2:47 am

    Gallifray is how the title was reported as being spelt in several handbooks and reference guides (Several of the alien planet titles are misspelt on production notes)

    However when Richard Bignell recently dug up the original 1985 paperwork for this episode it was correctly spelt Gallifrey.
    More interestingly this was in response to Ian Levine's statements that Saward was going to write this episode. You can see all this on Gallifreybase's Dimensions in Time Thread


  8. Billy Smart
    May 25, 2012 @ 3:31 am

    "Graham Williams, who may have been many things, but who understood the basic standards of entertainment, would have noticed the problems with the surviving episode immediately."

    He did! From a 1985 DWB interview:

    "Eric sent me the original scripts and what survives of the tapes. Watching the programme made in 1966 it was alarming to think you could fill half an hour of television with a fellow and a girl and another fellow playing hopscotch – you couldn't dream of getting away with that today!"


  9. elvwood
    May 25, 2012 @ 3:44 am

    Philip Sandifer: "radial breaks from tradition"

    I think this is an actual Eruditorum typo, but I rather like it anyway! It conjures up images of cracks spreading outwards as the tradition of the show fractures…


  10. Henry R. Kujawa
    May 25, 2012 @ 5:13 am

    Philip Sandifer:
    "What we have here is mostly an argument for Graham Williams's skill as a writer – he makes something that works despite being sandbagged with a nightmarish assignment."

    Kinda sums up Seasons 15-17. Which may explain why I enjoy Seasons 15-17 more than anything JNT did until Sylvester came along.


  11. Jesse
    May 25, 2012 @ 6:38 am

    Via Wikipedia I see that there's an audio version of this as well. (Two versions, actually, one fan-made and one with Colin Baker.)


  12. Adam Riggio
    May 25, 2012 @ 6:59 am

    I thought Gallifray was wordplay. As in Time Lord culture has become corrupted and frayed. Corny, but possibly effective. Maybe the corruption on the High Council in Trial of a Time Lord evolved from the treatment for this story?


  13. Exploding Eye
    May 25, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    Tom Robinson's brother. Trying to think a joke along the lines of, "Sing if you direct Doctor Who", only funny.


  14. Exploding Eye
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    I genuinely thought the captain from Terror of The Vervoids had been in a previous televised adventure, and it didn't affect my enjoyment.


  15. Exploding Eye
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:03 am

    Reminds me of the Daleks episode which is mainly comprised of a sequence of people trying to swing across a gorge.


  16. BerserkRL
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:40 am

    Yet the sequence of people trying to swing across a gorge is one of my favourite parts of "The Daleks." We're used to seeing people swinging across abysses like it's no thang, and that sequence really portrayed the reality of it — it takes time, it's difficult, someone's likely to fall — in a way that I thought made it powerful and suspenseful.


  17. BerserkRL
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    Will Ben Kingsley be playing the Celestial Toymaker in Iron Man 3?


  18. Alan
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    Yes — I think no matter how Williams tried to handle it, the racism would have been a more obvious problem here. At least in The Celestial Toymaker the overall aesthetic was one of Victorian kid's surrealism, and having a random talking Chinese doll as the main villain comes with that territory. Here — here's Chinese? Really?

    I think he could have addressed it with an exchange like the following:

    Celestial Toymaker: So Doctor, we meet again!

    Doctor: So we have, so we have. And I see that you're still dressed like a patently offensive caricature of a Chinese mandarin.

    CT: Indeed, I — wait, what?!? I'll have you know, sir, that my appearance is perfectly attuned to the milieu and ambiance of Victorian gamesmanship. I don't recall you complaining when last we met.

    D: Last time, I was preoccupied by not getting blown up by your insipid exploding checkers game or whatever it was to take note of your shockingly poor taste.

    CT: You're one to talk!

    D: Anyway, the Victorian era ended seventy years ago! Why are you still manifesting like that?

    CT: (sniffs disdainfully) Your primitive mind cannot hope to comprehend either the complexity of my designs or the glory of my true form. However, if it offends your dainty sensibilities so much …

    (There is a shimmer of light, and the Toymaker's Mandarin costume fades away to be replaced by something equally garish but more thematically appropriate to a videogame parlor in Blackpool.)

    CT: Satisfied?

    D: (rolls eyes) It'll do, I suppose. So anyway, back to your insane scheme…


  19. Alan
    May 25, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    [I]t has to be looked at in the context of the show being attacked for recycling itself.

    Was it being attacked on that basis in 1985? I thought the primary point of attack was simply how shoddy it all looked due to limited budgets, shortened film schedules, and overly ambitious special effects demands that were not realistic for 1980's BBC. Granted, Phillip makes a compelling case that JNT et al that that bringing back old monsters and villains would be enough and that good stories and productions values didn't matter, but I don't think it would have been fatal to have brought back old monsters and villains in well-written and directed stories that were feasible on a BBC budget. Certainly it wouldn't have been enough of a problem to lead to the cancellation of an otherwise successful program. IOW, "Warriors of the Deep" wasn't bad because it brought back the Silurians and the Sea Devils; it was bad because it brought them back cheaply and ineptly.


  20. WGPJosh
    May 25, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    Seconded, though I might nitpick on Season 15 (I find it very hard to see how anyone, no matter how talented, could have made "The Invisible Enemy", "Underworld" and "Invasion of Time" work).

    Seasons 16 and 17 though, in my opinion, are at their best incredibly groundbreaking, innovative and thought-provoking and at their worst entertaining. I find it very hard to condemn that.

    Seeing how well Williams handled this brief from 1985 just reminds me how underrated his tenure is in my opinion and how ungrateful and disrespectful Nathan-Turner was to him when he first took over. How ironic then to see he would have turned to him to help dig Doctor Who out of the hole it had dug itself into.


  21. Adam Riggio
    May 25, 2012 @ 9:38 am

    I think Phil's point in the long arc of his criticism is that the production team's motivations in bringing old monsters back was a key stumbling block to those stories being well-written. The monsters were returning out of a sense of nostalgia, and being understood through the perspective of nostalgia makes the monsters superficial and one-dimensional. All the other aspects of the story become superficial as the nostalgic perspective dominates not just the handling of villains, but the handling of all the characters and the structure of the stories themselves.

    The best stories of the new series demonstrate how returning monsters and villains can be handled multi-dimensionally and with nuance of character.


  22. elvwood
    May 25, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    I'm with BerserkRL on this. That particular episode – The Ordeal – is one of my favourites of serial B, and the gorge-crossing sequence is an important part of that. Though it has to be watched episodically, as I comment on in my review.


  23. BerserkRL
    May 25, 2012 @ 11:16 am

    Excellent — but I think C.T. should get a few more digs in about Colin's outfit. Mutual assured destruction.


  24. timelord7202
    May 25, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

    Gotta agree.

    While the Williams' era is hit or miss, it wasn't Williams himself that got the series dug into the situation JNT would remove it from in 1980.

    And "The Nightmare Fair" (as with "The Ultimate Evil") are two of my favorite novelizations, so while I am digressing, I will get back on track and agree wholly that Williams' return did bring in a good script. It's a true shame it never got made.

    The audio BF release is very solid as well…

    Season 16 is Williams' highlight.

    Season 15 tries to add lore (hit or miss)

    Season 17 just gets too silly, even if more than half the stories present some solid ideas.


  25. elvwood
    May 25, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

    Or at least mutually assured distraction.


  26. tantalus1970
    May 25, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    "All of this is well and good, and the joke in which it turns out that the Toymaker hasn't been hanging around Earth to capture the Doctor, he's been doing it because he really likes Earth was, in particular, a delightful subversion of expectations."

    What's the betting that this would have been the first thing changed by Saward in the script-editing process?

    The problem with these Missing Episode novels is that they are the writer's original work, which is almost never what appears on screen; it has to pass by the script-editor, producer and director (and sometimes the actors!)

    I haven't read this since it was published, so I don't really remember the story, I just remember reading the video game scenes and thinking 'they could never have done this on their budget and on their production schedule, they would have messed it up'.


  27. Matthew Blanchette
    May 25, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

    What, like the Master? How is that nuanced? RTD was "slash"ing, by the end of it! 😛


  28. Matthew Blanchette
    May 25, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    I had a thought, like it was a battle, you know, "in the fray"; hence, "Gallifray", a Gallifrey caught in the fray of war.

    Also, apparently the story was to deal with its destruction… wonder how long in planning this story was before the cancellation, because were this a season closer, it would've had ramifications beyond the end of the season; at the very least, it'd have to be tied up at the start of the next one, if not addressed so it can continue through the rest of the season as a plot thread…


  29. drfgsdgsdf
    May 25, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    Not in this case, I don't think. According to InVision, Nightmare Fair had already been script edited by Saward. They point to very few changes- mainly just the cutting some of the action. One notable addition of Saward's was to have the Doctor stop for a minute to look at a ventrioloquist's dummy and tell Peri how it reminded him of his adventures with Weing Chiang in Victorian London


  30. jane
    May 25, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    A passing reference to Weng Chiang? That's a perfect illustration of continuity porn. The problem with the show at this point is that there's no ongoing character development. (Not that anybody ever learned anything from Weng Chiang in the first place.)


  31. Alan
    May 25, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

    I tend to agree. The returning monster episodes usually bore me. The revived Daleks, Cybermen and Master have all been less compelling to me than the Angels, the Vashta Nerada, and the Silence, and the Sontarans were brought back mainly to make jokes about how crap they were. I also thought the returning Silurians were a bit of a let down, but then we got the kick-ass, crime-fighting, samurai-detective Lady Vastra, so I guess it's just a matter of trying to do something original.


  32. Youth of Australia
    June 3, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    I found it a bit insulting myself.

    "Peri! Look! This reminds me of that Robert Holmes story, you know the one, when Hinchcliffe was in charge before that got that awful undergraduate humerist to take over…"

    Actually, having properly got the actual rehearsal script for TNF, I have to say Saward didn't do that bad a job. The main change was the loss of SB the nostalgic cyborg, the Macra-like Mechanic turning into Edward Scissorhands, and an interesting adjustment to the denoument.

    The Toymaker is suicidal.

    Saward's added scene (handwritten):

    Doctor: You can prattle all you like, Toymaker… I'm winning.

    Toymaker: I hope so, Doctor, I truly hope so! Linked into the machine is a psycho-relay. My OWN psycho-relay set to YOUR alpha-waves. If you win, the psytronic energy it releases will send me into blessed oblivion.

    Doctor: What, kill you? If that absurd score is beaten, you die? I don't believe you. You were always a poor loser – but you're the vortex as well! If you die you'll turn time inside out! This whole section of the universe – billions of light years across – will be crushed!

    Toymaker: Which will be no longer my concern. Twenty three thousand, Doctor. Only two thousand to go. You can do it!

    Doctor: It's a trick – another of your tricks!

    Toymaker: As you wish, Doctor. There's only one way to find out!

    It puts an interesting slant on the story, whereas the original basically had the Toymaker whinge life's hard being a god and no more was said.

    IMO, of course.


  33. Froborr
    May 8, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    So… the book turned a racist caricature played in yellowface into a commentary on racist caricatures and yellowface?

    Ben Kingsley really did play the Toymaker in Iron Man 3!


  34. Daibhid C
    July 29, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    I'm probably being overly generous here, but I keep coming back to the phrase "dressed as" in the quote from the novelisation. Because if you say someone's "dressed as" something, this implies they're not actually that thing. ("Ace, dressed as a 1980s teenager in leggings and a bomber jacket covered in badges…" just doesn't sound right.)

    So maybe Gerry Davis and Alison Bingeman recognised the problem (belatedly in Davis's case) but weren't as confident in pointing it out as Williams was.

    Or maybe I'm reading too much into two words.

    (The other interesting thing I noticed when looking up who wrote the novelisation of The Celestial Toymaker is that it was published during the Seasonish, presumably to tie in with this non-existent story.)


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