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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. jane
    October 31, 2012 @ 5:31 am

    I love the idea that a "continuity error" can in fact be deliberate, that by explaining it away within the text itself, it somehow magically becomes something else — in this case, an artifact of time-travel. So in one short story, Moffat has eliminated every continuity error in the existence of Doctor Who, including future ones, because now we say they aren't in fact errors, but evidence of the Doctor's interventions.

    And this makes Doctor Who a perfect text, technically speaking — putting aside aesthetics and philosophy, for the moment. It's a lovely bit of martial art, 'cause now instead of complaining about all the myriad inconsistencies of the series, we can go about telling stories about what sorts of intervention might have led to the introduction of a particular "mistake"; all it takes is sufficient cleverness and creativity.

    This also serves as a nice little treatise on the nature of "errors." Errors do not exist except in our heads. They are fictions, created by the inconsistency between map (an intention or understanding of the world) and territory (reality). As a perfectionist, I find this sobering. I always have a choice between fixing the territory or the map, or, increasingly, neither, since any such disjunction may also be viewed as "perfect" should I choose.


  2. Ununnilium
    October 31, 2012 @ 8:39 am

    "Moffat’s conception of the Doctor is simple: he is, in any situation, the one that it would be by far the most fun to have win.

    And so he always does."


    Turns out that was all I ever wanted. Neat!


  3. Anton B
    October 31, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    My conception of the Doctor is the person who would be the most fun to run away into the space/time continuum with, if not necessarily the most reliable.

    Jane, if there was a 'like' button I would have used it on your comment. Your distinction between 'map' and 'territory' perfectly describes my attitude to 'continuity' and 'canon' I would add though that while I enjoy his take on the Doctor's interventionist shennanigans I didn't need Steven Moffat to explain it to me. It's pretty obvious to me that anyone, let alone someone as mercurial as the Doctor, is going to be making a bit of a mess of linear narrative time-lines if they have access to a TARDIS.


  4. John Nor
    October 31, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Hello, a good read.

    You write – 'So yes, the idea that time and history can be so cavalierly rewritten as “Continuty Errors” implies is a mess' as if you've elaborated on why it would be a mess, why this sort of thing would be "breaking the structure of the series" but I'm not sure you have really made clear why, though you suggest "But the entire story hinges on the fact that this sort of thing only works if your perspective isn’t lined up with that of the Doctor’s".

    You also say "But there’s a natural defense here based on the fact that a short story collection from Virgin and a Comic Relief special are by their nature marginal texts in which this sort of larking about can be accomplished safely", however, I would say Moffat's A Christmas Carol is "Continuity Errors" written for the series.

    Now, does that Doctor Who episode "break the structure of the series"? I would say no, and that actually it fits with the general timey-wimey themes of the Moffat era.

    Doctor Who – before the 21st Century era – rarely acknowledged the mechanics of time-travel, and now during the RTD era and Moffat era there is much mention of "fixed points", time that CAN'T be rewritten.

    The corollary, that "time can be rewritten" is shown during "Continuity Errors" and A Christmas Carol.


  5. nimonus
    October 31, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    "Map and Territory" comes from Jonathan Z Smith's essay (in the collection of essays by the same name) "Map is not Territory".

    Applying it to Doctor Who continuity was all Jane's brilliance.


  6. jane
    October 31, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    Jonathan Z Smith! I'd read Smith before, as part of my studies in ritual, but I never knew the map/territory distinction was his. Can't remember where I first heard it — it might have been from a friend; it might have been from reading Robert Anton Wilson.


  7. jane
    October 31, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    "A Christmas Carol" is a much more mature take on it (which makes sense, given the extra fifteen years Moffat's had to hone his writing) and delivers an emotional punch lacking in the more cerebral "Continuity Errors."

    It helps that the stakes are more personal. In CE, we find out the Doctor is trying to save a planet — a planet we never see, with people with never meet — while in ACC it's just a spaceship, but with good friends on board, and eventually people who are singing for their lives. Lined up against these stakes are an anonymous evil alien race, who never appear, and a bitter old man. Notice that the person who's time is rewritten in the latter is the actual antagonist, rather than some gatekeeper.

    Most importantly, though, is how the resolution is achieved. In CE, it turns out the Doctor's efforts to remove the tragedies in Andrea's life are for naught; she was turned against the Doctor on account of his reputation — by an academic. In ACC, the Doctor's efforts to turn Sardick result in a continuity error (the Sky Organ no longer works for him); instead, the day is saved by Abigail, at great cost to Sardick. (That this is a metaphor for the Doctor's loss in The Library is just gravy.)


  8. Anton B
    November 1, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    I always thought it was a
    situationist/deconstructionist slogan. I'll have to check out this Jonathan Z Smith.


  9. Christopher Haynes
    November 1, 2012 @ 4:23 am

    I thought it was Alfred Korzybski who first said the map is not the territory? Wikipedia gives the credit where it's due:

    The expression "the map is not the territory" first appeared in print in a paper that Alfred Korzybski gave at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1931: In Science and Sanity, Korzybski acknowledges his debt to mathematician Eric Temple Bell, whose epigram "the map is not the thing mapped" was published in Numerology.


  10. Matthew Blanchette
    November 4, 2012 @ 8:26 am

    When you were describing the story, Phil, I couldn't help but picture Matt Smith's Doctor in my head. It fits him to a T. 🙂

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Moffat. Good to see you again… for the first time.


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