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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. occono
    April 22, 2013 @ 12:22 am

    What was the apparent shout out?


  2. Spacewarp
    April 22, 2013 @ 1:05 am

    In the words of a soon-to-be-reviewed Doctor, Fantastic! The last paragraph in particular, almost brought a tear to my eye.


  3. Abigail Brady
    April 22, 2013 @ 1:28 am

    the device that Emma was attached was was called a psychochronograph


  4. Alex Antonijevic
    April 22, 2013 @ 3:13 am

    Looking forward to getting to the new series. The wilderness years has been a tough slog. I'm not familiar with any of it, so I have found this interesting to learn what Doctor Who was when it wasn't a TV show.


  5. AdamAttley
    April 22, 2013 @ 3:18 am


    I can't ever see myself having the time or inclination to dive into a lot of this material, but your write-ups have never been less than literate, clear-sighted and fascinating.


  6. elvwood
    April 22, 2013 @ 4:19 am

    Yeah. Lovely.


  7. Arkadin
    April 22, 2013 @ 4:47 am

    It's interesting how for all this time we've never discussed what seems to be the main cultural legacy of the EDAs in Doctor Who fandom at large: Eight/Fitz slash. Like Jamie, Fitz's loyalty to the Doctor and his status as long-lasting male companion makes him irresistable to slashers. The scene where Fitz dreams about being naked with the Doctor in Halflife is probably the most remarked-upon in the entire range.

    I'd say hedonism definitely won out.


  8. jane
    April 22, 2013 @ 4:57 am

    And the Doctor practiced a kind of psychochronography going back and taking all those pictures in time, a decidedly psychogeographical take on the concept.

    A key moment is when the Doctor breaks the fourth wall while taking a picture. Suddenly it's not just about Caliburn House, but about us. Hence the long chat with Clara about our being ghosts, little flashes of light. Doctor Who is a psychochronograph not just of Britain, but humanity.


  9. Ewa Woowa
    April 22, 2013 @ 5:20 am

    I'd just like to say that what I like most about this book was that it was a damn good read.
    Almost Dicksian – maybe a little top-heavy prose wise, but still a good page turner.

    Oh, and most obviously the ending – the very last page when the new companion asks the old companion what happens now and (to paraphrase) the old companion replies:

    "we jump into the enemies volcano, get captured, escape, give themselves a chance to surrender, get captured again, escape again and in about 2 hours time we'll be standing on that mountain over there, watching this mountain blow up with all the villians in it…"

    The Doctor smiles and says: "well, shall we get started then…?"

    Fantastic ending to the book, the books and any DW story – the doctor goes on forever…

    I post more when I sober…


  10. Ewa Woowa
    April 22, 2013 @ 5:39 am

    As we are leaving the original novels / wilderness and apropos of nothing: my favourite DrWho "wilderness books" are:

    The Romance of Crime
    The English Way of Death
    The Well Mannered War
    Timewyrm: Exodus

    The Time Travellers
    Face of the Enemy
    Last of theGaderene
    Business Unusual
    Mad Dogs & Englishmen
    The Gallifrey Chronicles

    So, Virgin loses to the BBC range in that matter…


  11. Ewa Woowa
    April 22, 2013 @ 5:40 am

    oh and Phil: did you get that pornochronographic picture I emailed you?


  12. John Seavey
    April 22, 2013 @ 5:52 am

    Honestly, I'm not sure whether this entry was far too hard on the wilderness years or far too easy on the regular series. πŸ™‚ I think that the wilderness years had roughly the same hit-to-miss ratio as the classic series, perhaps even slightly better…but a bad TV show is something that is over in two hours, same as a good one, whereas a bad book seems to last forever.

    More than that, I think Phil's underestimating just how important the wilderness years are. Everyone points to 'Buffy' and 'X-Files' and 'Babylon 5' as potential influences, but it's incredibly telling that every single writer for Season One had previously written for Virgin, and that the new series pretty much just broke down and wholesale adapted 'Human Nature' by Season Three. Because at its core, the new series is trying to do the kind of storytelling that Paul Cornell exemplified in 'Human Nature'. (And Kate in LHH, and Ben in the 'Remembrance' novelisation…the importance of the 'Remembrance' novelisation cannot be overstated, frankly. It's the road map to the future of Doctor Who.)

    Ultimately, 'Rose' is a continuation of the wilderness years, not of the classic series. And while I can understand that someone coming to the wilderness years from the new series would say, "Huh. This is a lot of the same ideas, only done less well," you have to realize that the wilderness years were the place where everyone took the ideas that were barely embryonic at the end of the classic series and grew them up into the ideas that would become the new series. The wilderness years didn't fail as a custodian of the old Doctor Who. They succeeded as the crucible of the new.


  13. Theonlyspiral
    April 22, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    Modesty is not always called for. In this case I think there is a better than even shot that this is a direct reference, and why not own up to that?


  14. Matthew Celestis
    April 22, 2013 @ 8:31 am

    Why shouldn't Doctor Who belong to fandom? We are the ones who care most about the show. We are the ones who have been loyal to it when the public couldn't care less.

    When the show next gets cancelled, it will belong to us again and we will be a bigger fandom with new and fresh ideas, ready to carry Doctor Who through another 'wilderness.'


  15. David Anderson
    April 22, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    I can't find the Seventh Doctor assist?


  16. Matthew Celestis
    April 22, 2013 @ 8:56 am

    What do you dislike about the Virgin books?


  17. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 22, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    The projection of him that appeared in City of the Dead gives the Doctor a key clue in figuring out that he has the Matrix in his brain.


  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 22, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Yes. I'm still speechless.


  19. jane
    April 22, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    It's more like we belong to Doctor Who, not the other way around.


  20. Ewa Woowa
    April 22, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  21. Josiah Rowe
    April 22, 2013 @ 10:58 am

    Would this be Seventies Porn Colin, or something even worse?


  22. Ewa Woowa
    April 22, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    Well. I'm going to (politely) take issue with the Q. Why does it have to be I dislike the Virgin books?
    (and I remember r.a.d.w and the verbal bullying of those who didn't "toe the party line" and praise the Virgin clique).

    I just want to read a good DrWho story if I've bought a DrWho novel and one of the main things I thought about the Virgin line of DrWho was that so very often I was reading a book which had the Doctor shoe-horned into it.
    It felt like the author wanted to write a book and had landed a slot in the DrWho line and so just added the Doctor in.

    The Virgin line seemed to suffer from "Torchwood" syndrome (before the disease even had been named!) and seemed to be desperate to be seen to be cool and grown-up – to cool to just write a straight forward DrWho story – so grown-up that they were going to add sex and swearing.

    Most DrWho fans seem to be in denial that what we love is – to an extent – just a "childrens" program, or at least should always be able to be watched / read by children (as well as having a deeper layer for the adults to enjoy).

    There is nothing wrong with adults enjoying it (or any "childrens" story) and there is no reason why it can't be written well enough to be enjoyed by both children and adults alike, but to a "PG" level that is "safe" for all.

    I just got the feeling (and this is starting to move away from the books in themselves and into the personalities of the r.a.d.w trolls) that most of the books were written by people who desperately wanted to be considered cooler than just DrWho authors, even though most of us who are mature enough know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with "just" being a DrWho fan.

    So often the Virgin books seemed to be embarrassed to have the DrWho logo on the front cover.

    Oh dear, is that all just a ramble?

    I do seem to have ended up slagging off the Virgin line, when all I really mean't was: the BBC books I read seemed "more DrWho" than the Virgin books. But then I always read more of the Past Doctor novels than the 7th / 8th Doctor novels… What I wanted from a DrWho book was to believe I was reading a novelisation of a TV story that I had merely missed on the TV…

    I'm off to watch the Broadchurch finale – that's a good TV program!


  23. Pen Name Pending
    April 22, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    "lest there be some massive disjunct between the Gallifreyless Eighth Doctor era and the Gallifreyful Ninth Doctor era"

    Wait, so they weren't informed of the Time War plot?


  24. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 22, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

    As I understand it, no.


  25. Josiah Rowe
    April 22, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

    Regarding the importance of the Remembrance novelisation, I think it's fascinating that the recent line of novel reprints selected that novelisation rather than any Seventh Doctor PDA to represent his era. Of course, there were better choices in the New Adventures, but if those weren't available for whatever licensing or copyright reason, Remembrance represents the New Adventures in their nascent form. (Bit of a slap in the face to Tucker and Perry, mind you.)


  26. Pen Name Pending
    April 22, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    I remember reading once that "no Time Lords" was part of Davies' pitch to the BBC, so I guess it was so secret that they didn't tell the spin-off line?


  27. matt bracher
    April 22, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    I stopped reading Who toward the end of the Virgin era, and missed out on Lungbarrow as a result. Sadness when I finally discovered it as an ebook on the official site and wished I had a print copy. (If if the manuscript was cleaned up and improved.)

    And I bought some of the PDAs during the BBC Books era, but never an EDA. I almost bought Interference, because the cover looked so neat, but in retrospect I'm glad I didn't read it then.

    But then the new series began! …and Gallifrey was destroyed?! how? why? when?

    But I knew I'd seen this title at the bookstore, might have explored further if it weren't part [didn't even know then it was the conclusion] of a line I hadn't followed at all.

    So I bought it. Read it. And was confounded by it. It wasn't the same war, near as I could tell. I caught most of the commentary on the series itself, and made assumptions about what had been, but was overall bewildered.

    Rereading it again a month or two ago, right after I finished The Ancestor Cell, it's amazing how Parkin took the same story, made it a small part of something larger, and rewrote it so that it made so much more sense.

    But I went into it originally for something that the book didn't [because it couldn't] give me. It's far better the second time 'round. An enjoyable, playful ending to a line, but not a bridge to something new.


  28. sleepyscholar
    April 22, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

    This is called "fan entitlement".

    The idea seems to be that Doctor Who belongs to people just because they think they deserve it. But the word "belong" can refer to the ownership we associate with capitalism or the affiliation of more human forms of interaction (as Jane seems to be suggesting). Ownership of ideas is a capitalist approach, and that's what's suggested by "Doctor Who belongs to us" since a cultural creation can't "belong" in the second, human sense. But capitalism doesn't recognise "loyalty" as a criterion for ownership, so it's a lost cause anyway.


  29. 5tephe
    April 22, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

    Thirded, etc.

    I've been lost here, but enjoyed the education. Even read one or two of the books, which made the process… interesting. I know what Phil means about slogging through this material.


  30. 5tephe
    April 22, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    Though blindingly obvious when you point them out jane, I still missed the photographs as a reference. And as for the 4th wall – very Troutonesque, no? As Phil has often pointed out that Matt Smith is.


  31. Bennett
    April 22, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    Just wanted to add my thanks for your in-depth history of the Wilderness Years. As I became a fan in 2003 through weekdaily repeats on the ABC, I'm that rare breed of Classic Series fan who knows nothing of the Wilderness Years sufferance (when Rose premiered here, the repeats had just reached City of Death). Your coverage of the era inspired me to experience snippets of this time for myself. And on the whole, I've enjoyed my trip back in time.

    Occasionally it's been irreconcilable with the TV series, such as The 4th Doctor uttering the words "the prepuce of Brother Hubert's penis" or The 1st Doctor making a joke about Bus Stop's 'Kung Fu Fighting'. And occasionally it's been intolerably fannish, such as an author interrupting his own story to deliver a two-page info-dump that rewrites Kamelion's death (just to make it a sacrifice instead of an assisted sacrifice).

    But on the whole, the works I've read and heard have been well-written, enjoyable, and respectful but not beholden to the original series. Though I'm still glad I don't have to wait nine years for the next TV episode!


  32. Matthew Blanchette
    April 22, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

    "in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street Lawrence Miles gave the Doctor a beard, and in Mad Dogs and Englishmen Paul Magrs made it a magic fortune-telling beard."

    Behold, the Doctor's magic fortune-telling beard! πŸ˜€


  33. Nightsky
    April 22, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

    Wait, worse than SPC?


  34. David Anderson
    April 23, 2013 @ 7:08 am

    Aaronovitch has published novels that aren't Doctor Who. In addition, Remembrance must be the best novel with the daleks in it by some way.


  35. Abigail Brady
    April 23, 2013 @ 7:09 am

    It wasn't immediately obvious what was happening, as demonstrated by the following comment made on a BBS by someone who will remain anonymous (OK, so it's me).

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————-[Sat Apr 2 20:01:19 2005]–
    From: . (morwen)

    Subject: so…. apparently the new doctor who is following the book continuity,


  36. lanceparkin
    April 23, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

    Hello. First of all, thanks to Phil for the many and various interesting posts.

    We knew that there was no Gallifrey and that the Daleks were responsible fairly early in the process. Originally, the plan was to release the book before the new series started. At that point, the BBC really didn't know whether the show was going to catch on or not. They were predicting between five and six million viewers for the first episode. This would have been far better for years than they'd managed opposite Ant and Dec. But part of the brief, as Phil says, is that they really thought we'd have one season, then back to the books, so we had to leave things open.

    Here's the thing … I was writing the last book, not some teaser for a TV series. I wanted to do two things (1) Celebrate the books and (2) Do it as a novel that wasn't 'filmable' – so there's lots of wordplay, I go to Mars for one scene, a lot of it is internal narrative. Show the strengths, or at least characteristics, of the novels.

    Now, I know a lot of readers wanted a book that had the Doctor's memories coming back, and laying down every brick to the opening scene of Rose, shutting down every single plotline of the books. I'd respectfully suggest that's entirely unnecessary. The fun of these things is that not everything's spelled out, that the game is not one of filling in the blanks.

    Doctor Who is great. What the books demonstrated, and moreso than the audios or comic strips, was that there isn't a formula, there are few limits as to what Doctor Who can tackle.

    The analogy I've used more than once is that the books were playing Pick Up Song from I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. The TV series goes away, we kept humming for thirteen years, the TV series came back and we were within a gnat's crochet – Gallifrey's gone, the stories are about human relationships, the role of the companion in humanising the Doctor, stories can start in the middle and just move faster, we're more in thrall to Alan Moore and Grant Morrison than The Daemons. Doctor Who's not as white and middle class, and it's just more … playful and author-led than before.

    The books were by and for the hardcore Doctor Who fans. That was the only audience available to them. When the books tried to appeal to a more general audience, no one bit. But the paradox is that we opened up Doctor Who, broke it out of the recursive little pocket universe it had been in in 1989. To retain the interest of our older, smarter, more engaged readers, we couldn't just sit there making sequels to TV stories that were novelisations of non-existent episodes.

    I'd resist to my last breath the idea that there are many Doctor Who series. There's Doctor Who. If you want to count stories, I think it goes prose, audio, comic strip, TV. TV has primacy by size of audience, but the idea that means Colony in Space 'counts' but The Also People's just a curio is nonsense. For twenty years, authors have switched between these media. The new TV show take its cues from them all. But … having said that it has the same feel as the NAs and EDAs. It's far more 'like' Human Nature and The Highest Science than any other iteration. The new TV series is the sequel to the books, and it's all the stronger for that.


  37. Ununnilium
    April 23, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

    Wow. <3


  38. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 23, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    Lance – thanks for the more detailed information. I'll take an editing pass on the post tomorrow.

    I'd say that one of these days someone needs to get a proper history/oral history of the wilderness years together, but it would sound uncomfortably like volunteering.


  39. Josiah Rowe
    April 23, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  40. Scott
    April 23, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    The idea that Doctor Who can belong to fandom seems so … clingy and limiting, really. It's taking a massive, wonderful thing and shoving it in a box that only a few people who think they're entitled to it can have. It is, to be frank, the mindset of Ian Levine and his kin; the kind of mindset that seems to think that you have to clock up a certain amount of hours watching and cash spent purchasing and a certain amount of questions answered correctly in order to qualify as being a proper fan, rather than just being someone who takes pleasure in the show for however long for. The kind of people who want to turn Doctor Who into a homework assignment rather than an entertainment series.

    Like Jane says, Doctor Who is bigger than any of us. Like Phil says, we love it and nurture it and care for it when it needs us, but we have to let it go when it's ready. Because otherwise, that's not love and caring; that's obsession and control.


  41. Scott
    April 23, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

    To be fair, Phil's repeatedly stated over the blog how important the Virgin years have ultimately proved to be to the new series.


  42. neroden@gmail
    December 14, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    Well, Lance described it as "the inmates have taken over the asylum" in A History Of The Universe.


  43. Przemek
    August 4, 2017 @ 11:24 am

    Commenting on a 4-year-old post seems silly, but here goes: thank you, Phil. The Wilderness Years was an era of Doctor Who I knew practically nothing about and your amazing essays changed that for good. They really gave me a lot of food for thought and expanded my view of Doctor Who as a whole. And quite possibly made me a better writer. Just like all your essays. I think I just wanted to say: your hard work (and I wish it was easier on you) is appreciated. Thank you.


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