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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.

17 Comments

  1. Abigail Brady
    September 21, 2011 @ 4:56 am

    "But there was a real" … ?

    Reply

  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 21, 2011 @ 5:02 am

    "failure to properly edit this post before getting it up that apparently goes along with my inability to set the timer on it right so it posted five hours late."

    But I edited it to be even clearer now. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Steve Hogan
    September 21, 2011 @ 8:01 am

    Watching this after having read Phillip's post on "Curse", I couldn't help but think of this:

    "
    The biggest piece of evidence for this reading of the story being about the inevitability of progress, of course, is the Ice Warriors. The big trick of this story, after all, is that the Doctor (and the audience) wrongly suspect the Ice Warriors of villainy when in fact they're among the good guys, having renounced their former ways. But remember exactly what this means – that they have gone from monsters to people. They are, in other words, walking illustrations of the fact that progress exists. This is something we've never seen before in Doctor Who, and now that we have it seems so utterly obvious and necessary. Of course monsters get reformed.

    This also goes a long way towards explaining the Time Lords objection to the Doctor – there he is slaughtering monsters (and remember the willingness he had to kill the Ice Warriors on their last appearance) when monsters, in at least some cases, are just people who haven't engaged in their full historical development yet. Thus he was sent to Earth until he could learn to do better, and here he shows that he can."

    How sad is it that this episode throws that all under the bus and we see the Doctor incinerating random Ice Warrior goons with a heat ray?

    Reply

  4. Jesse
    September 21, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    to so spectacularly in every single case fail to be about anyone other than smug people in charge is an egregious failure….It's trying to deal with human issues and human politics – just like the Troughton era demanded it did – but it's gotten it badly wrong.

    There is a school of thought that says much of the real-world left did the same thing.

    Reply

  5. C.
    September 21, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    Phil–

    Thanks for this welcome evisceration of one of the worst Pertwees, and worst Who serials, ever. Many years ago, I watched all the Pertwee and T. Bakers in order, and so by this low point in the survey, it really felt like Pertwee, Letts and Dicks were retarding the progress of history itself. (Knowing Baker, Hinchliffe and Holmes were just around the corner made it even more awful to sit through this slog).

    The whole thing seems like one long, inept rear-guard action by an exhausted regiment (all of whom are desperate to surrender).

    Reply

  6. Wm Keith
    September 22, 2011 @ 12:24 am

    Sorry but, looking at the photo, just which giant green phallus are we talking about? Alpha Centauri? The Ice Lord's head? Or the bulge in his Ice Pants?

    Reply

  7. The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca
    September 22, 2011 @ 7:49 am

    All of them, naturally.

    Reply

  8. 5tephe
    September 22, 2011 @ 10:52 pm

    Harsh, but 100% fair.

    Not to excuse it – it is execrable on every level, particularly the politics make one cringe – but you can see how it happened.

    The writers being brought up on good old English colonialist boy's own adventures, and Jon Pertwee's arrogant and overbearing personality, and then they all inherit a show with a remit to re-invent it. And what new central idea had just been inserted. Time "Lords".

    The skew to the effete-aristo was almost inevitable. A sad and sorry affair, and I think the show's imminent reaction against this era is so perfect that it ends up washing away all the awkward and out-moded sentiments of this unfortunate wandering.

    (Same guy as from Livejournal, but with this account I might get a picture.)

    Reply

  9. Spacewarp
    September 23, 2011 @ 12:05 am

    Colonialist? Skew to the effete-aristo? Hmmm…possibly over-analysis here. At the time this was broadcast it was aimed firmly at a target audience of children. Unlike Doctor Who today, this wasn't water-cooler discussion material, this was playground-discussion material. Any kind of allegory of the current political situation would have gone over the heads of most of the intended audience, as would any allusions to colonialism and Empire. Children in the UK were far less aware of (and interested in) their country's past than, say, the US (where every child knows exactly how their country was founded). British kids in the 70s knew that there was a war 30 years ago between us and the Germans and that's about it (and to be honest things haven't changed much today). The "deeper" symbolism of this story would not have resonated with 8-10 year olds at the time, and I'm fairly certain that far from being an attempt at a flawed reflection of the current socio-political situation, "Monster" just had miners in it because kids would go "oh, miners, like in the news". And as for the Ice Warriors, kids went "hooray! Ice Warriors!"

    I know from what I speak here because I was a member of the target audience when this was broadcast. Pertwee's era of Doctor Who needs to be evaluated not as much against the news of the time but more against the television of the time. Trust me, I was an English kid growing up in the 1970s and I lived through this period. I watched it, and my school friends watched it, we played Daleks in the playground, and Doctor Who was not that much different from a lot of other shows on a the time. Phil's already mentioned Adam Adamant, The Avengers, and Ace of Wands. Doctor Who of the time owed far more to these programmes than it owed to it's own history. In some ways the Pertwee era was Doctor Who in Name Only, a new programme based on huge swathes of current TV, rather than on it's own past. A decision was made in 1969 to tear down the whole edifice of the Troughton years and rebuild from scratch (keeping the same name-plate to stick on the door when finished). What we got here was Jason King and Tarot crossed with Adam Adamant, and a slice of Spencer Quist for good measure. It was no longer Doctor Who as those who grew up with Hartnell and Troughton remember it, but the vast majority of its viewers didn't grow up with them (or at least remembered them vaguely). For them, Doctor Who was fast, flashy and dashing, and that's first and foremost how it should be approached.

    Reply

  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 23, 2011 @ 5:54 am

    But even if we take the goals of Doctor Who as being fast, flashy, and dashing, this is painfully slow, has no new images we didn't see in the first version of this story, and you can see the stunt man's face. I mean, I've given the Pertwee era a fair amount of leeway on the "but it's still entertaining" defense, but even that seems to fall down at this point.

    Reply

  11. Spacewarp
    September 23, 2011 @ 6:39 am

    I honestly think saying Doctor Who had "goals" other than to broadly entertain is probably attributing too much self-awareness to the programme's makers. As you've already pointed out, Doctor Who had not quite reached the mythology of being an important part of British culture that it did with Tom Baker. At this point it was simply a television programme. In fact other people have noted that the "reimagining" of Pertwee is very similar to RTD's 2005 reimagining. Keep the series continuity, state that this IS the same bloke, but change everything else.

    Yes it's slow, and in a critical sense yes it is a retread of the first story. But in an entertainment sense it's simply a sequel. And to a 7 year old or a 10 year old it's entertaining. There's scares in the right place, and creepy dungeons, and villainous Ice Warriors who menace the new girl, and the Doctor is reasonably heroic. That's what children wanted at the time, and that's what they want now. If you want to get a sense of what the "Pertwee era" felt to a child, cast your mind back to the Doctor Who you used to watch when you were between the ages of 7 and 10. You know how that felt? That's how Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who felt to me and my contemporaries. Analysing Doctor Who from the perspective of an adult is wrong, because that's not how the programme is designed. And if you've never seen it as a child you can't view it as it was meant to be viewed. That's why I would never critically review Hartnell, Davison, Colin, or Sylv. Because I never saw them as a child and I therefore can't appreciate them the way they're meant to be, in the way I can with older Troughton and all of Pertwee.

    It's the curse of Fandom.

    Reply

  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 23, 2011 @ 10:49 am

    I have little interest in the perspective of a child as any sort of pure perspective. It's certainly a detail that interests me, and one that will definitely be a part of the Hinchcliffe era, since the question of fear and childhood is central to it.

    But, I mean, you're pretty much complaining about the central premise of the blog here. Doctor Who is explicitly treated here as a show that is fundamentally entwined in the politics and history of the time, with mystical influences up the wazoo, and with the assumption that everything is at least potentially significant.

    I mean, I recognize that I've clearly spent more time thinking about The Monster of Peladon than Terrance Dicks did. That's sort of my critique, in a nutshell. And I recognize that Baker and Martin weren't actually writing a mad Blakean epic with The Three Doctors either. But that's kind of beside the point. 🙂

    Reply

  13. Spacewarp
    September 23, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    No, I'm not complaining about your blog. I've bookmarked it and I refresh the page every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I think it's the most refreshing and unique viewpoint on Doctor Who I've seen for…well ever really…and a wonderful antidote to the tedious predictability of fandom. I really do enjoy and look forward to reading it every week.

    No, I'm not complaining, I'm just putting forward an alternate viewpoint. The viewpoint of the people I consider to be the most important audience of Doctor Who – the children of each decade. I truly believe that what creates and fuels each person's love of this programme is their earliest experience of it. Children in the Uk have been growing up scared witless by the first true horror television of their lives. You wouldn't show a 7 year old child a horror film, but you'll let them watch Doctor Who, and believe me it stays with you forever. I grew up being terrified by the Cybermen, the Daleks, the Autons, the clockwork soldiers. Trust me, I'm 49 now, and if I'm in the London Underground and the lights go out for an instant, I do think of the Yeti. Maybe it's a uniquely British perspective, but I wouldn't be without Doctor Who, no matter what it's faults. It did its job of terrifying the nation's youngsters from 1963 to 1989, and now it's doing it again. No, your blog's great, and I love your viewpoint, even if I occasionally raise a polite finger and question it.

    I admire your recent restraint on Gallifrey Base by the way. 😀 (I am known as The Molk).

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply

  14. kuyanhjudith
    July 9, 2012 @ 3:46 am

    Well, I watched a rerun of this is a child and remember finding in dull.

    Reply

  15. Tallifer
    October 6, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    It is a mistake to dismiss the politics of the strike here. The miners explicitly say that their main grievance is the unfair division of the benefits of progress on Peladon. They also complain that their work is hard and dangerous, while the nobles enjoy a soft and easy life of luxury in the citadel. Agador is just a trigger for them, one of the typical small issues that start a strike, and as usually happens with strikes, the strikers think more deeply about their situation and the society around them. Furthermore in the end their chief spokesman receives the fullest attention possible of the government.

    Reply

  16. Samuel Whiskers
    April 3, 2014 @ 1:02 am

    "And the problem is, this immediately becomes an indictment of the entire Pertwee era. It's smug and superior and about a brilliant aristocrat from the stars who will come down and fix everything for we silly little people."

    Spot on. The Pertwee era is my least favourite era of Doctor Who. As a child growing up in 1970s Belfast, having the Doctor chum around with the same British soldiers that terrorised my neighbourhood left a very bad taste.

    Reply

  17. Henry R. Kujawa
    November 1, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

    It's even worse than that. When half to 2/3rds of Pertwee got to PBS in America in late 1983, "MONSTER" was among them… but "CURSE" took another year or two to surface here. So I got to see this sequel FIRST– and the story it was the sequel to, LATER. So, by default, I've seen the sequel more times over the years, as I tended to just watch all of what I had in later reruns.

    And let me tell you, several weeks back, I found "CURSE" damn near unwatchable!!! I suppose I've seen it too many times now, but that high priest/chancellor who was such an AH***, bad-mouthing the Doctor at every turn, and then, near the end, it turned out he was doing it becasue HE had betrayed his own people by signing a private under-the-table agreement before things got started, was simply one of the most annoying "I wish this guy was DEAD!" characters I've ever seen. Now, watching the sequel after that, his successor comes across as somehow, an even BIGGER AH***, because he doesn't even have the "excuse" of being actually corrupt!! (I couldn't shake the feeling it was the same actor playing both parts.)

    You know, it's weird… several stories in a row, the now-free-to-roam Pertwee was beginning to remind me of Troughton– or, perhaps I should say– the "REAL" Doctor. In this, he goes back to being like he was 2-1/2 seasons ago.

    With positively awful material, though, there are a few scenes where Lis Sladen proves how good she is acting purely by facial expressions. To me, right up there with Carol Hughes & Ellen Foley!

    Reply

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