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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. Gavin
    April 17, 2011 @ 7:05 am

    Not so much set in contemporary London as contemporary! London! As distinct from e.g. The Quatermass Experiment, which in its handling of marriage actually is contemporary drama.* (In a way that Doctor Who naturally couldn't be.)

    *I mean the original television series, not the film, obviously.


  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 17, 2011 @ 7:16 am

    Yeah, the marriage plot in The Quatermass Experiment is excellent, and I'd have readily mentioned it if it fit anywhere in the entry there.

    You are also, of course, right that London in The War Machines is heavily stylized – less London than the idea of London. But on the other hand, for most of the British population the two were interchangeable. Ben and Polly were not recognizable as people everyone knew – certainly not in the same way that Ian and Barbara were sort of universalizable schoolteachers. Rather, they were recognizable as people everyone saw on TV.

    The next few entries will look more at exactly what this turn towards the "contemporary" means, since it's intensely relevant to virtually everything save for The Smugglers and The Underwater Menace in Season 4.


  3. steedstylin
    March 9, 2014 @ 6:25 am

    Dear Phil,

    I have just finished reading the First Doctor Tardis Eruditorum, and it is wonderful. Thank you so much for publishing your essays, and in such beautifully designed books, too. Your essays are fun, original, and insightful, and I wish I had a friend with whom to talk about Doctor Who in this literary theory manner!

    The manner in which you trace the change in the tone of the show such that Hartnell becomes increasingly marginalised and frankly requiring replacement is of particular interest to me.

    Before I go on, I'd just like to put to one side the fact that William Hartnell's health was waning and that this was perhaps the major contributing cause to the change in the lead for the purposes of this hypothetical question.

    I am not sure whether I fully understand the reasons you give for why the character of the Doctor, as played by Hartnell, finds himself, particularly with this story, as too marginalised and unsuitable as to be able to continue in the role by virtue of the fact that it is too different a character as the one we saw as part of the original motley in the first two seasons.

    I see the character, as played by Hartnell, here sparkling, and the 'spritely' tag seems perfectly apt for the depiction of the Doctor in this serial, from the hairs standing on the back of his hands enough of a reason to warrant storming into the heart of the new Tower through his conversations with the scientific establishment and Ministry officials, making himself perfectly at home in the TV-friendly Inferno club, and absolutely and believably majestic as the man who stares down a War Machine in Episode 3 before dismantling it in Episode 4 in Covent Garden. In short, I buy it.

    In keeping with the pattern of the show as begun here and evidenced throughout its history, we have also seen the tone and direction change mid-stream, including, it must be said, mid-Doctor.

    Isn't that all that's happening here? Well, no, given the health issues, but returning to the remits of this hypothetical I asked to be suffered above and putting William Hartnell's health aside, couldn't this character have been as much of a success in any further proto-UNIT stories and Base Under Siege narratives we see in Troughton's years, or in any 'Missing Adventure' set before "The Tenth Planet"?

    I concur that the original Newman brief is by now long-gone, and that the new production team were looking ahead to and actively wanting a post-Hartnell era, but does that necessarily mean that this hypothetical is entirely impossible?


  4. aderack
    May 20, 2015 @ 5:28 am

    If you attend closely, pretty much the only way that WOTAN could know a thing about the Doctor is from scanning Dodo's mind, as we know that he does. So if you wonder why his knowledge of the Doctor is a bit wonky — well, consider its probable source.


  5. ladysugarquill
    June 28, 2017 @ 6:34 am

    I cannot disagree more with your thoughts on Hartnell’s acting. He’s been brilliant 90% of the time, and he’s amazing here.

    Curiously, I watched (or maybe re-watched) this serial shortly after The Caretaker, and the moment the Doctor calmly walk towards the machines while everybody else is running away, all I could think of were Danny Pink’s words: He’s an officer.

    He’s clearly shed the bumbling old man act for the body language of the guy who may or may not have been running away from a war, as per the original concept’s notes seen in Doctor Who: The Vault.

    Or maybe I just love military serials.


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