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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.

27 Comments

  1. JJ
    June 15, 2011 @ 12:17 am

    And thus, in the span of a few paragraphs, Sandifer somehow, magically, impossibly, and quite probably through the use of alchemy, made The Mind Robber even more brain-exploding than it was before.

    Superb job managing to say something new about one of those stories everyone (understandably and rightly) talks to death.

    Reply

  2. Stuart Ian Burns
    June 15, 2011 @ 2:34 am

    I'll be interested to know what you make of the EDA, The Scarlet Empress, in relation to this theory when and if you reach it. Especially the Propp reference.

    Reply

  3. Ryback
    June 15, 2011 @ 3:44 am

    So presumably the Doctor creates the Time Lords (as they exist in the real universe) in his own image. At first they are just a dark reflection of the Doctor's own character, e.g. the Meddling Monk. But after revisiting the Land of Fiction and being reminded anew why he fled such a stultifying museum, he remakes them as far more malevolent beings. Who brilliantly go on to enslave him, having now taken on an independent existence.

    So with that in mind the Doctor's principled opposition to his own people isn't mere rebellion, but an active struggle against a race whose deeds he is in some measure responsible for. And thus his role in the Time War is remade before our eyes.

    This is a "things will never be the same again" essay on a par with the central premise of The Doctor's Wife – brilliant. I don't know if I regard it as "true", or "canon", but I don't think I'll be able to look at the show quite the same way again.

    Reply

  4. Matthew Celestis
    June 15, 2011 @ 8:19 am

    What a brilliant interpretation! This fits with some of the ideas in Lawrence Miles' Faction Paradox stuff.

    And there I was going with Steve Lyons statement in Conundrum that the Land of Fiction was created by the Gods of Ragnorak.

    Reply

  5. Jesse
    June 15, 2011 @ 9:53 am

    This is a great essay, and I hate to pick at a small aside, but…what revolution in Cuba are you referring to?

    Reply

  6. Mike Russell
    June 15, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    Brilliant essay. You really did manage to say something new about this story, which I agree is the high point of Pat Troughton's era.

    Reply

  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 15, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    Ah. That would be the revolution in Cuba that was actually in Panama. Whoops.

    Reply

  8. 5tephe
    June 15, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Superb work sir!

    I have to satisfy my curiosity: is the moment you realised this reading of Doctor Who the moment you decided to write this blog, the moment you decided to get a PHD in Media Studies, or just a thing that has evolved in the process of writing this blog?

    How long have you been sitting on this idea?

    Reply

  9. Stuart Ian Burns
    June 16, 2011 @ 7:22 am

    Also:

    "The Pandorica! That's the just a fairy tale."
    "Aren't we all?"

    Reply

  10. zapruder313
    June 20, 2011 @ 5:08 am

    Well, that is just really, really lovely, and a brilliant reason why the Doctor is "far more than just another Time Lord"!

    I like it a lot. A much better "origin" for the character than all that tedious, reductive rubbish about being at school with the Master, etc.

    Any chance of you being Showrunner when Mr Moffat hangs up his pen?

    Reply

  11. Chisa
    June 22, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

    Your amazing insights here have inspired me to write my own alchemy-flavored post for a popular sci-fi property.

    http://chisafist.blogspot.com/2011/06/luke-skywalker-alchemist-star-wars.html

    Reply

  12. landru
    July 11, 2011 @ 10:30 am

    I love the first episode, but the conceit of the actual story (and the horribly grotesque art design) really throws me off. I know I am in the minority here, but it isn't a classic to me.

    I do like the essey here. I can see what you mean and had it in mind as I watched it the other night. I just can't get to the point of loving it. It's like that ugly plastic doll in Terror of the Autons … (of which to come.)

    Reply

  13. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    July 17, 2011 @ 8:47 am

    The Doctor controls the horizontal! The Doctor controls the vertical!

    Reply

  14. forestofillusions
    August 21, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

    I just recently re-watched "The Mind Robber" and I wanted to agree wholeheartedly that it is a markedly brilliant piece of work all the way round and that your reading of it is just as profound. This is as good an origin story for the Doctor as any we get later on, as far as I'm concerned.

    That being said, and admittedly having read a great deal of your work out of order, I am curious as to whether you're planning to reconcile this reading of the Doctor with what we later get (or were going to get anyway) from the Cartmel Masterplan, which is what I had previously taken aspects of as to form my personal conception of the Doctor's origin.

    I'd also be really interested to see you elaborate on some themes you touched on in your review of "The Time Travelers" and your earlier assertion in the piece on "The Chase" that there can be no stories set prior to "An Unearthly Child" especially in light of what you've helped bring to the table here.

    A pleasure to read as always!

    Reply

  15. Llamastrangler
    October 5, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    Just delurking to express how much I love this essay, even in comparison with your usual high standards. Bravo, Sir!

    I've been reading people's reviews on Doctor Who for a long time, many of them genuinely thought-provoking. But truly original thoughts such as these are such a joy to read.

    Reply

  16. encyclops
    September 4, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    I've finally (I know!) gotten around to actually sitting through all of The Mind Robber in order, after having seen only parts of it in the past. I'd resisted it for years, for reasons not worth explaining here, but it turned out to be every bit as charming and enjoyable as I'd heard.

    The same is true of this post. I finally see where this idea of the Doctor has sprung from, why it's so compelling, and how vividly it serves so many stories in every era of the show. It's almost enough to shake me from my "Time Lords are just extraordinary aliens" tree. 🙂

    The differences between the Doctor and Dream of the Endless are, under this theory, extremely slim, of course. Dream even regenerates. And what does it actually mean for the Land of Fiction to explode?

    I doubt anyone is still reading comments on this entry. Maybe not even you. But I just wanted to add to the kudos: this is a brilliant insight.

    Reply

  17. orfeo
    April 20, 2013 @ 2:49 am

    That is far, far too much to hang on the word 'traitor'.

    The Mind Robber is certainly a good quality outing, but apart from that one word you've grabbed from another character – 'traitor' – there is absolutely nothing to suggest that the Doctor has been in the Land of Fiction before. He doesn't recognise the place. If this was his origin, he'd know where he was. He doesn't. At which point, your whole essay collapses. Sorry about that.

    Reply

  18. Katherine Sas
    December 12, 2013 @ 11:35 am

    Just beautiful and series-defining. Well done.

    Reply

  19. John Binns
    August 18, 2014 @ 5:33 am

    I watched this again the other day. The Doctor is cagey and scared in Episode One, but surprised to find he is in a world of words; he's not especially worried that he might be executed for treason, and the Master says to the controlling 'computer' that the Doctor was the 'right choice' to take over. So I think while this doesn't quite fit with the idea of the Doctor being (consciously) the true Master of the Land of Fiction, it certainly does fit with him having some special relationship with it. The threat in Episode One perhaps comes from the unknown quantity of what happens to the TARDIS if it lands outside of the story, indeed, without an author or a plot (the answer seeming to be blankness and generic robots from another SF show – literally from Out of the Unknown). The threat in the remaining episodes perhaps is not so much that the TARDIS crew will be turned into fiction, but that their stories will end, and be closed into the book (Land) of finished stories. When that land explodes, the TARDIS closes back into its natural form, the box in which stories can be found, forever.

    Reply

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    October 31, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

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  22. Jarl
    February 24, 2015 @ 11:05 am

    Seems like a crap place to post this, since it's been four years, but hey, I'm sure someone will see it eventually.

    What really interests me about this episode is the four "fictional characters" summoned up by the Doctor and the Master (hee hee) to duel for Jamie and Zoe's lives. In quick succession, Cyrano, d'Artagnan, Blackbeard, and Lancelot all duke it out, which is a great scene. But I think that scene does more than just look cool, it actually reveals to us what "becoming fiction" is. Three of those men were real people. Cyrano and d'Artagnan lived and worked in Paris at the same time, even, and likely knew each other both professionally and personally. Blackbeard was Edward Teach, a pirate in the west indies. Even Lancelot, though there's no proof of it, could be a real historical figure whose true identity and nature was lost to myth and time. In other words, these four were real, actual people who became fictional, and in doing so, gained a sort of immortality. They have wildly differing depictions throughout fiction, of course, but we see that very same thing happen to Jamie in the course of the story, don't we.

    Their true deeds are largely forgotten, instead subsumed into a larger mythical narrative of who they were. Charles de Batz d'Artagnan was a musketeer, sure, but much of the adventure and romance we associate him with is the invention of Gatien de Sandras and Alexandre Dumas (and even then, much of Dumas's take on d'Artagnan draws on his own father's life story). Blackbeard most likely was not actually a voodoo magician. Cyrano… well, nah, that's all 100% true fact, written down exactly as it happened. And who knows who the real Lancelot might have been, had such a figure actually existed.

    This all suggests to me that Robot of Sherwood might very well be a sort of prequel to The Mind Robber, the latter indicating what happens to people like Robin. It even makes me wonder about other characters in the story. When Gulliver set sail from England, which land did he actually travel into?

    Reply

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    For what it's worth, there are still people occasionally discovering this blog, and that's an interesting observation which I'm glad you took the time to share.

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