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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.

46 Comments

  1. David Anderson
    April 24, 2013 @ 12:10 am

    I think there's a slightly more comprehensible reason for Grant phoning in his performance. Cornell has written the Doctor as Withnail. I was going to say I'm surprised he doesn't have the Doctor go on about the finest wines known to humanity, but then I realised he does. Twice. (I'm not saying that the Doctor as Withnail doesn't work.) Grant, meanwhile, seems to be going, Withnail, never heard of it, completely against type.

    Reply

  2. Josiah Rowe
    April 24, 2013 @ 12:17 am

    Damn it, this time I really was expecting somebody else! I completely forgot about Shalka. Which I suppose is fitting, really.

    I even upped my Kickstarter donation so that Phil would be over the line for the Logopolis Choose Your Own Adventure by the time the Rose entry was up! Ah, well, it's for a good cause and all that.

    Reply

  3. SpaceSquid
    April 24, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    And here I thought Grant's performance in the last Christmas Special was phoned-in…

    Reply

  4. Stuart Ian Burns
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:04 am

    There's also, of course, David Banks in The Ultimate Adventure.

    Reply

  5. AdamAttley
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    Started watching Shalka around the time series two was airing. Still haven't quite finished it. Obvious quality in the script here, but the staid quality Phil notes in Grant is prevalent across the board as regards performances. Imagine 'The Second Coming' without any of the fun bits, and I do believe we have a tonal match.

    The limited animation struggles to sell the character 'acting' and Thrilling Action Set-Pieces, for all that the art design dept have done good work.

    I do love the bit where the Doctor empathises with an old homeless woman though, it works effectively against the classic series' slighlty upper middle-class rep and is one of my favourite Cornell Who moments.

    Reply

  6. sleepyscholar
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:23 am

    Anyone think it might be slightly relevant that Grant, having grown up in Swaziland, hadn't seen Doctor Who, much less grown up with it? Even Eccleston knew it from his childhood (though he said he was out playing when it was on).

    Reply

  7. Ross
    April 24, 2013 @ 3:22 am

    Because animation is unforgiving in this regard. I mean, I’m not knocking animation as a medium in the slightest, but it’s not a great one for subtle human emotions unless you’re a hell of a lot better at it than Cosgrove Hall are

    Also, is it just me, or was Cosgrove Hall of this era sort of strangely disinterested in the visual language of animation? Shalka is better than the other two, but it, along with The Invasion and The Infinite Quest seem to have no sense of how you actually animate things, instead doing this weird sort of traced-paper-doll thing that I think is meant to look more photorealistic, but just looks hardcore Ralph Bakshi-style creepy, as if the whole thing was done by rotoscoping the taxidermied corpses of actors.

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  8. Contumacy Singh
    April 24, 2013 @ 3:54 am

    I don't think Cosgrove Hall was disinterested in animating it more dynamically. They had to compromise between realistic likenesses and more naturalistic movement. They had to make it look like the actors, and on a budget. Otherwise they could have actually rotoscoped it and had it looking like A Scanner Darkly.

    Have you seen the pre-production art recently released for an aborted animated Doctor Who? The characters were more typically designed to work in animation, but they looked horrible.

    My issue with Shalka, and it's purely one of taste, but why was the Doctor made to look like a vampire?

    Reply

  9. ferret
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:08 am

    The Master-as-robot plotline was interesting – the first time in a very long time anything actually interesting was done with the character. I wonder if Cornell had any long-term ideas or a series 'Bible' written, and if he'll ever tell?

    Reply

  10. Contumacy Singh
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:20 am

    Check out the novelization by Cornell. He includes a large section on The Making Of… which details his plans. (Which I cannot recall at the moment.)

    Reply

  11. Lewis Christian
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:31 am

    I haven't yet gotten around to seeing this. I'm just not inspired to view it.

    It's interesting that the series effectively has three Ninth Doctors.

    Is the Ninth the only Doctor to have more than one 'version'?

    The First Doctor has Peter Cushing's First Doctor, but that's a debate because he isn't a Time Lord. Cushing is just "Dr Who", a human. Recasts don't count, either, as Hurndall played the First Doctor. So it's quite fun that we have three Ninth Doctors – Atkinson, Grant and Eccleston.

    Which is best?

    Reply

  12. Lewis Christian
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:34 am

    Also, gangers don't really count:

    The Dalek 'Chase' Doctor was just a clone, intended to be a direct copy of Hartnell's First Doctor.

    The 'Handy' Ten Doctor is just a spin-off from Ten, played by Tennant.

    The 'Ganger' Eleventh Doctor is just a clone, and played by Smith.

    Reply

  13. Jesse
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:49 am

    Are there any fan theories out there that attempt to retcon Withnail & I into a multi-Doctor story featuring amnesiac Doctors? If not, why the hell not?

    Reply

  14. Andrew
    April 24, 2013 @ 4:58 am

    And also Nick Briggs as the '9th Doctor' in the Audio Visual stories.

    Reply

  15. Scott
    April 24, 2013 @ 5:43 am

    Dunno about theories, but I've definitely read a few (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek) fanfiction crossovers revolving around this, or similar, premise.

    Reply

  16. Ben
    April 24, 2013 @ 5:49 am

    Oddly no one's mentioned the Unbound Doctors like David Collings and Arabella Weir yet. Is that because they're canonically in different timelines?

    Reply

  17. Spacewarp
    April 24, 2013 @ 5:52 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  18. Spacewarp
    April 24, 2013 @ 5:58 am

    Well if you're counting Atkinson as an alternate 9th Doctor then that automatically makes Richard E Grant both an alternate 10th and 9th, Jim Broadbent an alternative 11th, and Hugh Grant (so far) the only 12th Doctor.

    Not forgetting the absolutely best Doctor there has ever been – Joanna Lumley as the 13th.

    Edit: Had to redo the post as I got my Doctors mixed up. Gah!

    Reply

  19. Theonlyspiral
    April 24, 2013 @ 6:22 am

    I disagree about those characters. They are stylized yes, but they look just fine. I would have watched the hell out of that show.

    His clothing and hair are direct call-backs to Hartnell. He is a bit pale I'll admit…but that goes down to the process stylization you get in any medium.

    Reply

  20. Ewa Woowa
    April 24, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    Well, going back to "The Gallifrey Chronicles" for a moment, one of the (many) delightful moments is when Marnal (the other timelord) is builds a "pertwee-esque time-visualiser" and attempts to trace the Doctors' timeline.
    (I paraphrase):
    Marnal threw up his hands in exasperation: "It's impossible, he seems to have at least three different ninth incarnations… How is that possible?!"

    Reply

  21. Matthew Celestis
    April 24, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    I hope Phil covers Full Fathom 5 and the Collings Doctor at some point.

    He came across as a fascinating Doctor, but the need for a story resolution made him look like an idiot.

    Reply

  22. encyclops
    April 24, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    We will, after all, almost certainly never see the Atraxi again, or, for that matter, another multiform.

    Let's not be too hasty…this is Moffat we're talking about. They or their underlying concepts will both be back sooner or later, under different names and with slight variations. 😉

    I never watched Shalka, but I remember reading interviews with Grant at the time and he sounded distinctly embarrassed about being involved with the show in any way. I got a similar arms-length vibe from Eccleston later on and it really bums me out. Hearing that he phoned this in is in some ways a vindication, and I agree with SpaceSquid that he was pretty mediocre in The Snowmen as well. If he really has so little interest in the show, I wish they wouldn't keep casting him in it.

    It's interesting to compare the energy he apparently put into this with the energy he put into the Spice Girls movie (which I must confess I enjoy every time I watch it). Doctor Who's not good enough for ya but the Spice Girls are, is that it?

    Reply

  23. Adam Riggio
    April 24, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    I find Richard E Grant's relationship with the show to be very interesting. I remember hearing online some chatter about whether RTD was considering casting Grant (or should I call him REG?) before we heard of Eccleston's casting, and that Davies never considered it because he just generally didn't like Grant or his acting style, and didn't think it was suitable for his take on the show. I've seen Grant in several projects, and in each of them (even Spice World), he was very cerebral. Even his Withnail I find somewhat detached and staid. I wouldn't say it's a fault, but I would say it limits him.

    Visually, I think he has the bearing of a Doctor, because of the kind of imagery we associate with the role. But I think if he were cast as the Doctor, he'd gravitate to a super-serious mode with a patrician bearing: Pertwee with even less of a sense of humour. And that just doesn't fit either the Davies of Moffat visions of the character, where different styles of humour are paramount. But Grant has a limited range, and that range is limited pretty much entirely to drama. Even his great comedy work, Withnail and I, I find the humour comes from the contrast of Withnail's self-seriousness and pretensions with his incompetence and self-absorption. He's a drama character whose personal desperation has made him comic. Doctor Who functions best when it's jumping quickly back and forth in dramatic and comedic modes. Grant can't really handle that.

    As for Eccleston, the behind-the-scenes clusterfucks and conflicts of his season's production, I think, soured him more on Doctor Who than anything else. We discussed this several Doctors ago in the Eruditorum comments. Even in some recent comments about the show that have upset some fans, he doesn't really say anything offensive about the show. I saw a clip online where an interviewer for a sci-fi magazine asked him about the 50th anniversary, and he gave a non-committal answer without getting very excited. But to Eccleston, Doctor Who was one more job. It paid well, and it helped boost his profile to get him some of the bigger film roles he's gotten (and I think he'll be great in Thor 2, the sequel to a movie that used tropes from all across sci-fi and fantasy to build an operatic story with small scale roots). He knows he made some very good television, he's happy for the new audiences that were exposed to his work, but it's a little bittersweet because he had such a miserable time making it.

    Reply

  24. Jesse
    April 24, 2013 @ 11:25 am

    Even his great comedy work, Withnail and I, I find the humour comes from the contrast of Withnail's self-seriousness and pretensions with his incompetence and self-absorption.

    I remember him being rather funny in How to Get a Head in Advertising too, but it's been so long since I saw it that I can't remember how well it fits your analysis here. Anyone?

    Reply

  25. Tiffany Korta
    April 24, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    If you're being kind you could say that he was struggling with the whole audio story style of acting. I gather that some people had trouble as, with acting with CGI creatures, it involves imagining everything else going on.

    If not well it's a marginal recording of an almost (by the general public) forgotten cult show and he was just doing it for the money…

    Reply

  26. Adam Riggio
    April 24, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

    I no longer have anything to contribute to my analysis because How to Get Ahead in Advertising isn't one of the REG films I've seen. Those would be Withnail and I, Hudson Hawk, the 1992 Dracula, Spice World, Gosford Park, Bright Young Things, and his Doctor Who work. And even though he wasn't in Wah-Wah, I did see Wah-Wah.

    In some of those, he was definitely funny, but he wasn't doing what I'd call comedic acting. It was more of a dramatic performance whose content (often being helped by its dissonance with its style) made it funny.

    Reply

  27. Pen Name Pending
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    I thought he was supposed to be Hartnell…

    Reply

  28. Ross
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

    I have no content to add here, just an observation that the auto-generated title of your comment in the Blogger Comments RSS Feed is "I no longer have anything to contribute to my anal…"

    Reply

  29. Pen Name Pending
    April 24, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    I feel really sorry for Eccleston. He really doesn't want to talk about it, but of course Doctor Who is always brought up in interviews in such.

    Reply

  30. Grant, the Hipster Dad
    April 24, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

    Sorry, but if you're naming somebody from a cartoon spinoff as the first black companion, then that should go to somebody from the Marvel comic strips. Sharon was there about fifteen years before this cartoon.

    Reply

  31. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 24, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    Actually, if you want to go comics I believe there's a Pertwee example of a black companion as well, though I'd have to dig out About Time to refresh my memory.

    But again, treating this as a cartoon spinoff isn't quite right. Cornell, in writing this, thought he was bringing back Doctor Who in a new official version. Sharon is, I think, materially different in that regard.

    Reply

  32. Theonlyspiral
    April 24, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    Oh I was unclear. Sorry about that. This is what I get for railing off a comment without really thinking about it…

    In the cartoon design it it meant to be a stylized version of Hartnell. I really liked the design.

    My second paragraph is all about the look of the Shalka Doctor.

    Reply

  33. encyclops
    April 24, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

    It's a shame Eccleston can't bring himself to talk about it just once, because it might mean he could get it behind him. Without any details, it's so difficult for people to imagine what circumstances could possibly have been so traumatic for him. It's even more difficult to imagine that the Doctor Who production circumstances could really have been so much worse than whatever Hollywood shenanigans characterize the set of a GI Joe or Thor movie. But it sounds like you're privy to more of the details than I am.

    Reply

  34. Elizabeth Sandifer
    April 24, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

    I doubt it's some great trauma. He's said there were some specific people he took issue with. I suspect that out of deference to the people he enjoyed working with and a desire not to be the sort of person who badmouths colleagues he's maintaining a polite silence. He's a professional. He doesn't work for the Sun, he works for people who make television and movies.

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  35. T. Hartwell
    April 24, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

    For a minute I thought we were talking about the Doctor Who 80s (?) animated series that never got off the ground, which I always thought looked rather cool.

    But yeah, I'd have to chime in my dislike for the newer designs, though it's mostly just that they're done in a style I'm not at all fond of (McCoy and Pertwee looked rather good, though).

    Reply

  36. T. Hartwell
    April 24, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

    Of course, if those 50th rumours turn out to be true, that means we'll end up having four different Ninth Doctors.

    Reply

  37. Scott
    April 24, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

    Plus, when Eccleston has discussed "Doctor Who" while he might not exactly rave about it I've personally never gotten the impression that he particularly disdains the show either. It might not be one of his favourite roles ever and he might not have had a particularly happy time making it, but he's always seemed perfectly gracious towards the fans (and especially the kids) and the concept itself. He's never really struck me as dismissive; he might distance himself from it now, but I've never gotten the feeling that it was out of contempt or disdain for what he was doing.

    And let's be honest; fans sometimes have a tendency to over-estimate precisely how precious their loves are (or should be) to the people who are making them. Like Adam says, "Doctor Who" was a job to Eccleston — one he did well and gave his best to, one that people love, but at the end of the day just a job. I'm sure we've all had occupations that we've felt more or less neutral towards, it's just that in Eccleston's case it comes with a massively invested fan-base.

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  38. Prole Hole
    April 25, 2013 @ 4:25 am

    It also doesn't help of course that he was immediately followed by Tennant, a self-confessed fan of the show and someone who absolutely threw himself at the role, the publicity, the fans and everything else, and seems to have had a whale of a time doing it. It makes the contrast all the sharper.

    Reply

  39. Prole Hole
    April 25, 2013 @ 5:05 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply

  40. Iain Coleman
    April 25, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    Richard E Grant gives an utterly comedic performance alongside Arabella Weir in the splendid spoof cookery show "Posh Nosh". He also did a fine turn as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in "Twelfth Night". How much comedy does a chap have to do before we accept that he can do comedy?

    Reply

    • dm
      June 26, 2016 @ 7:14 am

      This is very late reply. Posh Nosh is brilliantly scripted, and that saves it, but I personally find his readings too on-the-nose.

      I think the problem is less that he can’t do comedy, and more that, with a few very notable exceptions, he can’t really do acting.

      Reply

  41. ferret
    April 26, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

    Also a DVD with some extras is coming out – hopefully some info in there too.

    Reply

  42. Robert Lloyd
    May 4, 2013 @ 4:00 am

    I think you'd be thinking of Nick and Jed, who helped the Third Doctor out in at least one story.

    Reply

  43. Robert Lloyd
    May 4, 2013 @ 4:04 am

    I've heard that "Seven Keys of Doomsday" opened with a video of Pertwee regenerating into Trevor Martin. If so, that could effectively make Martin an alternate 4th Doctor!

    Reply

  44. GarrettCRW
    October 20, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

    The problem with Shalka and The Invasion recons is that Cosgrove Hall was animating in Flash, which even in 2013 looks robotic and piecemeal. However, Flash is cheaper than even a stock-footage heavy system, and any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan will tell you that having the Irish animate Shalka to save on labor costs would have been a disaster.

    That's why Miles was wrong: animation may allow for a wider canvas than live action, but it's insanely labor intensive, unless you use something like Flash, and then it looks like crap on anything approaching a normal-size monitor.

    Reply

    • dm
      June 26, 2016 @ 7:21 am

      This! When people talk about the unlimited budget of animation, or trash the efforts of Cosgrove Hall (Danger Mouse, The BFG) I start fuming. Animation with proper tweening takes time and work and a lot of people. These people must be paid for that time and work. Animation does not have an unlimited budget- something like a fully animated doctor who series would be bloody expensive.

      I work in post production, and there’s this mentality that “oh it’s all on computers now right? so it’s pretty much free” that goes into shrinking post budgets and some companies barely scraping by. I can only imagine what it’s like in animation, where even production is “all done on computers” and therefore considered essentially free.

      Reply

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