Sneakily taking the hinges off the doors of perception

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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. Seth Aaron Hershman
    May 24, 2013 @ 12:57 am

    Well, dammit, now I want to subscribe and I can't afford to. Thanks.


  2. Simon Cooper
    May 24, 2013 @ 1:50 am

    Speaking of DWM, rumours are afoot that change is in the air. The most extreme is that Panini has lost the license, the other that Tom Spilsbury is on the way out to be replaced by Marcus Hearn (The guy who writes those books on Hammer and is writing the BBC's big 50th Anniversary book.) Interestingly, some recent Tweets from Spilsbury would suggest that he's not as concerned with being a 100% uncritical cheerleader for the series/the BBC as he always has been


  3. Steven Clubb
    May 24, 2013 @ 5:55 am

    I still maintain that Who fandom is among the sanest fandoms, although not because it's particularly sane.

    I like to credit the "There Is No Canon" ethos, which seems to dull the edge on a lot of arguments. Unlike comics where anal retentive fans become anal retentive pros and set about trying to distort Continuity to their liking, there seems to be very little of that in Who. Sure the late 90s saw the comics, novels, and audios go off in different directions starting a bit of a fan-war… but that all got sorted easily enough.

    Mostly you just have the ever-present group of people who loudly hate NOW, although a quick look at Gallifrey Base's review polls will show just how tiny a group they are among the tiny sub-set of fans who are hardcore enough to post on a message board about the show.

    I've been involved in a number of fandoms over the years and Who seems to create more of the good kind of fans than any I've stumbled across.


  4. encyclops
    May 24, 2013 @ 6:39 am

    I've only bought the magazine occasionally over the years, and so only recently discovered Gary Gillatt's DVD reviews. I adore his treatment of the Mara Tales box set in particular:

    And especially this bit. A friend recently asked me what I would change about the current series if I could, and I think it would probably be this:

    “I’m a gentleman of the Universe” is how the First Doctor described himself, but over the years, there’s been a steady inflation of his place in that Universe. From gentleman to Lord, from Lord to Lord President; and over the last decade, a fannish desire to make the Doctor sound as special as we believe Doctor Who to be means he’s become the focus of overzealous mythologising. He is star fire! He is ice! He’s Time’s Champion, the Upcoming Wind. He is the tear on the face of the little baby Jesus… Oh, it’s all very stirring and melodramatic, but I don’t want the Doctor to be some cross between Peter Pan, Santa Claus and God – that would be so insufferable of him. I want the Doctor of Kinda and Snakedance. A man, not a superman, with as much to learn about the Universe as we do, and who defeats wickedness with wisdom and wit alone, rather than time travel slight-of-hand or a cocky demand that his foes merely “look him up”. Can we have that Doctor back, please?


  5. Assad K
    May 24, 2013 @ 7:41 am

    After looking at a couple of the reviews there, much obliged for that.. I do get DWM, but I guess I did not appreciate Gillatt's reviews (or rather, didn't pay attention to the bylines).. another website to explore, and another name to watch for!


  6. Daibhid C
    May 24, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    It's one of only two fandoms I know where I generally feel like I actually want to be part of fandom, rather than being a fan but not interacting with others too much because they're scary. (The other is Discworld.)


  7. Matthew Blanchette
    May 24, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    …I was expecting "Boomtown". 🙁


  8. Assad K
    May 24, 2013 @ 10:39 am

    I'm ok with putting off that evil day. :p


  9. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 24, 2013 @ 11:18 am

    I historically do slow down and do a lot of extra entries at the end of a Doctor. I probably could have spaced these over the month more, but I preferred the fast start and slower finish, as season one seems to me to be shaped like that as a cultural object. So Boom Town on Monday, and the finale a week later.

    Series Two is currently a near-straight run of thirteen television posts though.


  10. Lewis Christian
    May 24, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    I'm quite happy with how you're working at the mo, especially with Series 1 being the only (and very brief!) period with Eccleston's Doctor. 10 straight posts for the TV stories would've been far too fast.

    Looking forward to seeing what else is in store!


  11. Ununnilium
    May 24, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

    Fast start also helped clear the hangover of the Wilderness Years out.


  12. George Potter
    May 25, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

    LOL. Understood, understandable. I love Firefly but 'The Browncoats' simply make me back away slowly, smiling, showin' my hands to prove I'm harmless.


  13. George Potter
    May 25, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

    encyclops —

    I understand that perfectly well, but I think it's a forlorn hope. The Doctor is, symbolically — to both fans and the casual audience — absolutely a legend.

    My beloved young cousin Nicole (who has been a fan since infancy thanks to my videotaped T. Baker and McCoy episodes) is annoyed when the Doctor ISN'T treated as a legend. She'll turn 15 in August, and she's a Matt Smith fan girl. But, she will instantly correct any of her fellow WHO loving friends if they dare not realize that the show existed before 'Rose' — and will be amazingly hard-ass about it. This is a kid who, at age 4, would put on her bathing suit and drag around a cardboard box attached to a string playing 'Leela and K9.'

    I think there's another level between 'hardcore fan' and 'casual audience' and it's the kids we hardcore fans raised or helped raise between cancellation and revival.

    No matter. At a few years ago birthday slumber party she amazed me by pulling out the Remembrance Of The Daleks DVD and telling her friends "I'm going to show you something REALLY cool." I actually had to walk away and have a bit of a cry.

    (They were all on the edge of their seats during the show, btw. 🙂 )


  14. George Potter
    May 25, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

    I've only read three issues of DWM, but they were hugely important to me.

    If a bit of biography will be forgiven:

    My first exposure to Doctor Who came in 1979, when I was 7 years old. I was only allowed to watch television on Saturdays, and didn't care much for it. The only channel we received was PBS.

    On that amazing Saturday my mother called me in from playing outside. She sat me down in front of the television and said 'I think you'll like this, baby.'

    It was part-way through The Invisible Enemy. The scene onscreen was Leela and K-9 playing Horatio-At-The-Bridge in a space station corridor.

    Hooked? Dear lord, that barely covers it!

    Fast forward to '86. We'd moved to Florida and went, every weekend, to a VAST flea market. I discovered, on one of the tables, three issues of DWM and a shoebox full of Target novelizations. I was actually shaking when I asked the man how much he wanted for them. To his credit I think he saw the utter lust in my eyes and, smiling, said: 'I'll take a buck, kid." (I only had two dollars to spend.)

    I'd always suspected that WHO was this vast universe that I might truly understand if only I had more information.

    Those three issues, and that glorious shoebox, proved it. 🙂


  15. Clay Hickman
    May 28, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    That was a very interesting take on things, Philip, thanks. As the bloke behind DWM back then, including those strips and the Annual, I reckoned I'd post a few thoughts.

    I'd been friends with Russell since I met him in a convention bar back in 1997 so he'd been in touch about DWM (and lots of other stuff) for years before he was involved in the show returning. Which was very lucky for me and for the magazine. As you said with Big Finish, he smoothed the way for us with the BBC and I made sure I made myself as helpful and tractable to all the folks at BBC Worldwide as possible (becoming the sort of go-to guy for the new folks at Worldwide, someone who knew DW and could advise on all manner of stuff, eventually including going through the photos for them and choosing the best ones for Picture Publicity).

    This was, remember, before DW Adventures or DVD partworks or anything else magazine-based had been thought of, and even before we knew DW Confidential would exist as a weekly making-of (which meant that our first instinct – to meticulously cover every aspect of production as we had done with the classic series – needed to be rethought as we went along). But the things Russell influenced in the early days – like arranging us some of the very-carefully-guarded new photos for our front covers months before transmission, thus allowing us to relaunch all glossy and with a spine in January rather than March of 2005, and even giving permission for us to mess with the new logo and print it in all manner of colours and metallic inks – made a huge difference. Cos also, for the first time, we were battling other SF magazines for news and exclusives and the like, so Russell helping us along was a godsend.

    Panini were obviously delighted that we kept the license and were so supportive in all the plans I was making to expand the magazine as the new series got closer, and I really pushed to get the Annual license too. Mainly cos I wanted to do it right – no 'Space Facts' or articles on the Hydra for once! This was, unfortunately, a deal which had to be re-wrangled in future years when it turned out that Penguin had first dibs on all DW publications of that type, hence they had the Annuals license from then on and we were allowed to do a similar sort of thing as The DW Storybook, though without the fun features. I even had to fight to get a comic strip in there, I recall. But it was so heartening that the TV show writers and writers-to-be were willing to contribute, so we had new stories by The Moff, Rob Shearman, Paul Cornell and Gareth Roberts – and plenty more when the Storybooks arrived. To have played even a tiny part in the genesis of Blink or The Shakespeare Code or The Lodger is incredible – and shows how the writers gave their all even for what some might just dismiss as 'spin-off merchandise'. (Cont)


  16. Clay Hickman
    May 28, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    So anyway, back in the day we were giddy with excitement about everything – so much newness! -and I can see that it might sometimes have come across as fawning, but they really were heady times – DWM had survived the wilderness years and was still pretty healthy (a miracle in itself), but with Andrew Pixley's Archives completed we'd lost a key part of the magazine, and even though Ben Cook was coming up trumps with far more candid interviews, and was tracking down long-lost people like Christopher Bailey, we had covered SO much already so new episodes were really like manna from heaven.

    Russell was unbelievably good to personally look over the stuff we were printing – which allowed us to bypass approval of every word by BBC Worldwide – as he really did want us to keep the 'voice' that DWM had developed over the years. Hence unvetted reviews, no strictures against covering the classic series, and even encouraging us not to dump the silly, fun bits like Space-Time Telegraph, which got away with so many naughty pokes and jokes, and would never have been allowed if the Beeb themselves were approving all our content I'm sure. Russell's advice was always based on protecting his cast and crew and protecting the show (and us) from inadvertently writing anything the tabloids might pounce on and twist (which was a genuine problem – they trawled DWM for stories every month!). His input was a million miles away from the dreaded blue pencil of JN-T I can assure you.

    Glad you liked the run, however short, of Ninth Doctor strips. Gareth and I are seriously in your debt for the Iron Legion comparison! One thing to note there is that, not really knowing how much of a new, young readership the show would bring us, and there being no dedicated title yet for kids, we initially skewed them a little younger. Though in fact that doesn't show much as both Russell, co-editor Scott Gray and I were such fans of the old DW Weekly strips which never talked down to their readers, so we sort of ended up echoing those – which we basically already were with the McGann strips! (As a side note we even tried to get classic artist Dave Gibbons back for a strip that Russell would have written. It wasn't possible given Dave's schedule of mega-high profile comics work in the USA, and so the basic story Russell had worked out ended up on screen a bit later as Love & Monsters. There's something for the fact fans!)

    With things like Production Notes and the 'Meet the Doctor' feature in the Annual, it was frankly amazing that Russell took the time to do that for us – completely unpaid I might add – given the mad amount of things he had on his plate. That really shows how much he cared about DWM. As does things like getting us such great access to the set, and letting me do the first – and still pretty much only – big interview with Chris Eccleston just as he was cast, which the UK press picked up on hugely, giving the magazine some amazing publicity.

    I'm not saying we got everything right, but I still think DWM kept a lot of the same feel post-relaunch (and developed as each series came along and we got used to having a popular, current TV show as our subject matter after 16 years of niche-dom!), and that's down to Russell trusting us.


  17. Clay Hickman
    May 28, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

    Just look at other licensed magazines and the strictures they're made to operate under (I remember one I knew of that was instructed never to give less than 3/5 for any review they ran) and I think DWM felt – and still feels – very different. There's also the fact that me and Tom Spilsbury and our team had been there through the wilderness years and were all massive fanboys at heart. We worked very hard to do justice to the show after dreaming of it coming back for SO long. The thing is, DWM is really a full time job, as in ALL the time, cos you never really stop thinking about it when you're working on it. There was no extra time or extra manpower given to cover the increased page count of the new-look issues, 100-page Specials for each season, or things like the graphic novels and the Annual/Storybooks – but we all somehow did it cos we cared so much. And never more so than when the show came back.

    Cos I remember as a kid being very disappointed by the coverage given to McCoy's seasons in DWM – you might get a couple of pages on visual effects and a page of previews for upcoming stories, then an 8-page article about The Web Planet! I wanted more! Gary Gillatt showed how it should be done with he and his team's coverage of the TV Movie, and he had virtually no support from the makers back in 1996. So we had no excuse not to go to town given the doors Russell – and others at BBC Wales, I should say, who also showed great faith in the magazine – had opened for us.

    And, yes, Gareth's Rosie Taylor Annual-style spoof is one of the things nobody else but DWM could have gotten away with. And it still makes me laugh now.

    As for "professional fans", that isn't something I ever felt applied to me. There were no 'rewards' offered for taking any sort of party line. Just help given and support if we faced any big problems. I just worked (bloody hard) at DWM, and 99% of the time sent my writers out for set visits and the like. I did try to get down there once in a while to sort-of smile at everyone and thank them for helping us as 'The Editor of DWM', but frankly it's a very long way from Kent to Cardiff (or Newport in those days) and we really had a lot of work to get through in the office and I wanted SOME sleep!

    I did get called upon to be a talking head for the first couple of series of DW Confidential, but that mainly came out of them wanting someone who could string a sentence together, who knew their Who, and could link disparate things from their other, more important, interviewees. And again that was something I had to fit in around my DWM workload and did for free. Same when Russell put me forward to be a judge on the 'Companion Academy' segment of Totally Doctor Who – it just sounded like fun, and it would get the words 'Doctor Who Magazine' on BBC 1 under my name. It also led to that show running a feature on our comic strips, so it was worth being locked in a hot cupboard for three days making children cry by judging them! I never sought out a career as a TV pundit or anything -I have more of a face for radio anyway. My main focus was always the magazine. Honest!

    Anyway, thanks again for an interesting article. Hope there's been something of interest in my ramblings, too.

    All the best,
    (who edited DWM from 2002-7)


  18. landru
    May 31, 2013 @ 6:59 am

    I've grown a little exhausted in the last few years with DWM, but I have a massive collection of them. I think an entire storage tub. I'm not certain it's the magazine itself. I have a threshold limit for the series (or at least fandom) and it usually involves doing other things.

    I never felt the magazine was "fawning," merely grabbing the rope with all its might. In many ways, it was always nice to have the balance of old and new. With the new series, yes, you weren't going to find out any juicy gossip, but that also meant the juicy gossip or at least criticisms were getting a bit louder from the old series. And, it should be noted, I wouldn't have been curious about previous Doctor's if they hadn't been discussed here and there in the 80's Monthly, so to do that with the new series is really a good lure for new people to look back at the history.

    However, to fault JNT for the "the fan-industrial complex" is a bit … well, let's face it, silly, since that is exactly what the magazine is doing now. Clearly in a manner that you approve, but nonetheless … I mean, it's not listening to ME, is it? There is and has always been an inner circle of fans who just know people. Now, how that is used now vs. then is probably of interest to the readers of the JNT biography, but as a casual fan … it appears no different. The new group is reshaping history just as much. There are always "Professional Fans" and they will always be friends of a sort with the current producer/show-runner.

    And, that is just fact, not even something I care one way or another about. Clayton Hickman's last paragraph might be a little more where the "fawning" started to be annoying … I suspect that aspect can't be avoided with DW Confidential, which was hardly "confidential" in any way. I'm waiting for the behind the scenes future re-releases when people tell the truth about what happened. But, hey, that's just me. (No offense to Mr. Hickman … we'd all have done the same … Totally Doctor Who was absurdly fun.)


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