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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. Matthew Celestis
    October 31, 2011 @ 2:37 am

    I fondly remember listening to Doctor Who and the Pescatons as a child. I really enjoyed it, especially Tom Baker singing "Hello Dolly."

    "There are people who factionalize hilariously within fandom, and come to love or hate a particular era with a verve that pushes them to absurdly indefensible positions."

    Oh yes! That's the whole fun of it. Doctor Who is just like politics or theology, it leaves plenty of room for heated debate.


  2. 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194
    October 31, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

    "Doctor Who is just like politics or theology, it leaves plenty of room for heated debate. "

    No it doesn't! Only type 3K deviationists believe that!


  3. Stephen
    October 31, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    Great analysis of fandom there. Yes, because we like the whole, we'll tend to make excuses for the not so good bits. And the analysis of why some stories became classics whilst others didn't is pretty insightful too.

    And I'm glad I got one of these right. And given that there's another entry to come before we hit the next season, I guess Wednesday will be the novel System Shock.


  4. jheaton
    October 31, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    This is another reason that I insist this blog isn't a review blog. If it were a review blog, I'd feel some sort of obligation to hold Doctor Who up to objective standards. No. Objectivity is for things I love less than this.

    I agree that this is not a review blog. It's a criticism blog, in the academic sense rather than in the colloquial sense that someone who reviews movies for the local paper is a film critic.

    That said, I would take issue with the idea that if it WAS a review blog, you would need to be "objective." For one thing, I don't believe it's possible to be objective about an artistic work. A work of art, whether an oil painting, a sonata, or an episode of Doctor Who, is meant to provoke an emotional response on the part of the observer, and emotional responses are inherently subjective. And since a review is nothing but the reviewer's response to having see what he's reviewing, how can that review be anything but subjective?

    In any event, if it was possible to judge such things on a purely objective level, then there would be no point to a blog like this. You'd just being looking at each episode, comparing it to the list of objectives, and reporting on how it measures up against that list. And who would want to read that? The reason people read this is because we're interested in your opinions–which, again, are inherently subjective.


  5. SK
    October 31, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    I'd like to hope that a good reviewer would make some attempt to do more than merely record his or her response, but would make an error to report also on the objective qualities of the work (and there certainly are such objective qualities).

    But of course the good critic does the same thing. And indeed the author here does seem to be aware of that, and one of the things that makes this site worth reading is that all its arguments are backed up by objective evidence. When the claim is made that, say, The Celestial Toymaker is racist, well, you can agree or disagree, but you can't claim that Dr Sandifer is merely reporting his response, 'I found this racist'. No, it's clearly argued from objective aspects of the work and supporting evidence that The Celestial Toymaker is racist.

    So yes, I read because I'm interested in the author's opinions: but precisely because they are not just subjective, but rather they are objective opinions carefully argued from objective evidence (well, mostly they are — I just roll my eyes when sentences like 'There is no concept of ideas that are conscious beings in which Doctor Who would not have to be one' pop up).

    If this site were merely about the author's responses it would be as worthless as most of the user-generated internet. But it's not: it's a real attempt to say something objectively true. It may fail — I mean, it has failed, because not everything it's said has been correct (working out which bits are wrong is left as an exercise for the reader) — but the very fact that it's trying to say something objectively true is what makes it worthwhile, and it's rather unkind of you to try to drag it down to the level of merely someone recording their subjective responses.


  6. BerserkRL
    November 1, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    "emotional responses are inherently subjective"

    I don't think this is true at all. That implies both that all emotional responses are equally valid and appropriate (and while people may say this, nobody believes it; otherwise, e.g., racist attitudes would have to be regarded as valid and appropriate) and that emotions play no role in cognition (and yet emotions are not raw feels, they embody judgments). In fact emotions have both cognitive inputs and cognitive outputs (as Aristotle understood). And if that's so, then an objective review needn't be one that eschews emotions and just ticks criteria off a list.

    There's a nice passage in Stanley Cavell's "Aesthetic Problems of Modern Philosophy" when he asks us to imagine person A saying of a musician, "He plays beautifully, doe'n’t he?", and person B responding, "How can you say that? There was no line, no structure, no idea what the music was about. He's simply an impressive colorist." Cavell then asks:

    "Now, how will A reply? Can he now say: 'Well, I liked it?” Of course he can; but don't we feel that here that would be a feeble rejoinder, a retreat to personal taste? Because B's reasons are obviously relevant to the evaluation of performance, and because they are arguable, in ways that anyone who knows about such things will know how to pursue."


  7. BerserkRL
    November 1, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    By the way, I am also 7a1abfde-af0e-11e0-b72c-000bcdcb5194. "BerserkRL" is my Google ID, while "7a1" etc. is (for reasons unknown to me) how my OpenID manifests.


  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    November 1, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    For what it is worth, the doctrinal position of this blog is that there is such a thing as objective aesthetics, it's just that the epistemology is a bitch and a half.

    It hasn't really come up in the blog, but I also don't consider emotions to be subjective, adhering heavily to the arguments of Martha Nussbaum, who makes a very moving argument that her grief at her mother's death is not simply a random feeling but in fact a rational response to the fact that she values her mother and her mother is gone forever.


  9. SK
    November 2, 2011 @ 12:55 am

    See also The Abolition of Man (the first chapter, before the transhumanist-inspired dystopian sci-fi fantasy).


  10. elvwood
    November 2, 2011 @ 1:33 am

    My own blog – which is a review blog – is unashamedly subjective, but I agree that any reasoned review will be a mix of the subjective and the objective. I adore The Velvet Web, for instance, and go on at some length explaining why I admire the direction; but I also point out that I'm a sucker for any story that plays around with perception and the nature of reality, and it's this combination that really hits the spot for me.

    Oh, and I'm definitely one of those who could see the racism in The Celestial Toymaker once you pointed it out, but feel sad that I can't continue to experience it in ignorance.


  11. Alex Wilcock
    November 2, 2011 @ 2:44 am

    I remember how exciting it was going round to listen to The Pescatons at a friend's house, and how it kept its thrill for a long time for its rarity value (and by taking such a long time to get to the novel, which as you say was an 'official' Target, but so gob-smackingly awful it makes both the LP and every other book in the series shine). But the breakthrough 'Doctor Who you can have at home' for me – and for many, many others, with sales and distribution far outstripping this earlier release – was 1979's Genesis of the Daleks, and I never tired of it. I know you've already done the TV version, and you may not feel you're in a position to comment (as you weren't 'there', temporally or spatially), but I'd be fascinated if you were able to research and comment on the cultural impact of the 1979 LP version, in so many ways a different experience to TV in 1975…


  12. Dougie
    November 3, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    I've never heard the assertion that The Pescatons is "a classic" before. Three Dr. Who spin-offs with more talismanic power are the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary Special; the Making of Doctor Who (both editions, in fact); and the first Doctor Who Monster Book. They were the first reference books, as it were, predating the Haining volumes that shaped the fan orthodoxy of the 80s.

    With reference to the "rarity value" above, Pescatons and to an extent, the Genesis/Daleks lp were difficult to buy outside metropolitan areas simply because retail distribution networks was so different in Britain in the 70s. That's why ads for BBC licenced publications referred to "good bookshops", for example. It's probably difficult to appreciate this, when, as a previous poster notes, you weren't there, temporally or spatially.


  13. Alex Wilcock
    November 4, 2011 @ 1:53 am

    I'm suitably ashamed not to have thought of that. Thanks, Dougie! Of course, you're entirely right about all three and a half of those publications: I bought The Monster Book and The Making of (mass-market paperback) probably among my first ever books, aged about five or six, probably about a year after this point, and they're still among the most influential books I've ever known. As part of Target, too, they felt like the Bibles of an ongoing series, rather than one-offs. Unfortunately, Philip, you've scooted past three of them, but there's still time to do a feature on the second and best-known edition of The Making of Doctor Who between Assassin and Face (published 16th December 1976)…


  14. Wm Keith
    November 4, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    Everyone has their own iconic DW publication – for me it's the original Dalek Omnibus, combining novelisations of "Planet" and "Genesis" with insanely coloured illustrations and pages of mad Terry Nation story ideas. I think it was only sold in Marks & Spencer.


  15. Dougie
    November 4, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    Sorry, I sounded rather rude and grammatically inaccurate! I mean to say that it may be difficult to picture Britain in the mid-70s (when megastores were unknown and chain stores were far more modest affairs) if you live in the US.

    I agree completely about the first Monster Book which was a Xmas present in 1975 and every b/w photo is seared into my memory. But the RT Special was like Holy Writ to me, with stories titled (ahem) The Temple of Evil and Strangers in Space.


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