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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.

22 Comments

  1. Ewa Woowa
    August 15, 2013 @ 12:24 am

    Oh hurrah!
    This isn't another Torchwood post…
    What a relief.

    Reply

  2. Spacewarp
    August 15, 2013 @ 1:26 am

    Timeflight. Hmmm…"Horrible and Unwatchable"…and yet "one of the more watchable ones."

    Only in Doctor Who can we enjoy such paradoxes.

    Reply

  3. Ross
    August 15, 2013 @ 3:35 am

    I've been trying to sort out why I remember this era fondly, given that I don't particularly disagree with any of the analysis here.

    I think it comes down to the fact that by this point, if not sooner, Doctor Who became not a show of good stories, but a show of good moments sprinkled through otherwise not especially good stories (Even Kinda, which I know is very good, I mostly recall getting sort of glazed over and losing track of the story toward the end and during the Adric-y bits). With the exception of maybe Warriors of the Deep and The Awakening, every serial, even the really naff ones, have some really fantastic individual scenes. The Castrovalvans trying to locate things on a map. The Doctor space-walking with a cricket ball. The bits where the inside of the TARDIS intrudes into the outside world in Terminus and Frontios. The evil stone face in THe Awakening (So good that I remember it even though I can remember nothing else about this story including that it's not the same story as 'The Visitation')


    The childhood memory of Arc of Infinity that stays with me is that I remember being much more convinced by the problem than by the solution. I was convinced that they were well and truly hosed and that Omega manifesting on earth absolutely could not result in anything other than the absolute annihilation of the entire universe via antimatter explosion. So when this goes on to not happen, largely because the Doctor shoots him with a ridiculous toy gun, so that he just falls in the water and bubbles a bit, it felt bizarre and wrong and cheap. (For all I know, this doesn't map to anything real in the story, and is just the result of me being a small child and it being very late at night when I first watched this. I had a similar experience with an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland – there's a scene where Telly Savalas (as the cat) sings a little song about how Alice will never be able to escape Wonderland and can't ever go home. It felt wrong that in the end she just kind of… does.)

    Reply

  4. Assad K
    August 15, 2013 @ 6:28 am

    I probably wouldn't be so rough on Black Orchid… I did enjoy it, it was short, and it didn't feel the need to throw an alien into the ring.

    Warriors of the Deep would certainly have worked better with a dingy seabase, not unlike the station they made for Resurrection of the Daleks. Worked better, mind.. not actually 'worked.'

    Kinda, Snakedance, Enlightenment.. oh yes.

    Reply

  5. Dave
    August 15, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    I know somebody has been running stats on these ratings. I'd actually really love to see the standard deviation for each era, as I have a suspicion this is one of the highest.

    Reply

  6. David Jones
    August 15, 2013 @ 8:40 am

    It seems that the Davison stories get really good marks or really bad marks. The one story that really shocked me as a kid/teen was Resurrection. The Policemen with guns, shooting people, in London, was quite hard hitting at the time. I'm not sure why it isn't very loved by fans.
    Admittedly there was a lot of dross in this era, but PD's charm managed to salvage something from most of them. I even quite like The Visitation.

    Reply

  7. David Anderson
    August 15, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    I am trying to play predict Philip's scores. Earthshock is a couple of points higher than I expected as are Black Orchid and Mawdryn Undead (but only a couple of points). And I think I was expecting one of Kinda or Caves to be a 9. (Peter Davison has more 10s than the Hinchcliffe era absolutely and proportionately.)

    Reply

  8. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 15, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    Which gets at something that was discussed during the era, which is that I was terribly hard on an era that I list as my favorite. Having done the scores, I see why – it may be shockingly uneven, but it has a ludicrously high rate of extremely good stories.

    Reply

  9. Triturus
    August 15, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Resurrection has been on my virgin tv package recently, so it's about the only Davison story I've rewatched since original broadcast apart from Earthshock.

    I was amazed at how unremittingly grim Resurrection was. Pretty much everyone and everything gets mindwiped, shot, gassed, blown up, pushed out of a window or facemelted. Nobody smiles unless they're about to kill someone. If the modern series did an episode like this it would be post-watershed.

    But I don't recall being that bothered by it when I was 12. And didn't it win the best story of the season poll in DWM?

    Maybe kids are just more bloodthirsty and less bothered about the ethics of fake policemen shooting beachcombers in cold blood. I remember enjoying Resurrection, but I can't recall a single thing about Kinda and the only things I can remember about Enlightenment are the shot of the sailing ships and Black Guardian denouement.

    Reply

  10. Daibhid C
    August 15, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    There's a beautiful bit at the start of the Discworld novel Hogfather about how removing blood from the old stories is done for the comfort of " people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it's being shed by the deserving).

    " That is to say, those who deserve to shed blood. Or possibly not. You never quite know with some kids."

    (Personally, I was an extremely squeamish kid, and it's amazing I watched Doctor Who at all…)

    Reply

  11. Daibhid C
    August 15, 2013 @ 10:52 am

    Both those statements have qualifiers. " As all-time lows of Doctor Who go" this one has "fleeting moments where it’s suddenly charming and terribly clever". Other all-time lows don't.

    Reply

  12. JJ Gauthier
    August 15, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    STATS

    SEASON 19: 5.3/10
    SEASON 20: 5.9/10
    SEASON 21: 5.5/10

    OVERALL: 5.6/10

    In comparison, Hartnell averaged 5.6/10, Troughton 6.9/10 (+/- Eggs/Miles Clancy), Pertwee 6.0/10, and Tom Baker 6.3/10.

    However, Davison racked up four 10s across 20 stories. Hartnell got 2/30, Troughton 3/21, Pertwee 2/24, and Tom Baker 5/42. Add in the 9 from Mawdren, and you have a Davison masterpiece once every four stories, which does a lot to balance out the duds.

    Reply

  13. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 15, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    Out of curiosity, could you split the Baker scores the way I will be for books – at the gap between Talons and Fang Rock?

    Reply

  14. JJ Gauthier
    August 15, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

    I'll do you one better:

    Season 12: 6.2/10
    Season 13: 6.5/10
    Season 14: 7.0/10

    Hincliffe average: 6.6/10

    Season 15: 4.8/10
    Season 16: 6.7/10
    Season 17: 5.4/10 (5.8/10 including Shada)

    Williams: 5.6/10
    Williams including Shada: 5.8/10

    Bidmead: 7.1/10

    Williams & Bidmead combined: 6.1/10 (6.2 with Shada)

    I don't remember why I didn't do Pertwee & Baker when you put them out. The really interesting one was Pertwee, who was making perfectly good season scores (6.8, 6.0, 6.6, 7.0) until the last one, which got an atrocious 3.8/10.

    Reply

  15. encyclops
    August 15, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

    Wow, this is…there's really not much for me to argue with here. I'm at a loss. 😉

    …well, okay: try as I might I can't love "Mawdryn" more than a 7, and I think part of it may be that the decaying David Collings is just kind of icky. I know! But yeah. Also, for me "Time-Flight" is at most a 2, "Arc of Infinity" is a 2 for a few little moments (Nyssa holding the High Council at gunpoint, Omega regarding a child wistfully, Colin Baker), "Black Orchid" is at least a 6 (I like "Unicorn," but I think I like this better), and most importantly, "Four to Doomsday" is very solidly a 6 and maybe a little better. I adored it as a kid and I can still enjoy it today. I'm not entirely sure I could rationally defend it, but I wish I could.

    And all the love for "Kinda," "Snakedance," and "Enlightenment" makes me happy, happy, and happy. The Baker era's better as a whole, but for me only "City of Death" trumps this trio of highlights in the classic series.

    Reply

  16. encyclops
    August 15, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Doctor Who became not a show of good stories, but a show of good moments sprinkled through otherwise not especially good stories

    This is how I felt about almost all of the new series for quite a while. I'm in the midst of a rewatch (just watched "Planet of the Ood") and I'm mellowing toward it and seeing its virtues, but I still find that the things I love most about it aren't the stories themselves but all the things that go into putting them onscreen.

    Reply

  17. Cdog Zilla
    August 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    If I had to pick one of the <5s to go to the mat for, it might be "Terminus," but that's largely because it's one of the few stories I owned on VHS, and I watched it a lot when I had only my small collection to lean on when there weren't a lot of options.

    If there's a >5 that I'd have not blinked if scored 2 or more points lower, it's "Frontios." That one frustrated me so much … mostly because it was always so close to being great, but never got there. That malarkey about Turlough's 'race memory' and everyone's baffling indifference to the apparent destruction of the TARDIS completely took me out of the story.

    Reply

  18. elvwood
    August 16, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    Some great lines here – I like this review blog.

    Though I can say that the Tegan Tales duo is still very watchable…so long as you do it with the commentary turned on. I've actually seen Arc more often with the commentary than without! Though my favourite comment is from Time-Flight: "holy crapola!" No guesses who said that. 😉

    Oh, and Warriors of the Deep is my son's favourite Davison story, so I feel I should defend it to the extent that it is not unenjoyable for everyone. My position's closer to Assad K's (and on Black Orchid as well, actually).

    Anyway, my favourite of your review blog entries so far!

    Reply

  19. Ewa Woowa
    August 16, 2013 @ 2:50 am

    I find this all fascinating (And it’s certainly more fun than moving on to the next Torchwood post!)

    So, Pertwee’s era – once you excise the final season (Warrior, Dinosaurs, Daleks, Peladon, Spiders) – is the high point of the show (well, tied along with the Hinchcliffe era)…

    I know this isn’t actually a surprise that the high point of DrWho is 70-77, but I’m fascinated that the numbers support this (well, support mrPhil’s view)…

    Reply

  20. JJ Gauthier
    August 16, 2013 @ 5:57 am

    Actually, the two highest seasons so far are Troughton's part of Season 4 and Bidmead's Season 19, both at 7.1. Meanwhile, Season 6 is somewhere around that area, depending on how you count Space Pirates. (If you call it a 6, the season comes in at 7.0) So, actually, the highlights for Phil are 1967-69 when it's not doing gratuitous bases under siege and 1981.

    Reply

  21. Jesse
    August 16, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    Of the four 10/10s, which is the best in show?

    Reply

  22. Toby Brown
    August 16, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

    I've always thought that Black Orchid should be watched as essentially it being a lazy, quiet Sunday afternoon for the TARDIS crew, so of course there's a cricket match, a nice party and a bit of an Agatha Christie mystery going on. That the mystery, plot, characters, everything really, is a bit naff is fine, because the point is just to enjoy being in the Doctor's company while he has some fun.
    For the same reason, I've never understood the comparisons to Unicorn and the Wasp since its closest relative is very obviously the Lodger (except there's very little, if anything, naff in the Lodger, and there's so much more to enjoy about the Doctor).

    Reply

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