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TARDIS Eruditorum - An Unauthorized Critical…

TARDIS Eruditorum - An Unauthorized Critical History of Doctor Who Volume…

by Philip Sandifer

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Sandifer's insights are engaging and thought-provoking reading. The Troughton years are largely missing and I've only seen a few of his episodes beyond his appearnces in the multi-Doctor stories after his run was over, but Troughton is outstanding in the role (well, apart from his turn in The Two Doctors, one of the few stories I've seen that I despise), and as a fan of Doctor Who this critical appreciation helped give much-needed context to understanding Troughton's influence of his successor's and the influence of his era's stories and themes over time.

As I said about the Pertwee volume, I'm sick of nearly every essay starting with a look at the pop charts. If Mr. Sandifer must incorporate that, is it too much to hope he'll at least stop leading with it unless there's really something clever and insightful for the essay to build on. It's my one grievance with his approach. (Not to say I agree with all his analysis in every case, but most of it strikes me sound. Even when I disagree, I can at least understand where he's coming from.) ( )
  cdogzilla | May 19, 2013 |

I occasionally go and dip into Phil Sandifer's excellent blog, but have not read as much of it as I would like to. I find the individual essays fascinating, but in the whole just a little too long for my preferred reading time; and more worryingly, they tend to leave me simultaneously wanting to read more and wishing there was better internal navigation to the blog than simply following Sandifer's stream of consciousness (even though that is largely aligned with the broadcast order of the seizes, subject to diversions).

These problems are largely resolved by packaging the posts in book form, so that you can leaf back and forth at will, making annotations if you feel like it, but also with all the advantages of traditional dead tree reading rather than squinting at the screen. It is also nicely packaged, with a lovely mosaic cover picture of Patrick Troughton playing the recorder. And the content is of course still excellent.

The core of the book is the series of essays on each of the 21 Second Doctor TV stories (with extras at the end including The Two Doctors and also The Massacre, left out of Volume One). These add to the standard vade mecum approach some hard data on what was in the charts and in the news at the time each story was originally broadcast, and also Sandifer's own personal opinions, particularly where he diverges from fandom. I often found myself wishing I could have expressed my own views as eloquently where we agree, for instance on why The Power of the Daleks is a better story than Evil of the Daleks, or why The Dominators is so very bad. But I also found our points of divergence interesting - why The Enemy of the World is a classic, or why it may not be such a bad thing that The Space Pirates is lost, both perhaps cases where I would probably have argued the opposite but can now see Sandifer's point.

The story-by-story write-ups are leavened with another dozen or so essays roughly equally divided between other Whovian topics (spinoff literature, UNIT dating, racism) and other media of the same era (Cathy Come Home, The Prisoner, the moon landings). I found the latter on the whole more interesting than the former, since in general I knew much less about the topics, though I agree with Sandifer's disgust at The Prison in Space and Big Finish's reconstruction of it. Sandifer's style is engaging, and for someone who has lived mostly in the USA and was born after all of these stories were broadcast, he has done a remarkable job of contextualising these stories. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Feb 10, 2013 |
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