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on 16 November 2014
The problem with these books is that Sandifer insists on reviewing them by today’s pace and standards. Seemingly overlooking the fact that the core material he is reviewing stands head and shoulders above the dross we are served up today in the ‘Moffat Show’.

It’s like watching a classic like ‘Tomb’ and saying: the effects are naff. Of course they are, by today’s standards; but those standards didn't exist back in the day and if you can’t grasp that don’t watch it. But the actual story is far beyond the ability of your Moffat’s to equal.

He constantly moans about ‘padding’. But that padding also enables character development without impacting on the already rushed plots that Moffat delivers – resulting in far more rounded stories that we see today.

I foolishly bought all five books ahead of finishing the first; otherwise I doubt I would have progressed beyond the second. As previously stated they are not all bad but I find the non DW material more interesting than the reviews, which are biased, opinionated and subjective.
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on 11 May 2013
I hope you have enjoyed reading Dr. Phil Sandifer's fascinating Doctor Who blog, because I certainly have. When it comes to buying his second volume on the Troughton era, the question is, why buy the book when you can read the blog for free? As with the previous volume, there is plenty of extra material to justify the purchase. Sandifer offers essays on several spin-off products that are not covered on the blog, such as Baxter's Wheel of Ice. He also provides bonus essays on topics such as UNIT dating and the unfortunate presence of mute black strong men in some stories.

The Troughton era is not my favorite period in the history of the show. I like Season 4 and find some of Season 6 fun, but I find Season 5 monotonous. As ever with Sandifer, sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I disagree with him. Thankfully, this we haven't got to the Thatcher era in the books yet, so his left-wing politics come across as a little less obnoxious than they have been on the blog.

A key paradigm in Sandifer's discussion of the Second Doctor is the notion of his 'Mercuriality,' that is his connection with the mystical properties of metals within the alchemical tradition. This concept is vital in making sense of The Wheel in Space.

As regards the last true Doctor Who historical (leaving aside Black Orchid, which is barely an historical), Sandifer argues that the story is primarily about convincing viewers that the Hartnell era was over and the new regime was going to be a lot more fun. The Highlanders is thus a wicked send-up of the Spooner historicals. I was pleased to see that Sandifer has some positive things to say about the undeservedly despised Underwater Menace. On Moonbase, he argues that this story is about the Doctor facing up to the evil that destroyed his previous incarnation.

Sandifer seems unable to praise Evil of the Daleks highly enough. I'm not sure I agree with his assesment. This story feels somewhat overlong and tedious to me. Given the absence of so many episodes, I'd rather reserve judgment on it. He argues that this was the first Steampunk story. If so, it deserves a lot of blame for originating this tedious and overused genre.

Sandifer is negative in his assessment of Tomb of the Cybermen. I have praised that story myself, but I have largely come to agree with his view of it. His essay on that story is preceded by an interesting piece on race in Troughton era Doctor Who. A lot of readers may feel that he is a little too forgiving toward Evil of the Daleks and Web of Fear, despite their use of racial stereotypes. He is uncomfortable, however, with The Abominable Snowman on account of its Orientalism.

As with Evil of the Daleks, Sandifer cannot stop praising The Enemy of the World. He makes some strong points that incline me to be favorable to it, though it's hard to evaluate a lost story like this one. He looks at The Web of Fear primarily in terms of its role in shaping fan expectations of what Doctor Who should be about.

Sandifer is very harsh in his criticism of The Dominators, which he views as an 'attack on the ethical foundations of Doctor Who.' I was disappointed because I rather like that story. I don't know what that says about me. His next essay on The Mind Robber is quite fascinating. He offers the remarkable theory that the Doctor is from the Land of Fiction and its creators are his own people. I don't find this theory altogether convincing and it seems a distraction from the fact that The Mind Robber is poorly conceived and tedious story. His take on The War Games is particularly fascinating. He views it as a kind of narrative critique of the entire Troughton era, which makes it an appropriate conclusion to that period of the show.

On the Season 6B question, he is rather dismissive of the idea, viewing it as an example of ludicrous continuity obsession. May he be forgiven. He also unfortunately favours dating the UNIT stories to the period when they were broadcast.

I don't think one can argue with his assertion that Prison in Space was a piece of appalling sexism that should never have been revisited by Big Finish.

I would highly recommend TARDIS Eruditorum vol.2 to all Doctor Who fans.
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on 15 November 2012
I remember watching Patrick Troughton's Dr Who the first time around and watching the few remaining episodes has shown me in later life what a brilliant Doctor he was. Several of his stories stand out as particularly inventive and several also stand out as lacking inspiration.

Philip Sandifer doesn't always agree with me about which series were the best or worst but he is always stimulating and challenging. Each story is related to contemporary popular music (and I'm amazed at the number of songs I remember!) and news events. This in itself is stimulating.

Sandifer also adds in chapters about cultural developments that have a bearing on Dr Who (inspiring it or inspired by it) and also reviews of some of the later audio stories and novels featuring Troughton's Doctor.

The real value is in Sandifer's commitment to the values underlying the various adventures (which is what we called them in the day (as opposed to episodes or series)) and sometimes he makes a brilliant case for questioning directions the programme took. Racism in particular is an ever present issue and he shows how it undermines some of the more popular adventures for the modern viewer.

One thing he cannot access is the way we viewed the stories the first time. I can remember the emotions far more clearly than the details of sight or vision. Partly this was to do with viewing 25 minute episodes at one week intervals, whereas today we tend to view them in one sitting. But it is also about viewing them through a child's eyes. But it's brilliant to have such an informed guide to the adventures from an adult perspective and for this reader at any rate, the two views travel comfortably side by side.

I certainly recommend this book (and its predecessor) to anyone who remembers the programmes and I hope they'll also encourage newcomers to watch the surviving episodes.
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on 21 October 2012
This is the second book based on the author's blog about Doctor Who. It analyses the series by going through it, story by story, and examining it with an academically critical eye.

This might not be to everyone's taste, and some people have derided it as being pretentious. Fortunately, being an English Literature graduate, pretension is right up my alley and I absolutely loved the book. Each entry starts by putting the story into some sort of historical context, and then goes on to have a look at what exactly is going on with these nearly 50 year old stories, often relating them to high concepts (alchemy being perhaps the most important in this volume). The author is unashamedly intellectual in his approach, treating fan criticism as a playground for academic discussion. This makes it sound quite dry perhaps, but the book is written with great humour and is very readable. It is certainly more interesting than continuity-obsessed spoddy reviews that aren't interested in such irrelevant things as, you know, the rest of the world...

The one chapter I didn't enjoy much was the one on The Invasion which is basically a 'what I did on my holiday in London' piece and is a little self-indulgent. Everything else was fascinating though, including chapters on stories I know nothing about.

Although the blog is obviously free and all the articles are still up, each entry has been lengthened and goes into more detail; perhaps the best thing to do is to try out the blog to see if you like the style. I love it, and look forward to the next volumes!
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on 21 January 2013
For anyone interested in the roots of Dr. Who as tv drama, this is an entertaining and detailed overview of Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Doctor adapted from Mr Sandifer's blog. And, for a fan of Dr. Who (who can just about remember the 2nd Doctor on tv) it's a good read. More than a simple resume of episodes, this book looks at the cultural context of each series, world events, and the music of the day. If anything this book has made me go straight back to what is still available to view of the fantastic Troughton on DVD or the internet because this book proves how much wealth there was to watch in the 60s. If you are a fan, this book is highly recommended.
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on 13 May 2013
A good collection of discussions about the Troughton era. I don't agree with everything that the writer says, but in a well written collection such as this I wouldn't expect to.
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on 30 November 2012
What a great read - saw about this book via the UK Dr. Who magazine and took a chance (some of the new wave of pseudo-academic book riding the back of show's success over the last few years can be impenetrable or plain dull).
This is one hell of an undertaking from the author - it seems he intends to cover the whole history of the show eventually - but the writing always engaging and indeed often funny as well as insightful - lots of interesting cultural asides to give the show context not just to what's gone before or will come in terms of its own history but also to wider global - and local - culture.
As Troughton was the Doctor when I first became aware of the show as a kid this was an enlightening find and I can HIGHLY recommend it. Here's to more (on the strength of this I went back to buy the 1st (Hartnell-centric) volume.
Well done Mister Sandifer.
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