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Thoughtful but sometimes overly dogmatic
on 5 February 2014
Sandifer's analysis of this key period of Doctor Who is smart and challenging, treating the stories as serious texts and subjecting them to appropriately rigorous analysis. However, he clearly has a number of bugbears that recur through the book, most obviously his allegations of racism with regard to The Talons of Weng Chiang. Now, I agree that some aspects of Talons make for uncomfortable viewing today and this should not be glossed over. But those parts are surely forgiveable in the context of the time in which the story was made, not least the yellowface performance of John Bennett as Li H'sen Chang. Sure, discuss these issues, point fingers where it matters, but Sandifer pretty much dismisses this hugely popular story entirely because it doesn't fit with his 21st-century sensitivities. And immediately afterwards he dismisses Mary Whitehouse as "a sanctimonious prude of the worst sort". Which is probably a pretty accurate summary of the ghastly woman but it could also fairly be directed at him.
It's a pity because, as I said, I'd recommend this book highly for any serious fan of the original series (or Proper Who as it's known in my house). I know Sandifer's intentions are good – yes, racism is A Bad Thing – but a more nuanced response might have helped his cause better.