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on 1 November 2014
I suppose by its very nature a blog is going to be a personal account. That’s a given. And as Sandifer appears to be the biggest liberal on the face of the Earth if you enter this series with that in mind there is much to be enjoyed in this book.

He does seem to be of the persuasion who ‘pass out’ if ‘The Silurians’ is not referred to as “Dr Who and the Silurians’ every time it’s mentioned - because of an onscreen error 40+ years ago - which is a bit irritating; but again it’s his blog and he is entitled to be that way. He’s also a little too literal for my taste, with the Doctor’s inability to pilot the TARDIS and conceptual matters… that said, I’ve only reached page 4…

No, I’m joking.

He’s very P.C. forgetting that these shows were made long before the ‘nanny’ state of ‘do gooders’ existed. And I think that’s a theme that will continue and possibly increase during subsequent books. Of what I’ve read I’d only agree with about 60% of it. But that does not detract from the enjoyment of it and it is agreeable to have the serials put into a contextual backdrop of the world events that were enfolding around them. Also the inclusion of broader aspects relating to DW is a bonus.

Now, I’m a reasonably intelligent sort of fellow but some of the time I find myself wondering what this chap, Philip is on about – even with Dictionary.com open before me. His dismissal of the Hartnell era is a little too frivolous for me to be comfortable with. His claim that: season 1 was not Dr Who yet, is a little laughable as that was Dr Who at that time although I see the point he is trying to make, he’s just not doing it very well.

He’s clearly opinionated but to be fair who among us is not? That said I find the book far more enjoyable than the ‘About Time’ series.
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on 23 October 2013
I was dubious of buying this book, thinking it yet another analysis of Doctor Who, but the Kindle version was cheap at the time so I thought, why not? I am very glad I did. Sandifer's analysis is always interesting and thought-provoking.

The one fly in the ointment was his review of The Ark. I could accept his criticisms of the racism in The Celestial Toymaker as I think the accusation of racism is warranted by the content of the story as bordacast and as novelised. However I am unconvinced by his criticisms of The Ark, as I just don't see the same pro-colonial and racist overtones that he sees in the story. Certainly his take on it is one possible interpretation, and whilst his arguments are plausible, they are not persuasive enough to carry the day. His very strong condemnation of what he sees as racism would be justified if he could prove beyond reasonable doubt that racism was present, but when he fails to do so I think he ought to have pulled his punches and qualified his condemnation somewhat to allow for the possibility that he had misinterpreted the text. What I am really saying is that the principle of innocent until proven guilty should apply, and since he fails to prove convincingly that the writer/producer/director/script editor are guilty of racism, it goes against any sense of fair play to see them condemend in such strong terms.

That is however only one minor point in what is overall a very impressive book.

This is actually the first review I have ever written on Amazon (or anywhere) and I like to think Dr Sandifer would be pleased that his book was thought-provoking enough to prompt me to review it.
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on 11 February 2012
The Tardis Eruditorum is based on a blog of the same name-- a work in progress that has just now arrived at the Peter Davison era. So why spend 3 and a bit quid for something you can get free? The author has taken time to expand his blog with many additional entries and even change some of his raw reactions to the William Hartnell era whilst charmingly letting us know what his original opinion was.It is probably necessary to be a bit of a fan to get full value out of this book. (You need to have watched or listened to the stories), but the book puts the stories in their context both in terms of the program's history (both past and future) as well as the contemporary context. A well written and thought provoking book with some nice controversial opinions
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on 5 April 2013
You may have enjoyed reading TARDIS Eruditorum, the blog of Dr Phil Sandifer. The first two volumes of his blog archives are now available in print, covering the First Doctor and Second Doctor eras respectively. We may hope that the next volumes will soon find themselves in print.

TARDIS Eruditorum attempts to chart the development of Doctor Who as a cultural text from An Unearthly Child to the BBC Wales series. I did wonder at one time whether this project was really worthwhile after the very exhaustive About Time, by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles. However, Sandifer offers analysis of the Doctor Who stories that is a good deal more thoughtful and rather less hurried than that of the About Time books.

Sandifer began his Doctor Who project after graduating with his PhD and finding that job opportunities in his chosen field were rather scarce. I can identify with Sandifer, as I also gained a PhD and then found it to have limited currency in the employment market. Thankfully, I found an alternative career working with drug users and alcoholics.

The blog is written in a somewhat intellectual style. Occasionally, Sandifer loses me, but this tends to be when he gets into discussion with fellow intellectuals in the comment section. He also writes from a strongly left of centre position. Sometimes his socialism can be irritating, but I'm happy to read writers who don't share my conservatism.

That you can read the TARDIS Eruditorum blog for free rather raises the question of why one would want to buy a printed copy. I have no regrets about buying the book and plan to buy future volumes. The book contains some great bonus material, including fascinating essays and some reviews of spin-off material not covered on the blog.

In dealing with the Hartnell material, Sandifer charts the appearance in the show of those things that make the series Doctor Who as we know it- the Doctor's need for companions and his discovery that there are monsters that must be fought. He has a lot to say about what he calls the 'Problem of Susan' (named from the interesting but problematic short story by Neil Gaiman). By this he means textual difficulties inherent in Susan's character which ultimately resulted in her complete disappearance from the show. This ties into wider difficulties connected to the sexuality of female companions in Doctor Who.

Sandifer makes a powerful case that there are no pre-Unearthly Child adventures. He argues that the character we see in that first serial is utterly unequipped to be the Doctor. It is only his interaction with Ian and Barbara that make him into the heroic figure we see in later stories. This was argued on the blog, but is given further exploration in an essay on the Doctor's travels before Totters Lane. I tend to agree with Sandifer on this, though this is problematic for me because I view The Infinity Doctors as a pre-Unearthly Child story (and not an Unbound story). I think Sandifer's thesis of an unheroic older Hartnell is not incompatible with him being a bit more adventurous in the days when he was the younger Hartnell Doctor that I believe we see in The Infinity Doctors. Sandifer has not yet covered The Infinity Doctors, so we shall have to wait to see his view of how that story fits into the Doctor Who mythos.

I very much enjoyed Sandifer's discussion of The Web Planet, seeing it not as a disaster, but as one of the high points of the show. He sees in that serial a delightful exploration of just how weird and unearthly Doctor Who can get. He also joins the chorus of those of us who love the much maligned The Gunfighters. He finds much value in the Dalek spin-off material of the Sixties, arguing that it enables us to imagine the grandeur of the Doctor Who universe beyond the confines of the screen.

In an interesting bonus essay, Sandifer considers the question of whether William Hartnell was a bigot. He condemns two stories in particular for their racial subtext, The Ark and The Celestial Toymaker. It's hard to argue with Sandifer's condemnation of the racism of The Celestial Toymaker. He is appalled that the Celestial Toymaker has been re-used several times by Big Finish. I understand his anger, but I also understand why the character has returned. There is a such a strong sense of nostalgia about Michael Gough's Toymaker. He also cuts a very striking visual image. Yes, it might be racist to have a baddie looking like a Chinese Mandarin, but it is an undeniably impressive costume choice.

Maybe it's because I'm a right-wing bastard, but The Ark is very dear to me. I do think that The Ark can be defended against Sandifer's Post-Colonialist criticisms. Sandifer's reading rests upon the assumption that the Monoid's negative qualities are inherent in their nature and are not a result of their treatment by the humans. I think the Monoid tyranny can be seen as generated by the intolerance and stupidity of the Guardians, an hypothesis that the Doctor seems to allude to in that story. Like it or not, The Ark seems to reflect reality to some degree, as colonialism was often replaced by hideously corrupt and brutal dictatorships. I have heard people who once condemned Ian Smith as a racist bigot admit that in hindsight his opposition to majority rule in Rhodesia made sense.

Sandifer feels so strongly about The Celestial Toymaker and The Ark that he wants to exclude them from the canon of Doctor Who stories. This is unsurprising, as he has argued on his blog against the idea of a 'Whoniverse,' that is, a single unified fictional universe in which all Doctor Who stories take place. He seems to favour instead a canon in the artistic sense of an anthology of recognised texts. This is not my philosophy. Seeing Doctor Who as a unified fictional universe is an important part of how I consume and enjoy Doctor Who. I prefer a canon that is inclusive of as many texts as possible, including more problematic material like that of the Sixties TV Comic. This raises the question of what I would do with Doctor Who stories that contain racism or sexism. For me the answer to that is to regard such texts as unrealiable narrations of the events. Every story is true, but the details may not be accurate. Racially problematic materials can be seen in the same way as zips on the Silurian costumes or Ace remembering Paradise Towers.

For me, the most welcome addition in the book was the essay on whether Doctor Who is the name of the titular character. Yet I was irritated by one statement. Sandifer says "The problem is that there are no dedicated fans advocating for his name being Doctor Who." I am a dedicated fan and I have argued on my blog that his name really is Doctor Who.

His glorious essay on The Chase has to be read to be believed. Who could imagine that this silly story was about deconstructing the narrative essence of Doctor Who? That's much more interesting than saying it's 'silly but fun.'

I would heartily recommend Doctor Who fans to buy this book and also the second volume that is now available.
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on 30 December 2012
The first volume in Phil Sandifer's look at the classic series of "Doctor Who" is an absolute must have for hardcore Doctor Who fans. The articles are thought provoking and will make you really think a lot harder about those episodes you've seen and heard far too many times to mention. The author poses many questions about the episodes and places them in historical context so that the reader gets an unblinkered view of the era in which the stories were written, produced and screened for the first time. Whether you choose to read the book cover to cover or reference it as you watch various episodes, you will get an enormous satisfaction from this volume.

Sandiford also looks at a number of the key novels and films that represent the era (both Cushing movies get an airing here) as well as numerous essays that further enhance one's enjoyment of the series.

What you will not find in this particular book is a basic plot summary or a cast list. There are other websites or books for those.

Sadly, this book loses a star for two main reasons- the absolute shoddy proofreading that sees far too many typos throughout the volume and also the fact that one whole article (the one on "The Massacre") is missing. Do not despair, Sandiford will more than likely do a second edition which addresses both of these concerns (and by all accounts, this has been fixed for volume two)
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on 23 December 2013
I love Eruditorum. I discovered the series in the Kindle book store (I have not been a follower of the blog) and love his approach to the history of Doctor Who. His essays (blogs) are always well written, develop themes across the different eras of Who and make their points with the assured confidence only a thoroughly well researched devotee of Doctor Who can achieve. I do not agree with everything he writes (and I am sure he would be upset if I did) but the case presented in Eruditorum make you analyse your own views properly rather than simply disregard someone else's opinion simply because you do not agree with it.
I have just finished the first Tom Baker volume (same review applies to all volumes, truth be told) and I am eagerly awaiting the next instalments.
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on 12 January 2016
As someone who has watched Doctor Who for many years and built up a great knowledge of what happened in the show I don't need to read synopses.....I know what happened. What Phillip Sandifer does in his essays is take a much deeper look into the stories of each era and in some ways academically find themes in them that I would never see myself. I don't always agree with what he says but I find it fascinating reading to see something new that I had not considered before. Well worth a read if you love Doctor Who and are looking for a new take on things.
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on 28 February 2012
This book is something very rare, in that it's something I feel I need to write a review on Amazon about. But for a Doctor Who fan that's looking for an intellectual critique of the programme that's still perfectly accessible, this is exactly spot on. Each story is put into its historical and cultural context with a brief round up of that month's charts and headlines, and then the story is analysed with intelligence and humour. It's really readable and the use of literary critical techniques is judged just right so that intelligent points are made without needing a degree to understand them.

There are also whole essays about other cultural goings-on of the time and also some entries cover some of the 90's novels set during the era.

This isn't even my favourite era of Dr Who but it's fascinating to see the evolution of the character interpreted by the author, and I very much look forward to his next volume!
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on 1 January 2013
A very intense and fascinating read for the Doctor Who afficionado. Absolutely not for the beginner or casual fan, this will only interest those who already know every Who story in reasonable detail. If you don't know the basic plot outlines for the Hartnell era, then get familiar with them before purchasing this book.

Sandifer's adoration of the programme and appreciation of the surrounding culture leaps from every page. It is no exaggeration to say that you will look afresh at the whole of the Hartnell era after consuming this collection of essays.

There are substantial downsides though. Firstly, the author is prone to the unnecessary, obscure and cringe-making prose style that one might associate with a stereotypical, self-satisfied and smug media studies lecturer. This means that some fundamentally interesting analysis is often presented as a mess of words and sub-clauses apparently intended to show how clever the author is rather than to enlighten the reader.

Secondly, Sandifer's politics are of the tediously one dimensional, oh-so-predictable, left-wing undergraduate type. He can barely disguise his glee at uncovering any type of perceived racism, sexism or neo-colonialism in a Doctor Who story, however tenuous. The validity of some of the points he makes is obscured by the over-the-top, immature, right-on outrage that you'd expect to find at a meeting of ill-informed angry, barely-post-pubescent student radicals.

The Ark is, we are told, "a sickening, vile piece of racism". The Celestial Toymaker is also disgustingly racist because...wait for it...the Toymaker is Chinese. Not only that, but the Gerry Davis novelisation makes it plain that the lead villain possesses some Chinese furniture and dresses in Chinese clothing. Heaven forfend.

If you - like Sandifer - consider this to be conclusive proof of vile Sinophobia by the show's writers, you'll nod sagely at this point. If you have a rather more mature and rounded view of the human race, you'll decide - as I did - that the author is just rather silly. Either way, most readers will conclude that Sandifer's assertion that neither The Ark nor The Celestial Toymaker should be considered canonical - simply because they offend his rather tedious and juvenile moral sensibilities - is utterly ridiculous.

A further annoyance is the omission of the essay covering The Massacre. By this stage in the book, I'd become so frustrated with Sandifer's temperament that I'd assumed all would be explained and there'd be some arty farty, too-clever-by-half, utterly pompous reason for the exclusion of the essay relating to this story. But no, it is (thankfully, I suppose) just a terrible error in editing (the essay is included at the back of Volume 2 if you're tempted to purchase that too).

Sandifer admits to holding a bright, burning torch for Miles and Wood's acclaimed, but also widely criticised, About Time series. This leads him to fall into the same sort of traps that made that series of books ball-achingly annoying at numerous points.

Nevertheless, if you're the forgiving type and can overlook some of these horrific flaws, Sandifer's work is a worthy and challenging addition to any serious Doctor Who fan's bookshef.
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on 30 July 2015
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