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TARDIS Eruditorum - A Unauthorized Critical History of Doctor Who Volume 1: William Hartnell Paperback – November 11, 2011
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First, a caveat: as other reviewers have noted, the book version is missing a chapter, and sadly, it's for a fantastic story (and good essay), "The Massacre." You may wish to get the Kindle version if that omission will bother you (Sandifer has put his revised essay up for free on his site, and will include it in the next volume.) Also, the restrictions of self-publishing are evident in places. I wished for some different fonts now and again, some pull quotes or something to break up what can seem like an endless run of identical-looking pages. But that's really minor stuff.
What's great about Phil's book is his fearlessness, his willingness to stake out a jaw-dropping argument (e.g., that "The Ark" and "Celestial Toymaker," two fairly revered Who stories, are irredeemable racist garbage) and make his case clearly and succinctly (and convincingly). His take on the "Tenth Planet" argues that serial has been entirely misunderstood by generations of fans, and that it's in fact the horrifying sudden demise of the show, from which Who has never quite recovered. He analyses the much-maligned "The Chase" as postmodern goof. He rightly praises Maureen O'Brien, the oft-forgotten, secret Mod heart of Hartnell's best era. With great insights into Nineties novels that attempted to reclaim the era.
Essential stuff. Buy this book.
A downside of this format is that it requires knowledge of the stories themselves, or access to a good reference. Sandifer doesn't spend time summarizing what each story is about. This is something to keep in mind. My print edition also had numerous typos and a missing essay (however, the essay will appear in the next volume, which I intend to buy!). These are minor downsides - on the whole, this book is an excellent read for dedicated fans of Doctor Who and deserves to stand with other works like About Time and the Discontinuity Guide.
It's a fascinating and thought provoking ride - not always fun, as Sandifer is unafraid of challenging quite a bit of received fan wisdom, and of bringing to light painful topics such as the blatant racism in several early stories, but honest and interesting, with a voice that invites discussion.
To be fair to the reader, I'd point out that there were some printing mistakes in the paper edition of this first volume, including an entire missing chapter. If you've got a kindle or e-reader that will support the electronic edition, I'd go for that first since you'll get the corrected form.
Sandifer does a wonderful job of balancing the historical aspects, the summary, and his opinion on each episode. He's not shy about giving his opinion and comparing/contrasting them with the others who've published. Sandifer also critiques some of the "extra" Who of the time (movies and other tie-ins) and some of the Missing Adventures written for Hartnell.
One of the two things that really made this book for me was the fact that Sandifer made sure to look at each of the episodes through the lens of how the episodes were first viewed. When talking about the Daleks, it was in the context that no one had ever seen them before. We didn't have the Genesis of the Daleks or the Time War with which to paint the experience. Taking time to pause and look through the eyes of a viewer from the 1960s was wonderful especially when other things going on in England at the time politically and socially was mixed in. A wonderful perspective.
The second part was the look at the behind-the-scenes. The filming pace was almost year-round - some individual episodes were written without a principal or two to give them time off. The changes in lead producers and the effect it had on the show was significant. What was the thought behind the Dalek Masterplan arc? Too many people in the TARDIS? Was William Hartnell really more racist than most people at the time? All of this painted how early Who was made, and it's fascinating history to read.
I can't wait for the Troughton volume to come out. If you like backstory, history and behind-the-scenes by all means buy this.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic concept (psychochronography - a stroll through time) and even better execution. Sandifer places the stories in their proper context and looks at them with a sympathetic... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Gregory Burie
I've not seen much of the Hartnell era because what I had seen prior to reading this book did not make me want to explore it further. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Nathan Lynch
I keep getting these for my boyfriend (There's one for all of the early Doctors, but not the new ones...yet?) and he devours them (260-460 pages) in a couple of days. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Laura Jinn
For my graduate thesis, I'm writing a feminist analysis of the female companions of Doctor Who from 1963-1979. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Landon Pool
An excellent series of essays, tightly argued and without pretence. Restores due focus to the Hartnell Era - well worth reading as a Whovian!Published 23 months ago by Mr. Ian Sharpe
Philip Sandifer is an academic and a lifelong fan of Doctor Who. In the TARDIS Eruditorum he provides unique insight into Doctor Who and its legacy. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Isaac Adams
Apparently, this book is based on a series of blog entries by Mr. Sandifer, though, according to him, these entries are somewhat revised and expanded. Read morePublished on January 26, 2014 by Timothy Haugh
I do love this book, which I am in the middle of reading right now, although the editing for it was imperfect. Read morePublished on May 10, 2013 by The Smiling Stallion Inn