Sunday, 30 June 2013

A New Life

Not to be confused with A New Life, although that would be easily done seeing as they are two stories in the same book with exactly the same name.

I think that is supposed to be Sarah in the picture, with the Doctor being the ominously silhouetted manny behind her. I am no longer the least bit surprised when the Doctor's Companions look nothing like they did in the TV series.

A New Life is a story that starts well, with the Doctor and Sarah spending well over a whole page (out of the four pages of the story) exploring a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape populated only by the bodies of mannys going

"The Doctor pushed one of the doors, and it fell to the ground in a powdery heap. As he stepped inside, his feet caught on something and, looking down, he stiffened. There, on the dusty floor, lay a skeleton, its arms outstretched as if to protect the two small skeletons beneath them."

It is described most atmospherically, though (appropriately for a Tom Baker Doctor-and-Sarah era set story) I doubt Mary Whitehouse would have approved. The characterisation of the Doctor and Sarah is also well done, at least in the first half of the story. They find a mannyhole to explore.
"The Doctor turned a face of studied innocence towards his assistant. 'Whatever gave you that idea?' he said, and then spoiled the effect by grinning. 'Nowthatyoumentionitthough, we might find a clue down there. Are you game?'"

They go into underground tunnels and are attacked by a monster.

"Something was swimming towards them. There was a flurry of water as it broke the surface, and Sarah screamed. The 'something' was about the size of a dog, with huge gaping jaws and a silvery body covered in scales. It attacked the boat with great ferocity, snapping and snarling as it tried to reach them."

This exciting scene carries us past the halfway point of the story, with the Doctor fighting off waves and waves of doggy-monsters with a burning torch he finds until they are rescued by mannys with spears.

"As soon as it was safe to move, the Doctor got up to thank their rescuers, only to be met by two stern white faces and two more spears, this time pointing at himself and Sarah."

Of course they have immediately gone from one peril to another. "Out of the frying pan , into the fire," you might say.
"As they stepped into the other boat, the Doctor gave Sarah a lopsided grin. 'Out of the frying pan, into the fire, eh?'"

Oh, he did say. Anyway, this story has clearly used up all its good ideas by this point and descends into cliche for the last page-and-a-bit. The Doctor and Sarah are taken to the mannys' leaders, who think them spies and order them to be killed. So they are chained up to be nomed by the doggy-monsters. It also becomes clear that the Doctor has used up all his 'acting properly like the Doctor' ability by this point too.

"In spite of herself, Sarah had to smile. 'Tell me a joke,' she said. 'It doesn't have to be very funny, just as long as it keeps my mind off our predicament.'
'I thought we came here because you were sick of my jokes!' retorted the Doctor. 'You women just don't know your own minds, that's your trouble!'"

They are rescued by a manny called Barda, who believes they came from the surface where, according to the manny's leaders, nobody is supposed to be able to live. Yawn, blah blah blah, Barda takes them to the surface where "he breathed in the sweet fresh air, and felt the sun on his skin for the first time."

The Doctor and Sarah have had enough of this adventure. So have I. They go back to the Tardis. I'm going back to sleeps. Zzzzz.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Bunny Time

This video is an advert, but I don't know what it is meant to be an advert for, all I can see is SUPER CUTE BUNNIES BEING SUPER CUTE!

Monkeys With Badges Get Over-Excited

Hello, we're monkeys.
We have badges.
We are Monkeys With Badges.

Today we have seen the most awesum thing on the internets:

BRIAN BLESSED + Mike Loades = Explodes!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

On The Slippery Trail

On The Slippery Trail is either the title or else it is what the Doctor is thinking about.

The stories in Adventures in Time and Space are getting even shorter now, this one is only four pages long. The Doctor and Sarah spend the first page exploring and finding clues, but don't meet any other characters. It is a bit like The Ark in Space Part One in that respect.

The dialogue is not as convincing as it was in 'The Vampires of Crellium' and we get exchanges like this:
"'If I didn't know better, I would say that this was a huge snail trail,' he remarked, fingering the slippery blades. 'Let's follow it and see if I'm right.'
'Do we have to?' shuddered Sarah. 'I never could stand creepy crawlies!'
'Softy!' grinned the Doctor, helping her to her feet."

Seeing as there aren't any cliffhangers in this story, we just get a monster appearing on page two as though that's the kind of thing that can happen at any time, and not just as a surprise at the end of part one.

Warning: the next excerpt from the story is very, very scary. Make sure you are feeling exceptionally brave or have a brave friend nearby before you read it.

"'Aaahh!' Sarah's face contorted into a scream as a huge, black, slug-like creature emerged from the undergrowth. It was moving slowly towards her, its vast mouth sucking up the vegetation like some enormous vacuum cleaner and, to her horror, she could feel the powerful suction pulling her towards the gaping orifice."

The monster is like Hoover! This story has suddenly become the scariest Doctor Who story ever. I will need Scary Cat's help to read on and see if the Doctor can save the day.


The Doctor pulls Sarah free and they escape from the monster. Phew!
"The Doctor flexed his arms and winced. 'Now I know how a wish-bone feels!' he said. 'I'm glad you're such a slip of a thing, or I wouldn't have made it!'
Sarah smiles shakily. 'Form now on, you can insult me as much as you like,' she said. 'After that mammoth effort you deserve it!'"

To cut a short story even shorter, the Doctor gets some salt and drops it on the monster, which it turns out the monster is vulnerable to for some reason, like maybe it is related to the Cybermannys or something.

"As they watched, the creature began to squirm, lashing its back end on the ground and shuddering violently. A pale liquid began to ooze out of the black skin. Slowly the huge body shrank to the ground, like some old wrinkled balloon."

With the monster defeated, the Doctor and Sarah meet some other mannys (who were, quite rightly, hiding from the creature) and the Doctor tells them to use salt if there are any more.

"The people called themselves the Anthrons, and they told the two travellers how, every solar cycle, the Jannosaur would ravage the countryside, filling its huge body with enough food to last until the next raid. No one was safe from the powerful suction, and when the time came they would all leave their homes and hide in the caves until the ugly monster had gone."

That sounds just like what happens when Hoover comes out of his cupboard. But in the story the day is saved and the Doctor and Sarah go back to the Tardis.

"'Fancy not knowing about that salt,' said Sarah. 'Their food must be pretty tasteless, mustn't it?'
The Doctor laughed. 'Perhaps I should go back and tell them that it's good on fish and chips as well, eh? It could change their lives!'"

That is the end of the story. I think it is now time for some fishy noms for me!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Alternative Exits 2

Season Two

As seen through the lens of comments given to the BBC Audience Research Department by 1965's TV viewers.

The Powerful Enemy, a.k.a. The Rescue
"From the way the story and character were developing, coming hard on the heels of Susan's departure in Flashpoint two weeks ago, I was expecting Vicki to be a straightforward replacement. It was therefore a surprise when this didn't happen, but not a nasty surprise. Long may Doctor Who continue to not take the obvious road in its plotting."

The Romans
"Seeing Ian left behind in Ancient Rome was a bit of a shock ending. Whatever next - Vicki left behind in Ancient Greece?"

The Web Planet
"Well, Barbara's heroic sacrifice was wasted on me because I found the entire thing just too silly to take seriously. What was going on at the end there? I don't think I'll carry on watching Doctor Who if it's like that again."

The Crusade
"So is Sir Ian of Jaffa getting his own series then? I hope so. The Adventures of Sir Lancelot was good."

The Space Museum
"So I missed last week's programme and now it turns out Ian and Barbara aren't in it any more. Oh well."

The Time Meddler
"That was certainly a twist alright. Steven and Vicki travelling in time and space with that Monk fellow instead of the Doctor. I wonder if they'll change the name of the show?"

Galaxy 4
"I hope Vicki has a really groovy time with those Rills, man."

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Alternative Exits

From The Dalek Invasion of Earth to Dragonfire, Doctors and Companions were continually coming and going from the series, sometimes with little to no warning or build-up. *cough*Leela*cough*

Postcards from Another World looks at the "Alternative Exits" - the stories where in our world the cast remained constant - and asks what might have been. In each case we will consider who would have been the most likely regular to leave, for on or off-screen reasons, and if such a thing is plausible at all.

Season One

An Unearthly Child
Any character that doesn't make it past The Firemaker isn't really ever a regular character, just a guest role for this one story. While it is next to impossible to imagine the Doctor leaving Ian or Barbara behind in 100,000 BC, it is even harder to imagine the series surviving for long if he had.

The Daleks
Could Barbara have plausibly stayed behind with the Thals? Her departure so early in the series might mean we would be looking back at the early years of Doctor Who and not think of the pairing "Ian and Barbara" quite so readily. Would it have given a larger role to Susan in her place? Or would it set a precedent for a much higher turnover of regular actors than we are used to, with the Doctor's Companions coming and going every dozen episodes (two-to-three stories) or so?

The Edge of Destruction
With nowhere to go except the TARDIS, who could possibly have left in this story? The only way out would be by death, perhaps at the hands of Susan's scissors. Even if caused accidentally, or while the characters were not in control of their own actions, could the series long survive the death of a regular this early?

Marco Polo
Perhaps only now is the series mature enough, at 20 episodes, for the departure of a regular character not to jeopardise the stability and long-term survival of the show. Perhaps the most likely candidate for leaving here is Susan, who can stay with her new friend Ping Cho. Following in the footsteps of both Susan's grandfather and Marco Polo, they become explorers together.

The Keys of Marinus
The first example in the series of the Doctor's visit leaving a society in chaos and needing to be rebuilt, this would be the first example of the occasional trend for Companions to leave to assist in the rebuilding of the society (see Steven Taylor in The Savages as our world's first example of this). Ian remains on Marinus with his new friends TarrantTarron, Altos and Sabetha.

The Aztecs
For any of the regulars to have remained behind in any safety would have required a significant change to the ending of the story (i.e. more than just a "I've decided to stay. Bye, Doctor.") and, as tempting as it may be to imagine, for Barbara to have remained would have required the rewriting of more than just one line of history. But, as surprising as it may seem, I would say the most plausible of the four regulars to remain behind here would be the Doctor, passing the TARDIS keys to Susan and staying with Cameca.

The Sensorites
While it is possible to write Ian or Barbara out here - choosing a life in Central City on future-Earth over the uncertainty of further travels in the TARDIS - it is easier to imagine Susan as the first to depart (probably because we are so close to the point of her real departure in only three stories' time), with her being left in a unique position to help the humans and Sensorites come to a better understanding of one another.

The Reign of Terror
With them finding revolutionary France a source of constant danger, it is hard to imagine any of the regulars voluntarily staying here. While it would have been shocking to end the first season of the show with a death, if we are forced to choose one of the four to leave the series while still alive then perhaps the Doctor is once again the one to go for - this period of Earth's history was supposed to be his favourite, after all.

Planet of Giants
It's virtually impossible to imagine a regular leaving in this story except through death, since they are miniaturised the entire time.
"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and..."
"Grandfather, I'm only six inches tall!"
"Oh please stop bothering me."

Saturday, 15 June 2013

'The Vampires of Crellium'

At last we get a decent story in the Doctor Who Books Project, for the first time in ages. 'The Vampires of Crellium' begins well, with the whole first page (out of five) spent on setting up a mystery and establishing a spooky atmosphere, in keeping with the promise of the title.

For example, the Doctor says to Sarah:
"'I never thought I'd see you scared off by a few ghosts.' His voice betrayed none of the unease that he, too, felt."
This tells us that even the Doctor is uneasy in this story, and he's normally almost as difficult to scare as Scary Cat!

The Doctor also gives some exposition as to why they are staying on a scary planet:
"The psychic activity on this planet is quite incongruous with its history. As a scientist I feel it my duty to investigate."
Sarah then has a brief flashback to how they discovered this planet needed investigating:
"For the first time in the hundreds of thousands of years that the Doctor had known them, the Communal Will, to which every inhabitant of Yula feeds his psyche and is in turn fed from the psyches of the other inhabitants, showed ripples and cracks in its usually egg-smooth uniformity.
Using his unique mixture of instinct, logic and knowledge, the Doctor had established that the fault was not internal disintegration, but the result of a massive psychic bombardment from space. He had traced the source of the onslaught to Crellium, a planet believed to be nothing more than swampland, gas and misty half-light."

Because we have read the title, we know there will be vampires there even though the Doctor doesn't. This is a clever technique that makes us anticipate the peril that the Doctor and Sarah will find. After this build-up, the Doctor and Sarah finally enter the story on page 2 by leaving the Tardis.

"The air was thick and cold, with a faintly fetid smell that clung to the lungs. The ground was wet and greasy, the vegetation soft and bloated, and the absence of sound played dangerous tricks with the imagination."

Lines like that further enhance the mood of the story. This story also has the added bonus of the Doctor acting properly like the Doctor. For instance, it is easy to imagine Tom Baker playing the following scene:

"After five minutes the Doctor suddenly held up his arm.
'Wh-?' started Sarah.
'Quiet!' hissed the Doctor, his face a mask of concentration.
Sarah strained her ears, but there was nothing to pierce the immense barrier of utter and absolute silence. Nothing, until, faintly, she thought she heard what can only be described as a sob, coming from the mist, as if from a thousand miles away.
'There it is again,' said the Doctor. 'You hear it?'"

They then find a "creature."

"Sarah started. There was no face. In place of her eyes, nose, mouth and ears there was only smooth yellow skin."

Aside from pointing out the obvious, that the skin is not yellow, it is pink (along with everything else in the picture), this is an effective scary face more in the line of a baddy from Sapphire and Steel than Balok. The "creature" uses telepathy to talk to the Doctor and Sarah. She is called Marsalla and the other manny in the picture is Krem-ling.

Krem-ling is
dead, but Marsalla tells the Doctor that he will be alive again soon. This worries the Doctor.

"'You say this Krem-ling took you as a child. Did he look like that then?' The Doctor pointed tothe head of the lifeless body.
'No, he did not. This is his first humanoid body. He has taken the shape of the Heemies and the Worgs, the Benlithulans and the Suasion Norbs. Next he will adopt the snail flesh of the Yulians.' Marsalla's telepathic message was unemotional, but her words were like cold knives to the Doctor."

I like this bit, because it mixes the silly names of aliens with the scary threat of the baddy's plan.

The Doctor gets righteously angry with Marsalla.
"'Then you will know of this... this thing's purpose!' The Doctor was speaking aloud now, contempt and anger almost choking his words. 'You will know what misery and horror he causes. You will know what happens to those he feeds upon.'"

This is another scene that is easy to imagine Tom Baker acting, reminiscent of The Pirate Planet. The vampire's plan is to invade the Yulian Communal Will, but because he is taking over an entire planet instead of just one manny, he needs the special flowers of this planet to amplify his power. The Doctor and Sarah start to destroy the evil flowers, but they are too late and they come to life as "slimy, squat automatons."

The Doctor sends Sarah back to the safety of the Tardis so only he is left in danger. His only remaining plan is to persuade Marsalla to turn against Krem-ling.

"'But why should I help you?' she mocked telepathically. 'How can I help you?'
'You could enter Krem-ling's body. Without it to return to he would die, and these emissaries would die also.'
'And me? What about me? Had you not guessed that I too serve the mighty Drakka? Would you have me die as well?'
'How can you die when you do not live? Is this your life, this black abyss? Is this your future? A desolate, never-ending trail of violation? Do you not remember Juksta? Was your childhood so empty and savage? Do you not remember having friends, playing in the sunlight? Do you not re-member your mother, your father, your family? That is your life, Marsalla, not this evil. If there is any part of you that still remembers, you must enter Krem-ling's body. Enter it, Marsalla, rid your-self of his influence, free yourself of him!'"

This works, and Marsalla merges with Krem-ling's body to defeat him. Oh, and she also has some kind of self-destruct button to blow everything up once the Doctor escapes back to the Tardis.
"The last thing they saw before leaving the planet was Marsalla flicking a switch on the container, and then a tremendous explosion rocked the Tardis so that they were both flung to the floor."

Maybe they had this picture of an explosion and just wanted to use it, so had to have an explosion in the story somewhere? I can't think of any other reason for this otherwise completely gratuitous ending.

There is an epilogue paragraph set back on Yula, where Marsalla gets a happy ending.
"But as he let his mind wander through the busily rebuilding Communal Will the Doctor thought he touched upon one spirit that had somehow found rest there - the spirit of Marsalla, the Jukstan child that had saved a planet and herself."

If 'The Vampires of Crellium' has a flaw, it is in the amount of story that is told as exposition. But with it only being five pages long, it is very entertaining for that, with memorable imagery, good characterisation, and full of ideas.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013