Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Planet of Dust (part two)

The story so far.

This page also has two pictures on it. Neither of them make much sense.

The plants speak to the Doctor telepathically and give him exposition that Beshi wants to stay on this planet and nom the walking plants that he plans to make. Beshi can only nom things that have blood and flesh (so cats made from socks would be safe) and the last thing he ate was his colleague who is now a skeleton.

The Doctor offers to help Beshi repair his spaceship. Beshi agrees and gives him two days (forty-eight hours and then he's off the case) but he keeps Leela as a hostage.

The Doctor looks at Beshi's spaceship.

The ship seemed to be in perfect working order except for one thing - the vital Mechordinate Stellaprime was missing.

With less than two pages left, the plants hurry things up by telepathically filling the Doctor in on what happened. Beshi's colleague removed the "Mechordinate Stellaprime."

He took out the Stellaprime before they crashed. We read it in his mind before he died. He wanted to kill Beshi for something he had done on Larkal - something involving a female. Beshi killed him first, but he never found the Stellaprime. He did not even know it was missing.

It turns out that the plants can move around even without Beshi's mad science, so they help the Doctor look for the missing MacGuffin.

This is quite a good picture but is wasted in this tedious story.

Leela waits patiently for the Doctor to rescue her, because having her act in-character might go a tiny way towards redeeming this story and we can't have that. The plants find the MacGuffin and the Doctor repairs the spaceship in the nick of time.

Hours later, with Beshi gone to wrestle with whatever violent fate was in store for him, the Doctor and Leela said farewell to the plants.

I am not at all surprised by the lack of any kind of satisfying resolution to the story - Beshi just leaves, never to be seen or heard from again. Maybe that's for the best really. Fortunately we have now nearly reached the end, with only the feeble attempt at a humorous, everybody-laugh-at-Mr-Spock style last paragraph to go.

They watched the waving plants disappear from view and then they sat down and drank seven cups of tea each before they even spoke.
'Mmmmm,' said Leela, looking down at the leaves in her cup, 'that's one plant I'd walk miles for.' 

Well that was as rubbish as I expected it to be.

This is a terrible story. It is boring, confusing to the point of nonsensical, and has characters in it called the Doctor and Leela who bear no resemblance (pictures of Tom Baker aside) to characters of the same names in Doctor Who.

With only one short story to go in Adventures in Time and Space I feel confident in saying that Planet of Dust is by far the worst story in the whole book.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Big Gay Longcat reviews Dark Towers (part four)

The Dark Tree

Edward is scared but he manages to answer the Tall Knight's question. The Tall Knight says he can't help Edward unless "the girl and the dog" come too, because of an "old legend." The Tall Knight then vanishes and it gets light again.

Towser takes Tracy to the Tall Knight's Folly where they meet Edward. The ominous noise starts again and it gets dark.

The Tall Knight appears again and gives them a clue.

"Go to the old library
And a gold key you will see
Inside the inside of the Dark Tree."

Edward says he doesn't understand but the terrifying Tall Knight isn't obliging with explanations. He just repeats the riddle and then vanishes with the sound of scary thunder. While it may seem strange from a dramatic point of view to have the Tall Knight appear, disappear and then reappear in such a short space of time (less than seven minutes of screen time) and it makes the pacing of this episode a bit odd, it makes sense from the point of view of establishing that the Tall Knight's appearance was not a one-off, never to be repeated occurrence. Seen in that regard then it is the first signposting of how the story will resolve: we are now over half way and heading towards the climax.

Edward trusts Tracy and doesn't think that she is a thief, so they work together to try and work out the meaning of the Tall Knight's clue. They go to the library and look for the Dark Family Tree.

They find it. Tracy shakes the book and a paper and a key both fall out. The paper, of course, has a clue on it.

The episode ends over a shot of the clue, its meaning to be left for next time.

Beware of the bird!

Edward goes to ask Lord Dark if they have any studded chests. (Tracy can't go because she is still suspected of being a thief.) Lord Dark tells him but Miss Hawk hears as well. The friendly ghost in the painting from part one speaks to Edward to warn him:
"Beware of the bird with the brown feather,
A hawk to hunt treasure!"

Towser leads Tracy and Edward to the chest and they open it with the key. But then Benger and Bunce come in and capture them!

Miss Hawk orders Edward be taken to the red bedroom, while Bunce puts Tracy in their van and drives away. Towser chases after it but can't catch up.

As the van drives past the Tall Knight's Folly it gets dark and...


The Tall Knight appears in front of the van, and that is the end of the episode.

I think that the Tall Knight's appearing at the end might have come across as a deus ex machina had it not been cleverly established in part seven that there are certain implicit rules about when and where he can manifest. But either way, the effect of the sudden fall of darkness and flash of light makes for an exciting cliffhanger.

While these two episodes are not quite as good as parts five and six (a tough act to follow if ever there was one), by progressing the plot and always keeping the pace up they remain top quality TV. With only two parts still to go the series is well on its way to the story's conclusion, with Towser, Tracy and Edward all separated and in various degrees of peril.

Continued in Part Five.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Big Gay Longcat reviews Dark Towers (part three)

The Old Coach House

"Some books are so old they are rarer than diamonds. The Golden Book of the Tall Knight is said to be a thousand years old. If we find it, some museum might give more than a million pounds for it."

Miss Hawk is obsessed with finding the Golden Book, though it is clear she really wants it for herself.

Edward and Miss Hawk look in an old well but all they find is an old boot.

That's not treasure. "Wah-wah-wah-wah," goes the incidental music.

Towser and Tracy think that "old wheels" refers to the coach wheels of the coaches they saw in part two (Chekhov's Coaches?) and go to look. Towser looks for clues but it is Tracy who finds a bit of paper inside a coach.

Before she can read it, Benger and Bunce come in so Towser and Tracy have to hide. Benger and Bunce loudly discuss their plan to steal things and then set the house on fire, in case it wasn't yet clear enough how much they are obvious baddys.

Tracy sneezes and gives herself and Towser away. They are caught by Benger and Bunce. Bunce puts something in her pocket and they take her to Lord Dark so they can frame her. Because we, the audience, know what Bunce has done but Tracy doesn't, the anticipation of what will happen next makes for an effective cliffhanger.

The Tall Knight's Folly

When they see Lord Dark, they make Tracy turn out her pockets so Lord Dark thinks Tracy was trying to steal from Dark Towers. Lord Dark sends her (and Towser) away and says that if she comes back then he will call the police.

The trope of main characters being framed for a crime they did not commit is very, very common. Everything from The A-Team to Judge Dredd to Star Trek has used it sometimes. But the simplicity of they way it is used here in Dark Towers, along with the realistic reactions of all the characters concerned, makes this one of the best uses of this trope ever.

Towser and Tracy are sad as they leave Dark Towers, while Benger and Bunce are happy and congratulate each other at having outwitted a young, barely literate manny.

Edward looks in the coach house and finds the bit of paper that Tracy found earlier but left behind. It is a clue.

With no Towser or Tracy to help him, Edward goes to the friendly ghost for help. After being filled in on what has happened, the friendly ghost works out straight away that Benger and Bunce are the "two bees buzzing together" in the riddle, demonstrating that he is good at solving clues. Edward shows him the paper and between them they work out that the missing words are "tall" and "wall" because they rhyme.

At "the end of the wall" is the Tall Knight's Folly, and Edward thinks the next clue will be there. At this, the friendly ghost - and the incidental music - changes tone to once again emphasise how scary the Tall Knight is.

"You may meet the Tall Knight. Are you brave enough to go alone?"

Edward is brave. As he walks towards the Tall Knight's Folly there is a scary, ominous background noise and everything goes dark.

"Who comes to the Tall Knight's Folly?"

Mew! The Tall Knight of Dark Towers appears and is as scary as Balok, Pipes and Hoover combined. What's more, that is the end of the episode!

What a terrific cliffhanger ending, managing the incredible feat of having the Tall Knight's appearance be scary but intriguing at the same time. Because, while the story has repeatedly emphasised how scary the Tall Knight is, it has never suggested that he is evil.

These two episodes, forming the middle of the series, are simply amazing. The quality of the storytelling on display here puts so many other films and TV dramas to shame, it is time Dark Towers got the recognition it deserves.

Continued in Part Four.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Origin Story: Expensive Luxury Cat

Big Gay Longcat reviews Dark Towers (part two)

The old legend

The friendly ghost that appeared at the end of part two is also played by David Collings but with grey hair and a beard and a moustache. He is the ghost of Lord Dark.
"Oh no, not another one!" Tracy says.

The ghost tells them of an old riddle from a legend about Dark Towers:
"Beware of two bees buzzing together.
Beware of the bird with the brown feather.
The house will be saved by the Tall Knight's treasure."

The Tall Knight is another ghost who has haunted Dark Towers for "hundreds and hundreds of years" and is even older and far scarier than the friendly ghost. There is even ominous, thunder-like noises in the background when his name is mentioned to build up how scary he is.

Outside, Benger and Bunce meet Miss Hawk (played by Juliet Hammond-Hill from Power. Together with David Collings and Servalan's randomly Scottish henchmanny, this series is a veritable reunion of Blakes 7 guest actors). Miss Hawk has heard of treasure at Dark Towers too, so this scene nicely parallels the previous scene in the red bedroom by both giving exposition while setting up the conflict to follow.

Back in the red bedroom, the friendly ghost begins to fade away and just has time to give Towser, Tracy and Edward a clue before he vanishes completely:
"Book room, four up, four along, inside, four from the end, four from the top."
Towser growls because he hears somebody coming. There are footsteps and the door begins to open, but the episode ends before we can see who it is.

The clue in the Book Room

After all the build up at the end of part three trying to make a door opening into a dramatic cliffhanger, it is only Miss Hawk that comes into the room. Because Miss Hawk isn't obviously a baddy in the way that Benger and Bunce were (though she is really), Tracy and Edward fill her in on the plot so far. She has already heard of the "Golden Book of the Tall Knight," though this is the first time the treasure is given a name from our point of view.

They go to the "Book Room" (a library) and follow the clue to a book four shelves up and four books along from the left, and then inside the book four pages from the end and four lines from the top of the page.

When I do that with Duncan's bookshelf I get the following clue:
The Deep Fix, a pop group, go to No. 1 with Felt for You, Velvet for Me.
I wonder what it means?

Edward and Miss Hawk think they have worked out the clue and leave Towser and Tracy behind, because Tracy wants to work out the meaning for herself. The episode ends with her pondering the clue, as well as the friendly ghost's riddle from the last episode.

These two episodes of Dark Towers really get the treasure hunting aspect of the plot going with clues and riddles. While the main conflict of the series is still building up, all of the pieces are now in place and there is some foreshadowing of what is to come.

Continued in Part Three.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Big Gay Longcat reviews Dark Towers

Come with me, yes come with me,
To Dark Towers.
Who can tell what we shall see
In Dark Towers?
Dust and cobwebs everywhere,
Footsteps on the winding stair,
Mystery is in the air
In Dark Towers.
In the garden, in the hall,
Through the arch behind the wall,
Come and listen to the call
Of Dark Towers.

Dark Towers is a Look and Read TV series from 1981. I am a clever cat; I can both Look and Read. Not all cats can do that. Even mannys have to be taught how to do those things. Dark Towers is of interest to me because Duncan saw it when he was a little manny in the 1980s and he says it was good, but scary for little mannys or scaredy cats. Now, with the power of the internets, me and my friends can watch it too.

Dark Towers in danger!

Part one of Dark Towers begins by introducing the main character Towser. Towser is a doggy and his name is an anagram of "Towers" so maybe he is the chosen one. Towser's best friend is Tracy and they meet Lord Edward Dark of Dark Towers. Towser then runs off to get the plot started and the two mannys follow him.

Tracy meets David Collings, who is playing Lord Dark.
"Oh no, not another one!"she thinks. Lord Dark is Edward's father. Starcat thinks they should have saved that for a later episode to be a shock revelation, but I think that would have been too obvious a twist only a year after The Empire Strikes Back.

Lord Dark explains that "some Lords are poor" in a vain attempt to get us to feel sorry for the aristocracy. Then Towser, Tracy, and the Lords Dark all see a ghost in an old painting say "Dark Towers is in danger!"
That is the end of the episode.

The man in the picture

Part two picks up from exactly where part one ended. There is some great spooky music to go with the ghostly scenes in this, it is very early-80s sounding like in Doctor Who around that time. It seems that only Towser and Tracy heard the ghost's warning so the Lords Dark don't believe their house is in danger. Towser, Tracy and Edward explore the house.

Edward gives Towser a hat. Then they meet Mr Benger and Mr Bunce (played by Christopher Biggins and Servalan's randomly Scottish henchmanny from Gambit). Towser immediately recognises them as obvious baddys and growls, then goes outside and pees on their van. What a naughty doggy!

Sadly there is a blatant continuity error here as Towser's new hat disappears when he goes outside. Tsk and mew, I say. Because I am a cat.

Towser runs inside and up some stairs to "the red bedroom" and barks a lot until Tracy and Edward follow him in. Towser is clearly the brains of this party. The music and narration indicate that something important is about to happen. A ghost appears in the bed!

This is not as scary as it sounds because Towser knows the ghost is friendly and wags his tail instead of being frightened, and the ghost laughs in a friendly way to see a happy doggy.

This subversion of a typical scary cliffhanger is the end of the episode.

The first two episodes of Dark Towers are adequate at introducing most of the main characters - including Dark Towers the house itself - but the plot, despite Towser's best efforts, hasn't really got going yet.

Continued in Part Two.

The Planet of Dust

At 8 pages long, The Planet of Dust is the longest story since Fugitives from Chance, all the way back when Jon Pertwee was still playing the Doctor. This helps give The Planet of Dust the feeling of being a season-ending epic story like The Invasion of Time or The Armageddon Factor. With only one story left in Adventures in Time and Space after this, and that a very short 2-pager, this is maybe not so far from the truth.

The Planet of Dust starts as it means to go on: oddly.
As the Doctor ran a practised eye over the flickering needles and glowing lights of the Tardis control panel, Leela watched him carefully, finding her subject infinitely more interesting, if even less revealing than the complexities of the instruments that had brought them there.

Now I don't think it's the starting the story in media res that is odd, I think it is the use of the word "needles." Confused cat is confused.

There is an unusually lengthy (unusual for the Doctor Who Books Project at least) Tardis scene, filling us in on the backstory that the Doctor and Leela (whoever is playing her this time) are answering an "Inter-galactic distress signal" and they use the Tardis scanner to see the planet outside.
It was a skull, some seventeen feet in length and with two grey horns protruding from the top.
'Looks like the cow didn't make it, after all,' said Leela.
The Doctor ignored her attempt at humour.
'This is not the moon,' he chided, 'and whatever that creature was, it most certainly wasn't a cow.'

The Doctor and Leela leave the Tardis and fall through the surface of the planet to a "huge chamber" inside it (I hope it isn't a Dalek asylum). This takes until the end of page 2 - already a quarter of the story is over and hardly anything has happened yet. The slower pace of this story makes it quite boring so far. Hopefully things will liven up on page 3 when they meet a giant alien creature.

The horned, scaly head with its grinning, tooth-filled mouth, seemed an after-thought, like a cherry on top of a cake. For the body was so massive that Leela was unable to take it all in. The clawed fists were the size of houses. The squat legs were wider than a motorway. Leela felt that if the creature were to move the whole planet would be jolted off its axis.

 The creature is called Beshi and he chats to the Doctor for a bit, giving exposition about how he crashed on the planet with a colleague who went
and is now the skeleton that they saw earlier, and Beshi has been on the planet for a year with only plants for noms. The story finally begins to get more interesting when Beshi explains that he has a mad scheme:
'I mean to give these plants the ability to think for them-selves. I mean to give them the ability to walk and talk like other living things. Imagine it! A human can walk - a plant cannot. A plant can live off sunshine and rain - a human cannot. Imagine a plane that is able to walk to find water, one that can uproot itself and move out of the shadow, one with all the abilities of a human, but none of the appetite. This desert of a planet could become a paradise covered with lush vegetation.'

Beshi takes them to his laboratory.
'Follow me.'
They walked for almost half an hour down a long corridor, with the Doctor and Leela having to run, and Beshi taking one giant stride and then waiting for them. Eventually he stopped altogether.
'Perhaps it would be better if I carried you,' he said.
'Yes, perhaps it would.'

This page has two pictures on it, but the bottom one makes no sense.

They get to Beshi's laboratory at about the halfway point of the story. So far this has been so boring that I am going to go and have sleeps before I finish it. Zzzzz.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Peter Capaldi IS the Doctor!

Here's an exclusive first look at the new costume and redesigned TARDIS interior:

LOL, not really! This is from 1996's Neverwhere when Peter Capaldi played Islington.

I think Peter Capaldi will be great as the Doctor. I am a happy cat.

In fact, I might even say
I'm in heaven.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Emsone's Castle

The Doctor and Leela (who has once again decided to put some clothes on over her usual TV costume) meet a skeleton. The skeleton is Krass, who has had "all his flesh and clothing" stolen by a baddy called Emsone. This gets the story started quickly and is quite intriguing.

The first page was colourful but clearly, as with the Doctor Who TV story Underworld, they used all their budget up early and couldn't afford any colours except for pink for this page.

Leela leaps to the attack...
This gives Leela her only moment of acting properly in-character for this story, as opposed to being a generic Companion. She is promptly captured by the baddy's henchmanny Gurk in the next panel, and her top goes pink instead of black like on page 1.
she says.

That is a properly scary face in the first panel, even rivaling Balok in scary face terms. This page has some of the best drawing in Adventures in Time and Space, managing to make the story scary and exciting in only a few panels. The only downside is that everything is blue, and while maybe that helps make it more atmospheric, I think that being colourful is always better because I am a colourful cat.

Emsone hasn't appeared in the story yet but he has already been established as a powerful baddy and worthy adversary to the Doctor. On this page the Doctor enters a battle of minds against him.

As they walk through the cavernous passageways of Emsone's castle, the Doctor forms a single image in his mind... a wall... a wall that will not crumble... a wall that will not crack... a strong thick wall that will stand firm between the Doctor's brain and whatever demons Emsone might try to put in it...

Emsone is revealed, and it looks like he is being played by Sir Ian McKellen. Here is a picture of Sir Ian McKellen looking fabulous:

Emsone wants the Doctor for his brain (lol). Their battle of wills makes for the story's dramatic climax.

Emsone's castle begins to fall apart, but Emsone thinks it is an illusion created by the Doctor just as he created illusions to fool the Doctor earlier. This is a satisfying way for the baddy to be defeated, and he just has time for a final speech when he realises the truth...
"But... but this isn't how I planned it. My castle can't fall down now! What about my machine? This just can't be real... it can't be... it can't be!"
...before he goes

The Doctor, Krass and Leela escape and the Doctor restores Krass to being a handsome, fully clothed manny again in time for the final panel and a cup of tea.

Emsone's Castle is one of my favourite stories in the Doctor Who Books Project so far.