Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Volcanis Deal (part two)

The story so far. (No, there is not an explanation of why the Doctor and Turlough look like that, but there is a snake.)

Then the walls of the Tardis started to warp. They were losing their shape and beginning to run like melting wax.
The Doctor crossed to the computer, as everything became distorted as if reflected in moving water. Turlough was nothing more than a blurred elongated shape which writhed like smoke.

"I can't see anything unusual going on here, can you?"

"I can't either. Also: Aaaaah!"

Then the artificial gravity failed, the computer became one massive spider's web, and it felt as if the Tardis had suddenly somersaulted, leaving them both like flies on a wall.

Oh noes, how will they possibly escape from this situation?

Suddenly the nightmare stop ped and everything snapped back into normal focus.

Mew. I have a bad feeling that this story is not going to deliver on its early mad promise. The Doctor and Turlough are just getting used to being back to normal, and the Doctor is thinking about what is going on, when...

Then it all started again.
For the Doctor, it was an impression of chaos in which things lost their shape and ran into one another, rather like the effect of accidentally taking several photo-graphs on one piece of film.
Just as suddenly, everything snapped back to normal.
It was as if someone was switching the terrifying effect on and off.

Well that's something, as it establishes a mystery for the Doctor and Turlough to investigate and solve. Then they receive a message that they can't understand because it is in a "completely alien language."

The Doctor had a complex computer which could analyse any new language and compare it with the vast number already lodged in its memory banks. All languages evolved by human-type creatures tended to have certain things in common, and the computer, capable of making simultaneous comparisons by the million, could decode in minutes a language which might baffle a team of human programmers for years.
The Doctor waited impatiently, until Turlough finished scrambling the computer.

I like this bit, even if the computer doesn't exactly fit in with how Tardis technology is usually presented in Doctor Who. Also I don't hear the word "scrambling" used in that way these days.

"MY NAME IS ARS GLOAM OF ILIUM," came a deep voice, the texture of gravel.
"Ilium!" shouted the Doctor in triumph, as if he had just unravel-led some great mystery. The voice continued:

This fortuitous bit of exposition sets the Doctor and Turlough on course for Ilium, the source of the message and, the Doctor deduces, the source of the "very powerful mental weapon" which was intended to scare them away. I think the sounds of a hoover would have been more effective.

"One thing they forgot, though, was that they underestimated the capabilities of the Tardis. And most of all - and which I find most insulting - they underestimated me." The Doctor picked up his cricket bat.

Don't mess with Davo, if you push him too far he'll f*** you up. The Tardis lands on Ilium and the Doctor goes out alone, but with "a simple radio microphone" to communicate with Turlough.

The doors to the Tardis swished open and as the Doctor stepped out, something like a lightning bolt hit him.
He blacked out.

This picture is even more scary when turned upside down:

Mew! Scary Cat, please help me turn the book the right way up again!

The writer, upon realising that there are only had two pages left, hurries the story up by having the Doctor get captured as soon as he leaves the Tardis. He is put on trial for "illegally entering the Ilium System." In a manner in which the mannys of Marinus would be proud, the trial goes straight on to sentencing the Doctor to be "processed" and given false memories as happened to ARS GLOAM earlier. Then they find out the Doctor is wired for sound.

"So. You have a microphone concealed on you. You have been secretly broadcasting. Your trans-mission was overheard by our monitors. It is now being blocked by static."
In the Tardis, Turlough was almost demented with worry, as he cursed and kicked the console. He had lost contact with the Doctor. All he could pick up was crackling static. Suddenly, the doors to the Tardis opened, and the Doctor walked in, beaming happily.

The Doctor tells Turlough that he has solved all the problems off-screen while Turlough was just hearing static, but before he explains how he fills Turlough in on some exposition:

"In order to deal with their undesirables, they have formed a punishment where they brainwash them, and send them packing to another solar system and another planet, namely, Earth."
"Criminals!" choked Turlough.

The writer must not have known Turlough's backstory then, unless Turlough is being a hypocrite - not entirely impossible I suppose. The Doctor compares it to the British sending convicts to Botany Bay, which makes me wonder why Khan Tegan wasn't in this story.

The Volcanis Deal ends with the Doctor explaining that he did a deal with the baddys.

"Yes, I persuaded the officiator of the main Ilium Court of Law that they ought to punish their criminals by making them contribute some-thing useful to society. I offered them an alternative dumping ground."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, in exchange for a promise not to send Earth any more of their rehabilitated criminals, I traded them Volcanis."

This story is all over the place, a bit like this last picture, trying to cram in volcano planets, mad mind-bending antics, alien (in)justice systems, and an allegory for transportation, all in just seven pages. There is imagination on display here, but not much sense, and no indication that the writer knew anything about the Doctor or Doctor Who before they wrote this. As a Doctor Who story that makes it awful.

And as for the ending, I don't know if it wouldn't have been more in character for the Doctor to have merced all the baddys* using his cricket bat as soon as they cut off his communication with Turlough, rather than have him do a morally questionable deal with them - trading them a planet that wasn't his so that they can send brainwashed slave labour to it to work in a totally hostile environment. And they were clearly baddys. Even though the civilisation of Ilium was not very developed over the course of the story, we did see how they were imposing the sentence of being "processed" for jumped-up charges without the accused being given any chance to offer a defence.

*It's what Avon would have done. It's also definitely what the New Series Doctor would have done. Although Captain Kirk (and the Proper Doctor, when written Properly) would have found a third, better way.

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