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About 18 months ago I reviewed James Goss' novelisation of City of Death, Douglas Adams' Fourth Doctor / Romana story set in Paris. It had never featured in the Target Books line of adaptations, because Adams would not consent to anyone else turning it into a novel, and the BBC wasn't prepared to pay him anything like his going rate to do so. In the end, Goss did what I felt was a pretty good job of capturing Adams' style, and the result worked very well as a stand-alone book, even if it did have to try to deal with some of the stranger aspects of the plot.

Douglas Adams wrote two other Who scripts. Shada famously fell victim during production to an industrial dispute, although a cobbled-together version exists (I've not seen it). The Pirate Planet, by contrast, is well-remembered for its audacious central conceit and for Tom Baker and Bruce Purchase (as the Captain) engaging in what TV Tropes refers to as Ham-to-Ham Combat.

Well, Goss evidently did a good enough job with City of Death to get the gig of adapting The Pirate Planet, and as he explains in his afterword he was able to visit the Douglas Adams archive at St John's College, Cambridge, which turned out to hold not just the original draft script but also an earlier story treatment by Adams that much of The Pirate Planet drew upon. Goss' novelisation is based to a substantial extent on these, and so whilst it is very recognisably the story we saw on television it is fleshed out and sometimes unfolds a little differently. In some respects this is because the page doesn't suffer the budget limitations of the 1970s BBC, so for example scenes set in Zanak's main city actually feel as if they're in a crowded metropolis where it periodically rains diamonds rather than one small set with half a dozen extras and a few fake gems scattered on the floor. Another scene extensively rewrites and expands the third-episode cliffhanger to give a very different explanation of how it was resolved that gives far more agency to Romana.

Adams wrote The Pirate Planet shortly after writing The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and even on watching the TV series the similarities come across. Goss turns this up even further for his novelisation, adding point-of-view scenes in which characters - notably the long-suffering Mr Fibuli - reflect on the absurdly comic horror around them in a very HHGTTG style.

Goss' novelisation came out last Friday; I downloaded the Kindle version and started reading. Even though I knew how the story turned out, the combination of Goss' respectful pastiche of Adams' style and the new elements of plot was captivating enough that I finished that evening. I promptly wanted to remind myself of the original series so S and I bought it on iTunes and watched it last night. Even with the constrained budget and limited special effects, it still works very well, and the playoff between Mary Tamm (as keen young - for a Time Lord - graduate Romana) and Tom Baker is delightful. On reflection, that order was probably best, as it meant I read the book with only vague images of the TV episodes in my head and so my imagination was unconstrained by some of the more painfully low-budget aspects of them. (As the BBC's own archive page on the story admits, the Mentiads spend a lot of time marching across fields to get from A to B in a rather Pythonesque manner).
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I've updated my Game of Thrones / Doctor Who guide to cast members appearing in both. The list grows ever longer!

Classic Who

Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle): Count Scarlioni / Scaroth in City of Death and Richard the Lionheart in The Warlords

Donald Sumpter (Maester Luwin): Cdr Ridgeway in The Sea Devils and Casali in The Wheel in Space

Owen Teale (Ser Alliser Thorne): Maldak in Vengeance on Varos

New Who

Diana Rigg (Olenna Tyrell): Mrs Gillyflower in 'The Crimson Horror'

Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont): Father Octavian in 'The Time of Angels' and 'Flesh and Stone'

Mark Gatiss (Tycho Nestoris): Lazarus in 'The Lazarus Experiment', Gantok in 'The Wedding of River Song', the voice of 'Danny Boy' in 'Victory of the Daleks' and 'A Good Man Goes to War'

Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed): Tim Latimer in 'Human Nature' and 'The Family of Blood'

Joe Dempsie (Gendry): Cline in 'The Doctor's Daughter'

Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth): Captain Zhukov in 'Cold War'

Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully): Lt Stepashin in 'Cold War'

Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen): Jeremy Baines / Son of Mine in 'Human Nature' and 'Family of Blood'

David Bradley (Lord Walder Frey): Solomon in 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship', William Hartnell / the First Doctor in An Adventure in Space and Time

Ron Donachie (Ser Rodrik Cassel): the Steward in 'Tooth and Claw'

Jamie Sives (Jory Cassel): Capt Reynolds in 'Tooth and Claw'

Ian Hanmore (Pyat Pree): Father Angelo in 'Tooth and Claw'

Lucian Msamati (Salladhor Saan): Guido in 'The Vampires of Venice'

Robert Pugh (Craster): Tony Mack in 'The Hungry Earth' and 'Cold Blood'

Spencer Wilding (a White Walker): the Creature in 'The God Complex', the Wooden King in 'The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe' and Skaldak in 'Cold War'

David Verrey (High Septon #1): Joseph Green in 'Aliens of London' and 'World War Three'

Sam Callis (a Gold Cloak): a security guard in 'Bad Wolf'

David Fynn (Rennick): Marcellus in 'The Pandorica Opens'

Ben Crompton (Eddison 'Dolorous Edd' Tollett): Ross in 'Into the Dalek'

Faye Marsay (Waif*): Shona in 'Last Christmas'

Ross Mullan (a White Walker): The Teller in 'Time Heist', a Silent in 'The Time of the Doctor'

Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell): Quayle in 'Robot of Sherwood'

Tony Way (Dontos Hollard): Alf in 'Deep Breath'

Paul Bentley (High Septon #2): Professor Candy in 'Let's Kill Hitler'

Rupert Vansittart (Yohn Royce): General Asquith in 'Aliens of London' and 'World War Three'

Mark Kileen (Mero): German Officer in 'Let's Kill Hitler'

Stuan Roger (voice of the Three-Eyed Raven): Voice of the Face of Boe in 'New Earth' and 'Gridlock'

Tim Plester (Black Walder Rivers): a servant in 'A Christmas Carol'

(* The other young woman alongside Arya at the House of Black and White)

Both Classic and New Who

Margaret John (Old Nan): Megan Jones in Fury from the Deep and Grandma Connelly in 'The Idiot's Lantern'

Robert Goodman (Valyrian slave): Crew member in Trial of a Time Lord and Reg in 'Listen'.

Cast but not yet seen in GoT and has appeared in Doctor Who: Nicholas Boulton (the Businessman in 'Gridlock')

Cast but not yet seen in New Who and has appeared in GoT: Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Paul Kaye (Thoros of Myr)
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Doctor Who: City of Death, James Goss (2015)

City of Death is often picked as one of the better Classic Who stories, thanks to the (at the time unusual) location shooting in Paris, the quality of the script as heavily - and frantically - rewritten by Douglas Adams, and the performance of Julian Glover as Count Scarlioni, alias Scaroth, self-described last of the Jagaroth. Unusually, it never got a novelisation, because it was unthinkable that anyone but Adams could write it, but Adams felt obliged to hold out for something proportionate to his usual advance, which was far above what was usual for such a book, and so it never got written.

That's now been rectified via James Goss' novelisation, although 'novelisation' doesn't really do it justice; it's based on the original script, script notes, elements of earlier drafts and even the original story Adams heavily adapted, allowing Goss to explore or develop ideas that were jettisoned or abbreviated for time. Goss also interpolates some nice continuity touches and references to other Who stories (he ties in Pyramids of Mars to nicely explain something we see), and gives a very interesting take on Scarlioni/Scaroth. It's potentially a risk to go inside the head of a character only seen in the third person on screen, but Goss, building on Adams' script notes, succeeds quite well.

How well Goss succeeds in capturing Adams' writing style will be something for each reader to decide. He doesn't try to pastiche it, but rather to write in what one might call an Adamsesque style. Judge for yourself:

spoilers if you've not seen the serial )

For my part I felt Goss does a very good job of capturing the quite distinctive tone of City of Death and the result is very readable; I may even re-watch the serial in light of doing so.
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Talking with [ profile] attimes_bracing about last night's Doctor Who I noted that Capaldi seems to be consciously channeling some of the actors who played the earliest incarnations of the character, in particular William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee. She asked what would be the best (surviving) stories from each Doctor to showcase the relevant actors' interpretations of the role; since I'm only really familiar with Who from Tom Baker onwards, I thought I'd invite suggestions.

(She's seen Genesis of the Daleks, which is often cited as classic Tom Baker but was very, very early in the role for him, and City of Death, which was nearer the end of his time. What else is seen as really good, and representative, Fourth Doctor? The Talons of Weng-Chiang, if you can overlook the yellowface casting and the awful Giant Rats?)
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That was very fun, and much better-plotted and more tautly told than last week's episode. I liked the central idea, and the execution was good. But there was one aspect about it that really bothered me.

I know that 'continuity' and 'Doctor Who' aren't really concepts that sit together, but despite having revisited the Great Time War in the 50th anniversary special it seems that's now been retconned to 'all the Daleks were destroyed, except for the ones that weren't' and 'the war was time-locked so even time-travellers can't go back to it, except when they can'. Because what Into the Dalek seemed to show was yet another round in the Human-Dalek Wars of the medium future (as in the next few thousand years from now) as shown in various Classic Who stories. The Doctor, for no readily apparent reason, seems to have travelled back to one of those conflicts, rescuing Journey Blue from the imminent destruction of her ship at the hands (plungers?) of superior Dalek forces.

And this is where we get a rather odd take on the Doctor.

The repeated message of Into the Dalek is that the Doctor - or at least the Twelfth Doctor - doesn't like soldiers. He makes this clear as soon as he meets the crew of the Aristotle, and finally rebuffs Journey Blue by telling her that she seems a nice person underneath, but she's a soldier.

Well let's just hang on a minute. This is the Doctor who - as The Night of the Doctor showed - chose to become the War Doctor and fight the Daleks ("Make me a warrior. Now.") He did so because he finally accepted that the Daleks were an existential threat, and there could be no standing aside, not even as a non-combatant trying to help relieve suffering.

So why can't he accept Journey Blue? It's clear that the humans are fighting for their lives against overwhelming Dalek strength. It seems many of her family are in the military; she is serving under her uncle and was fighting alongside her brother until he was killed. That sounds like a culture on a total war footing, and frankly I very much doubt that any of them are volunteers.

Journey Blue is a soldier for exactly the same reason as the Doctor became the War Doctor: faced with her whole culture being threatened with annihilation by the Daleks, there was no option but to fight. So isn't it a little bit rich of the Doctor to judge her for this?

I wonder if we are being set up to tackle this, because equally much fuss is made about Danny Pink being an ex-soldier (and clearly one with a traumatic past). It seems likely the Doctor will have to deal with this. But if the payoff is going to be having the Doctor deal with the trauma of being the War Doctor (and a major point in this episode was how Rusty the Confused Dalek sees into the Doctor's deep-seated hatred of the Daleks) then surely this is just retreading ground from the 50th anniversary special, which was all about the Doctor coming to terms with this. And that was on top of the plot arc of the Ninth Doctor, which was pretty much to do with him being PTSD Doctor following the Great Time War.

Peter Capaldi is an excellent actor, and Steven Moffat clearly wants to take every advantage of that to do some interesting things with the Doctor as a character. I'm just hoping that those things aren't a retread of the last nine years' worth of character development but with added Scottish accent.
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If you grew up in the '60s or '70s you might remember the Dalek Chronicles comic strip, either in its original run in TV21 magazine or (as I saw them) in later reprints. Written very early in Doctor Who's run, the strip established a continuity about Dalek origins that consistent with what had been alluded to in the first Dalek serial, although it was later rendered non-canonical by Genesis of the Daleks. It also followed the original depiction of the Daleks as having a somewhat wider emotional range and even degree of personality than the near-automatons they later became - although New Who reversed this to an extent.

Well, if you liked The Dalek Chronicles you'll probably love Second Empire, an amazing fan-produced CGI comic strip of some seven hundred pages that gloriously hearkens back to the old comic's design aesthetic and approach. The author/illustrator - who goes by the name MechMaster - clearly has immense enthusiasm and affection for the subject, beautifully capturing the aesthetic of not just the original strip but other classic comic-strip sf of the era such as The Trigan Empire.

Second Empire is set in a continuity of its own, neither that of The Dalek Chronicles nor of Classic or New Who. These Daleks are far more human in their behaviour - they even have names - and the strip at times heads into outright parody and humour. But it's also well-written, chock-full of references, and features an amazing gamut of Dalek designs based on everything ever seen in comics or on TV (or in some cases, only in early concept art). I actually think MechMaster's rendering of the basic Dalek design is perhaps the most convincing-looking I've seen, even more so than the more realistically-rugged redesign done for New Who. (The less said of the godawful New Paradigm Daleks the better, and Second Empire even gets in a joke at their expense.)

I came across Second Empire looking for comments on a rather different Dalek-related spin-off I'm planning to review. Second Empire could hardly contrast more in tone with I, Davros but it certainly pleased my inner 9-year-old, whilst giving the actual 45-year-old me some good chuckles of recognition.
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Mark Gatiss Cast in Game of Thrones Season 4

Gatiss, as well as having written six episodes of Doctor Who, appeared in two - 'The Lazarus Experiment' and 'The Wedding of River Song'. He joins many others in the the list of actors who have been in both series. And there's a meta-addition to the list; David Bradley, who appeared in 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' and plays Lord Walder Frey in Game of Thrones will be depicting William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, the BBC's docu-drama about the early days of Who.
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The Wedding of River Song

Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did it wrap up the Amy/River plot arc? Sort of. Did it work as an exposition of time travel. Um, I have serious doubts.

Yes, of course there are spoilers )
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Having been Otherwise Occupied over the weekend, I've finally watched "The Rebel Flesh".

Slightly Spoilery one-line summary )

The end-of-episode cliffhanger was telegraphed frequently and blatantly but it was no less fun for that, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this particular mess gets sorted out. Probably via iPlayer again though, as we'll be in Oxford next week for the Write Fantastic event.
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... the typeset proof for this:

(Amazing artwork by [ profile] peteyoung)

It's been a long time in preparation but seeing the text as it will (subject to corrections) appear on the page is a huge relief, and makes me finally believe that come January we'll have an actual book to sell.

More details here.
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Remote Control Ironside Dalek.

OK, it's apparently only a 5" version - I'd really like a nice, detailed 12" one to match the various other RC Daleks I've seen - but as long as one of its recorded phrases is "WOULD-YOU-CARE-FOR-A-CUP-OF-TEA?" I don't really care.
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Well, Part 2 of 'The End of Time' was not quite as bad as I had feared.

Read more... )


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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