Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

June Books 35) Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken, 36) Doctor Who - Logopolis; and Tom Baker's era

It is the end: but the moment has been prepared for.

35) Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken, by Terrance Dicks

A pretty standard effort from Dicks, closing out his contribution to the Fourth Doctor era with an account of what was visible on the screen.

36) Doctor Who - Logopolis, by Christopher H Bidmead

Bidmead's write-up of his own story is reassuringly dynamic and exciting, if just a little over-written in places. In particular, Logopolis itself feels more like a real place, and the minor characters more like real people; the whole thing makes slightly better sense than what we saw on screen.

And that takes me to the end of the Fourth Doctor era. Tom Baker was very much my Doctor, and I still rate him ahead of any of the others. It is not just his longevity in the part; he brings a certain integrity in his alien compassion to it which I think only Hartnell and Ecclestone approach. I was surprised by how much Hartnell went up and Pertwee went down in my estimation after watching/listening to their stories; I have been relieved that my positive opinion of Baker (T) remains unchanged.

This was roughly the point when Who settled into the format it has resumed since 2005, of the protagonist and his one female companion, few other recurring characters (a format that had been tried out in the later Pertwee seasons but with a large ensemble in the background). Baker's Doctor is simply strange, and after Sarah leaves so are his companions (with perhaps Tegan as the sole exception). This is no longer a programme about people like us, it is a programme about an eternal but very odd hero helping people like us.

It helps that so many of these stories are exceptionally good. My top twelve, in broadcast order, are Robot, The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, The Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius, The Seeds of Doom, The Deadly Assassin, The Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Horror of Fang Rock and City of Death. Most of those would appear in any fan's top twelve for the whole of Old Who. They are not evenly distributed: ten of those twelve belong to the great days of the Hinchcliffe / Holmes era. Having said that, there are another dozen which were better than I had expected, which balance out the timeline a bit: Revenge of the Cybermen, The Android Invasion, The Hand of Fear, Image of the Fendahl, The Sunmakers, The Invasion of Time, The Stones of Blood, The Armageddon Factor, The Creature from the Pit, The Leisure Hive, Warrior's Gate and Logopolis. There is of course the occasional misfire, but even the worst story - Underworld - is better than other Doctors' nadirs (The Sensorites, The Underwater Menace, The Mutants, Time Flight, The Twin Dilemma, Battlefield).

The Fourth Doctor novelisations don't map their broadcast originals as closely in terms of quality as one might have expected. Of the great Hinchcliffe era stories adapted by Terrance Dicks, only Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster really have it. Yet he sometimes produces good stuff from unpromising material - for instance Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll and Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden. Dicks' version of the Fourth Doctor, like his adaptation of the Third, is more of a cheeky chappie than we saw on screen. Despite his own fascination with classic horror tropes, Dicks is more comfortable with humour than darkness. I believe he is being interviewed at the BSFA in London this evening - look forward to hearing about it.

Of the non-Dicks novels (12 out of 41) there are several very impressive efforts - Ian Marter's first two, Doctor Who and the Ark in Space and Doctor Who and the Sontaran Experiment; David Fisher's two, Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit and Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive; and Steven Gallagher / John Lydecker's Doctor Who and Warrior's Gate. As noted above, Bidmead's Doctor Who - Logopolis has its moments as well.

For completeness, I should note that I have enjoyed almost all the Fourth Doctor spinoff novels that I have read, but been much less impressed by the audios - Doctor Who and the Pescatons, Exploration Earth and the two recent Companion Chronicles with Romana and Leela. However, one of the best spinoff audios I have heard is Daragh Carville's play Regenerations, which brings Tom Baker to a Doctor Who convention in Belfast. Superb.

(Previous summary posts: the first three Doctors on screen; First Doctor novelisations summary; Second Doctor novelisations summary; Third Doctor novelisations summary.)
Tags: bookblog 2008, doctor who, doctor who: 04, doctor who: novelisations, writer: christopher h bidmead, writer: terrance dicks
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 3 comments