May 12th, 2006


May Books 3) Dark Side of Venus

3) Dark Side of Venus, by "Clem Macartney" (W.D. Flackes)

Got this as part of my continuing exploration of the literary output of W.D. Flackes, the voice of reasonable political journalism on BBC Northern Ireland when I was growing up - see also my write-up of his Ten Years to Oblivion, which was like Dark Side of Venus published in 1951.

This is a much less imaginative story. Where Ten Years to Oblivion had alien civilisations and time travel, this is just a Dan Dare/Biggles rip-off (Dan Dare made his first appearance in 1950, the year before this was published). When you read the first sentence:
Rocket-Squadron Commander Dan Fury, one of the most distinguished and most decorated young pilots in the British Air Command, looked at the instruments of his ramjet supersonic fighter.
- well, you have a pretty good idea where this is going. (Our hero is described as "virile" as early as page 2, and indeed the evil dictator's beautiful daughter falls hopelessly in love with him.) The Martians are planning to invade Earth from Venus; our hero's task is to prevent them.

One thing I did find interesting was the description of Earth's future politics. A recent Martian invasion of Russia was beaten off by the combined British and American forces, under the command of the Anglo-American World Government, which is based in Washington DC and London (the two cities take turns). What role the Russians, or indeed anyone other than the Brits and Americans (and Canada does get a brief mention at the end) play in the new world order is not explained. At least Dan Dare had a French side-kick; Dan Fury's are a stereotypical Scot and an even worse loyal-but-thick Irishman.

Though the plot and characters are less imaginative, this is actually rather better written than Ten Years to Oblivion - so much better stylistically that I wonder if John Clute is right to state (in the electronic version of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia) that they are both by Flackes. I shall ask him.

One less party to think about

The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition have given up the ghost (hat-tip Belfast Gonzo). The Irish Times states that:
The party is widely acknowledged to have had considerable influence in framing the Belfast Agreement and in smoothing relations between hostile parties in the Assembly. Ms McWilliams and Pearl Sagar were involved in the negotiations on the agreement.
(Slightly mischievous thought: I wonder who has been making these wide acknowledgements?)

Their electoral history is as follows:

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doctor who

The Sontaran Experiment and Spearhead from Space

I've been catching up on classic Doctor Who which I had not previously seen.

Watched "The Sontaran Experiment" last weekend. It comes between two excellent stories of Tom Baker's first season, "The Ark In Space" and "Genesis Of The Daleks". Alas, the two episodes in between are not much cop, with the Doctor, Harry and Sarah running around a quarry and falling down holes, in the company of some dishevelled stranded astronauts, a Sontaran and a robot reminiscent of Graeme Garden's computer from the Goodies. The final victory is implausible even by Doctor Who standards of plausibility, and the experimentation scenes gratuitously nasty without adding much to the plot.

Jon Pertwee's first story, "Spearhead from Space", is a different matter. Collapse )

The whole thing made me realise just how true to the series' traditions "Rose" was. Like "Rose", "Spearhead from Space" was effectively a relaunch of the series - six-monthly runs of stories, all in colour, all set on Earth. They had to prove that the old show could work in the new format, and they succeeded. (Compare "Attack of the Cybermen" which was surely when the writing went on the wall for the old run.)

Finally, isn't it amazing how few of the great stories from the original TV run of Doctor Who were not touched by Robert Holmes at some point? I hadn't quite taken in that apart from being script editor for the first (and best) Tom Baker years, he also wrote this, "The Ark in Space", "Carnival of Monsters", "The Caves of Androzani", "The Deadly Assassin", "The Krotons", "The Power of Kroll" (well, we all have an off day), "The Ribos Operation", "The Sun Makers", "The Talons of Weng Chiang", "Terror of the Autons", "The Time Warrior", and "The Two Doctors". Plus a couple more I'd completely forgotten about. Will have to add more to my collection...