December 29th, 2010


Whoniversaries 29 December: Bernard Cribbins, Time Warrior #3, Horns of Nimon #2, Girl in Fireplace

i) births and deaths

29 December 1928: birth of Bernard Cribbins, who played Tom Campbell in Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966) and Wilfred Mott in various Tenth Doctor episodes starting with Voyage of the Damned (2007) and ending for now with The End of Time II (2010); also Arnold Korns in the 2007 Eighth Doctor audio Horror of Glam Rock.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 December 1973: broadcast of third episode of The Time Warrior. Irongron's attack on Edward of Wessex's castle fails; the Doctor and Sarah infiltrate Irongron's castle, but are caught by Linx.

29 December 1979: broadcast of second episode of The Horns of Nimon. The Doctor and Romana end up in the maze with the teenage sacrifices.

ii) Date specified in canon

29 December 1758: Masetting of the climactic scenes of The Girl in the Fireplace (2006).

December Books 20) Doctor Who Annual 1978

I remember reading this Doctor Who annual first time round, when I was ten; probably 33 years ago this week, in the gap between the broadcasts of the last episode of The Sun Makers and the first episode of Underworld, which coincidentally is exactly where I had reached in my current rewatch of Who when this copy arrived from eBay.

The drawbacks first: the annual features Sarah Jane Smith as the companion, though she had left the show more than a year before most people would have read this, and in addition she is once again very poorly portrayed in the art (see right), looking more like a somewhat chunkier version of Leela than at all resembling Elisabeth Sladen. The filler material is as banal as ever. The whole thing is only 62 pages, which I think is a new low.

But the stories are actually rather good, and some of the images had lingered with me for a third of a century - the world full of skeletons in "A New Life", the crowds of people lost in their own separate dream worlds in "The Sea of Faces", the Doctor forced to go back on an ally who turns out to be flawed in "The Traitor" (the comic strip from which I took the frame shown here). Somehow the writing quality has gone up a notch.

And having earlier decried the filler material as banal, I loved the Doctor solving a diplomatic crisis with the old trick of taking a three-figure number, reversing it, taking the difference, reversing that and adding them to inevitably get 1089:

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I prove this mathematically as follows:

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Anyway, worth getting hold of another paper copy at last.

December Books 21) The Space Opera Renaissance, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Huge anthology (941 pages) of mostly excellent stories, very few of which I had actually read before (Lois McMaster Bujold's "Weatherman", Peter F. Hamilton's "Escape Route" and Allen Steele's "The Death of Captain Future" - all great stories), tracing the space opera sub-genre through the decades. It's not always my favourite mode (and I found myself choking at short stories by a couple of writers whose longer works I have also bounced off) but the selection is generally good. In particular I appreciated the early stories from Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamon, Clive Jackson and especially Leigh Brackett ("Enchantress of Venus") - shamefully, I am not sure that I had read anything at all by her previously, but I must repair that omission. The longest story is "The Survivor" by Donald Kingsbury, set in the Man-Kzin wars cycle originated by Larry Niven, a gruesome and disturbing though well-written tale. In general this is well worth looking out for.

Unread books from 2006

List of the 54 books I had marked as unread on 31 December 2006, which I did not already own at the end of 2005 (which were accounted for previously), in the order that I read them; with links to my write-ups, size according to how much I liked them and struck through if I couldn't finish them.

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There are 16 books on the shelves acquired in 2007 and still marked as unread: Collapse ) Eleven of those sixteen are sf anthologies or collections, so I'll have to think of a mechanism for getting through those more efficiently next year.