October 28th, 2012

politics

Links I found interesting for 28-10-2012

plovdiv

October Books 4) The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson

Despite the title, this is actually a novel whose unnamed narrator, a light-skinned African-American of the late 19th/ early 20th century, undergoes various travails including whether to abandon his career as a (black) musician and settle down for a dull life in the (white) middle class. I see Wikipedia suggesting that the author intended it as an ironic reflection on the first-person narratives of the day, so I guess I may not have the full context. It didn't really work for me as a novel; too many incidents which though interesting in their own right didn't really add up to a narrative structure. The anonymity of the narrator distanced me further from the story. Still, it's short.
lovejoy

October Books 5) The Tartan Sell, by Jonathan Gash

My regular reader will be glad to know that I'm taking a break from Lovejoy at present, but I am well behind with book-blogging so here is one I finished a week or so ago. Actually it is rather a nice story, Lovejoy being much more like the lovable rogue played by Ian McShane on TV than the duplicitous psychopath of the earlier books. Here he falls in with a Scottish landed family who have fallen on hard times, via a spell working in a circus, and sorts out their financial problems and dark long-held secrets. He also of course gets lots of intimate but not very explicitly described female companionship. (I think the word "breast" is used at one point, which is almost shocking.) It's a more pleasant read than many of the books, but also a bit less demanding.
doctor who

The Time Museum, The Masters of Luxor

It's been a sad time for Who companions recently, with several untimely losses and rumours of illness for others. But meanwhile William Russell, who turns 88 next month, is still going strong, launching the new series of Companion Chronicles from Big Finish with The Time Museum from the ever-fertile imagination of James Goss (who is the only Who author on my buy-on-sight-even-in-hardback list). The story has a long-retired Ian Chesterton in a peculiar alien environment being challenged to remember details of his travels with the Doctor, so long ago; its tone is elegiac, sinister and affectionate all at the same time, which is an achievement. If you're at all a fan of those first two seasons of Who, you'll enjoy this.

I am not sure I can say the same for The Masters of Luxor, Anthony Coburn's obscure script (which I read a while back) now brought to life by the rewriting skills of Nigel Robinson and the voices of William Russell as Ian and the Doctor, Carole Ann Ford as Susan and Barbara, and Joe Kloska as everyone else. I'm not at all a fan of Robinson's other work but, presumably with input from Lisa Bowerman as director, he has done his best to make the original script sing - it is very slow, with the Tardis crew not meeting anyone else until the second episode of six, and the only significant guest part not showing up till episode 4. There are lots of blatant circle narratives - run away, get locked up, repeat. The entire story would barely fill a single episode of New Who. The cast give it their all but it's not fantastic material in the first place.

If it had been made, this story could have gone either way. Given decent design and direction, it might have been remembered as a classic. But it's a high risk piece; the special effects needed are challenging (giant pyramids, three types of robot, the Tardis flying through the air) and might have absorbed directorial time from preparing the actors; we could have been looking at a reputation more like the Sensorites.

Actually, of course, if the story had been shown as originally planned, there would have been no Daleks and probably a little later no more Doctor Who. So it's just as well, really.