December 23rd, 2012

politics

Links I found interesting for 23-12-2012

tardis

December Books 7) Scream of the Shalka, by Paul Cornell

I was really surprised and pleased by how much I enjoyed this book, the novelisation of the webcast story starring Richard E. Grant as the other Ninth Doctor. Perhaps it is partly that, at least in the opening pages, it so consciously draws on the style of the Dicks and Hulke novelisations of the Third and Fourth Doctor stories which meant so much to fans of the same sort of age as the author and me. But also a lot of the sequencing that didn't quite work for me in the webcast seemed to me to be much better here: the Master's new situation, the reasons for the Doctor's emotional coldness, the back story to Alison's relationship. We do miss out on Conor Moloney's performance as Greaves, though. Perhaps the last week of work before the Christmas hols was a bad time to watch the webcast; I am certain that if I had read the book before watching it, I would have enjoyed both more.

Some of the similarities between Shalka continuity and New Who are even more noticeable here: that the Ninth Doctor is suffering PTSD after an awful war in which many people he cared about were killed, and that the new companion chooses to travel with the Doctor rather than remain in a (dull) interracial relationship. (As in Rose, there is also a monster leader underground controlling its minions who burst into the normal world to terrify humans, and the Doctor must descend to their lair to do battle, but those are fairly standard plot elements.)

The book also comes with a long afterword - a quarter of its total length - including the original story proposal and the author's account of how the story came to be made, told with Cornell's typical enthusiasm, but with first-hand accounts patched in from the production team as well. This may have turned out to be just a sidetrack in Who history but we are lucky that it is so well chronicled, including the story of how Cornell, on honeymoon in New Zealand, had to get a friend to break into his house to transmit the script to the BBC after an email went astray. It certainly adds to what is already a good book for fans to track down.