April 30th, 2013


April Books 17) TARDIS Eruditorum, vol 1: William Hartnell, by Phil Sandifer

So, to recap, we have a pioneering female producer being replaced with a male producer whose first decision is to sack the female lead for being too uppity. Knowing that, it's really hard to watch this story, in which the matriarchal society of the Drahvin is painted as uncritically and completely evil, without wanting to drink heavily and read feminist literary theory. (To be fair, though, I want to do those things most of the time.)

Back in January, I read and thoroughly enjoyed the second volume of this series of books based on Sandifer's excellent blog; even though a new edition of this first volume is being planned, bigger and better, I really wanted to get my hands on it anyway. As with the Troughton volume, it combines an iteration through the televised stories (and some untelevised ones, starting with Kim Newman's Time and Relative) with reflections on the general cultural ambience of the time, though there are fewer of these than there were in the second volume.

This volume has more decription of the scope of the entire project from Sandifer. He firmly locates it as an act of "psychochronography", and devotes some time to unpacking that concept in the opening essay. He also writes in passing about gender and race - particularly race, tackling the question of Hartnell's own racism and the racist interpretations of The Ark and The Celestial Toymaker. It's all rather fascinating.

As before I found areas of agreement and disagreement, and some points of irritation. I found his description of the end of Susan's and Dodo's character arcs, as if they had just run out of things to do and therefore had to be written out, rather too deterministic; the show was always perfectly capable of keeping characters around well after their sell-by date. I'm also not aware of any other evidence that Vicki was originally intended to be killed off in The Daleks' Master Plan. But I cheered for his positive interpretation of The Gunfighters. I think it's also a very strong point that the changeover of producers - twice - in Season Three is one of the biggest changes of production style in the history of the programme, though spread out to happen gradually over several stories.

In any case, these books will be as vital a part of the thinking Who fan's library as Wood and Miles' About Time series, to which Sandifer repeatedly pays due homage.

April Books 18) 1632, by Eric Flint

The only thing that saved Wallenstein's life was the extreme range.
This is the story of a coal-mining West Virginia community which finds itself transported back in time to 1632 (actually 1631 but it's the following year before the action starts) in the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years War. Using good old 'Murrican know-how, the townsfolk develop representative democracy, religious freedom and cheap banking, and use their locally available arsenal to ally with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to help him win the war (and avoid death) fifteen years early. There is much loving description of a cute girl who blows people's heads off (finishing with Wallenstein), and similar battle scenes; the transported Americans make it through almost 600 pages of fighting without suffering a major casualty. As with another time-travel war book co-authored by Flint, his protagonists never lose an argument or a battle. There is only one black guy in town and he happens to be the doctor, so that means that any discussion of racism is largely confined to the Americans bringing enlightenment to the anti-Semites of central Europe. People who like that sort of thing will like this, but I am not really sure that I am one of them.

(Interesting note: Mannington WV, the place on which the town of Grantville is explicitly based, had an African American population of 2.54% in the 2000 census and 0.2% in 2010; a drop from roughly 50 people to roughly 4. I wonder what happened?)

Links I found interesting for 30-04-2013