September 29th, 2013

doctor who

50 years of Who: 1966


The Daleks' Master Plan (last 6 episodes)
The Massacre
The Ark
The Celestial Toymaker
The Gunfighters
The Savages
The War Machines
The Smugglers
The Tenth Planet
The Power of the Daleks
The Highlanders (first 3 episodes)

1967 Doctor Who Annual (1)
Doctor Who and the Invasion from Space (1)
The Dalek Outer Space Book

Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

The first Who from 1966 that I encountered: I remember finding and avidly devouring the 1967 Doctor Who Annual at a cousin's house in the late 1970s; but I am pretty sure I also saw Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. on TV around that time. (And again, perhaps the film doesn't count.) Once I got back into Who, The Massacre was one of the first audios I bought.

My favourite Who from 1966: A difficult choice. I prefer The Power of the Daleks to The Evil of the Daleks, which is a minority position; I also really enjoy The Gunfighters, which is also a minority position. Of course, the most memorable sequence is the change from Hartnell to Troughton between the end of The Tenth Planet and the beginning of The Power of the Daleks.

Moving swiftly on from: The Celestial Toymaker.

So, what was your favourite of the above? What is the best bit? (And if you like, what is the worst bit?)

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September Books 12) Evil under the Sun, by Agatha Christie

[the murderer] had risen. His handsome face was transformed, suffused with blood, blind with rage. It was the face of a killer - of a tiger. He yelled: “You damned interfering murdering lousy little worm!”
He hurled himself forward, his fingers stretching and curling, his voice raving curses, as he fastened his fingers round Hercule Poirot's throat...
I found this Christie story really disappointing, to the extent that I am going to curtail my Agatha reading project. The murder takes place in an isolated location, and there's a locked-room element in the sense that it takes place on a deserted and inaccessible beach. There is some nice character stuff, particularly the victim's troubled step-daughter. But the solution depends on crucial misdirection of the reader by the author, and the motivation for the crime is pretty obscure. Enough Agatha for me for the time being.

September Books 13) The Year of Intelligent Tigers, by Kate Orman

Anji walked alone through the city of tigers. It was a fast walk, a bad walk, shouldering and dodging crowd. Sunlight splashing off concrete and glass, bright faces and clothes. And on every corner, from every doorway, in every window, the music.
I had read and enjoyed this five years ago, so not a lot more to add, except that I appreciated even more the side-step away from the usual adventure story into an exploration of art and innocence, which fits the Eighth Doctor in a way that the others wouldn't suit as well.

September Books 14) Home Truths, by Freya North

'Girls,' said Django, and the pureness of his audible pain was not for himself, but for those he loved most on whom he was about to inflict it. 'Girls.' Carefully he put the tray down. He did not know in whose eyes he should look. So he looked at her. 'Girls. This is your mother.'
Chick lit isn't my usual genre, but I do dabble very occasionally, and I really enjoyed this - the story of three sisters, brought up by their uncle, whose love lives and career are all in slight disarray, then completely disrupted by the reappearance of their long-vanished mother. North has a very credible and compassionate way of getting into people's heads. Nobody is an angel, nobody is completely evil either. And the ending is not a completely happy one, but does bring some resolution, and sometimes that's all you can ask. Apparently North had written a novel about each of the three sisters previously; I'll keep an eye out for those.

September Books 15) Who and Me, by Barry Letts

When I first worked with Patrick Troughton in a TV studio, I was wearing an enormous wig.
Letts needs no introduction to Who fans; he was producer of the show for the entire Pertwee era, plus a story or two either side. Apart from the usual set of anecdotes of personalities (including quite a shrewd dissection of Jon Pertwee), He includes detailed accounts of how making a TV programme at the BBC in the 1960s and 1970s actually worked, linked with his own career progressions from actor to director to producer. His heart was clearly in directing, and it's there that we get the most vivid descriptions of what he was doing; in particular, it's surprising to read his low opinion of The Enemy of the World, the first Who story that he worked on - I have always found it interesting enough, and Philip Sandifer calls it "an absolute triumph". (I'll note that another story Letts feels particularly unhappy about was The Ambassadors of Death, also a David Whitaker script.) He also writes about his attachment to Zen Buddhism, managing to convey his deep personal commitment to it though not quite so much what it is all about.

Very sadly, this book is only half the story, taking us up to the end of Letts' second of five seasons as producer of Doctor Who. It looks rather as if there were no notes, and Letts reconstructed it from memories cross-referenced with other sources, so presumably there is little or no primary material for the second half of the story to be told. But it's good that he got the first half done.

September Books 16) The Beast of Babylon, by Charlie Higson

‘Tell me about Rose Tyler.’ Ali watched as the Doctor peered at some kind of monitor and, satisfied, stepped back from the controls. He turned and beamed at her.
‘Rose? She was funny and tough and clever and resourceful. She saved me, and she saved her boyfriend Mickey, and she saved the whole damned planet.’
At the end of Rose, when she refuses at first to travel with the Doctor, how long is he gone for, before he rematerialises and tells her that it also travels in time? On screen, of course, it is just a few seconds. But here Charlie Higson has the Ninth Doctor - in the first published Ninth Doctor story since 2005 - going off for a whole new adventure with Ali the alien crustacean, taking in both her planet and ancient Babylon. It is short (I felt if anything a bit shorter than the other short books in this series) but effective, and Higson captures Ecclestone's much missed characterisation very well.

September Books 17) The Moment of Eclipse, by Brian Aldiss

HOZ STAP SAN: A writer's attitude to other writers
LAHAH SHIP: Taking fresh air after one has worked several hours at one's desk
SHAK ALE MAN: The struggle that takes place in the night between the urge to urinate and urge to continue sleeping
SHEM: A slight cold afflicting only one nostril; the thoughts that pass when one shakes hands with a politician
TOK AN: Suddenly divining the nature and imminence of old age in one's thirty-first year
This collection of short stories won the BSFA Award for 1970; I first read them as a teenager, and found them mindblowing then. I still find them mindblowing now - maybe it's just that Aldiss got to me at a vulnerable age, but there's something about his laconic yet cosmic vision that sucks me in, almost uncritically.

Not completely uncritically. The story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long", which was the basis for Spielberg's film A.I., is the weakest of the collection, and "Swastika!", about a documentary maker catching up with a disguised Hitler living in Ostend, was surely in poor taste then and worse now. And the stories about the crumbling veneer of civilisation in former British colonies are rather of their time. But beneath the surface detail, Aldiss's preoccupation with the future of humanity, explored through language, grabs me as viscerally as ever.

September Books 18) Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath

Occasionally I like to pick up a self-help book to think a bit more about myself. This turned out not to be so much a book as a ticket for an online self-assessment survey, owned by Gallup, which identifies your personal five strongest areas from a list of 34. Mine, for the record, are:

Input: People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Context: People who are especially talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Intellection: People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Connectedness: People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

I'm not sure about the short description of the last one, but the longer one seems more familiar, and I can relate to the other four immediately. I am not sure if I got the value I expected for the price of the book; ask me again in a month, perhaps.