October 6th, 2013

doctor who

50 years of Who: 1971


Terror of the Autons
The Mind of Evil
The Claws of Axos
Colony in Space
The Dæmons

(This is the only year since 1964 in which no new Doctor Who book was published, not even an annual.)

The first Who from 1971 that I encountered: My first contemporaneous memory of Who is not from any of the the usual media: I clearly recall the great Sugar Smacks promotion of 1971 (I would have been 4). The first TV story from this year that I watched was Terror of the Autons, fairly late into my post-2005 catchup.

My favourite Who from 1971: Terror of the Autons, because of the introduction of the Master and Jo (and to a lesser extent Mike). I know this is slightly heresy; there's a good case also for The Dæmons.

Moving swiftly on from: Pigbin Josh.

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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October Books 1) A Book of Silence, by Sarah Maitland

I was falling in love with silence. Like most people with a new love, I became increasingly obsessed by it - wanting to know more, to go further, to understand better.
I think that a lot of us would like a quieter life. Sarah Maitland is fortunate enough to have been able to find one, and in this memoir she chronicles her own quest for a silent space for reflection, with many reflections on the historical and religious precedents. I realised that my own cultural associations with silence, having been educated at a convent grammar school, are on the whole more positive than those of many native English speakers; Gibbon has a lot to answer for, in that by demonising monks he also demonised the contemplative life. On the other hand, the one time I attended a Quaker meeting I felt very uncomfortable.

I was particularly fascinated by the awful story of the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race, in which one contestant decided not to finish the race but to just keep on sailing, and another, knowing that he was failing, faked his log books and took his own life. Sometimes when social distractions have been removed, we find that our priorities get drastically reordered; and sometimes we can't deal with the results.

October Books 2) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach

The family of UM 006 does not know what happened to him this evening. They know only that he donated his remains for use in medical education or research.
Having read Mary Roach's books on sex and space, I was looking forward to reading her book about death, which is after all the one thing that will happen to all of us. In the end I found it a little disappointing; it was her first book, and the compassionate, witty but explicit style which makes her more recent books so successful is less well developed here. And in the end it's just a series of stories about scientists working on things that used to be (parts of) people, and the story is very much focussed on the scientists rather than their subjects. Yes, there's a considerable squick factor in a lot of it; this is all very sensitive stuff. But it didn't light up for me as I had hoped. I guess that corpses are simply not very entertaining, which is as it should be.

One rather grim point arising: it's never too early to think about organ donation. Here in Belgium we have presumed consent; that may not be the case in your country.

October Books 3) The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, by Samantha Geimer

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On a much more trivial topic, it's very irritating that if @EyeEdinburgh comments here using her Twitter account, she will get a nice Twitter userhead beside her username, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way for me to refer to her in that way in the body of the post. Dreamwidth brought in the <user name=EyeEdinburgh site=twitter.com> code several years ago; if LJ have followed suit, I haven't seen it and can't find it in the FAQ.

October Books 4) The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman

It looked as if someone had cut a patch out of the air, about two metres from the edge of the road, a patch roughly square in shape and less than a metre across. If you were level with the patch so that it was edge-on, it was nearly invisible, and it was completely invisible from behind. You could only see it from the side nearest the road, and you couldn't see it easily even from there, because all you could see through it was exactly the same kind of thing that lay in front of it on this side: a patch of grass lit by a street light.
But Will knew without the slightest doubt that that patch on the other side was in a different world.
I promised after re-reading the first of these that I would get to the second in a couple of months; that was over three years ago. The good thing about this volume is that what had appeared to be entirely a parallel world now turns out to be linkable to our own, from which Will joins the adventure; and there's lots more gutwrenching stuff about parents and children, and treacherous magicians and well-intentioned scientists. But I do agree that it's a huge shame that Lyra, so much the central character of the first book, has her agency largely removed in this one, and there's a real middle-volume-of-the-trilogy feeling about it.