May 2nd, 2014

politics

Links I found interesting for 02-05-2014

tardis

Five Fourth Doctor audios

Night of the Stormcrow, by Marc Platt
King of Sontar, by John Dorney
White Ghosts, by Alan Barnes
The Crooked Man, by John Dorney
The Evil One, by Nicholas Briggs

I had never got round to writing up Night of the Stormcrow, a Fourth Doctor/Leela special release from Big Finish back in December 2012, so I listened to it again recently. Marc Platt is usually a clear hit or clear miss for me (in fact, normally a clear hit) so I have to say I was a little disappointed - it's the story of an observatory where a strange entity shifts from object of scrutiny to horrible intrusive destroyer, and there are a couple of standout scenes (both with Louise Jameson) and some good one-liners from Tom Baker, but I felt the plot slightly lost its way in the second half. Chase Masterson makes her first Whoniverse appearance as a manipulative academic.

Big Finish went for over a decade without doing a Sontaran story, finally breaking in with Heroes of Sontar in 2011; they have succeeded in actually doing interesting things with the Sontarans much more than the TV show ever did before the arrival of Strax. Here, the Doctor and Leela are faced with a super-Sontaran warrior, played by Dan Starkey, Strax himself, and again Louise Jameson pulls off a great performance with some actual character development for Leela, and some very interesting shout-outs to the Doctor's past. A good start to the 2014 season of Fourth Doctor stories.

Alan Barnes is one of those writers who has contributed a lot to non-TV Who (editor of DWM at the start of the century, writer of various comic strips, a dozen audios and the animated TV story The Infinite Quest), and it's a bit surprising that he's never appeared as a writer for the programme itself. White Ghosts is as usual good stuff, with a base under siege from some really scary carnivorous plants (and doing carnivorous plants in an audio play is impressive in itself), a plot that is much more complex than it first appears, and some more brilliant moments for the Doctor/Leela relationship. Barnes on form again. Virginia Hey, who I hadn't heard of but was a regular in Farscape, guests.

The Crooked Man is an awfully good horror-type story: strange murders in a English seaside town, an ideal husband who is perhaps a little too ideal, works of literature where fictions becomes fact, two excellent guest performances from Neil Stuke as the eponymous Crooked Man and Sarah Smart (who was one of the Also People on TV) as effectvely a one-off companion. I was listening to this in the supermarket and found it impossible to concentrate on the shopping. I would recommend this story in particular to anyone wanting to try the Fourth Doctor audios; it works well as a stand-alone and gives a good flavour. The one downside is that it has a bit less Leela than the others.

Whereas The Evil One is all about Leela, starting with a flashback to the death of her father, and then bringing her into close contact with the Master played here by Geoffrey Beevers; Michael Keating also makes a guest appearance, in a role so different from Vila that I didn't recognise his voice. When we first met her on New Year's Day 1977, Leela addressed the Doctor as the Evil One; the appearance of the Master in this story gives us another possible interpretation of the title; but in fact the Evil One here turns out to be someone I did not expect. Once again brilliant stuff from all, particularly Louise Jameson. This season of Fourth Doctor stories has turned out pretty well; two more to go

buzz

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) 2014 Hugos

This category was basically set up as the Buffy category and has become the Doctor Who category, though it should be noted that DW has only ("only") won it six times in the last eight years, losing to Dr Horrible in 2009 and to the Blackwater episode of Game of Thrones last year. This year there are two real Who episodes, two non-sf dramas about Doctor Who, and two other episodes of other shows for our consideration. I reckon it's the Red Wedding v the 50th anniversary, but my own vote is slightly different...

7) No Award. None of these was awful.

6) Orphan Black: Variations under Domestication. I haven't watched any of the rest of this series, but if this episode is representative I'll get around to it some time - the show is about a group of clones who have only just discovered that they all exist, and the major plot of this episode is a screwball comedy (I suspect untypical for the how) where one of them is convinced that her husband is spying on her and ties him up in the basement, forgetting that the entire neighbourhood of their Canadian town is coming round for a pot-luck party; identity confusion between her and one of the other clones, combined with some brief but nasty violence, rounds out that plot strand, while meantime another clone sister is being seduced by a sexy biologist in Minnesota. I didn't understand all of it but it was enjoyable enough. The scenes where Tatiana Maslany is simultaneously playing two different clones, one of whom is pretending to be the other, are particularly pleasing.

5) Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor. Don't get me wrong - I actually really loved this, particularly the insertion of Clara into the archive footage, and the various crossings between different realities and timestreams, and the setup for what was to come. But it's rather blown into the shade by the other entries - I don't think I even nominated it.

4) Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere. I saw a comment on Twitter after this was broadcast to the effect that "somewhere out there is a couple who are hastily rethinking their plans for a Game of Thrones themed wedding", a sentiment which is of course reinforced in this year's season. Of course those of us who had read the books knew it was coming, but this is a rare case of the televised version being an improvement on the original.

3) An Adventure in Space and Time. A lovely portrait of how Doctor Who came to be, with David Bradley, the bad guy in The Rains of Castamere, ending up as a heroic William Hartnell, setting the scene for the next fifty years. In a previous year I might have marked this down for not being sfnal enough, but not this year for reasons which will become clear.

2) Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor. This was an incredible event; I drove to Germany to see it in the cinema with my family to watch it in 3D in the cinema, and it was tremendous - the return of Tennant, the interaction between Smith, Tennant and Hurt, Zygons, Billie Piper and all. Glorious.

1) But I must vote for The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot for the top spot, because I am actually briefly if shadily visible in it myself around 8:04, the camera then panning to get a good view of my son before dissolving to Paul McGann. This may be the only opportunity I ever get to vote myself into a Hugo winner, and no way am I missing it. I'm sure that The Day of the Doctor will actually win, but for the first and possibly only time in my life, I am casting my Hugo vote for myself.

(For reference: my note from 24 November about the Whoniversary weekend.)

You can vote in this year's Hugos, and the 1939 Retro Hugos, by joining Loncon 3 at http://www.loncon3.org/memberships .

2014: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist
1939: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist