February 17th, 2021


Whoniversaries 17 February

i) births and deaths

17 February 1916: birth of David Blake Kelly, who played the captain of the Mary Celeste in The Chase (First Doctor, 1965) and innkeeper Jacob Kewper in The Smugglers (First Doctor, 1966).

17 February 2013: death of Richard Briers, who played the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers (Seventh Doctor, 1988) and Henry Parker in A Day in the Death (Torchwood, 2008).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

17 February 1968: broadcast of third episode of The Web of Fear, introducing Nicholas Courtney as Colonel (later Brigadier) Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor reappears with a mysterious colonel; the Yeti attack the base to retrieve the model.

17 February 1973: broadcast of fourth episode of Carnival of Monsters. Kalik and Orum release the Drashigs, but Vorg is able to destroy them, and the Miniscope is deactivated.

17 February 1979: broadcast of fifth episode of The Armageddon Factor. The Doctor meets up with Drax; K9 is evil; Romana and Astra are still captives.

17 February 1996: broadcast of fifth episode of The Ghosts of N-Space on BBC Radio. The Doctor and Sarah return to 1818, where they unsuccessfully try to save Louise and Giuseppe.

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Greybeard, by Brian Aldiss

Second paragraph of third chapter:
In the sharp winter's air, their breath steamed behind them. The dinghy went first, followed by Jeff Pitt rowing his little boat, with two sheep in a net lying against his tattered backside. Their progress was slow; Pitt's pride in his rowing was greater than his ability
I am a big fan of the late great Brian Aldiss, and this was the best-known book of his that I had not already read. (If you're interested, LibraryThing and Goodreads agree that the Helliconia trilogy, Hothouse and Non-Stop outrank it.) I wish I'd read it before P.D. James' The Children of Men, which took the same core concept in a slightly different direction. Indeed, The Children of Men has such strong similarities - humanity stopped reproducing 25 years ago, our protagonists undergo a weary odyssey to Oxford - that it's impossible to accept that she hadn't read this first.

It's a quiet, understated, very pessimistic book, written in 1964 when Aldiss was only in his thirties (but had just gone through a divorce and the Cuban Missile Crisis). Stoats are apparently a big problem in the late 2020s. The human race ends with a whimper rather than a bang. There is a lot of Aldissian stuff here, and you certainly couldn't mistake the writing style for anyone else's. But I didn't in the end feel that it was one of his more memorable books; I guess for its time, it caught the Zeitgeist well, but it has now been overtaken by events, and by P.D. James. You can get it here.

This was my top unread sf book, and my top unread book acquired in 2018. Next on those piles respectively are The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi, and City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett.