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Back in 1973, Dalek stories were real Dalek stories. Here we have the megalomaniac pepperpots preparing an army to take over the universe, and the Doctor encounters the Thals for the first time since way back when, giving us one of the most explicit continuity references ever. OK, the story is perhaps two episodes too long (how on earth did they get away with six-parters in those days?), the plot has a few holes (what do the Time Lords actually do with the information that the Doctor sends?) and the Daleks, alas, just a little less threatening than they might be (10,000 Dalek toys in a box, and the two who are simply pushed into the lake by our heroes); but it is all great fun. I remember being completely gripped by this when I first read it as part of the Doctor Who and the Daleks Omnibus produced by Marks and Spencer in 1976. The reviewers at the Doctor Who Reference Guide rate the novelisation ahead of the TV story. They may be right, but I found the original version still decently watchable.

To my slight surprise, I found myself liking Jo Grant more than usual. I'm afraid I normally find her deeply annoying, being the blonde companion who screams. Here she goes off to try and get help for the Doctor, dictating her thoughts into a voice recorder; she volunteers for dangerous parts of the adventure herself, and the Doctor lets her go. And there's her almost-romance with Latep the Thal, though one can't quite understand what she sees in him; she is of course destined to fall in love and leave the Doctor in her next story, having previous refused not only Latep but the King of Peladon and an Ogron in Frontier in Space. Indeed, there's romance all round with the Rebec/taron relationship, the later played by Bernard Horsfall (of whom I have written before), the former by Jane How who apparently went on to be Dirty Den's mistress in EastEnders.

Which brings me to another topic of unhealthy fascination for me: the women of the Thals. Nation's attitude seems to undergo a steady improvement over the years, with Dyoni in The Daleks being little more than an object of protection (Ian shocks the Thals into action by threatening to hand her over to the Daleks), Rebec here being definitely more proactive but accused by Taron of being a distraction because he is in love with her, and finally Bettan in Genesis of the Daleks as a soldier in her own right who takes charge of cleaning up the mess after the Doctor and his companions depart. This is the chain of thought that culminates in Glynis Barber's portrayal of Soolin in Blake's Seven, and someone better versed than I am in analysing the portrayal of women in sf (and especially in the works of Terry Nation) can take this thought further.



Comments

notfromvenus
Apr. 30th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
Terry Nation may have gotten better writing decent female characters, he still didn't use very many of them, did he? Not that that wasn't a common problem in Old Who....

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