Doctor Who – Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space

Doctor Who Story 066 – Carnival of Monsters

Who Wrote It: Robert Holmes

What’s It About: Now that he has a fully functioning TARDIS, The Doctor takes Jo on a quick jaunt to Metebelis Three, and the two end up on the SS Bernice near Singapore. But the SS Bernice isn’t on Earth. It is actually stuck in a device called a Miniscope, which is being used to entertain security agents on the planet Inter Minor.

This is an interesting and clever story with a few of the Holmesian trademarks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy this story. This is the second time I have viewed it, and the first time I loved it. This time, however, I merely found myself checking off the plot points as they arose. This is where we see Ian Marter. This is where we see the Drashig. This is where we see The Doctor leave the Miniscope, and so on. I think I may have been in the wrong frame of mind when I watched this story. It was in the midst of some serious Doctor Who (or maybe Jon Pertwee) burnout. Regardless, I won’t hold my apathy against this story. Maybe the next time I watch it, I will feel different.

My Rating: 2.5/5, pending reevaluation in a few years. I didn’t give this story a fair shake.

 

The Doctor meets with the Draconian King
The Doctor meets with the Draconian King (Source: Tardis Index File. Copyright 1973 by BBC.)

Doctor Who Story 067 – Frontier in Space

Who Wrote It: Malcolm Hulke

What’s It About: The Doctor and Jo land on an Earth cargo ship (in space!), and soon after the ship is attacked by Ogrons. To the crew of the ship, however, the Ogrons appear to be Draconians, an empire with which Earth is currently at peace, although that peace is rapidly deteriorating. It seems that someone is attempting to instigate a war between the Earth and Draconian Empires.

I started Frontier in Space soon after Carnival of Monsters. I think my burnout carried over. But upon the introduction of The Master to the story, I found my enjoyment rising. For whatever reason, I was eager to see Roger Delgado again.

The story is actually a good one, and I’ve seen it used in other science fiction shows (Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine being among them). The Doctor and Jo spend much of the first three episodes being shunted in and out of prison by humans and then by Draconians. Sadly, this gets old pretty fast. The Master arrives in the middle of the story, however, and actually breathes some life into this story. Suddenly we have an identifiable antagonist, even if he isn’t the final foe lurking behind the scenes.

Another interesting subplot involved General Williams. Even though we are meant to dislike him at first, he never struck me as utterly despicable. In fact, near the end of the story, his character changes. He is converted to The Doctor’s side and actively helps him and The Draconian prince investigate The Ogrons’ involvement. Personally, I wish we had gotten General Williams’s backstory earlier in the serial. It would have explained his hatred of The Draconians and made for a more satisfying change of heart later. It makes me wonder if this is handled better in the novelization.

And yes, in the last episode we get a reveal of who is really behind the war; The Master was merely a freelance agent. I’ll save that spoiler for now because it leads into the next story. So, to be continued . . . .

My Rating: 3/5

 

For the moment, I’m back on track. My local library has quite a nice collection of Doctor Who DVDs, and that should get me through the remainder of the Pertwee era and completely through the Tom Baker era. I’m still aiming to finish the classic series before the anniversary. So long as school and work don’t consume all my free time, I think it is possible. Let’s hope the burnout doesn’t return.

H.P. Lovecraft – My Favorites so Far

Photo of H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (Source: WikiCommons. Public Domain.)

For about a year now I have been reading through a copy of H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction. As you would imagine, this is an omnibus that collects most of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction; it excludes collaborative works. This is the first time I have read through the man’s work, and I am, for the most part, enjoying it a great deal. Lovecraft had a wonderful imagination, not to mention, at times, a gruesome one.

Being halfway through the stories, I thought I would look back over a few of my favorites. Lovecraft was prolific, but I wouldn’t classify everything he wrote as enjoyable. These are just a few of the stories I have enjoyed from the first half of his career.

 

  • The Statement of Randolph Carter – Randolph Carter gives testimony regarding his friend Harley Warren. Warren had some interesting theories regarding human decomposition, and he decided to engage in a bit of grave robbing to test these theories. As you can imagine, things go horribly wrong.
  • The Terrible Old Man – A group of young thugs decide to rob the home of a mysterious old man. Unfortunately for them, they were unaware of the rumors surrounding the old man, rumors which prompted the townsfolk to avoid him.
  • The Cats of Ulthar– When a “caravan of strange wanderers” comes to town, a horrid old couple take an interest in one of the strangers’ cats. Things don’t go well for the cat. Soon after, things really don’t go well for the old couple.
  • The Temple– A routine u-boat patrol grows mysterious as one-by-one the crew begin fear they are being watched by something in the ocean. The Lieutenant-Commander does his best to maintain order, but the u-boat soon loses power and begins to sink toward the ocean floor.
  • From Beyond– Metaphysical researcher Crawford Tillinghast has proven the theories that caused his peers and friends to laugh at him: the world is filled with creatures beyond our sight; they float around us and through us.
  • Celephais – In this incredible story which captured my imagination, a man returns in his dreams, night after night, to a wonderful, magical kingdom. Unfortunately, as he grows older, he finds his dreams return to this land less and less. He decides to return again, no matter what the cost.
  • The Picture in the House! – In this darkly hilarious story, a researcher looks for refuge for the night in a house whose owner has a dark secret which was inspired by a horrific book.
  • The Nameless City – An archaeologist finds ruins in a Middle Eastern desert. A mysterious wind leads him to an underground passage filled with ethereal horrors.
  • The Outsider – After what seems like countless ages of imprisonment, a man finds his way out of a deserted castle and tries to find signs of human life.
  • The Music of Erich Zann – This is possibly my favorite story of Lovecraft’s early work, and it is every bit as wonderful as The Temple. The narrator recounts a time when he lived on a street that he can now no longer find, and of the mysterious Erich Zann, whose strange music seems to have an otherworldly audience.
  • Herbert West: Reanimator – While not the best story of Lovecraft’s career (but certainly not the worst), I love this story because of its understated dark humor. This is Lovecraft’s take on Frankenstein.
  • The Rats in the Wall – One of Lovecraft’s more thematically disturbing works, this story has one of Lovecraft’s recurring tropes: the last of a line learning the dark secret of his family.
  • In the Vault – This is one of Lovecraft’s more conventional ghost stories. It deals with vengeance from beyond the grave, albeit with a darkly comic reveal at the end of the story.

 

There are many others that I enjoyed, but these are the standouts so far. This weekend I will be hitting a milestone: I will finally read Call of Cthulhu. My expectations for this story are fairly high.