I’m not sure how I missed this news. Life has been super busy. That’s the excuse, anyway.
According to the Doctor Who News web site, the DVD release of Planet of Giants will have four episodes for the serial rather than the three that were originally broadcast. Planet of Giants was commissioned as a four part story, but Verity Lambert had the serial recut as three episodes. For the DVD, 2Entertain has used the original scripts to recreate episodes three and four. We are getting an entirely new episode from the Hartnell era!
Presumably, the DVD will also have the broadcast version. Still, this is exciting news and I can’t wait to revisit this story . . . and to fill a gap in my Hartnell DVD collection.
Planet of Giants can be pre-ordered via Amazon UK. No word yet on a USA release date.
From The Reference Guide: The harsh British winter of 1963 brings a big freeze that extends into April with no sign of letting up. And with it comes a new, far greater menace: terrifying icy creatures are stalking the streets, bringing death and destruction.
The First Doctor and Susan, trapped on Earth until the faulty TARDIS can be repaired, are caught up in the crisis. The Doctor seems to know what is going on, but is uncharacteristically detached and furtive, almost as if he is losing his memory…
Susan, isolated from her grandfather and finding it hard to fit in with the human teenagers at Coal Hill School, tries to cope by recording her thoughts in a diary. But she too feels her memory slipping away and her past unraveling. Is she even sure who she is any more…?
First Line: “Hate, hate, hate! I hate Coal Hill School. I hate Year Four. I hate London. I hate pretending. I hate the cold.”
Time and Relative chronicles an adventure of Susan Foreman during the winter of 1963, a few months before Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright started snooping around a certain junkyard. The novella is a pseudo-historical which involves an elemental monster called The Cold which, it turns out, is responsible for the Big Freeze of 1963. The Freeze was a particularly bad cold snap that took place in England. The Thames froze, as did parts of the sea surrounding the British Isles. In typical Doctor Who fashion, Time and Relative places the blame for this historical oddity on a prehistoric intelligence called The Cold. We learn that a combination of Communist Russian experiments and Alaskan drilling reawakened the dormant elemental which had evolved on Earth. As The Doctor says in the novella, The Cold is “one of Evolution’s first experiments with Intelligence.” It is only able to move and grow when temperatures drop below freezing, and the method it uses to dispatch humanity—which The Cold refuses to share the planet with—is an army of killer snowmen. I couldn’t help but envision Bad Mr. Frosty from the old Clay Fighter games, which rather killed the tension. There were a few places where Newman recaptured it, however, such as the snow rolling toward a military blockade, and the scene where Susan, John, Gillian, and company try to cross the Railway Bridge. The Cold proves to be a rather effective monster.
Less effective, however, were some of the secondary characters. The particular weaknesses were with Captain Brent and the Haighs, the former being a military captain and John’s father, the latter a religious husband and wife. It seemed these characters worked to espouse the idea that adults couldn’t handle the crisis, but children could. They insisted on pretending things were normal, while slowly going mad. I find this characterization hard to believe, especially having recently read Day of the Triffids, which created a nuanced and believable portrayal of humanity in a time of extreme crisis. The use of Brent and the Haighs in this way seems to be pandering to the idea that adults are uninteresting and boring and children are strong and resilient and superior because of their heightened imaginations. While I don’t have a problem with this idea, per se, it seems odd to include such an explicit child-empowerment message in a book that I believe was written for adults.
Not all characters were poorly drawn. Susan and The Doctor fare extremely well, as do the supporting characters of John and Gillian (Newman is making a reference to the old TV comics here). I would argue, however, that Susan is portrayed too well. I find it difficult to believe that, having gone through this encounter with The Cold, the Susan of this novel would be the same Susan that would have an emotional crisis every other week once she and The Doctor left Earth. This Susan has more in common with the portrayal from The Sensorites and The Aztecs, which were some of the stronger performances from the show. In particular strength here is The Doctor, who debates whether or not to save the humans because The Cold has a stronger claim on the planet, and it is a more intelligent creature. Compared to The Cold, he says, humanity is like algae on a fish tank. When Gillian threatens to kill Susan if The Doctor refuses to help, The Doctor feels that his point has been made (about humanity’s barbarity), and is willing to allow Susan to die rather than interfere. His disregard for Susan in this instance is a bit at odds with The Doctor in the first season of Doctor Who, but his coldness (no pun intended) and disregard for humanity fits well.
I seem to be down on the book. I suppose I was disappointed. I had high hopes for the story, and even felt the beginning was strong. The book is narrated by Susan, using the conceit that she is writing in a diary in order to improve her grasp of English. This narrative device works quite well. Newman even has a few good observances/commentary about humanity. When discussing adult disdain for 1960s music, he writes, “It’s because adults are threatened. When music changes, it means we’re taking over. The young.” And elsewhere, when Susan is trying to remember her home planet and the Time Lords, she writes:
“This is standing outside a window, looking in, watching a child being beaten but not smashing through to do anything. Finding it interesting, but having no reason to change it, as if the whole universe were a big painting in a gallery, to be admired for its technique but which we should never think to add a brushstroke to, not even to repair damage or improve on a shoddy bit of work. Where we come from, all people are like that.”
These are some great moments in the narrative and some wonderful observations. It’s just a shame that the characters didn’t hold up consistently. This flaw hindered my enjoyment of the book.
Continuity? I mentioned the development of Susan in this book possibly being at odds with the Susan in An Unearthly Child. If I had to bet, I’d say Newman would respond with the following passage from The Doctor:
“‘Continuity, bah!’ Grandfather said yesterday or the day after. ‘Doesn’t exist, child. Except in the minds of the cretinously literal, like the singlehearts who clutter up this planet. Trying to sort it all out will only tie you up in useless knots forever. Get on with it and worry afterwards if you can be pinned to someone else’s entirely arbitrary idea of the day-to-day progression of events. Without contradictions, we’d be entirely too easy to track down. Have you ever thought about that? It’s important that we not be too consistent.”
Touché, Mr. Newman.
Final Verdict: This was a quick read and it had some great narrative moments. It is full of continuity jokes, which occasionally take one out of the story. If you are a fan of Kim Newman, you may have fun seeing how he plays in the Doctor Who universe. A lot of fans like this one, and it is one of the better novels. For me, however, it is average and I probably won’t revisit it.
Time and Relative was the novella that kicked off Telos’ Doctor Who novella project. In total, Telos published 15 novellas. Each book had an introduction and a frontispiece. I remember when the novellas were first announced; they seemed exclusive and prestigious. Due to this, I was under the impression that these books would be of higher quality than some of those I had read in the BBC Books range. Thus far, I have only read Frayed, and I quickly learned that my earlier impression was not accurate. However, an entire range cannot be judged by a single book, and while Stephen Cole (under the pseudonym Tara Samms) may have turned in a mediocre entry, I have higher hopes for Kim Newman.
Newman is a writer who has had a successful writing career outside of the Doctor Who world. He is a film and television critic, but also a novelist who has written the well-received Anno Dracula books, a series that takes place in an alternate history in which Dracula has become the ruler of England. Similar to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this novel incorporates fictional heroes of the Victorian Era, and becomes a game of spot-the-character. All this wrapped up in a horror/history novel. Sounds rather intriguing.
Since he is an established writer, I have somewhat high expectations for Newman. Time and Relative stars the First Doctor and Susan and takes place in London in 1963, mere months before two inquisitive school teachers wander into a dark scrap yard. The story has, as its backdrop, The Big Freeze of 1963, something I will be researching and sharing background on a bit later.
I’m looking forward to getting back to Doctor Who, and as an added bonus, the book is by an author I have wanted to read.
Any thoughts on Time and Relative? Should I check out more works by Newman?
(Image: Catriona Sparks. WikiCommons.)
A review of the novella by Tara Samms
From the back (or blurb or whatever): On a blasted world, the Doctor and Susan find themselves in the middle of a war they cannot understand. With Susan missing and the Doctor captured, who will save the people from the enemies both outside and within?
Opening Line: “I like to stare into the sun.”
I’m fairly certain that it is unrelated, but twenty minutes after finishing this book I was coughing up blood. This probably had more to do with allergies than the quality of the story, but it still seems oddly fitting given some of the gore in the book.
Tara Samms is a nom de plume for Stephen Cole, and I’m certainly glad I didn’t know that going in to the novel. I have yet to read any Doctor Who stories by Cole that I would classify as compelling. For the first twenty-five pages or so, I genuinely thought this was going to be a fun story. By page fifty, it became a drudgery as I realized the characters were not going to do anything interesting or be at all memorable. Sure, they were all given motivations, but they pursued them with as much enthusiasm as some of my lazy co-workers.
Frayed is a pre-Unearthly Child-base-under siege-soporific masquerading as a novella. The story takes place on the planet Iwa where a human-run base called The Forge is being assailed by foxes. Naturally, these are not ordinary foxes; they are aliens that seem to fall to pieces every few minutes. Their siege is rather inconsistent as a result. Regardless, their attacks are quite brutal when they do manage to pull them off. As near as I can tell, the foxes are symbolic of what humanity will eventually become should they not cease genetic manipulation. Yes, The Forge is a base for the potential criminal. Those who are deemed to have the correct genetic template are tossed in The Forge and experiments are conducted on them for good measure. And did I mention that the prisoners are telepathic children? Nothing like dumping a bunch of ingredients in the pot and seeing what congeals. And this is one of my problems with the concepts in this novella: there are too many for the allotted space. There is not enough room for any one of the ideas to breathe and grow into a compelling plot with some meaty moralizing.
Given the number of ideas here, combined with the Doctor Who formula of needing a mystery to slowly reveal, something has to give, and Cole has chosen the characters. We have the base leader who has become a coward, the love-struck one, the insurrectionist, the lustful base chef, and a handful of characters that never even attempted to reach the heights of the aforementioned ones. The best a reader can hope for in keeping the characters straight is to read the book in a single setting. Otherwise, they will bleed into an unmemorable mass.
The Doctor and Susan are adequate. Some reviews I’ve encountered say the duo are portrayed excellently, but I disagree. Sometimes I can hear William Hartnell in The Doctor’s dialogue, but most times I can’t. At best, I would say the leads are inconsistent. Given that this story takes place before we officially meet The Doctor and Susan, perhaps a bit of grace is in order. Cole does float the idea that The Doctor and Susan acquire their names in this adventure, an idea that I hope sinks and is forgotten.
Successful dialogue: ‘You’re a romantic, my dear.’ He squeezed her hand. ‘Mostly these humans are thoughtless and savage, with outmoded ideas about practically everything.’ He chortled. ‘Yet, they may merit further study. I marvel that they have survived as a species to reach into space.’
‘Because they dream,’ she said.
Final Verdict: If you are a fan of Stephen Cole, I’m sure you will like this one. Otherwise, this is a book only for the completist. At the current price of $20, I think it a good one to skip.
Written by Philip Hinchcliffe
From the Back:
a remote force-shielded island set in a sea of acid, governed by
the ultimate computer which rules and balances the gentle life of Marinus, guarded by
ARBITAN THE KEEPER
ruthless protector of a peace loving race threatened by
Warlord of the brutal sub-human Voords, sworn enemy of Arbitan and of Marinus, who has within his grasp
THE KEYS OF MARINUS
the Conscience’s vital micro-circuits, the doors of good and evil. Can the Doctor find the hidden circuits in time? Arbitan’s command was ‘Find them, OR DIE!’
Opening Line: “The day–like every day on Marinus–started clear and bright.”
First thoughts are that this is an odd novelization. Oh, the actual content is normal enough. In fact, it is quite straight-forward. What makes this odd is that Philip Hinchcliffe, the producer for Tom Baker’s first few years, is the author. Hinchcliffe had nothing to do with this story. Granted, many Target books are like this. Ian Marter, the actor who played Harry Sullivan (also from the Tom Baker era) novelized a few of the books as well, many of them of episodes he wasn’t in. I’m rather curious what it was that led to Hinchcliffe writing this particular novel, especially as I would say his heart wasn’t in it.
As novelizations go, if you want a straight script-to-prose adaptation, you will be quite pleased with Keys. Unfortunately, I prefer the books that go into greater detail and become something beyond the source material. Since Keys still exists, and has been released on DVD, I would probably prefer to watch the serial than revisit this book. This is just personal preference.
Final Verdict: Yeah, I realize this is a short review, but I just didn’t care for this novelization. I was quite bored. Occasionally I felt I should just watch the DVD because it would be quicker. I will try to make the next review more interesting. Sorry.
From lust to gluttony: “Vasor quickly locked the door behind him and turned to Barbara. ‘There. We’re alone.’ He gave a funny chuckle.
Barbara shuddered and crossed to the fire. Vasor followed and put his large hands around her shoulders. She broke away, trying to conceal her alarm. ‘He’ll be back,’ she said, ‘I know he will.’
‘We’ll see. Meanwhile I’ll get us some food. We must fatten you up, eh?’”
Written by John Lucarotti
From the Back: The young Venetian Marco Polo is on his way to the Emperor’s court in Peking when he meets the intrepid time-travellers, for the TARDIS has landed on Earth in the year 1289.
Marco Polo recognises in the TARDIS a means of winning favour with the Emperor. But in the end the Doctor has no one but himself to blame for the loss of his wondrous travelling machine – which he gambles away to Kublai Khan…
Opening Line: “‘It’s freezing cold outside,’ Susan said, looking at the external temperature thermometer in the TARDIS, ‘minus twenty.’”
I make no attempt to hide that I love the televised version of Marco Polo, well, the audio that exists of it. So obviously, my standards were high going in to this novelization. Thankfully, Lucarotti adapted his own material, and he did so exceptionally.
This novelization was written in 1985, a full 21 years after the final episode of the serial aired. I’m not sure how much Lucarotti drew from his script or memory, but he does an excellent job of adapting it. Yes, there are a few changes, in particular the ending in which Tegana is shot by arrow rather than engaging in combat with Polo. Some of the changes work better than others and I think I prefer the combat from the serial to the quick dispatching of Tegana. But the relationship between Ping-Cho and Ling-Tau is more believable and satisfying. In fact, because many of these changes work well, I think I prefer the novel to the TV version.
This is yet another great historical adventure. Lucarotti provides plenty of details and flavors of Cathay. The novel flows quickly, as many of the TARGET books do, and is a wonderful way to enjoy this lost story. In fact, it was this novel that really gave me a glimpse into how important the TARGET books were to children. I felt like a child again as I read this. I wonder if my nieces and nephew would be interested in a copy once they are old enough to read . . . .
Final Verdict: Do I really have to repeat it? I loved it. Recommended for a warm, sunny day.
A Misery Shared: “‘What a burden old age is,’ Kublai sighed.
‘A trial to be borne with dignity, Sire,’ the Doctor observed.
‘You are right, our friend. With dignity,’ Kublai replied and with little ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’ and ‘ouches’, the two of them hobbled out of the throne room.”
Written by Nigel Robinson
From the Back: In a final bid to regain control of the Tardis’s faulty control system the Doctor is driven to experiment with a dangerous untried combination. With a violent explosion the TARDIS blacks out and the crew find themselves trapped inside. A simple technical fault? Sabotage? Or something even more sinister? Tensions mount as the Doctor and his companions begin to suspect one another. What has happened to the TARDIS? Slowly a terrifying suspicion dawns. Has the TARDIS become the prisoner of some powerful fifth intelligence which is even now haunting the time-machine’s dark and gloomy corridors?
First line (not counting the introduction, which is just a recap): “The tall glass column in the centre of the six-sided central control console rose and fell with a stately elegance, indicating that the TARDIS was in full flight.”
An uninteresting start to a rather uninteresting book. I must confess, that my primary reaction to Nigel Robinson’s novels has been one of boredom. This is rather astounding as he was the author who adapted Moris Farhi’s outstanding Farewell Great Macedon. Honestly, I believe Robinson did a stupendous job with Macedon. Unfortunately, I still found his work on The Edge of Destruction to be dull. Perhaps it isn’t his fault. Edge of Destruction isn’t one of the more engaging stories. It has an intriguing premise, but I’m not entirely sure David Whitaker delivered on this in his original script. This leaves Robinson with the unpleasant task of novelizing a story that didn’t really deliver.
Part of what made the televised version Edge of Destruction interesting was the direction. Many of the shots were arranged to heighten the inherent suspense in the story. Scenes with Susan and the scissors or Ian choking The Doctor were handled quite well, even if the actors didn’t quite know what was happening. Robinson understandably focuses on these suspenseful elements. He expounds upon them. At some points it is hard to tell if a new intelligence has invaded the TARDIS or if The Doctor is deliberately playing with Ian and Barbara. Of course, in the end we know that neither is truly the case. Honestly, this is one are where Robinson excels. Occasionally the televised version of the story was unclear or difficult to make out. Robinson more fully conveys both the terror and the explanation. Unfortunately, is was tedium getting to that point.
Another thing Robinson does well, something that is implicit in the original script, is showing us what Barbara sees after she regains consciousness on the TARDIS. She is in Coal Hill School, something that was only conveyed in dialogue in the episode. In the novel, with no special effects constraints, Robinson can more fully deliver the ideas that Whitaker was unable to. In truth, if I had to choose between the two, I would be torn between the hour it would take to watch Edge of Destruction or the realization of the concepts and effects in the novel. Each version has its strengths and weaknesses.
Prescient chapter title: The End of Time
Final Verdict: If you are a fan of Nigel Robinson or the televised version of The Edge of Destruction, then you will probably find plenty to enjoy here.
Written by David Whitaker
Note: This review is based on the AudioGo release Doctor Who and the Crusaders as read by William Russell.
From the Box: Back on Earth again, the TARDIS lands Doctor Who and his friends into the midst of the harsh, cruel world of the twelfth-century Crusades. Soon the adventurers are embroiled in the conflict between Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, ruler of the warlike Saracens.
Opening Line: “As swiftly and as silently as a shadow, Doctor Who’s Space and Time ship, Tardis, appeared on a succession of planets each as different as the pebbles on a beach, stayed awhile and then vanished, as mysteriously as it had come.”
Admittedly, I skipped ahead a bit. I have had a lot to read lately and wasn’t able to sit down with the Target version of The Crusaders. I did, however, have plenty of time for an audiobook while working some late hours of work or cleaning at home. I was a bit apprehensive about launching into another First Doctor story, especially one that was a novelization rather than original, but now that I’m well in to the Troughton Era and watching Matt Smith again on the laptop, I figured a revisit of Hartnell could be managed, even if it is Wiliam Hartnell as written by David Whitaker and performed by William Russell.
The Crusaders follows the beats of the televised stories pretty well, but what I love about this version is that we get into the heads of the secondary characters more. Saladin is fleshed out more as are El Akir and Haroun. El Akir, in particular, is a nasty piece of work in this version of the story. He is evidence that Doctor Who doesn’t always need aliens to be monsters because humans can suffice. Additional character changes involve Ian and Barbara, who are undeniably in love, an element that is at odds with the televised version Doctor Who, but follows on from Whitaker’s adaptation of The Daleks. Romance between the teachers may have been forbidden by the BBC when filming, but with no such restriction here, Whitaker seems to take delight in fleshing out Ian and Barbara’s predicament at being in exiles in time and space, and explores the natural attraction that two people might have in this situation.
While the story is well-written, engaging, and an exciting historical adventure, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this novelization is the prologue in which David Whitaker almost explicitly lays out his view of time travel and, by implication, how Doctor Who should work. In the prologue, Ian and The Doctor engage in a philosophical discussion on the nature of time travel and the impact the adventurers have on the various worlds they visit. Ian basically points out a major hole in the premise of the show. “Why is it that when we land on earth, with all the pre-knowledge of history at our disposal, we can’t right one single wrong, make good the bad or change one tiny evil? Why are we able to do these things on other planets and not on Earth?” In response, The Doctor espouses a view that Time moves regardless of what the adventurers do. He likens Earth history to a landslide and once the TARDIS lands, the adventurers are a part of the landslide, “roped completely to Time and must be led by it.” Time would seem, in Whitaker’s view, to be a controlling force. I’m not entirely sure this answers Ian’s question as to why Time invalidates their actions on Earth but not other planets, but it is an attempt. It would seem, according to The Doctor, that the best thing to do is learn from history, to use pre-knowledge of events as a way to study the period and motivations of the players in history. Only with this knowledge can the adventurers understand themselves and their place in humanity, only then can they learn to find an antidote to greed, selfish ambition, and war.
Final verdict: This is an excellent novelization of an excellent story. Highly recommended.
Impeccable Logic (from Ibrahim, a thief who has subdued Ian): “You arrive beside the water pool, and I can see you are a rich Lord, so I am tempted to knock you out and search your clothes. The temptation was your fault, for you are obviously rich and I am obviously poor. So I search through your clothes and I find nothing. Again, My Lord, am I at fault? I must earn my living and Allah has decided that my profession is to be a thief. I can tell you I was very frustrated, My Lord, very frustrated indeed.”
Mysterious planets appearing in the sky. The Earth being destroyed by the expanding Sun. Daleks being rendered motionless and being kicked by an exuberant companion. I’m not talking about the Russell T. Davies era, I’m talking about the Hartnell era. It took a little longer than I anticipated, but I made it! I thought that now would be a good time to look back on the 134 episodes and reminisce, then I will discuss what I will be doing for the Troughton era because I feel the need to change the format a bit.
Willian Hartnell was a great Doctor. I think he worked hard to craft a wonderful character who had a distinct arc throughout his first few years. The Doctor believably moved from paranoid exile to the explorer/meddler in time and space that we know today. And this was due in no small part to his interactions with Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. They were the first companions to stumble upon The Doctor and find themselves wrapped up in another life. Forced into a life on the run together, spurred on primarily because The Doctor could not control The TARDIS, Ian, Barbara and The Doctor had to find a way to work together and get along. Not only did they find a way, they grew to care for one another as a type of family. It was a dynamic that I don’t think we have ever seen again. I believe it is safe to say that Ian and Barbara softened The Doctor and helped him to find the spirit of adventure that has stuck with him to this day. No wonder humans are his favorite species.
While not every story of the Hartnell era was great, every one of them did have something interesting, even if you have to dig a little. I have mentioned before that the sheer unpredictability of this era is what I enjoy the most. From episode to episode you truly don’t know what you are going to get. The show hasn’t yet become formulaic. This was even a time before every Doctor Who story had monsters (although I think an argument could be made for Tltoxl). The Hartnell era was fresh, it was different, and it is truly a far cry from the show in its current incarnation.
Favorite Story. There are so many great stories in this era. It is hard to choose between The Massacre and Marco Polo. I’ll probably go with The Massacre due to its brevity and the fact that I actually learned something from it.
Least Favorite Story. The Celestial Toymaker without a doubt. It is hindered from not being complete, I know, but I doubt that even the visuals would help the story be more interesting and engaging. The Toymaker as a character is intriguing and there were concepts that were hinted at but never really explored. As it is the story itself just feels like it didn’t come together and I found it all rather dull.
Favorite Companion. Even though I am tempted to go with Ian, I think I’ll settle on Steven. He was quite versatile and fun. As for companion groupings, Steven and Vicki were a good team and they had a nice chemistry. It seems odd that they were only in three whole stories together. I would have swore they were together longer.
Favorite Spin-off Hartnell Story. I don’t even have to think about this. Farewell Great Macedon is, to me, the best Hartnell story without Hartnell in it. It faithfully reproduces the feel of the first season, Carol Ann Ford and William Russell do an excellent job with the script, and the story is quite compelling once you get in to it and can keep the characters straight. It is worth the effort.
I mentioned changes. With the last few Hartnell episodes (well, since The Savages really) I have felt a struggle to find anything particularly compelling to write. In part this is due to spending more time taking notes than watching and enjoying the episode. But other times I feel as if Doctor Who has been written about and reviewed for decades and I am just one voice among many and there is no chance of coming up with anything that hasn’t already been said or noticed. Not that I feel the need to be particularly innovative, but the quality of some of the posts recently has bothered me. I need to enjoy the episodes if I can write about them properly. Thus, I will not be reviewing individual episodes anymore. Beginning with Power of the Daleks I will either do one or two posts per story, depending on the length of the story or the amount of material I am coming up with. I still plan to watch one episode a day, I just won’t be posting a Doctor Who review every day. I want to try this format for a bit and see what happens. I don’t yet know if it will free me up to work on other projects, but if so, that would be great. However, it is important for me to get through every episode, so I’m not abandoning the project yet.