Tag Archives: dalek

Reading Dr Who

Dr Who booksPhil: To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the BBC’s DrWho, a range of books have been packaged up in new covers, a bit of text from the author has been added to the start and then they were thrust out into the world. Whether sales were rubbish or the plan was that they would be distributed this way, the books ended up in a “3 for a fiver” offer in my local remaindered bookshop.

How could I resist?

Reading a book based on a TV show is an interesting experience. None of them are great tomes and one was even joyously knocked off in a single day. I love being able to wallow for a day just reading and eating chocolate. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Anyway, what are they like?

Festival of Death is a Tom Baker (the best Doctor) story involving some complicated time travel stuff with 3 versions of the same Doctor in the same space. This was the one I read in a day and I’m glad I did as the plot is reasonably complicated. The author mentions some serious planning in the new introductory text. For most of us, our characters bumble along on a single timeline, perhaps we get occasional flashback but the subject of our interest generally stays firmly rooted in time and can’t meet another version of his or her self. Stick with the story and it’s good fun.

Earthworld occupies a very special place in Who history. It dates from the era when the show had been cancelled, living only in the minds and literature of the die-hard fan base. The BBC maintained a Who desk which had responsibility for keeping the show alive with novels and it was from here that this book was commissioned. Ostensibly a Paul McGann style Doctor story, it includes companions who were never part of the TV version, something that confused me to start with. A quick look on the Interweb filled in the background and after a while I wasn’t worried.

The story takes place on an Earth theme park of a type that will be familiar to anyone who saw the film Westworld. There’s a lot of philosophical stuff about what it means to be human and some very poignant parts as one companion is recovering from seeing her boyfriend killed in the previous story.

Remembrance of the Daleks is the only book here that is a novelisation of a TV story. Easily the best from the underrated Sylvester McCoy era, it appealed to me as the only decent story he got during his tenure. What’s interesting is that the book version allows the characters to develop depth and a proper back story. The companion “Ace” always struck me as one of the most annoying people allowed in the Tardis but here we get character development and an explanation where she came from, something the TV version omitted. Maybe my memories from 1988 (I looked it up) aren’t great but the books takes a good story and makes it a much richer experience and an awful lot better for it.

Worth a fiver? Certainly. Apparently 12 books were released, I might go back and see if they have the rest.

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I love Dr Who, but hate the sonic screwdriver

Dr Who?Phil: It’s no secret that Team Nolanparker are Dr Who fans. Over lunch last week I was quizzing Candice about the finer details of her trip around the Dr Who Experience in Cardiff.

Apparently the first part is really good where you take part in an “interactive experience” after which you go through the “more anoraky” display of props and costumes, which sounds more fun to me but then I am the more anoraky half of our team.

Anyway, we are both looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Episode this weekend. There will be no painting or kitchen fitting going on in one Solihull household from ten to eight on Saturday. Sadly, I’ll probably be on the train back from the NEC so I’ll have to record it, but this doesn’t greatly worry me. I have reservations about the thing.

In the good old days of Tom Baker (the best Doctor obviously), stories were long, 4 to 6 episodes, and the plot cerebral. The Doctor plotted and schemed his way out of trouble.

Modern Who fans want everything tied up in 45 minutes with lots of flashing lights, noise, a bit of tonsil hockey with the companion and the thud of a story arc landing. That doesn’t leave much space for plot so the writers have taken to employing a deus ex machina in the form of the sonic screwdriver. From a rarely used prop (Jon Pertwee was the first to have one but you hardly saw it), the thing is now brandished like a Wands up!magic wand. It unlocks doors, boost mobile phone signals, scans bodies and anything else that needs to be done without all the trouble of coming up with a convincing way of doing this. Basically, we get 35 minutes in, out comes the screwdriver and hooray, after a little more running down corridors, we’re all done.

Which brings me to “The Day of the Doctor“. Trailers show David Tennant and Matt Smith brandishing their screwdrivers at an advancing army. All I think when I see this is “it’s bloody Harry Potter”.

The Doctor doesn’t need a magic wand. He needs brains and cunning and ingenuity. He’s a clever man with 900 years of experience to help him get out of trouble. In the good old days, and even some of the modern ones, he thought his way out of a scrape. For the modern era, two of the best episodes are Blink and Dalek and in both the screwdriver stays in the pocket.

Duh cter WhoOf course, the world has changed. Modern viewers (apparently) can’t handle a storyline running across 4 episodes. Everything really must be wrapped up in 45 minutes. Harry Potter was massively popular so turning your main character into a sci-fi wizard works well for an audience educated at Hogwarts. And it’s only a telly programme so I should stop being so grumpy.

I’m sure the 50th anniversary episode will be worth a million X-Factor shows. I’m really looking forward to “An Adventure in Space and Time“, a drama about the creation of the series. Re-runs of old episodes were a much better option for Friday night telly than Children In Need last week too. More to the point, it’s great that we can still produce big-budget drama that doesn’t involve miserable cockneys. Best of all, it appeals to all age groups, something very rare nowadays.

But you’ll have to excuse me if I wish the Dr would learn to use a lock pick. Or even just blow the bloody doors off.

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