Listening to the essays that make-up Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths, I feel like Ryan Britt and I would be good friends if we ever met in the real world.
Covering things from why reboots happen and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the sad truth that Luke Skywalker and company don’t place a high value on literacy to the admission that he grew up listening more to Star Trek soundtracks that he did the popular music of the day (boy, did that one resonate with this guy, who can tell you pretty much were most musical cues from the original series featured first but couldn’t tell you much about the popular music of my teenage years), Britt keeps things entertaining, humorous, and compelling throughout.
Pointing out how the Back to the Future is every genre of film in one trilogy and then proceeding to deconstruct the time travel paradoxes within the film, Britt had me nodding in agreement at multiple points and considering some of my favorite genres and some of their most popular entries in a new light. And his final essay finds me wanting to visit Issac Asimov’s I, Robot again to see how it differs from most of the other robots in pop culture since the mechanical creatures don’t want to rise up and exterminate us all.
And while I agree with what Britt says in most of the essays, I differ greatly with him in his analysis of modern Doctor Who (but then again, I differ from a lot of fandom in my assessment and enjoyment of the revived series, especially the esteem to which a certain Doctor is held (ahem..David Tennant…ahem)). But that’s why I say I feel like Britt and I could be friends – because you don’t want to agree with your friends on everything….
The final televised Third Doctor story to reach the printed page was something of a disappointment when I read it initially thirty plus years ago. However, thanks to the audiobook line from BBC Audio, I was given the opportunity to visit the story once again.
In the years since I first read the novel, “The Ambassadors of Death” has grown a bit in my estimation. Yes, it’s still the weakest story of season seven, but that’s damning a bit with faint praise.
Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the John Whitacker/Malcolm Hulke script does a serviceable job of trying to condense seven episodes into the mandated page count. Dicks is able to streamline some of the action sequences (Liz Shaw’s car chase, for example, takes about a paragraph or so) and give a bit more time and space to early developments. However, after listened to some of Dicks’ earlier works when he was given more time to develop the characters and add in some background details to the situation, I can’t help but wish he’d had don that here. Imagine the Dicks who wrote “Day of the Daleks” being allowed to fill in the history of the Mars Probe missions or even time to make General Carrington a bit more of a sympathetic villain (or at least give us a better understanding of his motives).
I can’t help walking away from this one feeling like it’s a missed opportunity more than anything.
And yet, for all of that, the audio version was still a pleasure to listen to. Part of that is narrator Geoffrey Beavers, who could probably read Malcolm Hulke’s grocery list and it would be utterly scintillating to the listening ear. Once again, Beavers shows he’s one of the jewels in the audio book line.
\In an interview for a DVD extra, author Terrance Dicks notes that one aspect of his career he’s most proud of is his ability to meet deadline. As a person who understands the importance of writing on deadline, it’s easy to admire that about Dicks.
However, it’s also easy to lament that having to meet that deadline for a lot of Target Doctor Who novels in the mid-70’s means the adaptations are a bare-bones retelling of the script with little or no room for expanding the story. The image of Dicks handcuffed to his typewriter and having to churn out a new adaptation of a fourth Doctor script often springs to mind when I think of this era in Doctor Who publishing.
Which is what makes it a shame that Dicks wasn’t given the time to embellish and enhance stories like “The Robots of Death” like he did with “The Auton Invasion” or “Day of the Daleks.” Continue reading
The first (of many) books I purchased from the Target line of adaptations still holds a special little nostalgic place in my heart. Curious about the history of the series, I figured “The Five Doctors” would be a good point to get an overview and catch-up course on the twenty plus years of history surrounding Doctor Who. Picking up the shiny silver cover, I quickly took it home and consumed it. It more than satisfied my itch and was the seed from which a huge collection of Target novels grew.
The sheer fact that the story crams in as many continuity references and callbacks as it does and isn’t a complete shambles is a credit to Terrance Dicks. It’s interesting that given a laundry list of things that the production team wanted included that the person many people consider to be the greatest writer in the history of Doctor Who (classic or new) couldn’t find a way to crack it. When Robert Holmes passed on writing the anniversary story, the production team called on former script-editor and Target adaptation leader Terrance Dicks to give it a try. And somehow, Dicks managed to find a way to do what Holmes couldn’t, serving as a testament to his skills as a writer.* Continue reading
With the movie finally hitting screens and since my sf/f bookclub picked it for our next book, I’ve revisited Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. This time around, I decided to give the audio version a whirl. And while Wil Wheaton is spot-on in bringing the book to life in audio, I still found myself coming away from the novel feeling a bit satisfied.
While most of the geeky 80’s references hold up fairly well, I couldn’t help but feel like this book with all style and no substance the more I listened. While I enjoyed the references, I found myself yearning for something more to the novel that what I walked away this time. This time around, the novel reminded me of books I read based on several InfoCom games (they gave us Zork and other interactive text games back in the day). They were fun, but not necessarily all that filling. And in the end, they left me wanting to go back and play the games again rather than continue reading the novel.
Ready Player One feels like it’s all style and little substance here. And this time around, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit too predictable for its own good. (Some of this could be that I’ve read it before, but honestly I’d forgotten a lot of the specific story points in the seven or so years since I last read it). I’m not sure if this says more about me as a reader or the novel itself. Or it could be a bit of both.
I was struck this time by the predictable nature of the plot, the lack of any real depth for the characters, and the glaring lack of any strong, female characters in the book.
Again, I can’t say that I didn’t love it back in the day. I did. But I probably should have let my memory continue to cheat into remembering how much I’d enjoyed it then. Instead, I’ve come away feeling that this novel was one that had so much potential that just wasn’t realized.
If you want to visit my original review of the book, you’ll find it HERE.
For some reason, I missed reading Gerry Davis’ adaptation of his and Kit Pedler’s script for “The Tenth Planet” during the height of my reading and collecting the Target novels. It could be due either to that fact that I didn’t appreciate the William Hartnell serials as I do now during my initial viewing of Doctor Who or it could be that this one just didn’t show up at my local bookseller.
A pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet” features two huge firsts — the debut of the Cybermen and the first time the Doctor regenerated.
You’d think that for a story this pivotal to the long-running history of the show, the Target novelization would be more to write home about. Continue reading