Reading The Doctors Are In reminded me a lot of those heady days when I first got on-line and discovered there were fellow Doctor Who fans out there who loved to debate the show as much as I did. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me since I’ve had debates with at least one half of this writing duo about various aspects of my favorite television show long before I picked up this book.
But reading this in-depth look at each era of the good Doctor (wisely divided up into two eras for the fourth Doctor because, let’s face it, there are two eras to Tom Baker’s run on the show), I couldn’t help but feel like certain only flames were being fanned and I kept looking around for the reply button so I could begin to debate Robert Smith? and Graeme Burke on various points they have about each era of the show. (This is especially true when they pick their five stories that represent each era of the show. Because really — “Planet of the Spiders”?!? You must be messing with me!)
Reading Smith? and Burke’s debates about various eras of the show and the actors who played the Doctor is entertaining and informative. And while this book isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it has a leg up in that you can feel the passion and fandom these two have for the series.
This may be a selling point for some and it may be a detraction for others. If you’re looking for a by the numbers look at the Doctors, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for spirited debate among two long time fans who don’t agree on everything, this is worth picking up and spending time with. It may even make you want to debate the two and it may even make you want to visit the stories they refer to in their top five of the era. And while I can find some points of contention I have with some of their arguments (I’ve finally found that one fan who doesn’t love “Genesis of the Daleks.” He’s wrong, of course.), these come more from my feelings on the show than on Smith? and Burke laying out their points.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Salvation of Doctor Who: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture by Matt Rawle
Can my favorite secular television series offer us any insights on the divine? The answer is yes.
Matt Rawle’s book The Salvation of Doctor Who looks at spiritual lessons we can take away from the over fifty year run of the series. The book is broken down into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the series from the Doctor himself to the nature of time to the various foes the Doctor has faced over the years. Rawle offers short chapters that are intended to be read daily and to help the reader find deeper meaning from the series.
As a starting point for a conversation, I’ve got to admit I enjoyed this book a great deal. And while I may not necessarily agree with all of Rawle’s points in the book, I still found his arguments were well made and I could see where he was coming from.
This book has a heavy influence on the modern Doctor Who. And while I can see why the book might lean more on the modern stories and their situations, the classic Whovian deep inside me kept wishing we got more than a passing nod to the original stories. I realize that there a lot of new Who fans who haven’t or won’t watch the classic stories and this book is designed to appeal to all fans. But I still can’t help but feel like Rawle only did a passing glance at the fifty year history of the show and possibly overlooked a few lessons that are sitting there in the classic era run.
Also, I can’t help but feel that my reading this book straight through in a couple of sittings wasn’t how it’s intended to be read or experienced. I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley, so instead of reading one lesson a day and allowing it to sink it, I read the book straight through in a couple of sittings. This lead me to notice that Rawle begins to repeat certain points in later sections of the book. I might not have noticed (as much) had I used this as a devotional or a conversation starter from a small group as it’s intended.
As Big Finish celebrates its 200th main Doctor Who range release, I decided to take a look back on some of the old favorites and see if they still held up.
Intended as the Cybermen version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Spare Parts” is one of the more revered stories from Big Finish. And yet as I listened, I couldn’t recall when or if I’d heard this one before. I feel like I should have heard it when it first came out, but I couldn’t recall many details beyond superficial ones.
Arriving on Mondas in the last days before the population became fully Cyber-ized, the fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves embroiled in the politics that helped created the earliest Cybermen. Listening to “Spare Parts,” I couldn’t help but feel that Marc Platt has crafted a superb prelude to “The Tenth Planet” and that I should dust off that DVD and visit the classic serial again.
What could have been a simple imitation of “Genesis of the Daleks” becomes something a bit deeper and different. There’s no one unifying voice for the Cybermen as there was with the Daleks. Instead we see various members of the population and how they react to the developments taking place within their society and on their world. Platt allows us a bit of time to get invested and interested in these characters before he begins changing them into what will eventually become the Cybermen. (If you’ve seen the new series, there are certain sequences from the story that were used in the return of the Cybermen there, though I’d argue they are more effective here). Continue reading
The first trailer for series nine of Doctor Who is available.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch it about a billion more times.
It’s rare to find a Doctor Who novel that will allow us inside the mind of the Doctor. More often than not, we’ll see into the mind of his companions and those around him.
That makes a story like “The Deadly Assassin” difficult to adapt for the printed page since it’s the only story in the classic canon that doesn’t feature a companion for the Doctor. It’s also a story whose third episode features a lot of action pieces and very little in the way of dialogue.
Because of this, Terrance Dicks’ attempt to adapt the classic Robert Holmes four-parter falls a bit short. I can’t help but wonder if Dicks had produced this story at the beginning or the end of his association with the Target range if he might have expanded some things a bit or made some different storytelling choices. As it is, this comes from the middle period when Dicks rarely had time to do more than adapt the shooting script for the printed page. He didn’t have time to add the flourishes that made novels like “The Day of the Daleks” so memorable.
With two mysterious adversaries for the Doctor to battle (one works for the other), Dicks decides to give away the identity of one earlier in the novel than the televised story does. I can’t help but wonder if it might have been better to let readers in on who is working for the Master rather than the Master himself. It’s disappointing that one of the more pivotal and controversial stories in the classic series run only gets a novelization that’s par for the course. Dicks tries his best, but this is a story that works better visually (at least the sections inside the Matrix do) than they do on the printed page.
Thankfully, the audio version features a reading by Geoffrey Beavers, the only actor who played the Master in the classic series who is still with us. Beavers reading is, as always, a delight and he brings a lot to the read, especially when called upon to read lines for the Master. You can just hear Beavers voice dripping with contempt as he channels the Master in this one. I can’t help but wonder why this line hasn’t seen fit to let Beavers read a story or two that doesn’t feature the Master. I think he’d be great. Why not let him read “Day of the Daleks” — one of the truly great entries from the Target line that hasn’t yet been adapted for audio.
Before I began running, I used to joke that running couldn’t be as much fun as they say it is because you never see anyone running with a big grin on their face. And while I may not have a big smile planted on my face most days while out pounding the pavement, I can’t help but think I had a big smile planted on it for much of the time I was working out while listening to Remembrance of the Daleks.
Based on one of my favorite seventh Doctor stories (and one of my favorite stories from the entire run of Doctor Who), this novel was one that I spent months looking for in book stores when it was first published (back in the days before Amazon and other on-line sellers) and then eagerly consumed once I’d found it. It was one of my favorite entries from the Target novels lines — taking a great story and making it even better with some world building, character development and hints about the past of the our hero, the Doctor that, at the time, I lapped up with a spoon.
I’ve still got my original copy of the book, sitting proudly on my bookshelf with all my seventh Doctor Target novels. And I was fascinated to see that this novel was chosen to represent the seventh Doctor’s era for the fiftieth anniversary books that came out a couple of years ago. And yet for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to re-read the book. Part of me was worried that my memory would cheat and the re-read couldn’t live to the memories I had of reading it. And then there was part of me that said — man, if there was ever a novel I’d love to see become part of the audio range, it would be that one.
And so it was that when the Target audio range finally got rolling again this year, I was took great delight to see that Remembrance of the Daleks was headed to audiobook. I ordered it the audiobook, quickly converted it to .mp3 for my iPod and was ready to start listening. Continue reading
One of the things that keeps me from embracing the Big Finish range more than I do is that it seems too determined to maintain the sensibility of the classic Doctor Who serials from which it springs. No where is that more evident than in Andrew Smith’s latest offering to the range, Mistfall.
A sequel to Smith’s own Full Circle, the story finds the fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough heading back to Alzarius, just in time for Mistfall to happen again. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, mind you, except that Alzarius is in a separate universe and the story spends a good bit of the first episode negotiating the TARDIS and our heroes back into e-space. Once we get there, we head to Alazarius where the Marshmen are rising from the swamps and people are trapped on the planet. There’s also a nefarious agenda involving the Marshmen thrown in for good measure.
Smith incorporates some aspects from his novelization of Full Circle here, but I just couldn’t quite get past the feeling that we’d been here before that pervades the first two installments. Things pick up a bit in the third part when the story begins to go in different directions, leading to a hurried fourth installment that tries to wrap up things a bit too quickly and neatly for my liking. The pacing for this one is entirely off and the story as a whole suffers for it.
And, of course, this being the current state of the main range for Big Finish, this one has to be the start of a trilogy of stories. Again, we’ve had a trilogy of stories in e-space and they were fairly successful the first time around. I can’t help but get the feeling of “here we go again” from the inevitable cliffanger to end the story, but dammit, if they don’t make it just intriguing enough that I want to come back and see how it all unfolds.