While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine’s novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it’s staggering — to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.
Visiting some of Dicks’ output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans — keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn’t see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.
“The Claws of Axos” comes from an era when Dicks wasn’t given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. “Claws” is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor’s chagrin at being “a galactic yo-yo,” Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don’t jostle the TARDIS). Continue reading
Since the beginning of the Target audio book range, there have been a couple of the classic Doctor Who adaptations that I really wanted to see get the audio treatment. So imagine my delight when the range included several of those titles last year, including my all-time favorite Doctor Who serial and one of my favorite adaptations, “The Curse of Fenric.”
The Doctor and Ace arrive in World War II at classified naval base where one of the first computers is being used to break the German coded ciphers. But with the arrival of a group of Russians, it soon becomes clear that a bigger game is being played — one that the Doctor has known was coming ever since he met Ace.
To number the ways I love “Fenric” could take all the characters I have left in this review and it wouldn’t even crack the surface. While the storytelling in the late 80’s wasn’t quite as serialized as we see in many of the television series today, seasons 25 and 26 did insert a loose character arc for Ace. Continue reading
In his afternote to City of Death James Goss notes “There are about three people in the world who don’t like City of Death and they’re being hunted down.”
I guess I’m one of those three people. And it’s not that I hate City of Death per se. It’s just that I don’t necessarily love it as much as many of my fellow Doctor Who fans do.
Famously re-written by Douglas Adams over the course of a weekend, few scripts from the classic run are as eminently quotable nor do they deal with the implications of time travel in quite the same way that this one does. But does that make it a top ten classic? Not to this fan.
Arriving in Paris, the Doctor and Romana decide to take a holiday. But a series of cracks in time quickly put them into the orbit of the Count Scarlioni, who has set his sights on stealing the Mona Lisa. His motivation for stealing the painting is so he can sell it on the black market, making millions and financing his dangerous experiments in time and time travel.
Goss takes a page from Adams in not telling the same story precisely the same way for each adaptation. Combining the televised version with the shooting scripts and a few flourishes of his own (in the style of Adams, of course), Goss gives readers an opportunity to find new nuggets in City of Death. Goss even creates an interesting spin on the reveal the monster cliffhanger ending of episode one with the Count not realizing he’s a splintered part of the Jaggeroth and being just as shocked as viewers are intended to be at the reveal that he’s a green faced, bug-eyed monster. (Though this does create some questions when it comes to the motivation of stealing the Mona Lisa and other aspects of the story)
And while Goss certainly isn’t quite in the same sphere as Adams, he does a serviceable job of channeling Adams for this adaptation. Short of Douglas writing the novel himself, this is probably as close as we’re going to get. Goss takes time to add some depth to Karinksi, Duggan and even the art critic couple from the story over the course of the story. But he also take a page from the Terrance Dicks school of Doctor Who novel writing and rarely abridges or joins scenes together from the televised version to the printed page.
His adaptation of City of Death is more along the later entries in the Target novel line as opposed to most of the fourth Doctor ones that feel like a straight adaptation of the shooting script with minimal descriptions thrown in for good measure. It makes this one of the better fourth Doctor novelizations in the long line of books. But as I said before, it’s simply not one of my favorite stories and the adaptation doesn’t enhance the reputation of the story any more (at least in my book). It also doesn’t detract from it either.
When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbor, the Doctor begins to investigate how it got there and what can and should be done about. Also hot on the trail is a familiar time-travelling archaeologist, though as the cover warns you, it’s not necessarily the one you were expecting.
In his afterward, Gary Russell says that the reason he decided to use Benny Summerfield instead of River was because series runner Steven Moffat nixed the idea. Russsell goes on to say that Moffat suggested bringing Benny back because he’d always liked the character and that then novel turned out to be better because of it.
I’m glad Gary thinks the novel turned out better than he originally imagined. Because this reader found the novel a pretty big disappointment. Continue reading
It’s been a decade since the Doctor came back to our television screens and in that time, I’ve seen Doctor Who soar to heights of popularity I never imagined.
If I could take a TARDIS back in time and tell my younger self that not only would episodes air on the same day in America as they did in the UK but that there would be (sold out) screenings of the fiftieth anniversary special in movie theaters, I’m not sure my younger self would necessarily believe it.
But even as the show rose to new heights of popularity, I knew it was only a matter of time before a certain segment of the fan population began to jump off the band wagon for the next new and shiny thing. I predicted it would happen when David Tennant left and was pleasantly surprised when that fans who jumped on board for Tennant stayed around for the Matt Smith era.
But now in the second year of the Peter Capaldi era, I’m finding more fans who jumped on board with the modern Who are beginning to look around for the next new shiny thing to come along. As part of SciFi Month 2015 Rinn Reads published a piece about Falling Out of Love With Doctor Who, which I read and disagreed with on just about every point. Continue reading
Whenever I’m asked by new Who fans for a good starting point to watch classic Doctor Who, I don’t point to “An Unearthly Child” but instead to Robert Holmes’ classic fourth Doctor serial, “The Ark In Space.”
Not only does the story kick off a great run of stories, but it comes from an era this is (arguably) the most consistent and best in the entire fifty plus year run of the show — classic or otherwise.
The story includes a minor call back or two to the previous installment, but for the most part it’s a self-contained horror story set in the near future. Promising Harry a quick trip to the moon to prove the TARDIS is what the Doctor says it is, our trio instead ends up in the far future thanks to Harry’s twisting the helmic regulator a bit too much. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on a future space station that is home to the final remnants of humanity in suspended animation waiting their chance to awaken and begin the conquering the Earth again. But something has gone wrong and humanity has overslept.
What’s gone wrong is the Wirrin, an insect race that can survive in deep space and has journeyed to the ark seeking our humanity. The Wirrin are also driven to survive and are looking for a new home — and the ark and the Earth look like just the right place to get started. Continue reading
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.