There are times reading a Terrance Dicks adaptation of a classic Doctor Who serial that I imagine the poor man, chained to a typewriter, given only bread and water and told to churn out the next Target adaptation as quickly as possible. Dicks was prolific adapting the classic Who stories in the age before we could own the entire run on VHS or DVD. And many times he could turn a less than memorable story into a more memorable one by either harnessing the reader’s imagination or creating some deeper characterization than we were treated to on-screen.
Unfortunately, he’s not able to do much with the second story of the Peter Davison era, Four to Doomsday. It’s an entirely faithful adaptation of what we saw on our screens with little or no room for embellishment. The televised version had Monarch offering commentary on what the Doctor and his companions were up to across the ship with jump cuts for a reaction and a word or two. The novel keeps those intact and feels a bit scattered and unfocused at times. Dicks also tries his best to give some motivation to Adric’s shifting loyalties and trying to make sense out of the long term invasion plan that Monarch is running. Neither is entirely successful, but it’s nice of him to try.
This one was part of my Target collection back in the day and I believe I picked it up right after seeing the serial in question repeated on my local PBS station. Years later, listening to it again as an audiobook, I found myself enjoying it a bit more than on the printed page simply because of the performance by Matthew Waterhouse. Yes, you read that correctly.
While he was never the strongest asset to the series, Waterhouse has delivered a couple of nicely performed audio books in the Target range. Waterhouse ably mimics the speech pattern of Monarch and he gives the reading some subtle shading as it goes along. It doesn’t help make the story itself any better, but it did lead me to enjoy listening to this story again a lot more than I originally expected.
It also made me almost give into an urge to dust off the DVD and give the story another look.
The debut of 24: Legacy brings up a (semi)philosophical question. Is the real-time format or Jack Bauer the star of the show?
Four episodes into the “worst day” of Eric Carter’s life and the answer still isn’t clear.
It’s easy to forgive certain things Jack Bauer did or to accept them as simply part of the power of Baur because we’ve spent ten days together. Seeing Carter act with a similar reckless abandon to what Jack used in order to get the job done and damn the consequences doesn’t necessarily feel earned yet. In the first four hours, Carter has used a large concrete pipe as a shield to take on terrorists, got himself arrested in order to steal $2 million in cash from a police squad and, as hour four ends, is breaking out of CTU in order to try and get a list of potential terrorist cells back. Continue reading
For some reason, I missed season one of The Magicians when it aired on SyFy.
OK, I didn’t really miss it so much as tune into the first two episodes, set a season-pass and then had it stack up on the DVR. And then I promptly deleted all the episodes halfway through the season because there are only so many hours in the day.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when the show showed up on Netflix and I decided to give it another try.
Boy, I’m glad I did.
Based on a trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians follows a group of friends who are studying to become magicians at Brakebill’s School for Magic. The series is described as “Harry Potter for adults,” but I think that’s doing a great disservice to both series. The Magicians owes more a debt to the C.S. Lewis Narnia series than it does to Harry Potter, if only because our main character, Quinten Coldwater grew up reading a series of Narnia-like books and has always dreamed of visiting the magical land described there.
Like a lot of shows today, the show has an arc and a seasonal big-bad. In this case, it’s a threat called the Beast. A six-fingered magician, the Beast shows up in episode one and is a looming threat over the entire season, bringing our team together to try and stop them in order to prevent their own deaths.
The series unfolds at Brakebill’s with Quinten and his friends studying magic and trying to up their game to take on the Beast. Meanwhile, Quinten’s life-long friend Julia fails the entrance exam to Brakebill’s and is sent back to the real world. Unfortunately, the memory wipe used on her doesn’t work and she spends much of season one trying to reconnect with magic and get back into the world that Quinten is exploring.
Confession time. I loved the first half of “Victory of the Daleks.”
I know the story is one of the more reviled of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. But as a classic Doctor Who fan, the first half was a pure delight. Seeing the manipulative Daleks, pulling the strings of the gullible humans all while the Doctor tries to convince everyone that they’re really up to no good felt like a writer Mark Gatiss channeling “Power of the Daleks” for a modern audience. Continue reading
During my teenage years, I picked up a photonovel copy of “The Power of the Daleks” at a sci-fi convention. The original script for the long-lost story was put together with the telesnaps (photos of the actual episodes) in an attempt to give fans a chance to see what the watching the serial back in 1966 might have been like. At the time, I figured this would be a close as I’d get to fully experiencing “The Power of the Daleks.”
When I first got on-line, I discovered the Doctor Who fan community and the practice of sharing the off-air audio from lost serials with each other. Thank to the generosity of a fellow fan, I was able to acquire the audio from several lost serials that I eagerly listened to, imaging what it might have been like to see the story back during its original airing. At the time, I figured this would be as close as I’d get to fully experiencing “The Power of the Daleks.” Continue reading
Ever since William Shatner committed his memories about working on Star Trek to print, it seems like there have been a lot of books pulling back the curtain on what went on behind the scenes of the original series. And if you were to take the time to put together all those various accounts of what went into creating Star Trek, whether it be from the technical, creative or personal side, you’d probably get a fairly good idea of how the original series came to be on our screens.
But if you don’t have that much time or shelf space, you could simply pick up Edward Gross and Mark Altman’s new book The Fifty Year Mission, The First 25 Years: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral Historyof Star Trek. Weighing it at close to 600 pages, this first installment of two this year from Gross and Altman covers the history of the original crew of the starship Enterprise, from the initial vision by Gene Roddenberry to the cast literally signing off at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Continue reading
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