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
Mulder, the Internet is not good for you.
When it was announced that Darin Morgan was part of the X-Files revival, my interest in the project was peaked. All four of Morgan’s previous offerings for the show were among my favorites of the series with “Clyde Bruckeman’s Final Repose” ranking not only as my favorite hour of the show, but one of my favorite episodes of television ever.
But even as I was enthusiastic to see Morgan back on the show and had “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” circled in my mind as the “must see” installment of the new season, I have to admit I felt a bit of apprehension. I wondered if Morgan could return to the fold after a break of nearly twenty years and capture the magic again.
Thankfully, it only took the teaser on this week’s new installment to affirm that Morgan was back and that this episode could be something special. Continue reading
When The X-Files finally closed thirteen years ago, I’ve got to admit part of me was a little relieved. In the eighth and ninth season, the series had become a pale imitation of the series I loved and made appointment television for its first six to seven years. The mythology had become so convoluted that I no longer looked forward to it and the stand-alones had become a bit weaker than we saw in the early days.
When news broke that Fox was going to revive the series, my first thought was — please, don’t let me it be as unmemorable as seasons eight and nine. And the more I heard about who was being brought back for this six episode run, the more intrigued and, dare I say it, excited I became. Maybe, just maybe this six-episode mini-series could channel the series at its best and find a way to send Mulder and Scully off with dignity and grace.
After watching the first installment of the mini-series, I have to admit the results are a bit mixed. 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.
Star Trek Volume 11 by Mike Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
IDW’s re-imagining of certain episodes of the original (and still the best) Star Trek has been hit or miss. This latest installment, collecting issues 46 – 49 of the on-going series is no exception.
The collection starts off with a re-telling of one of my favorite installments from classic Trek, “The Tholian Web.” As with other re-imaginings of episodes from the original series, I find myself torn between wanting the story to be as faithful as possible to the original story and somehow offer me something new to make it feel like it’s worth my time to spend reading this version of the story. Unfortunately, this telling of the Tholian storyline doesn’t really succeed on either level. The new twist is that in the re-imagined universe, the NCC-1701 has the ability to separate the saucer section. So the Enterprise is in two pieces, trapped in the titular web, which I suppose should double the drama. Instead it merely isolates the characters who need to be working together to get out of this region of space. Continue reading
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