Monday, May 31, 2010

Target: The Space Pirates

This actually seemed better than the recon - I can think of three possible explanations:

1. TSP is one of those DW stories that you have to experience at least 3 times to understand the plot properly, and what's better understood is more easily appreciated.

2. Even a workmanlike Terrance transcription is easier to engage with than watching a recon

3. It takes a lot less time to read the book than it does to watch the recon, so less suffering is involved.

I got a cheap laugh when Clancey says 'Sure, I was beginning to suspect little Maddy herself.'

Target: The Three Doctors

Some improvements, some bits that are actually worse than the screen version. The best example of the latter is the government 'VIP' who replaces the 'Security Council on videophone'. We don't even have a scene with this personage, he's merely referred back to. (Then Terrance realises we can't have him going into the black hole along with UNIT HQ, so more space has to be wasted on the Brig ordering Cpl Palmer to send him away, and yet more reassuring us that this has actually been done - he's 'whizzed away' in his limousine in best children's-book style.

(Yes, I know the Targets are children's books, but their attraction is that often they don't read like them).

Omega's planet is much better, endless grey dunes and grey sea (although the Brig strangely still makes a joke about it looking like a quarry - instead of the Cromer reference). His base is a fantastic brass castle, and to prove a point to the Doctors he temporarily creates a beautiful landscape. The singularity is a flame (although Tel assures us that even that is just a sort of solid metaphor), Omega's monitor takes up a whole wall instead of being a television behind a cut-out and he creates a mirror as required, rather than just having one hanging on the wall.

The Brigadier is given a bit more dignity by means of a scene where he leads the other humans, armed with various UNIT weapons, to drive away the 'blob-men' when the Doctors escape from the castle.

Ollis is renamed Hollis, he actually fires his shotgun on Omega's planet at least once, and his last line is delivered with an affectionate hug of his wife, rather than a churlish tone.

Finally, the Doctor proposes a trip to Metebelis Three when he gets his new dematerialisation circuit, thus setting the stage for the rest of the season (I'm sure that bit isn't done on screen). I was none too keen on this Target as a kid, but I always enjoyed finally seeing him getting his mojo back.

This idea that Omega's world only has life and colour when he bothers to concentrate - and usually it's too much strain - could that be a metaphor for the story itself, which only has life and colour during the multi-Doctor scenes?

Target: The War Games

An unusually economical effort from Mac Hulke here - some bits are compressed, omitted or merely reported. For instance, Zoe's interrogation is just reported after the fact, and the bit where the War Lord tries to hijack the TARDIS on Gallifrey is omitted.

Nor is there space for the usual extensive character back-story - he has to content himself with shorter stuff, like describing Carstairs' reluctance to mention to Lady Jennifer that his family's wealth comes from commerce, and giving Capt Ransome (the officer Lady J suckers into going to Number 17 command post) a preference for reading books over conducting wars.

The Viewmaster 3D interrogation machine is replaced with a pain-inducing torture helmet. The Chief Scientist doesn't have the bland manner that he does on screen, instead he's eager for praise from the War Chief. Nor is he left in his own deprogramming machine by the rebels, as doing so would have 'reduced him to an idiot'.

The sergeant-major is much more aggressive at the court martial, threatening to smash the Doctor's teeth in.

There's no ban on humans from eras after 1917: there's at least one soldier from 1953 (the Korean war presumably) and another from the Chinese/Japanese conflict in 1937.

Couple of mistakes: Romans did not use chariots for warfare, nor did they practice human sacrifice in the era depicted.

This is a good 'un on the whole, though: the most frequent complaint about the screen version is the length and repetition, and the book reduces those both quite skilfully.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Target: The Auton Invasion

A real effort from Terrance here, with even comedy Sam Seeley and Meg being given some background. It's even explained how Hibbert came to be involved with the Nestenes in the first place.

There's a recap of the Doctor's trial as a prologue - and a back-reference to Jamie and Zoe which puzzled me mightily when I was younger.

The UNIT gate guards have a practised cover story about the place being a branch of the Pensions Department. (Rather than a sign saying 'UNIT HQ' with the Brigadier's name on, as seen in The Three Doctors).

Liz appears to take the TARDIS key from the Brigadier's office more out of petulance at being ordered around, than for any considered reason.

The invasion itself is on a much grander scale, with Autons taking to the streets across the country and rapidly causing chaos. The humans can only fight back in an isolated, piecemeal way because the Replicas are giving contradictory orders and sabotaging the resistance. Indeed, the Autons are so successful that the UNIT convoy has difficulty getting to the plastics factory at all for the final showdown.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Target: The Time Monster

Very little to see here, apart from an unwanted reference to the Timescoop, which TOMTIT apparently has the same powers as. I don't mind Terrance anticipating Gallifrey by 3 seasons in Claws of Axos, but looking ahead 11 seasons to refer to a crappy plot device like the Timescoop is just stupid.

The Galleia/Master thing is rather downplayed. But as a counterbalance, Jo's 'high boots' get namechecked, which excited me strangely.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Target: The Mutants

Just finished this again - I've written about the screen version already, but the Target continues to strike me as being one of Terrance's best efforts. This time round I noticed how neatly structured the plot is, almost like a board game (which is perhaps why I loved it so much as a kid). The Doctor has to get the box to Ky to open it, then to Prof Sondergaard to help him translate the scrolls, then he has to obtain the crystal, and finally to get the crystal, a Mutant (Ky) and the radiation together all at once to prove his theory (and dispose of the Marshal). Meanwhile he periodically gets forced to work in Jaeger's lab (perhaps until he can throw a 6 and escape by stunning or killing Jaeger with the old 'exploding circuit' trick).

Also noticed: in the book Jaeger does not tell the Marshal that Solos has a 2000-year seasonal cycle. That's kept quiet until the discussion in Sondergaard's cave.

The radiation cave has a globe in it, showing the benign face of one of the Old Ones, which crumbles to dust as soon as the Doctor picks up the crystal.

The ionisation rockets turn the surface vegetation brittle and crumbly, and when the Doctor uses the maser to fix the problem, large areas of jungle excellently explode into white-hot flames under the power flow.

The Marshal shrewdly notes that the Investigator is scared and disgusted by the Mutant that follows Sondergaard aboard Skybase, and realises that killing the Mutt will cause the Investigator to trust him.

And Cotton, when he has to lie about Jo receiving oxygen treatment, speaks 'woodenly'.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Time Monster

The parallels with Carry On Dick get more obvious every time I watch it: a late entry in its era, seemingly with all the classic cast members, but with a rambling, wandering story which spends far too much time trying to amuse us with Jack Douglas/Stuart Hyde.

The Brigadier has had his final serious story in Day of the Daleks, and now he's reduced to permanent comedy relief, except for his bit of 'That can't be a V1' acting, nice though it is. Yates is basically sealed into his own separate storyline - and even if Benton does have his finest moment in temporarily outwitting the Master, he has to pay for it by having everyone laugh at his c0ck in the final scene. Perhaps on balance he'd've preferred just to be shouting at the troops in the background, as usual.

The time flow analogue stretches credulity too far. I don't know why they put that bit in since it's a plot dead-end anyway.

It's a relief to get away from Stuart and bossy woman and off to Atlantis (particularly as I always enjoy the limited TARDIS trips during the exile period). Interesting to see the Master trying his hand at conventional seduction. I wasn't terribly convinced by it I must say. I thought the incredible confusion of the 'Kronos devastates Atlantis' scene actually worked, it conveyed the idea of the place being destroyed about as well as you could manage with one set. (Compare the final scene of Frontier in Space for how not to do confusion).

Yes, obviously the Doctor isn't going to let the Master be tortured for all eternity. If there was no way to make that bit less predictable, perhaps it would have been more effective not to do it at all?

Target: The Sea Devils.

I never saw a copy of this as a kid, and I only found one for myself a couple of years ago, it was something like the 135th one I acquired. This rarity is surprising as it was reprinted at least twice. It's a Malcolm Hulke adaptation, which usually means back-story, sarcastic narration about characters' thoughts and long digressions.

In fact not so much character back-story in this, certainly not to the extent that it occurs in The Cave Monsters. There's a page or more about the Master's trial, though, and the special pleas the Doctor put in on the Master's behalf. (Thus increasing the unspoken identification between the two Time Lords, both serving sentences).

There's quite a long digression when the Doctor and Jo arrive on the island, about sunken villages and how the Doctor never met Henry VIII (contradiction there of what the First Doctor says in the story of the parson's nose). Although it's quite atmospheric, it doesn't seem really to work, it feels superfluous, like the bit Hulke sticks on the end of Dinosaur Invasion.

Plenty of Trenchard's thoughts: and unlike on screen, he doesn't get to make a heroic last stand, because the silly old sod forgets to turn off the safety-catch on his revolver, so when he tries to shoot a Sea Devil, nothing happens. (The Doctor, when he sees what's happened, turns the catch off, so people will think Trenchard died heroically. A bit like the white lie he tells about Skinsale in the Fang Rock novelisation).

Think I mentioned this last time, but the prison officers are - instead of slightly romantic, bushy-moustached cloak-wearing types - standard literary/dramatic prison officers from the pages of Borstal Boy or an ep of Porridge. When the Doctor takes the piss out of their 'Am receiving two from you' talk, they even give him the old 'three kinds of people' routine (I actually have heard that from a genuine P.O.).

Various naval petty officers are given names and personalities, a policeman is introduced who comes asking Captain Hart questions, and Walker is much as seen on screen except that he produces a tin of sweets from his pocket when they're locked up in the radio room. (Jo pointedly asks why he doesn't share them, and he says they're made specially for his taste and that she wouldn't like them).

And when the Sea Devils first emerge from the sea and start chasing the Doctor and Jo, the Master rather rudely shouts 'Exterminate them, you ugly idiot'.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sex lives of the Doctor Who companions

I was in the bath earlier reading Curse of Peladon when I noticed that Hepesh thinks of Jo as a 'maiden'. 'She's never a maiden,' I thought instantly.

But just how sexually experienced were the companions? Remember, the TARDIS drive emits a field that has the harmless side-effect of dampening human sexual response, so none of them got any actually during their travels, but had they been around before they got on board?

This is how I call them:

Susan 2/5 - if Gallifreyans have sex as we understand it at all, I imagine they learn about it early on, when they're about 60 or so. Probably initial practice with transparent, geometric implements, then with other people in transparent, geometric beds.

Ian 1/5 - possibly some action during National Service (in the Malayan Emergency?) but mostly just heavy petting after Young Conservative meetings.

Babs 1/5 - had a boyfriend in 1961 who wore a big pullover and wrote poetry. Did anything happen? No gentleman would enquire.

Vicki 0/5 - Bennett wanking into her pants drawer doesn't count.

Steven 4/5 - surely there was a lot about on the spaceways before he got to the Mechanoids' planet.

Dodo 0/5 - when she got older she turned into the sort of woman who tells you that the swinging sixties thing was all hype, and that no-one was getting any except Mick Jagger and Joe Orton (not with each other).

Ben and Polly 5/5 - lots of partners. Ben had a girl in every port and Polly was fighting off the fellers. And she had at least one friend who wore too much eyeliner and had a backstreet abortion.

Jamie 2/5 - healthy outdoor upbringing, and easy access to his fruitbowl in that kilt. But he may have been too slow to work out what to do with it.

Victoria 0/5 - wasn't even allowed to see her own 'parts of shame'.

Zoe 5/5 - sex class was high on the curriculum at that school she went to. Clinical, precise expertise in hundreds of techniques.

Liz 2/5 - in between adventures, went home to a brilliant scientist fiance who wore those heavy glasses you see on Python.

Jo 5/5 - went like a train. Though I also get the impression that she exploited 70s dating etiquette to make sure that many men shelled out for drinks/dinner without getting more than a nice smile and a kiss goodnight.

Sarah 0/5 - I have a filthy imagination but I just cannot picture Sarah having sex with anyone.

Harry 4/5 - Ian without the impulse control. Whores when on active service, round the back of the hunt ball with nubile county girls when at home.

Leela 2/5 - as one of only two Sevateem girls, she would have had plenty of suitors. But she would have been hard to persuade. 'The harder they come, the quicker they die of loss of blood when she chops their cocks off' as the tribal saying has it.

Romana I 1/5 - see Susan. But I can't really imagine it.

Romana II 4/5 - if anyone on Gallifrey was getting any, then it was her. She could give a statue of Rassilon a stiffy just by looking at it in a certain way.

Adric 1/5 - only if one of the slaver crew showed him the golden rivet. Mind you, technically not human so would have been unaffected by the TARDIS bromide field.

Tegan 4/5 - left Australia because she'd worn out every man from Kogarah to Cairns.

Nyssa 3/5 - hard to tell between 'I know so little about sexual intercourse' and 'Is that your penis, Adric? We studied those at the Lyceum. Except they seemed to be bigger then.'

Turlough 4/5 - charm doubtless effective on Earth girls encountered on exeat days. If not, still plenty of action at public schools.

Peri 4/5 - unless Hollywood has lied to me, there's plenty of action on American campuses.

Mel 2/5 - 80s sex with her dull boyfriend. Drinks in a wine bar, then drive home in a mark 4 Escort for a quick pre-AIDS bang.

Ace 3/5 - if we're to believe the whole Perivale bad girl thing, lots of sweaty-legginged sex with proto-crusties.

But what say you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Target v screen: Day of the Daleks

A lot more detail about the guerillas here, and a much clearer picture of the 22nd century, which is a very unpleasant place indeed.

Again, the Brigadier is given more to do; he rams an Ogron with his jeep, then 'coolly' grabs his sub-machine gun and shoots it before being thanked by the Doctor.

The last time we see Anat, she's heading bravely off into the dawn. Possibly the new dawn, observes Terrance, but if not, 'she could always go on fighting.' Thus avoiding having to explain what happens to her when the past is changed, while still ending on a positive note.

And also resolving an unusual narrative problem, how to let people get out of the story alive without it sounding rubbish. It's quite unusual, isn't it, for people to leave a DW story before the big finish without getting killed. Either they're around to say goodbye to the Doctor, and gurn at the disappearing TARDIS, or they die heroically in the climax.

(No doubt a hundred counter-examples will now emerge. Like Ace's granny in Fenric for a start.)

The appearance of the extra Doctor and Jo in the lab scene is properly explained at the end of the book. Incidentally, the TARDIS itself is involved, not just the console. I never liked the console being outside the TARDIS, because I was afraid the Doctor would never get it back in again

Monday, May 10, 2010

Target: The Cave Monsters

As usual with Malcolm Hulke, there are quite a few differences between screen and Target. Major Barker gets the full back-story treatment - he's working as a security officer because he was asked to leave the army after an incident one rainy day in Londonderry (characteristically, an incident with an element of moral ambiguity about it).

One thing I noticed for the first time this time was that he's painted as a specifically English patriot, the old-fashioned Major Misunderstanding type. 'In the name of St George' he expostulates to Liz at one point! Lesser writers than Hulke would have given him sinister National Front connections, and provided a black member of staff for him to hate.

Miss Dawson and Dr Quinn's previous relationship is summarised at some length, in the course of which his motivation for dealing with the 'reptile men' (always so called) is made clearer. Though we still don't find out why he thought they would just go back to bed when they found the humans had got settled in on their planet.

The Brigadier, as in many Targets, is given more humanity and intelligence. We learn that he likes the Doctor's vain streak, because it makes him seem human. He has spent some time trying to find patterns in the power outages before the story opens. (See? He's not all shouting and shooting).

Masters is rather different from Geoffrey Palmer's cautious politician - he's vain and foolish, giving a 'silly laugh' at one point. He's also oddly described as 'Permanent Under-Secretary', which isn't a ministerial job at all, but a civil service one.

Dr Lawrence isn't like his icily precise, hostile screen counterpart, all they really have in common is ambition. Previously I thought he survives to the end of the book, but of course he actually gets it in the Silurian invasion of the control room, where he accuses Morka of ruining his career.

Hulke brings forward a Miss Travis to fix the exploding reactor (by pulling out a fuse). She's previously seen making coffee for Dr Lawrence and Masters, rather obligingly for a technician I thought. I wouldn't ask our technicians to make me coffee.

Said coffee is amusingly consumed by the Doctor, in one of a number of gags based round his casual attitude to human social conventions. He amusingly apologises and offers Masters the cup back, covered in grimy cave dust fingerprints. Masters says he'll leave it, thanks.

The spread of the plague is neatly conveyed by having Sgt (not Capt) Hawkins plotting its progress on a map of Britain. Then he unrolls a world map... There's also an additional element of suspense when the Silurians kidnap the Doctor - Liz doesn't know which formula is the right one, and has to guess.

All in all one of my favourite Targets, even as a kid when I found it rather an effort because of the focus on people's working and other relationships. Also, why was the Doctor (who was wearing a long scarf as usual on Saturday, and had gone by TARDIS with Leela to a lighthouse) suddenly in a garage on Earth with someone called Liz reading him messages from the army? Hulke had a mountain to climb with young Shallow.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I've used my lunch break to read up on the Feb 74 election: while Heath was entitled to do what he did, and people at the time argued that it was indeed his duty, it was a mistake for 3 reasons -

- he used up his option. He could have let Wilson try to form a government, and fail, and then have had his own turn

- it pissed off his own party, because it looked bad to have the govt hanging on over the weekend after the election

- it made him look like a bad loser, so he was finished after that however right he may have been

Gordo take note?

Btw, he couldn't do a deal with the Libs because he knew his own party wouldn't agree to electoral reform. Plus ca change...