Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Target: The Monster of Peladon

Perhaps I've been too harsh about this one, I would have liked it as a kid, with its clash of futuristic and mediaeval, and Eckersley's (pre-unmasking) engaging characterisation as a blase technocrat.

It is still a very lazy effort from Terrance, one of the 'he said/she said' script conversion jobs he's accused of doing. Usually that isn't a fair accusation, but with this book, it is. He follows every scene change in a way that Pip'n'Jane would be proud of - in his earlier work he thinks nothing of eliminating a cut/cut back if it makes the story flow better on the page.

Principal differences that I noticed this time: Eckerley keeps addressing Sarah as 'love' in a way that's both very annoying and very odd. Do any other future people in DW talk that way?

Sarah tells Thalira there's nothing 'only' about being female, not about being a girl. And she doesn't do the 'nothing "only" about being a miner' at the end. The cheeky way Thalira says 'Gebek -' at the end, when she's about to ennoble him, is missing.

Alpha Centauri doesn't fall over when Eckersley thumps him with the gun. Sskel shows a 'surprising turn of speed' when fleeing the Aggedor projection (not so much a difference as an attempt to explain something which didn't seem quite right on screen).

There's a (literally) parenthetic explanation that Azaxyr's spaceship crew quietly left orbit once they realised he was dead, which is why Alpha Centauri was able to reopen communications.

Thalira also doesn't take part in the conversation with Eckersley about his motivation. Which is a shame, because on screen I liked the suggestion of professional contempt when she says 'Power?' Incidentally, Ecks only says that 'perhaps' the Ice Warriors will make him ruler of Earth.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Target: Death to the Daleks

Another candidate for my favourite Target, and one of the earliest ones I read - for many years I pictured Tom Baker's Doctor in this, as I didn't know about the Pert/Sarah era. The screen version ran a poor second when I finally saw it.

Terrance Dicks' Exxilon is a spacious place of grey sand dunes and green fog, not a claustrophobic set littered with standing stones (though there is the one that gets the oil lamp placed on it). Sarah gets some proper clothes on when she goes back to the TARDIS.

It's never struck me before, but the Doctor goes off-page as well as off-screen when he negotiates with the Daleks. I can't believe TD resisted the temptation to write that scene. I'd love to have seen the Doctor coming to an agreement with his disarmed, deadly enemies.

The Dalek arithmetic adds up properly in the Target - there are 3 unseen Daleks left on the ship, and four who are initially seen. One blows up when the Exxilons attack, two get zapped by the City probe (one in the tunnel, one in the pit) leaving four at the end. The one guarding the mining area does not die of depression when Jill escapes, it commences a 'frantic search' instead.

As TD doesn't have to worry about the safety of the extras, he has the first Dalek blow up while the Exxilons are battering it. Several of them are killed.

The Surface Exxilons don't speak 'English' at all, not even the priest. Or rather they don't get any speeches - they talk a kind of 'pigeon [sic] galactic' but it's very debased.

Bellal wears clothes. He has a third friend (Jebal) who spies on the diggings. He doesn't take a gun to the City with the Doctor.

When the Doctor tells Sarah that, if necessary, she should go back to Earth with the expedition, he thinks 'At least it would be her own planet, if not her own time.'

Terrance gives us some Dalek facts: they 'take no interest in the finer points of interior decoration' and 'have so little imagination that it is almost impossible to hypnotise them'.

The City sequence is really well done on the page - all gleaming white walls and a sense of being trapped. On screen there are alternative paths (eg just before the tiles, and the sanity assault room has two entrances), which I feel lessens the menace. Not having a gun, Bellal tries to strangle the Doctor in the hypnosis room. I thought the book did refer to the control room figure 'watching' their progress, but I can't find such a reference.

(One thing I do like on screen is the skeleton in the sanity assault room - on the page there are none after the first room. I really like the suggestion that one Exxilon in centuries was clever enough to get past all the tests except that one.)

Galloway is a 'glory hunter', not a 'glory seeker'. He draws a 'deep shuddering breath' before pressing home the plunger on the bomb. (I always imagined him as a young red-headed bloke, but that just shows I didn't read Terrance's description of him properly.)

The story ends, not with the '699 wonders' line, but with an extra bit where the Doctor is still going on about Florana, and Sarah tells him to forget it and get her back to Earth instead.

Friday, June 25, 2010

End of the Line

Updated version with Osiris corrected to Oseiden.

For future updates see the EotL page.

Target: The Dinosaur Invasion

Malcolm Hulke again, telling another eco-tale where this time the environmentalists are the baddies.

The initial evacuation is shown through the experiences of one Shughie, who's come down from Glasgow for the Cup Final (either the Scottish Cup final was held in London that year, or he and his mates are big fans of English football). He gets offed by a dinosaur that he thinks is a whisky-induced hallucination.

The Doctor and Sarah's journey across London takes a lot more time - I think Hulke is enjoying the chance to do some Day of the Triffids atmosphere with empty shops, rotting food and looters. Sarah is delighted to see Woolworths again, much to the Doctor's exasperation.

10 million people were evacuated, not 8 million. The patrol leader does not fire a machine gun burst to intimidate the Doctor and Sarah. Instead he has a megaphone - 'Speaking through it gave him great authority,' remarks the narrator.

The Doctor's childish treatment of Gen Finch's question in their initial encounter is made a bit more reasonable by having the Doctor express his annoyance at Finch's rudeness.

Butler has a scar. Whitaker thinks that's a pity - because Whitaker is 'about as blatantly gay in the novelisation as is possible in a Target book'.

In the aircraft hangar, when the Doctor's working on his detector there are several very odd references to a small black knob which he 'keeps twiddling', asks the Brigadier if he's got any oil to lubricate it, and finally 'forgets about the troublesome black knob.' What can this mean?

The Doctor doesn't justify not having built a portable detector in the first place (on screen he does so on accuracy grounds). He just says he didn't think of it.

There's some good Hulkery in the dinosaur scenes - we're always shown the creature's POV (they want to munch large green leaves, they think the Houses of Parliament are other monsters, they are afraid of the flash on Sarah's camera because they think it's lightning).

Sarah taunts Butler about his scar, but it backfires because he tells her he got it from being a fireman, when he fell through a glass roof rescuing a child. Sarah feels bad (perhaps he made it up so she would!) but we're left wondering why she does it in the first place.

The climactic scene is different: some of the spaceship people are persuaded to let Whitaker pull the lever. There's no business about the Doctor having reversed the polarity, Grover and Whitaker disappear simply because they're closest to the device.

There's an epilogue where the Doctor answers Sarah's doubts about changing history by showing her a Biblical account of odd creatures which might have been from the future, or another planet. Much as I appreciate this familiar SF trope, it feels tacked on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I'm fed up of trying to find the other place where I posted this information, so let it be recorded that yes, the sample 'self-help has a limited meaning in an inner city community' which can be heard on Dream Myself Alive by a-ha is, as I suspected, Michael Heseltine giving a speech at the Tory party conference in October 1981.

I would quote the Google News scan of an American newspaper which printed the quote but I can't find that either.


I was up at 12.55am looking for McNaught with binoculars, but it was hopeless. I could barely see 3rd magnitude stars that low down, so I was never going to be able to pick out a 5th magnitude comet in the combination of horizon murk, summer twilight, moonlight.

Definitely a Halley disappointment rather than a Hale-Bopp triumph.

Still, the great thing about comets is that a new one might turn up at any time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Target: The Abominable Snowmen

It's hard to make an accurate comparison of the Target with the reconstruction, but I perceived a few differences.

Jamie doesn't say that the landscape looks just like Telos. When Sapan and Rinchen are making the ghost trap, it's Khrisong who boasts about having added chains, not Sapan who suggests that they should do so. There's no comment later about the Yeti 'wearing armour underneath its skin'.

Victoria thinks with italic emphasis, a bit like Alice: 'As usual, she and Jamie had no idea where or when they were, or indeed why.'

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Target: The Time Warrior

This is a candidate for my favourite Terrance Dicks Target - so it's odd to be reminded that it opens with a prologue which we now know to be by Robert Holmes, describing how Jingo Linx (full name) came to land on Sol 3 in the first place. His ship is incidentally only a scout ship, only a few steps better than a shuttle craft, which he took to as a desperate way of evading the pursuing Rutans.

Throughout the book there's a lot of bits from Linx's POV, about the logic of his plans and motivation. It reinforces the impression from the screen version that he's an unusually thoughtful DW villain. (How many other monsters put people down with remarks like 'The variety of sentient life-forms is infinite. Do you imagine that your appearance is pleasing to me?')

The 20th-century segment opens with the Brigadier's thoughts about how the Doctor has been very irritable since Jo left, refusing the offer of a new assistant. The Brig's almost pleased by the missing scientists mystery, as it'll give the Doctor something else to think about.

Rubeish is 'old' and his joke about his wife is accompanied by a 'malicious' smile - much harsher tone than his screen performance warrants. His chalking on the TARDIS prompts the Doctor to say that it's neither a blackboard nor a 'public convenience'.

We see the TARDIS trip from Sarah's POV, as she hides in the console room wardrobe. (I was disappointed by the lack of an interior TARDIS scene on first viewing, though it has the next best thing, a return to the ship for a piece of equipment. Cf Carnival). On arrival, she's stunned to find herself 'in a forest, at dawn on a summer morning.'

Sir Edward's ineffectuality is due to a fever he brought back from Crusading (probably dating the episode either c.1105 or 1200). Lady Eleanor comes down into the castle kitchens and surprises Hal flirting with the kitchen maid. This demonstration of his initiative gives her the idea to send him to assassinate Irongron.

Sarah's dawning realisation, as she talks to Irongron, that she's really in the past is well conveyed. Similarly when she sees Hal about to be executed - she still wants to believe that 'somewhere there was a hidden camera and they'd all pack up and have a cup of tea.' Delicious.

The Doctor goes back to the TARDIS to get some ingredients for his smoke bombs. Would Lady Eleanor have trusted him to come back at that early stage? He already has taken lessons from Rembrandt, it's not just a future plan. Sarah's wonderful interjection 'I could murder a cup of tea' is replaced by 'Could I do with a nice cup of tea', which isn't nearly as good. When the Doctor mentions Terra he makes it clear that it means the Earth.

At the attack on the castle, Irongron says that the messenger to Lord Salisbury 'lies in our dungeons' not 'died in our dungeon'. And indeed we're told that Hal visits the dungeon and sends him 'scurrying into the forest' on his way to disarm Irongron in the final minutes. I'm not so keen on this change, the death of the messenger was a symbolic indication that Irongron is enough of a genuine villain to make it 'fair' for him to get killed by Linx instead of escaping too.

When Linx throws Irongron, the results are much more spectacular - he goes over the table and slides down the wall, presumably because the shocked expression he does on screen wouldn't work on the page. Similarly, the 'towering intelligence' bit doesn't provoke a funny look from Irongron (this is transferred instead to the 'it puzzles me why you did not' line earlier).

The friars' robes worn by the Doctor and Sarah are obtained from two real friars in return for a handsome donation. We briefly see them walking back to their monastery.

Rubeish makes himself a lorgnette, not a quizzing glass. When Linx says to the Doctor 'We are sworn enemies', he is nevertheless 'intrigued' by the Doctor's suggestion of help.

When the Doctor is 'explaining' about the probic vent to Rubeish, Sarah cottons on to what he was talking about - she can see the vent from where she's standing - which she couldn't have done on screen, as she was in front of Linx.

Terrance leaves in the notorious 'potato-peeling' passage (potatoes not having come to Europe until 3 or 4 centuries after the time depicted). Sarah doesn't take off her serving maid disguise after poisoning the food.

Not content with his extra trip to the TARDIS for chemicals earlier, the Doctor still makes the return visit seen on screen to get his metal umbrella. He changes his jacket and shirt too - did we see any evidence of that on screen?

At the end, Hal isn't surprised by the disappearance of the TARDIS, as that's how he expects a wizard to depart.

My favourite change - possibly the best of all Targetisms - is the way that Linx's ship actually takes off after he dies, rather than blowing up. Terrance comments drily: 'Commander Linx was going back to his war at last.'

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Target: The Ice Warriors

I don't mind Brian Hayles as an author but I wish he'd use fewer exclamation marks.

Brittanicus Base (so spelt) under its dome, complete with lawn and terraces, comes across much better on the page. The still photo seen on screen just doesn't give the same impression.

Clent isn't mentioned as having a stick, indeed he positively 'strides' about. There's some well-observed stuff about the difference between his and Penley's 'scientist' approach and Miss Garrett's 'technician' one.

And there's no banter about short skirts in the defrosting scene: instead, Jamie and Victoria fight for a go in the vibro-chair.

'Me first,' she shouted, then gasped as she felt the machine tingle into life, switched on by Jamie's eager hand

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Time Warrior

The most perfunctory of appearances for UNIT in this - just an opening bookend for the Brigadier. He doesn't even get a closing scene like in Colony In Space.

I always wish the short period where Linx and Irongron are friendly would last longer, I never get tired of seeing Irongron's bemused reactions to the talk about scientists and primary reproductive cycles.

But once they have fallen out, I love the bit where Linx loses his temper and casually throws Irongron across the table - Irongron's look of shock and surprise is not seen by his men, or Linx, just by the camera. Class.

Some good shadows (boom? camera?) on Linx when he's doing the 'By dawn I shall be 700 million miles from here' speech. (Unless you're watching the DVD, where there are no shadows, his face is bright orange and he's a Draconian instead of a Sontaran.)

Watch closely the scene where the Doctor talks engagingly about his most active day in two seasons, sorry, 'in years'. Sarah is eating something out of a bowl while he talks, but at the very start of the scene she's chewing the end of one of the laces on her tunic instead. Not as if she's bored either, as if she's tried to eat it by mistake.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Target: The Green Death

Quite possibly Malcolm Hulke's finest effort.

The opening scene is extended so that Ted Hughes can reminisce about the days when the mine was a working one. The fracas outside Panorama Chemicals (so named) turns into a discussion about the General Strike and how the workers have always been oppressed by one ruling class or other. Prof Jones has black hair, and speaks Welsh, but is told to desist by the villagers: 'Stop talking Welsh with that stupid Cardiff accent. You only learnt it out of a book.' He is frustrated by the way people's ignorance prevents them from understanding his arguments.

Dr Stevens, despite the doctoral qualification he's acquired, seems a shallower individual than his wily screen counterpart. We're told he's a snob, and the piece of paper he waves to the crowd is really a restaurant menu. The real letter is in his case, but he 'couldn't be bothered' to get it out.

He's ineffectual too: symbolically insulated from the real world by the plate glass windows through which he can see the Welsh mountains, and 'hating to imagine what Hinks might do to stop people going down the mine.' Screen Stevens seemed quite happy - even friendly - with his Hinks.

Mark Elgin, of course, 'came from a working-class background himself, but through being bright at exams had gone to university, and now considered himself superior to those less fortunate.'

The Brigadier gets quite annoyed with the Doctor in the opening lab scene, he leaves grimly without looking at the Doctor, as 'he was not used to having his orders disobeyed.' Nor does he appreciate Dr Stevens telling him what his job is.

On his trip to Metebelis the Doctor is successively attacked by venomous blue flowers, blue butterflies, tentacled blue plants, large blue birds, a herd of a hundred blue unicorns, blue ants, animated blue trees, a huge blue eagle and blue snakes writhing in the blue mud produced by blue rain accompanied by blue lightning. From the mountain-top he can see deep blue lakes in the valleys, but 'by now suspected them all to be filled with flesh-eating blue fish.' When he finally gets back to the safety of the TARDIS, he thinks 'Next year I'll try Blackpool.'

Jo gets several feminist speeches - she almost immediately challenges Cliff for saying 'man' to mean 'human', and when Dave initially refuses to let her go down the pit she asks if the old pit ponies were all male. 'If female ponies can go down the mine, so can female humans,' she asserts. Later on in the mine she corrects the Doctor's 'man-made' to 'human-made'.

Bert and Jo's progress through the mine is punctuated by several dialogues about what it's like to live in a pit village. This means that the bit about the emergency shaft leads naturally out of a story about being buried. He does not call her Blodwen (the name is transferred to the cleaning lady at Panorama).

When the Brigadier goes off to Newport, Prof Jones remarks how strongly he must believe in law and order. 'Don't we all,' says the Doctor, 'when there is law and order to believe in.' This has always struck me as just the sort of position the Third Doctor would take. The resulting plan to break into Panorama Chemicals involves climbing a tree, not using a cherry picker.

Dr Fell becomes Dr Bell, and it's he who takes the call from the mine about the cutting equipment. When Elgin wants the pipe door opened, he's babbling quotes from famous Nazis - but when he's ordered to top himself, he's chillingly repeating 'I have no further right to exist.'

The Brigadier doesn't get to talk to the Prime Minister (Jeremy Thorpe or otherwise) on the phone in Stevens' office - and what he thinks is the ecology minister's voice is actually BOSS doing an impression. Afterwards he delivers a patriotic rant to Stevens about how Britain used to be 'a sovereign state, answerable only to its own elected Parliament and Monarch' but now 'we can be told what to do by international business companies'. Either that's early anti-globalisation talk, or it's quite a good imitation of what the Col. David Stirling/National Front types were saying at the time.

The coffee, sherry and whisky served at Panorama Chemicals are all synthetic. Maybe that's what got the Brigadier so cross.

Hinks - who as others have remarked, is a plain thug on the page, rather than the smoother underworld type we see on screen - relaxes by reading comics ('mostly American') which focus on torture.

During dinner at the Nut Hatch the Brigadier chats to a long-haired young man who's wearing a kaftan and wooden beads. 'Ever fancied life in the army?' he asks jokingly. 'It was quite pleasant,' responds the young man, who turns out to be an ex-colonel.

It's the ex-colonel, by the way, who leads the pursuit of the maggot that attacks Jo. And when Benton turns up with the chrysalis later, he addresses him as 'sir', only to be told 'Just call me Jeremy.'

After dinner the Doctor walks the Brig back to the inn through the bright moonlight. Isn't that a nice picture?

The Doctor 'feels an almost childish satisfaction' at spoiling Jo's date with Cliff, but she just feels sorry for him, and wonders why he never married, 'whether there were 'lady Time Lords', whether Time Lords 'got married and had babies'?

Jo makes an extra suggestion in her 'coffee' argument with Cliff, that she should serve it topless. When Cliff follows her to the slag heap, he tricks his way past Benton by getting him to look the other way. 'Very clever,' yells Benton. 'You can get yourself blown to pieces, university degree and all!' We're told about, not shown, the bit where the Doctor and Benton rescue them from the heap.

The Panorama gate guard, subjected to the Doctor's milkman monologue, is 'very bored by all this', possibly like anyone who's got this far with this review.

There is of course no Mr James - it's Elgin who Yates deprogrammes, and who then gets killed by electronic shrieks. When Yates tells the Brigadier that he has his instructions, the Brig snaps 'I am the only person who gives you instructions.'

Benton does not join the Doctor on the maggot-slaughtering expedition, instead he makes off-colour jokes to the Brigadier from the sidelines. The insect in the inside illustration differs from the superbly unpleasant one on the cover, and again from the one seen on screen. When it's dead, the Doctor thinks there should have been another way, and drives off. 'He's always so sorry in the end for the horrible creatures we come across,' says Benton. 'It isn't human.' 'He isn't,' replies the Brigadier.

Best quote: 'They've got a mad scheme to create a well-ordered society where everyone is happy and well-fed.'

Quote that makes the Doctor sound most like some internet hippy: 'Don't let the computer control you, man. You should be the one in control.'

The hypnotised gate guard wakes up again at the end. He's surprised to find himself in Wales, instead of Ward End, Birmingham driving a bus.

There's no engagement party at the end, just a sad scene where the Doctor pretends to be pleased to hear that Jo's getting married. A tear rolls down his 725-year-old cheek as he drives away.

All this and a fantastic, dystopian cover. Now that's what I call a Target.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Target: Enemy of the World

Another Ian Marter effort, and possibly the only Target to feature a Hancock's Half Hour cast member on its cover. Why it doesn't show Salamander and the Doctor is a mystery, surely that's the story's unique selling point.

You know you're in Marterland within a few pages, with bodies being slammed against glass by machine gun bullets. He's concerned we might forget Fariah is black, so this fact is mentioned every time she comes on, and just as an additional precaution she's described as lithe once and cat-like twice. Then she gets gunned down, with red bullet holes appearing across her back in best Marter style.

Fedorin's resolve to assassinate Denes crumbles when his glasses mist up in the steam from the soup tureen. No, really. The business with Astrid demonstrating the fake radiation detector in the shelter appears to be absent.

In the final TARDIS scene, when Salamander loses his grip on the console he appears to hover over the others 'like a bird of prey', being stretched by the temporal forces, before being sucked out and 'instantly disintegrating in the blackness outside'.

The Doctor then gets the TARDIS back under control before the end of the book, which makes it fit nicely with the Web of Fear Target.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Green Death

Gets better every time I watch it. I don't think the Welsh stereotypes are exceptionally offensive, particularly by 1973 standards. The milkman could have walked off an episode of Pobol y Cwm. The eulogy to Bert is a bit patronising though ('funny little man').

Note the difference between Pert's pronunciation of Llanfairfach (Lan-FAIR-fac) and Talfryn Thomas' authentic rendering (Hlan-vyre-VARKH).

The Brigadier is - pleasingly - back in serious mode for most of this story, particularly the earlier bits where he's in civilian clothes. I don't object to the 'accidentally gets hypnotised too' joke, because that sort of thing always makes me laugh in DW, but Pert shouldn't chuck him under the chin. The CSO bits are disappointing; if they were meant to be on planet Zog that would be fair enough, but poorly done CSO of a slag heap is inexcusable. (Yes I know it was because they ran out of time or something, but still.)

BOSS is definitely my favourite DW mad computer. He has style where the others just have bombast. Stevens is an excellent villain, possibly the most convincing human opponent of the Pertwee years.

Delightful suggestion that Jeremy Thorpe is the Prime Minister at the time the story takes place, by the way.

Different in the Target: Susan's terrible fate

It's been brought to my attention that if you turn to the Prologue of Doctor Who and the Crusaders, you'll find a startling change to one of the details of the life Susan has just started on post-Dalek invasion Earth.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Target: The Web of Fear

Another childhood classic here. Terrance has the Colonel and the Doctor both think that the other could be a useful ally, despite his oddness/stiffness. And when they first meet he tells us that this was the beginning of a long friendship, which I like very much, but it means he has to sacrifice the suggestion (which has some prominence in the original) that the Colonel is the pawn of the Intelligence.

The 'doors open in the Vortex' beginning is entirely absent, there's just the business about a light flashing when it shouldn't and Victoria modelling a new outfit (dress on screen, slacks on the page).

In the museum scene we're given a quick recap of who Travers is. When he got back from Tibet, no-one believed his wild tales and he was discredited - so he switched from anthropology to the new science of electronics, becoming a brilliant scientist in his quest to get the Yeti sphere working.

The impression of Chorley is of a smooth, establishment type, a sort of Dimbleby figure rather than the trendy David Frost media hustler we see on screen. He doesn't demand that a helicopter comes to pick them up - the book doesn't go into the possibility of flying or climbing above the Web at all.

Victoria isn't present when the Colonel and the Doctor first meet. And the Colonel, disappointed to find only 'a young Highlander' and the timid Evans under his command, thinks it's a pity 'as the Welsh usually made such splendid soldiers.'

Friday, June 11, 2010

Target: The Dominators

Apart from extreme violence, Marter's other trademark is a scene where the villains treat a woman roughly, while her male friend looks on in helpless fury, inwardly determined to have revenge. He does it in Earthshock and he does it again in this book. By all accounts Marter was an interesting bloke though I would have been reluctant to go drinking with him, in case he suddenly accused me of looking at his wife funny.

Marter aims to make the Dominators more kick-arse by making them over 8ft high, and his Quarks (ludicrously) are over 6ft. I think he's missing the point, the Dominators' menace comes from their ruthlessness and their lack of necks, they don't need to be 8ft high.

Zoe's response to Kando's stilted recitation of facts is explicitly ironic in the book, whereas on screen you could interpret it either way (though I suspect it is indeed supposed to be an ironic comment on Dulcian 'university' level teaching).

Jamie (as in the Invasion target by Marter) has his speeches tiresomely written in dialect ('divil' etc) throughout. Terrance is much subtler in this regard, just dropping in the occasional 'doesnae'.

When the first Quark gets shot - an important turning point in the story - it satisfyingly explodes 'in a shower of molten components and clouds of treacly smoke'.

Winner of The Pip & Jane Baker 'Oddest sentence' Award: 'Perplexed and miserable, Zoe gazed listlessly at his grimy, bulbous features.'

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Target: Planet of the Daleks

One of my all-time favourites, with a winning combination of 'companion alone', exciting geography and impressive Dalek civil engineering. That miles-high chimney is one of the coolest things Terry Nation ever invented. If he hadn't been a scriptwriter he could have made a fortune designing D&D modules.

Terrance Dicks doesn't bother trying to fit the start of the book to the end of The Space War. He back-references the Doctor sending a telepathic message, then collapsing, from the screen version of Frontier in Space.

Jo already knows where the log is, the Doctor doesn't tell her. As she walks through the jungle, dawn breaks suddenly 'as if someone had switched on a light.' Wester doesn't dribble juice on her hand, he has already coated it in curative paste when she wakes up, and he gives her the juice to drink.

Wester takes his furs off before smashing the bacteria canisters. And he doesn't become visible when he dies. I expect Terrance thought the effect wouldn't work on paper.

There's a little more connection between the location of the ice fissure, the Plain of Stones and the pools that they push the Daleks into. The bomb cache cave is at the edge of an area that looks like a quarry (!).

Rebec gets in the empty Dalek because Jo, although the logical choice on account of being small, 'was so obviously reluctant'.

The route to the surface for the Dalek army is a spiral ramp, not a 'power ramp'. When the Doctor and Jo say goodbye to Taron, he pops back out of the ship to throw them a couple of sets of anti-fungus protective gear, which they use to get back into the TARDIS.

Apropos of 'The Daleks are never defeated', there's a little digression about how Daleks don't recognise defeat, even when 'for any other life-form it would have been a day of total disaster'.

And finally: it's the Doctor who brings up the picture of Earth on the scanner, not Jo.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Target: The Space War

(ie Frontier in Space). Malcolm Hulke cuts out a fair amount of incident and adds a little back-story and motivation for the main characters. One of the cargo ship pilots in episode 1, for example, makes 'a young man's pretence that he hadn't been frightened'. It's not a Captain Dent style biography but it does lend the scenes some colour.

Notable differences/expansions: the war that General Williams started killed 500 million people. The incident that sparked it off is mentioned quite early on, which works better than the way the screen version leaves it till the plot machinery needs to be unstuck in episode 5.

The mind probes anecdote is omitted, though the machine itself is still used on the Doctor. Patel (the new prisoner on the Moon) is replaced by one Doughty, but he still gets his chocolate confiscated. A lot of the scenes that demonstrate the prison governor's tyranny are omitted (I think Hulke feels that the point about Earth having political prisoners is strong enough by itself). The amusing list of crimes supposedly committed by the Doctor on Sirius IV is cut short.

Jo and the Master have an interesting conversation on their way to the Moon to pick up the Doctor. 'Why are you so nasty?' she asks him ineffectually - he responds that his badness is a necessary universal counterweight to the Doctor's goodness. It is the Master who takes the sonic screwdriver, not the prison authorities. The Master thinks about the Daleks while reading War of the Worlds, thus revealing their involvement much earlier than on screen.

The captured Ogron eats a foil-wrapped food item foil and all, rather than a banana in its skin. The Master's exasperation with the Ogrons leads to a series of amusing remarks, culminating in the sarcastic suggestion that he and the Ogrons all have a tea party together.

When Jo arrives on the Ogron planet, she's shown an Ogron hanging in chains. 'Him bad Ogron,' explains her guide. When the food arrives later, the guard suggests 'Eat well, get big. Soon you be Ogron wife.' 'There's a thought,' she replies tactfully.

The bits where the Master tries to hypnotise Jo, and then subdue her with the fear device, are both missing, but he already knows he can't hypnotise her. (Did I miss something?)

There's no malfunction with the spacecraft carrying the Doctor, Williams and the Prince. The Prince displays some fine logic - they should look for the lizards in order to find the Ogrons, as the former eats the latter and the latter have enough sense to hide - and some fancy shooting on the planet. The monster is a lizard, not a bouncy castle - and a real whopper too, more of a dinosaur.

The Master doesn't shoot the Doctor, accidentally or otherwise. 'There's always tomorrow,' he thinks philosophically as the TARDIS vworps away. It's all right for him, he doesn't have to explain why the Doctor is going off into Planet of the Daleks totally uninjured.

This is only the second time I've read this one, I enjoyed it much more than on first reading. It seems to flow a lot better than the screen version. In that case it's a shame that the back cover blurb says:

But it's only when THE MASTER appears on the scene that events really start moving.

which could be read as a warning not to expect any excitement before page 76.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Target: The Mind Robber

Quite a knowing auctorial tone in this one - quite appropriate for a story all about the boundary between fiction and reality.
Changes: The opening follow-on from The Dominators is replaced by a trip to Vesuvius, which then erupts.
When Zoe 'sees' the City, she also hears the electronic music of the 21st century - and dances off in search of the vision.
There are one or two extra puzzles for the time travellers to solve. The unicorn turns into a statue, not a cardboard cut-out. The controlling force of the Land of Fiction is a giant brain, whose colour changes according to its mood, an effect which looked pretty good in my imagination.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Frontier in Space

I found this comparatively compelling this time round, though I admit that if the Master had turned up 5 minutes later I'd probably have felt it starting to sag. Some people say FIS is a poor Master performance but I think it's wonderful: he judges the funny bits perfectly, not too broad, not too stiff. The throwaway War of the Worlds gag, and his contemptuous Dalek impersonation 'Do-not-fail-the-Daleks' are just great.

There's also some good Master/Doctor/Jo interaction. Episode 4 consists almost entirely of this stuff (which is fine by me, but Kroll knows what the casual viewer made of it). Delgado seems to stir our bored season 10 Pert to fresh efforts: just watch the latter's 'ffs' expression when the Master is reading out his list of supposed crimes on Sirius IV.

Jo gets to resist hypnosis and to outwit the Master with her chat about the Brigadier and having to do the filing at UNIT HQ. She also does a very uncharacteristic cocky walk towards the Master when he visits her in her cell on Earth.

Kind of lucky that Gen Williams and the Prince are able to resolve the misunderstanding over 'nearly starting a war' so quickly, once they get talking about it. Pity no-one mentioned it before really.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Target: The Invasion

I love Ian Marter's adaptation of The Ark in Space, with its heads splitting open and fountains of pus. His talent for unpleasant detail is perfectly suited to a horror story.

But it doesn't work so well in his other Targets, like this one. The Invasion isn't primarily about visceral horror, it's about people bluffing each other and controlling each other. So all the Marter trademarks (sizzling flesh as Packer dies, oily acrid smells from the Cybermen, egg yolks smashing and congealing on the tarmac when the lorry driver gets shot) seem a bit over the top and out of place.

The atmospheric bit in episode 1 about rainclouds and the English summer is sadly omitted. Zoe sabotages Vaughn's reception computer by typing in a program, not dictating it. The tea served by UNIT is treacly and unpleasant (for some bizarre reason).

The effects of the Cyber-beam are conveyed by different events (more suitable to the written word). When Vaughn dies, his burning corpse gives off plastic soot, because he's been partly cyberised. The Doctor still poses for Isobel's pictures after the battle, but oddly holds up bits of Cyberman in triumph - most unDoctorly behaviour!

The Pip and Jane Baker Award for the Sentence Most Closely Resembling A Typing Exercise goes to 'Jamie looked daggers at the pouting, countyish girl.'

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Target: Carnival of Monsters

Always a favourite. Interesting that when I read it now my original picture of Vorg as a raffish, young wideboy type returns, along with my mental image of the huge spaceport apron under the baking twin suns, with all the action taking place in a tiny corner of it.

There's no Illustrated London News to tell us the date. Jo reads out the publication date of Major Daly's novel instead. (NB in the screen version that the weekdays on the calendar, and the one on the masthead of the magazine, can't belong to the same year - the one on the masthead is correct for 1926, the calendar isn't).

Jo does not call the audience 'horrible'. Rather the situation itself is 'terrible'. She and the Doctor repeatedly get caught walking past the saloon door, rather than trying to sneak out of the saloon. Her stay alone on the ship (while the Doctor gets outside the Scope) is more protracted, and Terrance hangs over it the threat of the Scope breaking down and the world ending in 'choking darkness'.

Pletrac is rather more sympathetically portrayed, as tradition-bound but fair-minded. Kalik is more of an out-and-out villain. He thinks Orum is a contemptible fool too. Kalik ends up prising open the Scope with a crowbar to let the Drashigs out, and is eaten for his pains 'crowbar and all'. (On screen it isn't certain whether he gets killed or not). Vorg heroically blasts down a whole succession of Drashigs with the Eradicator to save the day.

In the final ship scene, Clare's near-success in remembering what happened is transferred to the Major, who has a confused series of memories as he falls asleep, about the Doctor and Jo and monsters. 'Probably jumbled memories of some blood and thunder story he read long ago,' he excellently thinks.

The full Five Credit Bar rating for this one.