Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Android Invasion

A fake village, inhabited by people brought in on a lorry, and who only come to life at specified times - always fun to see DW hinting at its own artifice.

The racing mechanic look for the armed androids is an excellent choice - both smart and menacing.

It's very odd indeed to see Benton and Harry Sullivan again in this - after Planet of Evil they seem like dinosaurs from another era. It would have been far better to leave UNIT after Terror of the Zygons.

Like other Terry Nation stories, this has some memorable ideas (the fake village, the mint-new money, getting to Earth by pod) but the story itself isn't very exciting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Target: The Android Invasion

I first read this book on a hot afternoon with a headache, and ever since then Devesham has felt like a hot, thirsty place where you'd want a ginger pop.

The doomed UNIT corporal is handsome and young. True, the man we see on screen is no minger, but he's no spring chicken either. He gets his face ripped by a bramble, but doesn't flinch.

Sarah doesn't roll down a slope towards the cliff, she just steps over it, not knowing it's there, but fortunately the Doctor catches her hand.

When Sarah sees the 'mechanic' with his visor up, there aren't circuits inside, just a dark space. There's a completely new scene just after this, before she gets back to the TARDIS, in which Grierson (an android presumably) reports a strange pinging signal to Crayford.

Sarah finds a middle-aged woman in the pod by the TARDIS, not a man in a leather jacket.

At the Space Research Centre, the Doctor points out the Brigadier's cap (on top of a filing cabinet) to Crayford to illustrate his point about whose office it is. Crayford is just Senior Astronaut, not Senior Defence Astronaut.

The Doctor throws the darts all at once - from the 'aiming point' rather than the more usual oche.

The android Sarah is a mirror image - and so is the android Harry, the Doctor says, with his medals on the wrong side, though we aren't given any indication of this when we meet him for the first time. (He isn't even wearing medals on screen). It's her jacket that gives her away, not her scarf.

As the Doctor runs from the dogs, he thinks grimly that anyone who thinks foxes enjoy being hunted should try being chased by dogs themselves. He uses the old hollow reed trick to hide underwater in the lake. Luckily, his Time Lord constitution makes him resistant to colds.

Styggron's anti-android pistol sprays a solvent mist rather than emitting flashes. The Doctor is extremely rude to him:

The Kraal began dragging the Doctor towards the village green. 'Come. There is no time for pleasantries.'
'How about unpleasantries, pig face?’ said the Doctor rudely.'

(He's rude about him again in his absence when they're captured by the androids in the access tunnel.)

The Doctor is tied to the war memorial with plastic rope, not plastic ivy. There's no business with the knife or the sonic screwdriver - Sarah just manages to undo the rope.

The Brigadier was at the Space Research Centre (along with Harry and Benton) as a temporary assignment.

Once Sarah and the Doctor are on board the rocket, the climax of the story is very much the same, except that it's easier to tell who's an android and who isn't. (Or should that be 'Who's an android and Who isn't'?) Benton's taking his sister to the village dance, not the Palais (did the UNIT future have dance halls as well as music halls?)

However, once Styggron's dead the story ends almost immediately, with no more than an assurance that Chedaki waited in vain for the invasion signal. Not so keen on this change I have to say, I much prefer to see the Doctor and companion 'on their way to their next adventure'.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Target: Planet of Evil

What I liked about this one in the old days was the depiction of a far future society with really advanced technology, who were still helpless against the antimatter monster. The principal 'variation' is the difference between my mental picture of Sorenson (thin, dark, driven) and the meaty thug we see on screen. But we can't blame TD for that.

It's Edgar Lumb, not Egard, who gets buried in the opening scene. The Doctor, not Sarah, recognises the distress signal. He's flicking the TARDIS controls 'like a supermarket cashier'. There's more bizarre supermarket imagery later when the plastic-wrapped TARDIS is compared to a supermarket chicken. Had El Tel just been shopping when he wrote this one?

Salamar owes his early promotion to influential friends in high places.

Sarah actually gets physically (not just psychically) drawn towards the antimatter beast in both encounters that she and the Doctor have with it.

The joke about Shakespeare taking up writing because he was a dreadful actor is drawn out a bit longer, suggesting that TD particularly liked it.

The Doctor's experience inside the Black Pool is pleasantly psychedelic. He has to concentrate hard to get on with what he's come there for.

When Vishinsky goes out to get Sarah and the Doctor, it's him that orders the sickbay to be made ready, not Salamar (depriving the latter of one of his few human touches).

Salamar threatens to arrest Sorenson if he keeps arguing on board a military vessel.

When the Doctor recovers in the sickbay after his visit to the Pool, he tells Sarah that he's given his promise as a Time Lord. This has the advantage that her subsequent question 'Your promise as a Time Lord?' actually makes some fucking sense instead of being a bizarre non-sequitur.

It's just the pupils of Sorenson's eyes that become flat discs of red (a description that stayed with young Shallow for a long time).

There's no fight between Salamar and Vishinsky in the ejector room. The latter won't eject the Doctor and Sarah, but he doesn't try and stop Salamar doing it. When the scream comes over the intercom, and the others hurry out, it takes a desperate appeal from Sarah to get him to press the vital button. (He does it 'almost casually'). This works quite well as it appears as a decision point for his deposition of Salamar in the next scene.

'The whole story was there,' the narrator says on behalf of the Doctor when he grasps the effect of the black potion on the anti-matter. The speech to Sorenson ends with a repetition of the words 'Total responsibility', which is very effective.

Crewleader Ranjit has an Indian accent, not the one he has on screen. Much is made of the Doctor's concern about making two short, accurate journeys in the TARDIS, the second one to a fast-moving spaceship into the bargain.

Sarah has grown very attached to Vishinsky and says goodbye with 'real regret'. He begins 'a clumsy speech of thanks'. We actually 'see' the TARDIS departure, and are assured that Sorenson becomes the most brilliant scientist in the Morestran Empire, Vishinsky returns to a hero's welcome and the promotion that has so long eluded him, and the Doctor and Sarah go off to begin their next adventure.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Target: The Loch Ness Monster

My copy of this is very well-thumbed, and I can remember reading it in a junior school classroom in 1980. I enjoyed it just as much on this reading thirty years later.

The doomed radio operator uses the jovial racist term Sassenach in his haggis ordering conversation. How ironic that it's a fellow Scotsman who shoots him later.

The TARDIS is seen - and then it isn't, as it turns invisible just after the travellers get out. The Doctor goes back in to fix it and comes out wearing the Scottish version of his costume seen on screen.

The stag's head is in the back of the Duke's 'shooting brake', and we hear him telling Angus that he's brought him it when he reaches the inn. Sarah's conversation with Angus is a bit different: the fact that one of the cases of weirdness on the moor happened in 1870 is used as a punchline, not an introduction, and it works much better.

Sarah's question about the jamming detector being jammed has not previously occurred to the Doctor. 'I shall build in a protective circuit,' he says hurriedly (it's a bit like a Pert/Jo exchange, isn't it?) The bit about the Brig and the quayside is swapped to after this. Sarah does not do a joke accent on the phone.

Sister Lamont is not overtly sinister, if anything she's painted as being very innocent. Terrance is concerned that we might forget she's supposed to be Scottish, so we're reminded of her 'Highland lilt' at least twice.

Benton is not sent for plaster of Paris by the Doctor. The Doctor says that it's not so much teeth that chewed up the rig, but 'dentures' that can cut through steel and concrete. The Brig then gets the immortal line 'Come on now, Doctor. First you suggest we're dealing with some kind of sea monster, then you say it's got false teeth.' (Very obvious feedline but still very funny). The word 'cyborg' is mentioned at this point, much earlier than on screen.

The Doctor tries the sonic screwdriver on the decompression chamber window, with little success. Then he has to try and remember human reaction to oxygen deprivation. 'Unconscious in two minutes, dead in under ten, wasn't that it?' - a bit that I always particularly liked.

A motivation is stated for Broton's boastful, yet helpful, explanations to Harry. 'It might be amusing to overawe this primitive creature with the might of Zygon technology, to see his fear when he knew the fate that awaited his planet'. Good to have it acknowledged that gloating, which is invariably a bad mistake for DW monsters and villains from both the security and time management standpoints, ought to have some kind of explanation.

It's old UNIT favourite Corporal Palmer who annoys the Brigadier by calling him 'sir' too often. And the sleeping gas takes effect while he's talking, leading the Brig to think 'Sleeping on duty was a serious offence in itself, but actually dropping off under the eye of a superior officer...', another moment which I used to enjoy as a kid.

It's getting dark when the Doctor goes out onto the moor. His landrover runs out of petrol rather than breaking down. When the Brigadier and Sarah go to look for him, the Brig does a nice bit of deduction to work out that he'll be on his way back to Tulloch, and soon their headlights atmospherically pick out his tall form trudging home.

A night at the inn follows: Sarah notes that it's unusual for the Doctor to bother with sleep. Porridge for breakfast: she and the Brig 'scandalise' Angus by demanding milk and sugar, but the Doctor likes his with salt, a taste he acquired, he says, in the Jacobite rebellion.

At the castle, the Doctor has another good line: 'The Brigadier does have a rather touching faith in high explosive as a universal solution.' We're shown the 'duel' between him and the Duke from Sarah's POV.

When the Doctor and Brig are called back to Tulloch, they visit Benton at the Zygon hunt before going to the inn. Meanwhile, Sarah's boarding the ship, where she hears the 'abomination of a body' line delivered in the Zygon voice, not the human one. When she and Harry meet the Brigadier and Doctor in the library, and the Doctor goes into the tunnel, and Zygons come out, the Brig draws his gun immediately - only to have Broton enter from the other side of the room, which makes a more interesting confrontation. After his parting shot, Broton picks up the Duke's document folder from the table, causing Sarah to think how odd it looks clutched in the alien claw.

Once again, Target Brig is much more the professional, telling Sarah that he isn't intending to destroy the Zygon ship (subtext: what do you take me for?) but to get it to surface.

On the ship, the Doctor's taunts about the Zygons hiding culminate in another wonderful line: 'You have to step out on a balcony from time to time and wave a gracious claw.' The taunt about there only being six Zygons is missing. The purpose of Broton's plan to construct thousands of lakes is to breed herds of Skarasen in.

The Duke is not trustee of any comically-named organisations. The Prime Minister is not female, and his basic message to the Brig is that whatever happens, it's the latter's head on the block. When Sarah sympathetically asks him what he'll do, he resolutely says 'Just what I always do, Miss Smith. I shall act as I think best.'

There's a UNIT tracking squad atop the Post Office Tower. The thing that Harry has over his shoulder at the quarry is a thermic lance (to cut into the ship with). When the real Duke is freed on the ship, the narration mentions the Zygons kidnapping him and his retainers (plural), suggesting that the Doctor finds more than 3 humans in storage.

The Fourth (not First) Energy Conference is described in detail, but the rest of the denouement is very much the same. Sarah doesn't bear the Skarasen any ill-will, since it was just being controlled by the Zygons.

The Brigadier turns down the invitation to a TARDIS trip because he has 'very disturbing memories of his one trip in the TARDIS'. A footnote points us to 'Doctor Who and the Three Doctors' - I always used to think enviously of the lucky people who'd found that book and read the wonderful story of the Brig in the TARDIS.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Target: Revenge of the Cybermen

The travellers materialise 'in a control room', not on the transmat, which is a shame I think. I like the way they finally get back to where they were heading 6 episodes ago on screen.

The walk down the corridor full of corpses stayed with Sarah as a traumatic memory for the rest of her life.

The guns, both on Voga and on the Beacon, are 'blasters' and not projectile weapons. The lines left by the 'plague' on the victims' faces are black (like in The Moonbase).

Voga has no boats and no little train. Harry doesn't notice the gold until they're in their cell, so the humourous 'We weren't after your gold - well, not really' bit is lost. Sarah, unforgivably, says 'We can't just sit here counting our money' rather than the immortal 'We can't just sit here glittering'. Why, Terrance, why?

Kellman is found cowering in his room by a Cyberman (not strolling nonchalantly down the corridor). Also, the Cyberleader has to ask who he is: on screen he already knows. A yoyo is added to the items found in the Doctor's pockets. Kellman asks what the plan of Voga is, which is odd because he's spent months studying the planetoid and ought to recognise a map of it when he sees one. (There's a general running-down of Kellman, Terrance perhaps feeling that treachery should not be shown as being big or clever).

The Cybermen use Cyberweapons, not their headlamps. They (like the Daleks) didn't even attend the Armageddon Convention, let alone sign it. The comment about the morality of war is transferred to the narration. In several places their lack of emotion is emphasised, with explanations that what sounded like triumph in their voices wasn't actually that. (!)

When the Doctor sees the bomb packs, he makes a joke about going camping, which doesn't amuse the Cyberleader. 'Very hard to get a laugh out of a Cyberman,' he thinks.

There's a lot of narrative manoeuvring (some involving brackets) to explain why Kellman doesn't tell the Vogans about the bombs straight away.

Harry, seemingly as unhappy about the plot holes as we are, demands to know how the Vogans won the Cyberwar if their weapons can't affect the Cybermen. They just supplied the gold, humans did the technical bits, explains Tyrum.

This lame explanation obviously really annoys Harry, because he makes a murderous attack on Kellman when he hears about the bombs, then basically drags him to his death in the side tunnel. The tunnel, incidentally, is concealed behind a 'dusty arras' - this was the first place that I read the word 'arras' and it led to some confusing mental images when doing Shakespeare at school later.

The Doctor calls Harry an idiot, not an imbecile. I'd call him something a bit stronger myself, the way he's written does not make him a likeable character here.

There's no secondary control system on the Beacon - the Doctor instead unlocks the main controls, with a big spanner.

The later scenes on Voga are quite confused and it took me a while to work out what was happening on screen for comparison purposes: Magrik (the coughing rocket technician - in perfect health on the page) gets shot by the guards when he tries to launch the Skystriker. In the Target, he's called away after the launch to deal with a leak (!), and does not reappear, so the Commander can still say that no-one knows how to work the controls.

Tyrum resolves to posthumously honour Vorus - he prefers a martyr to a live rival. It's a pity we couldn't leave him with that thought, but unfortunately his last action is to yell in fear at the approaching Beacon. Harry says everything's fine when he comes up on the transmat, but I'd've thought a quick Voga resolution scene wouldn't have hurt.

We get a final TARDIS interior scene - as someone pointed out to me, Harry never gets one of these on screen - and we see the Space/Time telegraph. The Brigadier, UNIT and 20th-century Earth seem like 'an infinitely remote dream' to Sarah and Harry - rather a good way of reminding us how far DW has moved on in season 12.

The telegraph, by the way, has a little screen which the Doctor uses to zoom in on the source of the transmission - Loch Ness!*

*You can discover what happens next in 'Shallow compares "The Loch Ness Monster" with "Terror of the Zygons"'.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Target: Genesis of the Daleks

In the examination of the dead soldier, the 'modern synthetic fibre' and 'animal skins' clauses are swapped round. Harry does his 'rock music' joke twice to make sure the others get it.

His question about why the dome inhabitants are fighting such an old-fashioned war leads to Sarah asking the Doctor to explain what's going on: we don't hear the exact words, but he is 'genuinely distressed' that Sarah and Harry have been dragged into his mission. 'If these Daleks are as bad as you say, it'll be a pleasure to help scuttle 'em,' says Harry stoutly.

I like the idea that the Doctor apologises, but I don't know if the explanation is necessary. The story still works without it, we can believe (as I always did when listening to the LP) that when the Doctor says 'That Time Ring is our lifeline' later on, that's the first time Harry hears about it.

The Doctor uses Venusian Aikido in the fight in the trench.

At Ravon's HQ, the Doctor treads on Harry's foot to alert him to the upcoming trick with the map board and the gun - I like it better on screen where Harry instantly catches the gun without knowing what's going to happen. We see Ravon's thoughts when he decides to go along with the Doctor and Harry at gunpoint. It's Harry, not the Doctor, who has the line about the medals.

Nyder wears jackboots, and the Doctor immediately clocks him as a copper, not a soldier, from the look of his uniform. He doesn't have guards with him, and does all the shooting for himself with a pistol.

When Sarah comes to, covered in blood under a pile of 'rapidly stiffening corpses', it's 'one of the most horrifying awakenings of her life.' I kind of hope it was the most horrifying one, poor girl.

Both the test Dalek in the ruined building, and the one in the Bunker, lack sucker arms. The 'undeniably a Dalek' remark is transferred to the narration.

Ronson's invitation to the Doctor and Harry to sit down is 'the first kind words they'd heard on Skaro.' Harry's physiology is basically similar to that of the Kaleds. It's only the Doctor's which is totally different except in appearance.

All the Thals have fair hair, all the Kaleds dark hair (and most of them have an intense, thin-faced look).

The grille leading to the ventilation shaft is down a short, rocky tunnel in a deserted part of the Bunker (so much so that the guard Ronson encounters is surprised to see him coming out of there). The exit from the cave is via a barred window looking out onto the Wastelands (not a doorway).

We're told, via Harry's reflections, of how he and the Doctor got into the Kaled dome (sheer front, and arguing their way up the chain of command). Mogran wears robes, not an overall. Ravon doesn't volunteer the information about Sarah, Harry has to question him aggressively - and then says 'That sounds like Sarah', not the deliciously resigned 'That'll be her' that he does on screen.

We're also told how Ravon's agent ('a weasel-faced man who spoke only when strictly necessary') gets them into the Thal dome. Harry and the Doctor cooperate in the 'I'm a spy' trick. The hatch that Sarah, Harry and Severin escape through is not the same one that the Doctor and Harry arrived through.

The narrative follows Bettan two or three times, to better establish her as a character. She's more fighty on the page generally.

There's a mistake just after Ronson's death scene - Terry refers to 'the Thal scientists' in the Bunker, when they are of course Kaleds. But he makes up for this by fixing the Kavell/Gharman scene: he has Gharman walk over to Kavell's desk to ask a question, which makes Kavell's line about wanting 'no part of it' make a lot more sense. On screen Kavell starts the conversation - why would he do that when he doesn't want to do anything?

The second clam attack is caused by Harry vengefully kicking one of them. When the travellers enter the ventilation shaft, the narrator reassures us that the Doctor would not have let Harry go in first if he'd really thought there was anything lurking in there.

Davros takes a whole squad of guards with him when he goes to join Nyder and Gharman in the detention room.

Davros asks the Doctor 'Why did you come here from this future of yours?', an interesting change which makes him sound almost friendly. Sarah and Harry do not nobly urge the Doctor not to give Davros any information. The Doctor guesses the purpose of the switches controlling Davros' life-support, he just makes him confirm it.

Gharman is tall and thin (on screen he's quite broad-shouldered, I thought) and is part of the Scientific Elite (not the black-uniformed guys). Kavell, confusingly, is short and plump, rather than tall and thin.

Sevrin does not give a report on the state of the Thal city when he meets Bettan.

It's much clearer that the cupboard in which the travellers find the explosives is in the armoury - not something I'd picked up on screen. Sarah doesn't get a pair of trousers.

The Doctor's big moral dilemma speech is phrased slightly differently, and flows better. He also doesn't say that the decision is his alone, which on screen injects a jarring note of egotism into the moment.

Nyder takes some convincing to open the safe in Davros' office - Harry has to put on a show of looking aggressive. The office has an internal window looking onto the laboratory, through which the action is seen. This avoids having two scenes in which the action in the laboratory is watched on monitor screens. The Doctor uses a bit of wire to try to pick the lock, not the sonic screwdriver.

During the massacre, it's one of the Davros loyalists who tries to stop the carnage, not one of the rebels. Nyder pushes him away from the 'charmed group' to be killed. Nyder also takes the initiative in trying to stop the Dalek production line, rather than waiting for orders.

The speech that the Dalek leader makes to the monitor camera is explicitly said to be addressed to the other Daleks, not those watching.

The Doctor's line about a thousand years not being very much is delivered properly - he says 'no more than that' and snaps his fingers, whereas on screen he says 'no more than that' as if he's saying the delay will not exceed a thousand years.

Sevrin is surprised to see the travellers disappearing when they use the Time Ring: Sarah just manages to say goodbye to him before she vanishes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Had a good try for Kaus Australis last night, which would be a real triumph for advancing the limit of celestial navigation, but couldn't see it although the 'reverse Plough' bit of Sagittarius was bright and clear down to 30 deg S. My southern horizon suffers from chimneys and a tall tree in just the wrong places.

Did however get a nice clear view of Delphinus, and three new constellations Equuleus, Sagitta and Scutum, none of which I've managed to see the shapes of before. A summer night can, it seems, have good visibility if you stay up late enough. Indeed Vega and Arcturus were glittering away as brightly as you could wish.

The Milky Way was clearly visible through Cygnus, Vulpecula and Aquila too, anyone who says you can't see it from a town is overly pessimistic in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Target: The Sontaran Experiment

This novelisation has the task of expanding two episodes till they stretch to usual Target length, which it achieves by means of long, memorable descriptions of the various holes the characters fall down, and an extended sequence of Sarah being tortured by Styre's hallucination setup. (Styre is spelt Styr throughout).

It also has to get round the fact that the time travellers come to Earth in the TARDIS, not via the transmat, while still needing to keep them there until they've fixed the receptor circle. (The Doctor doesn't know the receptor circle's there - it somehow 'attracts' the TARDIS, which is even more convenient than it just happening to be there in the first place). So the TARDIS has to disappear as soon as they get out of it, but the Doctor isn't overly concerned as he knows it will return to Nerva.

The cumulative effect of all this manoeuvring is to put us back where the screen version of Ark in Space ends. This post-flare Earth, though, is a weird place with mutant berries, savage thorns and a huge red Sun - more reminiscent of the very far future in The Time Machine than the fresh start offered by the screen version. Sinister flapping sounds echo through the mist - we're led to believe that they might be pterodactyls, but it's just Roth's tattered spacesuit.

Harry, on spotting Styre, mutters 'The Golem...' and he knows that the charm that powers a traditional golem is known as a Shem, leading some to speculate that Harry might be Jewish, have Jewish friends or 'just have read a comic book with a Golem in it'. George Orwell tells us that it would have been difficult for a Jewish person to get a naval commission, though perhaps times have moved on in the UNIT future.

Styre's physical presence is repulsive - 'Styr's hog-like nostrils expanded, ejecting a stream of clammy, rancid vapour.' His acrid breath hangs in the air in sticky clouds.

There's much play with the 'terullian' metal, which has various interesting properties, notably the ability to repel gravity so that the Doctor doesn't die when Styre throws him into a ravine (after the Doctor pours Scotch into his probic vent - no, seriously).

There's no remark about the Galsec people having come to Earth to look for a downed freighter, yunnerstan? They may well be attempting to colonise the place - I hope the Arkers are OK with that when they finally arrive.

There are many minor differences about who hits who with what weapon, exactly how they come to fall down the various holes, and how they get out again, but the shape of the plot is basically the same.

Harry sabotages the Sontaran ship by extracting a key component. (He finds two other dormant Sontarans inside). This causes Styre to swell to three times his normal size when he recharges, before exploding. As a bonus, the component Harry stole proves vital in fixing the receptor circle (though this disappoints him as he wanted to put it on his mantelpiece next to his rowing trophies).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Target: The Ark In Space

The Ark in Space is an oddity in that I'm equally attached to the Target and screen versions - the Target made an enormous impression on me as a kid, with its fountains of pus and exploding heads, but the screen version, when I first saw it in 2005, held its own, and Ian Marter's reinterpretation began to seem unnecessarily baroque compared to its clean lines.

Marter seems terribly impressed by the details of the Ark, describing the technology of the Thirtieth Century in a welter of Capital Letters. Many items have longer names - the autoguard for example is an Organic Matter Detector Surveillance System. (It's pretty terrifying though, it's not just the old superimposed spark trick).

Harry, as you might expect, is the butt of the humour far less often. For example, he doesn't make the joke (?) about the Eumenes being one of our frigates: indeed it's him, and not the Doctor, who explains about parasitic wasps.

Vira is much colder towards the time travellers and remains suspicious of them for much longer - but she's more demonstrative towards Noah than she is on screen. Rogin is more friendly, but he's still not so familiar as to make the 'space technicians' union' joke.

Sarah's bravery in negotiating the conduit is emphasised: the claustrophobia is quite horrible, particularly when she has to traverse a transparent section of tube that goes through the Solar Stacks, and imagines the Wirrrn larvae (see below) coming bubbling up the tube behind her to engulf her.

She doesn't refuse the Doctor's help when she emerges, perhaps because she comes out 100ft above the floor and has to wait for him to build a cat's cradle with his scarf for her to jump into. The edge is taken off his goading of her by the fact that the reader is let in on the secret before it finishes.

She also stops the Doctor (after the brain visualisation scene) from stumbling towards the Wirrrn by rugby-tackling him.

The winning feature of the book is the horrific descriptions of the Wirrrn (so spelt) and their 'larvae', which aren't big grubs but sizzling, seething conglomerations of sticky nastiness which drip off things, seep through vents and lash out at people, notably Noah of course, ultimately leading to this triumph:
Then he reeled back with an appalling shriek into the airlock as, with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material.

The final escape from the Transport Vessel is very tense: 'at any moment a panel might open to reveal a Wirrrn, rearing up in triumph', which always nastily suggested that that had indeed happened on this reading.

There is no purpose-built transmat system on the Ark for getting to Earth - the Doctor offers to pop down in the TARDIS and rig up a suitable receiving station to which to connect the internal transmat. This is presumably to get round the criticisms about the sudden screen reveal of the transmat right at the end, which I've written about elsewhere and feel to be ill-founded. It's a pointless move anyway, because Marter's Sontaran Experiment novelisation has to come up with another reason for the presence of the silver spheres on Earth.

It's also more explicit that Vira is waiting for their return: on screen one gets the impression that, even though they don't come back, once a few more Arkers got defrosted the problem was easily solved. The book gives me the uneasy feeling that Vira felt let down by the non-return of the time travellers.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Target: The Giant Robot

A fair bit of work has been done on this to give the story some more substance.

Jellicoe is described as dressing too young for his age. I didn't pick that up on screen but I'm not an expert on 1974 men's fashion.

Sarah is much more the journalist here than she ever was in the TV series (see also Planet of the Spiders). In the Targets her profession was entirely believable.

Harry comes up with the idea of a spy inside Thinktank (one word), because he spends a lot of time reading 'lurid thrillers'. Strangely though, he doesn't see himself in the role. The Doctor - showing an odd grasp of Earth bureaucracy - is the one who thinks of the Ministry of Health.

Sarah wants the Brigadier to raid Thinktank - 'the thought of Miss Winters in handcuffs gave her considerable pleasure'. He tells her off, saying that Britain isn't a military dictatorship.

Jellicoe doesn't go up a ladder to work on the Robot, it lies down on an operating table, which makes a lot more sense when you think about it.

The Doctor's tour of Thinktank is more fully shown. Afterwards he and the Brigadier travel back in a staff car. There's no amusing speed typing when he gets the call from Kettlewell, he just writes a rapid note.

There's no mention, that I can see, of the SRS wearing uniforms at the rally. Also, Miss Winters expects the Robot to find Sarah, and she gloats over her as the crowd attack her. On screen, Miss Winters and Jellicoe look surprised when the Robot starts seeking her out - which makes me wonder why Kettlewell lured Sarah to the meeting in the first place without mentioning it to his co-conspirators.

Harry's spy work is expanded - and after the SRS meeting, UNIT go to Thinktank in search of him. The Brigadier knows where the bunker is, and it's 'at the bottom of the garden.'

The UNIT attack on the bunker is done at greater length - it takes quite a while to eliminate all the automatic defence devices. A tank commander is created only to be immediately destroyed. When the the Brigadier grabs the disintegrator, he thinks 'A gun was a gun - cocking mechanism here, a trigger here...' I wish he'd shown a bit more professional interest in other alien and futuristic weapons, like the guerrillas' gun in Day of the Daleks.

Sarah is unnerved by the realisation that she really would have shot Miss Winters, and wanders away from the 'noisy, jubilant men' to be captured by the Robot, which is hiding behind a secret panel in a sort of emergency VIP-only inner bunker. Tinned lobster and champagne fail to cheer her up.

The Bunker has a tower, on top of which Sarah is placed by the Robot, which then wreaks havoc on the UNIT convoy, stamping on the vehicles and throwing a lorry hundreds of yards into a tree. The RAF then arrive in fighter jets, which the Robot tries to swat; it hits one of them and it crashes in flames. It's a wave of bombers which the Doctor says he hopes won't be necessary.

The Doctor and Harry use a landrover, not Bessie, for the attack on the Robot. I thought at first this was because Terrance didn't want to use Bessie with the Fourth Doctor (the combination has an odd, Ongar tube station flavour) but then I remembered that the Doctor goes to Kettlewell's place in Bessie.

Sarah hesitates before accepting the Doctor's invitation to another TARDIS tour:

The very idea was ridiculous, of course. She had deadlines to meet, commitments to honour. If she went off in the TARDIS there was no telling where or when she'd end up. Or what kind of terrifying danger she'd run into.

This makes up for the loss of the Brigadier's evident disappointment at finding the Doctor gone - a poignant moment is turned into a funny one.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Target: Planet of the Spiders

Possibly my favourite Terrance Dicks Target. He's put a lot of care and attention into this.

There's a prologue showing us Josephine Jones and her husband (not named, but still Welsh) in the jungle, deciding to send the crystal back to UNIT. Then we cut to 'another ex-member of UNIT' hiding in the monastery cellar, watching Lupton and his friends carrying out the ritual.' They're wearing robes, which I'm sure they aren't on screen. And Mike's walk through the rural idyll isn't there.

At the 'music hall' (a mis-step here - either Terrance thought the halls were still big in 1973, or they made a comeback in the futuristic UNIT eighties) the Brigadier's joke about adapting the exotic dancer's exercises is completely deadpan - the Doctor thinks he's serious until he sees his moustache twitching.

It's the Brig who spots the word-code between Clegg and his assistant - one of the bits that Terrance often puts in that make him look sharper and more competent.

When Mike Yates spots the tractor, he prevents a crash by driving the car through a gap in the hedge, into a field and back onto the road.

Benton knows that the Brigadier is in the room when he makes his joke about hairdressing. When the Doctor reads Jo's letter, he reflects that 'neither Jo's handwriting or her grammar had improved since she left UNIT'.

Tommy is a 'hulking' young man. And he's generally a bit less unpredictable and strange on the page.

I always had the impression that Lupton was a younger man in the book, but that just shows I didn't read the description of him as a middle-aged man with haggard, bitter features (a bit like me now in fact).

'The Dharma that can be spoken is no true Dharma!' chuckles Cho-Je when Sarah tells him she doesn't understand a word he's saying.

Sarah's speech about Liverpool docks is omitted. I think Terrance expects us to be used to her as a companion if we're bothering to read the books.

Yates doesn't give Tommy a necklace.

The UNIT Medical Officer is a Dr Sweetman. The autogyro is in the car park, not at an airstrip. It's Lupton who notices that the fuel is running out, not the Spider.

The policeman's delivery is much better on the page. "'Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, eh?' he asked, in tones which suggested he suspected it of being an alias."

Teleportation is 'child's play to a true Master', not a 'master sorceror' (thus reclaiming Buddhist magic for the good guys). There's a wonderful exchange of texts in this conversation: 'Time is the element we are born into - we swim in it like a fish in a bowl of water,' says the Doctor. Cho-Je counters that the fish would be happier if the bowl were tipped into the ocean. 'Or better still, the ocean into the bowl!' the Doctor replies, which I used to think was the cleverest thing I'd ever read.

Lupton turns the tables on his Spider while she's still attacking him. There's none of the DS 'say please' stuff.

Tommy's intelligence-expanding experiences are compressed, and put together after the initial Metebelis Three action, not intercut with it. (This is the sort of pacing improvement Terrance doesn't bother to do in his lesser books). It wasn't Tommy's mother who gave him the reading book. It poignantly dates from the time 'before people had given up trying to teach him anything'.

Sarah arrives on Metebelis with her eyes closed, TD presumably despairing of being able to reproduce the wonderful dissolve between cellar and alien landscape on paper. 'Corda' (sp?), the village that the Spiders' guards destroyed, is not named. The stones in the fields, checked by the Doctor, are mainly gemstones, not just bits of rock.

Neska doesn't have a word of dialogue. Make of that what you will. Arak's dash for the machine is made much more tense, and he distracts a group of guards by throwing a fortuitously loose cobblestone in the opposite direction.

Lupton is initially well treated on arrival on Metebelis, and given fiery blue wine to drink. We're told in the council scene that the main feature of a spider coronation is the eating of the previous Queen by her successor.

The Doctor doesn't tell Mike about the hardwired co-ordinates for Metebelis, he just thinks about the arrangement.

The spider cocoons are vertically arranged, not horizontally. There's no banter about being eaten, spiders getting 'something to chew over' etc. The 'Houdini' name sequence is a shorter, three-card trick, which I think works better.

When Sarah 'agrees' to the Queen's plan, her aim is to buy time - she's worried that the Queen will find out that the Doctor is behind the rebellion.

The Doctor is not humiliated by the Great One, nor are we told that he's particularly afraid at that point, though it's referred back to later.

When Sarah transports the Doctor back to the TARDIS, he feels 'the characteristic snatching sensation of teleportation'.

The bit where the plotters cosh Mike is seen entirely from the latter's point of view.

The rebellion doesn't fail - Arak and Tuar just ventured too far into the mountain, and the concentration of crystals there allowed the Council to take them over.

Lupton tries to stamp on the new Spider Queen, not crush her with his hand. After being killed, he's then eaten by the spiders in one last feast.

The Brigadier tells Sarah that the Doctor once disappeared for years, not months. He reflects on the visit he paid to the monastery when it was all over: 'four chaps with complete nervous breakdowns ... had to be carted off in ambulances.' Tommy was set for university, Lupton was missing, and 'there was also some story about the Abbot disappearing, but since no-one seemed very sure if he'd ever been there in the first place, the Brigadier proposed to let that one strictly alone', which always made me laugh.

Finally, after the 'While there's life' line, the Brigadier goes to phone the Medical Officer (not named), but Sarah says that the Doctor is dead. Fortunately Cho-Je turns up to give the process a little push just as on screen.