Saturday, August 28, 2010

Target: The Talons of Weng-Chiang

This is another adaptation which I've underestimated - again because I saw the screen version before I read it. But once again, Terrance Dicks is putting forth some extra effort with this one - on the first page we have a panoramic view of the 1890s, zooming in to the Palace Theatre where rich and poor alike are gathered for entertainment. (Does their anticipation mirror the reader's?)

There's also a recap of how Jago came to hear of Li H'sen Chang and to book him for the Palace. Authenticity was a key drawing factor - 'After all he really was Chinese, unlike most Oriental magicians who were usually English enough once the makeup was off.' Eh? eh? You sly old dog Mr D!

Jago refers to Mr Sin as a 'ventriloquist's doll', he doesn't use the theatrical slang 'vent'.

When she accompanies the police to the station, Leela thinks she's being taken to the ruler's dwelling. She doesn't think much of it, and the place is unflatteringly seen from her POV.

The bizarre waterfront hag is replaced by a man, but he still makes the 'in all my puff' remark. I wondered if, on the page, a woman would have made the resemblance to the similar scene in Our Mutual Friend too obvious?

There's a bit of back-story for Litefoot - he came to be Limehouse pathologist after being in the Army, and in search of more interesting work than attending to women with the vapours. His relatives think his choice is disgraceful.

The part where Litefoot realises he and the Doctor are talking about gory things in the presence of a 'lady' is more smoothly done - he apologises to Leela, rather than commenting to the Doctor.

When the Doctor first meets Jago, he introduces the 'master hypnotist' bit with a question about Buller - it's Jago's blank reaction that makes him think Jago is under the influence. Later, Jago doesn't faint at the sight of the 'ghost', he trips over and hits his head while running away from it.

At supper, Leela tears her meat 'with strong white teeth', an evocative phrase which I've never forgotten since the first time I read this Target aged about 8. The dining room is initially seen from her POV, although, as the narrator remarks, she doesn't realise that it's a clash of two styles (Victorian and Chinese).

It was Litefoot who spent a long time trying to open the Time Cabinet, not a visitor.

The woman who 'despicable Chang' kidnaps is named Teresa Hart, and she's a waitress in a Mayfair gambling club. (Almost all commentators on the screen version have assumed she was a prostitute, though to be fair to TD, he was hardly going to say so in a book aimed at children and published in 1977).

In the boat, Litefoot doesn't suggest that the gun is unusable, rather that the Doctor has overloaded it.

There appears to be a glitch in the decline of Chang and Greel's relationship: after Leela escapes, Greel tells Chang 'Fail me once more and I shall dismiss you, Chang. I cannot leave my fate in such blundering hands.' The next time they meet, when Greel is packing his bags, he's giving Chang the 'It is far more likely that he will kill you' bit, and dismissing him. (Perhaps the news that the Doctor is coming to the theatre is seen as showing that Chang has failed?)

Jago says that the Doctor won't be wearing a bowler hat and big boots, not 'a brown derby and boots'.

The theatre reminds Leela pleasurably of the tribal festivals of the Sevateem (no doubt involving a lot of chanting to Xoanon, led by Neeva). On screen she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself at all - incidentally, the line about the 'responses', which I like very much, isn't in the book.

When Chang throws him the cards, the Doctor pleasingly holds them over his 'left-hand heart'. Also, he pushes Lee into the cabinet, rather than temporarily hiding so that Lee has to take over his role.

The Doctor does not make the remark to Chang that implies that he'll be able to join his ancestors when he gets hanged for murder.

The narrator points out that Litefoot could have been expected to leave the clearing up to his servants. The comedy misunderstanding with Jago is sped up a bit so that it works better on the page. (Although, as I said, I saw this story before I read the Target, my picture of Jago was influenced by the children's book Rattus Rex by Colin Maclaren, which has various similarities to Talons. I imagined him as a larger, posher, more pompous figure, so the raffish, vulgar screen Jago came as a bit of surprise when I saw him again. Indeed he reminded me of the theatre owner in The Picture of Dorian Gray).

At the House of the Dragon, the Doctor thinks in flashback about the mysterious escape of Greel after the Battle of Reykjavik, and the narrator expands this with a few details about his arrival in China in the Time Cabinet.

Jago doesn't refer to a 'death-ray'. Also, his 'I say, I say, I say' line is uttered after he returns to safety - it's a gasp of relief rather than part of the diversion. I preferred the latter, because it makes us feel clever for thinking 'Yes, that's just how Jago would create a diversion.'

Tea and muffins at Litefoot's intervene before the final scene. Jago doesn't suggest that the TARDIS is the Doctor's 'own personal transport', but that it's a 'portable police station', which is a bit more plausible.

The book excellently concludes with the footsteps of Litefoot and Jago fading into the fog, while Chang's face stares out from the poster. It's unusual for TD to refer so literally to a particular shot, but it works really well here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Invasion of Time

Perhaps I've been a bit harsh on this story in the past - the 'evil Doctor' plot, taken to this extent, is rare in DW. The false climax at the end of part four is quite clever too: if you didn't know it was a six-parter you'd be all ready for the Doctor and Leela to wave goodbye and get into the TARDIS, until he spots the Sontarans.

There's some quality Leela-ing in this too: she's picked up some more sophisticated mannerisms, saying 'How dare you' to the Doctor, and the very Doctorish phrase 'Oh, one does, one does' to Rodan. (But she still doesn't know what 'proficient' means, or how to use contractions).

People say that her staying with Andred is unconvincing, but the story tries to make it as convincing as possible. He's not just the 'security guard' of the casual putdown after all, he's chief of the guard and brave enough to start a rebellion against the Vardans on his own account. He's also quite humorous, he's not just a tin soldier type. And he can work the TARDIS controls with confidence.

I'd been watching Borusa for some time before I realised I was totally convinced by the performance. I'd be intrigued to see what the actor from Deadly Assassin would have made of the role here, though.

The bloke playing Kelner really makes the most out of a simple slimy villain role - the scene where he has to try and find the Doctor an orange jelly-baby is enjoyable. Also notice how he sweeps his cloak around once the Vardans put him in charge.

The villain voices have problems: the chief Vardan sounds like an arrogant 15-year-old public school boy. As a counterweight, Stor has the dark l's of my own accent ('force-fiewld') - proud as I am of our distinctive sound, I can't believe in a clone alien who shares it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Target: The Robots of Death

This story is the first of a small category that I know well, but that I saw on television before reading the novelisation. As such I can't help treating them more critically - but this one stands up well to the harsher treatment.

Terrance Dicks goes to some lengths to build up a picture for us of a society where everyone expects everything to be done by robots. I wonder if he enjoyed adapting Chris Boucher's scripts, because they stretch him more - at one point early on, he's handling a sustained conversation with 5 people talking at once, something I can't recall happening in any other Target.

The mine is referred to as 'the Sandminer' throughout.

Uvanov plays 3-D chess with the robot, not the ordinary kind.

The desert has bands of coloured sand 'gleaming red, purple, black, gold in the dim yellow light of a distant sun.' How I wish we could see it.

The 'One of you/one of us' exchange is accompanied by some good Uvanov POV - 'He'd unconsciously left himself out of the group of suspects. They were putting him back in.'

The Doctor's first encounter with Uvanov has the former mentally sum up the latter as having 'something curiously pathetic' about him, a middle-aged man pretending to be young, a weak man pretending to be strong. (The narrator does, however, say that he's 'the complete professional' when it comes to his work).

Zilda's brother had Grimwold's Syndrome, not Grimwade's.

Leela's fight with V.5 is well done - she first properly understands that she's dealing with machines, not men, when 'her fists and feet rebounded from the heavy metal of the robot's framework'. Also she gets her knife back, which means she throws it, and not a hand at D.84, so he says 'Please do not throw things at me' and not the stupid sub-Adams remark he makes on screen.

The 'I heard a cry' scene is done so that it actually makes sense - D.84 means that he heard a cry other than the one coming from the Doctor, and they go off and investigate it. That is not at all clear in the screen version, at least not to me - it just looks like D.84 and the Doctor are pointlessly trying to annoy each other.

The other main difference is that the conversation between D.84 and the Doctor, where the former explains what he's doing there, starts off with narration about the threatening letters, D.84's true nature as a Super-Voc, etc, and then gives us the conversation we hear on screen. This is an improvement - we aren't parachuted straight into the talk about threats and Taran Capel.

This one is much better than I remembered - interesting to see TD raising his game. Recommended.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Target: The Face of Evil

Now this is a real classic, one of Terrance's finest efforts. Almost every page has been polished and improved. When the Doctor first arrives, he wonders if he subconsciously piloted the TARDIS to this unexpected location. And he has a feeling something's missing - 'Of course! Sarah Jane Smith.' He ruminates on how he couldn't take her to Gallifrey, and how in any case 'it was more than time that she took up her own ordinary human life again.' But despite feeling assured that he'd acted for the best, he 'couldn't help feeling a little lonely...' And we immediately cut to Leela, who is thus foregrounded as potential companion (if the big picture of her on the cover wasn't enough of a clue).

She, incidentally, wonders whether there might be 'some other tribe that would take her in' - an interesting suggestion, but it seems most likely that the Sevateem and the Tesh were the only survivors of the expedition.

The Wall is much more impressive on the page - a tunnel opens up in it, into which the Sevateem rush. Before the attack, Andor reflects that 'Much more of this and Xoanon would have no Sevateem left to worship him,' because the attacks, and hunting accidents, famine and disease have reduced their numbers to critical levels. I particularly like stories where the Doctor turns up just as a situation is about to go pear-shaped anyway.

(One quibble about the Wall - if it's a Time Barrier, how come they can see the mountain with the Evil One's face on it? It's inside the barrier, surely?)

When the Doctor survives the Test of the Horda, he realises that his rare achievement has given him a temporary psychological advantage, which he must exploit while it lasts.

He also has a reverie which explains exactly where his original visit to the planet fits into continuity. (I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it, but it makes sense).

After the particle analyser scene, it's made clear that the Doctor already had the mirror in his hand when Jabel poleaxes him, thus answering the puzzle of how he got it out of his pocket when he was tied up. I'm told that this is visible on screen too, but I've never noticed it myself.

The ending is much the same, except for the omission of the 'Little Gentek?' line, and a TARDIS interior scene where Leela sees, and curiously operates, the dematerialisation lever.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Target: The Deadly Assassin

This is a strangely uninspiring Target - it only comes alive in the Matrix section, where the descriptions of the Doctor's opponent, the Hunter, 'perfectly equipped for jungle warfare', are excellent and do the difficult job of making a very visual passage work on the page.

Spandrell does not refer to Sheboggans when he talks about vandalising the light-globe.

The only other enhancement I noticed was that the Doctor's evasion of the guards is helped by his memories of childhood hide-and-seek games in the Capitol.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Target: The Hand of Fear

This is one of my most well-read Targets, battered and with the pages falling out. Good cover picture too, with the symbolic shadow of the Hand (Sarah has the wrong costume on though).

Terrance doesn't say anything about the ethnicity of the doctor who cleans the Doctor's cuts at the hospital - but he's a 'keen young student', and I got the impression that the man seen on screen was more experienced than that.

Dr Carter doesn't do the 'Just like Andy Pandy' line. He drives a vintage Bentley (not an Austin Maxi) which would have made the shots of the journey to Nunton much more impressive on screen.

Professor Watson's appearance 'reflected the rugby field rather than the laboratory.' There's lovely!

Tom Abbott (the quarry foreman) gets an extra appearance - he watches the Doctor, Sarah and 'a tall woman in some kind of fancy get-up' arrive in a car and get into the TARDIS. On the Doctor's earlier visit, Abbott is impressed by his presentation of UNIT credentials - this is the last survival of the original intention for the story to be UNIT's final hurrah.

Sarah does not fetch herself a banana from the TARDIS interior. Her 'It's very nice' remark about Kastria is purely tactful, not sarcastic.

The dog that Sarah pats is 'a small shaggy dog.' Shaggy dog story eh? Sarah whistles 'to keep up her spirits', and sets off to catch the bus home.

Thus bringing the Sarah Targets to an end: she was always a much better character on the page, resourceful and intelligent and without that gulpy delivery. I once drunkenly read the Targets of Time Warrior and Hand of Fear twice each in one night in an attempt to 'recreate the SJS era' - probably the best use of being drunk I've ever found.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Target: The Masque of Mandragora

Another Philip Hinchcliffe adaptation. No time is wasted in the opening, we're told straight away that this is Italy in 1492. The cart full of straw being set on fire is the first act of violence, rather than the last, which I think works better than the confused brutality seen on screen.

Sarah wanders off to pick peaches, not oranges.

The scene with the interrogation of the Doctor by the Count is different: the Doctor says that the Count's future will be short and unpleasant if he doesn't listen, not that he doesn't have one. It's Hieronymous who has the line about a mocking tongue, and it isn't immediately followed by the order for execution: Giuliano's entry causes a distraction, during which the Doctor surreptitiously examines a phial of poison which Federico has on hand.

I have in the past claimed that the High Priest isn't in the novel, just Hieronymous, but I was completely wrong I'm afraid.

When Hieronymous hypnotises Sarah into believing that the Doctor is a sorceror there's a wonderful bit of POV: 'A preposterous thought had formed in her head; something she had known all along, something which was blindingly obvious. What a fool she had been not to see it before. His strange manner, his alien powers, his magical possessions.'

Giulano, not the Doctor, explains what solvitur ambulando means. And he would know.

The means the Doctor uses to defeat the Helix are made clearer: he's laying a circuit of wire so that the energy will short-circuit when it reaches the Brethren. Also, his breastplate is earthed - there's some good suspense when he notices that the earth wire is on the point of melting.

At the masque, Giuliano doesn't recognise Sarah when she's all glammed up, until she asks him where the Doctor is. When the story finishes, she's sad to leave him behind: she wants to share the task of getting San Martino back to normal with him. But she settles for just giving him a 'heartfelt look', and the young Duke is left only with the consolation of watching the TARDIS vanish and thinking 'There is a reason for everything. Even this. One day science will explain it all.'

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Target: The Seeds of Doom

An unusual Philip Hinchcliffe effort - ultimately a rather disappointing one, with some of the best bits omitted.

The Doctor and Sarah are made to seem strange, mysterious and very competent, a bit like an Avengers pairing perhaps. I wonder if this was a response to the odd way the story has them hanging round on Earth at the start of the action, as if it was an old Pertwee script that fell down the back of Robert Holmes' submissions box?

The first visit by Dunbar to Harrison Chase that we see is his first one ever - he has only just decided to sell out, whereas on screen I got the idea that he'd been leaking information for some time.

There's no argy-bargy about Moberley not being qualified to amputate an arm - he's 'had some medical experience' so he agrees to the idea straight away.

When Stevenson (Bob Fleming) sees Scorby's gun, he doesn't waste any time telling him to drop it, he just tries to shoot him immediately. Botanists are tougher than we've been led to believe!

The Floriana Requiem and the 'green cathedral' remark are absent.

The Molotov cocktail idea is entirely the Doctor's. Scorby does not make the quotation about being of the same opinion as Mr Chase. Later, he doesn't do the speech about being a mercenary either.

Hargreaves doesn't appear to say anything in the scenes with Keeler, which is a shame because on screen his unruffled manner contributes a sense of surreal normality to the proceedings. We don't see his second visit to the cottage. There's no Chase/Mr Chase stuff with Scorby either.

The lead fighter pilot talks about turning the Krynoid into 'chop suey'.

It's Sarah who invites Sir Colin to come to Cassiopeia. After declining, he looks out of his window and sees the TARDIS dematerialising from the WEB car park. So the Doctor and Sarah got to the Bureau by TARDIS? That at least makes more sense than the nonsensical ending seen on screen.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Target: Brain of Morbius

The casualty we see in the opening is called Kriz - there's a digression about the orderly insect race he comes from. The Doctor does not refer to him as a Mutt, merely a member of a mutant insect species.

Solon wears robes ('which somehow suggested the academic') rather than the neat madman/dictator/Bond villain suit seen on screen. When he covers up the bust of Morbius, he merely says 'Oh, no, I’m sure you're mistaken,' which entirely lacks the Madoc menace of 'No, you were mistaken'.

The Sisterhood wear black robes. The reason the Doctor's pyre catches fire so easily is that it's soaked in rineweed oil. They have tridents, not those cool flammiform blades seen on screen.

Condo brings Sarah a snack when he takes her to the 'parlour'. There are various allusions to her experience of blindness, TD making an effort to turn it into more than just a plot device.

Ohica remembers an occasion when a disgraced Sister tried to force her way back into the Elixir ceremony: denied the drug, she crumbled into nothing before her very eyes. (Ohica is quite sympathetically portrayed in the novelisation).

Solon still makes the 'crowning irony' joke, but he doesn't do the 'pun was irresistible' bit. He doesn't tell Condo 'All right, she doesn't like it' but 'That's enough drooling for now'.

Morbius' claw came from a Crustacoid (the race to which Vorg's battery sergeant in the 14th Heavy Lasers in Carnival of Monsters belonged).

Instead of the 'pliers' remark when he insists on the disassembly of Morbius, the Doctor grabs a hacksaw and says '..otherwise I'll do it myself. Though I warn you, my surgical technique's a bit rough and ready.'

The Doctor and Sarah don't search for the HCN, the Doctor has already found it when he begins to exposit. The mind-bending setup has attention drawn to it slightly before it becomes important, which is good as it lessens the impression that it's been pulled out of nowhere to provide a resolution.

There are no pyrotechnics when the TARDIS dematerialises. Sarah can't wait to get away from Karn, and who can blame her?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Target: Pyramids of Mars

There are many rather good extra bits in this book, it really is one of TD's best efforts. I'm surprised that I didn't remember most of them - I think this one was very much in demand at the library, and by the time I had my own copy I knew the screen version well, so I didn't read it much. More fool me.

A prologue has been added, describing the events on Phaester Osiris that led to Sutekh's imprisonment, before we join Marcus Scarman at the semi-legendary Black Pyramid. Finding it has taken him years, and he's spent 'many English sovereigns' in the bazaars to get information.

The Doctor calls Sarah 'Victoria', not the annoying and wrong 'Vicky' used on screen. Sarah reflects that he's still annoyed by being called back to deal with the Zygons - and she thinks at some length about her association with the Doctor, and the way that all her adventures, and all the years that the Brigadier's known him, are just a small part of his travels, and that he's had 'many lives and many companions'. Lovely stuff.

Namin also has a lengthy reverie, about his work as a priest of the secret cult that the Osirans set up to maintain the Black Pyramid. Reading between the lines, it's clear that they couched the secret writings in religious terms so that the ancient Egyptians could grasp them. By the way, the labourers seen in the opening scene don't escape - Namin and his associates killed them all, making this a story in which everybody dies (except Horus).

Collins (the manservant) doesn't plead that it's hard to find jobs at his age. His motivation is purely loyalty to the Scarman family.

Sarah doesn't mention to Laurence that she comes from 1980 (nor does she say it in the TARDIS later). The 'preposterous' exchange flows better, too - it runs 'Yes it is, isn’t it,' agreed Sarah sympathetically. 'I’m sorry.' I think it's funnier that way.

Ernie Clements is first seen at dawn the day after the Doctor, Sarah and Laurence hide in the 'priest-hole' - they spend all night there. Ernie used to take the Scarmans 'poaching' on their own land when they were boys, and he sells rabbits to Dr Warlock too. When the mummies are chasing him through the woods, 'for the first time in his life he felt some sympathy for the animals he hunted and trapped.' (Cf the comment about fox-hunting in Android Invasion).

Sarah once researched an article on Egyptology for an educational magazine, which is why she knows about the 740 gods etc.

The narration goes to some lengths to make it clear that Ernie's hut wasn't, and never had been, his home. There really is a ferret in the cage - it escapes. Sarah doesn't throw the box of sweaty gelignite, but she does poke the contents with her finger, horrifying the Doctor.

When Marcus Scarman grabs his brother, there's the same 'smoke' effect as is seen in the episode one cliffhanger.

The Doctor already has the detonation plan worked out when they stash the gelignite - it isn't an improvisation.

After the Doctor's 'Human?' line he adds, 'You forget, Sarah, I'm not.' I think it works better without the explanation. 'Five men, six' have been murdered, not 'Four, five'.

We see Sarah's capture by the mummies. When the Doctor appears in the time tunnel on his return journey, he's sitting cross-legged, not standing up.

In the pyramid, Sarah wonders why Scarman didn't order her killed as well as the Doctor. Sutekh says that they're in an antechamber under the pyramid, not that there is an antechamber as he seems to on screen. He also calls the switch a switch, not a solenoid (on screen he delivers it as if he's insulting Scarman - 'extreme right, solenoid' - perhaps Gabriel Woolf didn't understand the line?)

There are some minor swaps between lines and thoughts in the Cretan paradox scene, but nothing special. The switches are on the wall, not the glass bell.

The opposing mummies hit each other with great swinging blows (rather than ineffectually bumping into each other) - eventually achieving mutual destruction. When Sutekh breaks free, Marcus Scarman does not get to proclaim his own freedom before dying - I thought it was a shame to omit this.

When the Doctor has Sutekh trapped, he says 'You forgot that Time is the weapon of the Time Lords. I have used Time to defeat you.' Sutekh lives another 7000 years, whereas on screen it sounds like he lived 7000 years in toto.

There's no joke (?) about 1666, but there is a TARDIS bookend where Sarah's weariness and horror at all the deaths is well conveyed. She says that surely the events at the Priory will get out - the Doctor tells her that Time takes care of these things, 'when we get back home, you can look it up and see!'

Even better, there's an Epilogue, a really nice account of how 'later, much later' Sarah does just that, and is consoled. I won't spoil it for you by quoting it - it's a real Target high point. Well done TD.