Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Target: The Stones of Blood

There's no special Key to Time room in the TARDIS - the opening scene takes place in the control room, and the segments are kept in a special wall locker.

No mention is made of a view of the sea, either on the scanner or outside.

Romana correctly (if a bit archaically) refers to the specific gravity of the ground, not the meaningless 'specific density'.

The Doctor knows whereof he speaks when he mentions Caesar's account of the Druids - he knew 'Julius' personally, even going to the lengths of dressing up as a soothsayer and croaking 'Beware the Ides of March' at him. Caesar didn't take any notice though. (He was probably annoyed at the Doctor calling him 'Julius' not 'Gaius', which is like calling James T. Kirk 'T' instead of 'James'.)

De Vries' house has crows perched on the chimneys. The man himself has a 'Continental' appearance. He isn't pleased by the Doctor's linking of the Druids to John Aubrey, because he considers the latter to be merely a deplorable old scandal monger.

Martha is a teacher by day - she joined De Vries' group to bring 'some colour into a very dull life'. She's 'no criminal' though.

When the Doctor is rescued from the stone of sacrifice by Amelia, she's riding the bike rather than wheeling it. The Doctor's explanation that K9 was made in Trenton, New Jersey convinces her because 'she could accept anything, however unusual, if it came from America.'

Romana swaps her sandals for 'sensible shoes', not the stylish burgundy boots we know and love.

At the cottage, Amelia doesn't refer to the Welsh triad form of poetry. Her tea and sausage sandwiches aren't the sort of food Romana had been used to on Gallifrey. (Got to say this is making me want some tea and sausage sandwiches).

An aside: Romana is remarkably familiar with Earth - and specifically English - historical, economic and domestic assumptions, for someone from a distant planet who didn't know what tennis was forty pages ago.

Wondering how Martha's and De Vries' bodies got to the stone circle so that their blood could be poured onto the Ogri? They were 'spirited there by the power of the Cailleach'.

Romana's remark that K9 is on his last legs is followed by a narratorial comment that 'K9 didn't actually have any legs'. I wonder if TD often had in mind a reader who had never seen the story even once?

The Ogri that the Doctor decoys over the cliff doesn't fall into the sea - I think it isn't supposed to be the same cliff that Romana dangles off.

On at least two occasions, the mention of hyperspace prompts extra explanations that it's different from the space/time that the TARDIS moves through.

Amelia privately entertains the possibility that she'll be killed by the Ogri while waiting to operate the hyperspace projector.

The two doomed campers are 'not very experienced campers', and they're newlyweds to boot. They don't suspect people from the pub of putting the stones next to their tent as a joke. When the woman gets killed, the bloke tries to run off, but the other Ogri intercepts him.

Megara One (the defence counsel) is very slightly larger than Megara Two. The Doctor does not put a wig on during the trial. Once Cessair has outmanoevred him by agreeing to the Truth Assessor, his next few lines are just summarised as 'He went on arguing valiantly, but it was no use.' See how TD isn't afraid, occasionally, to cut stuff out in the interests of getting to the point? Certain authoring couples would have included every word, oblivious of the fact that without Tom Baker's sparkle the lines aren't such fun.

K9 tells Amelia that she is 'a reasonably intelligent humanoid' suitable to work under his direction on repairing the projector.

Cessair gets an extra sentence from the Megara - 1,000 years for illegal detention of their vessel in hyperspace.

And then the Doctor, K9 and Romana are on their way to find the fourth, fifth and sixth segments...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Target: The Ribos Operation

This is an Ian Marter novelisation so there are many changes, too many for me to list without losing the will to live. As a sampler, in the first few pages the Doctor summons K9 into the console room with a dog whistle, the console room is full of shadows, the exterior windows of the TARDIS are visible from inside (cf Ark in Space), K9's nose blaster is referred to as a 'radiaprobe', the Tracer is the 'Locatormutor core'. I really don't like the names IM comes up with for equipment, they seem inappropriately Hartnellesque.

Interestingly, the Guardian doesn't make the 'Nothing will happen - ever' threat, rather he just tells the Doctor menacingly that he will undertake the task.

The accent assumed by Garron is Bermondsey, not Somerset. And later he does a 'Knightsbridge' one, whatever that might be. The Doctor has the strange diction from the Season 12 Marter novels, where he rarely uses contractions and sounds very little like the Fourth Doctor in general.

There are four or five scenes where Garron, Unstoffe or the Doctor are manhandled by bulky, brawny soldiers. Similarly the Graff Vynda Ka (not K here) is a young, sleek, fit man rather than the slightly fussy type we see on screen.

After the Graf has discovered the bug, and is waiting for Sholakh to come back with the money, he amuses himself by trying to make two scorpions fight inside a circle of hot ash on the hearth. They won't, so he shovels the hot ash over them and crushes them. Unusually for a Marter change I found this very effective as characterisation (did the Graf bring the creatures with him, or are they native to Ribos, I wonder?)

There are various other touches: the sunlight of Ribos is green, the use of the catacombs as a mausoleum is very much played up and there are the usual violent Marter sound effects - scrabbling Shrivenzale claws striking showers of sparks and the charging whine of the laser spears (the latter constantly referred to). I don't entirely hate this - it's the same energetic description that keeps his Dominators novel going - but ultimately I would have preferred a Terrance Dicks adaptation with less noise and a Doctor that I recognised.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Target: The Invasion of Time

I remembered this as a dull read but I think I was confabulating that memory from my experience of watching it.

At the beginning, while we wait with Leela and K9 in the TARDIS, we're told that the Doctor has been behaving oddly recently.

Leela repeats 'Order K9 to tell me to shut up,' incredulously, and K9 takes it as an instruction. On screen it comes across as her saying it sincerely, and saying it to K9 - ie she doesn't realise what she's said until she says it.

Kelner's high position is due to having the right family and political contacts. He succeeded Spandrell, and moved out of the modest chambers used by the former Castellan into flashy new offices.

Andred takes an interest in Leela because she's unlike the 'cool, remote Time Ladies' he usually meets.

Nesbin (the chief outlaw) was expelled from the Capitol for attacking another Time Lord - a crime which is virtually unheard of. When he argues with Leela, he realises that not only is she ready to kill him, she's 'positively looking forward to it.'

The 'exiled Time Lords ineffectually practice with weapons' scene is done in slightly more detail, and with more types of weapon.

The Vardans compliment the Doctor by saying he'd make a good dictator - their philosophy is entirely based around the seizure and application of power.

Sontarans, we're told, have no sense of humour, though they 'occasionally smile at the death-throes of an enemy.' Nor do they appreciate beauty: 'beauty is of no interest to Sontarans, since it has no function in war. Indeed, to a Sontaran war is beauty.' Very Sun Tzu.

Stor's pronunciation of 'Doctor' is always rendered 'Dok-tor'. I don't mind 'Doc-tor' in this context (we see it with the Daleks sometimes) but I think the 'k' is unnecessary, it's a cheap shot at Stor.

We're filled in on what Borusa is doing between being shot and setting the chimes off: it's not very interesting (just recovering and eavesdropping) but at least we don't suspect so strongly that the scriptwriter has forgotten about him.

Rodan asks the Doctor to pass her 'something that sounded like "inkle grooner"' - not the 'finklegruber' that we hear in the broadcast story.

The anti-weapons effect in the TARDIS only applies to the control room (the Doctor reflects) and even there it wouldn't prevent Stor attacking him hand-to-hand.

It's implied that the 'K9 Mark II' box contains the parts for a new K9, which the Doctor is about to assemble. He's been collecting them for some time, keeping them out of sight so as not to offend the original.

Most gay pr0n-like paragraph when selectively edited:

Reverently, Andred took the sacred Rod.... Astonished and overawed, Andred stood holding Gallifrey's equivalent of the Crown Jewels, while the Doctor grabbed K9 round the middle and with a grunt of effort...thrust the Rod between them. Andred tried to protest, but the Doctor said soothingly. 'Just trust me.'

I do like the blurb on this book by the way - not only is the plot summary unusually accurate, there's a good review quote: 'Terrance Dicks is a skilful professional storyteller... He has deftly recaptured the programme's popular blend of hectic menace and humourous self-mockery.'

Sentiments which I wholly agree with. 'Hectic menace'. Nice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Target: The Underworld

(note title Doctor Who and the Underworld). There's an explanatory prologue giving the Time Lord/Minyan back-story, and giving the Time Lords credit at least for not retaliating when they were driven out.

Herrick and Orfe argue so fiercely about whether or not to ask the 'gods' for help because their positions are those of two former political factions on Minyos - Herrick's party blamed the Time Lords for everything, Orfe's held the Minyans equally responsible because they lacked self-control.

The softer side of Leela's nature was repressed at a very early age in her warrior training, but the Pacifier brings it back again. The Pacifier, Jackson tells the Doctor, takes so much power that it can only be used in the ship.

When Jackson tells the Doctor that he and his crew have regenerated thousands of times, the Doctor has a reverie in the 'every moment is weariness' style of Gandalf's warning about what happens to Ring-bearers. Tala's weariness at finding herself young again is conveyed thus: 'Once again, she had been sentenced to life.'

TD doesn't waste any effort trying to embellish episodes 2-4, though he does give us the enjoyable 'Chapter Six: The Trogs'. And he does convey effectively Herrick's joy at finding some action, and the Minyans' feelings at the moment when they finally get their hands on the cylinders.

The narrator seems concerned that we might think that all the Trogs couldn't fit on the patrol ship flight deck, so he tells us that most of them were out of sight in the holds.

A quick epilogue, and then he, like us, is free to walk away from this story.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Target: The Sunmakers

(Note the spacing in the title). I remember the first time I read this - I had a hangover, and hadn't seen the screen version for 20 years, and I hadn't liked it then. But my low expectations were confounded - it may not be a classic Target, but it kept me turning the pages that Sunday morning.

Terrance Dicks is particularly good at neat opening sentences: 'In a drab and featureless corridor, a drab and featureless man stood waiting before a shuttered hatch.'

When Leela and the Doctor leave the TARDIS, they find themselves on a flat roof - 'rather disappointingly'. What's he getting at I wonder?

When Leela first hears Cordo's story, she pictures the 'Gatherer' as a Xoanon-like monster.

Marn doesn't have the knowing manner she does on screen. She's no Krau Timmins - she's terribly impressed by the Gatherer and how hard he works, and when she hears about Kandor, she's 'shocked to her conformist core.'

In the lift, the Doctor thinks that a lift is a lift, anywhere in the galaxy.

He gets the Gatherer's measure:

A senior bureaucrat, he guessed, cunning and experienced, status-conscious, but without the strength to wield real power. There would be someone behind Gatherer Hade, someone far tougher, and far more intelligent.

Offering the Doctor a raspberry leaf is Marn's idea, though she looks at Hade for permission first. This whole scene has various rearrangements of the lines and actions seen on screen, most of which don't matter, though there's a glaring exception: the Doctor just says 'Humbug' when he leaves (as if an insult), without actually offering Hade one of the sweets so named. It's almost as if TD hadn't watched this scene!

On the way to the Correction Centre, Leela and Cordo encounter three citizens queuing up to be erased. Cordo takes it matter-of-factly, but Leela is appalled:

Life was cheap enough as far as she was concerned, and death in battle an everyday hazard, but this casual acceptance of planned extermination made her skin crawl.

Veet's efforts at cooking for the Others 'seldom met with much appreciation'.

For the corridor ambush, K9 hides behind an overhanging pipe, not round the corner of an intersection.

The Doctor wonders at first whether the revolution is worthwhile, if Leela's dead. But then he decides that 'A society that had driven someone like Cordo to climb on to that parapet deserved to be overthrown.'

The Collector's computer makes the same clever guess about the Sevateem, but refers to a 'degenerated, unsupported Earth colony' not a 'degenerate, unsupported Tellurian colony'. 'Degenerate' was better, I thought. Incidentally, 'zero zero five' corresponds to the Dewey Decimal code 005 for computer software and programming languages.

The background information on the Doctor is fuller: 'He appears to have a long history of anarchic violence and the causing of economic disruption. He is not commercially orientated'.

Leela in the steamer is like 'an orchid under glass'. An unusual simile for the unflowerlike Leelster.

Hade promises sexaphonic sound from the steaming, not duodecaphonic.

Marn accompanies the two guards who are sent to the PCM plant - she beats a retreat when she sees them get captured.

The Doctor explains to Leela that the Collector's safe is an old-fashioned bank manager's safe brought from Earth. I'd be surprised if Leela knew what a bank was, or a bank manager; I suspect the Doctor is explaining an apparent anachronism to us. I prefer it to be done a bit more subtly. When Leela gets knocked out, he says 'Why don't these girls ever listen to me?'

When Bisham and Mandrell leave the plant after accomplishing their mission, the technician Synge makes a remark to his mate Hakit about their surprising day. Hakit just nods, but then after all, he's always been 'a work-unit of few words'.

After the crowd throw the Gatherer off the roof, they're suddenly filled with remorse. Most of them are disgusted by Veet's encouragement to give the Collector the same treatment, and they shuffle off shamefacedly - all this in entire contrast to their happy yelling on screen. 'There was a general feeling things had got out of hand, gone a bit too far.' This really spoils the moment in my opinion. It's followed by a peculiar remark: 'there wasn't very much that they could do about it now. From the top of a thousand-metre building, it's a very long way down.'

In the final confrontation with the Collector, the Doctor declares that commercial imperialism is just as bad as military conquest, rather than posing a question. (Although the scene is much the same on the page and screen, I can't help mentioning here how much I like it: the Collector trying to recruit the Doctor, and the subversive line about having tried warfare but finding the exercise of economic power more effective. The recruitment bit suggests one of those 'Eps 1-2: Wtf is the Doctor up to' stories.)

4 Terrances for this adaptation - it successfully rescued the story from my unfairly low opinion of it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Target: Image of the Fendahl

This is a slim volume (even for a Target) and that isn't usually a good sign. Fortunately, Chris Boucher's script gives Terrance Dicks just enough extra encouragement to create an acceptable adaptation.

The hiker's initial perception of the nameless threat brings the 'frightful fiend doth tread' lines from Ancient Mariner to his mind. He thinks longingly of beer and cheese rolls in the next pub (causing me to be slightly wary of cheese rolls from an early age). In his next scene, he whistles 'some ragtime tune', not The Entertainer specifically.

TD veers into stereotype by comparing Stael's manner to that of a 'Prussian Officer', and he then brilliantly continues 'His stiff Germanic good looks reflected his stiff Germanic character,' a line which made me laugh out loud (and suggested a three-card trick based on a further possible attribute).

Colby's dog is named Leakey after the anthropologist - and because it isn't properly Priory-trained.

The narrator tells us early on that Fetchborough has a local witch, who's also the evening cook at the Priory. When we actually meet Mrs Tyler, we're told that she's succeeded in scaring Mitchell (the security chief), even though he's 'shrugged off threats from the toughest villains in London'.

Thea's look of absorption as she gazes at the skull is compared to that of a high priestess conducting a ritual.

Ted Moss has a 'look of peasant cunning'. He's riding a bike when Leela captures him ('He came silently on this machine.') We follow him into the cottage when Leela is trailing him later on, and see him load and fire the shotgun.

The Doctor manages to break his Fendahleen-induced paralysis by forcing his body to relax and be freed of fear.

Jack Tyler's hat is described as looking like an upside-down flowerpot. He and Leela have the following pleasing exchange -

'She were brought up in the Old Ways, see?'
For once Leela did see. Magic was still a familiar part of her mental world — despite all the Doctor’s efforts. 'You mean the ancient magic of your tribe?'

I know the dialogue is much the same but I like the characterisation of the Leelster there, and a rare chance for her to actually understand an explanation.

The door of the cupboard where the Doctor's imprisoned opens because he kicks it angrily, and snaps 'some vital part of the lock'. I always assumed that one of the Priory people, disagreeing with Fendleman, came and opened it, though it would have to be Colby I suppose, and he doesn't seem the type to unlock a door and then sneak off.

Leela realises all by herself that she mustn't touch the skull-trapped Doctor - he doesn't make any warning gesture.

There's a good half-page of back-story for Max, all about his isolated childhood and his desire to rule, which he failed to achieve through politics, business or science, and so he turned to the occult. I like the idea of him contacting Mrs Tyler when he first came to Fetchborough - how I wish I could read about that first meeting. Also, in the novel he doesn't have to hear the line 'Relax, Max' (TD spreads the rhyming words a bit further apart).

Colby and Fendleman are tied up on the cellar floor, not tied to pillars, and Max doesn't suggestively menace Colby with the pistol.

The Doctor still somehow knows about the dead hiker (how?), but he doesn't know Mitchell's name, referring to him as 'the security guard'.

The part 3 cliffhanger includes a literal, parenthetical treatment of the cut to the shot of the Fendahleen's tail sliding along the floor. I personally consider that a weakness, there are better ways to create suspense in literature and usually TD uses them.

The narrator confirms that the Priestess can create Fendahleen ad lib, but they need to take human life in order to grow.

After the implosion, Colby reflects that he's the only one of the Priory staff left alive. And the TARDIS speeds on its way to new adventures.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Target: The Invisible Enemy

Not one of my favourites, this. The narrator spends too much time dumping facts about Titan and Saturn on us in the early pages, although TD does give us a plausible picture of Lowe as a fussy, precise man (exactly what Sheard's portrayal leads us to assume).

Leela can get the TARDIS to the Bi-Al Foundation because the Doctor has instructed her in basic takeoff and landing procedures, just in case.

The Foundation appears to be a business proposition, funded by various 'conglomerates'. Odd then that nobody seems to be charged any fees. We're also told more about the 'spaceniks', who make a nuisance of themselves stowing away to see the planets, and then have to be sent home at great expense. They're 'the descendants of the hippies and beatniks of the late twentieth century' - the spiritual descendants I presume, unless he's telling us that Cliff and Jo Jones are the root cause of the problem.

There's extra emphasis on the idea that the Kilbracken technique is one of holographic cloning, and that this is why it can reproduce clothing as well as bodies.

The lines in the 'bit of a mongrel' conversation are distributed slightly differently between Marius and PVC Nurse.

The cavern in which the Nucleus is lurking extends as far as the eye can see, and has silver pillars holding up the roof.

The narrator raises a question in our minds about the cause of the Doctor's immunity to further infection once the Nucleus leaves his brain - it might be because he's survived such a massive attack, 'or perhaps for some other reason'. Thus we are properly primed for the Doctor's explanation about the Leela clone dissolving in his bloodstream, making it seem more convincing.

On Titan, Safran is full of pride at having prepared such a good breeding environment for the Purpose. At least he dies happy, then. K9 deals with the guard that he decoys away by losing him in the maze of corridors (some task given the amount of noise K9 makes in his early stories).

The hatching virus creatures are described as like 'malevolent dragonflies' - possibly my first encounter with the word malevolent. The Nucleus has grown to massive size, and wallows frighteningly across the tank towards the door to get at the Doctor.

The TARDIS does not partially dematerialise, then return for Leela and K9 - they manage to dash inside just after the Doctor.

In sum, an unobjectionable adaptation, but not one of the classics.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Target: The Horror of Fang Rock

This is a notoriously short Target - although it has the standard page count, the print is huge. But TD is keen to give value for money, so he opens with a Prologue, which is in the present tense and talks about horrific events at the turn of the century, so we think it's set in our present day and is referring to the events of the story we're about to read. But it then does a pull-back-and-reveal to show that the present day is the early 1900s. Now, this is either a clever way to unsettle us, or a really confusing way to start a book.

Ben is much older than the thirtyish (?) man we see is on screen - in his early fifties.

The Doctor is not on the point of returning to the TARDIS when he sees the inoperative lighthouse - a shame, that, I enjoy the suggestion that he and Leela nearly missed the whole thing. He also gets the whole 'big in some ways, smaller in others' line, rather than sharing it with Leela.

Leela doesn't pick up a table knife to use as a weapon: she finds a sailor's knife in Ben's sea-chest (where she gets the spare clothes from).

Pleasingly, we accompany the Doctor, Reuben and Vince to the tiny shingle beach at East Crag where the lifeboat comes ashore. Palmerdale falls into the sea in his haste to jump out of the boat. (It's during this scene that the light comes on again and the Doctor deduces that the creature needs electricity).

The Doctor doesn't do the exaggerated 'We haven't been introduced!' bit, he just suggests that the castaways introduce themselves. He deconstructs the Beast of Fang Rock myth to Leela in terms of murder, suicide and trauma respectively among the three keepers in the legend.

When Harker refuses to take the boat back to sea, Palmerdale looks as surprised 'as if a chair or table had found a voice'. He's used to the 'lower orders' doing as he tells them.

The Doctor is put out by Reuben's interjection of the Beast story into his warning speech to the castaways, because it undermines the credibility of his warning.

Reference is made to the Doctor's 'staring eyes' as evidence that he's mad, and it's suggested that Leela is probably his nurse.

When Leela and the Doctor go to find out what's happened to Reuben, the Doctor says 'Don't step on any jellyfish,' not 'Don't talk to any strangers.' The tone of Leela's comment about the creature not being bold is different - more of a question.

Palmerdale shows his 'insurance' diamonds to Vince in the lamp-room, when he says 'I'm a businessman'. (He's trying to prove that £50 is nothing to a man like him, so it isn't a suspicious amount to be offering Vince).

There's no oak/hickory business between Leela and Harker. The Doctor does not quote the Malicious Damage Act 1861 - he just mentions malicious damage, and he does it after Leela has left, not as an opener. Nor does he mention lycanthropy in the 'chameleon factor' cliffhanger speech. (By the way, each episode lasts exactly 3 chapters).

Rutans have little concept of individual identity, so they always speak in the plural, the narrator tells us. (I think this was my first encounter with the word 'plural'. 28 years old I was...)

'That does not concern you,' says the Rutan, not 'doesn't'. Yes, I've omitted lots of larger changes in these lists but this one is more significant than it seems - it's an example of how the Target Rutan's diction and voice ('weird, high, shrill, totally alien') are not like what we hear on screen. I had a shock when I watched Fang Rock for the first time since 1977 and heard its fussy, Arthur Lowe-esque tones. Not totally inappropriate for a militaristic species, but still.

'I should have realised I was dealing with a Rutan,' thinks the Doctor. He also reflects that Rutans are so strange and savage that even the Sontarans are preferable.

Skinsale specifies that he's questioning the advisability of so much gunpowder in a confined space (professional qualms?) On a similar theme, the Doctor adds 'You know what these old soldiers are once they get talking' to his comment about military chit-chat.

I've often wondered exactly why the early Schemurly is 'no good' - in the book, the Doctor explains that Rutans can seal wounds made by (individual) projectile attacks. They have to be blown to bits. He also outlines the background of the Rutan-Sontaran conflict, and the Rutan plans for Earth, so at least Skinsale gets to know the nature of the war he's fighting (if not for very long). He's also definite about the Rutans concluding that this sector of space was too dangerous - they are, he says, a cautious species. (This point used to concern me with the screen version).

The reason that the Doctor and Skinsale have time to make the trip down to the crew room is that the Rutan is climbing the stairs slowly - it fears further attacks, being, I suppose, cautious as the Doctor has just said. Palmerdale's body is on a bunk, not the floor.

Skinsale's obituary is differently handled - the Doctor says he's dead, Leela asks 'With honour?'

The Doctor hesitated, thinking of Skinsale scrabbling for the diamonds. It was no way for a man to be remembered. 'Yes,' he said firmly. 'With honour.'

That's good Terrancing. And an example of the Doctor writing his own adventures.

The poem scene is more involved - it's introduced by Leela asking what the local people will think has happened, and the Doctor replying that someone will probably write a poem about it. 'What litany is that?' interrupts Leela after the first line. I like the litany reference, but I think the poem works better without all the business.

However, TD isn't going to leave us on a weak point, because after the TARDIS has dematerialised, the narrator gives us the thundering of the waves. 'No one was left alive to hear them.'