Saturday, November 27, 2010

Target - Creature From The Pit

This is an example of a type of Target we'll be seeing more often from this point onwards - not so much an adaptation as a chance to rewrite the story so that either the plot, or the atmosphere, or both, are closer to some original intention.

I'm not really keen on David Fisher's style with its footnotes, and facetious Doctor, so it was a bit of a trial having to re-read this. Even the additional opening scene has Karela wondering why they bother throwing people into the Pit when they could just kill them. I can think of that sort of thing for myself, thank you very much.

There's no Theseus/Ariadne reference in the TARDIS scene.

The Doctor doesn't read the two books while he's hanging in the shaft - he just tries to recall what Tensing told him about climbing. When he falls, he lands on Doran, but he's already dead so it doesn't matter. The Creature is preceded by a metallic smell 'like old batteries'.

The narrator says that Terran and Chlorian astrology can't be compared because the zodiac of the latter has 17 houses. Zodiacs are divided into signs not houses - houses are a division of the heavens as seen from one particular place and time. 'I sir have studied the subject, you have not.'

The Creature weighs 385 tons, and comes from an exotic planet with beaches of powdered carbon and sweet sulphuric acid rain.

Chloris has four moons, and to see them all at once is lucky.

Sometimes Adrasta lies awake worrying that Karela is going to assassinate her. By the way, she has candles burning all night in her bedroom, and two Wolfweeds to guard her.

Erato is much more long-winded once he starts talking. Indeed the narrator compares his style to Macaulay at his worst. There's a fairly complete explanation of exactly how Adrasta got Erato into the pit in the first place.

K9 is able to destroy the bandits' metal because it consists mostly of copper ingots produced by Erato (and then stolen from the palace vaults) and Erato deliberately introduced a structural instability into the metal.

There's no final scene with the trade treaty - the book finishes on the 'lucky number' joke.

Target: Destiny of the Daleks

When Romana first enters the control room, she's carrying (with some difficulty) a mirror. When challenged about copying Astra's body, she breezily admits it might be 'a bit embarrassing if she and I both turned up at the same party wearing identical bodies.' The flighty female references continue with the Doctor thinking that she's changing bodies as casually as she might have changed her dress. On the plus side, he does reflect interestingly that the effect is of Romana's personality in an Astra-like body - not something that came across on screen for me.

Skaro is a much more atmospheric place - not a claustrophobic quarry, but 'an endless bare plain with a scattering of rocks, stretching away into fast-gathering darkness'. All the initial scenes, including the ship landing, take place at night.

Deja vu is a common sensation for time travellers, the narrator tells us.

The funeral procession have flaming torches, and there's a digression about the ceremony being similar all over the universe. Romana is particularly startled by the Doctor's return because he's got white dust on his hand, which she connects to his earlier talk about zombies.

There's a reason why he mentioned them, by the way:

Perhaps it had been unfair to make Romana's flesh creep like that, but her icy Time Lady composure sometimes got on his nerves. He hadn’t been able to resist the chance of shaking it just a little.

Up to now I've been with TD's changes to the story - they're giving it an atmosphere which it lacks on screen - but that's a bit mean. And I find the idea of Romana 2 being the same person as Romana 1 jarring - yes, I know that they are supposed to be the same. But just look how odd it is in Creature from the Pit where 2 is doing lines written for 1.

The Doctor's book concerns the Tenth Galaxy, not the whole universe. The author is not named, but is a Time Lord historian whose errors of fact the Doctor enjoys contradicting.

The Movellans are not stated to be dark-skinned, just tall and handsome. Though Sharrel's voice is described as deep and mellow, which could be a hint. I don't know whether TD imagines them actually looking different, or whether he's showing us that the Doctor doesn't necessarily expect humanoids to be light-skinned. (Though that wouldn't explain why he mentions the Swampies' green skin so many times).

The anti-radiation pills are not basically forgotten about as on screen; they are referred to several times. The Daleks even supply them to their unhealthy coughing slave workers.

TD repeats the idea (from Death to the Daleks) that the Dalek 'sucker' is actually a sensitive scanning device.

The Daleks use anti-gravity discs to get down to Level Four, TD clearly having in mind the Doctor's taunt about them being unable to climb. (By the way, he doesn't say 'Back off' or any variant thereof).

When the Doctor tells Romana and Tyssan to leave him with Davros, he makes a strange joke about hating people who 'use age and rank to enforce their will - so don't make me do it!'

Tyssan's 'prophecy' that he'll die on Skaro recurs in his thoughts later.

TD works hard to create the impression that there are lots of Daleks on the mission to Skaro, not just 3 or 4.

Davros is only 'possibly' mutant according to the Movellan computer display.

There's a retcon re Genesis: Davros 'had suspected the possibility of treachery' by the Daleks, and deployed a shielding device. During this conversation, the Doctor wishes the Movellans would arrive 'like the US Cavalry', and mentally compares himself to Custer - who he once met. Custer never listened to his warnings...

Romana doesn't just run into the Movellan ship. She has to slip past the sentry first.

Just before the Doctor detonates the bomb on Davros' chair, he has a moment of doubt where he recalls the wires scene in Genesis. 'Who knows what horrors he had unleashed upon the Universe?' So it seems he did have the right after all...

The Doctor speaks kindly to the Kaled mutant, which has crawled onto his shoulder, before dropping it gently into a crevice. (Rather than splatting it aggressively onto the ground).

It's a male Movellan whose chest the Doctor opens to discover that he's a robot.

Romana knows how to play paper, stone, knife because the Doctor taught her (an unspecified time ago).

Tyssan has considerable engineering and robotics experience. That's why he can reprogramme Lan ad hoc.

Having despatched the kamikaze Daleks, Davros settles down to dream of never-ending Dalek victories.

When Romana and the Doctor get back to the TARDIS, they're carrying spades, with which they dig it out.
Another excellent astro session from 8-10pm last night. While the scope cooled, I learnt my way round Eridanus, which was visible down to tau 5 at about 21 deg S.

Then failed to locate M34 or split gamma 1/2 Andromedae with the 25mm. I did however work out how to use the star diagonal: the reason I was getting such a good view of the central obstruction, and the floaters in my eye, was that I needed to refocus to take account of the fact that the eyepiece was now further away from the image. I was surprised how clear the view was once it was properly focused.

Then on to Orion to split delta (Mintaka - location of Who Watches The Watchers) with the 25mm (thought the companion was a ghost at first) and get my first look at M42 and the Trapezium.

Finally I swung round to look at Jupiter with the 9mm but dew was a serious problem by then and I could just make out the disc, three moons and belt.
Interesting letter in the Christmas Viz, in the voice of a train driver taking the piss out of his passengers for trying to 'magically' open train doors when he's got them locked. Viz readers who drive trains must be far outnumbered by Viz readers who've missed trains for this reason, so I presume this is a trolling setup for next month.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some months ago I built a DIY tripod adaptor for my 10x50 binoculars, and using this I was able to see Jupiter as a disc, and several of its moons, for the first time. (In fact it was this that made me want to buy a telescope).

Since then I have several times been able to see the moons with unsupported binoculars, which I could never do before. I thought at first I was imagining it, but the positions of my moons always corresponded with the actual ones when I checked afterwards.

Further evidence that astronomy is about 'learning to see.'
A really good astro session last night, learning to find my way around with the telescope. Very clear, dark sky, one of the best I can remember.

I let the scope cool while I took advantage of the good seeing to learn the whole shape of Pisces - up to now I'd only been able to make out the head (under the square of Pegasus) but this time I could make out both fish.

The joined tails of the fish pointed neatly to the tail of Cetus, which I'd never grasped the outline of before. It does look just like a whale, with the body in the west and the raised tail in the east just next to Taurus. Gamma (where the fluke joins the tail) was a beautiful golden yellow in binoculars.

I wanted an easy start with the scope so I turned it on the Pleiades, to get a feel for how much sky the 25mm eyepiece shows me (80x magnification). Not enough for the whole asterism, is the answer.

Then I trained it on the bottom bar of Lyra to scan for the Ring Nebula, which I found without needing the setting circles. It's easy to find, being almost exactly on the line from beta to gamma. If anything it looked better in the 25mm, the 9mm eyepiece (225x) made it too dim to appreciate.

From there it was a short traverse to Albireo, my first attempt at separating a double. At first I mistook alpha Vulpeculae for it because I underestimated how bright Albireo would look in the finder. Once that was cleared up I had a fine view of the yellow and blue components, which again were more impressive in the 25mm.

As I was freezing cold by now I decided to finish with a look at Jupiter, where I was rewarded with Europa and Io very close either side of the planet. I also kept almost seeing a dark dot on the trailing side of Jupiter, which I later realised from the Jupiter's Moons applet was Ganymede's shadow.

I was pleased with this session, I got a lot of practice with the finder and the fine controls, and got a proper feel for the 25mm EP. It showed me that use of the setting circles is not needed for objects which you'd trust yourself to find with binoculars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happened to catch a fine view of Saturn in the morning sky just before 6am, and gamma Vir which happened to be just above it. I don't expect I'd normally have been able to see the latter in such bright twilight, but Saturn's nearby presence drew my attention to it.

Lower down (4 deg altitude) was what I thought was a plane, but Your Sky suggests it might have been Venus.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Target: The Armageddon Factor

The initial TARDIS and Atrios scenes are far less intercut on the page. The propaganda film is no longer the opening scene, though TD still lets us believe at first that it's straight action. We also lose the sweeping view of the War Room (with Astra's symbolic placement behind the Marshal).

The Doctor reassures K9 that there are (as well as no water and no swamps) no monsters, a nice Kroll reference. K9 states that the radiation levels are within Time Lord tolerances.

The narrator explains that 'of course' the Marshal knows that Merak and Astra aren't traitors really, he's just trying to get them out of the way.

Shapp immediately understands the Marshal's motivation for having K9 recycled: he's annoyed about having been made a fool of when K9 shot out the lighting control box.

The Doctor's own suggestion about the ventriloquist's dummy makes him stop and think:

For all his loudness and flamboyance there was something odd, off-key about the Marshal. Was he a dummy, a puppet of some mysterious force?

Reminds me a bit of his realisation about Uvanov in Robots of Death.

It's been pointed out to me that the Marshal introduces himself as 'The Marshal of Zeos' - such a blatant mistake that I missed it.

There are a dozen ships left in the Atrian fleet, not six. Romana doesn't ask who Columbus is. (Similarly, later on Merak doesn't ask what bees are.)

TD does his best to make the Shadow more impressive, radiating both authority and darkness so that the light seems to dim when he moves. His asteroid resembles 'some fantastic castle in space.'

Astra's smile when the Shadow tells her she'll meet her lover soon is 'like a grimace on the face of a corpse.'

We don't see Mentalis until the Doctor and Romana do. The Doctor works out that there are no Zeons on this part of Zeos, rather than no Zeons at all. They're probably all on the other side of the planet, he says. I realise TD is trying to make the plot a bit more sensible here, but I'm not sure whether this isn't actually sillier than the screen version. It certainly calls irresistibly to mind the image of Lord Percy going 'Perhaps - they're not hiding - at all...'. (The Zeons are mentioned as well as the people of Atrios when the Doctot talks to the shadow later).

The 'banana skin' remark and the discussion about affecting the entire universe are absent, TD perhaps feeling that they anticipate the similar bit when the genuine Key is assembled. Having set up the time loop, the Doctor gets an oak pedestal out of a locker and puts the Key on it. The Marshal's ship is frozen just after launching the missiles - we see them streaking towards Zeos over and over again.

The tunnels in the Shadow's asteroid give it an 'organic' feel, 'like a rotten apple bored through by innumerable worms.' They're carved with gargoyle heads, and it's one of these that the Doctor addresses when he talks to the Shadow. He politely says 'Excuse me' when he walks past himself.

His remark about 'amusement arcade rubbish' is excellently expanded thus:

'All this penny arcade, ghost train rubbish is pretty crude too. Romana can look after herself you know. You won't scare her with spooks.' A giant spider dropped onto the Doctor's shoulder and he flicked it casually away.

(Notice the parallel of the flicking gesture with the way he points over his shoulder on screen when talking about the innocents).

The dungeon he wakes up in 'was a very old-fashioned dungeon; stone-block walls, studded iron door, high barred windows... Clearly the Shadow had traditional tastes in such matters.' It sounds like TD is trying to explain away an ill-chosen set design - but the 'dungeon' on screen is just a cave, it doesn't look anything like that.

The Doctor reflects that Thete (Theta Sigma) isn't really his name, just a 'coding'. Drax is initially a bit offended when the Doctor insists on his title, but the latter placates him by saying 'It's just that I'm used to it.'

Chapter 13, where the Doctor and Drax are miniaturised, is called 'Small World'.

When the Doctor and Drax split up to make their separate ways from the Planet of Evil to Zeos, Drax reminds the Doctor that he built Mentalis and accordingly knows how to turn it off.

When the Planet of Evil has been blown up, and Drax has said goodbye, there's a 'considerable' interval while the Doctor replaces the fake chronodyne 6th segment with the real one. He then places the Key on the pedestal mentioned earlier before having a quick gloat over it and then launching into the megalomaniac bit. It's hinted that he really is falling under the lure of absolute power, rather than just pretending in order to make a point - he 'controls himself with a mighty effort' before saying he's all right.

The reconstituted Astra actually kisses Merak rather than just holding his hand.
New version of End of the Line - Pyramids/Android Invasion ordering error corrected.