Saturday, December 31, 2011

Naive Avengersthon - 3. The Frighteners

This story reminded me strangely of the Hancock's Half Hour episode The Elopement, except that the jealous father here is prepared to have the suitor beaten up regularly until he desists. There's also a strong connection with Four To Doomsday, with Stratford 'Monarch' Johns as the father, Sir Thomas, and Philip 'Bigon' Locke as main thug.

Steed gets Dr Keel to take the thugs on; they're controlled by the excellently sinister 'Deacon', who Keel threatens to squirt with a syringe of hydrochloric acid. He's bluffing of course - it's witch-hazel (or perhaps lemonade). Amusingly, Steed later chastises him for getting carried away. There are the first real hints in this episode of the later Steed, particularly in his mock-solicitous report to Sir Thomas about his daughter having given him the slip.

Some more clever camerawork in this: there's an establishing shot using an opening pan across what looks very like a still photo of a building, and then what seems to be an obvious model shot; finally revealing that it is actually a model building in Stratford Johns' office.

Naive Avengersthon - 2. Girl on the Trapeze

No Steed in this one, so far as I could tell. An Eastern European state circus is up to no good, arranging the 'suicide' of the eponymous trapeze girl so that a dissident's daughter can be substituted for her and taken back as a hostage. Dr Keel jumps right in and gets out of his depth; some good scenes where he and the circus people are both pretending to fall for the other's deception. Edwin 'Captain Hart' Richfield as the chief crook (something about the look and atmosphere of these episodes makes 'crooks' the only possible word for the villains).

Some quite clever bits in this, like where a shot of someone looking down a microscope swims in and out of focus as he adjusts the instrument.

I also appreciated Keel's clever algorithm for his brute force search of the papers for a photo of the dead girl: his nurse/sidekick doesn't know what the girl looks like, so she marks all the pages with pictures of women on them, thus enabling the search to proceed in parallel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Naive Avengersthon - 1. Hot Snow

Commencing a series of Avengers reactions. I know very little about The Avengers, but I do know that I have 139 episodes of it here waiting to be watched.

Okay... so the initial lineup is Steed and Dr David Keel, the latter motivated by having his fiance gunned down by the purveyors of the eponymous 'snow'. An incredibly dated, noirish feel to this, the ambience of a film like Hell Drivers or perhaps An Unearthly Child. Either way, I was expecting William Hartnell to pop up as one of the drug gang. And I had no idea that the expression 'coked up' was in use when this was made.

Only one reel of it exists, apparently, so it's difficult to comment further than saying that it hasn't put me off watching the next one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another encounter with Urania, the library angel's astronomical counterpart, this evening: walking home I saw the Full Moon just rising and half obscured, apparently by cloud. Then discovered that a partial lunar eclipse had been in progress.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Poshness at the Leveson inquiry

While driving up the Wye valley on Monday morning I listened enthralled to Christopher Jefferies at the Leveson inquiry getting to use the phrase 'recusant priest'. There was also this great exchange:

Jay: Described as "posh, loved culture and poetry". You probably do still love culture and poetry...
Leveson: If you love culture and poetry, does that make you posh?
Jay: No. Two separate propositions. c. 36:30

Monday, October 10, 2011

Target: Battlefield

Marc Platt adapting an Aaronovitch script, and the result is exactly as you'd expect.

Like with Remembrance of the Daleks, there are very few changes to the central story, but there are a lot of extra background details.

A prologue shows us Arthur at the lake. Basically right, anything in this book that looks like mediaeval weaponry is a sophisticated technological device. I'm only going to tell you once, MP tells us hundreds of times. Likewise, the 'sisters' are from the Thirteen Worlds, etc etc etc. We see Arthur's meeting with Merlin, who talks rather like the Third Doctor but probably isn't him, what with wearing a brown felt hat and a tatty Afghan coat and having finger cymbals about his person.

Bambera gets the standard NA combatwank treatment. I can't stand characters who give distances in 'clicks'. She's also undergone the standard grittification process, spending for example a night on the whisky in her quarters at UNIT HQ.

The screen version takes place in 'the future' but that's handled pretty lightly - the Target is still coy about the exact year (1998/99) but goes into far more detail about everything else. Inevitably some of this stuff has been overtaken by history (few modern-day readers will be impressed by EPROM cartridges, or the reference to the ECU) but some of it isn't bad, like the idea that the 2CV runs on methane and the further developments in crisp flavours. Also thrown in are references to the warming climate, a colony of wild wallabies near the hotel and the Russians as top international cricketers.

We get Excalibur's POV during the gale when it signals to the falling TARDIS (yes, literally falling through the atmosphere due to gravity).

Mordred is first seen on the piss in a tavern - one of his problems is that, being immortal, he outlives all his drinking companions and has to find new ones. His current one is starting to bore him, and when he is summoned by Morgaine he leaves him excellently 'asleep among the last dregs of their friendship.'

The Doctor speculates that UNIT is 'probably coldly technological and characterless' without the Brigadier; a fair assumption from what follows.

Dr Warmsly has a big comedy dog called Cerberus, who is very funny indeed.

Ace notices that Liz Shaw's UNIT card expired on the 31.12.75, which favours the 'few years in the future' UNIT dating theory. The Doctor tells her to act like a physicist (not think like one).

Bambera has attended lectures at Sandhurst given by 'Chunky' Gilmore.

Doris got back together with the Brigadier after seeing a TV documentary about UNIT. I don't really like this sort of thing but I grudgingly enjoyed the presenter's remark about the 'terrible ecological accident at Llanfairfach'.

The Doctor notes that Winifred is a form of the name Guinevere (vice versa really).

The TARDIS is described as a 'Seventies type' police box - well, future or not, we know Ian & Barbara came from 1963 so it can't possibly be, unless '70s' is some internal police coding.

There's some soldierly characterisation for Bambera: for example, when confronted by the armed knights she immediately appreciates the construction and defensive capacity of their armour.

Ancelyn is explicitly said to have a mischievous expression on his face when he says 'I don't talk to peasants': this is not apparent (to me) on screen where it jars with the rest of the way he's portrayed.

I'd never noticed the 'Let this be our last battlefield' quote before. The reference stands out more strongly on the page somehow.

In flight over London, the Brigadier spots various landmarks where he saw action with UNIT - Covent Garden and St Paul's. (He wasn't actually at St Paul's when the Cybermen appeared, but never mind).

Ace becomes very resentful of the Brigadier when he mentions that the Doctor has had other companions. It's all about her, isn't it? (This is hinted at in one of the deleted scenes). She and Shou Youing get eyed up by a couple of UNIT squaddies, which probably doesn't help.

The Doctor refers to Ancelyn as a 'perfick' gentil knight. Chaucer said 'parfit', this isn't the Darling Buds of May.

He also has an 8th-century Arthur fighting the invading Saxons. Only a fool would try and argue about what century Arthur came from, but the Saxons had finished invading by about AD 600.

And he says 'There will be no battle here' but it's explicitly stated that 'he did not shout.'

When the Destroyer first appears he's rather coolly wearing a modern suit. Soldiers attack him from the hotel lobby, but are promptly destroyed.

Shou Yuing half expects another demon to turn up for her to deal with - the Monkey King.

The Doctor mentally compares the Destroyer against the 7,405,926 demons on the Talmudic table - a rare Target appearance for Jewish mythology, following Harry Sullivan's ideas about the Golem in Sontaran Experiment.

The Doctor consults a pocket watch given to him in return for supplying a 'couple of one liners in The Marriage of Figaro'.

When Bambera is last seen, she's wearing a ring with the emblem of Ancelyn's noble house. What a romantic image.

I feel about this Target as I do about Remembrance: if you're going to adapt a story in NA style, this isn't too bad a way of doing it. And similarly, the differences from the screen version are largely in the background details, so at least it doesn't give too misleading a picture of the original story.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Target: Greatest Show in the Galaxy

The return of Stephen Wyatt, once again adapting his own script.

The Ringmaster is never specifically said to be rapping, just 'declaiming'. He has the air of a professional - but perhaps one who's been doing the job too long. The prologue has a whole list of these suggestions of things that the audience might find disturbing about the Psychic Circus, or on the other hand, might not. The final one is that we might wish we'd decided to stay at home and watch television instead.

The Doctor isn't bothered by the disappearance of his juggling ball, nor does he go looking for it in the ceiling; but he's properly concerned about how the advertising satellite manages to materialise inside the TARDIS. All the pictures it shows of Segonax are of a green, verdant landscape.

The hearse and funereal clothes are a considered choice by the Chief Clown, partly because they give an impression of legitimacy.

Nord is not seen until the Doctor and Ace are at the stall. His bike is not said to have more than two wheels. He likes sandwiches rather than burgers, and threatens the Doctor's nose rather than his face.

The 'nice walk in the countryside' joke is not used; instead Ace complains about the distance between the Circus and the place where the Doctor chose to land the TARDIS. He on the other hand has some new lines about Segonax having once been green and pleasant, and having friendly inhabitants (Ace's line about being 'chuffed', which seems like a non-sequitur on screen, might be a remnant of this passage?)

When we meet the Captain and Mags we hear the earlier part of his lecture about the valley, which on screen is delivered when he arrives at the Circus in his jeep later on: the valley he's talking about is on Neogorgon and was full of electronic dogs' heads submerged in mud. The robot head in the sand on Segonax can speak, pleading for release, and then issuing threats.

Like his counterpart Nord, we don't meet the Whizzkid till he arrives at the fruit stall, and this happens several intercuts earlier than it does on screen.

Nord is still some distance from the Circus when he asks the clown for directions: the latter is on a high wire in the middle of nowhere.

It takes a couple of extra scenes to get from the robot head to the bus; I think their purpose is to show us the Captain's selfishness in not giving the Doctor and Ace a lift there in his jeep. He refers to Ace pointedly as 'your young "friend"', I have no idea what's being aimed at here. The bus's hippy interior makes Ace think of her Aunt Rosemary's interminable, Captain Cook-style reminiscences of the Sixties.

The Doctor doesn't include a crocodile sandwich in his list of requests to the bus conductor robot.

Captain Cook got his double-headed coins in return for a supersonic pencil sharpener.

'Let me entertain you,' says the Chief Clown to Ace as the robots drag her away.

In the Doctor's remarks to Mags at the pit, there's a reference to his advising Rameses II on traps.

We do not see the Whizzkid being picked out of the audience by the Ringmaster - this is merely anticipated by Morgana. There is however an extra scene at the cage, where the Ringmaster, Morgana and the Chief Clown are discussing the importance of finding a new act. The Whizzkid interrupts the Chief Clown with an eager request for an autograph, causing him to stare incredulously.

When the Whizzkid has met his end, his smashed glasses are excellently described as 'the sole remaining souvenir' of the Circus' greatest fan.

Mags is upset by the Whizzkid's demise, partly because it's forcing her to give up her illusions about the Captain, who she'd previously admired. After the silver bullet line, by the way, he boasts that he's played whist with the Card Carrying Dervishes of Tyrade, and won.

The werewolf transformation gets an extra bit of declamation from the Ringmaster, declaring that it's quite a surprise.

Ace thinks of using Nord's bike to get her and Deadbeat to the bus, but it isn't working again.

Morgana and the Ringmaster's disappearing act is slightly different: each box turns out to contain a series of concentric smaller boxes inside it, the last box being empty (not even the top hat).

Just before going into the arena, the Doctor explains to Mags that the Chief Clown is after the medallion now as it's his only hope.

The hearse actually crashes into the end of the fruit stall, rather than just being delayed by it. I expect the hearse hire company wouldn't have stood for that on screen.

'You know what I really like about you, Kingpin? ... you've stopped singing,' Ace tells him on the way back from the bus.

After the Doctor challenges the Gods by reminding them that he's fought against them all through time, the narrator adds that 'other free-wheeling and questioning spirits' have joined the same fight.

Mags is horrified by the final demise of the Captain.

At the denouement, the circus tent sinks into the ground (rather than just collapsing). Leaflets are scattered for miles around.

There's a nice coda in which Kingpin's invitation to stay is followed by the Doctor's reflection that this moment has come countless times before: 'The moment of farewell when others wanted him to stay. The moment of going gracefully.'

This is one of my favourite stories, and, like Kinda and Castrovalva, one which the Target first showed me the real virtues of when the screen version had gone right over my head on original broadcast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Target: Silver Nemesis

Another self-adaptation - pretty much the norm in the later era - by Kevin Clarke. There's a problem with this comparison - the screen version people are most likely to see is the 'extended' video edition, and comparing to that would be like comparing to the DVDs including deleted scenes, which I've resolutely not done in previous cases. The problem is that I'm not 100% sure which bits are deleted scenes. The Ministry of Truth were hard at work on the history of this story before the 'Restoration' Team were even thought of. So I may have missed some Target additions where those additions are also in the 'extended' version.

There's an opening pan across space to Earth, which appears 'as a backcloth to some small theatrical performance taking place on a limited budget', and the Nemesis meteor.

Then it's straight to the Doctor and Ace at the pub on Sunday afternoon. The weather seen on screen is not very November-like, and here it's definitely said to be summer. (November 23rd 1988 was a Wednesday, so this can't be the same day as the action in Windsor and at the crypt anyway).

If you like jazz and think the Doctor should like it too, there are lots of descriptions of his thoughts in this book that you're going to enjoy. If you preferred it when he liked Buddhism, you're not so lucky. The band aren't famous enough for Ace to want an autograph, she just buys one of their tapes instead.

Intercut with this is the archery scene with Lady Peinforte (aiming at a blackbird not a pigeon) and the scene with the mathematician. The imminent demise of the latter is signalled when Lady P asks Richard, with sinister politeness, to close the door.

(The transcriber points out that the mathematician's prediction doesn't allow for the adjustment of the calendar by omitting 11 days in 1752. I wish that had occurred to me. Perhaps the Doctor included that fact in the information on the card?)

There's an appalling Rocketman-style cheat when the semi-Cybes attack by the river: 'The force of the bullets threw the Doctor and Ace headlong into the water.' Are they wearing bulletproof vests or something?

The Nazi scenes begin here.

'I always liked the Eighties. They were a time of great certainty in England,' remarks the Doctor after his miraculous escape.

Lady P and Richard materialise in the Princess of Wales Burger Bar in Windsor, which is empty. Most of their scenes have extra bits: for example, she mentions not being married, and when she speaks of reckoning with the Doctor, there's a flash of lightning on cue.

The Doctor doesn't put glasses on to hypnotise the royal protection squad. The portrait of Ace bit from the extended edition is included.

Nemesis lands on a building site - this is important later on during Ace's fight with the Cybermen.

Richard's prayers and good resolutions during the Cyber-combat are given at greater length. Very funny dialogue even without Gerard Murphy. The Cyberleader does not know who Lady Peinforte is. At least one policeman survives this scene.

The extended scene where the Doctor and Ace return to 1638 to burn the card that gave the mathematician his start, and to move the chess pieces, is not used.

It's giraffes, not llamas, that terrify Richard in the safari park. The narrator says that neither he nor Lady P can read the warning sign: surely if she has some Latin, she can read English too?

De Flores and Karl are not seen looking at a map. They don't appear until the Ring of the Nibelungen bit. The line about Wagner needing to be rewritten is postponed until they're in the crypt.

The sight gag with the Doctor pouring marbles into Ace's hands in response to her 'Have you lost your marbles?' question is not used. There's an extra line in this scene about having to keep the Cybermen talking.

The extended edition bit with de Flores throwing gold dust at the Cybermen in the crypt is used.

The applause at the end of the jazz transmission stirs long-forgotten memories in the Cyberleader.

Ace and the Doctor's chess moves with the bow and the Cybermen are preceded by a bit where the Doctor taunts the Cybermen for talking in a dull way. 'Everything's always "Kill him," or "Excellent"', he says, doing an impression of the Cyberleader.

There's no further visit to 1638 to fiddle with the chessboard and pick up the gold coins. The ones the Doctor gives to Ace are just produced from his pocket.

The highly amusing American lady is called Mrs Hackensack (not Remington). Having given her a comedy American name, KC has written himself into a corner and has to call her ancestors' house Hackensack Grange. Hackensack, like most stock funny American names, isn't remotely English but Dutch, so that's a very unlikely name for an English country house.

Lady P and Richard are astonished to be going as fast as 30mph in the car, as they would be.

The fact that the statue's landing site is a building site, not just a warehouse, comes into play when the Cybermen pursue Ace through the half-built house, with much plaster dust and shattering brickwork. This does make the fight rather more exciting. She climbs down a drainpipe at one point, which reminds her of sneaking out of her parents' house back in Perivale. 'I've heard of metal fatigue, but you lot are pathetic,' she shouts at the Cybes.

Although Ace seems to place the Nitro-9 on screen, I can't see her actually trying to detonate it. In the book, the detonator is crushed by the Cyberlieutenant before she can use it.

During the Doctor's instructions to Nemesis, he's described as 'the most mysterious being in space and time.'

In the final Lady P/Doctor/Cyberleader confrontation, some of her lines are missed out and shortened. She doesn't mention Gallifrey, the old time, or the chaos. But she also has some extra lines about the statue being the Doctor's creation, and when Ace says that she knows he's a Time Lord, Lady P replies 'And you think that is all.' The Cyberleader, by the way, doesn't say anything about the secrets of the Time Lords meaning nothing to them. Finally, Lady P isn't just dismissed from the exchange, she joins Ace in her horror at the idea of giving the bow to the Cybermen.

Once Richard understands what 'giving him a lift' means, he says 'methinks I hear celestial music.' This leads into the final scene - a return visit to the jazz pub and his referring to the barman as the potman. I much prefer the finish with flute/lute ensemble back in 1638 myself - as I do the Doctor's original response to the 'Who are you?' question. On the page, instead of enigmatically putting a finger to his lips, he winks and smiles as if he's in the opening credits.

I'm not so keen on this Target - it seems to fiddle unnecessarily with the enjoyable bits of the screen version without improving the story. But the extra Richard/Lady Peinforte bits are worth having, if like me you think that the duo are the best thing in the story by miles.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Target: The Happiness Patrol

Graeme C adapting his own script here. He fills in plot holes and gets things that were realised differently back the way he wanted. When this means trying to make the story grittier, I don't think he's successful, because the story is basically an allegory, and like all allegories, analogies and metaphors, the more closely you look at it the more it comes apart.

Daphne S is looking sad because her son's just been disappeared. She thinks Silas P might be trustworthy because he's reading a copy of the secret underground killjoy paper, The Grief - this isn't seen on screen till the scene where he tries to entrap the Doctor.

After meeting Trevor Sigma, the Doctor and Ace visit the Kandy Kitchen, which has a handy, clearly marked, unlocked external door. Something, though we're not shown what, is clearly present under the manhole.

We don't see the Happiness Patrol painting the TARDIS pink until after they have encountered Earl, and given him his smiley sticker. Many scenes are shifted back and forth relative to the screen version like this, from here on I'm only reporting those changes that seem to have a significant effect on the story. On the other hand, there's a lot less intercutting, we rarely leave and return to the same scene once it's in progress.

The Pipe People are the original inhabitants of Terra Alpha. They used to live off the wild sugar-beet in which the planet abounds.

The Happiness Patrol jeeps play ice-cream van chimes (their vehicles just make beeping noises on screen). And the Patrol themselves wear paramilitary uniforms - I suppose their base clothing on screen could be described as such. They are not said to have pink hair: only Helen A is definitely said to have the distinctive screen coiffure.

Trevor Sigma visits the Kandy Kitchen and converses with Gilbert M, who he met on a previous visit to Terra Alpha. His purpose is to interview the Kandy Man, who is introduced at this point: he is not said to be anything other than human - a powerfully built man in a lab coat, with red glasses and a bow tie. However, his skin is coated with what we suspect to be sugar, and his feet make sucking sounds on the floor as he walks. (I wonder if this is the original concept, or a post-production redesign?) He dismisses Trevor Sigma immediately.

Fifi is the last Stigorax on Terra Alpha. Helen A hunted her down personally.

The man being gunged is Andrew X, a subversive killjoy writer and the brother who Harold V has just spoken of. Although he published anonymously, the Patrol tracked him down by putting together all the local references in his writings. A lesson for all bloggers and Target comparators there.

Distracted by the call to start the execution, the Kandy Man accidentally cuts off his thumb. This annoys him as he'll have to waste time reattaching it. These hints that, while he may look human, he actually isn't, are quite disturbing in their cumulative effect.

Ace takes the piss out of Susan Q after being arrested, asking if she's Valerie V - Zelda Z - Wendy W? The 'blues songs' reference is expanded into a back story about her collection of blues 78s and previous occupation as a singer and dancer.

Following her 'disappearing act', Ace is rearrested and taken before Helen A, to be menaced by Fifi. During this scene Susan Q is brought in and roughed up. The 'Up the killjoys!' demo scene is then inserted before Ace and Susan Q both end up in the Waiting Zone.

There's some extra chat between the snipers, David S and Alex S, which establishes that Alex is the evil one of the pair.

We're shown the outside of Helen A's residence, with its neglected rosebeds.

On his way back to the Kandy Kitchen, the Doctor has an extra establishing encounter with the stage doorman at the Forum, Ernest P. During their next scene together, Priscilla P is on the doors, checking the theatregoers for killjoy tendencies by testing out jokes on them.

Ace and Susan Q's journey to the Forum under Patrol guard is interrupted by an attack from a killjoy sniper.

Having seen Fifi apparently crushed under the crystallised sugar, the Doctor instructs Earl and Susan Q to deal with Priscilla P, which we duly see them do.

The only time that the sex of the newscaster is mentioned, he's a man (always female on screen).

The Kandy phone is made out of twisty blue and pink sweets.

Having told Ace that she mustn't join in the 'wanton destruction of public property', the Doctor winks and says 'But in this case, yes.' Tsk.

Asked by Joseph C about the origins of the Kandy Man, Gilbert has a long reverie about how he came to flee Vasilip with the mind of his friendly rival, Seivad, in a suitcase. Helen A made him create a monster out of Seivad (whose mind was twisted with anger and injustice, and probably from being put in a suitcase too I reckon). 'He couldn't face long explanations,' remarks the narrator, and has him give the same short reply as on screen.

In the shuttle, Joseph C realises he's still holding Fifi's lead when he tells Helen A that she must have slipped his mind.

The manhole covers leading from the pipes up into the palace sensibly all have combination locks, but this doesn't hold the Doctor up long. He enters Helen A's office by sliding down a pole from the Patrol guardroom above.

The fleeing Helen A still has some courage while the muzak is playing - and is correspondingly disheartened when it's replaced by the harmonica music. The Doctor's final words in this scene are 'It's done' not 'Tis done'.

Priscilla and Daisy's final exchange is only referred to in summary. Ace wants to go after Joseph and Gilbert, but Susan says to forget it, as it was the Kandy Man who was evil, not Gilbert.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Target: Remembrance of the Daleks

Shades of the NA treatment from Ben Aaronovitch here - but there's also a hard SF theme fighting for dominance. Together with the lighter tone of parts of the original story this is an uncomfortable mixture, but one which makes for an interesting read.

The events of the story are almost exactly the same. There's a prologue where the First Doctor returns to 76 Totters Lane only to hear the words 'It's Susan,' and realise that he's about to be considerably delayed. Coal Hill is in Shoreditch (rather than just being filmed there). The French Revolution book is not seen (they got the cover wrong on screen anyway). Ace watches Muffin The Mule on telly, not the Unearthly Child continuity announcement. The 'cane-cutter' scene takes place in a different cafe, down by the docks. The vapourisation of Skaro by the supernova is seen.

The real differences are in the expanded character back-stories, so I'll present them character by character:

The Doctor - is very much the omniscient Cartmel Masterplan Doctor. There are some flashbacks to conversations between Rassilon, Omega and an 'other', who we are at liberty to think is him. He also hypnotises Rachel into forgetting the deductions she makes about fibre optics and holograms from watching him at work.

Ace - three characterisations at war here. Ace of the NAs, all explosive recipes, weapons obsession and awareness of Mike looking at her breasts. 'White kids' Ace, struck by the monocultural Coal Hill School. And shouty Marmalade Atkins Ace with her baseball bat, explosive deodorant cans and attempts to cook plutonium in the TARDIS microwave. The three Aces do not sit easily together.

Rachel Jensen - constantly amazed by the Doctor's abilities and knowledge to the point that it becomes annoying. Romantically involved with Gilmore during the war when she was in the WAAF (and may get together with him again after the end of the book). Also worked with Turing. Is Jewish, and at one point has a dream of her childhood synagogue with the Doctor in the rabbi's place.

Allison - same as Rachel really. 'She's doing it again. I hate it when she does that,' she thinks when Ace makes another casual tech reference. Exactly what I began to feel about her and Rachel's POV bits.

Sgt Mike Smith - running wild as a kid in bombed-out post-war London, he met Ratcliffe and was given chocolate and a lot of warped ideas about Jews and communists. Also has memories of service in Malaya.

Not UNIT - in the Dragonfire comparison I complained about the absence of the tea-and-grumbling style of military characterisation. This makes a welcome return in this Target, so one up to BA there. But there's also some rhapsodic specification porn about the FN-FAL rifle. Get out of it, this is a DW adaptation not the Commando War Picture Library. One of the chapter epigraphs is from a History of UNIT, and states that Not UNIT were indeed the origin of that organisation.

Gp Capt Gilmore - is only referred to as Chunky once, by his men, out of his hearing. It's clearly not a nickname his friends use. Good thing too - if ever a sound DW character was weakened by a silly name, it was Gilmore on screen. He's the conscientious CO who recalls his men's biographical details when they're killed. And he's disturbed (in a serious, 'I know what war is really like' way) by Ace's enthusiasm for weaponry.

The Daleks - this is where the hard SF style I mentioned comes in. There's much Dalek POV with descriptions of their support systems and technology. They have lots of little servo robots on their ships - and the ships have names. That last point made me realise that the style in these passages is rather reminiscent of how Iain Banks would write about Daleks, if he chose to do so.
It's implied that they achieved the final extermination of the Thals (well, I reckon they escaped). They have a special name for the Doctor. None of them like the Special Weapons Dalek, or 'the Abomination' as they think of it.
Humans 'make dangerous slaves' - an astute observation, since every time we've seen the Daleks employing unhealthy coughing humanoids, it's ended in disaster.
The Time Controller is still a plasma globe.

Ratcliffe - has 'the bearing of a soldier', which is odd because he was interned throughout the war for being a fascist. He has glorious memories of Cable Street so was probably in the BUF itself. The Dalek controller just appeared one day in his office. And he impressed Mike the week before the story opened by having advance knowledge of the Kennedy assassination!

Davros - is obviously the Emperor much earlier on in the action, thanks to some fairly broad hints in the description of his thoughts.

John the cane-cutter's son - is comforted by the thought of his alternate African self.

The vicar - is named Parkinson (incorrectly referred to as Reverend Parkinson. Rev John Smith, Mr Smith but never Rev Smith). He was blinded at Verdun. Another explicit reference to the Seventh Doctor's Scottish accent in his scene.

The Hand of Omega - is semi-sentient and gets several POV scenes.

Considering this Target as an adaptation of the screen version, I don't like it at all, it's hardly DW and the Doctor, for all the hints about his cosmic importance, is seen almost entirely from other people's point of view. As an experiment in writing DW in a contemporary way, it isn't bad, it's certainly better than the actual NAs though it has enough of their faults to put me off it.

(Thanks to Zone posters for corrections/quibbling)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Target: Dragonfire

Really wasn't looking forward to this one, as I find the story extremely dull and I didn't fancy reading Ian Briggs' treatment of it. But will I have to eat my words and say that it helped make the story more interesting, again?

Mel is standing on her head when first seen. Her stroppy attitude when offered a jelly baby makes the Doctor reflect that he never had an older sister.

The little girl, Stellar, has a best friend back at home called Milli-mind. It's made clear that the people in the Freezer Centre have stopped there on space journeys to stock up with food. It doesn't make it that much more realistic, but it's better than the screen version where it just seems like there's a contemporary supermarket in space for no good reason.

The Iceworld cafe is run by a man named Eisenstein, not Anderson. Ian Briggs wants to give the place more the ambience of the Mos Eisley cantina than the Children's BBC atmosphere shown on screen. Amongst the extra lines given to Glitz is one where, having failed to get the Doctor to help him get the hundred crowns, he appeals to Mel: 'think of the adventures we had together...'

The Doctor is able to correct Mel's pronunciation of 'Loch Ness' because he has an 'authentic Scottish accent' in this incarnation. I know that might sound like stating the obvious but it was never explicitly referred to on screen.

The 'real McCoy' joke is not used.

Ace doesn't tip a second milkshake over Eisenstein. Amongst the mess observed by Mel in her bedroom are many discarded items of underwear. The story of the explosion in the school art room ends with the first years' pottery pigs all over the sports field.

At the Singing Trees, Glitz refers to crowns and not grotzits when he sees the valuable crystals. There's an extra scene where he gets pinned under a block of ice and the Doctor saves his life, causing him to comment that the Doctor is an 'odd fish'. IB describes the Doctor, by the way, as having a peculiar face.

Ace resists Kane's temptation because she suddenly sees him as telling her to do as she's told, just like her parents and teachers did.

Glitz finds the Ice Garden and realises it's functioning as a planetarium.

The Doctor's actions at the ice cliff are carefully explained: he wants to climb down because that's the only way forwards into the tunnels. He hangs off his umbrella because the cracks in the ice that he's using for holds are too far apart, and the umbrella extends his reach.

Ace and Mel's climb down the cliff is much expanded. They use climbing gear, and there's this bizarre conversation:

'I think you've got that harness on upside-down. I think those tight straps are supposed to go between your legs.'
Ace looked down, and giggled. 'It's a good job I'm not a boy!' she laughed. Mel smiled - and then she began to laugh as well. This wasn't going to be a bit like they always showed it on telly!

One of Ace's Nitro-9 canisters springs a leak on the way down, and Mel saves her. Much bonding results. This comes to mind later on, when Ace and Mel hide from the undead crewmembers in a crack in the ice (not under some stairs):

She held Mel tight in the darkness. Her cheek was pressed against Mel's. She could feel her gentle breathing.

Bazin and McLuhan (the ANT-hunting soldiers) think and are described in traditional NA style - all lock-and-load and weapon specifications. I never find this impressive when it crops up in the newer Targets, I prefer the tea-and-grumbling style of soldiering of the UNIT era. (Which, significantly, was written by people who had fought real wars).

During the argument between Glitz and Ace about who's going to the Nosferatu to get the explosive, we're told that 'he always had trouble with feminists - usually because they were right and he was wrong.' It sounds like Glitz is thinking that but that doesn't make sense. Anyway, there's an extra bit where Ace and Mel disobediently follow him and find him waiting round a corner looking cross, so they go back and play I-spy.

All the docked spaceships have people crowding onto them to escape Kane's mercenaries, and he blows all of them up.

Stellar's mother orders Glitz to start looking for her child.

At the point where Ace takes the short-cut to her quarters, there's graffiti on the wall saying ACE 4 WAYNE (the book has a picture, very unusual for a late Target). Wayne, she explains, is her soft toy dog. She actually reaches her quarters here, only to be dragged away by Kane.

Stellar encounters Kane getting out of his fridge. She has Teddy tells him that he's sorry for disturbing him. Kane ignores Teddy and Stellar. When she takes Teddy out of the fridge later, she drops him and he shatters into bits, making her cry. Poignantly, the tears turn into ice crystals before they hit the floor.

Glitz takes the Nitro-9 from Ace's room and uses it to wire up the cryogenics chamber. The Doctor and Mel meet him here. She hitches up her skirt to climb over the detonator wires - on screen she's wearing trousers. The remaining mercenaries attack: although the Nitro won't explode, Glitz desperately throws Ace's toy dog Wayne (which he finds in her holdall) at them, and being full of nitroglycerin, it explodes.

There's no tannoy announcement from 'Captain Glitz'.

This Target does make the story clearer, but this time that still wasn't enough to make me enjoy it. Glitz is the best thing in it in either version.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Target: Delta and the Bannermen

Malcolm Kohll adapting his own script. My edition has DELTA AND THE BANNERMAN on the spine, which I trust is a mistake.

There's a TARDIS scene to start with with the Doctor and Mel's tea being interrupted by the tollport message, and some business about getting money out of the kitty. This was scripted but not screened, I believe, and similarly unscreened bits are scattered throughout the book. Some of them are just half lines and won't be noted separately unless they're particularly interesting. This is a comparison, not a dual text with critical apparatus.

Mel uses 'her best Spaniel look' to persuade the Doctor to take the prize holiday.

Only when the prize has been offered do we cut to the action on Chumeria. The Bannermen aren't just a mercenary band, there's a whole race of them, trying to take over the Chimerons' planet (they polluted their own one). Both species appear to live for thousands of years.

Hawk and Weismuller have been posted to Wales, England as a form of demotion. If they do well, they'll get re-promoted. They get their instructions to call the White House from a message hidden in a film canister inside a hollow tree.

Murals at the tollport depict various species of alien travellers: Mel recognises three of them, none of which have been involved in televised adventures.

Navarino is a 'tri-polar' moon.

Weismuller bemoans the lack of doo-wop on his radio (rather than of rock'n'roll). There are extra remarks from the unscreened bits of script in all these scenes with the agents.

It's not stated that the Doctor uses his umbrella to activate the TARDIS vortex drive.

Two Navarinos question Billy about his motorbike. They're impressed once they realise it's a form of transport.

After the unsuccessful navipod repair, the Doctor mentions that he used to have a sonic screwdriver. There's also an exchange with Billy here which makes clear that he didn't fancy Ray even before Delta came along.

At dinner the Doctor tells Mel to persuade Delta to come to the dance, as it might encourage her to relax and confide in them.

Billy turns up at the chalet with a bouquet in time for the Chimeron egg cliffhanger, instead of after the egg has opened.

Vinny, the camp announcer - er, the announcer at the holiday camp - is described as wrinkled, rather than the smooth young man seen on screen.

The 'special place' to which Billy takes Delta is a beach, not a riverbank.

Neither Ray nor Burton says anything in Welsh in the 'space buns' scene. (On screen she says 'Mae'n wir' (it's true) and he says something which I can't catch.) He doesn't ask to go for a spin in the TARDIS, but he wants to get one for the camp next year, and plans to write an article about it for Campers Weekly.

Vinny was Burton's batman in the army, which accounts for his wish not to retreat from the camp, and also of course for his greater age in the novel. Once Burton's got rid of the staff, he eats a bar of chocolate, something he always does in a crisis. From this point on he's given a lot of military thoughts about the Doctor's strategy and the importance of following orders.

Murray makes a rather ponderous response to Mel's remark about the Navarinos not needing to do much packing: Navarinos travel light because in their natural form they don't need clothing. She joins him in directing mental energy at the crystal.

Burton does not say anything about having been a major rather than a captain.

The American agents don't actually see the Bannermen ship coming in to land (perhaps the effect was too expensive for the Target!) Gavrok announces his presence with a piercing whistle rather than a horn call.

Mel feels guilty about the destruction of the Navarinos, because Murray delayed their departure trying to persuade her to come with them. The subsequent Bannermen attack on the motorbike convoy is very impressive, leaving the field cratered and burning.

Mel thanks Burton for his 'hostage' idea: he says that he's dealt with scoundrels like this before, and that it's all a matter of psychology.

Burton is very impressed by the Doctor's calm rescuing of him and Mel from the Bannermen: but he can't tell whether it's a clever ploy or just very valourous behaviour. Either way, it's good material for the work on the human condition he's apparently writing (hence the 'psychology' line earlier).

While the Doctor is busy off-screen (and off-page) with Mel's ribbon and the goat, Weismuller does some empty boasting about how he saw off the Bannermen who shackled him and Hawk.

The flight from Goronwy's farm in the cramped car comes with bonus humour along the lines of 'that's why they call it a Morris Minor'.

It's Bannerman Arrex who Delta shoots, and Callon who survives report to Gavrok. The script I've got has them the other way round.

Gavrok shoots Goronwy's radio halfway through Blue Moon, not the song heard on screen (Lollipop.) Attacked by the bees, the Bannermen take refuge in the reservoir next to the farm, getting stung every time they bob up for air.

'He must really love me,' thinks Delta when she finds out that Billy has been eating the royal jelly.

Hawk reacts badly to being zapped by the sonic cone - he starts staring into space and failing to help with the fire precautions, which causes tension with Weismuller.

'Those Bannermen will be sorry they ever left - er - wherever it was they came from,' Billy tells Delta stoutly.

The signal for the 'singing' to start is conveyed by tugging the speaker wire, the other end of which Delta is holding. Only then do the Doctor and Ray leave the roof.

Ray consoles herself for the loss of Billy, and the impending departure of her new friends Mel and the Doctor, with the thought that 'Wales wasn't that bad...'

Hawk recovers his courage once the Bannermen are tied up. 'That will teach you to mess with us earthlings,' he keeps saying.

Goronwy's symbolic explanation about the new young queen is omitted. In its place there's a scene where Billy and the Doctor collect a box of bits for the Vincent - this makes his gift of the bike to Ray seem better considered.

The Doctor's comment about how the Vincent might be improved is moved to just before Ray's departure, so that she gets to go out on a note of self-assertion with her 'best there is' comment.

The final scene (of the screen version) is slightly rearranged, the principal difference being that Goronwy invites the agents to come to tea one day. Weismuller seems pleased by this.

Unfortunately... there's an Epilogue with some really weak humour about the Bannermen captives planning to set up a rug-weaving collective, and an account of Billy's impressions of the brood planet and the galactic palace of justice. Delta and the Bannermen is only just serious enough a story to work as DW at all - this sub-sub-Adams whimsy tacked on the end just makes the whole story seem silly.

There are then final sights of the agents, Goronwy, and Ray, and a TARDIS closing scene. Goronwy's bit works best. My task as a comparator is done if I just point out that the Epilogue is all new material.

Apart from that Epilogue this is quite an enjoyable Target. DATB itself has grown on me over the years, and the novel recaptures the blend of fun and poignancy that makes it work.

(Thanks to Ohica for correcting my cheating memory re Lollipop/My Boy Lollipop)

Target: Paradise Towers

Stephen Wyatt adapts his own script for this Target. One of my favourites too, I get the impression he himself at one time was faced with winning the respect of a group of 'Kangs'.

The initial TARDIS scene is placed first, before our first sight of the last Yellow Kang. 'Leave her for the cleaners' as shouted at her is merely a symbolic threat, by the way; it doesn't suggest that her pursuers expect her to be made unalive. The poor girl's life in the empty Yellow Kang Brainquarters is described with some pathos.

The saddest thing in Fountain of Happiness Square is the fountain itself, dry and full of rubbish. Shallowtown had just such a fountain.

The doomed Caretaker's thoughts inform us that the Cleaners have only recently been fitted with huge claws, they aren't standard equipment. His walkie-talkie is actually a Long Distance Communication Expediter.

The Red Kangs fire not one arrow but two at the Doctor and Mel - pinning them neatly to the wall through their clothing. Mel finds that their style reminds her of samurai; also, the pat-a-cake greeting ritual is both risible and menacing.

The Doctor's impression of the Kangs is of an odd mixture of toughness and vulnerability. The Caretakers, on the other hand, have something solid and comforting about them, even if their uniforms seem to him like tatty cinema commissionaires' outfits.

Pex is closer to the original conception of the character - he actually does have big pecs and an imposing physical presence.

The Chief Caretaker can't quite remember how he acquired his basement 'pet'.

The Kangs get into the Caretaker HQ to rescue the Doctor by using a keycard.

Investigating Maddy's report of the disappearance of Tilda and Tabby, the Chief Caretaker asks Maddy whether she has eaten them.

The Red Kangs refer to their video, on which the Doctor shows them the Illustrated Prospectus, as the Picturespout. They ask him a lot of questions about other worlds, and are amazed to hear that there are no Kangs thereon. This 'gave them much to think about and discuss in the days to come.'

Only Bin Liner and Fire Escape accompany the Doctor to the basement, Air Duct is not selected or named.

The Blue Kang leader is called Drinking Fountain.

The possessed Chief Caretaker has a voice of 'soft steely power', rather than a pissed-up slurred drawl. And his uniform has turned glistening white.

Pex and Mel enter the Pool in the Sky via a carpeted corridor decorated with murals and potted plants.

The reason that the Great Architect (conveniently) forbade surveillance of the Pool in the Sky is so that it would never be overlooked by prying human flesh.

Kroagnon asks Pex why the latter wants to help him get rid of the 'mobile rubbish'. Pex says it's because he doesn't belong.

All the remaining Caretakers are present at Pex's funeral, not just the Deputy and principals.

The Doctor's hat-raise to the piece of scrap metal and Mel's 'No, Doctor' are left out, wisely I think because we have a better ending here. It is from behind the dematerialising TARDIS that the famous wall-scrawled words are revealed: PEX LIVES.

Oddly, that was how I remembered the actual episode ending in 1987, a good couple of decades before I got hold of the book. The memory may cheat, but then that's a good director's job.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Target: Time and the Rani

Another Pip & Jane Baker adaptation to begin the Seventh Doctor era. It's the Sixth Doctor who's centre stage as we open: his last action is to try and set the TARDIS Hostile Action Displacement System, which he forgot to switch on earlier. The energy attack on the TARDIS is played up a bit to make it seem a more convincing reason for regeneration, or as P&JB choose to put it, 'Regeneration had been triggered by the tumultuous buffeting.'

Ikona is revolted by the feel of Mel's hair and unscaly skin.

We're given a description of the Rani's laboratory, complete with 'megabyte computers', but then told 'The Doctor was aware of none of this.' The Bakers don't feel the need to write from the perspective of any particular character, they write as if they're controlling a camera. (Or indeed cutting and pasting from a script.)

There's a reason for the Doctor's pratfall down the stairs: he thinks he's still 6ft tall, so his umbrella hand isn't quite where he expected.

When Urak goes to look for Mel at the TARDIS, he soon picks up her 'spores' - is she turning into a mushroom?

Style standouts:
'The real Mel's head was poked into something too - a halter!'
'Flight, the fugitive Doctor decided, should not be a rash skedaddle.'
'A paradox. By temperament poles apart from Beyus, the abrasive Ikona was about to experience the same foreboding.'

The Tetrap lair is repeatedly described as an eyrie, which kept making me think of it as high on a mountainside rather than underground.

The Rani is still in her first incarnation. The explanation about the tyrannosaurus in her TARDIS snapping its neck, used in The Ultimate Foe, is given again.

Mel comes from Pease Cottage, but that might be just over-zealous proof-reading.

The Tetraps speak Tetrapyriarban, which is English written backwards (like the Master's invocation of Azal in the Target of The Daemons). P&JB acknowledge this unusual relationship between the two languages but don't explain it.

The scene with the hologram of Mel has an explanation from the narrator beginning 'A hologram is...' Some of the other Target authors do use this children's book device - like Malcolm Hulke with the D-notices in Green Death - but they usually channel it through one of the characters. ('Sarah had once researched an article on holograms - weren't they some kind of projection...')

The Doctor and Mel's escape from the lab, while the Rani is calming the giant brain down, is enlivened by an extra scene where a Tetrap guard breaks a phial containing one of the Rani's deadly concoctions. It instantly coats his entire body in fungus and suffocates him. Very gruesome.

When the Doctor deduces that the Rani is trying to make Helium Two, there's an extra bit where she compliments him on his potential for brilliance. It reminds him of the debates they used to have at university, and he begins to think she isn't beyond redemption. It's just a ploy by her though.

The ornate flask of hornet antidote has a 'rocco' stopper. Rococo?

Another TARDIS dematerialisation sound simile for the list - the Rani's TARDIS departs with 'a bellow like a ruptured elephant.'

The scientists spend their journey back to their proper times in the comfortable lounge of the Doctor's TARDIS.

Once again I'm forced to admit that, despite the enduringly odd style, this Target did make me think better of the story. In general the Seventh Doctor's adventures do seem better once you've got a clearer idea of what's actually supposed to be happening.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Target: The Ultimate Foe

Pip'n'Jane Baker again. I won't be picking on their bizarre style so much in this Target: that isn't because it's not on display, but because it seems to fit this surreal story much better than it did Mark of the Rani.

The Time Lord space station is surrounded by a perpetual electric storm.

In the courtroom, the Doctor has worked out that the Inquisitor unconsciously displays uncertainty by adjusting her sash of office.

Glitz is shaking with fear on arrival because he thinks he might be dead. Mel pinches him to prove that he isn't.

The Doctor's cheeks are described as 'chubby'.

Glitz refers to 'grotzis' rather than 'grotzits' throughout.

Yrcanos is said to be the chief of a tribe on Ravolox - either that's a mistake or the Mindwarp novelisation establishes some startling new facts about him. Also, he apparently won Peri's affections 'by fair means or foul'. Intriguing.

Mel and the Master have an exchange via that's similar in tone, but not in content, to the one about compliments that was scripted but not used on screen. He taunts her with a question about whether red hair really denotes temper on Earth, and calls here a 'fiery vixen'.

When Glitz's harpoon-proof jacket is revealed, we're told that he sleeps in pyjamas made of Attack Repulsor Polycrenam pongee.

The infiltration of the Matrix was made possible because the Time Lords outsourced maintenance to the Elzevirs of Leptonica: the Master hypnotised their supervisor, Nilex. (He can't hypnotise Time Lords, apparently - doesn't the guard in Deadly Assassin count?)

Mel encounters a tyrannosaurus, not a dragon, in the Fantasy Factory waiting-room.

Have to mention one style issue: when P&JB are trying to say that the list of Time Lord names is definitely in the Doctor's handwriting, they say it bore 'the indelible curlicues of the Doctor's calligraphy.' Calligraphy is not a direct synonym for handwriting and indelible doesn't mean unmistakeable, even by extension.

The Master and Rani escaped from the tyrannosaurus in her TARDIS, because (as the Rani told him) it grew too large for the space and snapped its neck against the ceiling. He didn't believe her 'prosaic explanation' - and if ever there was a prosaic, anticlimactic explanation that is it - he prefers to think that he escaped because he's indestructible.

The sight of his TARDIS as a statue of Queen Victoria makes him reflect that even she is a lesser being compared to himself.

The Doctor's journey on the tumbril is accompanied by shouts of 'Madame Guillotine' and thrown tomatoes and cabbages.

The megabyte modem is still there, but it's spelt 'modum' throughout. We're led to believe though that it isn't really a modem, that's just Mel's interpretation. Working against this high-tech interpretation is the information that it contains vacuum tubes.

The insurrection on Gallifrey reported by the Keeper was sparked off by the Master spreading news of the High Council's machinations.

The final courtroom scene begins with a description of the room which seems to be from the Doctor's perspective. But then he walks into the courtroom. Very confusing.

There's an epilogue where the Doctor returns Mel to Oxyveguramosa, where she was before she was called as a witness. He has to do this as otherwise he can't go back to where he was at the start of the trial. Pleasingly, when she gets out of the TARDIS, there's another TARDIS next to it - the one from her own timeline. Inside she finds her own Doctor, who she's pleased to see has been following her carrot juice regime - he's slimmer. There's a suggestion that this Doctor has just met her, because he's looking forward to having her on board.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Target: The Ambassadors of Death

I love Ambassadors but I didn't get to see it until last year, so I'm not as familiar with the screen version as I have been in some previous comparisons. This meant I had to go through novel and transcript line by line, and so this is a rather nit-picking comparison I'm afraid.

We know we're in Terrance Dicks' capable hands when Liz is introduced to us as 'good-looking in a rather severe way.'

The space programme is emphatically the European Space Programme throughout. Cornish's calmness is constantly mentioned - and he's also 'well aware of his good looks.'

When Liz returns to the laboratory with a cuppa for the Doctor, she finds him hunched over the telly, 'as if he wanted to climb inside to the Control Room'. The TV presenter is called Michael Wakefield, not John Wakefield.

The Doctor tells the soldiers that he doesn't approve of passes, not that he doesn't believe in them. (I wouldn't normally mention such triviala but this is a very close adaptation so far).

Cornish is persuaded to accept the Doctor's help because he feels 'the full impact of the Doctor's personality, a blend of formidable intelligence and tremendous charm.'

We get the Brigadier's military appreciation of the warehouse battle; he soon realises that the enemy are excellent shots, but seem to be trying not to hit his men.

In the scene where he abruptly orders Taltallian to help the Doctor, Cornish gets one back against the latter in personality terms: 'Cornish showed irritation so seldom that it was all the more effective,' we're told, and it leaves the Doctor somewhat nonplussed.

More soldierly thinking from the Brig when he immediately grasps the Doctor's warning about the gun-toting Taltallian being frightened: 'Nothing was more dangerous than a gun in the hand of a frightened man who was unused to firearms.'

Transmigration of object is a Time Lord technique 'somewhere between telekinesis and conjuring'.

When the Doctor tricks the captive Collinson into revealing his military training, he uses the parade-ground manner he learned at Waterloo.

Once the Doctor and Liz have worked out that the computer's been sabotaged by Taltallian, programmer Dobson sets to work to get it fixed.

TD is keen to make it clear that that Space Control were properly prepared to recover the capsule - the Recovery Team were in place on the heathland, and have already removed the parachutes and put it onto the lorry when the principals arrive.

The Brigadier doesn't like Bessie being involved in the convoy, as she 'lowered the military tone'.

After the Brigadier and Doctor have left the ministry, and Taltallian has emerged from hiding, his conversation with Sir James (Minister for Science and Technology) has an extra element where he demands that Sir James finds him a place to hide. He's told that he can stay at the Ministry.

Carrington's secret laboratory is in a Nissen hut at a top secret government research institute. His scientist Heldorf is a former refugee, hence the accent.

The Doctor counters Quinlan's point about the public becoming panic-stricken by suggesting that in a democracy they have a right to know. Carrington makes an interesting reply: 'Democracy can have disadvantages, Doctor. What we are doing is for the best.' That's an echo of the rhetoric used by Col David Stirling types who were becoming active at the time the story was written.

Reegan is introduced by a bit of back-story: he is indeed supposed to be Irish, but he had to leave the country after a difference of opinion with the IRA. (He was robbing banks on their behalf and hanging on to too much of the proceeds). Since then he's been a successful criminal in the US and elsewhere.

Heldorf and his colleague resist the thugs (fatally) because they've sussed out what Reegan means by 'when you've finished here.'

Reegan's van has decals for 'HEYHOE LTD, LAUNDERERS' and 'SILCOX BAKERIES' - not quite as seen on screen. He deliberately put his henchmen in the back with the ambassadors, to see how deadly they were. And of course now he doesn't have to pay them.

The Brigadier doesn't ask Carrington about who knew the location of Heldorf's laboratory. When the General apologises to the Doctor, he does so with 'that sudden diffidence of his'.

Lennox's laboratory is situated in an abandoned army bunker. He was stripped of his degrees for falsifying his experimental results - and sacked for falsifying the accounts of his college. That's academics for you.

Quinlan and Carrington have a longer discussion about how to deal with the situation. The General offers to arrest Cornish, but Quinlan says it would cause a scandal which could bring down the Government. They also speculate about who kidnapped the ambassadors: it could be any of Britain's enemies, or any of its allies. (Bit of politics there).

Reegan doesn't just put gloves on to venture into the isolation chamber, he goes out to his van and gets the radiation suit (would have looked boring on screen I suppose).

Liz runs across the bridge at the weir because she can see there are people about on the other side. 'Her high white boots weren't really meant for running,' remarks the narrator. That could have been said a good few times in the UNIT years. She's doing pretty well on screen though.

Taltallian and Cornish's conversation about the M3 fuel variant is mostly given in summary, as are several of the other duller bits of dialogue in the story. It's always a sign that TD is on form when he applies a bit of judicious compression.

Lennox makes a 'pathetic attempt at dignity' when Liz asks him if he's a prisoner, saying that he can come and go as he pleases, but 'I haven't anywhere to go.' (Rather undoes the impact of 'Where would I go?' a few lines later.)

When the escaping Liz decides to thumb a lift the narrator suggests her motivation: 'Not usually a difficult task for an attractive long-haired girl in a mini-skirt.' On her recapture, she manages to convince Reegan that the door was left unlocked - but only because he thinks his henchman is too stupid to be relied on. He doesn't reproach her for locking Lennox in with the ambassadors.

Reegan got Liz to work on the communication device because, in an echo of his words to Lennox earlier, he's 'no kind of scientist.'

The Brigadier is delayed in following the Doctor to the Ministry after Sir James' phone call, because he gets another call informing him about the ambassador attack on the Space Centre.

In the conversation after the ambassador returns to Reegan's bunker, the exchange about unfortunately not having been able to kill the Brigadier is omitted. Liz doesn't do the cheeky 'I won't hurt you' line.

There's what looks like a transcription error in Cornish's reports from control to capsule: 'Thirty, three oh' and 'Fifty, five oh' are rendered as 33 and 55.

The Doctor wishes the decontamination room had so much as a few dog-eared issues of Punch in it.

Carrington doesn't ask the Brigadier any awkward questions about the Doctor's origins. Back at the bunker, his statement that Reegan disobeyed his order to kill the Doctor is delivered 'as if Reegan had forgotten to polish his boots.' Similarly, his remark about not being paid to think is 'in the best army tradition.'

The Doctor has a moment of reflection before he says goodbye to the ambassadors - on the theme that this is the first formal contact between humans and intelligent aliens. I like the way TD has given some thought to this, so I'm not going to quibble about the Cyber-invasion and the Nestenes. He means 'formal' as in 'not consisting of "Surrender, humans, or die"'.

TD also wants to answer the question 'Why don't we see the Ambassadors and their species again now that contact has been made?' The Doctor thinks:

After the fright they'd given each other the two species would probably keep well apart. The galaxy was big enough for both of them, after all.

When I acquired this Target I wondered if it would be an 'Inferno' or a 'Time Monster' in the late adaptation stakes - a classic or a workmanlike job. It's definitely closer to an 'Inferno', I would have really enjoyed this had it been available in my original Targeteering days.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Target: Timelash

We meet the two chief rebels, the former scientists Katz and Sezom, long before Peri does. In their first scene we discover that Karfel has twin suns (Rearbus and Selynx), and that Katz is the daughter of a former Maylin. Later on an encounter with some Morlox gives Glen McCoy the chance to enlarge on the creatures' general unpleasantness. And Katz is 'still very much a woman', using her reflection in a puddle to arrange her hair.

The Doctor's description of the Eye of Orion isn't given: instead Peri remembers the many previous occasions on which he's gone on about the place.

The Timelash itself is much more impressive on the page: it gives off sparkling ringlets of incandescent flares, and contains a tunnel of concentric rings.

It's Peri who fetches the safety belts at the Doctor's request. She doesn't do the 'we've never had to use belts before' line; instead she gives him 'an old-fashioned look'. The belts are needed because the effect of the Kontron tunnel is to make her and the Doctor weightless.

The androids have black skin, not blue. (The one on the cover is a faithful representation of the TV version. The cover also has a picture of Jupiter on it for some reason, although it redeems itself by showing us the Borad in all his glory.)

Maybe Pip'n'Jane's excesses have made me over-sensitive, but the sentence 'Tekker’s lean face rotated purposefully until his stabbing gaze struck its target' gave me a mental picture that probably wasn't the one GMcC intended.

Tekker doesn't imply that the Doctor had two (or more) companions last time he came to Karfel. He's probably fed up with all the fan speculation about whether it was Mike Yates who came along for the ride.

No note is handed to the Doctor and Peri in the plant room. And the acid plants aren't mentioned until Brunner is talking to Peri in the corridor in the next scene. It is at least made clear that the android seizes her medallion because it's shiny (ie a mirror), something I'd completely failed to grasp before.

Peri doesn't do the 'resident gardener' line, and her escape from the citadel is told in summary. She gets onto the planet's surface before entering the Morlox cave. The 'Yes indeed she is' line when she's being watched is omitted.

Apparently the Doctor has a pre-programmed circuit in the TARDIS which takes him straight to Earth: he just pretends to set the controls for the benefit of his companions (!). He thinks about bringing back a unit of Earth troops to take on the Borad, but realises that would be cheating.

Tekker is already thinking of turning against the Borad when he's waiting to break into the rebel-held inner sanctum.

The kontron crystals are pentagonal, not hexagonal. Once everyone has climbed out of the Timelash again, there's no discussion about building a barricade. The Doctor last built a time-shift circuit in 'Time School'. When Herbert sees the device demonstrated, his response is 'It's science - yet fiction.'

Tekker doesn't make a speech before turning on the Borad, he just opens fire without warning.

It's a female Morlox that the Borad intends to merge Peri with. The encounter is referred to by the narrator as a 'date'.

Herbert doesn't seem to have the time viewing device when he's up in the gallery watching the Doctor confront the Borad. This leaves his hands free to pray and cross himself, unlikely actions for HG Wells at any time.

(Speaking of time and HG Wells, the novel doesn't give the year 1885 used in the screen version. He could have been 'a teacher next term' at age 13, 17 or 24; based on his appearance on screen I assume that he is 'currently' aged 24 and 'in' 1890).

The rescue of Peri involves Herbert and the Doctor going out onto Karfel's surface. The Doctor destroys another android during this. The Morlox is destroyed when the mustakozene causes it to amalgamate with a wooden stake - it gruesomely sprouts stakes all over its body and dies.

There's an extra subplot when fifty (count 'em) androids are detected marching towards the inner sanctum. The Doctor and Myrkos go off to the power vault to switch them off, discovering 24 (count 'em) clones of the Borad in a side room (a bit like when the Doctor accidentally finds the ten thousand Daleks in the fridge in Planet of the Daleks). They cut the power off just as the androids are about to kill the rebels. Phew!

Sezon goes off with his troops to meet the diplomatic party. Back in the sanctum, the Borad demands that the landing pad be mined with explosives: cut straight to Sezon and his force completing the mining task, with apparent enthusiasm. I don't understand this bit. Perhaps we're expected to assume that Myrkon agreed to the Borad's demands, but his last speech has been to say that they can't do so, even at the cost of Peri's life.

There's no humour about weddings and proposals in the Doctor/Borad standoff, and no deal about the latter getting to marry Peri if she screams.

Just as on screen, Peri asks how the Doctor avoided the missile. 'At one point it seemed that the Time Lord was going to hold back on his tale' - but here he doesn't, explaining that he time-slipped the TARDIS forwards one hour. And with that shattering anti-climax it's on to the visiting card bit and the end.

For the third time in a row I have to say that this novelisation does make the story move a bit better, and it fills in the most obvious plot holes. But a critical reader may be annoyed by the style, which is extremely odd in places.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Target: The Two Doctors

The 100th Target to be published, and with an introduction by JNT. This says nothing of interest other than the (probably polite) suggestion that Robert Holmes was reluctant to novelise his own script.

The Space Station is named J7, not Camera (325 search hits) or Chimera (207 search hits) as on screen. Jamie recalls the meeting with the Time Lords (in a purple-grassed garden) which brought them here. Interestingly there's no reference to Victoria; I wondered if RH was trying to fit the story into continuity between Fury and Wheel.

Shockeye is a huge, obviously strong being. Although he's pretty frightening on screen that's largely due to his aggression and handiness with knives, and to John Stratton, and he certainly doesn't appear to be physically strong, although they all talk about him as if he is. Anyway, my point is that on the page, he definitely does look as though he could break people in half with one hand.

Chessene has 'a smile from which smoke might have issued.' Marvellous.

In these comparisons I've often noted Saward and Marter's bloodlust: it seems Holmes is keen to prove himself their equal, with a description of the computer technician's bones dissolving after Chessene attacks him. And that's just a curtain-raiser: the scientist who shouts 'Professor!' gets the full treatment, as his corpse dances into the room under the impact of the bullets.

The Doctor's fishing planet has a brassy sky which reminds Peri of Kansas before a storm. Gumblejacks don't exist - he made them up. He's still on the river bank when he faints.

The Sontarans are referred to as 'potato-heads' on several occasions, usually by Jamie. Their landing on Earth blacks out radar worldwide for several minutes, and causes an escalation in the arms race. Very apt.

Peri punches Jamie (in the infrastructure...) with muscles 'honed by years as a campus sports star.' I didn't know moaning was a big college sport in the US.

While the Doctor's in his trance, a fire breaks out and Peri and Jamie have to move him to safety. His soliloquy about the collapse of time is thought rather than spoken, and goes on for longer, but it still doesn't make it any more convincing as a threat.

During the journey to Earth, the Doctor recalls that the Sontarans already have a primitive time ability (presumably a reference to Linx's osmic projector).

Doctor Two calls Stike a 'slimy obscenity'.

Oscar tells Peri that he toured the US in (Congreve's) Way of the World. Anita privately reflects that he's been 'between roles' and managing the restaurant for the last three years. The name of the establishment is La Piranella.

Shockeye dresses up in the frock coat earlier in the story, while the Doctor's peering through the window of the house. Shockeye sings an grisly Androgum lullaby to himself as he does so.

The Doctor warns Jamie that Dastari used to be a champion wrestler. Jamie's describes Chessene's dress as a 'coathardie'.

Doctor (Six) mocks Stike's title of rank - 'I've never met a Sontaran private yet.'

Stike doesn't pull Jamie's dagger out of his leg, thus allowing Doctor Two to spot it and realise that Jamie's about.

Doctor Six and Jamie don't throw water over the unconscious Peri.

Chessene explains that coronic acid was used by the Rutans at Vullotha to decimate the Sontarans. (10% success?) It certainly works on Varl, causing him to burst into green flames.

Doctor Two doesn't tell Shockeye to get dressed up for the restaurant (he's wearing the frock coat he put on earlier). The 'shepherd's pie' joke is not used.

Shockeye thinks, rather than says, the line about the 20-narg note being accepted in the Nine Planets. Doctor Two chips in with an assortment of paper money: Oscar says that the only recognisable item among it is a Confederate $5 bill, and even that's no longer legal tender.

The killing of Oscar isn't treated so casually by the diners on the page: they flee the restaurant in terror. And approaching sirens are heard.

Chessene licks the blood directly off the step, not off her hand. I think the latter version is the more 'actable'.

Jamie's family are hereditary pipers to 'the Macleod of Dunvegan'. Just in case you missed the vegetarian message in this story. And he learnt to use a dagger from 'Wee Fulton MacKay, the greatest knife-fighter in the whole of Scotland.'

After some remarks about how the locals never found out what happened to Dona Arana or who killed Oscar, the book just trails off with 'Meanwhile, the Doctor and Peri... ' - as if Holmes, after giving us 150+ pages of anti-meat propaganda, still can't quite bring himself to use the 'healthy vegetarian diet' conclusion.

As with its predecessor, this novelisation should have credit for managing to make the story work a bit more smoothly. But the author's vegetarian hectoring is very intrusive. Even if you basically agree with him you feel that he isn't being entirely honest by putting all the pro-meat arguments in the mouth of a warty alien psychopath.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Target: Mark of the Rani

As the Doctor sets the co-ordinates for Kew, he thinks about the possibility of accidentally landing across the Channel and meeting Napoleon. He then strikes a Napoleonic pose.

The Master/scarecrow exudes an evil aura, or so we're told - even though there's no-one around to perceive it except us.

After the Doctor says 'There was silence deep as death,' we get this classic Pip'n'Jane sentence: 'The grim quotation merely vocalised the overwhelming foreboding of evil that plagued him.'

There's some research on show when the Doctor explains that Stephenson didn't get due credit for helping invent the Davy lamp. 'Do you know where we get the word "assassin" from, Susan?'

The Master tells the Rani that he escaped from Sarn when the extreme heat in the volcano caused more numismaton gas to be generated - this returned him to health.

Lord Ravensworth is a dedicated paternalist, so he finds the disturbances at Killingworth particularly upsetting.

Perhaps reacting against their usual tendency for periphrasis, P&J commit the following sentence during the trolley scene: 'Able only to raise his head, the Doctor was scared.'

After successfully dematerialising the Rani's TARDIS, the Doctor recalls a previous occasion where he ran his own craft into the Tower of Pisa.

Peri, apparently abandoned by the Doctor, worries about being stranded in the 18th century with its inadequate medical science.

The classic quotes just keep coming. 'In the Rani's TARDIS: 'The additional mucus caused the baby dinosaur's pink underbelly to float uppermost.' In the dell: 'In choreographed terror, she embarked on a complicated pattern of moves.' When the two renegade Time Lords argue: 'Acerbic recrimination consumed the dissident pair.'

(I think the worst one is 'Before the Doctor could deploy his facility for exhuming fallacy, he was thwarted.' It's a perfect example of a bad synonym looked up in a thesaurus. 'Exhume' doesn't just mean 'unearth' or 'expose', it has connotations of digging up bodies and (by extension) very old things which aren't any use.)

The 'Luddite' gang at the dell are already carrying the poles from which the Doctor is later slung. They have a sheep on the poles to begin with.

An epilogue shows us the Doctor and Peri at Kew Gardens. Peri isn't enjoying it as much as she might, because she keeps seeing patterns in the flowers - they all seem to have human faces...

(I rather liked that ending, it made the tree transformations in the dell seem creepy and sinister. In the screen version the ludicrous panto branch/arm defuses any horrific effect almost completely).

Despite all the awkward prose, this Target is an improvement on the screen version; it at least puts some pace and life into the story.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Target: Vengeance on Varos

The opening scene of Jondar being tortured is being watched by a technician, Bax, who's choosing the best shots for the viewers of Varos. He does this throughout the story whenever the action is in the prison areas.

The awful line about Peri's cold supper is omitted. She has just said that she'd like to return to America to finish her studies when the TARDIS breaks down.

Arak does his talkin' in an annoyin' phonetic representation. The unpleasant food doesn't come from a dispenser, but from the 'food-dole'. Etta gets paid for doing her viewer's reports.

The guards' patrol car in the tunnels runs on a monorail.

Sil can submerge in his water tank.

The Doctor's vision of Peri in the desert is actually holding a green bottle of water (such as Perrier comes in). The real Peri isn't in the control room at this point, she's still on her way there from the Zone.

The Governor has a dome, a car and a bath - there's a scene where he has to get out of the last and take a towel being offered him by the Chief Officer.

Quillan and the Chief Officer are old enemies.

Arak's clever 'they always do that - it's to show the acid is highly corrosive' line is sadly omitted.

The acid bath scene is quite different - the Doctor deliberately sidesteps so that the guard falls into it. There's no business fending him off with the screen and no final quip. Incidentally, he survived the death by hallucination thanks to his ability to suspend animation.

Peri asks the company in the control room 'What kind of vermin are you?'

Sil's translator explodes after the hanging scene - he gets a new one which makes 'humorous' mistakes and corrects them. ('february of science - march of science'.) He announces a takeover of Varos, enforced by his attendants' guns, but this doesn't make any material difference to the rest of the story.

The transformed Peri grows 'vulpine' feathers. She's turning into a bird not a fox, so I assumed this must mean that the feathers are red, but no, they're glossy black. Philip Martin must think that vulpine means vulture-like.

Peri describes the selection process for Governor as 'daft' - not a word I'd expect an American student to use. When they escape, he takes her by surface car to the outside of the safe exit - it's rather atmospherically half-buried in sand and hard to open. Anyone who actually made it to the exit would die of asphyxiation on the open surface of Varos.

The Chief and Quillam are riding in pursuit in cars at the point when they're killed by the poison tendrils.

There's a wrap-up scene for Sil on board his spacecraft: he's to explain his failure to Lord Kiv.

Arak actively turns off his television rather than just watching it go blank. And then there's a Doctor/Peri departure scene which isn't nearly as good as the ending of the screen version.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Target: Attack of the Cybermen

We join the story with Charles Windsor Griffiths as he makes his way to the 'job'. The sewermen are completely omitted.

When Griffiths meets Russell, we find that the latter has a manner that occasionally reminds Griffiths of a policeman. Gustave Lytton is known as successful criminal - the narrator tells us that he's been at it for two years, committing component thefts. (Much in the style of the plot in Robot.) The Met actually supplied the explosive for the diamond robbery, because they think that when he uses it, his identity will be unmasked.

The pre-blag conversation doesn't take place in the car. The weather is wet (not fine as on screen).

When we do join the Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS, there's a long digression about the regeneration process, Peri's college relationship with someone called Chuck and an unseen adventure on Vespod Eight. Halley's Comet doesn't show a tail on the scanner, Peri asks why not and the Doctor explains that it doesn't form until the comet nears the sun. Peri knew that, it seems, and was just checking his memory. (She asks so that she can bore us?)

The address of the scrapyard isn't mentioned, so presumably it isn't 76 Totters Lane. The Doctor does not play a tune on the organ exterior of the TARDIS.

Peri knows how to handle a gun in the garage scene because she was taught by her father. (The Planet of Fire novelisation suggests she was only a child when Howard was her stepfather, so either there's a conflict here, or her father taught her when she was very young indeed).

The disarmed policeman turns out to be carrying an assortment of weaponry including two grenades and a canister of tear gas. Good anticipation of New Labour policing there. The Doctor tells Peri that he recognises both coppers from his previous visit to Earth, but that his memory is still too scrambled from regeneration to remember who they were accompanying.

Lytton said he came from North London, not Fulham. It's a shame to lose this very funny line in the adaptation.

Russell holds a knife to the Doctor's throat, then threatens to shoot him and Peri with the gun he takes off him. Again we have here a policeman who's 20 years ahead of his time.

There's no 'Shoot him, Peri' and no business about prison sentences.

The Doctor knows Lytton's first name is Gustave, but when Peri asks him how he knows that, he can't remember.

During the TARDIS scenes, Griffiths gets annoyed with Lytton's rudeness, and is about to stick one on him when Peri intervenes to calm things down.

The narrator explains that Briggs and Stratton are the former crew of the time vessel that Lytton hopes to steal. They crashed on Telos and were captured by the Cybermen. Their Cyber-conversion failed, which is why they have only the prosthetic limbs.

When they arrive on Telos, a shivering Peri plunges her hands 'deep into the cavities of her armpits'.

The reason the Cyber-controller has the Doctor locked in the fridge is to humiliate him, and soften his will to resist. When the Doctor meets Flast, he notices that she's grotesquely disfigured.

After delivering the 'we should have killed her' line, the not very bright Varne twiddles her moustache 'like an Edwardian paterfamilias'. What a strange place Mr Saward's mind is.

As the Doctor runs through the tombs after escaping, he sees many dead Cybermen. They've been systematically poisoned in hibernation by the Cryons - this has been threatening the survival of the Cyber-race, and it's implied that that's the motivation for the Controller's plan to change history by preventing Mondas from being destroyed.

Griffiths has a smile on his face when he's dead, because at least he went out in style, on an alien planet with millions of pounds' worth of diamonds in his pocket.

The Doctor's final line about having misjudged Lytton has a narrative purpose: it shows Peri for the first time that his new personality is able to display compassion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Doctors and Kirk

Based on something someone said in a forum about the Second Doctor and Kirk. Suppose we have a typical crossover scenario where the Doctor and companions are interrupted in their investigations of strange doings by the Enterprise crew, and that the initial escape/recaptures have led to a bridge scene where Kirk attempts to deal with the common threat behind said doings, with the help/hindrance of the Doctor.

First Doctor. Suggests that Kirk is being impetuous and foolish, then allows Kirk to prove himself wrong. Then slips in a backhanded compliment - 'You're an intelligent young man, Captain, if only you'd think' - then suggests the winning strategy.

Second Doctor. Slily allows Kirk to try the mistaken approach - 'If you think that's the best way.' Spock recognises what he's doing. The Doctor then supplies a solution which doesn't quite work ('Oh my giddy aunt!') and then, as the threat grows ever larger on the viewscreen, Ben/Zoe has an idea which Spock refines to save the day.

Third Doctor. Rounds on Kirk for improper behaviour, invoking his friend Admiral Rowlands, naming some galactic convention which the Captain has violated, or saying that even the Brigadier has more intelligence. Then he's just suggested the winning strategy when the saturnine Admiral di Maestro appears, has him locked up again, and takes command of the Enterprise. They're on the way to somewhere sinister when McCoy sees through the Admiral and releases the Doctor. One quick bridge argument later, and the Doctor and Kirk join forces to defeat the threat.

Fourth Doctor. Having been ignored/insulted, displays enormous contempt for Kirk - 'you human paramilitary commanders are always so insular' - until Kirk has to swallow his pride and start listening to him. Probably lashes together an ingenious technical solution with the assistance of a wondering Scotty - 'Och, it's either genius or it'll blow us all to kingdom come!'

Fifth Doctor. Two possible courses here: in the first one, spends 40 minutes telling Kirk that there must be another way, 1 minute reluctantly destroying the threat then 1 minute saying there should have been another way. In the second, tells Kirk that there is another way until he listens, then successfully communicates with the threat and shows that it didn't mean to attack them. Meanwhile, Adric stuffs his face in the recreation area (both plots).

Sixth Doctor. Clash of egos sees him quickly back in the brig while Peri hangs round on the bridge looking miserable. Eventually, for lack of any other solution, he has to be released and flattered a bit before he solves the problem by blowing the threat up.

Seventh Doctor.
Same lines as the Second Doctor really, except with less slyness and more quiet, dark hints. Again, his solution doesn't initially work until he hangs off his umbrella in a Jefferies tube for a bit fiddling with some vital component. (Alternative plot where it turns out he summoned the threat in the first place to teach Kirk a lesson).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Windows 7: a 7 mile high pile of crap

Worst things about W7 so far:

- Start menu clutter, extra keystrokes to get into Programs and an unusable interface when you get there
- Alt-Tab drops you out of the app list after you've been round the cycle once
- General removal of keyboard shortcuts, eg
-- Ctrl-Alt-Del, T no longer opens Task Manager
-- Listviews now have a tab stop on the column headers, which means extra keystrokes to get into the actual data rows. In some applets it is impossible to tab onto the data at all.
- Win-E opens Explorer in novice mode. I don't want huge tiles representing Bill Gates' idea of where I should be keeping my files. I know where they are and I want a list of drives so I can get to them.
- Drive indexing enabled by default leading to constant disc access

Thursday, May 05, 2011

HG Wells short stories - rated!

One of my favourite non-Target books as a kid was a selection of HG Wells short stories. They were so well chosen that it's taken me another 30 years to get round to reading the rest of the stories. Herewith my spoiler-free rankings (ones I read as a kid marked *)


The Door In The Wall* - a fantastic experience in a man's early life poignantly becomes outweighed by materialistic considerations. Fascinating hints about interface between magic worlds and the real world, picked up I speculate by CS Lewis

The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes* - not much to the plot, but the 'displaced vision' concept is memorable

The Lord of the Dynamos* - technology and 'savage' beliefs come together with fatal consequences for a bully

The Argonauts of the Air* - one of Wells' many stories about manned flight, it focuses on the technology rather than the social consequences. Good sense of inevitability about the outcome

Pollock and the Porroh Man - a venture into Poe territory. Unsettling

The Cone* - very simple story but, like Lord of the Dynamos, the use of technology in the climax makes it stick in my mind

The Purple Pileus* - social comedy in Mr Polly vein. Chance encounter with a fungus changes a downtrodden man's life

The Man Who Could Work Miracles* - very funny and also a a little disturbing. I always interpreted this as a circular story, which makes it even better.

Filmer - manned flight again, this time concentrating on the mental pressures on the pioneer aviator

The Truth About Pyecraft* - much loved comic tale about the dangers of using imperfectly translated magic recipes

The New Accelerator* - inventor discovers a drug that makes speed look tame. All the better for happening in Edwardian Folkestone


The Time Machine* - where it all begins. I unfairly mark it down to 4/5 because the future is so bloody depressing

The Empire of the Ants - more of an idea than a story, but it's a good one

The Lost Inheritance - In O. Henry style. Moral: sometimes it pays to take eccentrics seriously

The Land Ironclads* - famous 1903 anticipation of armoured warfare

The Country of the Blind* - as with The Time Machine, downrated to 4/5 because it creeps me out so much

The Stolen Bacillus* - appears to be serious, but turns into a comic anticlimax

The Temptation of Harringay - quite a sinister little story

The Crystal Egg - fascinating idea about an artefact that acts as a viewport onto another world

Through A Window - so like Rear Window that I wasn't surprised to find that it inspired the novel that the film is based on.

The Diamond Maker* - gives us no hint of whether the eponymous chemist is capable of the task or not. Our wish to resolve the mystery ensures we remember the story

Aepyornis Island* - part zoological fantasy, part a black comedy about a pet getting out of hand

The Star - apocalyptic story, impressive mostly for its scale

The Flowering of the Strange Orchid - strange and deadly. No surprises but stays in one's memory

The Valley of Spiders - Edgar Rice Burroughs vein, Wellsified by one of the characters' sociological musings

The Flying Man - interesting combination of Kiplingesque colonial story and Wells' familiar pioneer aviator theme

The Hammerpond Park Burglary - robber's clumsy disguise as an artist leads to crime-hampering critical acclaim

The Story of the Late Mr Elvesham - youth regained via forcible body-swap. Memorable for the cunning with which the swap is executed

Mr Skelmersdale in Fairyland - unusual venture into the territory of Edwardian whimsy. Works a lot better here than in Tolkien's early writing

The Inexperienced Ghost - fools you into thinking it's harmless japery, then takes a twist

Jimmy Goggles The God* - accidental deification of a treasure-hunter. Includes an amusingly described encounter with a missionary.

The Stolen Body - same area as The Inexperienced Ghost, but more horrific. Some plausible attempts to show how spiritualism, if it did exist, might have a scientific explanation

Mr Brisher's Treasure - anecdote in the area of O. Henry again. Satisfying moral conclusion

Miss Winchelsea's Heart - revisits the pretentious, pseudo-intellectual world that people like Chester Coote and the Walshinghams in Kipps inhabited

Under The Knife* - man undergoing surgery experiences a sort of anticipation of Cosmic Zoom

The Sea Raiders* - like a draft chapter from an anticipation of the The Kraken Wakes


In The Avu Observatory - short, very linear. Like some Lovecraft shorts its main purpose is to unsettle the reader

The Red Room - very simple, early ghost story

A Catastrophe - Mr Polly stuff again. Not much to this

A Deal in Ostriches - Essentially a puzzle (using the same device as Conan Doyle's Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle) but with a twist

The Moth - cautionary tale of collector's mania

The Treasure in the Forest - creepy anecdote

The Plattner Story* - a third visit to the afterlife

In The Abyss* - intelligent undersea life discovered - thanks to the ingenious use of clockwork

The Jilting of Jane - not SF, just a comedy servants story, but interesting for the light it casts on how people interrelated with servants

My First Aeroplane - the first of two stories in the voice of a crass, rich young arse. A few laughs derive from the 'quiet town disrupted by wacky chaos' mode seen in the shopkeeper fight in Mr Polly

The Apple - the fruit of the tree of knowledge turns up in an unlikely place

The Story of the Last Trump - rather like The Apple, but not aiming for poignancy, rather to generate humour from juxtaposition of myth and mundanity

The Magic Shop - short bit of fun whose main aim is to raise an unanswered question

Mr Leadbetter's Vacation - just a short thriller really

A Dream of Armageddon - like a rehearsal or remake of The War In The Air


A Vision of Judgement - interesting at least in that it features God as a character

The Sad Story of a Dramatic Critic - like something Oscar Wilde's drunken journalist brother Willie might have dashed off

The Beautiful Suit - dull fable

A Slip Under The Microscope - moral tale in Mr Lewisham territory

The Reconciliation - violent misuse of zoology. Nothing to see here

Little Mother Up The Morderberg - the second story with the My First Aeroplane narrator. His inability to see how crass he is wasn't that funny the first time, and it's even less funny here

The Grisly Folk* - never made it to the end of this one. It's about Neanderthals

A Story of the Days to Come - inaccurate guesses about the future (Sleeper Awakes-style) provide more humour than the plodding plot

The Triumphs of a Taxidermist - didn't interest me at all

The Pearl of Love - very much in the area of Wilde's The Happy Prince, which isn't my area


In The Modern Vein: An Unsympathetic Love Story - very dull. Possibly I'm not cultured enough to understand it

A Story of the Stone Age - Silly character names stopped me on page 1. Like episodes 2-4 of Unearthly Child, but less gripping.