Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Target: Enlightenment

Barbara Clegg, one of the very few women Targeteers (Targetrixes?), at the helm for this adaptation.

The first time the yacht pitches, Turlough thinks he's in an earthquake or a landslide.

Tegan knows that the 'camera' for the TARDIS scanner is in the light on top of the roof.

The fo'c'sle is full of tobacco smoke - I thought smoking below decks was strictly banned on wooden ships? The Doctor remarks that it's lucky Tegan didn't come with them - a woman below decks would have started a riot. Cut to Tegs in the hold - the narrator remarks that that isn't a very comfortable place for a woman either. 'Particularly when someone is following you,' thinks Tegan, bizarrely completing the narrator's thoughts.

The Eternals - even Striker - are completely motionless when first seen. We see this interesting phenomenon occasionally throughout the book.

The companionway to the deck is a ladder, not a staircase.

The sight of Venus makes the Doctor remark that it is aptly named after the goddess of beauty.

There are more details about the objects in Tegan's cabin, including the fact that Aunt Vanessa was Tegan's favourite aunt.

Turlough goes into more detail about the solar wind. Jackson doesn't interrupt the conversation - the whole bit about the key to the rum locker is missed out, as is the reference to it later in the wheelhouse.

'The Buccaneer' is actually the name of Wrack's ship. I didn't pick that up from the episode, I thought the references to it were just generic - 'the buccaneer [ship]'.

Mansell (Leee John's character) is described as having 'the lithe power of a black athlete'. When he throws Turlough at Wrack's feet, he orders him 'Lick the Captain's boots!'

The wine that Wrack offers Turlough is muscatel, and their conversation appears to take place in private. She rhapsodises about how she came by the memory of the taste of the wine.

Turlough thinks that people exposed to vacuum explode immediately. Perhaps he wasn't listening in his Tryon science classes.

When Tegan flounces off to change out of her party dress, the Doctor and Marriner exchange a look which seems to say 'Women!'. Early anticipation of the 'human Doctor' idea perhaps.

It's 'becalmed' that Mansell says to Wrack, not 'be calm.' He's telling her that Striker's ship doesn't have enough wind to move.

When the White Guardian talks about 'allocating a share' of Enlightenment to Turlough, he takes on the tone of a company chairman.

The 'Enlightenment was not the diamond. Enlightenment was the choice' line is mangled by the insertion of 'Simply a lump of carbon!' into the middle.

After the White Guardian disappears, the stateroom of the ship starts to fade away around the TARDIS crew.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Target: The King's Demons

Terence Dudley again, taking on another two-parter and expanding it to novel length.

The action takes place in Wallingford.

Ranulf has often told Hugh what a fine man King John is (historical citations provided). So it was a disappointment that when Hugh fell off his horse at the stag hunt (mentioned on screen later) the King and his knights kept on mocking him.

There's a long aside about armour when Hugh's getting kitted out for the joust. 'Although nearly a hundred years were to pass before full-plated armour became fashionable...' - there's a point at which background becomes a mere lecture.

Sir Gilles is revealed as evil - though not as the Master - at this point, when he gloats inwardly about the success of his plan to make John look bad.

Tegan in her short dress is mistaken by the locals for a boy in a tunic. She's annoyed by the Doctor's encyclopaedic historical knowledge, and wishes for the opportunity to catch him out on the history of Queensland. (Did you know Tegan was Australian? Dudley is concerned you might forget.)

When the Doctor tells King John that he isn't a demon, but that he has been called a demon bowler. The King doesn't get it.

After the joust, the King suggests that the 'demons' show off their powers by flying round the castle, causing Tegan to think of the inevitable 'flying Doctor' pun. After that, her ruminations about the superior morality of 13th-century Aborigines (did I mention she was Australian?) come as a relief.

We're asked to believe that the Doctor thinks approvingly of the TARDIS's police box shape as 'a symbol of law and order'. Can this be the same Doctor who so frequently finds the law absent, deficient or corrupt - and who travels in a stolen TARDIS?

The initial bedchamber scene has a discussion of what the locals do to keep warm - sleeping, fighting and hunting. These ideas apparently combine to give Tegan 'visions of being chased by chivalrous, steel-clad men on horseback through inclement undergrowth.' The bearskin that she puts on smells unpleasant.

The dungeon is located in the castle courtyard. The iron maiden, by the way, belongs to John's French knights - they brought it with them.

Tegan thinks of King John as a galah twice, and calls herself a galah twice. I was in danger of forgetting she was Australian for a moment there.

'Tegan's feminine superficiality' irritates the Doctor. And there are so many other things about her that he could have chosen...

Sir Gilles thinks Turlough is a French-sounding name, and asks if he has any French connections. Turlough says there might be a cultural influence on his mother's side.

The Doctor tells Ranulf that that John believes in demons because Melusine, Satan's daughter, married into the Plantagenet family, and is thus John's ancestress. (This is a genuine myth about the Plantagenet kings).

The scene before the Doctor becomes the King's Champion, where he explains to Tegan what the Master is up to, is expanded by an exchange about the TCE. Tegan's stroppiness causes the Doctor to think 'hoity-toity. Hoity-jolly-well-toity!' I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that the Doctor thought that, or ever has or ever will.

We learn during this bit, by the way, that Tegan is 22 years old.

When the Master tells the gaoler not to release Turlough, the latter tries some rubbish reverse psychology on him, about being too comfortable tied up. It doesn't work.

As he buckles on his sword for the duel, the Doctor remembers his adventure with the Crusaders.

When the Doctor wants to be shown to the dungeon, he doesn't remind Sir Geoffrey that the King is holding Isabella hostage - instead he threatens to conjure fiends to torment her. Tegan isn't convinced by this. But as the narrator remarks, she knows he can't carry it out, because she's from an era where primitive behaviour hs been swept under the carpet. 'There were no such carpets in this day and age' he says elegantly. (Though we do see some in the royal apartment later).

Tegan wants to know if there's a back way into the castle. This is her 'practical feminine mind' at work, apparently. The scene where she gets into the TARDIS and dematerialises is enlivened by her using the 'irresistible violence of feminine wiles', i.e. pouting, to get the men-at-arms to release her. The Doctor is overcome with admiration. I must say Terence Dudley's Doctor is a bit of a pushover.

The TARDIS dematerialises with a 'whinnying' sound.

Turlough isn't captured as soon as Sir Geoffrey is shot - a series of events (told in flashback) lead to him waking up in the castle sheep pen.

Sir Geoffrey appears to die at the same point as on screen - but then Isabella realises he's still alive. Phew!

When Kamelion turns into the Doctor, he's got a cricket bat too, and demonstrates a straight drive.

Tegan is twice referred to as a 'succubus', which I enjoyed.

When the crew are all finally back in the TARDIS, the Doctor materialises it again in the Great Hall, to explain everything and give Isabella a phial of healing potion for Sir Geoffrey. He convinces her of his good faith with his enchanting smile, 'the one demonic talent he possessed'.

In the final scene, the Doctor has changed out of his period costume. I looked back for the point at which he put it on, but I can't tell whether the narrator means the chainmail he put on when he became Champion, or another costume which I missed. Chainmail is heavy stuff, you don't keep it on longer than you have to.

There's no chat about the Eye of Orion, the Doctor guesses that Tegan wants to go to 'London Airport' as usual.

And finally, the Pip & Jane Baker Award for the Phrase Most Closely Resembling an Elocution Exercise - 'Oblivious that his mixed metaphors had caused his anxious companion to grimace in perplexity...'

Monday, March 14, 2011

Target: Terminus

We don't join the action until Tegan is giving Turlough the TARDIS tour. The Doctor told her to do this. She and Nyssa have expressed reservations to him about letting Turlough come on board. We get rather more of Tegan's thoughts in this scene than I want - when John Lydecker used this technique in Warriors' Gate it worked, but second time round, and with the season 20 ensemble instead of the season 18 one, it just isn't the same. (And we'll be returning to this theme).

Nyssa has returned to her biochemistry because it represents a link to Traken. And she's referring to a book because the Doctor says that books are a form of information storage which still works in a crisis. With electronic media you're in a catch-22, because when you most need the knowledge, you can't get at it (as anyone who's tried to diagnose an internet fault knows). Nyssa didn't understand what a catch-22 was, so the Doctor sent her off to the TARDIS library to find out.
When Tegan joins her, she grasses up Turlough for fiddling with the roundel.

Meanwhile the Doctor is down in a tunnel where the tanks for the inhibitor crystals are. Perhaps this works, perhaps the TARDIS's workings are always better just hinted at. The Doctor believes Tegs when she says Nyssa's experiment couldn't have caused the TARDIS to malfunction, because although she isn't a scientist, she has a good grasp of the 'uses and consequences of technology.' Nicely put sir.

Turlough finds Nyssa's abacus in the liner corridor, and uses the beads to lay a trail so that - he hopes - he and Tegan won't lose their way.

The Lydecker style is at work on Olvir and Kari, making them seem extra hard-edged and hard SF. Used in Warriors' Gate to show the banality of evil among the freighter crew this was perfect; with these two it sounds like JL is overly impressed with them. A million pages of NA and MA combatwank have their literary roots here.

When Tegan is trying to open the bulkhead that Nyssa is trapped behind, Turlough thinks about pushing her down a deep shaft. She somehow senses his thought and becomes suspicious.

When Olvir says he's never met anyone who came back from Terminus, the Doctor thinks that, if the disease and the cure are so shameful, they wouldn't talk about it.

The first Vanir to be seen is described as looking to Tegan like Death. His staff makes a tapping sound like an undertaker knocking politely on the door, or the Calvary nails. Certainly those are powerful similes but they don't seem to fit the burly, clanky Vanir somehow. When he's gone, Turlough can't stop himself reassuring the frightened Tegan.

Without his helmet Eirak just seems like a tired bureaucrat.

Nyssa does not take her skirt off when she gets infected. When Olvir realises that she's got the disease, he remembers his family burying his sister in quicklime.

'Hydromel' is just the Vanir's name for the drug, presumably it has a less romantic chemical name.

The Doctor thinks that Dante would have loved the living hell of Terminus. JL clearly not afraid of a bit of self-congratulation.

'Vanir' is both singular and plural.

The Terminus ship uses a 'self-containment reaction drive' which doesn't need fuel - not sure how this fits with the stuff about fuel being jettisoned causing the universe to be destroyed/created.

There's some extremely confusing ambiguous deixis in the scene where Sigurd and Valgard check the lazars - 'they' jumps jarringly between meaning the two Vanir and the lazars.

Eirak bets his personal supply of Hydromel - not his job - that Valgard can't catch the raiders. (And he doesn't say that 'of course' he will pay up.) But later on, when Valgard wants to collect, he quotes Eirak as having said 'Bring back the intruders and my position is yours' - which he didn't.

Having been accused for the nth time of being a Company spy, the Doctor 'was beginning to get irritated at the persistence of Valgard's misunderstanding.' That'll be a useful phrase for forums.

When Olvir meets up with Nyssa again, we're given a quick summary of how he skulked around till he acquired his disguise.

Kari looks on the dead pilot with awe, because
He was more than an alien; he was the last survivor of a universe which he'd destroyed with his error, and his dying moments had been spent looking on the new universe that he'd inadvertently brought into being in its place.

If that had been made more of on screen, the whole destroying the universe thing might not have seemed so ludicrous.

The Garm 'treats' Nyssa in the same room, and at the same time, as Olvir and Valgard fight. Indeed the radiation from the engine is the treatment.

The Garm has much more presence on the page - he emerges from the shadows 'as smoothly as a dark sunrise'. The reason the lever is so hard for him to move is that there is a time differential - Terminus is on slower time than the rest of the universe. Hmmm. I suppose any explanation is better than the usual odd way that manual controls in DW have direct feedback - if a process is particularly powerful, the way to stop it is to press the buttons extra hard.

Kari and Olvir have a fully formed plan at the end of the story - to hunt down the Chief. 'Nobody ditches us and gets away with it,' says Kari ominously.

The Doctor's thoughts on Nyssa's departure:
it seemed that the loss of every member of his ever-changing team took a little piece of him away with them. They were spread through time and through space, all of them reshaped and given new insights through their travels. Their loss wasn't too bad a price to pay... not when they gave him a kind of immortality.

Excellent characterisation - the blend of humility and arrogance that sums up the Doctor.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Census not so confidential?

I always believed that census data genuinely was inaccessible to anyone outside the ONS - until now. This article


and this expansion


suggest that the ONS could be obliged by the 2007 Statistics and Registration Act, clause 39, to pass on your details to the police and MI5.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Target: Mawdryn Undead

Peter Grimwade is our host for this novelisation. He opens up with some fairly ponderous humour about Brendon School and how it came to be on its present site, a former country house. The obelisk on the hill is a memorial to a general who belonged to the family that lived there.

Ibbotson mentions that the car belongs to the Brigadier almost as soon as we see it. We clearly aren't expected to be surprised that the Brig's in this story. Turlough doesn't slap the door, he kicks the bodywork. Hippo still polishes off the mark.

Turlough is described as having pre-Raphaelite looks. The nature of his pact with the Guardian is not revealed till the infirmary scene (Turlough himself can't remember it until then). He thinks of the Guardian as 'the man in black' several times - possibly an Appointment With Fear reference, possibly not.

There's no moan from Tegan about how Dojjen should have destroyed the Great Crystal, or any other mention of their previous adventure. (Not unusual in Targets of course).

The Headmaster's name is Mr Sellick and he keeps a pet dobermann bitch. When Turlough lies to him about nobly taking the rap for Ibbotson, the Head wonders if he's picked up some of the school's fine moral values after all. A nice bit of satire there I thought.

Mawdryn's spacecraft features a staircase of solid gypsum. My experience of geology, and plasterboard, makes me want to bitch that solid gypsum would be much too soft to make stairs out of, but perhaps PG means alabaster or some other mineral containing gypsum.

The TARDIS crew don't find an arcade game on board, but a machine that produces spellbinding music. Nyssa still, however, expresses disapproval - Calvinistic disapproval in fact.

The Brig's line about flogging Ibbotson is just bluster, because he's a kind man at heart. His way of saying 'I wasn't born yesterday' is 'I haven't just arrived on a banana boat'. The reason he calls the boy's body disgusting is to cover up his own poor condition. And later he worries that getting angry with Ibbotson will bring on one of his turns.

Tegan 'never knew why the Doctor had swallowed Turlough's unlikely story of how he came to be in the TARDIS.' Neither do we, because we aren't told what the story was. She speculates that post-Adric remorse has softened the Doctor's judgement.

Turlough's mention of tangential deviation makes the Doctor realise that he isn't from Earth.

While Nyssa and Tegan are standing on the hill after the TARDIS arrives, a rain squall clears away to reveal the school at the end of a rainbow (!).

The transmat capsule that brings Mawdryn to Earth is stated to be dimensionally transcendental. (On screen it certainly appears to be bigger on the inside). It is also filled with the smell of putrefaction, which reminds Tegan of her uncle's (not father's this time) cattle farm. (What kind of farm was that? 'Jeez mate, we've gotta get those cow carcasses cleared up, they're stinking the place out.') Mawdryn is oddly described as resembling a deformed boy, though this may be a misprint for 'body'. It takes an hour to move him into the TARDIS. The 'girls' then wrap him up in the Doctor's old red coat - does PG see the purple coat as red, or is he changing it to be the reddish coat from Robot/Ark in Space? He says later that the Brig recognises it, so I suppose it must be the latter explanation.

The whole '1983 Brigadier's quarters' scene is used, rather well I thought, to give the impression that the Brigadier has let himself go and become an ageing eccentric. The clapboard shed - which the Doctor assumes is the scout hut at first - has damp walls, smells of unaired clothes and generally has the 'self-imposed bachelor squalor' of someone who believes only women can keep the place tidy. It certainly isn't what the Doctor expects from the spick and span soldier of his recollection.

This is backed up by our view of the Brig and his quarters in 1977. He's unflappable and (to Tegan) British in the way that Captain Stapley was, and his hut is ship-shape. His television is playing the National Anthem, not the anti-Jacobite song Lilliburlero as heard on screen.

Tegs, by the way, is appalled to find herself in 1977. And she thinks a bunfight is something like the Eton wall game.

In Turlough's dream, the Headmaster smiles when he says he's heartened that Turlough has confided in him.

Mawdryn doesn't say 'Yes - a Gallifreyan human' during the regeneration argument. He asks a question expecting the answer no - 'Is a Gallifreyan human?'

The box where the Brigadier has stored the homing device isn't full of electrical bits and pieces, but vaguely military debris like gas masks and a tube of moustache wax (!).

1983 Brigadier feels a tingling at the back of his neck whenever 1977 Brigadier is nearby.

The Black Guardian speaks to Turlough on board the ship through a portrait, not a bust.

Mawdryn's longing for death reminds the Brigadier of a traumatic incident during his first action, in Palestine just after the war, against terrorists (religion unspecified). And the laboratory on the ship has a smell that reminds him of overripe pheasant.

The Doctor doesn't look at Tegan and Nyssa as he dematerialises the TARDIS on the doomed attempt to leave the ship - perhaps because he's ashamed at not helping Mawdryn - so he doesn't see the initial signs of ageing.

When 1977 Brigadier gets to the laboratory and sees what's going on, his one thought is to deal with the 'swine at the controls'.

On the journey in the TARDIS back to Earth, 1983 Brigadier thinks of all the forms of transport he'd rather have taken (and paid full fare, 'Scotsman or no').

After Turlough's welcome to the TARDIS - no handshake - we join the Brigadier's thoughts as he goes down to the pub that evening. The Headmaster doesn't mind that Turlough's been 'removed', as his fees were paid in advance. (With that attitude I don't doubt he went on to be a New Labour education adviser). And a retired mechanic has undertaken to get his car working again.

It's a strange cut from these reflections to Mawdryn's ship blowing up, but that's how PG chooses to end the book.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Target: Snakedance

A semi-classic from Terrance Dicks here, not quite up there with his masterpieces but a lot better than his production-line ones.

Dojjen's staff has a live snake wrapped round it, and he's meditating with his eyes wide open.

Nyssa actually does remember that it was Tegan who set the wrong coordinates, but she wants to cover up for her friend.

Lon and his family don't live on Manussa all the time. In fact he has just arrived there from the homeworld of the 'Federation of Three Worlds'. He's described as the Federator's 'favoured son' which might mean that he has brothers. Tanha is often bored by her official role as the Federator's wife.

The anti-dreaming device reminds Tegan of the personal stereos that were just coming into use when she left Earth.

Dugdale (the hall of mirrors man) sees the official party as an opportunity for trade, leading to the excellent sentence: '"Nobs," thought Dugdale.' He doesn't realise exactly who they are until too late - and when he does, he's actually in fear of being executed for impertinence.

In the tunnels, when the Doctor overhears Ambril's lecture he says 'Someone's well-informed,' before setting off towards the sound.

Ambril's office 'would have been luxurious' - if it wasn't so cluttered.

The Doctor strides into said office while Ambril is telling Chela to send him away, because he's 'never one for hanging about in ante-rooms.' That's true enough. The Doctor has never liked to be kept waiting.

Ambril's mocking summary of what the Doctor fears might happen has 'the end of Civilisation As We Know It' thus capitalised.

Chela can't help smiling when he grasps the Doctor's explanation of the sixth face of delusion.

The hall of mirrors is unmanned when Tegan arrives because Dugdale is in the tavern, soothing his nerves with a cup of wine.

When Dugdale comes to deliver the 'summons' to Lon, the latter plays along because he assumes that a local girl, drawn by the glamour of his position, is spinning a fantastic tale to arouse his interest. (TD clearly having no truck with fan suggestions that Lon isn't interested in girls).

When Lon returns, it's the next morning, and his mother is breakfasting on toasted grains and fruits. She wants to know where he was out last night. TD is often keen to establish clearer divisions between days in an adventure, in Loch Ness Monster for example, which also has a breakfast scene added.

Nyssa spent the same night in the TARDIS:

When the Doctor still hadn't returned next day she had decided to go to the palace and look for him. Assuming that the Doctor was (a) in trouble and (b) probably locked up, Nyssa had persuaded a friendly kitchen servant to direct her to the prison area.

Now that's a lapse into 'conscientious' mode - not the voice of someone telling a story, but the voice of someone trying to fill in the gaps in one. And the bullet points are quite extraordinary, worse than the parenthetical explanation about Azaxyr's spaceship in Monster of Peladon.

But we're quickly back on form with the puppet show, which has an extra bit where Punch (the 'villain-hero') chases away the policeman, or 'Federation civic guard'.

Lon buys paper lanterns, not candlesticks, for himself and Ambril to use in the caves.

The scene where Lon manipulates Ambril by threatening to smash the artefacts is well done. 'Ambril could have resisted bribes or threats but to watch the wanton destruction of irreplaceable antiques was more than he could bear'. On his return to the palace, his manner is one of suppressed excitement, seemingly drunk even (on screen he looks very unhappy as if failing to resist a hypnotic spell).

The attendant demon has a bucket of water ready to throw, not an amphora.

The Doctor, Nyssa and Chela get to Dojjen by climbing up the rock face above the cave mouth.

The man with the megaphone (the Voice of the Mara) has more lines to shout, including a ceremonial declaration that they are all too weak to resist the Mara, the 'Father of Lies'. The Doctor thinks of this epithet (often used for the Devil) when the Mara tries to trick him by having Tegan plead with him to look at her.

The ending is slightly less abrupt: the Doctor looks round to see Lon, Tanha, Chela and Ambril recovering. Ambril is already putting the Great Crystal away in its box. The Doctor resolves to slip away before the questions begin - 'they could invent another ceremony.' In his mind's eye he sees Dojjen turn and wave before he walks away.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Target: Arc of Infinity

Back to familiar Terrance Dicks territory now. This is one of what I call his 'conscientious' efforts - he fills in the plot holes, but he can't make it into a good story. As with some of his other later efforts, every change of scene is painstakingly followed, which makes for a choppy, unsettling narrative. Back in the day he didn't hesitate to run scenes together if it told the story better.

Omega's image in the opening scene is negative because he's not in his proper universe.

There aren't so many backpackers nowadays, the narrator tells us, since the police started cracking down on crimes like being young and hard-up. A rather different attitude from the one shown by TD towards the 'spaceniks' in Invisible Enemy!

Robin's passport was stolen, not lost. Colin doesn't want to sleep in the crypt because he's seen too many horror films featuring young people foolishly spending the night in such places.

Talor's last words are 'An impulse laser?' Later we're told that Damon also tried to get the Castellan to take action over the data protection issues, but got the brush-off.

The Ergon resembles a lizard-man (not a chicken).

The scene where Maxill threatens to arrest Damon is a little bit less antagonistic - Maxill is more concerned to justify himself. Not much more though.

Robin's day of shock after Colin's initial disappearance is expanded a bit (on screen we just see him sitting on the steps outside the crypt).

Staser is spelt 'stasar' throughout.

Nyssa is surprised at the Doctor's manner with the Council, the manner of someone among equals - until she remembers that he's a former President.

The place to which Damon takes Nyssa for a talk is a 'recreation lounge'. I shall continue to think of it as 'Dimensions', the Gallifreyan bistro.

Maxil is told that it's very few who get to supervise the termination of a Time Lord (not destruction).

After stunning the guards, Nyssa sets her staser back to 'kill' - she really is ready to kick some High Council arse.

The execution procession passes various unhappy Gallifreyans - the news of the Doctor's arrival and condemnation has spread fast.

When Nyssa tells the Doctor that she's taking another staser 'just in case', she adds 'I'll set it on stun.' This is what I mean by conscientiously filling in the holes.

Hedin steps in front of the Doctor to take the staser blast because he knows that Omega can't complete his plan if the Doctor dies. If he has any nobler motive it's not mentioned.

Omega does not say to Tegan, 'Tell him the precise location and you will die.' It's just a plain silence-or-death threat.

The climactic scene in Omega's TARDIS is wrapped up better: Tegan reports finding Robin and Colin, and that the former will take the latter to hospital. The Doctor then says they've got to find Omega, before it's too late.

In the phone-box scene, Nyssa has a look through her own pockets, but can only find three very oddly-shaped coins.

The narrator points out that the Doctor and Nyssa are wasting their time going round the youth hostels, because neither Colin nor Tegan actually stayed in one. This is odd, because the search does eventually lead to some information.

Tegan gives us closure on Robin as well as Colin - the former is going home, and has even been provided with a new passport. Again, it's nice to have the loose ends tied up, but the thing preventing me from enjoying this story wasn't that I was worried about what happened to Robin.

The Doctor's look of dismay when he hears that Tegan wants to rejoin the TARDIS crew has been changed into a wry smile: 'Curiously enough, he found he didn't mind at all,' insists the narrator.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Target: Time-flight

A Peter Grimwade adaptation for us next. The Doctor tells the story of Full Circle to Nyssa and Tegan as a way of remembering Adric. Then he says they should have a treat, not a holiday, at the Great Exhibition. When Tegan and Nyssa go along with this idea, they're putting on a brave face. (Tegan thinks that Queen Victoria would not be amused. Neither am I.) When she asks if the TARDIS has hit turbulence, she's thinking of her father's light aircraft (as mentioned in the Logopolis Target).

Tegan and Nyssa are often referred to as 'the girls'. Nyssa perhaps, but Tegan's supposed to be in her twenties isn't she?

The airport security suit is taken aback by the mention of UNIT. He knows it will damage his career if he upsets a UNIT agent. The seeds of Torchwood are right here, unfortunately. I preferred it when UNIT just drove around in army lorries, jumping out to shoot ineffectually at aliens. This idea of them as an all-powerful, sinister group turns me off completely.

We're told that Sir John Sudbury is very pleased to hear the Doctor's turned up, as the disappearing Concorde issue has been troubling him.

Tegan's uniform is an Air Australia one. When the airport controller greets her with 'A stewardess?' this has undertones of contempt (not just surprise) which are picked up and resented by Tegs.

The Golf Alpha Charlie crew are much the same except that Bilton is more assertive, and Scobie more sarcastic. The latter several times refers to passengers as 'punters'.

The two aircraft land safely in prehistory because the ground there happens to be a dried mudflat. The cold climate is made much more of - the ground is frosty, for example. (The Pleistocene stuff is nonsense though, as that was the second most recent epoch, a bare 3 million years ago. The entire Cretaceous and Tertiary periods intervene between the Jurassic and the Pleistocene, so it is in no sense 'not far off').

The voices the Doctor hears while enveloped by the Plasmatons are asking for help against the renegade Xeraphin.

Professor Hayter is not a sympathetic figure in the book - variously described as narrow-minded, contemptuous, sour-faced, sneering and spiteful. He has a senior common-room manner which doesn't really work for someone from the University of Darlington. Darlington College Oxford perhaps. Several times the Doctor and Captain Stapley are written as being united against him, particularly at the point where the Doctor accuses him of wanting to abandon his fellow passengers.

Two of those passengers, by the way, are 'a pop star and his manager'.

Although we are privy to Kalid's thoughts from the first time we see him, we are not told that he's the Master until he unmasks. Perhaps he wasn't thinking about being the Master. The Doctor thinks of Kalid as an 'inflated poseur'.

When Captain Stapley comes out of his hallucination in the sanctum, he perceives reality 'like a change of shot in a film'. Nice. It's specifically Stapley's mention of Tegan - 'the pretty Australian stewardess' - that brings Bilton out of his trance.

The Doctor feels a chill in the room when Kalid starts chanting - 'as if a door had been opened'.

When the Master's holding the Doctor at gunpoint for the TARDIS key, Hayter can't comprehend the idea of two grown men playing out a 'hysterical charade' for possession of a phone box. An excellent glimpse of what a DW adventure might look like to someone who'd got caught up in one.

The thing in the sarcophagus resembles a giant brain. The Doctor explains that when Nyssa threw the crystal, a massive burst of energy held it back, and dispersed Kalid's serpent creature, and the semblance of Kalid himself.

There's a bit more method in Captain Stapley's madness when he tries to 'fly' the TARDIS - he's hoping to do a lateral movement first, to get his confidence up. Bilton, meanwhile, is thinking of that song about strawberry jam on the runway (Fred Was A Member Of The RAF, I believe).

Among the passengers entering the Master's TARDIS, Scobie sees the whole flight crew of Victor Foxtrot (presumably including the enigmatic Captain Urquhart).

When the discussions about how to get Alpha Charlie into the air begin, Bilton is has more to say about the 'runway'. He says it can't be rougher than the one at Kennedy Airport (which is indeed how it was always referred to in the UK in those days).

Standing under Concorde, Nyssa sees it as an artifact of an alien, mechanistic technology. She's described, wonderfully, as looking up like a tourist in a mediaeval cathedral.

Trundling the tyre gives Tegan deja vu - she realises it's just like her doomed attempts to repair Aunty Vanessa's sports car. (Is it deja vu if you can place it?)

I can't stop myself interjecting that aircraft really do use 400Hz power, because transformers for a higher frequency are lighter and take up less space.

Nyssa is terrified by the idea of getting Alpha Charlie off the ground. And indeed the takeoff is described with extra tension.

Back at Heathrow, the Master's TARDIS very topically shines in the sky like 'Haley's' (sic) Comet. Two coppers perceive it variously as the Day of Judgement and a few too many at lunchtime (ah for the carefree 80s days of lunchtime drinking).

Scobie's remark about the overtime is a dismayed response to the news that they've only been gone ten minutes (not 24 hours).

As always, my purpose has been to compare, not review, but on both occasions that I've read this Target, I've enjoyed it more than I expected to. Peter Grimwade conveys all the good bits of the story and successfully hides the bad bits, as well as adding two or three very good descriptive touches.