Saturday, April 30, 2011

Target: The Twin Dilemma

Eric Saward again - and he's keen to thrust details of his expanded world on us. None of them appear in the screen version so I shall mention only the most interesting ones. Such as that Professor Sylvest fears his sons and keeps thinking about killing them, and that he drinks a lot and is seeing a woman behind their mother's back. Oh, and cats are superintelligent in the same way as dolphins in the Douglas Adams universe.

(There's an exhaustive analysis of the continuity differences appended to the PDF version of the Target. Thanks to the author thereof. And don't come after me Mr Saward, I bought a copy of the book and I have a receipt for £2 to prove it).

We don't see the Doctor choose and change costumes - he and Peri leave the console room, and return with him wearing the new costume. During the strangle attack, she is particularly horrified by the expression of enjoyment on the Doctor's face. And when she tells him what he did, he screams in horror. His various personality changes are effectively described from her point of view in terms of archetypes - Victorian actor, prophet, Sherlock Holmes.

It was Edgeworth's idea to teleport down alone to capture the twins. He wanted to avoid a worse scenario - it's darkly hinted that a member of his crew enjoys excessive violence. (Lt. E. Saward no doubt)

Sylvest talks to the Intergalactic Task Force, not the Special Incident Room. (Though I suppose the Room could belong to the Force). Later, we don't see the two officers back at base at all, the action is all presented from Hugo's point of view.

There's a long, violent back-story about how the Time Lords tried to kill Azmael, and about how the gastropods got going on Jaconda.

Hugo is able to detect the freighter because Azmael accidentally switched off the deflector. There's a digression about time, and types of heroism. Here and throughout the book, Hugo is motivated at least partly by greed. He's not the professional police officer we see on screen.

Mestor creates a giant blue 'Turneresque' (!) fist-shaped cloud above Titan 3, with which he attacks Hugo's squadron.

Peri deliberately uses the word 'Doc' to wind the Doctor up. There's an exchange about his infant theories about the stork bringing babies which presumably is part of the Holmes persona rather than being drawn from Time Lord culture. And this brings the Doctor's mind onto jelly babies.

Peri realises the havoc that a deranged Doctor could cause across space and time, and decides to play along with his delusions in the hope of bringing him back to normality. But it's hard work: she has to try hard not to sound like 'the traditional dumb sidekick.'

A certain part of the Doctor's anatomy is described as 'ridged and commanding' - but it's just his pointing finger.

The narrator tells us that the twins have matured under the rough treatment they've been getting recently. 'Fear may not be the best regime to form and mould children's characters, but...' They write on a blackboard when they're at work on Titan 3, not a sort of glass/paint board.

Although the revitalising modulator dissassembles Azmael into his component molecules, he remains conscious throughout the process. There's a long digression about the invention of the machine.

There's none of the stuff about Hugo wandering round the TARDIS looking for his power pack.

One of the reasons Azmael remembers the drinking bout he had with the Doctor is that he had to pay for it, as the Doctor didn't have any money on him.

Peri makes a much more extended exploration of the dome on Titan 3, finding inter alia a cooker she can't operate, and a wine cellar which causes her to decide that whatever happens to them, she won't die sober. The instrument console reminds her of her prom - either there are things about proms which TV has not taught me, or that's really terrible, perfunctory American characterisation.

The Doctor doesn't take any inspiration from the twins' equations, or even notice them apparently.

When Peri and the Doctor return to the TARDIS, Hugo doesn't threaten the Doctor with his gun. Indeed the weapon isn't mentioned.

Back on the freighter, there's yet more back story about Azmael and Jaconda - the inhabitants saved him from the assassins sent after him by the Time Lords (in the earlier back story).

On arrival at Jaconda, the Doctor sees a child in the distance, and reasons with Peri that they don't have the time or resources to save him. The point is academic anyway as he scurries off in fear.

Hugo's shown to be in very definite danger when his boots stick in the gastropod slime. Using the gun to cut himself free is the Doctor's idea. (I still don't see why Hugo doesn't just step out of his boots).

When the Doctor interrupts Azmael's child-bullying session, and Drak goes for his gun, Romulus and Remus watch 'in eager anticipation of violence.' They must know this is a Saward adaptation.

The Doctor's reaction to Mestor's plan to move the planets is brought forward to a new scene where a projection of Mestor appears in the laboratory. The Doctor isn't in the throne room at that point and doesn't know Peri is safe until she's brought into the lab.

Azmael is extra humiliated, as well he should be, by his failure to realise that Mestor's plan will make the planets collide with the sun.

While the Doctor's thinking in the lab, he has a reverie about his past companions. Turlough is 'the only companion who had seriously tried to kill him.' I love the pedantic qualification there. Jo tried to kill him under hypnosis at least once, and she was pretty serious about it as I recall.

There's some splendid Adric hate here - he's capering in a 'dance of death', he'd aggravated everyone on board the TARDIS with his 'childish antics', and he'd died without the Doctor ever being able to fully praise him, help him or ultimately like him. Even the Doctor hated Adric?

When the Doctor picks up the acid vials, there's yet another digression, about the inventor. ES uses 'dehydration' to mean corrosion of metal, which has nothing to do with removing water from it.

The Chamberlain - whose name is Slarn - tries to bribe the twins into working out how to fly the TARDIS. We learn this in summary, as we do about Peri and Hugo's journey back to the TARDIS.

When the Doctor enters the throne room to confront Mestor - in the novel it's his first visit to the room - there's an effective description of the fine mosaics in the room ruined by slime and damp.

The Doctor doesn't encounter Peri in the tunnels on his way back to the TARDIS. But when he gets back, she perceives that his erratic post-regeneration behaviour is over.

Hugo's motivation for staying on Jaconda is to extort money out of Slarn for protection against the Jacondans.

During the final scene, the twins are exploring the TARDIS off-stage. The Doctor's 'like it or not' line is 'as bland and as sterile as it sounded', and Peri hopes that the he said it with a smile.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Target: The Caves of Androzani

Terrance Dicks uses the 'opening pan' technique seen in his Inferno novelisation to show us the twin Androzani planets. It doesn't work quite so well this time because he doesn't then zoom in on the Doctor.

When he does appear, the Fifth Doctor has an extra attribute for his last Target appearance: 'an air of mildly bemused curiosity'.

The gun-runners' 'autogard' alerts them by glowing rather than beeping.

The magma beast doesn't just kill people, it eats them, as the half-consumed remains of 'Trooper Boze' testify.

The chacaws that Krelper doesn't pick are a spiked fruit which convicts are made to gather. The work turns their bodies into a mass of scar tissue.

Meeting Chellak, the Doctor weighs him up as a soldier under pressure - 'never the easiest type to deal with.' We're given a summary of the defence the Doctor makes against his accusations.

Krau Timmin always agrees with Morgus - outwardly. 'Her private thoughts she kept very much to herself.'

Morgus' asides, or addresses to camera according to who you believe, are either omitted, delivered as musings while he's 'staring into space' or tacked onto the end of his previous speech, so they're addressed to the person he's actually talking to. An example of the last is his 'And then we shall all feel a lot better,' which he says to Chellak.

There's a summary of an argument between Stotz and Krelper after the gas attack: Krelper wants to press on and contact Sharaz Jek, Stotz says they must abandon the weapons and escape.

Sharaz Jek's androids are made in a coffin-shaped tank, reminiscent of the Auton production tanks described in The Auton Invasion.

We're shown a secret panel opening in the cell where the Doctor and Peri are awaiting execution.

The President is 'handsome in an actorish way', a very fitting description for the man we see on screen. Only top politicians such as himself, and tycoons like Morgus, can afford spectrox.

When we rejoin the Doctor and Peri after the 'execution', their rescue from the cell and conduction to Sharaz Jek's base is outlined.

Chellak doesn't say he'll be the 'butt of the army'. His words are 'the laughing stock of the Army, the butt of a thousand jokes.'

The Stotz/Krelper confrontation on the dunes takes place just outside a cave mouth, rather than seemingly out in the open. There isn't the sudden, pivotal appearance of Stotz's loyal man, TD having his usual keen sense of when something very visual can't be successfully shown on the page.

Salateen doesn't say that the androids have killed most of, or indeed any, bats. (It occurs to me that Jek would surely be cutting off the spectrox supply if he allowed them to be killed.) The queen bats have only gone to the deeps to hibernate.

Chellak and robo-Salateen's 'What a planet!' conversation is preceded by an extra exchange about mud bursts and perihelion. The narrator takes the opportunity to explain that the mud is the primeval mud referred to by the Doctor in the opening, and that it's the same thing as the magma.

The real Salateen's reason in using Peri as a human shield against the android is carefully explained (he knows that the android won't fire, as she's wearing a belt-plate). When he arrives at Chellak's HQ, the general notes that the machine pistol he's carrying isn't service issue. Salateen gives Peri a chair - or rather shoves her into it - and a glass of water. But he glances at the general for permission first. TD doesn't forget that these men are soldiers.

When Stotz suggests to Jek that the Doctor's a spy, he isn't really interested in the spy issue. He just wants to get on Jek's good side.

Chellak's ungracious refusal to acknowledge that the Doctor was instrumental in helping Salateen to escape is neatly described thus: 'Defeated in logic, Chellak took refuge in authority.' Peri says there's a 'fat chance' that she'll be fit to guide the assault, not 'some hope'.

Krelper's mate, who Stotz kills at the same time as Krelper, is or was a taciturn man named Stark.

TD displays his occasional tendency to generalise when he says of Morgus that, 'like many tightly controlled people, he was all the more prone to panic when the control began to slip.'

The narration carefully explains that the Doctor, having cut his handcuff chain on board Stotz's ship, goes on to cut the bands off his wrists.

Morgus' principal motivation for having the lift engineer shot is that he asked for too high a bribe for his work.

The Doctor is feeling light-headed when he uncharacteristically addresses the chief gun-runner as 'Stotzy'.

The mud-burst that saves the Doctor from the gun-runners happens when he's standing up, not lying down on his back.

When Krelper returns to the ship, he's forewarned that something unusual is happening by seeing Morgus' space yacht parked next to it. Morgus has a gun on his lap throughout the ensuing scene, and when he says 'Perhaps you think you know me?', he puts a hand on it to give his words added weight.

Stotz's response to the 'my part in all this has been discovered' line is expanded: 'When you say all this, you mean the gun-running, and collecting spectrox and -', whereupon Morgus interrupts him impatiently. Interesting how just a few extra words, and a change of timing, work as characterisation to show us Stotz's harsh sense of humour in action again.

The Doctor realises that even if he and Peri do both survive, he'll have to kill Sharaz Jek to get Peri away from him. When he reaches the bats, there's a fairly detailed description of how he has to feel around for the milk glands, and squeeze them. During this the dormant bat opens an eye, but doesn't otherwise react. I can't tell if TD secretly finds all this very funny, or whether he feels that the scene is distasteful but has to be put in to make the milk quest feel less perfunctory.

When Morgus and Jek finally confront one another, Jek's disregard of Morgus' threats is elegantly conveyed thus: 'As far as Sharaz Jek was concerned, the machine-pistol in Morgus's hand could have been a flower or a fan.' Sheer poetry, dear boy!

Jek's face, when revealed, is a mere formless blob. And he merely strangles Morgus, he doesn't thrust his head into a machine. (This means that the fire has to be started by Morgus' lifeless body being thrown into a control console.)

When the Doctor sees Adric's face, he remembers that Adric is dead - 'but then perhaps he was dead himself.' There's a strong implication that it's the Master's taunts that make the Doctor choose survival, because 'the one thing the Doctor had never done in all his lives was to let the Master have the last laugh.' Excellent.

The Sixth Doctor is described as having 'something cat-like about the eyes, a touch of arrogance in the mouth.' And he says 'Change' twice. Certainly things will never be the same in the world of Targets again. (Though please keep reading these comparisons...)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Target: Planet of Fire

Peter Grimwade returns for this one, making many changes to dialogue and scene positioning. As usual in such cases I shall note only the ones which I think significantly alter our impression of the story.

He opens by contrasting the two shipwrecks - the Greek vessel and the Trion prison ship.

We're then straight to the TARDIS console room. Turlough suggests a holiday to cheer him and the Doctor up: the Doctor's not keen, because his holiday in Brighton led to 'unutterable chaos.' Mention of Brighton causes Turlough to remember a depressing visit to Weston-Super-Mare with the Ibbotsons one wet half-term. (Do public schools have half-term?) The disturbing phrase 'Mrs Ibbotson's weeping lettuce sandwiches' is used. No wonder Ibbotson was sick on the way back.

Kamelion's wails of pain introduce the first of several disparaging references. The Doctor has quite forgotten about him: 'the obsequious automaton had none of the cheerful loyalty of K9 and the Doctor always felt uncomfortable in the presence of this tin-pot Jeeves.' Making the Doctor a channel for meta-criticism is a dangerous path for an author, but that's a good comparison with K9.

The first archaeology scene is inserted here. (The intercuts between island and TARDIS are all at different points). Howard likes Peri, even finds her attractive, but they always end up arguing. There's some wince-worthy American characterisation for Peri: she rummages through a box of finds 'as carelessly as if it had been a pile of records in Bloomingdale's music department.'

Back to the Kamelion hate: he speaks with 'the bland, almost insolent, indifference of a speak-your-weight machine.' But the 'contact must be made' bit is thought, not spoken - it's made clear to us from the start that he's up to something.

The TARDIS materialises on the island 'as if to police some outpost of the Empire'.

When Peri comes to say goodbye, she gives Howard 'one of her Shirley Temple smiles'. I'm getting quite an unpleasant picture of this relationship. She goes on to remind him that he's 41 next birthday, like me. Incidentally, one of her rules is never to trust a man with a toupee (this is in relation to a certain Doc Corfield).

There are various extra bits of Kamelion dialogue, including one where he warns Turlough about getting sunburnt (Turlough interprets this as a threat). He only says 'You're finished!', and, having immobilised him, drags him away and dumps him 'like a pile of scrap'. There's no 'Earthlings!' comment when he sees Peri on the scanner.

The comedy with the alien coins and the waiter is omitted. It's beer that the Doctor was drinking, by the way.

It's not until Howard/Kamelion and Peri have both arrived in the console room that we first join the action on Sarn. The Sarn scenes are again intercut differently with the other action. Malkon is repeatedly described as a 'young boy' and a child, which don't seem accurate descriptions of the young man we see on screen. And later on he's a 'teenager'.

Turlough used to imagine Sarn when reading Dante at school with Mr Sellick.

The kick Peri gives Howard/Kamelion in the TARDIS 'would have repulsed a Globetrotter.'

Peri sees Master/Kamelion approaching her through the telescope. (It wouldn't focus that close.) She tells him 'Negative!' when he says she must obey him, because, having been brought up on a college campus, she's quite used to dealing with 'pompous little men who stamped their feet and behaved like spoilt children.' When he tells her to be reasonable, he's intriguingly described as adding 'an instant smile like a dab of lipstick.'

The Doctor quotes Paradise Lost at Turlough as they walk across Sarn, but Turlough isn't keen. Dante may have been on the curriculum at Brendon, but not Milton apparently.

The Doctor and Turlough are met by Amyand because he and Sorasta saw them coming on a scanner, which Roskal has worked out how to operate by trial and error (shades of State of Decay here).

Turlough doesn't like the Doctor's suggestion that they rescue the Sarns in the TARDIS. 'We can't turn the TARDIS into an orbiting refugee camp,' he says. The Doctor calls him a 'little racialist' and thinks that Tegan was right to say he was a nasty piece of work.

The Doctor wishes, on two different occasions, that he hadn't left 'Howard' in the TARDIS, because he would have appreciated the architecture of the Sarn city.

Peri says the volcano machinery is like Houston Control. Turlough says it's hardly that crude. He crosses his fingers when he turns the gas off.

When Turlough declares himself as the Chosen One, the gesture that he gives to display the Misos Triangle is described as a Nazi-style salute, which goes well with the 'racialist' accusation earlier.

Peri thinks the fire cavern is like the Hall of the Mountain King - 'or at least his boiler room.'

The blue flame reminds the Doctor of the blue flame guarded by the Sisterhood of Karn, and he suspects that numismaton's healing properties work in the same way. Wasn't the Sacred Flame more red and yellow?

The Master is in his 14th incarnation. There's some good stuff from his miniaturised point of view about Peri's 'hammer heels' and her deadly shoe. The thought of being defeated by an Earthling - 'an American even' - is particularly humiliating for him.

Turlough's 'into the Tardis! Quickly!' is expanded into an extended rant at the Elders. He enjoys thus 'playing the little nabob.'

The thunderous noise of the volcano is described as 'ophicleide'. (That's a kind of bugle apparently.)

The Doctor explains the purpose of the Trion visits to Amyand: volcano control, and supplies for the descendants of the colonists. They stopped, he thinks, because of 'cuts'.

There's a suggestion that the Master's TCE would not be fatal to a Time Lord (tell that to the cameraman in Deadly Assassin).

Amyand keeps the thermal suit on when he returns to the Hall of Fire because the catch on the helmet is stuck, and he can't get it off. So his Logar impression is accidental, and he doesn't do the 'So much for Logar' reveal.

The Master doesn't say 'to your own...' just before he disappears. The Doctor suffers greatly from having to kill (?) him. We're told he'd never before inflicted such pain on anyone, 'nor ever would again.'

The departing Turlough thinks that Peri will make an admirable companion. He walks 'smartly' to the transporter, a hint that he's returning to Trion military service? He turns 'without a wave'.

And we're left without the final TARDIS scene.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Target: Frontios

Christopher Bidmead's dedication is to 'the machine that made this possible.' Why is that not a surprise?

Tegan's upset reaction to the idea of Earth suffering a catastrophe leads the Doctor to reflect that she's poor Time Lord material. Is this the germ of the idea about Ace becoming a trainee Time Lady in season 27?

The TARDIS central column is referred to as the Time Column. And the TARDIS doesn't materialise on Frontios, it falls to the surface through space.

The colony has a Warnsman whose job it is to look out for meteor showers, and crank a siren when one's coming. A sensible precaution.

An extra exchange between Turlough and Tegan about whether they should interfere on Frontios is followed by a sinister Nietzschean note: 'Neither of them realised at that stage that the planet might be interfering with them.'

The State Room scene between Brazen and Plantagenet is preceded by a bit where Brazen tells Cockerill off for speaking disrespectfully of the new leader. The room itself - it's the former control room - is full of broken instrumentation, and only two of the three lighting panels are working. This effectively conveys the decline that the colony is in.

When Norna leads Tegan and Turlough to the ship so they can get the acid jar, she knows that the research room has been sealed, so they don't go there directly. At one point they have to hide in the State Room, where Cockerill is sitting in Plantagenet's throne, eating a chicken wing that he's stolen. He lets them go though, and there's a hint that he will turn out to be important later.

(It's this chicken that he eats up on the hull at the illicit picnic with his mates. Their names are Kernighan and Ritchie - this is probably the only Bidmead techno-joke that's made me smile).

After the apparent destruction of the TARDIS, Turlough and Tegan start bitching and bickering. The Doctor tells them that they must 'take it like Time Lords'.

The Doctor is 'not very fond of tunnels at the best of times.'

Norna and Range don't find a map in the tunnels, but a plaque:


which reminded me agreeably of Arne Saknussem's carved initials in Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

All the Gravis' speeches are translated by a horrific device made out the head and arm of a dead colonist mounted on a trolley. This is very effective as showing us what the Tractators are capable of, but of course it means the story is lumbered with it and it has to follow the Gravis round everywhere, until it's destroyed in the shaking the TARDIS gets in the climax.

Their excavating machine is even more unpleasant: it's made entirely of human corpses, with bone struts, polishing hands and arms and legs working in the interior. This really does emphasise the horrific position that the 'driver' is in. However, the connections between the driver and the machine are removeable, which undoes this a bit.

The Doctor doesn't say anything about his Tegan android's accent. Perhaps CB got fed up with accent jokes after Castrovalva? The point of the android pretence, by the way, is so that the Tractators won't want her as their new driver.

Cockerill is present with Plantagenet and Range in the last scene, and gets some of Range's lines. In compensation, we're told that Range has outlined his plan for completing stage one of the Long Path.

The Time Lords never did find out about the Doctor's intervention on Frontios. How odd that CB, who's spent the whole book adding adult, often horrific touches to the story, chooses to end it on a true children's book note.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Target: The Awakening

Eric Pringle opens with a long reflection by Jane about recent events in Little Hodcombe, which is in Dorset. Jane is described as 'young', not an impression I got on screen.

When the Doctor is roaming the village in search of his companions, he perceives the birdsong as surrounding the place like an invisible sound barrier - reminiscent of the heat barrier round Devil's End in The Daemons.

Tegan's own dress is described as gaudy and shapeless, but in the May Queen outfit she looks 'as cool and pretty as a wood in springtime'. (Heh heh. She looks so cross though!)

The thorn branches obstructing Will's view of the village green are described as looking like barbed wire, not a simile that would occur to someone from the 17th century.

The Malus creature on the TARDIS wall is described using various spider imagery - it always seemed more like a pocket dragon to me.

An ironic note at the end of the book: the TARDIS is on its way back to the village, as on screen, but for 'a holiday deep in the peaceful English countryside, where nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.'

Target: Warriors of the Deep

'The Base might have been in space.' Even in the later adaptations, Terrance Dicks is still coming up with good opening lines.

The narrator suggests that the bright lighting in the Base might be a psychological counter to the darkness outside.

Vorshak is embarrassed by his own 'recruiting-poster' good looks.

Proton missiles don't leave a residue of radiation - like the neutron bomb supposedly wouldn't - and so this cold war is theoretically winnable. They are also referred to as photon missiles, I assume this is a misprint.

Another good Turlough description: there's something shifty and off-key about him, 'he might have been the school bully - or the school sneak.'

Nilson recruited Solow after her husband died. 'He had persuaded her that the East Bloc philosophy...was the answer to all life's problems'. Nilson is if anything more fanatical than his masters - 'like many political converts', observes the narrator.

The TARDIS is back to being invulnerable again - but, thinks the Doctor, there have been weaknesses recently. He also thinks that in any case he can't just sit there attracting the hostile attention of the whole planet. Good to see this plot point being addressed.

The Doctor tells Tegan that hexachromite is lethal to marine life. Reptiles aren't specifically mentioned in this context until much later, when he formulates his desperate plan.

When the Doctor says 'So sorry,' after knocking out the guard, his regret is genuine.

Icthar is originally from the Wenley Moor shelter - he discovered the battle cruiser underneath the polar ice cap. It's a cylindrical ship by the way - the one on screen is more of a wedge shape.

The guard knocked out by the Doctor has been eating garlic. Hence the Doctor's 'What have you been eating?' question.

The Doctor knows there's very little chance of making peace between the Silurians and the humans.

Nilson and Solow plan to use the escape pod to reach an East Bloc cruiser.

Turlough is surprised by his own bravery in getting Tegan and the Doctor rescued from the airlock.

The UV convertor comes from the Solarium - a description of this area (used for giving the crew therapeutic exposure to artificial sunlight) follows, with rather the same overtones as Malcolm Hulke's description of the 'sunshine treat' in Doomsday Weapon.

The burning airlock door reminds Turlough of burnt toast, and makes him nostalgic for teas at his public school - muffins cooked in one's study by a 'terrified fag'... I must say Brendon School seemed like a slightly more forward-looking place than that, insofar as that is possible for a public school.

The guard who picks up the program disc after Solow's death says '43Y?' because that is the code stamped on it - the highest security classification on the Base.

When the Doctor surrenders his gun to Nilson, the narrator remarks that 'he'd never liked carrying weapons anyway.'

The Doctor is explicitly stated to recognise Ichthar as not only the third member of the Triad, but as the third Silurian from the original story. The correspondences between the unnamed Silurians in that story, and Okdel, K'to and Morka from The Cave Monsters cannot be resolved satisfactorily but the strongest case, in my opinion, is for saying that Ichthar should really be called K'to.

'Fortunately Bulic had a good knowledge of the Base ventilation system,' observes the narrator when he and Tegan are in the shafts. He then tidily explains that the computer bay is empty when Tegan and Bulic emerge from the ventilation system, Katrina's body having been taken away.

It's made clear that Bulic survives at the end, and the Doctor reflects that there will be other survivors here and there on the base. 'Bulic would have to take charge, explain what had happened to the astonished rescuers from the surface.' Rather him than me...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Animated Star Trek Logs

I've been reading my way through the first five adaptations of the animated Star Trek - Logs One to Five. I'm not so much rating the adaptations here, as giving my impressions of the episodes as perceived through the adaptations. Or to put it another way, I'm answering the question 'Did the books make you think this episode was any good?'

Beyond the Farthest Star
- enjoyably suspenseful, and a measure of pity for the antagonist's dreadful loneliness

Yesteryear - superb, up there with the best original episodes. The two versions of Spock come across extremely convincingly.

One of Our Planets Is Missing - fairly standard stuff about making a creature realise the damage it's causing

The Survivor - the Vendorian turns out to be quite an interesting character, but that's it

The Lorelei Signal - comic froth. Nice to see the Enterprise women getting to do something for a change.

The Infinite Vulcan - some interesting creatures but a dull story, enlivened only by the idea of a 25ft high Spock

Once Upon A Planet - agreeable enough. A flavour of the Riverworld novels here, in the way the crew have to get behind the scenes of the artificial environment.

Mudd's Passion - Mudd is a lot less annoying on the page. And any episode that offers us Scotty and M'ress getting to know each other can't be all bad.

The Magicks of Megas-Tu - the old 'Devil is an alien' trope but really well done. Lucien is a memorable character.

The Terratin Incident - really good, both the crew's ingenious (but doomed) methods of coping with being shrunk, and the reveal. I was genuinely surprised to find out who was causing the shrinking, and why they were doing it.

Time Trap - fairly dull, the only one of these stories that really bored me.

More Tribbles, More Troubles - don't they know that less is more? This is one souffle that didn't need reheating.

The Ambergris Element - interesting concepts, fairly linear story but not a bad one.

Pirates of Orion - just an anecdote really. I like the lateral thinking deployed by Scotty to outwit the pirate commander, but I was expecting a twist after that which didn't come.

Jihad - bit like a D&D module with a group of mismatched characters making a wilderness journey by cart and then entering a dungeon for a fight. Again, interesting concepts, but this time a pretty poor story.

These have certainly made me take the animated episodes seriously, I'll be seeking out the remaining books, and the screen versions too.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Target: The Five Doctors

'It was a place of ancient evil,' begins Terrance Dicks. He knows it's going to be hard work making this series of sketches into a readable novelisation, so he's opting for a classic opening to start on a high.

The console in the game room is clumsy and complex because it's an early model of a sophisticated device. The clip of the First Doctor is inserted at this point, because it's being watched by the 'Player'.

Like Nyssa in Snakedance, Tegan thinks in (a) and (b) bullet points when she contemplates the Doctor's TARDIS navigation ability. The new console is the result of repairs performed after the recent Cyberman attack - probably, but not explicitly, the one in Earthshock.

Turlough is 'good-looking in a faintly untrustworthy way.' Nice. The Eye of Orion differs from Earth only in the faint purple haze that hangs in the air.

The Brigadier and Col Crichton are talking before the UNIT reunion. I got the impression that on screen, the reunion has finished when we see them, though looking at the script it isn't explicitly stated to be so.

The Third Doctor is driving Bessie on a private test road - nice to see this nod to all the driveways and runways that have unconvincingly masqueraded as public roads in DW over the years.

Sarah Jane Smith lives in a flat, not a semi. TD, with just a few sentences, instantly recreates the Sarah of the Targets here, someone who I always felt was a different and superior person to the gulpy, petulant companion seen on screen. She's still a bit resentful about being dropped off so suddenly in Hand of Fear - though as the narrator fair-mindedly points out, she had just been saying she wanted to leave. Interestingly, the narration goes on to say that she had been expressing a wish to leave for some time before that.

When the Scoop appears, Susan Campbell is on her way to market in New London (a smaller, greener, more gleaming version of the old). David C was a big name in the Reconstruction Government, so she didn't see much of him for a few years, but now they and their three children are very happy together.

The Fourth Doctor is neatly described as the having 'the intellectual arrogance of the first, the humour of the second, and something of the elegance of the third'.

Sarah is rescued by the Third Doctor not from a gentle slope, but from the edge of a ravine.

The Master's 'one of my predecessors' scene is enlivened by the lightning bolt striking the corpse, making it 'dance and twitch in a ghastly parody of life'. Has Ian Marter taken over the writing?

The technician who tells Borusa that they can't retrieve the Fourth Doctor is not only a Time Technician, but an eminent Time Lord scientist. Good to see TD sticking up for tech types.

The Cybermen in this story are explicitly part-organic.

The First Doctor does not eat a sandwich while wearing fingerless gloves, like a half-starved scruffy old beggar.

The Castellan is suspected of seeking revenge for the events of Arc of Infinity. He only says 'No!' not 'No - not the mind probe!'

The Raston Robot has silver discs in its armoury as well as javelins.

The First Doctor explains 'easy as pi' to Tegan at some unspecified juncture after the action, though she still doesn't quite understand. Basically the successive digits of pi 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, 2, 6, 5... are used as co-ordinate pairs on the 10x10 grid of squares, to indicate the safe ones.

Zoe's described as 'a very small girl with an attractive elfin face.' She and Jamie are said to have been the third Doctor's companions, I sincerely hope that's a misprint.

When the Fifth Doctor is trying to find the secret control room, he reflects that 'The way into a hidden chamber on Gallifrey might well be more complex than pressing the third carved moulding on the right.'

We see Tegan's thoughts as she works out a numbering system for the Doctors, just like with Jo in Three Doctors.

Sarah greets the Brigadier with a hug, not a handshake. She and Tegan wonder where the Fourth Doctor's got to. Don't we all.

Turlough has no faith in the TARDIS's invulnerability to the Cyber-bomb. Who can blame him given all the contradictory information we've had on that subject over the years?

When Rassilon appears, it's as a 'giant spectral presence' (and not some chuckling arse with a comedy moustache).

And when the Master disappears, Tegan thinks she sees his snarl hanging on the air like the Cheshire Cat's smile.

Finally: the Doctor's statement that the Time Lords will be furious that he's escaped is rewarded with one of Tegan's 'disapproving looks'. Can she do any other kind?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Target: Terror of the Autons

The Master's domination of Phillips is much more sadistic in the book, where he disguises him as a clown and gets a big kick out of doing so. The grenade bit is much better on the page too - I was really disappointed not to see a clump of trees getting reduced to fine white ash. The grenade, btw, is described as a Sontaran weapon - another anticipation of Time Warrior from Terrance Dicks, who also puts a Gallifrey reference in Claws of Axos.

Jo's bomb lands in a canal behind the UNIT building - not in the sea, accompanied by the sound of seagulls ffs. There's no Mr Brownrose (perhaps the arse innuendo wasn't suitable for children?).

The Brigadier deals with the Auton in the safe by throwing a grenade in there with it, and slamming the door. And Luigi Rossini's real name is Lew Ross, which I reckon is much better than the one used on screen.

Target: The Claws of Axos

Winser is much more clearly painted as an ambitious genius, and some of Chinn's manoeuvrings are moved forward into the initial visit to Axos (he gets the Axons to show him out the back door!), and this part of the plot seems better paced as a result. The Brigadier's point of view is used to explain why the Doctor is asking various awkward questions of the Axons.

The Doctor tells Axos that his home planet is Gallifrey - anticipating the mention in Time Warrior by three series.

Target: The Mind of Evil

Terrance Dicks takes half a page - which is a lot in a Target - to show Alcott as someone who distrusts and fears Chinese communist power, thus explaining the hallucination of the Chinese dragon as an embodiment of his fears (rather than simply arising from the simple fact of Chin Lee being Chinese, as detractors have claimed).

Also, Dr Summers accepts Jo's explanation of Barnham's deadening effect on the Keller Machine - on screen he crassly ignores her and tries to drag Barnham out of the room, nearly killing everyone in the process.

Target: The Daemons

One of my favourite Targets - it's a real shame Barry Letts didn't write more of them, his style is quite different from Terrance Dicks' and Malcolm Hulke's. It's almost lyrical at times, he makes the story feel like an arcadian pastoral idyll (with occasional walk-ons by Satan - like a mystery play perhaps?). When a drugged-up Jo staggers into the churchyard and collapses in the long grass, she's 'dreaming of childhood holidays in the springtime.'

BL's particularly good at what my English teacher used to call 'delineating some particular entity', so for example one of the earthquakes is described not by saying 'The room was shaking' but 'The line of little pot animals on the mantlepiece fell one by one into the grate'.

And there are some great descriptions of the Master in hypno-mode, with his eyes appearing purple 'and could they be flecked with gold?'

Principal plot additions: Bessie is left at the dig over the first night. Mike Yates and Miss Hawthorne go (on bikes) to see the Squire the next morning, and she uses 'magic' to cure the latter's hangover. We see the coven action through the eyes of young Stan Wilkins (nephew of the dead helicopter thief).

There's some extra bits in the UNIT/Bok confrontation: Bok gets blown apart with a bazooka, but reassembles. Then he goes airborne when Mike tries to create a diversion. And Miss Hawthorne attempts to destroy Bok by reflecting his magic back on him with a pentangle (with her and Benton inside) - we never find out whether it works, because Azal dies just in time. (Always found that intriguing and frustrating as a kid).

Something missing from the book is the distant explosion from the barrow at the end, the explanation being that the spaceship has blown up. Not being used to this, I find it a bit intrusive, a sort of obvious way of tying up a loose end.

There's an extra punchline too: after the 'I see. The Doctor was frozen solid at the barrow, then revived by a freak heatwave. Benton was beaten up by invisible forces, and the local white witch claims she's seen the Devil.' the Brigadier adds ' Apart from that it's been a quiet night. Over.' As a kid I used to get stuck reading that to myself because I found it so funny.

So in short, one of my very favourite Targets.

Target: The Doomsday Weapon

Always a massive favourite with me, despite the fact that this is one of two Targets in which Jo meets the Doctor for the first time.

Possibly Malcolm Hulke's biggest servings of back-story here - there's over a page of Jane Leeson's biography just before she gets killed, presumably because it's a good opportunity to tell us the back-story of the colony in general.

People have put down the implicit comparison of Ashe with Jesus, but he gets a fair amount of stick from MH too, coming across as weak and long-winded. His strongest pre-death moment is the Leesons' funeral - which has also faced criticism for being too obvious, though it made a big impression on me as a kid. No-one else had explained the social and psychological purpose of a funeral to me before then.

Dent isn't quite the ruthless, icy person of the screen version. Famously 'an IMC man', he's still ruthless, but he comes across more as the company man than the robot. All his reactions come from IMC handbooks and training courses. On first reading he reminded me instantly of my friend's dad, who worked for the Ford Motor Company and was so impressed by his employer's mighty economic power that he never talked about anything else.

There are quite few minor differences from the screen version, details shifted around from scene to scene and an extra speaking colonist or two. The ones that stood out are the absence from the novel of the Doctor repairing the fusebox (and commenting that Norton hadn't made a very good repair), and the addition in the novel of the Doctor noticing that giant lizards would be stuck for food on such a barren planet (the planet, incidentally, is not named in the book).

The Primitives and their little god are quite different in the book - the former are human-looking, with 6 fingers on each hand, instead of alien humanoids, and the latter is an impressive glowing figure, instead of a bizarre puppet.

Jo is a lot more intelligent and assertive on the page, I did wonder if she was being written as Liz for some reason. But her costume is faithfully reproduced in the illustrations, whereas Mrs Leeson and Caldwell have completely different faces.

'How did you know those IMC people were coming to the planet?' the Doctor asks the Master. The Master is interrupted before he can reply! Is MH suggesting the plot is a little unlikely?

The ending differs in two key respects: the colonists are still outlaws in the book, which suggests worrying possibilities when the Earth government finds out what's been going on. But on the other hand, we're shown the planetary conditions beginning to improve, with rainclouds sweeping in and shoots springing up in the desert.

There's always going to be something special about a DW story involving fake monsters, simulated with filming tiny lizards close up, and by using prop monster claws...

Target: Inferno

I got this very late so it's still a fresh pleasure. I think Terrance Dicks enjoyed doing this one as he puts a lot of effort into it - there's an unusual opening verbal 'pan' over the Inferno project, before we focus on the Doctor himself. In the alt-world the project is fascistically clean and tidy, and TD devotes a a couple of extra paras to the Doctor's speculations about how the fascist regime came to power in the first place. And there's a casual mention of how the real-world Stahlman grew up in the ruins of post-war Germany. And when Stahlman rebuts one of Sir Keith's suggestions, Sir K 'decided to defer that matter for now' (he even thinks like a civil servant).

But he's also not afraid to leave stuff out where it isn't so important, so for example we're told rather than shown the 'a chance to use your initiative' bit. Pip'n'Jane Baker would have written down every last word and camera angle.

The sacrifice made by the alts is rewarded in the ep 6 cliffhanger: just before the lava engulfs the hut, they get to see the Doctor successfully departing. I really like this - it's one of the grimmest moments in Doctor Who, no-one is coming to save the characters, but they die knowing that their sacrifice has not been in vain.

Something new I spotted this time: after the denouement the Doctor sees the real Brig, Liz, Greg etc happily celebrating, and thinks about their counterparts who weren't so lucky. 'For a moment it was like looking at ghosts.'

Something odd just before at the end - when the Doctor takes the short hop to the dump, Liz notices that Bessie doesn't disappear with him this time. What is the function of having her think that? Is Terry subtly criticising the flimsy justification for Bessie being taken to the alt-world earlier?

Target: Curse of Peladon

Not much to say about this Brian Hayles effort. The changes are mostly additional scenes - there are two pre-fight scenes where Ssorg helps the Doctor get ready, and Jo dominates Grun, commanding him to kneel and turning him against Hepesh. In the book this motivation is (if anything) more important than the fact that the Doctor spares Grun's life in the combat.

Took me unusually long to finish this, the style is too excitable and it's not a story that really grips me anyway.