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.