strange_complex: (K-9 affirmative)
I had low expectations of this, assuming that because the pilot hadn't turned into a proper series, it must have been a bit rubbish. I saw the opening titles once, and they didn't help with that impression - Sarah Jane mainly looks like a zombie in them, and the tune is very silly (though in quite a cool way).

Actually, though, it's really great - a good mystery, a witty, pacey script, lots of Gothic staples, bonus Colin Jeavons and Elisabeth Sladen doing kung-fu! We finally get to meet her Aunt Lavinia, who reminds me enormously of the wonderful Professor Amelia Rumford from The Stones of Blood, and the overall set up of Sarah Jane finding herself in the middle of a community where everyone is clearly collaborating to conceal dark secrets from her rather reminded me of The Wicker Man, too.

Above all, though, it is very much a proto-Sarah Jane Adventures - so much so, that I found the SJA theme-tune going round my head as I watched. The biggest similarity is in Sarah Jane's side-kick, Brendan. He's not actually made by aliens, but he is incredibly geeky, taking extra O-levels, reading avidly and enthusiastically discussing the finer points of computer engineering with K-9. Even his speech patterns were rather like Luke's, and he proves himself to be of true Classic companion calibre by getting captured and almost sacrificed by a Satanic circle.

I've expressed my views on K-9 before, so I think we can take the fact that he is awesome as scientifically established. ;-) But he does enhance his own excellence here by engaging in shooty laser action to comic effect, attempting to sing 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' and being blessedly free of battery issues throughout the story. It's a pity the message he brought from the Doctor showing that he has remembered Sarah and still cares about her had been forgotten all about by the time School Reunion was written, but I notice that Sarah's practice of driving around in the car with him propped on the back seat and looking between the two front seats is common to both, which is sweet.

All in all, excellent stuff, and quite surprisingly in keeping with K-9's original era for something in which JNT and Eric Saward were so closely involved. Who knows how it would have panned out if more had been made, but then again it hardly matters now, since we have The Sarah Jane Adventures anyway. It's just a pity K-9 has got lost along the way. :-(

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strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
Read online at the BBC Classic Doctor Who website.

Science Fiction fans often express concern about why it is that more women don't seem to be interested in the genre. I know they do, because there was a panel to that effect at Mecon 11 in the summer.

Unfortunately, this book is a prime example of the reason why. Apart from Romana and a tea-lady who makes a brief cameo appearance in chapter 2 before being blown to smithereens, all of the female characters in the book are crazed dominant-yet-also-subservient femdroids who turn out to be modelled on the inner workings of K-9. In fact, the total lack of any plausible female characters for the entire duration of the novel even gets the writer into plotting problems towards the end of the book. Realising that the Metralubitans at the centre of the story are in the position of needing to rebuild their society from a small pool of people after surviving a catastrophe, the Doctor has to turn to their President and ask, "Premier, there are females down in your dome, aren't there? Real ones, I mean?"

Dear Gareth Roberts: here is a clue. If you want your readers (and especially your female ones) to find Metralubitan society plausible enough for them to either a) believe in its ability to regenerate itself or b) care, write both sexes into that society in the first place. Don't just suddenly assert that they are there when the plot demands it. Gah.

The world moves on, though. Since writing this, Roberts has proved himself capable of better things, especially in regards to his Sarah Jane Adventures scripts. So my annoyance is more directed at the fact that this is such a common failing in SF contexts in general than it is against him personally. But it is disappointing, and lets the book down considerably.

Which is a pity, because on the whole this is a pretty decent story. The ending gets a bit contrived and hand-wavey, and winds up with Roberts writing himself into corner which nothing but a literal Big Red Button can get him out of. But the essential set-up of a war between two rival parties who actually rather like one another socially, the basic conceit than most human(oid)s are sufficiently vain that they can easily be manipulated into non-sensical and immoral behaviour via a bit of flattery, and the comic touches (especially the parody of Marxist revolutionaries) were all well worth reading. Plus the Four!love was most satisfying, and came complete with a nicely-realised Romana II and a charmingly unhinged K-9 into the bargain.

In short, then, basically good fun, but with a Russell T. Davies-style ending and an apparent failure to register the existence of half the human(oid) population. If you love Four, you should definitely read it.

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strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
On Saturday, I reached the grand old age of thirty-two, and went on an outing to Castle Howard to celebrate. I had [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and her partner, Vincent, as house-guests for the weekend (en route to a Primatology conference in Edinburgh), so we were able to pile into Anna's cute little retro-style Fiat 500, swoop [livejournal.com profile] big_daz up from Wortley, and head off out into the countryside.

At first, we were guided on our way by 'Ken', the Australian voice on Anna's Tom Tom, but he unfortunately let us down by taking us straight into an all-but-stationary traffic jam going past York. Luckily, however, we had an alternative Yorkshire navigation system available to us: Daz Daz, armed with Local Knowledge and a road atlas. And so it was that we found ourselves bowling through Georgian brick-built villages and along sunlit country lanes, listening to The Cure while our hair whipped around in an invigorating breeze, and only got to Castle Howard half an hour later than Ken had said we would. [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe and [livejournal.com profile] matgb, alas, were not so lucky, and despite gallant efforts to join us were eventually forced to turn back before they had even arrived. :-(

And this was a great pity, not only because it deprived me of the opportunity to lust over their new purple Ka, but also because Castle Howard is ace! It really is a stately home par excellence, with expansive grounds, beautiful formal gardens, fountains, peacocks, endless opulent drawing rooms, rococo furniture, plutocratic portraits and so on. But I think what I liked best about it was the extensive collections of Classical sculpture (which seemed to go on and on in every hallway and corridor), and the answering neo-Classicism of the building itself and the works of art which adorned it. It began to feel as though you couldn't turn a corner without seeing something Classical or Classically-inspired: which is quite frankly exactly how I think the world should be. ;-)

Anyway, a day like that is probably best told in pictures, rather than words, so here are some of my favourite photos from our outing )

... and if you liked those, you can see the full gallery here.

As we left in the late afternoon (Ken still relegated to the boot in favour of Daz Daz), Anna suggested that we should eat out in the evening. I'd planned to cook us a casserole, but who would cook on their birthday when friends were offering to take them out instead, eh? So we ended up at Jino's, where we guzzled delicious Thai food, and the waiters put a candle in my ice-cream when Anna told them it was my birthday, and then returned home to mine for frighteningly potent cocktails.

Presents were mainly books from my family, but Anna got me a beautiful orchid, while Daz (who clearly knows me far too well) got me an enamel K-9 pendant like the ones shown below (just one, though!), and my parents got me a Tiffany floor lamp to go in my dining-room:

Presenty goodness )

So, all told, an excellent day, and some nice mementos of it to take away with me. So far, I'm enjoying being 32. It feels like a nice solid, self-confident age to be - properly into my 30s, in contrast to 31, which felt a bit apologetic about it. It's also a multiple of eight, which I've always thought of as being 'my' number - not necessarily my lucky number, but just the number that signifies me. As being born on the 2nd of the 8th and growing up in a house with the number 82 will tend to make you think...

Here's to my thirty-secondthird year on this planet, then. I intend to make the most of it.

strange_complex: (K-9 affirmative)
I'm building up to the Big Tom Baker Post I want to make now that I've seen Logopolis; and indeed, what follows here was originally going to be a part of that. But actually, I think it deserves a post of its own - if only in an attempt to mitigate the tl;dr factor that's inevitably going to plague the TB eulogy. So: a word or two about K-9.

The case for the prosecution: K-9's flaws )

I absolutely see the merit in all of those arguments. They are undeniably valid observations, and perfectly good reasons for disliking K-9. I, however, love him. At the time when I was chewing the matter over with [livejournal.com profile] swisstone, the only time I'd actually seen K-9 in action within recent memory was in School Reunion, so the only argument I could really put forward in his defence was the emotive one: I just like him. That's a fair reason for enjoying anything, of course. But now that I have seen all of K-9's stories (well, except for the pilot of K-9 and Company, which I'm sure I'll catch up with soon), it so happens that I'm in a position to add a batch of reasoned arguments to that emotive fondness for him.

The case for the defence: K-9's contributions )

Whether or not you like K-9, of course, is always going to be a matter of personal emotional response more than anything else. And I still fully acknowledge his many flaws. But I can no longer agree that he is merely a gimmicky, if cute and quirky, millstone around the programme's metaphorical neck. He has a positive contribution to make, too.


With apologies to [livejournal.com profile] swisstone for casting him in absentia in the role of the prosecutor.

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
So, well. There ya go, then.

I am actually seriously impressed at how much of that was correctly predicted by livejournallers: largely people on [livejournal.com profile] doctorwho, I think, though I could have got mixed up. What they foresaw )

What they didn't foresee )

RTD's swan-song )

Anyway, on the whole, it was fun, in the epic-yet-strangely-forgettable way RTD season finales tend to be. He's done a pretty good job while he's been around, and it's pleasing to see him tying up all his loose ends, even if in a predictably icky way in some cases. But it's good to know things will be moving in a different direction now.

strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
I've now notched up another season: 17, this time. I'd already skipped ahead and seen three out of its six stories, so now that I've filled in the gaps, I've linked the write-ups from my earlier viewings in sequence between the new ones.

Fourth Doctor: Destiny of the Daleks )

City of Death already seen, and written up here.

Fourth Doctor: The Creature from the Pit )

Nightmare of Eden already seen, and written up here.

Horns of Nimon already seen, and written up here.

Fourth Doctor: Shada )

And so, that is season 17. It has some great stories (Destiny, City and probably Shada) and some average ones (Creature, Nightmare and Horns), but nothing abysmal, by any means. Overall, it's probably on equal pegging with seasons 15 and 16 - which means not as good as 12, 13, or 14, but pretty chuffing decent all the same.

I've got one season left now, until WOE and ANGST. I think I'll start right now...

Classic Who

Monday, 7 January 2008 19:06
strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Doctor Who has always been a part of my life. I suppose I must have started watching it because my Dad did - or, I wonder now that I know Who fans with children, did he start watching it seriously partly because he had a little kid to enjoy it with? Anyway, my memories of it stretch back at least to the age of three (more on this later), and I've kept up an active interest in it ever since.

Semi-fandom )

Put simply (and with a little help from Wikipedia), this is generally the level of difference between me and a serious fan:
Serious fan: It may be a controversial opinion, but I really think The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of the high points of the Tom Baker era. I just love all the Sherlock Holmes references in it!
Me: [slight pause] Er - is that the one with the giant rat in the sewer?
Over the last year, though, my fandom for New Who has increased to such a pitch (thanks to the overall excellent series 3) that I've decided it's about time I ploughed back into the archives. Time Crash probably played a pretty big role there, actually. If New Who was going to reference Old Who so explicitly, then I decided it was about time I enhanced my appreciation of both by rediscovering the original - and maybe just a little bit of my lost childhood along the way.

Fifth Doctor: Caves of Androzani )

Fifth Doctor: Castrovalva )

Childhood memories )

Fourth Doctor: Robot )

A journey has definitely begun here, and I'm looking forward to pursuing it further. I don't think I'll ever try to be a completist, because I know that would involve sitting through an awful lot of dross. But Operation Classic Who is go! ...at least until New Who begins again in the spring. :-)

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