strange_complex: (Doctor Who anniversary)
Still with the muscle aches and general tiredness. I do think it is starting to get better at base level now, but between the approach of term and me wanting to go off a lot at weekends and Do Things, I suspect I am also cancelling out a lot of the gains. So this morning, the first time for three weeks that I haven't had to set an alarm, my eyes gradually opened at around 11:30am. Which is fine, because my whole plan for today was to Do Nothing, but I clearly need a few more of those.

Anyway, by around 13:30 I had eaten some breakfast and read the internet, and was looking for something nothingy to do, when I came across the Eruditorum Press Doctor Who Poll. Perfect! I have now voted, and since I started out by writing up a short-list of stories and ranking them, I have a record of what I chose which I may as well preserve here. Votes in different categories, including brief recaps of the poll rules, under the cuts.

Best televised Doctor Who story - five points )

Nineteen other top televised Doctor Who stories - one point each )

Twenty also-rans - nul points )

Top five non-televised stories )

Five hate votes )

Best People etc. )

Polls close at the end of September, and the results will be on the Eruditorum blog over the course of October, apparently.

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strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
As mentioned previously on these pages, I have a Horror Bible, which I bought when I was about 11 or 12 years old. In it is a page which looks like this:

Horror Bible Dracula page

I had seen Christopher Lee as Dracula already when I bought the book, of course, and caught up with Bela Lugosi about ten or fifteen years later. But the other two have only become easily available to me now that the Golden Age of Amazon, Lovefilm, YouTube et al. has dawned. I saw and reviewed Louis Jourdan's Count Dracula in October (and am of course very sorry indeed that we lost Louis himself just this weekend). So Langella's performance was the last of the iconic Draculas which I still needed to catch up with. It hardly needs saying that I watched it with fellow horror aficionado [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, but for once this time I actually have a live witness to her Dracula-enabling tendencies: [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula will testify that while discussing plans for our next film session in front of her, I asked what we should watch, and [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan gleefully replied "Dracula!" So it's totally not my fault.

Alas for us, though, Langella's Dracula is most definitely the weakest of the four. That's not to say it is an utter waste of time. Visually, it was stunning )

I quite liked the broad strokes of how the story was approached, too )

Meanwhile, on the downside, no setting or scenery could possibly have compensated for the fact that Langella himself just was not Dracula )

And then there is the stuff that just leave you asking - WTF? Like the vampire-hunting horse, for example. )

Other points to note include Donald Pleasance as Dr. Seward and Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing, but both of them unfortunately pretty much dialling it in. Also, Unexpected Sylvester McCoy as an unconvincing and inept guard in Seward's asylum. Langella's Dracula, like Jourdan's two years earlier, dutifully scaled the walls of the asylum face-down like a lizard - though he could hardly not have done after such a recent example. And a climactic chase sequence involving Dracula and Lucy (or was it Mina?) heading for the coast to escape their pursuers by ship borrowed heavily from a similar chase at the end of Hammer's Dracula: Prince of Darkness, complete with visuals of a cloth-covered wagon containing a coffin bouncing up and down with the ruts in the road.

But now that I have seen this, noted down its key features, and (above all) ticked it off in my Horror Bible, I do not think I am likely to revisit it again.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I am horribly behind with Doctor Who reviews, partly because I was in New York when this (half-)season started, and partly because I didn't find the first few episodes very inspirational anyway. This is an attempt to catch up.

7.7 The Bells of Saint John )

7.8 The Rings of Akhaten )

7.9 Cold War )

7.10 Hide )

7.11 Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS )

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I should have posted this review nearly two weeks ago now, but was feeling very sluggish at the time, thanks to what [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan calls 'the ladygrims', and just didn't have the surplus brain-power while also greeting new students and finishing articles. I seem to be back to normal now, but still had to prioritise my article until I knew I had managed to meet the deadline for it. Still, any time before the season finale counts, right?

Anyway, this story was pretty damned good for me, and certainly one of the stronger episodes of the season, but I felt it lacked the appropriate emotional weight )

Setting and symbolism )

Rita )

Meh, there's probably other stuff I would have said about this episode if I'd got round to writing it up earlier. It was clever and gripping, made good use of its characters, and dropped in plenty of interesting symbolism and continuity references for geeky types like me to chew over. But I think that will do for now. Here's looking forward to the season finale, and hopefully a few resolutions, tomorrow evening. :-)

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strange_complex: (Seven Ace)
This is, of course, the novel on which the two-part Tenth Doctor story, Human Nature / The Family of Blood is based. I read it online courtesy of the BBC, but did so increeeediiiibblllyy sllooooooooooowly over a series of short sessions while eating lunch-time sandwiches at my desk. Since I don't have that sort of lunch-break every day, and indeed often do not do so for a week or more at a time, it has taken me since last December (when I finished The Well-Mannered War) to complete the book. That wasn't too much of a problem for understanding the plot, since it is similar enough to the TV version for my memories of that to have helped me keep track of it between gaps in reading. But it probably did mean I maintained less of a grip on all the various minor characters than I might otherwise have done.

The novel features the Seventh Doctor rather than the Tenth - although, spookily, someone claiming to be the Tenth incarnation of the Doctor does pop up at one point. The premise is also slightly different from the TV version. In the novel, the Doctor comes to the Aubertides wanting to be human, and the technology to enact that transformation comes from them, not the Time Lords. The only problem is that they have offered that technology as a bait, in order to get a Time Lord into a vulnerable enough position for them to be able to steal his technology and ability to regenerate from him. Hence their pursuit of the unsuspecting school-teacher, John Smith - protected in this instance by Bernice Summerfield, a companion of Cornell's own creation.

I think I actually prefer this set-up to the TV adaptation. One obvious difficulty with the TV version is that it requires us to accept that the Doctor has known how to transform himself into a human all along, without ever having mentioned it before. That's one of the problems you run into after forty years of continuity, and I wouldn't want it getting in the way of good stories. But having the technology come from a previously-unencountered source instead does feel more convincing. The setting for the novel also changes the Doctor's motivation for becoming human in the first place. Whereas in the TV episode, he does it in order to save the Family of Blood from their own desire to hunt him down and devour his life force, in the novel he knows nothing about that at the point when he makes the decision. Instead, it is implied (though never explicitly spelt out) that he does it because he wants to understand humans better, and perhaps also take a break from himself - something that is certainly an outcome of his actions in the TV series, but not his actual reason for doing it. That said, perhaps his motivations in the TV version are more in keeping with the established character of the Doctor - certainly of the Tenth Doctor, anyway.

Either way, the idea of making the Doctor experience life as a human is real genius, and even with my rather limited experience of Doctor Who novels, I think I can fairly safely say that this is as good a Who novel as the TV adaptation is a Who episode (or two). The writing is markedly better that the other Who novels I've read so far, and there are lots of great little scenes set into the narrative. I especially enjoyed one early on in the novel, where the Doctor / John Smith finds himself teaching the boys about the rebellion of Boudicca / Boadicea. Cornell uses it as an opportunity to set their early-twentieth century understanding of war and rebellion against the Doctor's 'out-of-time' (but obviously late-twentieth century) perspective. It works nicely in its own right as a case-study of the way that history shifts and changes entirely according to the needs and interests of its interpreters, and it also serves an important narrative purpose in bringing out some of the main themes of the novel - aggression, resistance, and the acts of individuals caught up in wars beyond their control. But in the context of a story which in itself also constitutes a particular interpretation of early-twentieth century Britain, it also draws attention to the fact that we too are viewing the past through the filter of the present as we read. We end up with multiple different histories all bouncing off one another, and I thought it was fantastic.

That's not to say the novel is entirely flawless. There are occasional sentences which haven't been proof-read carefully enough, and contain awkward repetitions: for example, "The blast knocked Smith's party off their feet, blasting the wooden pub tables into the field beyond the garden." There is also a rather long and boring back-story all about Aubertide society in chapter 7. I personally felt that it would have been better to leave this out, and just concentrate on the one renegade family which actually features in the book - and RTD clearly felt exactly the same way, since that's what happens in the TV version. It also seems rather implausible that this long and ponderous Social and Political History of Aubis is narrated to Bernice while she is tied up as their prisoner, despite a few knowing jokes at the beginning of the process about how they're not going to be tricked into revealing all their plans just because they have captured her - which is precisely what they then go on to do. On the whole, though, this is a jolly good read, and I quite often found myself actively looking forward to reading another little chunk of it on my way in to work.

It gets bonus points for a Hitch-Hiker's reference: Bernice grabs some Aldebaran brandy at one point in chapter 4, which I rather think she must have acquired from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I was also intrigued to note that the phone in the front panel of the TARDIS rings in chapter 12 as a means of communicating with Timothy, the boy who has found the pod with the Doctor's bio-data inside it (what would become the fob-watch in the TV version, but here looks more like a cricket-ball). Obviously, this crops up in The Empty Child as a means for the child to communicate with Rose - but I'd be very interested to hear from more knowledgeable Whovians than me about this device as a story element. Had it ever happened before this novel was written, or is this the first instance? More props to Cornell for creative use of the TARDIS's police box disguise if it was.

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strange_complex: (Seven Ace)
Seventh Doctor: Battlefield )

Seventh Doctor: Ghost Light )

That now brings me up to date, and means that I am allowed to start watching more Classic Who again, after a hiatus of some two months. Woot! Since I have now watched everything from the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctor eras that is available on DVD (except Survival), I'm next going to concentrate on continuing my sequential viewing of the very first season. I last left that at The Aztecs, so that means we have The Sensorites coming up next.

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strange_complex: (Seven Ace)
Right, I think it is about damned time I got caught up on my Doctor Who reviews. I actually had to stop watching it over a month ago, as I already had a back-log of four reviews to write, was too busy to write them and couldn't bear it to get any worse. Which was rather miserable, really. But now I am rather more on top of things once again, so let's see if I can't get back on track.

Waaaaayyy back in April (apparently), I began at the beginning of the McCoy era with Time and the Rani. Since then I have worked through four of the other five of his stories which are currently available on DVD. (I'm leaving out Survival, because I am saving that until The Very End - even though I know it doesn't really offer very much in the way of closure, and I'm pre-empting matters rather with my shiny new icon anyway). This means that during late April and early May I experienced Remembrance of the Daleks, The Curse of Fenric, Battlefield and Ghostlight in more or less rapid succession, and HOT DAMN! They are good. I'm well aware that I've got a warped impression of the McCoy era by doing this, as the BBC have very sensibly released all his best stories on DVD first (a situation which I believe will be somewhat balanced out by the release of Delta and the Bannermen this month). But still! He is good, Ace is brilliant, and I now very much see where the fannish consensus that the stories were just getting good again when the series was cancelled comes from. More detailed responses follow below.

Seventh Doctor: Remembrance of the Daleks )

All in all, it's pretty much perfect. Not every Doctor Who story can be like this - it would be tedious if they were. But a programme with a pedigree Who had developed by this time certainly should be producing stories like this one on at least a reasonably regular basis.

Seventh Doctor: The Curse of Fenric )

Battlefield and Ghostlight remain to be written up, of course, but I think this is quite enough for one evening.

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strange_complex: (TARDIS)
I'm now ready to move on to the Seventh Doctor era - but before I do, it's time for a nice palate-cleansing First Doctor story (with bonus discussion of how historical stories 'worked' in Doctor Who at this time):

First Doctor: The Aztecs )

And so I am ready to press on into the Seventh Doctor era. In keeping with the policy I applied for Six, I started with Seven's screen introduction, so that I could get a proper idea of where he was coming from as a Doctor:

Seventh Doctor: Time and the Rani )

In summary, then, a pretty terrible episode, but saved from Twin Dilemma depths simply because it is at least introducing a perfectly likeable Doctor. And thank goodness that's the last P'n'J effort I have to suffer...

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strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
I've entered the Sixth Doctor era. This would appear to mean unusual verbosity, even for me. Sue me: there is Classical receptions and meta-commentary, and I have Stuff to Say about both of them. You have been warned.

Sixth Doctor: The Twin Dilemma )

Sixth Doctor: Vengeance on Varos  )

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strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
I'm pretty slow writing these at the moment, but still watching avidly, and writing when I can manage to.

Multiple Doctors: The Five Doctors )

Multiple Doctors: Dimensions in Time )

A digression on Tom Baker )

Third Doctor: The Curse of Peladon )

And that's me done with Three for the time being, since I have now seen all of his stories that are available on DVD. At some point I'll go back in fill in the rest via Other Means - but for the moment, I'm well into the Five era instead. Write-ups of that will appear... eventually...

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strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
As far as I can remember, my total experience with Doctor Who novels before this one consists of:
  • One Target novelisation read when a child, I think involving Cybermen overseeing human slaves working in a quarry. I can't remember which Doctor was in it, but if anyone has the slightest idea what I'm on about, do let me know. Unhelpfully, I shall add that the slave-masters may not even have been Cybermen (but I'm pretty sure they weren't Daleks).
  • State of Change, a Virgin Missing Adventure in which the Sixth Doctor and Peri visit ancient Rome and find that all is not as it should be, read in my early 20s when a friend who was both a prominent member of OUWho and a fellow Classicist lent it to me.
With that rather minimal background, I suspect that launching into Lungbarrow was probably the Who novel equivalent of picking up A Brief History of Time after having read the Ladybird book of Space and maybe a GCSE Physics text-book. Certainly, there were a lot of allusions to Who continuity drawn from other novels which were completely lost on me - particularly regarding the companion character, Chris Cwej, and somebody called Roz whom he occasionally referred to. It also doesn't help that the events of the novel move backwards and forwards through time quite a lot without it always being clear that this is happening, while there are long dream-sequences towards the beginning and end of the story in which it becomes rather difficult to keep track of who is seeing and experiencing what, and who is an active participant in the events being described rather than merely a passive observer.

For all that, I'm glad I read it. It seems to be the novel that is referred to most often in fannish debate forums, so at least I know what all the fuss regarding looms is about now. It was also generally an enjoyable read. I liked the portrayal of early Gallifreyan history and the sense of atmosphere about the Lungbarrow house - although I did think that maybe there were slightly too many scenes of people wandering about trapped in its oppressive corridors and wrangling with one another over ancient feuds. I wouldn't say it was great literature, and I noticed a higher proportion of typos and spelling errors (e.g. 'populous' for 'populace') than I would expect in a professionally-produced publication, but it was imaginative and absorbing all the same.

Brief thoughts on the concept of canonicity, with Lungbarrow spoilers )

If you'd like to read Lungbarrow yourself, it is available in full on the BBC's Doctor Who ebooks page. But I can't help but suspect that if you did, you'd have found that out already. ;-)

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
OMG, why am I reading an article which contains sentences like this:
"Sahlins' argument is thus for a dialectical relationship between externally generated events and localized actions"
when I could be doing this Who meme taken from [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe?

Who's game? )

OK, I'm working now...

strange_complex: (All roads lead to Rome)
I'm finding it rather hard to concentrate on article-writing this weekend, because the deadline is too far away, and I already know my basic arguments for most of the bit I'm writing up at the moment. In some ideal academic world, I would be writing like a demon anyway, getting it finished so I can get on to the next thing, and maybe even enjoy some free weekends later this month. As it is, I'm having to chivvy myself along using the promise of little breaks to motivate myself. So it's all, 'If you can get this paragraph done by X o'clock, then you may break up boxes for recycling / email so-and-so / cut your toe-nails'. This break, I get to write up another Doctor Who story. Woot!

First Doctor: The Romans )

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