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: (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: (Zaphod Holy Zarquon!)
Ford Prefect
Congratulations, you hoopy frood! The world is your pan galactic gargle blaster. Even when you think the Man is getting you down, you can rest assured that it is only the prelude to another favorable adventure.

My test tracked 1 variable. How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 40% on dentity
Link: The Hitchhiker's Guide Personality Test written by donquixotic on OkCupid Free Online Dating

In other news, I am going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tonight - squeee!
strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
So far, significantly better than the book it is based on.

Good. I was hoping this would happen. It was starting to seem the case with the Quandary Phase, but the quality gap this time is far more noticeable, and all in favour of the radio series.

strange_complex: (Christ Church Mercury)
I'm having one of those moments where half of me feels suddenly enlightened, but the other half is more struck by how utterly ignorant I've been for years.

A set of guest lectures are coming up this week in Belfast at the School of History. They're called the Wiles Lectures, and this year they are being given by a man named Christopher Haigh, from one of my several almae matres: Christ Church, Oxford.

Dr. Haigh will be discussing a text from 1601 entitled The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, over a series of four lectures. Its author? One Arthur Dent, a preacher from Essex.

Now I'm not saying that knowing about this text suddenly reveals vast depths of meaning in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy of which I was previously unaware. It takes the form of a fictional debate between four stereotyped characters about how to live a properly 'Christian' life (outline details here), and doesn't therefore seem to stand up very closely to any search for parallels with the plot of Hitch-Hiker's.

But, on a simpler level, if Arthur Dent in H2G2 isn't a Plain Man who's taken up to see the Heavens, I'd like to know what he is. And since Douglas Adams studied English at Cambridge, I'm guessing he came across this author and his work at some point, and considered his name suitable for his lost and bemused traveller in space. Either that, or it's a very pleasing coincidence.

H2G2 4

Tuesday, 3 May 2005 10:34
strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
I'm sure you all know about this already, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere on my friends list, so just in case:

Radio 4, 18:30, today - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

1/8. Quandary Phase 1, Fit the Nineteenth

In which The Earth has miraculously reappeared, and, more miraculously, Arthur Dent has found it.

Interesting to note that this is listed as episode one of eight, rather than six this time.
strange_complex: (Penny Arcade)
Just been out to see the above. Very quick notes, as I really need to get to bed (9 o'clock lecture, an' all...):

Spoiler-tastic )

Finally, everyone must go here, and download the second mp3 listed. It's the last track from the Hitch-Hiker's soundtrack album, not in the film, and is called 'Reasons to be Miserable (His Name Is Marvin)'. Kind of electronically distorted rap, voiced by Stephen Fry. You need to hear it to believe it.
strange_complex: (Penny Gadget)
A new internet-only trailer for The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has surfaced, and I think it's much better than the previous one. Delightfully self-referential, voiced throughout by Stephen Fry, and with two great lines from Alan Rickman as Marvin. I wasn't so sure about the look of Marvin before (I couldn't let go of the version from the TV series). But now I've heard him speak - YES!


strange_complex: (Default)

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