Day Of The Daleks (Audiobook/ Novelisation)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 December 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who and The Day of The Daleks (Credit: BBC Audio)


Written By: Terrance Dicks

(Based On A Story By: Louis Marks)

Read By: RIchard Franklin

Dalek Voices: Nicholas Briggs

Running Time: 245 mins

Released: 10 November 2016

With his old enemy the Master safely locked away, the Doctor is able to relax a little and pursue some experiments. His valued assistant Jo Grant is quite willing to provide her very human perspective. By accident, the Doctor and Jo witness two counterparts of themselves from some point in the near future. 

Meanwhile at Auderly house, Sir Reginald Styles is busy preparing for his much anticipated role in a pivotal peace conference. During one night he is suddenly disturbed by a man in military attire with a weapon of futuristic design. But before the killing shot can be made, the intruder vanishes into thin air.

Some time later, other guerrillas attack the house but instead find a terrified Jo and a remarkably laid-back Doctor. They commandeer the house; preparing to finish their mission upon Styles' return. Despite their aggressive manner, the Doctor explains to Jo that there must be a proper motive behind their actions.

The fighters come from future Earth, and their time-jumps have been noticed by their enemies, who subject the majority of mankind to slave work in mines or factories. The 'Controller' of this section of Earth barks orders at powerful brutes known as Ogrons. Soon a squad of the semi-simian creatures are sent back to the past to stop the resistance from succeeding.

But behind the Controller and the Ogrons lies a more significant foe, and one the Doctor thought he had extinguished for good: the Daleks!


 

After one of the definitive Pertwee serials, The Daemons, which saw UNIT showcased in charming and impressive fashion, Season 9 was a definite come-down for this component of Who lore. The Sea Devils had a terrific outing for the Royal Navy, which was extra special due to much real life facilities on loan. The two adventures in 'outer space' had barely any mention or use of UNIT. The season opener and closers, whilst at first glance having the Doctor's allies involved in the plot, merely required them as window dressing when it came to the essential nuts and bolts of the story proper.

Day's heart and soul lies in the future Earth, and the circumstances in 20th Century time that led to its creation. The morality issues, and personalities of the human resistance was done very well in the original TV story. Here, Terrance Dicks does great work in breathing further life into Monia, Anat, Shura, and a number of more minor fighters. More explanation of the undercover work, and fear that comes trying to go against the all-mighty establishment the Daleks have put in place, makes this one of the most powerful and emotive of all the Classic Series novelisations to hit bookstores over the decades.

But in terms of how well this works as an actual Dalek story, there are problems.  Much of the time the Daleks are hiding or demanding that their minions "exterminate" the resistance and/or the Doctor. The catchphrase the Daleks use was actually sparingly featured in their dialogue during the black and white days of the show. This story sadly saw this frequency change just a little too much. And even with Dicks' fine use of universe building concepts - such as a wider Dalek Empire gripping much of the galaxy - they still fare rather weakly. Only in the final sections, do they take matters into their own protuberances. Yet even at the climax, they all blunder into Auderly House assuming that their invasion path has not impacted on the location of those they intend to murder.

The other monsters that feature are the Ogrons, who are a race of brutal mercenaries. Whilst lacking basic intelligence they were dependably loyal and far stronger in hand to hand combat than even the toughest human resistance fighter. One of the best monsters to originate in the Pertwee era, they were utilised again in Frontier In Space. Dicks does well to emphasise the contrasting mental and physical qualities of these alien beings.

 

As in The Claws Of Axos audiobook (released earlier this year) Richard Franklin is a solid and committed performer, for this production of a top-notch novelisation. With more material for Jo in this particular story he produces a charming imitation of the memorable Katy Manning. Benton has a heavily exaggerated accent compared to the John Levene original, but regardless he has always been, and will always remain a likeable, and relatable character. There is a little bit of amusing material for Captain Yates himself in this adventure, but he barely plays a role in the final episode.

The Third Doctor, with heavy lisp and superior manner, makes for the most imposing figure of the audiobook. He is showcased in tremendous fashion, being warm, dismissive, domineering, light-hearted, outraged, and gung-ho depending on where in the story's proceedings he finds himself in.

 

Day Of The Daleks, whilst hardly a flawless classic, has been a personal favourite of mine, for many years. It has intriguing ethics, plenty of action, character development for hero and villain alike, and was in the heart of a period of Doctor Who where the show reached unprecedented levels of success in production and audience reception. This release is most welcome and rewards the extra time needed to listen to the narrative, as opposed to the four fleet foot episodes of the television screen format.





The Time Meddler (Audiobook/ Novelisation)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 8 December 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: The Time Meddler (Credit: BBC Audio)

Written By: Nigel Robinson

Based on a TV story written by Dennis Spooner

Read By: Peter Purves
 

Published: 6th October 2016

Duration: 240 Minutes

1066, Planet Earth. The Doctor and Vicki must now move onto new journeys without the company of lively and brave Ian Chesterton, and wise, protective Barbara Wright. The two Coal Hill School teachers have finally made it back to their home time and place after the Doctor's team made a close escape from a Dalek execution squad.

To their surprise another has immediately joined their crew (in somewhat stowaway fashion): pilot Steven Taylor, who was a prisoner in the city of the Mechanoids, and had begun to lose his grasp of reality. As they explore their new surroundings in north-east England, the Doctor repeatedly is forced to convince Steven Taylor that he pilots a craft that is both capable of space flight, but also time travel.

What none of the new arrivals can anticipate is that a member of the Doctor's own race has landed sometime earlier in this pre-Renaissance era, and is posing as a native monk. And this individual is both scheming and manipulative, yet perfectly jovial and charming. He is also determined to use his awareness of future events to execute a scheme whereby the Viking invasion never went ahead. This would allow reigning King Harold to comfortably defeat William (of Normandy), and thus the whole course of future history both in England and the whole world changes irrevocably...


The Time Meddler has been something of an acquired taste for this reviewer. Soon after Doctor Who's cancellation, a repeat season on BBC 2 was commissioned, and this particular black and white story was chosen as the representative of the Hartnell years of 1963 - 1966. One reason was that no episodes were missing, and another was its relatively brief episode count. The copy shown on TV was serviceable for those fans used to the BBC Videos, but certainly would not stand up today on modern TV screens (many of which support high-definition).

To my (then nine-year-old) eyes, this was quite hard to watch for other reasons. The lack of frenetic music and the long, talky scenes meant I struggled to keep myself in the moment as I normally did. I would watch the episode once or twice and quickly move on. By contrast my viewings of the next couple of stories that followed in the season, saw me re-watch each and every episode many times on home cassette. The week long wait for the next repeat seemed an eternity.

 

Now however, watched in context of a marathon of the Hartnell era, or at least a number of consecutive stories, this serial is easily one of the more thoughtful, well-crafted and realistic (in terms of then-production facilities). The Time Meddler may be relatively small stakes compared to various other tales, but it still was at pains to show how dedicated the Doctor was in terms of protecting the web of time that was integral to planet Earth. 

Many Classic Who fans cannot help liking The Chase  despite all its problems, but only would one dare show the final episode (and possibly the opener for those that like Shakespeare or the Beatles) to a 'newbie'. By contrast this story had director Douglas Camfield who always throve on the pressures and made each and every cast and crew member feel part of a team.

 

Nigel Robinson was one of the better contributors to the TARGET novelisation range, and later went on to produce two very enjoyable early entries in the Virgin New Adventures book line (Timewyrm - Apocalypse and Birthright). Robinson understood what the essence of Doctor Who was, but also what material would be worthy of expansion and exploration in book form. A lot of the two-dimensional characters of the source material are given that bit more meat on their bones. I also appreciated the use of both a prologue and epilogue - the former to give a sense of Steven's terrifying ordeal escaping Mechanus and stumbling upon the TARDIS, the latter to fully portray the just desserts the Monk has been served by his fellow (but far more moral) time traveller.

One aspect of the story which really was unusual for 1960s Doctor Who was its exploring of adult themes. Yet - by contrast to the very first season of Hartnell - some stories in the 1964-1965 run had a rather more adult side to them: Susan's relationship with a human that made her leave the TARDIS and her grandfather, and the politics and morality aspects of Richard the Lionheart's campaigns in Palestine, were certainly more than mere teatime escapism.

One section of The Time Meddler saw a rather disturbing 'after-shock' scene of Edith conveying that she had been sexual assaulted, or raped, with the actual crime taking place off-screen. In the original story this was rather brushed under the carpet soon after and it appeared that all was more than well by the time the TARDIS crew have won their battle of wits with the Monk. In this book Robinson commendably tackles the topic in some detail, and was surely aware of portraying keystone morals for the youngster/child demographic that was essentially the target readership. The final violent end for the two Vikings who committed the despicable act feels justified. But there is that tinge of 'two wrongs do not make a right' which is part of the laudably strong characterisation at work by the adaptor.

 

Peter Purves once again shows his all round skills as a narrator and voice artist. I had the pleasure of reading his enthusiastic and detailed memoirs some years back. The former Blue Peter presenter had a varied and interesting career, with a lot of fast paced training/ performing in theatre in his formative years. Consequently the alter ego of Steven Taylor is able to handle both high pitched and bass voices with equal aplomb, and has the uncanny sense of when to speed up the tempo of his reading and when to allow some meaningful silences. Some of the music used is familiar from other BBC Audio releases, which is welcome, as so few TV Hartnell stories were linked to each other through recurring musical themes. Suspense and excitement are punctuated well, and the sound effects continue to be employed with good judgement.

So in short, this is yet another entertaining and atmospheric audio gem, and you could do far worse in choosing an item for the impending Yuletide gift list.





Class Series One - Episode 8 - The LostBookmark and Share

Saturday, 3 December 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
Class - Ep8 - The Lost - Miss Quill (KATHERINE KELLY), Charlie (GREG AUSTIN) (Credit: BBC/Simon Ridgeway)Starring Katherine Kelly, Sophie Hopkins, Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparah, Jordan Renzo and Pooky Quesnel 

Writer and Creator: Patrick Ness
Director: Julian Holmes, Producer: Derek Ritchie 
Executive Producers: Brian Minchin, Patrick Ness and Steven Moffat 
Released Online (BBC Three) - Saturday 3rd December 2016

This review contains spoilers.

 

From its pre-credits sequence to its closing twist, this is an episode punctuated by moments of shock and character trauma. And by focusing once again on the Shadow Kin and the Cabinet, as well as revealing more about the Governors of Coal Hill Academy, it feels very much as if series one of Class has really been a single coherent story, a fantastic school serial, rather than a set of distinct adventures loosely connected by running threads. The story arc muscles its way to a kind of resolution, making me wonder whether any possible series two would need to focus on a largely different group of lead characters, somewhat in the spirit of Skins or other 'anthology' shows.

 

To begin with, though, what to make of that ending? I can't help but feel it'll prove contentious in some quarters, if not divisive. For me, it was reminiscent of the last-gasp development in Torchwood: Miracle Day, where a central character is similarly, and just as suddenly, gifted with a whole new way of being, and the show's format is irrevocably and instantaneously reconfigured. Could April feature as a lead character in her new guise? Perhaps so, but Class would never be quite the same. This concluding development feels like a gimmick of sorts: a provocation to get audiences talking and thinking about the connections between heroes and their shadows. In its world-changing potency, however, it also feels like a sign-off of sorts, as if April's new incarnation is being handed over to fan fiction writers, fresh for new extrapolations and re-imaginings.  

 

Class has featured many excellent actors, and the cameo appearance from Cyril Nri as the Chair of Governors is excellent. Urbane and creepy in equal measure, it left me wishing that we'd seen a lot more of his character. And the slogan 'Ever Upward Reach' has a crazed zeal that partly implies striving for academic excellence but also satirises the entire Academy system. It's just one note in the composition of Class, but it rings out nevertheless. The Governors' reveal contains another of this episode's shock moments, of course, as we witness the "benefactors" who have been spurring on their calcuations and activities. In another day and age this might have featured the Daleks, but their involvement calls for negotiations over rights, whereas the Doctor Who monsters featured here have a far more convenient ownership. Cementing Class as part of the Steven Moffat era, to find that the Weeping Angels have been at the heart of this tale all along is intriguing to say the least. And the "Arrival", which seems to gesture at a gigantic Angel towering over London's skyline of Shard and Gherkin, would certainly make for a strong series two story arc. Class has never felt overly reliant on Who for its identity, and book-ending series one with strong call-backs to the 'parent' show both feels right, in terms of making episodes one and eight 'event' instalments, and not at all excessive. 

 

Patrick Ness certainly likes to put his characters through the emotional wringer, and 'The Lost' is of a piece with 'Detained' in that respect. What seems like a peaceful character moment kicking off the story with Ram and Varun rapidly takes a devastating turn, with Tanya likewise suffering at the hands of the Shadow Kin. Fady Elsayed perhaps pitches his character's reaction at a higher emotional temperature than others, but it's an understandable response (for both the actor and the character), and helps to drive the key question of the story: will the Cabinet be used? Although my favourite character, Quill, has a little less to do than usual - hardly surprising given that this follows a Quill-focused episode - she does contribute to a gloriously eccentric sequence that encapsulates the Whoniverse's mash-up of prosaic and heightened realities, as the Cabinet, a genocidal weapon of massive destruction, is wheeled into school in a less-than-stylish shopping trolley. Pure class. And Quill experiences a moment of uneasy maternal tenderness as she unsuccessfully resists comforting Tanya. It's a character beat that Katherine Kelly has some fun with.        

 

Credit should also go to Blair Mowat for some outstanding synth tones swirling amid this episode's impressive incidental music. It helps sell the drama, and resonates with the importance that Class has given to music through April's hobby which, as with 'Nightvisiting', is again punched up in the mix by linking into the episode title. It's fortunate that April always alights on such thematically useful songs, but it's also an economical way of fusing character, show, and soundtrack into one coherent entity.

 

Class has whizzed by: surely the mark of a highly successful series. On the whole, its characters have gelled well, and its multi-generational focus has felt organic rather than forced, with its inclusive ethos carrying a passionate energy. Having said that, mocking media studies in episode one didn't seem at all in keeping with the character of the Doctor (who would surely want the media to be studied and criticised), nor with the show's overall tone, and there have been occasional weaknesses (for me, the Shadow Kin's realisation). But 'The Lost' shows off Class for all its strengths, conveying an emotional intensity and a continual questioning of whether self and other - antagonist and protagonist - can be neatly separated out. And in this sense, the final plot twist is perhaps less of a gimmick than it may at first seem. It is, after all, the logical culmination of April's connection with Corakinus, and it illustrates in one attention-grabbing incongruity what lies at the heart of Patrick Ness's vision. Heroes and villains, humans and monsters, don't belong in two distinct categories or classes, despite the fact that this is often the default setting for popular storytelling. Ambivalent, self-divided, for good and ill, may be we are all in one class.