purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
It occurred to me, as I was watching this, that we have a surprising number of Dalek stories left to view. I went and counted and a full quarter of the remaining stories (including this one) are Dalek stories. I guess we'll see if they get spread out or cluster.

At any rate, when viewing The Daleks' Masterplan there was a certain amount of confusion about which Dalek-Chase-Story-Starring-Peter-Purves Tame layman had already seen. I thought it was probably this one. He remembered some of this (so I think I was correct) but he also got confused on several occasions while watching with the other Dalek-Chase-Story-Starring-Peter-Purves.

Famously (for a value of famously that means "among certain Doctor Who fans") Peter Purves, who has a comedy role in one episode of The Chase, so impressed the production team that they brought him back two weeks later to become a companion. I can only think that it was his personality not his performance that impressed them because Morton Dill (from Alabama) is really not a great performance, even if you forgive the fake American accent. Steven Taylor, on the other hand, is pretty watchable from the get go. It is a shame that after the first 5 minutes of the next story his toy panda mascot is never mentioned again, because we became quite attached to it.

The Chase does not have a great reputation and its easy to see why. The format, in which The Daleks pursue the Tardis through time and space encountering the crew in a variety of locations, feels like an attempt to get out of any kind of detailed plotting in favour of a few set pieces. The Daleks, while not as reduced to comedy villains as some fan commentary had led me to expect, are a bit on the comical (utilising several different chants the effect of which is not to make them seem more chilling) and useless side (getting beaten up by a robot Frankenstein at one point). However having gone into this with low expectations I found it perfectly watchable. I'm not as big a fan of Ian and Barbara as many people are, but I do like Vicki, who has a number of nice moments here and who's relationship with the first Doctor is charming and so I was quite happy to watch this Tardis team just having vaguely random short adventures in time and space. Some of the sequences were more forgettable than others but the chase format, while hackneyed, at least kept things moving along.

There is a sequence where the Daleks construct a robot version of the Doctor in order to "infiltrate and kill". We were very interested by the places in which the duplicate was played by William Hartnell and where he was played by Edmund Warwick. This was obviously not determined only by when both characters had to be in shot at the same time, so presumably also depended upon some of the almost "as live" production which meant Hartnell was somewhere else in the studio at that point.

The final two episodes introduce the Mechanoids who, allegedly, were at one point intended as a recurring monster. It was interesting to contrast them with The Daleks. They are clearly more unwieldy, seeming to move more awkwardly around the set. One of the paradoxes of the Daleks is that they work in spite of (or perhaps because of) the sink plunger. The Mechanoids had little arm like things that while less ridiculous in principle, looked a lot sillier in practice. Mostly the Mechanoids served to highlight the mysterious genius of the Dalek design - they did have a very pretty city though.

This is definitely not a story I would recommend trying to view in one sitting, but as a series of 25 minute episodes spread out over a period of time, it is surprisingly entertaining. You have to let it roll over you as slightly mindless entertainment, but it manages not to be dull, has its moments of charm, and is saved by its variety of setting and plot.
purplecat: The Tardis (Doctor Who)

A Doctor Who version of one of those grid based logic problems.  I don't really have the enthusiasm to transcribe the clues without knowing someone would really like a transcription, but please feel free to drop a comment if you would like them transcribed.

From Tides of Time Trinity 1991. Credited to Mark Dunn who, I'm fairly sure, won't mind me sharing.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)

Two rather blurry photos of Notre Dame in a photo album (picture of pictures taken by camera phone).  To be honest the photos would probably not be much improved by being less blurry or scanned in one is a rather uninspiring and slightly wonky shot of the entrance and the a rather murky, and off-centre shot of the rose window

To be honest I am not much affected, beyond a kind of abstract regret, by the fire at Notre Dame. Until I went back just now and looked through my photo album, I wasn't even sure if we'd visited the place on the school trip to Paris I took in the late 1980s (it would seem we did). I would much more regret the loss of the Musee D'Orsay or the Centre de Pompidou both of which I recall far more vividly from the trip.
purplecat: A pile of hardback books (General:Books)
Reading: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. I genuinely have no idea why this is on my to read pile. Someone must have recommended it but I'm struggling think in relation to what. Its kind of interesting but doesn't seem like the sort of thing I would particularly seek out - and it very much feels like an SF-reaction to Germany in 1943 (though weirdly by way of blaming the Romantic movement for everything - though, I suppose, Wagner). I don't particularly dislike it, but I'm not sure I particularly see the point it is trying to make, and it is obviously trying to make a point.

Listening: I got name-checked in the Verity Podcast (by way of making a suggestion on Twitter). It was very exciting.

Watching: A random Netflix trawl netted us R.I.P.D last night. We read the description (Undead Cops police the Undead) were, as a result, surprisingly impressed by the cast list: Kevin Bacon, Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges and concluded that it might be a bit like Tremors on the strength of which supposition we agreed to give it 10 minutes. It opened with a distinctly dodgy CGI special effect and proceeded to be considerably more serious than Tremors for the next 10 minutes and we were starting to debate whether to stick with it but then Jeff Bridges turned up, the whole thing planted its tongue firmly in its cheek and off it went. I guess its sort of Tremors meets Ghostbusters and you need to be in the mood for that kind of thing, but if you are then it does more or less what it says on the tin.
purplecat: The Eighth Doctor (Who:Eight)

Paper Doll of the Eighth Doctor in his Night of the Doctor outfit
The Eighth Doctor gets shoes!


Also, I think I may be getting the hang of this (7 doctors after I decided to stop leaving white bits). Some white outlines are left, some have been removed.
purplecat: Picture of purplecat running the Great North 10K (General:Running)

A man, sitting on a bench, looking very pleased with himself, wearing a Manchester Marathon T-Shirt

This is JayManCan who cycled past me in the park one day when I was running. Strava has this "flyby" feature where you can see runners or cyclists you passed on your route and he friended me. Against all the advice of many Internet gurus I friended him back. He ran the Manchester Marathon the weekend before last and we caught up at Park Run on Saturday. I don't think he enjoyed it any more than I enjoyed my first marathon, but at least he didn't leave the T-Shirt behind on the train!
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Two)
From The Web Planet to The Web of Fear: two stories which have remarkably little in common beyond the word "Web" in the title.

One thing the do have in common though (as well as the word "Web" in the title) is having been novelised early and well. To be honest, the novelisation of The Web of Fear is one of Terrance Dicks' 120 page jobs, but it is gripping and terrifying (at least if you are 9 years old). When, in 2013, all but one of the episodes of The Web of Fear were found, along with all of The Enemy of the World, it (of the two) was most anticipated and there was something of an air of disappointment once it was actually available. The memory, people felt, had in this case cheated.

For my birthday in 2013 I had a party on the 23rd November. The original plan had been to watch about three Doctor Who stories including the anniversary special, but when The Web of Fear was found I extended it earlier in order to watch this as well. To be honest, like many people, I think I was a little underwhelmed.

This time was very different. Oddly, tame layman recalled nothing of the earlier viewing (maybe he was in the kitchen making supper?) and he was genuinely gripped in the early episodes, and genuinely surprised and pleased when the Brigadier put in an appearance. Frankly the first two episodes are as gripping as my memories of the book suggest. It is difficult to tell with the third episode which consists only of telesnaps. The fourth is basically padding. There is a lot of running around shooting at yeti and a lot of the characters the story has been successfully building up are rather summarily bumped off, leaving a much smaller core group to carry the final two episodes. I suspect it is this fourth episode that is at the heart of the diappointment. It is ambitious for the 1960s but I suspect the collective imagination had built up the running fights through the streets of London into something impossible to realise at the time.

This feels eerily like a UNIT episode. I'm not sure if the producers already had UNIT in mind when creating it, but it has that feel of The Invasion and some of the early Pertwee stories, where the military have a much larger and more obvious presence. On the whole I think the story benefits from this. There is more excitement and more of a feel of realism (give or take Yeti in the London Underground, obviously) than in many Doctor Who stories.

The character work is often excellent. Anne Travers is a stand out - not only one of the show's first female scientists (a character type it was to lean into heavily for the next five years or so) but one of the better examples of the genre - able to stand up for herself, level headed, and equipped to help the Doctor. However the Brigadier, the unfortunate "Staff" (Sergeant Arnold in the novel but referred to by everyone as "Staff" here), Evans the cowardly but clever (professionally Welsh) Private, even Blake and Weams (two largely red-shirt characters) have a distinctiveness and life to them that mean you don't get the various soldiers confused with each other.

Rewatching this felt a bit like rediscovering the story. I'm not sure what went wrong in 2013. Maybe watching it all in one go was a mistake. But this took me back strongly to reading The Web of Fear at age 9 and experiencing the thrill of the Yeti in the London Underground.
purplecat: Jamie from Doctor Who. (Who:Jamie)

Jamie and Victoria running away from a Yeti.

This is not, I believe, actually a shot from The Abominable Snowmen but in fact a mocked up photo-shoot for Doctor Who's Tenth Anniversary (though I could be wrong about that).
purplecat: The Eighth Doctor (Who:Eight)

Eight Doctor Paper Doll with a green coat, sonic screwdriver, but no shoes
But still has no shoes.


I've been a little snippy about some of these dolls recently, so I shall pause here to note that this coat properly covers the shirt sleeves underneath and that, in general, I have no complaints about this outfit at all.
purplecat: (General:Robots)

Small Kit Robot.  Most is out of focus but the ultrasonic sensor, looking a bit like two eyes is gazing up at the camera.

Admittedly I mostly purchased it because I couldn't face going through the official work purchasing procedure and I needed it in a hurry. But now I have robot that is all mine and not, in some sense, on loan from work.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
I was pretty wary going into The Web Planet. I was fond of the novelisation as a child, as were many people, but since its release on video it has not enjoyed a good reputation. 1960s Doctor Who's most ambitious attempt at creating an alien world seems to have been generally viewed as slow and marred by costumes that illustrate clearly what happens when ambition is greater than ability.

I actually thought it was fascinating in lots of ways though there are definitely places where it is both incoherent and/or slow.

I think it is the ant-like Zarbi whose costumes I have most often seen derided, but I thought they were actually the best of the four alien races on show. They look a lot less like men in ant suits than I was expecting. The butterfly-like Menoptera do look like men in suits but are no worse than a lot of Doctor Who aliens. I liked the attempt that had gone into giving them distinctive body language and the wire-work as they flew around (albeit in relatively few scenes) was impressive. The Larva Guns do look a bit like a stage costume but are quite cute - Tame Layman wanted one at any rate. The underground Optera are the weakest of the four and look as if they are made out foam. This is not helped by the fact they jump rather than walk - frankly the story would probably have benefitted from excision of the whole Optera sub-plot. Maybe Ian could have banged his head for a couple of episodes and William Russell gone on holiday.

So the costumes are a range from poor to surprisingly effective. But the sets and sound design are astounding. It is still very theatrical in feel but the whole thing is genuinely successful at creating a strange and alien feel. I'm not sure about the effect created by smearing vaseline on the camera lenses for the outdoor sequences. Tame Layman was very impressed when I explained it to him. Sometimes it definitely added to the eery feeling of the story but at other times, frankly, it did just look as if someone had smeared vaseline on the lenses. But really, apart from that, I thought there was a sense of the alien here that I'm not sure exists anywhere else in Doctor Who.

While the story is quite slow, I'm not sure that's a huge problem initially. It needs to be fairly slow in order to show off the alien world, but by episode 6 it is beginning to outstay its welcome - tame layman suddenly lost interest about 5 minutes into the final episode. It is also oddly incoherent in places seeming to jump forward in the narrative where you might expect some kind of linking scene. The final scene, in particular, where all the disparate groups meet at the Animus and fall under its sway is difficult to follow. From the book I recall that the sudden appearance of Ian and the Optera is supposed to tip the balance (I think they distract the Animus long enough for Barbara to use the Menoptera weapon) but in reality people seemed to be stumbling around, Ian appears and then everything is resolved.

It's not a perfect story by a long shot. But there is nothing else quite like this in the whole of the Doctor Who canon. It is part stage play and part science fiction of the weird alien society kind and is a sumptuous as Doctor Who at the time could afford to be. On its own terms I would say it mostly works.

No Future

Apr. 6th, 2019 04:54 pm
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Books)
Not a commentary on the current state of politics in the UK, but a Random Doctor Who Picture


Cover for the Virgin New Adventures novel No Future.  Benny is on stage in a grey dress flanked by two guitarists.  Ace is visible in at the audience in dark glasses.


My office has now been painted and so I am starting to move stuff back into it. No Future was selected largely because it was the last book I moved. I have to say I think it is one of the weakest New Adventure covers not that I'm any kind of an art critic. The figures don't seem quite in proportion somehow. What I assume are supposed to be spikey punk haircuts actually look rather fuzzy. The muted grey and yellow colour scheme seems like an odd choice for a punk vibe as well, though it's not helped by the bright red of the logo and title stuck on top of it.
purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)

Seventh Doctor Paper Doll wearing a duffel coat.  He has a weird expression.

Yesterday I went looking for the paper doll book, confident that I had stashed it somewhere accessible, but could not find it.

It was on the kitchen table...

Anyway, only a day late, here is the Seventh Doctor in his duffel coat. I observed that some of the white was intended to cover the umbrella so I have compromised on my "no white outline" policy by leaving that bit of white outline in place. I'm not sure about the head that exists just to have a strange expression. In principle I think this is a clever idea, but the actual expression doesn't strike me as particularly quintessentially seventh Doctor.
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Two)
The Mind Robber occupies a story-telling space with The Celestial Toymaker that is somewhat unique in Doctor Who. While there have been many "oddball" episodes since, there is something about these two stories with their overt invocation of other fictional characters/children's games as real within the story that makes them seem far more like each other than like anything else in Doctor Who canon. The Celestial Toymaker is frankly rather dull (although I reserve the right to change my opinion should the missing episodes ever be found), The Mind Robber on the other hand is quite highly regarded in Who fandom.

I'm sure I've seen The Mind Robber before and I've certainly read the novelisation but not a great deal of it rang any bells on this rewatch. The things I'd particularly recalled - that Gulliver uses only dialogue from Swift, that the trees in the forest are made out of words - didn't somehow seem as clever in situ as they were in my memory, though like all clever details the effect is undeniably reduced when you encounter it a second time.

The story was beset by production problems. Most notably the first episode had to be invented from whole cloth with no sets very late in the day. The result, while undeniably impressive under the circumstances, doesn't actually make a lot of sense and in retrospect feels very much like the filler that it is. Then Frazer Hines came down with chickenpox and had to be replaced for an episode (something that would have been difficult in most other stories but works in this context where the Doctor is set the task of assembling Jamie's face and gets it wrong).

All in all you've got a clever and inventive script with yet further inventiveness being used to offset the last minute problems. It is easy to see why fandom likes this.

On the other hand I felt it failed to really come to life. I'm not sure if this was over-high expectations or the very theatrical nature of a lot of the sets or just one of those things where some days, some stories don't particularly do it for you.

After all it has a truly impressive animated medusa, Zoe (rather improbably) demonstrating her martial arts skills, and the companions getting trapped in a giant book - really what more could you want from a Doctor Who story?
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Books)

Cover off Jenny T. Colgan's In the Blood Dr Who novel.  Bluey white icey background.  Ten and Donna.  They Feed on your Anger.  They Need your Despair. tagline
Today in book covers I can easily lay hands on "In the Blood" which I've just read. It was OK as Who novels go, though erred a bit on the side of The Internet is evil and everyone would be happier if they just talked face-to-face with each other.

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purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
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