Friday, August 31, 2012

Doctor Who: Pond Life (Prequel Mini-Series to Series 7)

Doctor Who returns to our screens tomorrow for its seventh series since its revival in 2005. The Prequel Mini-Series Pond Life is now complete and I've created a playlist with all five parts back to back in the correct order. Enjoy. I'm looking forward to Doctor Who tomorrow!

Mostly, they're having fun with the Doctor popping in on Amy and Rory unexpectedly, although the last episode takes a bit of a darker tone as it sets up the premiere tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doctor Who and the Daleks (Book Review)

I recently started using Goodreads and am filling out reviews for the books I've read since the beginning of the year (mostly Doctor Who). Since I never did a proper review of Doctor Who and the Daleks (aka Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks) for this blog, I figured I'd post my Goodreads review here. For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while, you'll note that it's mostly a compilation of the comments I made previously in other blog posts and on Google+, which I collected and present here for completeness sake. :)

Doctor Who And The Daleks
Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Until video cassette recorders became available to the masses, the only way to experience an older episode of Doctor Who was through novelizations and the rare rerun (the number of reruns allowed was heavily controlled by contracts - a factor which contributed to the junking of episodes). As with modern movie novelizations, the book, while being based on the screenplay, is often different from what makes it to the screen. This can be for various reasons: the book is based on an earlier draft of the screenplay, certain scenes were unable to be filmed as originally conceived, etc. This is also true of the Doctor Who novelizations. Where possible, the author of the original story was employed to do the novelization, and many times, they took advantage of the opportunity to flesh out the story more than they might have been able to in the screenplay or the aired episodes.

This is the first ever novelization of a Doctor Who story published. It is a novelization of the second ever serial: The Daleks. At that time, the individual episodes had names, but the serials didn't have official names. While this story is commonly known as The Daleks (or The Mutants - incidentally the title of a Third Doctor story), the novelization was originally published under the title of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks in 1964 and was later reprinted by Target Books as Doctor Who and the Daleks in 1973. Last year, BBC Books started reprinting some of these older novelizations, both in paperback and e-book formats. They published 6 last year and 6 this year, so there are currently 12 out there for a new generation of readers.

In the BBC Books edition, there is an afterward that talks about how this novelization differs from the televised story and why. Since this novel was intended as a standalone book, the introduction of the main characters and how they come to be in the TARDIS varies significantly from the serial. The afterward also notes a few things that this book does first: such as a glass Dalek that wouldn't be seen on-screen until Revelation of the Daleks, a Sixth Doctor story. This book also was the first to use the word "Exterminate" which wouldn't be seen on screen until The Power of the Daleks (incidentally a chapter title in this book) shortly after this book was released. "Exterminate" actually didn't become a full blown mantra for the Daleks until later.

This particular story has been adapted to the screen twice: once for the original serial and once for a feature film Dr. Who and the Daleks starring Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who". These two screen versions and this novelization differ widely. It's been a while since I watched the original serial in its entirety, but I read the novelisation a couple of months before watching the feature film. I also went back to the original serial to compare a couple of scenes to see which did a better job: the serial, the film, or the book.

The scene where they cross the swamp near the lake and find a back way into the Dalek city was, to me, one of the big differences. In the book, it seemed much more perilous than in either the serial or the movie. I got the impression from the book that this was a large lake and the creatures in it were huge. The movie gave a slight sense of that when it shows them climbing the mountain with a matte painting of a lake vista behind them, in contrast, the serial didn't show them climbing at all. The lake creatures really weren't shown in the movie although the serials did some miniature work, which while done on a television budget, gives a better sense of danger than the movie. In the book, there is a scene where they injure one of the lake creatures and its fellows come and fight over the body of the fallen creature. This was missing from both screen versions.

I also got the impression from the book that the pipes they followed into the mountain were huge pipelines. In the movie, they were small when they sighted them underwater, and a little larger on the mountain. In the serial, they only showed a model shot of largish pipes running into the mountain (in a composited shot) and completely skipped the party climbing the mountain, jumping straight to them being in the caves. I also thought the scene in the serial where they jumped the chasm was more intense than the movie version.

I enjoyed reading this and I hope BBC Books will continue to reprint these Target novelizations. I'm buying them as ebooks and will buy every one they publish. :)

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Doctor Who: 043 The Wheel in Space

After defeating the seaweed monster in Fury from the Deep, the Doctor and Jamie leave Victoria behind and materialize on a seemingly abandoned spaceship where they encounter a servitor robot who tries to kill them. While attempting to discover the fate of the crew, they draw near a space station used to protect passing spacecraft from asteroids and meteor storms and uncover yet another plot by the Cybermen to take over the Earth using The Wheel in Space (the space station is shaped like a wagon wheel), the final serial of season 5.

Only 2 of the 6 episodes from this story exist: episodes 3 and 6. These two episodes appear on the Lost in Time DVD set and for the remaining stories, we turn to the Joint Venture and Loose Cannon reconstructions. Loose Cannon has not officially released this reconstruction, but it was leaked onto the Internet. I have to say that this is one of the better ones from Loose Cannon. It makes very good use of animation and existing footage. I'm looking forward to an official release of this at some point.

This serial introduces a new companion, Zoe Heriot. Zoe is probably every bit as brilliant as the Doctor and provides a good foil for him. Unfortunately, poor Jamie is now "the dumb one" that they have to explain stuff to. :) I think the team of Zoe and Jamie is probably my favorite from the Second Doctor, although it might just be because most of the Troughton stories that exist feature that team. I love one of the Doctor's lines from this serial: "Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority." ;)

Apparently, the Doctor has a habit of pissing off station commanders and driving them insane. The commander in The Ice Warriors didn't go insane, but he did get pissed off at the Doctor quite early on before finally trusting him while the commander of the drilling station in Fury from the Deep and the station commander in this story both lost their minds to some degree or another. One of the DVD documentaries on The Krotons referred to this season as the "base under siege" season. ;)

With 4 of the 6 episodes of this story missing, the total count of missing episodes for season 5 comes to 27 and Troughton's totals are: 4 missing stories, 9 incomplete stories, and 55 missing episodes. Fortunately, season 6 looks a little better with only 2 incomplete stories. Next time, season 6... beginning with a summary of the serials leading up to the first story I haven't seen, The Krotons, which incidentally recently came out on DVD, so I'll give a full DVD review in addition to my normal comments. Sounds like a long post coming up... :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Total Recall (Book Review)

Total Recall
Total Recall by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the recent remake of the Total Recall movie, I've seen several Philip K. Dick eBook special deals. I'd never actually read any of his works despite the fact that several of them have been made into blockbuster films that I've enjoyed (i.e. Blade Runner, The Minority Report, Paycheck, etc.). I was in a class in college that read The Man in the High Castle, but I dropped the class before we got to it, so I have a trade paperback edition sitting unread on my shelf (among many I intend to read "someday").

So, when I saw this movie tie-in edition of "Total Recall", I figured I'd pick it up and give it a try. The original short story was called "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," but this version is simply titled "Total Recall." It bears little similarity to the films other than the basic premise of Rekal (Rekall in the movies) and implanted memories. The movies take the secret agent part of the story and expand it into an action film. The story also has a nice twist at the end. I very much enjoyed the story and plan to read more Philip K. Dick in the future.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside (Book Review)

The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole is the second novel in the Doctor Who New Series Adventures and features the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler, as portrayed on TV by Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. It also features a second encounter with the Slitheen, as well as another family from Raxicoricofallapatorius, the Blathereen. This book was also the first story featuring Rose, televised or otherwise, to not take place on Earth. The first line of the book is "Wherever it was, it wasn't Earth." and the acknowledgements thank Russell T. Davies for allowing the author to take Rose to her first alien planet.

I was very impressed with this book. I think the author of this book did a much better job of capturing the characters of the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler than the previous novel, The Clockwise Man. It definitely had me hooked from very early on and was very much along the lines of what I would have expected to see on-screen. Interestingly enough, the Blathereen are mentioned again on The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the planetary system this story takes place on, Justicia, is mentioned in the episode Boom Town which makes this the first novel to be referenced on-screen.

Next up, Rose and the Ninth Doctor return to Earth and team up with Mickey Smith in Winner Takes All, the final novel in the first batch of New Series Adventures to be released.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doctor Who: 042 Fury from the Deep

After defeating the Great Intelligence and the Yeti for a second time in The Web of Fear, the TARDIS crew lands on the ocean near a beach. Using an inflatable raft, they come ashore near a pipeline coming out of the ocean. While investigating some odd sounds in the pipeline, they are captured and mistaken for saboteurs. Thus begins Fury from the Deep, the penultimate serial from Season 5.

Sadly, this entire serial is missing although there are reconstructions available. I watched the Loose Cannon reconstruction as well as the Joint Venture one. As always, Loose Cannon makes good use of existing material as well as other sources to give an idea of what the story might have been like.

This serial features intelligent seaweed and lots and lots of of soap suds masquerading as sea foam. Sounds like an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, huh? ;) Actually, as silly as it may sound, the story is actually pretty good and the seaweed monster is very believable, based on the little footage that exists. Oddly enough, this is one of a handful of stories where nobody dies: all the people that were taken over by the seaweed creature or sucked into the sea (or in one case walk into the sea) turn up on the main platform at the end of the serial safe and sound. :) This is also Victoria's last story. She repeatedly questions why they always turn up in the middle of trouble and eventually decides to stay behind when Jamie and the Doctor leave.

With all 6 episodes of this story missing, our total missing episode count for season 5 climbs to 23 and Troughton's totals are: 4 missing stories, 8 incomplete stories, and 51 missing episodes. Next time, season 5 comes to an end with another encounter with the Cybermen and the introduction of a new companion, Zoe Heriot, in The Wheel in Space.