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Old Doctor Who - Part 4

Started by Ambient Sheep, June 04, 2020, 11:02:35 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

purlieu


The Face-Eater by Simon Messingham

I recently watched a YouTube series about the Virgin New Adventures (did someone on here post it? It's very good), and coming back to the EDAs afterwards is a bit of a shock. While the 'deep and broad' motto of the NAs sometimes meant gratuitous sex and totally unnecessary violence, there were actually not that many books in the series that were middling. Often authors aimed higher than they could reach, and lots of books were flawed, but most of them felt like they were trying. The EDAs, for their first couple of years, have been almost entirely bland and forgettable. It's quite weird, really. I get that, with the film, the franchise was maybe slightly higher in the public eye than it was in 1991, and so they might not have wanted to go with stuff like Timewyrm: Revelation from the start. But really, why so boring?

The Face-Eater is a mostly standard runaround, with some horror elements. On humanity's first interstellar colony planet, a geologist has returned from a trip into the mountains possessed and is going around killing people. This is, unsurprisingly, causing unrest among the workers. The Doctor and Sam appear, do a lot of investigating helped by a policeman and hindered by a generic military minded colony leader (one of the most tediously unimaginative characters I've encountered in any Doctor Who book). The first half of the book is competently written, with each chapter being seen from the perspective of a different character, but the characters themselves are largely nonentities. And just as the intrigue is building up, the second half comes along and feels like a different book. There are a couple of nice twists - the possessed man killing citizens is actually a good guy killing shapeshifters disguised as citizens - which are pleasingly understated, but it's mostly dull, run of the mill pap.

The Doctor is fine, not the best version of him, but he's actually not in the book very much. Sam is at her absolute worst. With the NAs, it felt like any dramatic changes to the line took six or seven books to sink in, purely due to logistics of how long the things take to write and publish, and that seems the case here. Sam had finally become a decent character after Seeing I, but there's not even the tiniest hint of that here. At her most boringly polemical, she spends the first half of the book going around sneering at anyone and anything and describing herself as an 'eco-anarchist'. Ultimately she just come across like a frustrating, whining teenager. I'm worried that there won't be much time for damage control before she leaves. The titular monster is difficult: it's either a wonderful unknowable, Lovecraftian being, or a shoddy, badly defined generic threat. When reading the scenes involving it I edged towards the former, but in hindsight the latter seems more likely.

Next time on The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, it's Dave Stone again. Expect silliness.

crankshaft

Messingham must have been great about hitting deadlines and sticking to his outlines, because (like Bulis) he was published again and again.

He was rude about the NAs, saying that they were often unreadable, but his riposte to this was to write a series of serviceable, below average books.

Most interestingly, he was Mark Gatiss's writing partner just before the League Of Gentlemen kicked off. I'd love to hear more about that.

Replies From View

Quote from: pigamus on May 27, 2022, 07:47:06 AMWhen did they start to be called 'seasons', and who started it? Presumably nobody was talking about Season Seven in 1970, for example?

Well not the general public no, because in those days nobody was buying DVD box sets.  It was a show called "Doctor Who" and recently broadcast episodes were called things like "the latest episode of Doctor Who".

Just like nobody was saying "series 11 of Grange Hill" until the prospect of owning them all became a reality.

pigamus

Quote from: Replies From View on May 27, 2022, 04:44:49 PMWell not the general public no, because in those days nobody was buying DVD box sets.  It was a show called "Doctor Who" and recently broadcast episodes were called things like "the latest episode of Doctor Who".

Just like nobody was saying "series 11 of Grange Hill" until the prospect of owning them all became a reality.

Yeah but when I bought my first issue of Doctor Who Magazine in 1988 they were called seasons, and DVD boxsets were still a fair while off at the time.

Replies From View

Quote from: pigamus on May 27, 2022, 05:19:32 PMYeah but when I bought my first issue of Doctor Who Magazine in 1988 they were called seasons, and DVD boxsets were still a fair while off at the time.

AC has covered it (below).

The DWM would have been referring to production information, and that would have filtered into fan discourse as they read the magazines.

But I was speaking about the less obsessed public really, who presumably don't know which season of Eastenders is currently being made, for example.

Quote from: Alternative Carpark on May 27, 2022, 07:59:20 AMNo, they were always 'seasons' on production paperwork in the DW office. The reason likely being that they were generally shown over 6 - 9 months each year until the early 80s, I believe that's partly where the term originates from in this context, a series that would be shown over at least one season of the year, Autumn, Winter etc. Fans have also been calling them so since at least as far back as the 1981 Programme Guide books by Jean-Marc Lofficier. Possibly earlier, I don't know whether 70s fan newsletters also had the term.

pigamus

When did Doctor Who Weekly start - 1979? Be interesting to see if they used the term.

purlieu

Quote from: crankshaft on May 27, 2022, 03:44:50 PMHe was rude about the NAs, saying that they were often unreadable
And yet

Replies From View

Quote from: pigamus on May 27, 2022, 05:29:20 PMWhen did Doctor Who Weekly start - 1979? Be interesting to see if they used the term.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the term "seasons" was used in the 1981 magazine that revealed how many Hartnell and Troughton episodes were no longer in the archives.

Not that that answers your question or adds to the discussion at all, really.

Deanjam

Regarding series/season, I had a look through a few old Who magazines and books from the 80s and the earliest reference to the word season that I could find was in Peter Haining's Doctor Who File.



Now obviously this was a limited and perfunctory look, but mostly the show collectively is referred to as the series and the seperation of its history is usually by Doctor (for era), or serial (for story), with no one really discussing each yearly season. Obviously there's a chance it was used earlier, but it seems discussion of the show wasn't as defined by year as it is now.

pigamus

I wonder if it's in the 1973 Radio Times special? I think that had a fairly influential story guide in it

Quote from: purlieu on May 27, 2022, 03:38:42 PMNext time on The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, it's Dave Stone again. Expect silliness.

If it's the one I think it is, it's one of Stone's least silly books, relatively speaking.


daf

Quote from: pigamus on May 27, 2022, 06:14:13 PMI wonder if it's in the 1973 Radio Times special? I think that had a fairly influential story guide in it

Just had a quick look at my reprint - can't find any mentions of seasons.

I remember in interviews with people who worked on the show they would describe the show as a "series of serials".

The 1973 Special groups the story info together as a double page spreads - usually featuring two years worth -  but without indicating the end of one filming block (season) or the start of the next. Everything is just treated like one long string of adventures.

purlieu

Quote from: Ron Maels Moustache on May 27, 2022, 06:44:23 PMIf it's the one I think it is, it's one of Stone's least silly books, relatively speaking.
The Mary-Sue Extrusion, and yes, it seems like it so far. Although I have just read a chapter which was a very daft fictionalised version of the events of Ship of Fools, so he's still got it.

pigamus


#1635
I can confirm that in the A4 fanzines that were available during the early 80s, they were commonly referred to as seasons.

As to DWM, issue 47, December 1980, has a feature about the programme's history which refers to them as seasons at least a couple of times, which also predates the publication of JML's Programme Guides in 1981 that I mentioned earlier. Their first annual survey for the series, in 1981, which was done for Season 18, is referred to in its title as a 'Season Survey' too.

notjosh

Quote from: Replies From View on May 19, 2022, 11:00:27 PMThis popped up in my recommendations today.  Thought I'd share it here in case any of you haven't seen it.


This is terrific, and also led me to this (posted recently) in which you get to see him with all his gear:


purlieu


The Mary-Sue Extrusion by Dave Stone.

"Not good news," I said softly. "I recognise it from researching Grabor and Sleed. He must have got it from Sleed at some point. It's a stupid grenade."
"A what?!" exclaimed Jason Kane.
"You've heard of a smart bomb, right?" I said. "This operates on a completely different principle. A certain sub-sect of the White Fire used it to, in quotes, improve the race. It's throw into a room and, once primed, it hunts down the stupidest person in it and detonates..."
"Well, I personally think that certain tropes and themes to be found in Finnegans wake were rather overdone," said Bernice, instantly and brightly.
"And the X-factor, in the Special Theory of Relativity could be better described as Universal Consciousness," cut in Jason Kane almost as fast, "as opposed to some anthropomorphic Mind of God."
Around the room, all the members of the Council were suddenly trying to make intelligent-sounding noises. Then they stopped and, slowly, inexorably, every part of eyes in the room turned towards Prince Jimbo.
"Hello, chaps." He beamed back at them. "I had eggs for tea."


As Ron Maels Moustache pointed out, this is one of Dave Stone's more serious books. Which means lots of passages like that, but everything between them is very serious. Following the events of Where Angels Fear, an unnamed protagonist - a kind of mercenary or honourable thug-for-hire - is sent on a mission, ostensibly to work out what the fuck has happened on Dellah and how it'll affect trade with a nearby planet. As a result, the first three quarters of the book don't feature Benny. Or Irving. Or Jason. Or Emile. Or even Chris Cwej. This was initially quite disappointing, as I enjoy all of those characters a lot. But when it gets going, and certainly once the regulars appear, it's an enjoyable, pacy tale. There are some very bleak bits - turns out the few thousand evacuees from Dellah all ended up in a violent prison camp on another planet - and a lot of asides. These include coded messages that seemingly require you to use a series of supposed lottery numbers as a cipher, pointing out the important words. If Dave Stone thinks I'm counting what the 151st word in a passage is, just for an Easter egg, he can bugger off.

It's mostly a book about books. It's written as a novelised account of what supposedly happened, and in many of the asides, as well as the protagonist's musings, there are some barbed attacks on generic SF writing, undoubtedly aimed at some of the lesser NA books (or, y'know, almost the entire EDA range). The adventures of Benny and Jason appear in fictionalised form as excerpts from the New Frontier Adventures: terribly written, cliche-laden action novels. The unnamed character even suggests at the end that things may not have even occurred the way they did in this book. It's all done with enough charm as to be enjoyable rather than smug. There are a couple of moments that act as a time capsule to common and less common '90s attitudes: Prince Jimbo is an over-the-top inbred idiot of a Royal, but while the extreme characterisation borders on him having a learning disability, I felt the use of the word 'retarded' was still uncomfortable; in contrast, a brief aside about transgender people is very well considered and sympathetic.

Plot-wise, it doesn't add much to the Gods storyline, other than showing that the religious fervour could easily spread to other planets if the quarantine around Dellah is broken. This is possibly the most disappointing aspect: while it's an enjoyable book in itself, it feels a little slight in terms of the big arc the series has been leading up to. Still, the familiar characters are all brilliantly written, and the new ones are very well realised and believable. As I believe Stone has a sequel lined up in three or four books time, I'm sure there'll be more to say on them.

All in all, not the Dave Stone novel I was hoping for, but a good one regardless.

Next time on Doctor Who... range editor Steve Cole returns, under the name Michael Collier. Given the quality of his range editing skills, and the quality of his last book, I am not thrilled.

crankshaft

#1638
I believe that "The Mary Sue Extrusion" title came from Kate Orman, who was supposed to be writing it, then had to pull out due to her commitments to BBC Books. They had to hurriedly commission Dave Stone to write it under that title - in a month - because they'd already solicited the book's title to wholesalers.

purlieu

In which case, doubly bravo to the man for pulling it off.

JamesTC

Blimey, just seen that the audio interview done for DWM with Robert Holmes on the Season 22 set is 90 minutes long. Really looking forward to that.

I went to the World's of Doctor Who show here in Liverpool yesterday. If you are in the area it is worth a visit. Got a load of pictures here. K9 is bigger than I expected. K1 a bit smaller.

Norton Canes

Lovely. Was a bit put off going because some of the blurb mentions 'the science behind Doctor Who' and I thought that might mean a lot of educational exhibits too, but it looks like the pure Who content is acceptably high

My memory of The Face Eater is that its competent. The review's line ...

QuoteThe titular monster is difficult: it's either a wonderful unknowable, Lovecraftian being, or a shoddy, badly defined generic threat. When reading the scenes involving it I edged towards the former, but in hindsight the latter seems more likely.

is spot on for the whole book, really. There's a really nice/neat central premise, the monster is fairly unique and horrible (iirc, there's one scene where one almost absent mindedly decapitates a fairly major supporting character) but its so close to being generic, that you're never quite sure.

Bad Ambassador

The next book introduce Fitz Kreiner, who'll be around until the end of the EDAs, so it'll be interesting to see what impression he gives.

Replies From View

Quote from: Bad Ambassador on May 29, 2022, 05:43:00 PMThe next book introduce Fitz Kreiner, who'll be around until the end of the EDAs, so it'll be interesting to see what impression he gives.

I'm hoping he'll do a Wogan, a Savile and a Roger Moore.

grainger

#1645
Quote from: Replies From View on May 27, 2022, 05:24:49 PMAC has covered it (below).

The DWM would have been referring to production information, and that would have filtered into fan discourse as they read the magazines.

But I was speaking about the less obsessed public really, who presumably don't know which season of Eastenders is currently being made, for example.


And the Programme Guide was a widely distributed book. I remember getting a copy as a kid from WHSmith. So "season", while hardly a mainstream term, did reach out somehwat wider than just to fanzine readers and con goers. Not that it really matters, I suppose.

pigamus

I do remember having a copy, but it would have been much later, in the early nineties. Is that also where the standard story titles come from - The Daleks rather than The Mutants and so on?

Replies From View

Best of that kind of book was the Doctor Who Television Companion.



Still have a copy of it on my shelf.

George White

BBV have apparently been continuing their K9 and 'Mistress' (i.e.Romana) audios but replaced K9 having lost the licence with a robotic ferret named BES.

I wish I was joking.


I'm pretty sure the silhouetted thigh-gap woman is Bootleg Romana.
God knows why the Trade Federation Battleship from Star Wars - the Phantom Menace is there.

Bad Ambassador

Quote from: Replies From View on May 29, 2022, 06:07:03 PMI'm hoping he'll do a Wogan, a Savile and a Roger Moore.

Finish with a song and he'll land a spot on Des O'Connor Tonight.