Saturday 30 April 2011

Morgaine takes a Shower, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

You can't do a 'Girls in prison' series without a shower scene; it's pretty much obligatory. I think this is pretty inoffensive. Read whatever subtext you like into it.

Madeleine Issigri is of course from The Space Pirates.

Ganymede Correctional Facility, 2191

Twelve inmates stood naked in the sonic shower, their skin prickling and shuddering as the dirt on their bodies formed into fine dust and fell off. They were all human females. There were a few non-human inmates in the prison, Draconians, Alpha Centauri (being hermaphrodites, Alpha Centauri could be found in both male and female prisons), Kleptons and Earth Reptiles (calling them Silurians, Eocenes, or Sea Devils was the height of political incorrectness), but they showered separately from the other inmates.

Morgaine glanced at her cellmate Madeleine. Madeleine always seemed uncomfortable standing naked with the other women in the prison. She was an attractive woman, but she had allowed herself to get flabby during her incarceration. She had also lived a life of privilege before her arrest. Communal showers were something she found hard to get used to. 'She should have thought about that before she fell in with pirates,' thought Morgaine to herself. In her opinion, Madeleine should count herself lucky. In the Thirteen Worlds she had ruled, friends of pirates were always executed. Having to shower with other women and wear a yellow prison uniform seemed a rather light punishment. Morgaine liked her cellmate and counted her as a friend, but she looked down on her as one lacking in nobility. Madeleine was a merchant and a merchant's daughter. As a warrior and a queen, Morgaine had an instinctive distaste for merchants.

Morgaine had no discomfort at being naked in front of the other prison women. It rather reminded her of bathing in the crystal clear lakes of her world with her handmaidens. The penalty was death for any man who dared to behold Morgaine and her maidens washing. Morgaine missed her handmaidens. They were so pretty; chosen from the fairest girls of all her Thirteen Worlds. She shared her bedchamber with all of them. Naturally, being Battle Queen of the S'rax, she always won at pillow fights.

Morgaine liked to flaunt her body before the other inmates. She spent a lot of time in the prison gym keeping it in shape. Her form was strong and muscular, but she had an impressive bust that would make any supermodel envious.

She regretted being a little short. This was especially an inconvenience in prison, where flip flops were the only footwear permitted. Her armoured boots had always helped to give her a boost. Nevertheless, she had always made up for her lack of height by the magnificence of her presence. Her sheer confidence seemed to add a kind of magical glamour, No doubt it owed a lot to the blood of the Elder Folk that flowed through her veins. All of the other prisoners admired and feared her. She might no longer be Battle Queen of the S'rax and Dominator of Thirteen Worlds, but in this joint she was top bitch and every other inmate knew it well.

The sonic shower stopped and the inmates moved, shivering, towards where they had left their yellow prison pyjamas.

"Morgaine, stop prancing around and get your clothes on. I want you back in your cell in two minutes!" shouted a voice. It was the short guard with the long dark hair. The one that seemed to have it in for her.

"Whatever you say, miss," Morgaine snapped in reply. This petty mortal woman could shout at her all she liked. One day she would be old and shrivelled, but she would ever be Ageless and Deathless Morgaine.

Friday 29 April 2011

The Evil of the Daleks

Daleks terrorize a bunch of Victorians.

The Evil of the Daleks has a reputation amongst some fans for being one of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever. As it has mostly been lost, one ought to suspend judgment on the matter. It is simply impossible to tell the original quality of this serial. One thing that annoys me is when people draw up lists of Top Ten Doctor Who Stories and then include incomplete stories like Evil of the Daleks. It is simply unfair to compare complete with incomplete stories.

The Evil of the Daleks is a massive sprawling story. I am tempted to suggest that it could have been a bit shorter. It is one of those epic stories like The Daleks' Masterplan (though it does have a much stronger plot than that story). Perhaps because of the length of the story, there are quite a few plot elements that do not make a huge amount of sense.

There is something of a tendency to rely on stock characters in this story. Kemal, the silent, strong Turk is a dreadfully cliched ethnic stereotype. New companion Victoria is also pretty awful in this story, though thankfully she does improve in Tomb of the Cyerbermen. I think the popularity of Victoria is mostly due to the awe in which Season 5 is held by fans. The Doctor, on the other hand, is wonderfully portrayed, coming across as dark and manipulative. The character of Jamie is also used well here.

There is something of a mystical tendency to this story. The idea of the 'Human Factor' and the 'Dalek Factor' is hardly a scientific notion and comes across as a little bonkers (largely because it is treated as something scientific, rather than something spiritual). The experiments with time travel seem to have more to do with the Occult than with science. The Daleks seem to be almost a demonic force in the way they are summoned up by Waterfield's experiments. This idea is rather ruined by the cute, comic Daleks that have been influenced by the 'Human Factor.'

The Emperor Dalek is a fantastic creation and its voice is quite menacing. Naturally, because it is incomplete, it is hard to evaluate the overall look of the production. The use of the Dalek toys that differ significantly from the t.v. props does not stand in the serial's favour.

The classical music score gives this serial a quite different flavour. This is a production that was clearly meant to make an impact and it does some interesting things. I have some doubts that it is really the classic that fans imagine it to be, however.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Celebrity Yacht Party, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

This is my first attempt at a Fifth Doctor story. It is set between Snakedance and Mawdryn Undead.

Isobel Watkins is one of those characters who comes across like she might have become a companion. I wanted to explore what happened to her after The Invasion. I am assuming here that The Invasion is set in 1979 and the UNIT era was from 1979-1985.

St.Tropez, 2002

Tegan stood on the deck looking down at her bare feet. The guests at the boat party had all been asked to remove their shoes to protect the precious decks. Tegan hated being without a decent pair of heels. She valued the extra height and the elegance it gave her stride. She felt like a five-year old when prancing around barefoot. It was all well dressing up in a glamorous cocktail dress, but without the stilettos, the outfit was incomplete in her opinion. Perhaps the millionaires on board were used to managing the combination, but to her it seemed downright weird.

Tegan looked at Nyssa. She looked equally uncomfortable. Nyssa was not one for dressing up. She had only just managed to wean herself off that hideous puffy-sleeved Elizabethan number. Nyssa seemed as awkward in the little black dress as Tegan was feeling without her high heels. Not that Nyssa seemed all that comfortable being shoeless either. Nyssa had seemed to enjoy that masked ball at Cranleigh Hall. Maybe that was more like the kind of parties they had on Traken. Here on a yacht full of millionaires and celebrities, it seemed like she might as well have been on a planet of giant ants and butterflies. 'Then again,' Tegan thought, 'Nyssa would probably like being on a planet full of giant insects. Plenty of nerdy stuff to poke.'

Tegan looked across the deck at her fellow guests. All of them were rich and most of them were famous, or so she was told. This was over fifteen years into her future. She had never heard of most of these celebrities. There was the odd film director or actor that she recognised, but they looked frighteningly old compared to how she remembered them. Not so long ago, she would have killed to be at a function like this, shoes on or off. After travelling in time and space with the Doctor, this little bash just seemed a bit of a let down. Most of the guests that she had spoken to seemed hopelessly narcissistic.

Tegan saw the Doctor tearing himself away from some aging rock star and help himself to another mineral water. She had hoped that the Doctor might make the effort to wear something stylish and classy for this party, but as ever he was wearing that ridiculous Edwardian cricket outfit he always wore. Shuffling along the deck in his socks, Tegan thought he looked even sillier than usual.

The Doctor warmly greeted a woman who padded towards them. She was in her early forties and attractive. Her hair was blonde and she had the tanned look of somebody who spent a lot of time in a warm climate. She wore a gorgeous blue dress and like everybody else on the boat, was barefoot.

"Oh, Doctor, the woman said, "Won't you introduce me to your dolly friends?" Tegan was a little unsettled by the woman's accent. She clearly came from a very upper-middle class English family, but she seemed to put on a very affected cockney accent and there was also the hint of an American twang.

"Ah yes," the Doctor replied. "This is Tegan and this is Nyssa. Tegan, Nyssa, this is our hostess, Isobel Watkins. She and I go back a long way."

"You must meet my dolly husband, Dmitri," Isobel said, directing them towards a tall man with thinning blonde hair. He wore sunglasses and his shirt was half open. He said nothing, but smiled. "Dmitri is very quiet," explained Isobel, "But he's absolutely loaded. He owns six newspapers, woud you believe? He also used to be a KGB agent. He could tell you some stories, but he'd have to kill you!" Dmitri smiled again, causing Tegan to shiver.

"What happened to Captain Turner?" the Doctor asked.

"My dolly soldier! I do miss him. We got divorced. He was dreadfully sweet, but there was no way it could have lasted. I was becoming a world-famous photographer and he was just an army officer. He wanted to retire to some country cottage. He wasn't interested in the lifestyle I wanted. I wanted an exciting life and I wanted money. I wasn't going to get those things with him. He did give me too dolly girls though. One of them has already starred in a movie; the other is studying in America."

Tegan felt that she was bound to slap Isobel if she used the word 'dolly' one more time. She was quite surprised that the Doctor had become friends with such a person as Isobel. She did not seem at all the sort of person she had imagined to be associated with the Doctor. She decided to bring this up. "So how did you meet the Doc?" Tegan asked Isobel.

"It's a long story," Isobel replied. "The Doctor knew a friend of my uncle. He came knocking on our door and I got mixed up in this frightfully exciting adventure involving these metal men called Cybermen. I helped him save the whole planet, would you believe? Along the way I met my dolly ex-husband. Not long after, the Doctor got stranded on earth for a while and I saw quite a lot of him. Once he got back to travelling the universe, he dropped in on me once or twice."

Nyssa joined in the conversation. "You seem to have made a good life for yourself, Isobel," she said.

"Thank you, darling," Isobel replied. "I went into magazine editing in the 1990s. I edited two fashion magazines and a celebrity gossip rag. I was doing well, even before I married my dolly Dmitri." She gave her husband a big hug. He smiled again.

Tegan managed to restrain herself.

Isobel helped herself to another glass of champagne. "You know, Doctor," she said, "You look quite lovely in this body, but you seem so much more shy. You were very cute as the little dark-haired man I first met, but I liked you best as that silver-haired chap with the big nose. Back when you were stuck on earth."

"Really?" asked the Doctor, taken aback by the personal nature of this conversation.

"Oh yes," Isobel continued. "When you had silver hair and a big nose, you were so much like me. You were into exactly the same lifestyle I wanted. You used to love the fast cars, the fine wine and the high fashion. You might have been a scientist, but you loved hanging around with the glamorous people. You just couldn't keep away from rock stars, actresses and film directors. You might have been working for a secretive security organisation, but I could always spot your pictures in the glossy magazines."

The Doctor looked very uncomfortable. "I had never thought about it like that. I suppose I'm just not the man I was," he said.

"You know what, Doctor. I met your last face and I've met the person you are going to become next. He's really.."

'Dolly?' thought Tegan to herself. The Doctor cut Isobel off straight away. "Don't tell me any more! There are some things I really shouldn't know."

"I have pictures of all your faces. I'm working on writing a biography of you when I get the chance. Obviously, I can't write about some of that top secret stuff with UNIT, but I'm sure I can find plenty of other stuff about you to write about," said Isobel.

"Oh no! I'd rather you didn't, Isobel. I prefer to keep a rather lower profile than that," said the Doctor,

"I'm surprised, Doctor. Your next version seemed very enthusiastic about the idea. Anyway, when I am done, I promise I shall show you before publishing it," replied Isobel.

"Thank you. I do appreciate that, Isobel."

After the conversation with Isobel was concluded, the Doctor did not wish to stay long. The yacht party, with its celebrity guests was not at all his scene and neither Tegan nor Nyssa wished to linger.

After they had retrieved their shoes and returned to the TARDIS, the Doctor sighed and looked at his two companions. "You know, when I first met Isobel, she did not seem quite such a shallow woman. I suppose she had a point that I used to have a certain liking for glamour myself at one time. I suppose we all change as we get older. Would you believe, if she hadn't fallen for Captain Turner, I might have invited Isobel to come and travel with me in the TARDIS. Can you imagine travelling through time and space with her?" he asked.

Tegan and Nyssa gave a resounding "No!"

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Blood Heat, by Jim Mortimore (Virgin New Adventure)

The late Dr. Who and the Silurians

I first read this New Adventure novel when I was twelve years old. I found it hard going, but I did enjoy it. I think I did find the dark tone and harsh portrayal of the characters surprising. Significantly, however, I read this novel and without having experienced Ace and the Seventh Doctor on television (I got into Doctor Who after it had been cancelled). This is probably why I love Ace being a violent, angsty bitch. This is how I experienced her character. A lot of fans who watched Seasons 25 and 26 in the 80s hate NA Ace, but I feel a strong sense of ownership over violent, angsty Ace. That was just how I experienced the character.

Probably what I appreciated about Blood Heat when reading it as a twelve-year old was the simplicity of the premise- What if the Doctor had died in the Wenley Moor caves and the Silurians had taken over? I can't imagine my younger self appreciating a novel with a more complex theme, like Christmas on a Rational Planet. Although this novel has the dark and grim heart of the more 'Rad' NAs, it has an accessibility in its premise that can draw in anyone who loves Doctor Who (even if they do end up hating what it does with the characters). Perhaps it also helps that Blood Heat looks for inspiration less to the televised story Dr. Who and the Silurians, but more to Malcolm Hulke's novelisation, The Cave Monsters. Like the novelisation, it even has pictures.

Blood Heat is really grim. It is full of death and violence. It features the aftermath of a nightmarish apocalyptic scenario portrayed more realistically than Day if the Triffids. Nevertheless, it is how he handles the characters that makes it all the more grimmer. Poor Jo Grant is rendered insane and dies a slow, lingering death after having a miscarriage. The Brigadier becomes a warmongering bully. Benton becomes a brutal thug. Only Liz Shaw remains a sympathetic character (perhaps more so than in Season 7). These are characters that have had to deal with horrible and terrifying situations and it has taken its toll on them. This is ultra-realist Dr. Who. The Silurians come across as pretty nasty too, though Morka (the nasty one in The Cave Monsters) has matured and become more sympathetic. We get a glimpse of hipe when we are told that in Bernice's time, humans and Silurians are at peace.

As with the other books in this period of the New Adventures, Ace is at her most psychotic and violent. I found it really interesting how Mortimore handles her. She is shown to be a monster, but we get to understand why. Remarkably, she actually feels that she likes this nightmare world more than the real earth, especially when she finds that her old friend Manisha ironically survived in this timeline.

My complaints about this book are few and they mostly relate to continuity. I disagree with the author's view that Dr. Who and the Silurians is set in 1973. I am unhappy with the notion that the 'Silurians' are from the age of the Dinosaurs (the Doctor called them Eocenes and they knew about apes).

There is a real depth to this book. The theme of children and future generations is used and explored really effectively. Blood Heat is one of the true classics of the New Adventures.

Monday 25 April 2011

Fan Fiction

Nobody has commented on this blog about my fiction. I suppose that is because most of you who follow this blog aren't very interested in fan fiction. As well as here, I post all of it on A Teaspoon and an Open Mind.

I don't pretend there is any real liteary merit to my writing. The thing about fan fiction is that it is a shamefacedly self-indulgent genre. It's an outlet for one's feelings about the show. The Doctor Who universe is so vast that there are naturally areas one would like to explore.

There are three series or story arcs I am working on. The first is stuff relating to the 60s TV Comic. These have all been Second Doctor stories with John and Gillian, but I am sure I will write a First Doctor story with John and Gillian eventually. The second series is all about Morgaine from Battlefield and what happens after she is 'locked up.' These are a sort of Doctor Who version of the 'women in prison' genre. The third arc is all about Big Finish character Elizabeth Klein.

Tears in Paradise, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

I like the idea of the TARDIS crew being a family, an idea that was strong in the Hartnell era. The TV Comic's John and Gillian offers this, but I feel that they could benefit from a motherly or big sister figure like Barbara. This is my attempt to provide that.

I think Venussa (played by Eileen Helsby) from The Ark would have made a brilliant companion. So I have reintroduced her here. I think she fits brilliantly with the 60s kitsch of the TV Comic.

A woman rushed through the forests at the edges of the colony. The hills were dotted with ancient buildings that had once been inhabited by the people of Refusis before they had lost their physical form.

The woman wore a long tunic made of strips of material. It concealed very little of her body. On her feet she wore sandals. The woman wept again.

This happened so often. Sometimes it became too much for her. Sometimes she became overwhelmed by the joy and happiness of the colony. The humans were happy, free from oppression and watching their families grow. The Refusians were happy in sharing their world and watching its new inhabitants delight in paradise. Even the Monoids were happy, learning to be content and gaining the respect of the humans. Surrounded by so much joy, it seemed almost like rebellion on her part to be miserable. Yet she was.

Six years ago, she had shared in that joy. When her people were freed from the slavery of the Monoids, it seemed like a dream. To be free, to be able to live on a new world and to enjoy its fruits. She had married Dassuk not long after. Six years later, she had watched them bury him.

So many young families with children delighting in a new world and she was left alone, a widow with no children. They had shown such kindness to her. Her relatives, other humans, even the Refusians and the Monoids had offered sympathy and condolence. But she was the one who had to go through it. All the sympathy in the world could not take away the fact that she was alone in an empty house.

She needed to be alone. She needed to be away from people singing and dancing, from endless feasting, from handsome husbands with their young wives and from happy children. Just seeing them made her grief the more painful.

Refusis was a warm planet, but the forest was refreshingly cool in the evening. She heard the sound of insects and flying creatures in their nests. She had no fear; there were no dangerous creatures on Refusis. Then she heard a noise that she had heard before. A noise that awakened a memory six years old.

A wheezing, groaning sound. She watched in amazement as it appeared before her, that strange blue box that she had seen six years ago.

The strangers had returned! After freeing her people from slavery, they had come back again. She realised this should not be a surprise; even before their last visit, the mysterious Doctor had come to her people centuries before.

Forgetting her sorrow, she watched the box with anticipation. Expecting to see a small white-haired old man come out of it, she was shocked to see a man about ten years younger with dark-hair step out. He was followed by a dark-haired girl aged about fifteen, clearly a different girl to the one he was with last time and a boy with curly red hair and freckles who looked about a year younger. This was clearly not the same group of strangers she had met six years ago.

"Ah, I've met you before," said the man. "Venissa? Venatta? Venalia?"

"Venussa," she corrected. How had he known her name. "I'm afraid I don't recognise you, sir. Though I have seen a machine like this before."

"I've changed my appearance since we last met. It's something I do. I must introduce my grandchildren, John and Gillian." The two children smiled at her and she smiled back.

"You are the Doctor, then? I am so glad to see you once again!" exclaimed Venussa.

"It is nice to be back on Refusis again. These forests are quite lovely. How have things been since I was last here?" the Doctor asked.

"Life is so peaceful here. The Refusians have made us so welcome. They built many houses for us, but we have also built many of our own. The Monoids no longer resent us and are becoming our friends again. This is a good place," Venussa explained.

"It's always nice to see a job well done," said the Doctor. "Venussa, would you care to show us around?"

Venussa happily lead them back to the settlement. For the moment, she had forgotten her sadness and was glad to be among friends again. She introduced the Doctor and his companions to her fellow colonists. The visitors were welcomed into the seemingly endless festivities of Refusis, joining in the songs and dances, eating the tasty produce of the fertile soil and telling of their travels since their last visit.

While his grandchildren danced with the colonists, the Doctor approached Venussa. He spoke to her softly. "Venussa, I know you were upset before our arrival. I could tell from your face. You told me about how things were on Refusis, but how is it for you?" he asked her.

Venussa wept. She could not help herself. The Doctor passed her a spotted handkerchief.

"Oh Doctor, things have been so wonderful here for our people, but my life has been such a disappointment. Not long after you left I married Dassuk. We were so happy. We were going to have a family. Yet we never had children. I became pregnant three years ago, but it was just a miscarriage. It was such a painful time for both of us. It was so hard watching women younger than me having baby after baby! Then Dassuk died just two months ago in a machine accident. I don't know how I can live through this!" she said, her heart aching with every word.

The Doctor gently laid a hand on the woman's shoulder and she fell into his arms sobbing. It was so sad for him to see the young woman he had known such a long time ago destroyed by grief. She had been so intelligent, so bright and so energetic. Slavery and tyranny under the Monoids had not crushed her indomitable spirit, yet here she was in paradise sobbing. So often the Doctor had left leaving happy people, freed from oppression and full of hope for the future. So rarely did he visit them again to see how their lives had changed. How many men and women had he helped only to sink into lives of personal tragedy?

The Doctor remembered Victoria, grieving after the death of her father. He remembered the words of comfort he had offered her. This time he decided it was best to say nothing at all.

"What am I going to do now, Doctor? I don't think things can ever be the same for me?" Venussa asked.

"Venussa, I want you to come with us. Come and travel with us. See other worlds. You will always have the memory of your husband, but you can gain other memories. See the most beautiful worlds, meet strange creatures," said the Doctor.

"You would let me do that, like Steve and that young woman Dodo did?" she asked, amazed at the thought.

"It's a strange thing, Venussa, but my ship has a habit of turning up near to people who end up travelling with me. It can't be a coincidence. It sometimes almost seems as if the ship comes to the people it wants on board," he said.

"After I first met you, I wondered sometimes what it might be like to travel with you to other worlds. If you had asked me to come six years ago, I would probably have said no. I was too happy. I wanted to make a new future with my people on Refusis. But now it seems like there is nothing for me here," Venussa said.

The Doctor smiled at her. "Even if you weren't quite so sad here, I might still have asked you to come with us. John and Gillian have had a lot of fun helping me fight monsters and save planets, but they are both growing up. It's not always easy between Gillian and myself. She is becoming a young woman. I think she could do with some female company for a change. She could do with a nice, sensible young woman like yourself to look up to. Even John could benefit from getting used to women being around a bit more."

"What happened to their parents?" asked Venussa.

The Doctor's face became grave. "They are dead. It was a terrible event," he said solmenly. It was clearly a subject the Doctor did not want to go into.

"I'm sorry to hear of the loss," said Venussa. Changing the subject she asked, "When are you going?"

"Tomorrow," replied the Doctor. "The leader of your colony has very kindly offered to put us up for the night. If you can be ready to go in the morning, that would be very helpful."

Venussa returned to her small house and began packing some possessions. Not only had she met old friends again, but she had a new chance to leave behind the sadness of the past and find a new future. She had been denied the chance of a family here, but she now she had a new family amongst these strangers. She could offer them the love and care that she would have given her own children. She felt that same joy that she had experienced when she had won her freedom from the Monoids. It was time to leave paradise.

Sunday 24 April 2011

First Frontier, by David McIntee (Virgin New Adventure)

The Doctor: If you were sleepwalking, it must have been quite a nightmare.
Jack: You wouldn't know.
The Doctor: Don't be too sure; I once had one where all my old foes chased me round a soap opera.

I'm not keen on the Master. I think one of the strengths of the New Adventures novels is that for the most part they kept the Master out of it. Until First Frontier. The Master is mostly handled well. He actually comes across like Ainley rather than Delgado. It's helpful to get a story of how he recovers his Time Lord nature and nice to revisit Survival. On the other hand, his confrontation with the Doctor at the climax is depressingly predictable.

First Frontier does a good job of portraying paranoid America in the 50s. The Tex-Mex food helps to give it a sense of being a real place. Perhaps the novel would have benefited from a little more humour relating to the UFO themes. It is generally agreed amongst fans that the biggest strength of this novel is in its in depth portrayal of the alien Tzun. They are given an history and one is made to sympathize with them.

McIntee includes a lot of action in the novel. This is unfortunate, because like a lot of NA writers, he is not very good at describing it. Despite the action, the book does have a fairly slow pace.

MCIntee captures the Seventh Doctor rather well. Ace is very well portrayed and the references to the changes brought about in her by Survival are good. Bernice is also nicely portrayed, even if she is not left with much to do. I like the fact that she comes across as quite ignorant of the culture of the time period. In some novels, Bernice was a given an unbelievably comprehensive knowledge of the Twentieth century. The vast majority of minor characters in the book are military types who are not terribly interesting.

For those wanting to see how the New Adventures handled the Master, this is definitely the book to read. It's not brilliant, but it occupies an important point in continuity.

The Impossible Astronaut

* Spoiler Alert!*

That was tedious.

I knew that it was going to be a chore watching the opener of the new Doctor Who series and it certainly was. From the first few minutes, you know what you are going to get. The Doctor apparently dies and will inevitably survive in the end somehow, we have lots of fast paced action, some great lines that we forget instantly because they are coming in thick and fast, lots of surreal 'Yet in the loo' stuff, lots of mystery about River Song and Amy standing around getting emotional.

Killing off the Doctor is just a boring thing to do because you know that they are not going to end the show or replace it with Doctor River Song and Friends. Having the Doctor apparently killed just creates a big countdown to the explanation of how he will manage to come back.

The non-sequential time travel approach is something that had not been done much in the show's past, but it is starting to get old now. The heavy use of non-sequential meetings actually becomes problematic because it raises the question of why this had not happened more before, even in the Davies era. Having the Doctor age 200 years in one incarnation may also raise potential continuity problems for the show in the future.

If you thought Churchill was not used very well in Victory of the Daleks, hang your head in amazement at how President Nixon is given about five minutes screen time and about ten lines. If they are going to stick an interesting historical figure in a story, they should at least given him the chance to deliver some good dialogue, but of course the lightning-paced format does not lend itself to that. So maybe they just ditch these attempts at historical settings.

Like RT Davies, Moffat is still stuck with a jumbled up notion of 'Yetis in the loo.' He even sticks one of his new aliens in the toilet. An astronaut in a lake and aliens wearing suits. These are things that have been slipped in because the production team think they look cool. Actually, aliens in suits just look stupid. This kind of visual spectacle writing is what leads to ridiculous plots like Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Matt Smith was okay in the last series with its tendency to go for lighter stories, but in something this dark, his Doctor does not quite work. Karen Gillan gives a good performance, but her character is uninteresting and has never been properly developed. Rory does not seem to know what he is doing in the story.

It seems to be left to Alex Kingston to redeem The Impossible Astronaut. She gives an absolutely breathtaking performance. It is just unfortunate that the mystery of her identity is getting so tiring. If it turns out to be a disappointment, a lot of fans are going to be really annoyed.

This story was just so boring.

Friday 22 April 2011

Klein at the Feast of the Gods, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

Another story featuring Big Finish character, Elizabeth Klein. This is set between A Thousand Tiny Wings and Survival of the Fittest.

The Doctor and Klein sat at the breakfast table in the TARDIS. Klein was in her dressing gown and slippers. The Doctor wore his linen safari suit ('Did he ever take if off?' wondered Klein).

Klein tucked into her continental breakfast. She had absolutely no idea where the fresh croissants and orange juice came from. She had seen the food machine, but that only offered stuff that looked like marzipan. The Doctor had mentioned a kitchen, but she had never seen it and presumably the stock had to come from somewhere. There were times when she felt it was a waste of time trying to puzzle out the mysteries of the Doctor's bizarre lifestyle. Nevertheless, the croissants tasted good where ever they came from. She and the Doctor might be enemies, but he treated her like an honoured guest on board his TARDIS.

"Make sure you save your appetite," the Doctor said. "We are going to be having a substantial lunch."

"Intriguing, Herr Doctor," replied Klein. "Where in the universe are you taking us?"

"There's some maintenance that needs doing to the ship. After that we are going to ancient Egypt," he explained.

"Earth again? It was not that long ago that we went to that villa in ancient Rome," she protested.

"I know that you enjoyed the rest, Klein, even if you are loathe to admit it," he said.

"Perhaps I did, Doctor. However, it does seem a shame to spend so much time on earth when we could see any planet in the entire universe," said Klein.

"One can't appreciate the universe without knowing something about where you came from, Klein. Which is precisely why I want you to see ancient Egypt. You have this idea that your own branch of Homo Sapiens are the master race. Yet did you know there were sentient beings on earth before your race evolved? Did you know that at many points in history, humanity has been influenced and aided by beings from other planets?" said the Doctor, his eyes widening.

"Theosophy," sneered Klein. "I am well aware of such theories. Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler was very enthusiastic about such notions. 'Ancient Masters' and the 'Elder Race.' It all seems very unscientific."

The Doctor smiled. "Himmler might be surprised how un-Aryan his 'Ancient Masters' looked. Anyway, we shall get to meet them later on today."

Elephantine, c.2630 BC

Klein felt very under dressed walking through the streets of the small town in her flimsy Egyptian dress and bare feet. Apparently sandals were not worn much in the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Still, in this hot weather, the light Egyptian clothing did leave her feeling comfortable at least. This was the southern part of Egypt, near the frontier with Nubia. The dark-haired wig, on the other hand was not comfortable in the slightest. The Doctor had pointed out that her fair hair could attract too much attention. Next time the wretched Doctor wanted to visit the ancient world, it had better be to her Nordic barbarian ancestors, she told herself. She smiled at the thought of dressing up like a character in a Wagnerian opera.

It suddenly occurred to Klein that the Doctor was still wearing his safari suit. She felt a little surprised that she had not noticed this when they were leaving the TARDIS. She pointed this out to him. "Herr Doctor, I appreciate your assistance in helping me to blend in with the surroundings, but I can't help pointing out that your own attire is rather anachronistic."

The Doctor gave her one of his typically mysterious looks. "I am a Time Lord. Being anachronistic is simply an impossibility for me." Klein decided that it was pointless to enquire further. The Doctor was happy to explain about the mating habits of alien fauna, but would never give a coherent explanation of anything related to his person.

The town was small. It was clustered around a temple. Klein's knowledge of archaeology was limited, but she could see that this temple was a good deal less impressive than some of the Egyptian buildings she had seen in photographs. According to the Doctor, the Egyptians had only just started building pyramids at this stage.

A thousand unfamiliar smells assaulted her nose. They were as strange to her as those of any alien planet. She watched as lightly clad dark-skinned people scurried about their daily business. Klein imagined that an archaeologist or historian from her time would be fascinated at this glimpse of the ancient world, but she found it dull. Her interest was in science and the future, not the dead past.

A man walked past. The Doctor approached him. "Ah, you look like a scribe," he said. "Might I borrow some of your papyrus?" The scribe passed him a sheet of papyrus.

The Doctor took it from the scribe. Klein was surprised at how readily the scribe handed it over. Surely it had some value? The Doctor seemed to be very good at getting what he wanted. She noticed him take out a fountain pen and begin to write.

As he wrote,the Doctor continued to talk to the scribe. "Tell me, sir. Is the Feast of the Gods taking place today?"

"Indeed it is," replied the scribe. "The great old ones will be attending the temple of Khnum where I humbly serve the priests. No doubt it will be a wondrous occasion for those priests who are permitted to behold it."

The Doctor smiled. "My friend and I were planning to drop in ourselves," he said.

"That is impossible," cried the scribe. "As I said, the only mortals permitted there are the priests- and you are certainly not among that number."

"No, I am one of the gods," said the Doctor casually. He showed the priest the papyrus on which he had just been writing. "This document is proof of my godhood. As you can see it is signed by the Sun God himself."

The scribe fell to his knees in shock. "Forgive my ignorance, Great Lord Thoth! I will show you and your immortal handmaiden to the feast at once."

Following the scribe, Klein whispered in the Doctor's ear. "You wrote that document yourself in front of his very eyes!"

The Doctor beamed at her. "Yes, it's amazing what people fail to notice," he said dryly. Once again, it was useless for Klein to enquire any further.

The Doctor and Klein were led to the largest room of the Temple of Khnum. It was decorated by statues of various peculiar looking idols. Most prominent of all was a massive statue of Khnum, a ram-headed deity. The feast was arranged like a buffet, with a table laid with all kinds of foods, some of which were recognisable to Klein, others of which were quite mysterious. Yet the food was not the surprise but the guests. Milling around the table were various strange beings, some humanoid, others of which were bizarre creatures. Klein felt quite uncomfortable at being surrounded by so many alien lifeforms.

"Don't be shy, Klein. Help yourself to the food," the Doctor instructed. "Ancient Egypt was a cosmopolitan and multi-racial society. All kinds of extraterrestrials were welcomed here. They are here under a truce. They're friends now, but tomorrow they will be back to killing each other. Naturally, some of them are my deadly enemies."

The Doctor and Klein were approached by a huge figure. His head was horned and his legs were like hoofed and goat-like. "Doctor! You Time Lords are most welcome here, though I know your people are so loathe to visit. Enjoy the food and good company," he said before moving on.

Klein turned to the Doctor. "He looked remarkably like a satyr or a medieval illustration of the Devil!"

"That's where they got the idea, Klein. He is worshipped here in ancient Egypt under the guise of Khnum. His race are best known as Daemons. They have influenced the course of evolution on many worlds, including your own," he explained.

Klein stared at a figure that moved past her. It was vaguely humanoid in shape, but its body was composed of a mass of green tubes, like spaghetti. In its oddly-shaped head it had one single eye. The Doctor ushered her away from the creature. "That gentleman is the last of a warlike race called the Jaggoroth. I don't really want to bump into him," he warned.

The Daemon was conversing with two figures wearing long robes. They had peculiarly immobile mouse-like heads. "Those are Osirians. A lot of people think they have dome-shaped heads. I think they must be getting them mixed up with the Sontarans."

The Doctor pointed to some humanoid creatures with rough, bark-like green skin. "Those are Exxilons. They are mostly busy building stuff in South America. A rather boring lot if you ask me."

A man walked past who appeared to be a perfectly normal human. He had a thick black beard and wore the garb of ancient Mesopotamia. He smiled at Klein, revealing large, sharp canine fangs. One of the Egyptian priests knelt before him, offering his arm. The man bit into the priest's arm and sucked. Removing his bloodstained fangs, he allowed the priest to get up again and stagger out of the room.

The Doctor snarled with anger. "That is a Mal'akh. He is a human who has been tainted by the DNA of the Yssgaroth, terrible vampire creatures from another universe. As a Time Lord, I have a duty to destroy such creatures. It would be a breach of hospitality to do that now, however. Another time."

"Its nice to have some female company here," said a creature to Klein. It was a woman with shiny green skin. Like Klein she wore a white Egyptian dress and was barefoot. On her head she wore an impressive headdress decorated with ostrich feathers. "I'm Valtair, from the planet Diplos. The natives here worship me as the goddess Maat. What goddess are you posing as?"

Klein was amused by the question. "I'm just a humble handmaiden of Thoth, I'm afraid," she replied.

"Bad luck," said Valtair of Diplos. "Next time you must come as Hathor, daughter of Ra. It's dreadfully fun being a goddess." She then walked back to the buffet table.

A priest approached the Daemon and handed him a piece of papyrus. He made a loud coughing noise and addressed the feast. "Ladies and gentleman, if I may briefly have your attention. I have here a note of apology from The Enemy of the Time Lords. They were hoping to attend, but they have been unavoidably detained in Japan. Perhaps we shall see them next time."

The Doctor muttered to himself. "Enemy of the Time Lords? I must look into that." He then noticed two scaly, reptilian humanoids picking up slices of meat from the buffet table. "Eocenes!" he exclaimed, turning to Klein. "They inhabited the earth when humans were apes. I had no idea that any were dormant at this time."

Some of the species were completely removed from any resemblance to humans. The Doctor pointed out a peculiar creature that looked like a giant crab, with thin, membranous wings on its back. In place of a head, it had a mass of nodules. "That's a Mi-Go, also called a Darkling. They originally came from Yuggoth, but they invaded earth in the Jurassic era. Although it looks like a crab, it is actually a sort of fungus. My old friend Howard was fascinated when I told him about those."

Another peculiar creature resembled a giant locust, but with three legs. The Doctor seemed unusually startled by it. "I haven't not met one of those before," he said. "Old Bernard at the British Rockets Group did some research on their fossils. He seemed to think they were from Mars, but I rather doubt it. It's a bit too crowded on Mars."

There were other creatures at the feast that even the Doctor did not recognise. He had never encountered the humanoids with the deep voices and glowing eyes before. He asked one of the Osirians about them. It could not remember the name of this race, but told the Doctor that they had a worm-like creature inside their chests. The Doctor had also never seen the large muscular creatures with dreadlocked hair, massive jaws and tusks. These creatures carried an awful lot of weaponry and he judged it was best to avoid them. It was about time to go.

"Are you ready to go, Klein?" he asked.

However, Klein was not at all herself. She sat on the floor scratching the walls of the temple. He addressed her again "Klein?" She stared at him and made an ape-like grunting.

"Oh, poor, Klein! You're having some race memories flooding back. I had better get you back to the TARDIS and into bed. We'll soon have you back to normal after a good's night's rest and a cup of tea."

The Wormery, by Stephen Cole and Paul Magrs (Big Finish Audio)

* Spoiler alert! *

‘You say you never wanted her in your hair, well as you know she’s famous for it! Her name induces sighs of despair, well as you know she’s famous for it! Aside from vats of liquor, your cupboard is bare! You damn her to the devil but she’s already there! No one else beside her you’re beside yourself with joy!’

I think I can safely say that The Wormery is the most entertaining Big Finish I have heard so far. It has such great sense of fun and frivolity that is thoroughly grounded in the imagery and themes of cabaret. For the most part, The Wormery also feels refreshingly original.

Iris Wildthyme was first introduced by Paul Magrs in the BBC novels. She is a marvellously entertaining character, particularly in the way she is a bizarre parody of the Doctor. This is particularly well exploited here in that the story mirrors the Trial of the Time Lord, a recent memory for the Doctor, with Bianca turning out to be an evil version of Iris who is intent on stealing her regenerations. Hilariously, the Doctor is outraged that his own adventures are being copycatted.

Katy Manning might have played the worst Dr. Who companion ever, but all his forgiven after her portrayal of Iris Wildthyme. Katy is simply glorious as Iris. Maria McErlane is also great as Bianca, coming across as delightfully camp.

The Wormery offers much exploration of the character of the Sixth Doctor. We see his inner turmoil after the events of the trial and his deep loneliness. We discover his secret affection for Iris; he is very cross when she reveals that she does not care for this incarnation (though she later changes her mind and concludes that he is very 'cuddly').

This story is certainly a lot better than The Ancestor Cell, a novel that Stephen Cole co-authored (review coming up eventually). Interestingly enough, the background of the worms is remarkably similar to the theory about who The Enemy are in The Ancestor Cell. The Wormery does have a few faults. Its plot is confusing. It is also not much of a surprise when Sylvester McCoy makes a cameo at the end. I also felt it ought to have been a little more obvious that many of the patrons of the bar were from other worlds.

The song that Iris, and later Bianca, sing is wonderfully catchy and is so true to Iris' character. It is a real shame that it was not included at the end as a music track, as Big Finish might have done had this been put out more recently.

The Wormery is one of the best of the Big Finish range and a great introduction to Iris Wildthyme for those who missed her in the BBC books.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

A Task for Morgaine, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

Ganymede Correctional Facility, 2191

The cell walls were covered in inscriptions from some strange language. There were no chairs, instead the occupants were expected to sit on the synthetic matting that covered the floor. Two futons were hung from the wall. In the twenty first century, the furnishing might have been described as 'Asiatic,' but in the racially mixed 22nd century, in which humanity had pushed out into space, such geographical designations were irrelevant.

Two women sat on the floor of their cell. They both wore yellow prison pyjamas and bare feet. One of the women was an attractive woman in her late thirties with short blond hair. The other woman had an age that was impossible to identify. At times she looked young, at times she looked impossibly ancient, yet great strength was apparent in her figure. Her hair was long and and a rich red. Her eyes blazed with an emerald green fire. Both women had a dignity that refused to bow to the humiliation of imprisonment, but the red-haired woman had a haughtiness that spoke only of royalty, even sat in a prison cell.

The blond woman glanced at the stange markings on the wall. It looked like some ancient language and was not a little foreboding. She had been told that they were there simply because of the red-haired woman. Apparently, they created a magic field that stopped her using the sorcerous powers she was supposed to possess. It all seemed hard to believe, but then her cellmate was a strange character. At times she would be haughty and a little cruel, at other times she could be kind and compassionate and sometimes she could be filled with tragic melancholia. She often mourned for her deceased brother, who at times sounded more like he was her lover.

The cell door opened and a small man appeared; dressed in a linen safari suit. He greeted the two occupants of the cell. "Madeleine Issigri! Such a long time! And Ageless and Deathless Morgaine! What a pleasure!"

"Merlin!" greeted the red-haired woman with a broad smile. Merlin removed his straw hat and gave a bow.

The Doctor turned to the blond woman. "Madeleine, I do miss that metal cap you used to wear. What a shame they didn't let you keep it. You don't recognise me, but we have met. How much longer have you got left here?" he asked.

"Another twelve months," she answered. "That's half my sentence done and I'm hoping they may let me out early."

"I know it's not easy for you to be here, Madeleine, but I do admire you for giving yourself up and accepting justice. I have seen too many who can never turn back from wrongdoing," he said with a look of sadness.

"Thank you," Madeleine replied. "This place is not as bad as I had feared and it has been good for me to think hard about some of my priorities."

The Doctor turned back to the red-haired woman. "Lady Morgaine, will you come with me? We must talk." He bade farewell to Madeleine and left the cell. Morgaine rose up to follow him. Leaving the cell she slipped on her flip flops.

The Doctor took Morgaine to the plush office of the governor. Inmates who were lucky enough to be invited in there had to remove their flip flops before going in, and Morgaine felt the deep, soft carpet beneath her feet. In the centre of the office was a desk made of genuine wood, a rare luxury in the 22nd century. The Doctor sat down and motioned Morgaine to take a seat.

"Naturally, being a high-ranking official from the government, I am able to evict the governor from her office for an hour or so," he said.

"You are as crafty and deceitful as ever, Merlin. Though last time I saw you, in Holloway prison, you had taken on a different aspect," Morgaine said.

"I visited you in Holloway did I? I must remember to do that. I don't want to allow any temporal paradoxes," he replied with interest. "So how are things here?"

"The prisons of this time are stricter than what I experienced in the years after my capture, though they are kept in good order. I dare say that after a thousand years of incarceration, I will have sampled a great deal of different prisons," Morgaine commented.

The Doctor looked at her with a look of great seriousness. "I will be watching you, Morgaine. I will ensure that you are never ill-treated. But I can never allow you to escape and go free. You are simply too dangerous and you have caused to many deaths."

Moragine laughed. "Merlin, you will say that to me again in your new aspect. You change little. Though you have kept your word. Whatever my humiliations here, I have never been subject to cruelty and I have never had chance to escape," she said. "You must have known that many prisoners on earth escaped when the Daleks invaded. I suppose it was you that arranged for me to be transferred to the military fortress on Ganymede before the invasion."

The Doctor gave a mysterious smile before replying. "That was as much for your safety, Morgaine. You might not be so 'deathless' and 'ageless' if the Daleks had set to work on you."

"I appreciate your concern, Merlin. So what is it that you should like to say to me?" she asked.

"I have obtained permission for you to be temporarily received into my custody. I need your help," he replied.

Morgaine seemed amused. "Merlin seeks help from the evil witch Morgaine? This is a surprise."

"Is it? You have never delighted in needless destruction, even if you have caused plenty of deaths through your petty feuds. You once summoned a terrible demon that could have destroyed the planet earth. There are other demons that threaten this universe. I need your help in defeating them," he explained.

Morgaine's curiosity had been aroused. "Demonology has ever been one of my interests. I have had little opportunity to study it in here. Tell me of your demons, Merlin."

"This universe is very different to yours, Morgaine. Your universe is full of magic and chaos. This universe is different. When it was still young, my people the Time Lords imposed on it order and reason. We fought against the forces of chaos and unreason, banishing or destroying them," he explained.

"Forces of chaos like me. You imposed your order on me quite successfully. You are true to the history of your people, Merlin," Morgaine interjected.

The Doctor seemed a little taken aback, unsure how to respond to this accusation. However, he continued. "The most powerful and dangerous forces of chaos came from another universe that we accidentally accessed. This universe was not like yours, but a hellish place, filled with torment, cruelty and madness. The creatures from this universe were called the Yssgaroth."

"I have some knowledge of this demon realm, though there are many such worlds. I have no fondness for them, though I have trafficked with them," said Morgaine.

"You took risks in doing that, as you know from that incident with the Destroyer," the Doctor chided. "There have been many worlds on which the Yssgaroth have been worshipped as gods. Depraved and deluded beings have followed them throughout history. Occasionally, these fools gain the power to open up access to their universe. In eight years time, one of these monstrous cults will attempt to open up a gateway to the Yssgaroth universe. I need your help to close it. I know that you have the power to do so."

Morgaine considered what the Doctor had said. "This is a task that is to my liking. But what can you offer me in return, Merlin?"

The Doctor sighed. "You are in prison, Morgaine. There are limits to what I can do for you. I can obtain any delicacy you crave. I can probably smuggle in a bottle of wine. They might let you keep a canary if I ask them nicely. I could get you a larger cell all for yourself if you like. Or perhaps it was male company you're missing in here; I doubt you're in want of any female comradeship..."

"These are mere trifles, Merlin," snapped Morgaine. I will do what you ask, but there is something you must do for me.

"I will hear what you ask, Morgaine, but you must give me your word that you will return to prison once our work is done," replied the Doctor.

Later, the Doctor signed the papers of release for Morgaine and showed her to his TARDIS. Morgaine was quite fascinated with the vessel. "Ah, your ship of time. Oft I have desired to see it and many times I have craved to have it for myself," she said.

"Don't count your luck, Morgaine," said the Doctor coldly.

In the console room sat a trunk. He opened it up, revealing a brilliant suit of golden armour.

"I brought your old armour for you to wear. I had an old friend who used to like yellow pyjamas, but I doubt you will want to go into action dressed in those," he said, indicating Morgaine's prison uniform.

"Thank you, Merlin. It is almost two hundred years since I wore that armour. It will please me to wear it once again," said Morgaine.

Khnum 2, 2199

The TARDIS arrived in a patch of woodland. The Doctor and Morgaine stepped out warily. The woodland was deathly quiet. The planet's moon projected a sickly green light over the landscape.

Through the clearing, they saw the ruins of a temple built by the previous inhabitants of the planet. The Doctor explained something of the history of the place to Morgaine.

"Khnum 2 was one of those worlds influenced by the Yssagroth. Thousands of years ago the sentient creatures who lived here worshipped them and knew ways to contact them. Recently human colonists have discovered these secrets. Knowledge can be a dangerous thing," he explained.

As they approached the ruins, they began to hear the sound of eerie chanting. The ruins were not so desolate as they appeared. The sound of the chant seemed to evoke a darker time; a time of war, bloodshed and cruelty. Morgaine was not at all disturbed by these sounds. She had raised up armies and seen all of them wiped out by their foes and had offered return in kind. She had summoned and expelled the foulest of demons. She had no fear of evil gods.

The stone work of the temple was ornately carved, showing depictions of the original inhabitants of the world engaged in various acts of violence and depravity. They also featured monstrous winged serpents with many eyes and huge, bat-like giants.

The Doctor and Morgaine proceeded into the temple courtyard, the source of the terrible noises. They saw a group of about a dozen hooded figures waving their arms in a frenzied fashion. They had erected a monstrous effigy of a serpent astride a globe. The sound of their chanting seemed to having an effect. Dark shadows were forming in the courtyard and the very air itself seemed to be drawn towards it, as though some great vacuum had been accessed.

The Doctor shouted at the participants in the ritual. "This ceremony must stop. You have no idea what you are playing at."

One of the robed and hooded figures ceased his chanting and turned to the new arrivals. "You dare to disturb our ceremony? You will die, but not before the old gods arrive!" he cried.

Morgaine raised her hand and the man crumbled into dust. His fellow cultists moved backwards in fright. Yet they quickly turned around when strange eerie sounds pierced the night. The chanting had done its work. A terrible sound like the beating of huge wings could be heard.

The very air in the courtyard seemed to open up, allowing a gaping maw to emerge, revealing the menacing red light of an alien skyline. The maw was engulfed by a massive shape.

The thing which had appeared from the alien world was something that could not be completely captured by the human eye. It seemed definitely serpent like, though its shape seemed to shift slightly with every glance. It had wings, though sometimes it appeared their were two, sometimes four. Its body was covered in countless eyes. It seemed to have a head, graced with horns, though it was difficult to discern where the long coiled body ended and where the head started. Once in a while, it looked less like a serpent and more like a sea of eyes with no definite form at all.

Morgaine approached the monstrosity without fear. "What are you, demon?" she asked it.

The thing spoke in a surprisingly soft voice. "I am the vanguard of the Yssgaroth host. We are coming for this world. It belongs to us. We shall take it and do with it as we please."

"No. It shall not be permitted. Merlin and I stand against you," Morgaine declared.

The thing noticed the tiny figure of the Doctor. It roared at the sight.

"A Time Lord! The ancient enemy! And what are you, puny woman?" it asked.

"I am Morgaine, Dominator of Thirteen Worlds and Battle Queen of the S'rax and of the blood of the Elder Folk. And your enemy!" she cried.

"None in this world can stand against us," the thing boasted.

"I am not of this world. I am born of another world and wield the powers of chaos! Be gone, demon!" she shouted. She pointed her hand at the thing, conjuring up a ball of emerald green lightning and casting it out. The thing seemed to retreat.

The energy that Morgaine wielded seemed to intensify. The blazing emerald light spread to her whole body, casting it in a terrifying green halo. Again she cried "Be gone, demon!" The thing seemed to get smaller and disappeared into the red maw, which faded into shadow.

"Well done, Morgaine," cried the Doctor.

"Morgaine's body continued to pulsate with green fire. She seemed intoxicated by the magic power. "I am Morgaine! I have vanquished demons and foul gods! I can rule this entire universe! No one in this world can stop me now!" she roared.

The Doctor jumped back and his face contorted with anger. "You gave your word!" he snarled. "You promised to surrender, Morgaine! You must give yourself up and return to prison. Remember what we agreed?"

Morgaine looked shocked and the emerald fire faded. Her body slumped as if through fatigue. "Yes, I gave my word," she said. "Let us return to your ship of time.

Back in the TARDIS, Morgaine sat down in a chair, weary after her battle with the horror. She looked at the Doctor "I have done something to pay off my debt to this world, Merlin."

"Yes, you have," he replied. "I am sure you will have other opportunities."

"You needed me because I am not like you, Merlin. I see this very well. You are a creature of order and reason. I am born of chaos. You needed that power of chaos in your battle. Yet you fear me and thus you return me to captivity," said Morgaine.

"Yes, I fear you, Morgaine," he replied. "Yet I respect you to. I only wish there were another way."

Morgaine looked at her magnificent armour. "Shall I change back now?" she asked

"No," the Doctor replied. "Let them take that armour off you when you get there. It'll make a more impressive entrance."

The TARDIS soon materialised in Ganymede Correctional Facility. When Morgaine and the Doctor left the ship, a guard approached, looking a little startled by Morgaine's golden armour.

"I've brought her back to you safe and sound. Make sure you look after her," he instructed.

As a guard gently took Morgaine's arm to lead her to the booking area, she pointed to the Doctor, "Remember your promise, Merlin."

Some time later, the Doctor arrived at his destination. It had taken him weeks to work out coordinates to enter Morgaine's universe. Even for a TARDIS, entering another universe was seemingly impossible. Yet he knew it could be done. He knew that one day he would go there and take on the role of Merlin for real. There he would be defeated by Morgaine. But not yet.

He let the TARDIS, gazing at the incredible landscape before him. Mountains stretched out into infinity, covered in endless forests. He saw dragons fly across the vast skies. He heard a sad singing from the air; the sound of the stars in their lament.

The Doctor knelt and dug a grave. A grave for Mordred, a foe he had faced in battle. Not dead by his hand, but by the sad ravages of time which all mortals faced.

Elisabeth Sladen (1948- 2011)

I happened to mention to a colleague today that I liked Doctor Who and she casually mentioned that Elisabeth Sladen had died. Apparently, I went white with shock, not having heard the news yet. For about an hour, I felt quite shaken up, as if an old friend from school had died.

It's amazing how people you have never met can become so important in your life that you almost think of them as old friends.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Season 15

We are finally out of the Hinchcliffe era. Yay!

Unfortunately the first season of the Graham William years was horribly uneven. While Hinchcliffe had his rotten turnips like Android Invasion, for the most part he managed to maintain a very average standard throughout his producership, though this came with a tendency to rely on stock horror plots. Graham Williams producership was characterised by a wide variety of different kinds of story. Sometimes the experiemnts worked as with City of Death and at other times, they were dismal failures, like Creature from the Pit. This unevenness is very apparent in his first season.

Image of the Fendahl and Horror of Fang Rock are often seen as leftovers from the Hinchcliffe era. I think this is a mistake. Not only are they better than any Hinchcliffe stories, but they are quite different in style. These stories drop the shock tactics of Hinchcliffe's use of death and violence and offer a far more psychological and cosmic horror. Williams was under strict orders from the BBC to tone down the violence in the show and this makes for a much more tasteful season.

The reduction in violence was also accompanied by more comedy and in general, a rather lighter tone. There is none of the heaviness of Pyramids of Mars and Deadly Assassin, even in the two horror serials. Eventually this emphasis on comedy would reach the point of flippancy and spoil the show in Season 17.

Williams wisely dropped, or at least underplayed, the rather chauvinistic idea that the Doctor was trying to civilize Leela Eliza Doolittle-style. Leela was used more as a figure of fun in this season. The Doctor for the most part seemed indifferent to her in Season 15 and shamelessly exploited her in Invasion of Time. As he did not invite her on to his TARDIS, I see no particular reason why the Doctor should be especially fond of Leela.

Season 15 sees the introduction of K9. Although I like the Williams era, in general, I find K9 really annoying. Perhaps he was not so bad with Leela, but when Romana was introduced to the TARDIS, he really became a problem. Having three know-it-alls on board the TARDIS was too much.

One thing that is quite noticeable in Season 15 is the influence of Star Wars. There is an increased emphasis on space stories and attempts to create spaceships (some of them quite good).

Horror of Fang Rock- 9/10
The triumph of great script writing and great acting over budget constraints. Amazing how Terrance Dicks managed to write this at the drop of a hat.

The Invisible Enemy- 4/10
An attempt to do a much more spacey story. Some of the effects and modelwork are great, but much of it comes across as a little silly.

Image of the Fendahl- 9/10
Chilling cosmic horror, but not without a sense of humour.

The Sunmakers- 4/10
A very poor attempt at satire and much of the humour falls flat.

Underworld- 3/10
An attempt to capture the mythic feel of Star Wars. It mostly comes across as very dull and the effects are overambitious.

The Invasion of Time- 7/10
A story that has a lot of faults, but deserves a better reputation. It has some really great moments. The scenes in the TARDIS are much better than the JNT-era TARDIS scenes.

Monday 18 April 2011

Peri in the Nick, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

Peri hated the way the Doctor never told her anything. Except perhaps how great he was and how ignorant she was. He had told her they were going to twenty-first century England and that he had important work to do. Then he dragged her to some elaborate laboratory complex. The place had been completely deserted. Apparently this was because it was Good Friday. Like a little boy in a toy shop he had immediately started tinkering away at the hi-tech gadgetry that filled the place. She had asked him what it was he was so interested in, but he was apparently too busy to explain and she had been left to stand around like a spare part as usual. Eventually after she made some very loud sighs, he grew tired of her presence and had suggested she went back to the TARDIS.

As she was walking back to where the TARDIS had been left, a police car suddenly pulled up and she had been bundled inside. Oh brother, she had thought. Whatever it was the Doctor was doing was illegal (should that have been a surprise, she wondered?) and the police had got wind of it.

So here she was. Standing in front of a desk, being booked into police custody on suspicion of breaking and entering, burglary and criminal damage.

The difficult part was giving her personal details. This was apparently twenty four years into her future and so the police were naturally suspicious of her date of birth.

"Let's just say I'm looking good for my age. Anyway, isn't rude to ask a lady how old she is?"

"It's our job to ask you questions, luv," the custody officer replied.

She was surprised how long she took to recall her address back in the States. It had begun to feel like a distant memory or a lost dream. Unfortunately, the cops had to be difficult and they asked her where it was in the UK she was residing.

"I'm staying on the ship I travelled in," hoping this would do.

"And where is your ship docked?" the officer asked.

"I can't remember," she said,realising how futile this all was. The officer put her down as 'No fixed abode,' which was pretty much the truth.

Then the custody officer started asking her a lot of other questions.

"Have you contemplated suicide in the last year?"

"No, but nobody would blame me if I had," she replied. If she were not so exasperated she might have found this funny.

"Have you ever taken drugs?"

"If there were any on the TARDIS, I probably would," she answered.

"TARDIS?" the custody officer queried. "Oh, never mind," she said quickly.

"Have you ever suffered domestic abuse?"

"Well, my friend did try to strangle me," she replied. It was nice to know these English cops cared so much. 'Thanks for nothing,' she thought to herself.

She then had to empty her pockets and place her jewellery on the desk to be stored away. A ring and a necklace from before she met the Doctor and a bracelet that Erimem had given her.

"Take your shoes off, luv," instructed the custody officer.

"What for?" Peri wailed.

"Just so you can't use them as a weapon or cause any damage while you are here," replied the custody officer in a slightly bored tone of voice.

"Do I look like the kind of girl who throws shoes at people?" she asked.

"You don't seem to be in a very good mood, miss. But we ask this of everyone. Take them off, please."

Peri pulled off her high-heeled shoes and slammed them down angrily on the desk. A female officer started to gently pat her down.

She felt like they were treating her like a child.This was definitely the most humiliating experience that the wretched Doctor had got her into. He was going to regret this so much when she had finished with him.

The the Doctor himself appeared. He was handcuffed and being dragged in by two police officers. He was ranting and struggling with his captors.

"Unhand me you ruffian constables," he barked. "This treatment I am receiving is the very antithesis of English hospitality!"

Peri rushed to get his attention. "Doctor! Are you going to get us out of here?" she shouted at him.

"Ah, Peri, yes..." he began to reply, but was instructed to be quiet.

"I want to talk to that man!" she demanded, but the female officer had taken her by the arm and was leading her away. She was frogmarched to the cell, her bare feet slapping against the smooth floor of the custody area.

After being locked in the cell, she banged on the door. She tried kicking it as well, but this just left her with a stubbed toe. She supposed that was why they took her shoes. She gave up and sat down miserably on the bench.

She couldn't help being impressed with how clean the cell was and the presence of a toilet put it considerably above some of the places she had been locked up in.

She was indeed no stranger to getting locked up. It seemed to be part of the routine of travelling with the Doctor. But this was a quite difference. Being captured by space invaders was just something you dealt with, but somehow there was something much more humiliating about being arrested by plain old police officers on earth. It was not what was supposed to happen to nice middle class American girls like her.

These English cops seemed to go to far more trouble than her usual captors. Sontarans and Cybermen just dragged you to the cell and locked you up. They didn't bother asking you lots of questions and making you take your shoes off. It occurred to her it might actually be harder to escape from this police station than from a Sontaran or Cyberman lock-up. Alien monsters never seemed to bother searching her or the Doctor and usually left them something useful they could use to effect an escape. Shut up here in just her clothes and her bare feet, she had a lot less to rely on. Nevertheless, she had every confidence that even divested of the contents of his cavernous pockets, the Doctor would pull off an escape trick somehow.

An officer came to her to ask her if she wanted to talk to a lawyer before she was questioned. She considered the option and then declined. What was the use? If she told some lawyer the truth, it was hardly going to help. It was just as likely to get her sent to some mental institution. She repeated the request to speak to the Doctor, but this was refused. No doubt the cops were hoping they would incriminate each other.

When she was questioned, it was a pretty useless interview for both parties. She knew absolutely nothing that could shed light on the Doctor's activity in the lab. She had expected a Good Cop, Bad Cop routine like she had seen in the movies, but it seemed these English cops just stuck with Good Cop.

"Look, just tell us who your friend is. We know he put you up to it," the detective said.

"If I knew, I'd tell you. He hasn't exactly told me his life story though," she replied. The interview finished rather quickly and she was put back in her cell. When was the Doctor going to get her out of here?

She heard a knocking on the cell door and the shutter was opened. A woman with a nose ring appeared in the hatch. "Hello, I'm from the Drug Intervention Program," the woman said. "I'm just here to ask if you have any drug issues and would like any support."

Peri felt not a little amused at this. These people seemed to be obsessed with drugs! "Well, I was taking Spectrox and had a nasty overdose. I nearly died. But I'm off the stuff now," she replied with a wry smile.

The drug worker tried to pretend she knew about Spectrox. "Well it's great you are off it now. You haven't had any relapses since then?"

"Thankfully not. Now get lost," said Peri. "No problem," the drug worker replied.

'Back to sitting and waiting again,' Peri thought. A bit later, she was brought some sandwiches and a cup of coffee. The sandwich was a little bland, but she was getting rather hungry. 'You don't get coffee when the Sontarans lock you up,' she reminded herself.

Still more time went by. Where was the Doctor? He had to come and get her out of here soon. Was he really finding it that difficult to escape from an English police station in the twenty first century?

She wondered if they had any evidence to charge her. She hoped not. Given she had no address to go to, they would probably put her in jail to await a court hearing. Maybe she should have spoken to a lawyer after all.

More time went by. Then suddenly, she heard a roaring noise and the wall behind her started to glow and then melt. The concrete and brick seemed to turn into sand. Once it had disintegrated completely she saw the Doctor standing with a device shaped a little like a bazooka in his hands. "Sonic blaster," he said "Always does the trick. Now start running!"

Peri sprinted after the Doctor and jumped into the getaway car he had brought along. "Is this car stolen?" she asked. "I suppose I did borrow it without asking," the Doctor replied.

"Well you just make sure you don't get us arrested again!" she said and gave him an angry glare. "How come it you took so long to escape?"

"Escape? I got out of there hours ago. I have been busy at the laboratory. I had to put a stop to those rudimentary experiments in time travel. The people of this time period don't know what they are playing at. As a Time Lord, it's my duty to protect the fabric of the cosmos," he replied.

"Do you mean to tell me, that you escaped out of that police station and just left me there, Doctor? Do you know how that makes me feel?" she growled.

"I needed to get on with my work of putting that laboratory out of action. I thought that was the safest place to leave you. I got you out of there eventually," he protested.

Peri could barely control her rage. "Thanks to you I just lost some very nice jewellery and a good pair of shoes. You know where you are taking me next, Doctor? We are going to go to a really flashy shopping plaza. And you are going to buy some new shoes. And guess what, they are going to be a really expensive pair. You owe me, Doctor!"

Sunday 17 April 2011

The Quantum Archangel, by Craig Hinton (BBC novel)

"At the risk of sounding like a high-and-mighty Time Lord, I am a high-and-mighty Time Lord: And to quote one of my elementary texts in the matter: 'And in the aftermath of Event Zero, eleven dimensions did fight for existence. Five were triumphant- together they did become three dimensions of space, and the two dimensions of time through which we travel. But the remaining six dimensions did still exist: although beaten, although denied their dominance, they curled and curdled amongst themselves to become a six-fold universe, separate but conjoined.

'They formed a realm all their own- a universe in which the transcendent beings could thrive and prosper without interference from the lesser beings. A realm protected by the Great and Ancient Covenant.'"

The Quantum Archangel is a sequel to The Time Monster. A lot of fans question the wisdom of following up such a poorly regarded story, nevertheless despite its faults, The Time Monster had some very interesting ideas (as well as some camp fun).

I am the sort of fan who loves lots of continuity references everywhere, so I certainly enjoyed that aspect of the book. I also liked the emphasis on cosmology. Craig Hinton goes to incredible lengths to offer a coherent picture of how the Whoniverse fits together as a cosmos. I loved all the references to various kinds of astral and transcendent entities. On the other hand, not being a physicist, I found the technobabble rather hardgoing.

Quantum Archangel is an interesting book in the concepts it deals with, nevertheless I was not at all impressed by Hinton's writing style or plotting. He certainly did a better (but not brilliant) job with Millennial Rites in the Virgin Missing Adventures range.

I was irritated by Mel's condemnation of the Doctor's failure at the beginning of the book. It is quite clear that the devastation of Maradnias was not the Doctor's fault, but that of its more ruthless inhabitants. Does Mel expect the Doctor to prevent every evil event in the universe? She comes across as horribly sanctimonious. Steve Lyons managed to make Mel's impossibly high standards work in Head Games because he offered a contrast between her and the Seventh Doctor companions.

I am not a big fan of Master stories. He is simply too predictable a character. Hinton handles him reasonably well, though he comes across more like Delgado than Ainley.

Strangely, The Quantum Archangel comes across as remarkably similar to The Taking of Planet 5, a much more radical and innovative book. There are clear similarities between the two novels, both deal with the cosmology of the Whoniverse in hard science style and both are sequels to Seventies stories (Image of the Fendahl, in the case of Taking of Planet 5).

Separated at Birth? The 7th Doctor and Martin Bell

Like former anti-sleaze MP, Martin Bell, the Seventh Doctor took to wearing a linen safari suit in the New Adventure novels.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Going somewhere, Dr. Who? by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

More TV Comic era action!

"Of course we will help you to get back to Logopolis," said Gillian. "Won't we, Grandfather?"

"Yes, of course we will. I know you monks are up to some very important work there and I am sure your young friend will find it very educational. You will find that TARDIS will get you there in no time at all," replied Dr. Who. "And you won't have to worry about any Kroton company either. I know the importance of discretion."

"How can I ever thank you enough, Dr. Who," said the monk. "I will ensure you are well rewarded when we get back to Logopolis."

"We don't do it for money, we..." began John, before he was silenced by a dirty look from his grandfather.

"John, will you show the monk and his young friend to the TARDIS? Gillian and I will follow on in a minute," the Doctor said.

"May the prime numbers be with you, Doctor," the monk said, motioning the fair-haired young student to follow.

Dr. Who sat back and returned to his drink. Helping the Logopolitan was a smart idea. Although he was not quite sure exactly what the monks were up to on Logopolis, he knew the Time Lords were very keen to find out. Perhaps investigating Logopolis would help him get back into their good books. This could really save his neck.

The bar was a fascinating place; full of various creatures of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps it was not the healthiest place to be taking John and Gillian, but if they were old enough to fight monsters like Trods, they were old enough to go in bars. He watched the bizarre travellers of a dozen worlds enjoy their drinks. Gillian rose. up "Excuse me if I get myself another drink, Grandfather," she said.

"Of course, my dear. Nothing alcoholic mind you. We've got work to do," he replied.

After Gillian headed to the bar, Dr. Who noticed a Klepton looking at him. The creature was green-skinned, with a rubbery snout and large fish-like fins on the side of its head. It had a mean expression in its eyes. Here was trouble. The Doctor decided it was time to make himself scarce. He looked for the toilets and started to head in that direction.

"Going somewhere, Dr. Who?" asked the Klepton.

The Doctor returned to his seat. "I was just on my way to sort things out with your bosses. It is the Time Lords you are working for, isn't it? I'm just on my way to Gallifrey now."

"The time is over for that, Who. You had instructions to return to Gallifrey and you disobeyed them. You broke your agreement and it's time for the Time Lords to carry out sentence. They may only take your ship," sneered the Klepton.

"Over my dead body!" cried Dr. Who!

The Klepton gave a strange, watery laugh. "I doubt it. They will probably remove you from time and space. It will be as though you had never existed!"

The Doctor pulled out his ray gun and shot the Klepton "Die, hideous creature! Die!" he roared. The Klepton fell over the table; leaving a smoking green corpse.

Gillian had seen what happened. "You've killed him, Grandfather!"

Dr. Who approached his granddaughter and looked deep into her eyes.

He spoke to her softly. "Gillian, listen to me. You will remember what I say. The Klepton shot first. The Klepton shot first. Do you understand?"

Gillian looked blankly at him. "Yes, the Klepton shot first," she replied.

Nightshade, by Mark Gatiss (Virgin New Adventure)

Hawthorne: 'We let this - this person and his freakish friend waltz in here without so much as a by-your-leave! Within five minutes he's telling us what to do...'
The Doctor: 'Story of my life.'

We all know that a lot of Doctor Who stories have looked to the Quatermass television show for inspiration. This had become such a well established notion that Lance Parkin actually wrote an article seeking to minimise the impact of Quatermass on Doctor Who. We even discover in Remembrance of the Daleks that Bernard Quatermass and British Rockets Group exist in the Doctor Who universe, thus making the Quatermass stories part of the Dr. Who canon. Nightshade is intended as a sort of homage to Quatermass. Not only does it feature an alien menace that would fit in well on that t.v. show, but it also makes references to a fictional show 'Nightshade' that is very obviously based on Quatermass.

Surprisingly, given his later work, this book is quite serious and lacking in humour. Not that I mind that. Some of the best NAs were quite serious and humourless, for instance Blood Heat and Cat's Cradle: Warhead. To my mind there are three problems with Nightshade. The first is pace. It is dreadfully slow. For a story with such a simple plot, it could have been made a lot faster.

Secondly, Ace's relationship with Robin is not handled very well. It never seems quite believable. I also rather doubt that Ace would be so keen to settle down in the 1960s given her very negative experiences of that period in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Thirdly, although it is quite well written, I found Nightshade rather dull. The idea of an alien entity trapped on earth which is killing people in an isolated community is such an obviously Doctor Whoish idea that there has to be some kind of new angle to make it interesting. Gatiss fails to provide one and it just feels like a very generic Dr. Who tale.

On the positive side, it's nice to see the Doctor's relationship with Susan brought up. Gatiss had clearly not watched An Unearthly Child before writing this because he wrongly refers to Susan's school uniform. Susan and her fellow pupils were not wearing uniforms in the first Doctor Who episode.

Nightshade has a reputation as one of the strongest New Adventure novels, but this seems to be mainly among those who disliked the general ethos of the Virgin stories. As somebody who appreciated the more radical experiments in the NA era, I found Gatiss' novel very pedestrian.