Wednesday 31 August 2011

Let's Kill Hitler

I can't remember ever wanting the Doctor to die before. On Saturday evening I found myself wishing that the Doctor would just die. There he was dying. I'm sure we have been there before. I began to wish that this would be for real. Moffat clearly wants to write a show about River Song. How about just killing off the Doctor and getting on with it? River can be the new Dr. Who; no need to change the name of the show. That way I wouldn't need to waste my time watching this program any more.

As with every other episode of the current season, there are people giving this positive reviews despite it's total lack of intelligent storytelling. There also seem to be a lot of people saying "I was enjoying this season until now," as though the faults in Moffat's writing and producership have somehow escaped them so far.

Giving a historical character like Richard Nixon about two minutes of screen time was bad, but Adolf Hitler gets even less. Just what was the point of writing a story set in the Third Reich in which Hitler has no relevance? What history lesson have children watching this learned?

It is not only Hitler and the Nazis that get sidelined in this story. We also get a time-travelling Justice Department who go completely unexplored and unexplained. No attempt is made to flesh out why they do what they do or the characters of those involved. Let's Kill Hitler is not about anything except Dr.Who and River Song. The writer does not care about Nazis or time travelling judges. Dr. Who is the most important person in the universe and River Song is apparently the most evil person ever because she kills him.

Moffat introduces a new character, Mels who went to school with Amy and Rory. This young woman turns out to be River Song after she regenerates. It's hard not to suspect that Moffat is making up all this background for River Song as he goes along. Alex Kingston does a wonderful job of portraying the newly regenerated Mels, the only worthy part of this episode. We learn that River is a weapon that exists only to kill the Doctor, but then strangely she has a change of heart and sacrifices her remaining regenerations to save him. This character simply has no believability. She completely lacks any personality or motivation. Moffat simply adds a new element to River any time the plot needs to go somewhere. It feels utterly shallow and false.

The Doctor does nothing of any interest whatsoever in this story. Matt Smith has at times shown himself to be pretty good as Dr. Who. Nevertheless, he is utterly unused and uninteresting here. Rory and Amy aren't much more interesting either. They are in the unusual position of having a daughter who is visibly older than they are and who turns out to have been one of their schoolmates. Just how are they supposed to react in that situation. It's quite obvious that poor Karen Gillen and Arthur Darvill have not got a clue how they should play this bizarre role. I'm certainly not sure as a viewer how I am supposed to identify with them.

It feels like this series gets worse with every new episode.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Lawrence Miles on 'Let's Kill Hitler'

Lawrence Miles' Doctor Who Thing: "Gee, Mr. Hitler..."

'You know how I keep pointing out that Moffat's idea of "How to Do Drama" is basically an Indiana Jones movie? All I'm saying is, this would be a lot neater if Michael Sheard were still around.'

Friday 19 August 2011

A Different Klein, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

At the end of Architects of History, we meet a different Klein who worked for UNIT. I see no reason for doubting that this is the 'proper' Klein who always existed in our timeline.

This chronology of this story presupposes that the UNIT stories are set in the 1980s. It also presupposes that Klein was born about 1935.

I apologise to fans of Liz Shaw for Klein's harsh comments. UNIT Klein hating Liz's guts is my weird idea. Characters in fictional worlds should not always like each other. Whatever personal connection Ace and Barbara Wright might have through the Doctor, the reality is that if they met, they would never become friends.

Rachel Jensen appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks. I just adore her character and Pamela Salem's performance. There are two conflicting accounts of what happened to her. Who Killed Kennedy says that she retired incredibly early, as she suggested in Remembrance. On the other hand, Craig Hinton's novel Millennial Rites states that she became Scientific Advisor to the Cabinet. I am going with the latter account.

Miss Hilda Winters appeared in Robot. I am almost as in love with her as I am with Klein! According to the Sarah Jane audios, she spent fifteen years in prison after Robot.

Surrey, 1997

The Doctor received many invitations to dinner, but given the complexities of travelling in time and space, it was not always that easy to accept them. Just for once, during his many visits to Twentieth-century England, he had managed to make a dinner invitation at the home of Elizabeth Klein.

This was not the Klein who had travelled with him in the TARDIS during his seventh incarnation. It was a different Klein, one who had witnessed the Allies win the war and believed that was the correct version of history. A Klein who had worked as a scientific consultant for UNIT. He had met this version of Klein before, after mopping up the temporal chaos caused by the alternate, Nazi version of Klein.

Klein lived in a small house in a leafy town in Surrey. It was an attractive location. Evidently Klein's scientific work had enabled her to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

The doorbell was answered by a woman in her early sixties. The Doctor immediately recognised her as his one-time companion and enemy, Elizabeth Klein.

This Klein was ten years older than the Klein he had known. Her blond hair was fading to white. Yet it was not just her age that was different. Something about her face was different. Perhaps it was the fact that this version of Klein spoke German a good deal less often. His Klein had been bilingual and had used German regularly in daily life. This Klein might also be bilingual, but he doubted she had used German so much working in UNIT. There was still something else that was different about her face. There was none of the hardness in her countenance that he had seen in the Klein who travelled with him. This Klein seemed altogether a much kinder, gentler person.

This Klein was certainly an attractive woman, despite her age. She wore a dark green dress and was in her stocking feet.

"Doctor, you have changed since I saw you last! You seem very handsome- in a Gothic sort of way," said Klein.

The Doctor smiled in amusement. The Nazi Klein had encountered his Eighth incarnation before and had described him in exactly the same way. He noticed, however, that this Klein spoke in a perfect English accent. The other Klein sounded more English than German, but her voice was still noticeably Teutonic.

"It's really delightful of you to invite me, Elizabeth," said the Doctor. "I wish we could have seen each other more often when you were still working for UNIT. Sadly, travelling in time and space tends to keep me at a distance."

He had called her Elizabeth. He had always addressed the other Klein as 'Klein.'

As he stepped into the house, Klein looked down at his feet.

"Would you mind taking your shoes off, Doctor?"

"Not at all," he replied and removed his shoes. One of his socks was orange, the other was green. He could well imagine the other Klein making the same request. This Klein had the same sense of orderliness. He could see that in the house; it was spotlessly clean and everything was neat and tidily organised.

The two of them sat down in Klein's lounge to enjoy a glass of sherry. However, they soon moved on to the dining room to begin the meal with some duck pate, washed down with a bottle of red wine.

"You know, after Liz Shaw resigned, I was convinced that I was the only scientist working for UNIT. I suppose I was a bit arrogant in that incarnation," said the Doctor.

"I didn't actually spend that much time at UNIT HQ while you were there. I was more of a consultant," replied Klein. "I spent most of my time at the labs in Cambridge. They used to send me special deliveries of alien debris to look at. The aftermath of all those incidents you got involved in. After you left earth, I got called in to work for UNIT more directly."

"How did you actually get recruited?" asked the Doctor.

"I worked with Rachel Jensen in the Intrusion Countermeasures Group back in the Sixties. She later recommended me to UNIT after she became Scientific Advisor to the Cabinet," replied Klein.

"I met Rachel in the Shoreditch Incident in 1963," said the Doctor. "A very intelligent lady."

"Oh, my admiration for Rachel is immense. She pushed so hard to get the extraterrestrial threat recognised. UNIT would never have been formed without her fighting tooth and nail for it all the way. She's also such a fun person to be around. You never felt uncomfortable or anxious in her company, even after she started moving in high circles," said Klein.

"I would have liked to have known her better, but it's so difficult to get the chance."

"I'm sure she would be delighted if you dropped in on her. She's finally retired now. I have no idea what she was thinking when she contemplated retiring before she was even forty. Still, she was married to a rich barrister. I'm so glad she changed her mind," said Klein.

Klein had prepared a Cassoulet for the main course.

"I always serve casseroles when I entertain, Doctor. What we don't eat, I shall save for tomorrow. It's what you do when you live alone."

"Have you ever been with somebody?" asked the Doctor.

"I did get married once. I'm sad to say it didn't last long. When I was younger you just couldn't have a scientific career and have a family if you were a woman. Things are changing, but it's still hard for women working in science. Dear old Rachel was married, but she never had children. It didn't hurt that her husband was a very wealthy man either."

They talked a little about the war and about how Klein's family had been interned.

"You know my experiences of being interned led me to become involved in fighting for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, Doctor," said Klein. "Next week I'm going to London for a protest. I feel so angry when I read about how this country treats it's guests."

The Doctor was delighted to know that in this timeline, Klein was somebody who fought for the rights of others and for justice instead of supporting a system that violated the rights of millions.

"I wonder what your Nazi parents would have made of that," said the Doctor.

"I have no idea. My parents, like many Germans in those days, adored Hitler. The Third Reich meant so much to them, even though they did move to England. They never quite adjusted to what happened in the war. It was a subject they never liked to talk about."

The conversation moved on to various events in which UNIT had been involved.

"You dealt with the Giant Robot affair didn't you, Doctor?" asked Klein.

"Yes, that was a mad business."

"Miss Hilda Winters was one of my colleagues at Cambridge. I did like her. I visited her in prison quite a few times after the failure of her plans. She had some quite innovative ideas, but she never seemed to quite think very practically. I know it's cruel, but I can't help smiling when I think that she was going to be involved in repopulating the earth. I just can't imagine Hilda having lots of babies."

The Doctor smiled.

"You must have known my former assistant, Miss Shaw? She was at Cambridge as well."

Klein's face darkened.

"Yes, she was one of my physics students at Cambridge when I was teaching," she replied. "She was such a hussy; she seemed to be sleeping with a different young man every week. And then when she started her scientific career, she insisted on wearing miniskirts and kinky boots all the time. How was anybody supposed to take her seriously when she dressed like that? I'm afraid to say I never liked Liz at all. She always seemed to lack imagination and curiosity. No wonder she gave up being your assistant. The chance to study wonders from the other side of the galaxy and she just gave it up. She was a shallow careerist," said Klein.

The Doctor felt deeply saddened by Klein's harsh comments about Liz. While he had never been as close to Liz as he had to some of his other associates, he had trusted her deeply and counted her as a friend. Perhaps both this Klein and the Nazi Klein shared a harshness in their judgment of others.

Klein then served a dessert of Black Forest Gateau. After enjoying this, the two of them moved to the lounge for coffee.

"Elizabeth, there is something I want to talk to you about," said the Doctor. "Have you ever thought about the concept of parallel universes?"

"I'm aware of that theoretical concept, Doctor," Klein replied.

"Have you thought that in a different world, there might be another Elizabeth Klein, in many ways the same person as you, but with different experiences in life?"

Klein laughed. "I think most people have thought about that in some shape or form. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had married some of my past lovers or if my marriage hadn't been a disaster, or if I had become a mother."

"Elizabeth, when you first met me, you seemed to somehow remember me. I think I know why that was the case."

"You do?" said Klein.

"We had met before, albeit a different version of you."

"What in a parallel universe?" exclaimed Klein. "Surely that is impossible."

"Not exactly," replied the Doctor. "I once travelled to earth during the Second World War. Normally I never alter history, but this time, events took an unexpected turn and an alternate timeline was created. In this timeline, the Third Reich won the war and came to dominate the world."

"I was born before the war. I must have existed in that timeline," said Klein.

"You did. My TARDIS was captured by the Nazis in the alternate timeline. In this timeline you were also a scientist and you used it to travel from the 1960s to the Second World War."

"For what purpose?" asked Klein. She was becoming very disconcerted at the thought that there was an alternate version of herself who had lived a very different life.

"To capture me. I had been killed in the alternate timeline and your other self needed me to learn how to operate my TARDIS properly."

"I'm certainly curious about your time machine, but I can't imagine trying to capture you, Doctor."

"You were a rather more aggressive person in this timeline. You were also a fanatical Nazi."

"It seems bizarre to think about, but I suppose given my parent's attitudes I might have gone that way if things had been different."

"Your other self's intervention caused events to unravel and erased the alternate timeline. Your other self was then left stranded in the Second World War."

"This is just unbelievable," said Klein.

"We met about fifteen years later and managed to put our differences aside. We travelled together in time and space. I wanted to show your other self the wonder and beauty of the universe, to challenge your, I mean her, narrow attitudes."

Klein was starting to feel slightly jealous of her other self. This Klein had actually got to visit other planets, while she had lived all her life in England.

"Although your other self was a cold, callous and ideologically blinkered person, I saw moments when she showed compassion and a gentler side. I believed that she could come to see beyond her Nazi worldview. Things didn't quite turn out as I would have liked. I don't feel right telling you what happened to your other self, but she no longer exists. I want you to know that I'm so happy you are here and have had the chance to do some wonderful work with UNIT."

Klein found it hard to know what to say. It was such a shock to learn that she had lived an whole other life. It was so hard to take in.

The Doctor insisted on helping Klein to clear up after the meal.

Klein decided now was a time to ask the Doctor something.

"You gave the other Klein a chance to travel with you. It only seems fair you offer me the same opportunity. I'm getting old, but I would love to see another planet if the opportunity is there."

"Of course. I think we could manage a short trip, Klein." He had called her Klein. For just a moment he had forgotten this was a different Klein to the one who had been his companion.

Sunday 14 August 2011

This Town Will Never Let Us Go, by Lawrence Miles (Faction Paradox)

Five minutes ago, or maybe fifteen, she was squinting at the screen and trying to work out who the celebrity guest is on this particular show. The token sacrificial human, an old, sad, beaten-looking man, evidently trying to enjoy his time with these colourful puppet-breeds but realising they represent a world he no longer understands. Kermit the Frog described it as a 'great honour' to have him in the studio. Inangela finally identified him- shakily, it's got to be said- as George Orwell. She vaguely recalls that when she first walked into the stopover, the Muppets were in the middle of a comedy re-enactment of the 101 scene from 1984, starring Rizzo the Rat. Or at least she thinks she remembers that, but she could be retro-imagining it.

On the very first page of this novel we get the most surreal idea imaginable; George Orwell apparently appearing as a celebrity guest on The Muppet Show. Only a mind like that of Lawrence Miles could have come up with something like this. It's such a gloriously colourful and bizarre notion that it just sucks you in and draws you into the rest of the novel.

Like every other Lawrence Miles novel, This Town will Never Let us Go is not blessed with a strong plot and things start to get a bit frantic towards the end as the author tries to bring the book to some sort of resolution. I suspect most people who have heard of this novel know who Lawrence Miles is and will not be reading it in the hope of reading a tightly-written , gripping adventure. That's just not the sort of book that he writes. If you don't care for Lawrence Miles' blend of surrealistic madness and intellectual analysis of everything, you may as well not bother reading this.

The most distinctive literary feature of This Town Will Never Let Us Go is the highly involved narration. The book is narrated almost conversationally, as though Lawrence Miles were sitting with you, telling you the story, along with his opinions on modern life. Miles is almost become the central character in his own novel. It is a feature which risks alienating the reader, as it is fair to say that Miles uses the novel as a platform to preach his particular take on society. Being a pro-free market conservative who supported the War on Terror, I inevitably find myself disagreeing with Miles most of the time, but I still find his views very interesting.

While This Town Will Never Let Us Go is the first novel in the Faction Paradox series, it is not really about Faction Paradox. The Faction are more of a background presence. This novel differs from other Miles books in the scale on which it operates. While his other novels deal with grand, sweeping cosmic events, this book is all about ordinary characters and how they are affected by the unseen cosmic War.

Bizarrely, Lawrence Miles continues the original educational agenda of early Doctor Who. The first companions of the Doctor were a science teacher to teach young viewers about science and a history teacher to teach them about history. Lawrence Miles' books are rather thin on school teachers, but in his inimitable way, he educates fans about postmodernity, poststructuralist literary theory and cultural anthropology. This Town Will Never Let Us Go has the influence of the French postmodern philosopher Baudrillard written all over it. Baudrillard's theory of hyperreality is explored in depth and with it the notion that events like wars have a more substantial media existence than they do an actual spatio-temporal reality. Lawrence Miles also brings up some interesting anthropological ideas about the place of rituals and symbols and how magic has an important place even in modern society.

The novel is set in a world that looks very much like ours, but is not quite the same. The town in which the story unfolds is never named. At first I wondered if the setting was meant to be Italy, but then it became apparent that this place was meant to resemble 21st century Britain. The most obvious difference from our world is that it is being affected by the mysterious War. This seems to be the same war explored and detailed in The Book of the War. This War is very obviously analogous to the War on Terror. In a postmodern spirit, it is not at all clear whether the events of the book are meant to be taken literally on their own narrative terms or whether they are intended to be treated purely on a metaphorical level. Given the highly didactic nature of the book, the latter seems rather more likely. The appearance of a literal 'Dog of War' is a nice play on metaphors.

The characters are an odd bunch. We have the ritual-obsessed Goth, Inangela. It's hard to really get a feel on her character. She comes across as very confident and having mysterious depths. Her friend Horror is very shallow best-friend type, who turns about to be rather more important to the plot than might be expected. Many reviewers have suggested that these characters have a very Buffy flavour. I found myself taking a massive dislike to Valentine, an ambulance driver who is also a fanatical revolutionary type. He shows a callous disregard to human life. As somebody who works in an accident and emergency department, I was unconvinced by the realism of his activity. There is absolutely no way an ambulance could go off on excursions with a dying girl in the back. Ambulance crews are just too closely monitored for that to happen.

The most engaging character was Tiffany Korta, one of those manufactured pop stars. It's remarkably disconcerting to see her discovery of the way her media image is being manipulating. One of the most terrifying scenes is when she is put on 'trial' by her record company executives who seem to almost wield absolute power over her very existence.

As in Alien Bodies, we get a character called the 'Black Man.' He appears remarkably similar to the one we met in that novel. He gets a very powerful and quite scary scene with Valentine. The comparison between the Black Man and the strange media witch, Miss Ruth is interesting.

I found This Town Will Never Let Us Go an immensely interesting and enjoyable read, but then I am a massive Lawrence Miles fan. It is certainly not his best novel and I suspect those who dislike his work will not be impressed.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

The Murder Game, by Steve Lyons (BBC novel)

"In census records from 1942 on, I found references to a Ben Jackson and a Polly Wright, born in close proximity to each other. Both in London, England, in fact. Their descendants would currently be-"

Although I don't see myself as being 'in it for the monsters,' I wanted to read this book to encounter the Selachians again. I heard the Selachians in Lyons' Architects of History, the concluding part of the brilliant Klein trilogy of audios. You don't get many genuinely aquatic monsters. The Seas Devils are more amphibious than aquatic. The Selachians are one inspired monster race. They have a convincing backstory as well as an appearance that is easily visualized. Like the Daleks, they are small, pathetic creatures beneath their armour. What is particularly interesting is that they chop their fishtails off in order to fit into their armour better. Their spacecraft is also magnificently described.

Selachians aside, is The Murder Game a decent novel? As with The Space Age, it does seem to lack the brilliance that Lyons displayed in the Virgin New Adventures. The Murder Game has it's defenders in fandom, but plenty of detractors too.

The setting in a murder mystery party tells you instantly that people are soon going to start dropping dead. It's perhaps a little predictable. While there is plenty of action in this book, the pace still feels rather slow and dull. It does not help that the cast of characters is so surprisingly boring. One does not feel like caring about any of them, except the regulars.

Like Gary Russell's Invasion of the Cat-People, this novel is set in between Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders. To my mind this is a good choice, as Jamie got plenty of screen time. This novel gives us a chance to look a bit more deeply at Ben and Polly. It does so well. The two characters are very well portrayed. We also get a hint about their future together. I like the way the novel makes Polly hilariously anxious about seeming to be out of date.

The Second Doctor is brilliantly portrayed. He has all the fun, as well as the fearfulness and the quiet heroism. There is an hilarious moment when he appears in drag! We also get a brilliant physical description of the Second Doctor- "He made a face like he was chewing a marble."

One moment that is so ill-chosen that it almost threatens to overshadow the book, is when the Second Doctor manages to steer the TARDIS to materialize on board the Selachian spacecraft. It is simply inconceivable that this could happen in the Second Doctor era. That Lyons had to resort to that to resolve his plot is a serious failing in his writing.

I have read worse novels than The Murder Game and it does have some great elements, but it really does leave one disappointed.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Let's Talk about Men, by Matthew Clarke (my fan fiction)

Another story about Morgaine's perpetual imprisonment after Battlefield.

Madeleine Issigri is from the Troughton story, The Space Pirates

Ganymede Correctional Facility 2192

Morgaine turned to her cellmate, Madeleine. "Was there ever a man in your life?" she asked her.

"I had a couple of serious relationships. I was in love with a naval officer when I was in my twenties. He was nice, but a bit of an idiot. Then I fell for a lawyer when I was a bit older. He turned out to be a selfish bastard. I devoted so much of my life to building up the company that I never had much time for relationships. I dare say some of the men I met thought I was a selfish bitch."

Morgaine smiled. "Do you hope to find a husband after you have served your sentence?"

Madeleine looked thoughtful before answering. "I suppose it might be nice. Perhaps it's a bit late to become a mother, but not impossible. I'm really not altogether sure what to do when I'm free. I just hope any decent chaps won't be put off a woman who has done time in the clink."

"They would be fools if they were," said Morgaine.

"Have you ever been married?" asked Madeleine.

"No, but I have had many lovers in my life. I have won the hearts of kings, princes and many knights. I have also slept with the Lords of the Elder Folk that you would call fairies. I have even given my body up to demons and enjoyed their forbidden and terrible pleasures."

Madeleine shuddered. "I imagine making love to fairies might be nice, but I don't like the sound of sleeping with demons."

"They are not gentle lovers, though they can give pleasure of a kind," explained Morgaine. "None of the men I have loved can ever compare to my brother Arthur, by whom I bore my son Mordred."

"Sorry? You had a son with your brother?"

Morgaine raised an eyebrow, as if surprised by Madeleine's shock. "He was my half-brother. Arthur's mother was mortal, my mother was a fairy woman."

"No, that is still weird," insisted Madeleine.

"The ways of my world are not like yours," said Morgaine in protest.

"Just a bit too weird," said Madeleine. "I still think your the cutest girl in this place though."

Saturday 6 August 2011

Original Sin, by Andy Lane (Virgin New Adventure)

I think Andy Lane's All Consuming Fire is a really great novel, so I had high hopes for Original Sin. I certainly did not enjoy it as much as All Consuming Fire, but I was still impressed with the fruits of his creative talents here. Original Sin has taken some criticism for being very heavy on continuity references, but they don't detract from the story. I got a little frustrated when it was revealed who the villain was. I won't spoil it for anyone who has not read the novel, but I don't see the point of bringing back an old villain just for the sake of it. I think one story was sufficient for this particular villain. Nevertheless, whatever the merits of including him, he was portrayed very effectively and came across as quite chilling.

There is plenty of humour and fun in this book. Nevertheless, there is also a lot of tragedy and suffering in it. The new reports detailing violent events at the start of every chapter are poignant and there is a strong theme of the pain of memories. The way the Hith changed their names to reflect the fate of their people has enormous pathos. Original Sin presents a very bleak future world. I don't think it is conveyed with the same realism and immediacy as Transit, but it is still a very interesting one.

Original Sin introduces new companions Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. They are a really enjoyable pair. Of course, the naive rookie cop and the seasoned cynic are a bit of a cliche, but it still works. Bernice is portrayed pretty well too; she comes across more believably in this than in some novels.

Andy Lane really captures the manner and feel of the Seventh Doctor, but I was a little bothered by the Doctor's moral uncertainty. I would think that he would be able to give a much better moral justification than he does. The ethical debate about murder came across as a little tedious anyway. I do have a problem with the author's broad brush condemnation of empires. History shows us that successful empires have to allow a fairly high degree of tolerance and pluralism toward their subjects. Small nation-states tend to be much less tolerant of minorities than large empires. Given that All-Consuming Fire dealt with British imperialism, it is clear that Lane intended the Earth Empire to represent the British Empire and its failings. I think this is harsh. I would argue that though the British Empire could be brutal and had abuses, it was in many ways a force for good in the world.

Original Sin is not one of the best of the New Adventures, but it is a reasonably decent novel, though I don't know why the cover shows Tony Robinson wearing a safari suit.

Monday 1 August 2011

Spearhead from Space

I think I first watched Spearhead from Space when I was eleven years old. The day I watched the recently re-released DVD, I started reading The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, by Lawrence Miles, the first chapter of which features prostitutes offering Tantric sex. The variety of depth and scope in Doctor Who is just breathtaking.

The Pertwee era is definitely one of my least favorite parts of the Doctor Who legacy. Nevertheless, I can't help sharing the sense of excitement and anticipation that Spearhead from Space exudes. Coming right after the slightly repetitive format of the Troughton era, Spearhead from Space feels new and fresh. This is heightened by the fact that it was shot on entirely on location using film. This gives it a delightfully cinematic look and feel. I do wish more stories from the Pertwee era had been made this way.

The full revelation of the new Doctor is delayed for the first two episodes. In the meantime, we are re-introduced to the already familiar Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Nicholas Courtney takes to his new role as a regular wonderfully. He is entirely removed from the buffoon that he would become in later stories. He is joined by Cambridge scientist Liz Shaw. Her scepticism and reluctance makes a nice contrast with the Brigadier's familiarity with alien menaces. This makes for a kind of Mulder and Scully team that might have actually worked in the absence of the Doctor. The mistake of later writers would be to make the Brigadier into the Scully figure, which was absurd as weekly encounters with aliens ought to eradicate anybody's scepticism.

Caroline John's performance as Liz is quite excellent. She comes across as intelligent and sophisticated and her sarcastic wit is amusing. Unfortunately, her character was never given sufficient chance to develop. She was also unwisely dressed in miniskirts that seemed to detract from the seriousness of the character. Part of me rather wishes we had seen her being searched on arrival at UNIT HQ.

John Pertwee was never the strongest actor to play the role of the Doctor, yet he comes across as fairly likable in this story. Robert Holmes does seem to be writing more for Troughton and at times one can see Pertwee attempting to mimic Troughton's style. Pertwee was clearly not at ease in the role at this point, nevertheless he is enjoyable. He comes across like Mr. Toad in Wind in the Willows in the way he borrows a motorcar.

We get some great guest performances in this story. Hugh Burden is superb as the sinister Channing. John Woodnutt comes across as wonderfully oppressed as Hibbert and Derek Smee is convincingly terrified in the role of Ransome. Neil Wilson also gives an enjoyable performance as the not altogether pleasant poacher.

As regards the Nestenes and their Auton servants, I'm afraid I can't really believe in them. We are told that they have been colonising planets for a thousand million years. The Virgin New Adventures gave them a Lovecraftian twist by identifying the Nestene Consciousness as the offspring of the Great Old One Shub-Niggurath. Nevertheless, all we ever see of the Nestenes is them using various infiltration tactics involving plastic objects. They seem to be a race perfectly adapted to invading Twentieth Century Earth, but as far as we are aware, have no conceivable activity beyond that. I can imagine the Daleks burning planet after planet to cinders. I can imagine Rassilon battling giant vampire bats. I cannot, however, imagine the Nestenes doing anything other than using plastic to invade Twentieth Century Earth. It does seem to me that the Nestenes have something of a gimmicky quality to them that does not make for convincing science fiction.

While the Nestenes might not be altogether believable as an alien race and a little gimmicky, in this story they do have the capacity to terrify. The scenes of the Auton approaching the UNIT van and menacing Mrs Seely are genuinely scary. It is rather surprising that the shot of the blood on the smashed windscreen was allowed in. Personally, I feel that was a little too horrible.

The biggest failing is the plot. The various elements, the walking dummies, the attempted kidnap of the Doctor and the waxwork dummies don't quite hang together very well. The Nestene strategy does not make a huge amount of sense and there are numerous holes in the plot. The ending feels rushed, with the Doctor simply building a gadget to kill the Nestenes.

Many fans are uncomfortable with the Doctor's new role working with a military organisation. Philip Sandifer at TARDIS Eruditorum argues that the problem is not so much that the Doctor does end up working with UNIT, but that he actively seeks them out without exploring any other options. This might be explained by the fact that Lethbridge-Stewart immediately seeks out the Doctor after his regeneration. It is likely that the Doctor is influenced by the things he encounters after he regenerates, for instance, the Fifth Doctor being taken by the cricket gear in Castrovalva. I also think that there may be an unseen adventure that the Second Doctor had with the Brigadier prior to The Invasion.

Although Pertwee's gurning at the end is rather hilarious, the tentacles really do look quite impressive. Spearhead from Space is on the whole, a good start to the Pertwee and UNIT era.