Links and Stuff

It’s official! We’ve closed on our house, so it’s now ours. At last I feel comfortable to share a couple of pictures. Here’s the front of the house:


And here’s the side of the house, but you can just see the Spanish Inquisition around the corner… just kidding. This is the room that will be my study:


See the square archway? That’s going to become solid wall, starting today. I’m not doing it, since my skill with a hammer is non-existent. You know those commercials that run around this time of year showing “The Perfect Gift for Dad”–and it’s a toolkit? Sorry, I’m not that Dad. So I’m getting help with the wall. (Not from Mexico.) And once the wall is up, I’m going to have big bookcases running almost the whole length of it. It’ll be wonderful. My desk will go against that wall you see on the left.  I’ll share “after” pictures when it’s all done. Of course, I’m going to paint the walls too. I got some color choices:


I’ll probably go with the one that’s second from bottom on the left-hand strip. I forget the name of the color. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the wall is currently a beige-y color.

We’re hoping to be moved in a week from tomorrow, so we’re going to be busy for the next few days. As exciting as it is, we’ll be glad when it’s all over.

I just have a couple of links to share with you this week. The first is last month’s announcement that Dan Brown will be releasing a new novel next year. According to the announcement, the book will be called ORIGIN, and it explores “the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earth-shaking discovery that will answer them.” Since Dan Brown seems to have made it his life’s goal to annoy historians and Christians, one can only surmise that he’s delving into the area of Creation vs. Evolution. And if Brown’s super-sleuth cryptologist and conspiraciologst Robert Langdon’s track record is anything to go by, he’ll either be proving that “the Church” made up the Creation story to stir up animosity against snakes, or he’ll be proving scientists made up Evolution to make a monkey’s uncle out of us all. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to avoid this one, just as I’ve managed to avoid all his other novels.

Finally, this article in the New York Times announced that the latest edition of the New Oxford Shakespeare will, for the first time, credit playwright Christopher Marlowe as co-author of three Shakespeare plays, namely Henry VI parts 1, 2, and 3. Shakespearean scholars and enthusiasts have debated the attribution of Shakespeare’s plays for centuries. The majority opinion still seems to be that William Shakespeare wrote all the plays he is traditionally thought to have written. However, it seems the naysayers are making inroads, which is why this edition of Shakespeare’s work is significant. It represents the first time a scholarly edition of Shakespeare has acknowledged doubt over the authorship of any of his plays. Of course, this is just one edition of Shakespeare, and doesn’t represent the views of all scholars. But it is a feather in Marlowe’s cap, to say the least. (By the way, Christopher Marlowe is an Elizabethan private detective in Phillip DePoy’s novel, A PRISONER IN MALTA–check it out!)

Have you any exciting news to share this week?

Who Review: Planet of Evil

The Doctor and Sarah leave Harry behind in Scotland to travel back to London by TARDIS. En route they pick up a distress signal to which the Doctor responds, landing the TARDIS on Zeta Minor, a remote jungle planet in the far reaches of the universe. It appears that a geological research expedition has fallen prey to a mysterious killer, and only the expedition leader, Dr. Sorenson, is left alive. A military ship comes to rescue Dr. Sorenson, and capture the Doctor and Sarah, suspecting them of the murders. But the creature that attacked the expedition is now turning upon the crew of the ship. Someone, or something, is not only on the warpath, but is preventing them from leaving. The Doctor and Sarah have seen the attacker, a hazy red entity composed entirely of anti-matter. The Doctor suspects its attacks have something to do with the minerals Sorenson has extracted from the planet. He needs to convince the crew of his and Sarah’s innocence, and get them to return the minerals before they are all destroyed…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen this serial. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

The Doctor and Sarah continue their adventures without Harry. While not technically part of the story arc from “Robot” to “Terror of the Zygons,” this story takes place as they are making their way back to London from Scotland. I love the Doctor’s reaction when he hears the distress signal–he’s evidently excited at the prospect of adventure and danger.

I’ve lost count how often the Doctor and his companion(s) turn up on a planet and are immediately accused of causing whatever problem they encounter. I suppose it’s not unreasonable to think this could happen, especially if they are caught examining a dead body, or in some other compromising situation. However, the Doctor is usually able to convince people of his innocence fairly quickly. In this story, Salamar, the commander of the rescue ship, remains unconvinced for most of the story, which is unusual.

This is a good serial, though not entirely original, since it plays on the “planet fights back” theme we’ve seen before (“Inferno” and “The Green Death” for example). Important minerals are extracted, and the planet, in the form of an anti-matter monster, won’t let the explorers leave until they return the minerals. In episode two, the story takes a Jekyll and Hyde turn as Sorenson is taken over by the anti-matter monster and has to drink a potion to control the transformation. Perhaps a hint at the “gothic horror” direction the show’s producer and script editor planned to take Doctor Who?

The effects are reasonably impressive for the time. They use a red superimposed outline to indicate the anti-matter monster, and red reflective patches on Sorenson’s eyelids to show when the monster is controlling him. I’m not exactly sure, however, how an anti-matter monster is able to control someone who is matter. Wouldn’t there be some kind of explosive reaction? And why does anti-matter make Sorenson behave like a Primoid from “Inferno”? Maybe these questions were answered somewhere and I missed it.

It’s notable that the Doctor uses physical violence when he punches Salamar and knocks him out cold. That might be the first and last time we see the Doctor land a punch on someone. Even the Third Doctor’s hand-to-hand combat was restricted to Venusian aikido, which consisted largely of chops and finger pressure applied to certain parts of the body. Certainly no fisticuffs!

The most impressive part of this adventure, however, has to be the forest scenery. The trees, the vines, the plants are all superbly rendered using who-knows-what. The effect is even more stunning when shown on film as opposed to videotape. I think this is one of the best Doctor Who sets in the programs’ history. If they recreated it today, it couldn’t look much better.

In summary, “Planet of Evil” is another good story, with a dark atmosphere and a challenging monster. Indeed, it’s hard to dismiss any of the stories from this era since so many of them are good. The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith work so well together, you can’t not enjoy watching them. Add to that the amazing scenery, and I think you have reason enough to check it out.

Links and Stuff

Here we are, halfway through October, and temperatures in my part of the world (Eastern North Carolina) have been in the 80s (F) all week. What kind of insanity is this? It’s the kind of insanity that delays the onset of pretty Autumn colors, but it’s also the kind of insanity that means we don’t need to run the heating yet. The weekend’s supposed to cool down (60s–woo hoo!), so perhaps Fall-for-Real is just around the corner…

We visited the new house on Wednesday to show my in-laws almost-our house (we close on Tuesday, Lord willing). While there, we saw men doing work, which is good because it means the seller is making good on their promise to attend to the things we asked them to do. That should all be done by the end of the day today (Friday). All being well, in less than a week, we’ll be homeowners! And then the painting and moving begins…

Let’s get to this week’s links. The first is a Seattle Times article about the newly-created Stephen King Chair in Literature at the University of Maine. Yes, that’s Stephen King the horror/suspense writer. King is an alumnus of the University of Maine, and I guess they felt that, after a 45 year career writing countless books, their “most celebrated graduate” has proved himself worthy of honor. The English Department is currently receiving applications for the Chair. My only question is, where do they plug it in…? 🙂

Next up, Deadline Hollywood reports that David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter film series, is working with Warner Bros on a “reboot” of the classic movie, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” based on the Roald Dahl story, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. The first movie adaptation of the book was in 1971, starring Gene Wilder. It was remade in 2005 with Johnny Depp in the leading role. Many believe the original 1971 movie was the quintessential adaptation of the story, which leads to the question: why? Why make the movie again? Is Hollywood that strapped for original story ideas, they have to keep regurgitating classic movies, and adapting novels? Just read the book and save yourself the ticket money.

Finally, if you follow publishing you are probably aware that there are five major publishers in the United States, and between them they own just about every traditional publishing house. But how does one keep up with who belongs to whom? Thanks to, we have this infographic of the Big Five US Trade Book Publishers that shows who is connected to which publishing house. It’s eye-opening to see, first, how many trade publishers there are, and second, how much traditional publishing in the US is controlled by so few companies.

That’s it for this week. I didn’t say anything about the third and final Presidential Debate, largely because there’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. Besides, most people by now have decided who they’re voting for. The only thing that remains, my fellow Americans, is to get out there and VOTE on November 8th! 🙂

Who Review: Terror of the Zygons

The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry respond to the Brigadier’s summons, landing in present-day Scotland. A North Sea oil rig has been attacked, but no-one is to be able to trace the attacker. It seems three other rigs were similarly attacked in the past month. Harry attempts to talk to one of the attack survivors, but his attempt lands him in hospital with a serious head injury. Meanwhile, the Doctor examines a piece of the rig that has washed ashore, only to discover giant tooth holes in the metal. When Sarah visits Harry in hospital, she is accosted by a strange orange creature that, apparently, used to be the attending nurse. An alien plot is unfolding in that Scottish village, and the TARDIS crew is finding it hard to tell who they can trust…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen this serial. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

While this story begins a new season of Doctor Who, it was, in fact, recorded as part of the previous season, and hence it serves as the conclusion of the loose arc that started with “Robot.” It also marks the end of Harry Sullivan’s time on the TARDIS, and, indeed, the end of the UNIT era. UNIT will make an appearance once more in this season (see “The Android Invasion”), and again 13 years later in “Battlefield,” but from this point on, they are no longer a regular feature of the show.

The Zygons themselves are a great Who baddie, and it’s puzzling that this was their only story in the Classic run. Not only are they a great design, but they are interesting conceptually, with their shape-shifting ability that keeps you guessing who’s who. Fandom cheered when the Zygons returned for the Fiftieth Anniversary special.

Speaking of great design, the Zygon ship is superbly realized, the way it continues the organic look of the monsters, with squishy controls and tentacle-like wires. It’s a very different take on a spacecraft, which is not something you often see in sci-fi, where all space ships tend to look alike.

For his last major role in Doctor Who, Ian Marter does an outstanding job not only playing “normal” Harry Sullivan, but also playing Zygon Harry. The menace he conjures in his eyes as he attacks Sarah Jane is totally convincing. There’s no question this is not the same Harry Sullivan, despite appearances.

Overall, the show is a win for the effects and costume teams, with the possible exception of the “Nessie” monster. We could give them a bit of a pass because it was supposed to be a cyborg in the story, so it shouldn’t matter if it looks like the dinosaurs from “Invasion of the Dinosaurs.” But after doing so well elsewhere, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

In summary, “Terror of the Zygons” is very much worth your time–maybe even essential, given it’s the only time you see the Zygons in Classic Who. The Zygons are a creative and challenging foe, and the effects and costumes are above standard for the era. And, most importantly, it’s a great story.

By the way, I believe the DVD release of “Terror of the Zygons” was the last complete Doctor Who serial to come out on DVD. The soundtrack has been remixed for 5.1 surround, possibly by keeping the core mono track, and re-applying sound effects and incidental music. Did they do this to mark the occasion? I don’t know. But they did a good job.

Links and Stuff

Hello, everyone! Time for another Links and Stuff. First, while Hurricane Matthew has long dissipated, his effects are still being felt here in Eastern NC. We (as in me and my family) didn’t suffer from the flooding, but there are roads and towns nearby that are submerged due to rivers and creeks bursting their banks. It’ll be early next week before the water subsides and the clean up begins for those affected. Many have lost homes, and some have lost loved ones thanks to this storm, and my prayers go out to them all.

Now to the links! As you may have heard, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan became the first lyricist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The citation praises Dylan for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” This move by the Nobel committee has been lauded and criticized. Among the criticisms is the fact that the Nobel committee passed over under-appreciated writers and works that deserve the spotlight a Nobel prize would afford. After all, Dylan is already a popular figure whose songs have garnered a number of other prizes over the past 50 years. Those pleased with the nomination point out that Dylan is well overdue recognition by the literary establishment for his insightful poetry that became the voice of a generation. I tend to the view that if the award is given for creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” Lin-Manuel Miranda should get a Nobel Literature prize for “Hamilton.” And maybe he will. Watch for next year’s awards…

Speaking of literature, an interesting mash-up was announced this week. Puffin announced that they are publishing a series of Doctor Who “Mr. Men” books. For those who don’t know, the “Mr. Men” was (and is) a British book series by Roger Hargreaves, featuring odd-shaped characters named for their distinctive actions or attributes. “Mr. Tickle” has long arms so he can tickle people from afar. “Mr. Bump” bumps into things. “Mr. Strong” is, well, strong–you get the idea. I was really into this series as a child. I remember my Mum buying me “Mr. Men” books to keep me quiet while she shopped (yes, they’re THAT old). I would post a picture of some of my original “Mr. Men” books, but they’re packed away, so these will have to do:

The new series will feature each of the twelve Doctors, the first four, “Dr. First,” “Dr. Fourth,” “Dr. Eleventh,” and “Dr. Twelfth” being released next spring. Here’s what “Dr. First” and “Dr. Eleventh” look like:

Yes, they’re kids books… but I’ll be ordering them. 🙂

Next, another mash-up, this time Lego and the Beatles! On November 1, in time for the Christmas market, Lego is releasing a new “Yellow Submarine” set, based on the iconic 1968 Beatles cartoon movie. The set comes with a giant yellow submarine, along with John, Paul, George, and Ringo figures based on the cartoon characters. At $60 it’s a bit expensive, so I don’t know that I’ll be rushing to get one. It’s a nice collectible, though.

Finally, today is the 950th anniversary of The Battle of Hastings, a battle that changed the course of the Western world. I wrote an article about it five years ago, which contains links to various other sites, including the famous Bayeux Tapestry–possibly the world’s first graphic novel! 🙂 Here’s my article.

That’s all from me. Now, it’s your turn–share your thoughts!

Who Review: Revenge of the Cybermen (Revisited)

The time ring takes our heroes back to the Nerva space station, but they arrive thousands of years before it became an Ark for the cream of humanity. At this point in time, Nerva is a beacon, alerting ships to uncharted moons and planets so they don’t crash into them, like a deep space lighthouse. The planet under Nerva’s watch is the newly-discovered planet of Voga, the so-called “planet of gold.” But all is not well on Nerva. A strange virus is wiping out the crew, causing the beacon to be quarantined. The Doctor isn’t convinced it’s a virus, and the name “Voga” tells him what he needs to know: the Cybermen are involved. And that means even bigger trouble for Nerva. Meanwhile on Voga, there is violent dissension over the future of the planet. One faction wants Voga and its inhabitants to keep to itself, fearing attack from the Cybermen. The other wants to emerge from the shadows, become a great trading planet again, and fight off the Cybermen once and for all. This political and military fighting only complicates things for the Doctor, Sarah, and Harry, who find themselves caught up in the struggle, which turns out to be a fight for their lives and the lives of everyone on Voga…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen this serial. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

I wrote a review of this story about five years ago, but since I recently re-watched it, I thought I’d revisit the review.

Continuing the storyline that began with “The Ark in Space” (which really just continued directly on from the previous story, “Robot”), “Revenge of the Cybermen” saw the return of the tin men for the first time since 1968. The Third Doctor didn’t have an encounter with the Cybermen because, frankly, Terrance Dicks, the script editor during the Third Doctor era, didn’t like them. However, with a new production team coming in, and a new Doctor to get used to, it was decided to put some old favorites in the season line-up to make sure people kept watching. Hence the previous story featuring the Daleks, and this Cyberman story.

Written by Cyberman co-creator, Gerry Davis (with some strong influence from then-script editor Robert Holmes), it’s not a bad story. In fact, there’s no padding at all, which is one of the advantages of four-part stories. The Cybermen costumes get a much-needed overhaul, though not all the visual effects work. We have warring factions on Voga, and a double-agent on Nerva, all of which make for depth and interest in the plot.

Sadly, though, the story is plagued with inconsistencies and plot holes. Here are some that particularly struck, and in some cases bothered, me:

  • How did the Cybermen transmat onto the planet? The Doctor used the transmat to cure Sarah of the “plague” since its beams disperse human molecules, separating them from the virus. So how did the non-human Cybermen make it onto Voga?
  • How could the Cybermen survive on Voga? If gold is now deadly to their systems, surely the “gold planet” would have gold dust in the air? Surrounded with so much lethal gold, the Cybermen would surely suffer, perhaps even die.
  • Why did the Vogans continue shooting at the Cybermen when it was obvious their guns had no effect, and they were simply committing suicide? They mentioned once having used a scatter gun to drive the Cybermen away with gold. Why not use that? Or at least throw gold rocks at them–that would have been much more effective. Indeed, why did the Doctor and Harry attack with gold dust? Why not big chunks of gold that could be thrown and less easily shaken off?

The whole gold allergy thing with the Cybermen was introduced in this story, and persisted through the rest of the Classic era. While it provides a weakness that sort-of fits with the plot, it undermines their menace. Indeed, the only time gold is used as a weapon in the New Series is in the Eleventh Doctor’s last encounter with them, “Nightmare in Silver.” When the Doctor uses gold against a Cyberman in that story, they all download an upgrade that “fixes” the problem. This underscores how lame a weakness it truly was.

Oh, and then there’s the sassy Cyber Leader with his hands on his hips. I don’t know what’s up with that, but it is funny.

The story ends with the TARDIS catching up with the Doctor on Nerva, and the Brigadier summoning him back to Earth. This leads into the next story, “Terror of the Zygons,” which was originally supposed to be the last story in this season, but was held over to start the next.

To sum up, “Revenge of the Cybermen” is a solid, no-padding story, and it sort-of works if you don’t think about it too hard. The performances are great, especially from the leads, so if you like watching the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane at their best, then definitely give this one your attention. It’s also worthwhile to continue the Nerva space station story. But aside from that, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. In fact, the best thing on the DVD release is the extra, “Checks, Lies, and Videotape,” a 30 minute documentary on the history of Doctor Who on videotape, going back to the days when fans would tape the show from television and buy pirate copies of old stories, through to the release of “Revenge of the Cybermen” on video in 1983–the first Doctor Who story to get a commercial release.

Links and Stuff

hurricanematthew_20161004Hello and welcome to this week’s Links and Stuff. The big news of the week has to be Hurricane Matthew. I know there was a Vice-Presidential debate on Tuesday, but really the only news to come out of that is the fact that the running mates are more likeable (and in the case of one of them–guess which–is an overall better candidate) than the people on the top of the ticket. Enough said about that. Hurricane Matthew is big and nasty, already responsible for deaths in Haiti, and now tearing up the Bahamas on its way to the eastern coast of Florida. While the storm is forecast to track the coast and not actually traverse land, that doesn’t make things any better. It’ll be blasting that coastline with Hurricane force winds that will extend well inland. And being on water only serves to fuel the storm. My prayers go out for those who have suffered, and those who face the prospect of a very long, stormy, wet, and hazardous weekend. Just a few days ago, the National Hurricane Center had Matthew’s track heading straight through Eastern North Carolina. Since then, the track has been revised. Now Matthew is supposed to take a sharp right, avoiding North Carolina altogether (aside from some localized wind and heavy rain). I have to say, I’m grateful and relieved, but I know that’s small comfort to those south of us who get no such reprieve. Stay safe, y’all!

On a cheerier house-hunting note, we received word that the people who are selling the house we’re looking to buy will fix the things we asked them to fix based on the inspections we had done. I think I mentioned last week that this was the last potential deal-breaker for us. Even though the repairs are not extensive, they would cost more than we can afford. The fact they’re willing to take them on is, therefore, a big deal to us. So, right now, it looks like we’re heading for a house closing in a few weeks!

And now some links…

A few weeks ago, Crossway, publisher of the ESV Translation of the Bible, reversed a decision they had made earlier to “freeze” the ESV text. It seems they made that controversial move on the basis that the KJV text has remained largely unchanged for 400 years (which isn’t strictly true, since there was the Blayney Revision in 1769, which is the KJV text in use today–and, of course, the spelling has been modernized), and locking down the text that way preserves the text for generations. But the purpose of a translation is to take the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and render it as accurately as possible into language that would be understood by the intended audience. There are lots of English translations of the Bible, and frankly, I don’t think we need most of them. However, I do think Bible translations should be updated every generation to be sure the words are being conveyed in the best language for that generation. It’s good that Crossway reversed their decision. Now, let the text sit for another twenty years or so before the next revision.

Now for a bizarre story from the UK, where an antiques dealer was murdered for his first edition copy of Kenneth Grahame’s classic THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. It seems the accused had been planning this attack for months, desirous to lay his hands on the dealer’s collection of rare works. As the article points out, the text of the book is over 100 years old, and hence it is public domain and freely available online. Of course, nothing replaces the smell of a book, the feel of the pages, and the sight of it sitting on a shelf. But what kind of insanity drives someone to commit murder for it? *sigh*

And finally, another celebrity death was announced this week, though this celebrity was one you’ve probably heard more than seen. British songwriter Rod Temperton passed away after a brief battle with cancer, aged 66. Rod was a bit of a recluse, but he wrote or co-wrote some of pop music’s more memorable tunes, including “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave, “Thriller,” “Off the Wall,” and “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson, and “Give Me the Night” by George Benson. Let’s pay tribute to Mr. Temperton with one of those songs:

That’s all from me. If you’re in the path of the storm, stay safe. 🙂

Who Review: Genesis of the Daleks

The TARDIS crew are, once again, sidetracked from returning to space station Nerva, this time by the Time Lords. On the planet Skaro, a Time Lord gives the Doctor a time ring, and tells him he must do something to prevent the menace of the Daleks. They will be a scourge on the universe for millennia, so the Doctor, Sarah, and Harry have been brought back to the time when the Daleks were created. This is their opportunity to at least delay their development, if not destroy them, or alter their genetics so they retain a moral conscience. Once they have completed their mission, the time ring will set them back on their course to the Nerva space station and the TARDIS. Of course, this is no easy mission. Not only is there a war going on between the Kaleds and the Thals, but Dalek development is taking place in a well-guarded bunker. And the Kaled chief scientist, the creator of the Daleks, is not going to let his life’s work die without a fight…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen this serial. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

Not without its flaws (we’ll get to those in a moment), but “Genesis of the Daleks” definitely ranks as one of the classic Doctor Who stories. Written by Dalek creator Terry Nation, this six-part adventure explores the origins of the pepper pots, drawing from things we’ve learned from previous Dalek stories (e.g., that there is an organic, mutated life form inside the Dalek outer shell, and that there was a war with the Thals on Skaro at the time), as well as adding new information (and changing a few things, too). The biggest new revelation is the introduction of Davros, the evil genius who created the Daleks.

The basic plot is pretty solid. Davros has created the ultimate fighting machine to win the war with the Thals. But, in-keeping with his philosophy that peace can only come through absolute power and suppression of dissent, he has created the mutations inside the Daleks to be without morals or conscience. They are built to survive, and subjugate or eliminate all inferior life forms (i.e., anything not a Dalek). To his ethically-minded scientists and soldiers, such a creature is monstrous, so Davros manipulates acceptance of the Daleks by orchestrating an attack on the Kaleds by the Thals, necessitating the use of deadly force in response. Not only does this give him justification to use the Daleks, but it also serves to eliminate much of his opposition at home. There is still a lot of resistance to his experiments, so he tricks the opposition leaders into a conference wherein he unleashes the Daleks and destroys them all. In the midst of this, the Doctor, Sarah, and Harry are trying to prevent the Daleks from progressing any further, without losing track of the time ring that is their only way back to the TARDIS on space station Nerva.

Davros’s ideal of a super race creating peace by oppressive rule and forced removal of opposition mirrors Hitler’s ideology. Indeed, the likeness of the Kaled soldiers to German World War Two SS troops is very thinly veiled. Even their salute is taken from the Nazis. This isn’t a new theme; from the beginning, Nation modeled the Daleks on the Nazis, and their ideas of racial purity and power through strength. Here he makes the connection a little more blatantly obvious. That’s not at all a criticism. It works wonderfully well.

There are many things to praise about this serial. The main cast are on fine form, but there’s usually little to fault with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor and Sarah Jane. Add to that Michael Wisher’s superb performance as Davros. He was the original, and he has never been bettered (though Julian Bleach in the New Series does an excellent job). His costume is surprisingly good for the time, leaving Michael’s mouth uncovered, yet made up to blend with the mask. Nyder, Davros’s right-hand man, played by Peter Miles, also puts in an outstanding villainous turn.

I also really like the ironic turnaround at the end of the story [serious spoiler coming up]. After proclaiming the Daleks to be the supreme beings of the universe, and touting the virtues of their pitiless amorality, what happens at the end? Davros gives them a command, and they refuse to obey. Why should they? The Daleks finally figure out that if they are the supreme beings, Davros is nothing to them. They don’t need him. And as they point their guns to exterminate him, Davros pleads for pity. “Pity?” the senior Dalek replies. “Pity is not in our vocabulary.” Of course it isn’t. Davros didn’t give it to them! Excellent writing.

Some less successful moments include–and maybe this is being a bit picky–the Time Lord’s costume. It reminds me of a court jester, only all black, which takes away some of the gravity of his mission. More seriously, Sarah’s attempted escape from the Thals by climbing up the rocket scaffolding is an obvious piece of padding. She gets to the top, is stopped by guards, and taken back down. The plot didn’t move an inch for all that, except for the fact that two of her friends died. But even that didn’t cause any emotional change in Sarah. And then there are “Davros’s pets”–particularly the giant clam that grabs Ian’s legs. Not the design department’s finest moment. Totally unconvincing.

Finally, some points of interest. In every Doctor Who serial, each episode after the first begins by replaying the cliffhanger from the previous episode. Not so episode two of “Genesis of the Daleks.” It just picks back up where it left off. Very unusual. Also unusual is the freeze frame cliffhanger at the end of episode two.

Of interest to me is the assertion of the necessity of morality and conscience in science. Clearly Davros doesn’t see such things as important. But I don’t think the Doctor really puts up much of a case for why, objectively speaking, Davros is wrong. If there are no objective standards of morality, right and wrong, why is it wrong for Davros to establish peace by brute force? Indeed, what makes the Daleks evil? Davros insists the Daleks are good, because they will end warfare and unite people under their supreme rule. In the end, the Doctor simply assumes a standard of morality and the necessity of conscience to justify his attempts to stop the Daleks. And I believe he is right. But my belief is based on a Biblical worldview. Where does the Doctor get his from?

The end is not entirely satisfactory. The Doctor didn’t stop the Daleks, so ultimately he failed in his mission. Of course, he couldn’t succeed, otherwise there would be no Dalek stories. But the Doctor falls back on an argument he made earlier, that some good must come as a result of the Daleks’ evil. Granting that, he still didn’t succeed. And maybe, in an odd way, that adds to the story’s success. The Doctor doesn’t always win the war, even if he’s victorious in battle.

To sum up, this is another must-see story. Aside from the issues above, it’s well written, well directed, even well lit (and lighting is an ongoing issue with Classic Who, with many serials being over-lit). And, of course, it’s Davros’s introductory story. All in all, well worth the time.

Links and Stuff

It’s the end of September. How are we all doing with our goals for the year? A few months back I resolved to write a short story per month. Granted, that’s hardly a year-goal since I only started it at the beginning of Summer. But I have a few stories written, though my September story may have to be finished up at the beginning of October. But that’s okay. The point was to light a fire under my behind to get some saleable writing done. I need to start treating my writing more like a second job (at least until it becomes the primary job), and giving more time to it. Maybe after the move. Speaking of which…

… we are at a critical juncture in the house situation. We’ve had inspections done (house, pest, and HVAC), and while there are some things that need attending to, on the whole the assessments were good. We’re asking the seller to take care of the more costly items, so whether or not they do could be a deal-breaker for us. And so we await the seller’s response with bated breath… I’ll keep you all posted! Now to this week’s links.

It seems James Patterson planned to write a novella in his “Book Shots” series called THE MURDER OF STEPHEN KING, in which the famed horror writer is haunted by a stalker who re-enacts scenes from his books. However, once Patterson learned that King had had some actual, real-life death threats, he pulled the book, not wishing to cause distress to Mr. King and his family. Mr. Patterson claims to be a fan of King’s work, but King has apparently called Mr. Patterson “a terrible writer.” Mr. Patterson dismisses this as “hyperbole.” I’ve not read any of James Patterson’s work, but when it comes to criticism of fellow writers, Stephen King is not given to hyperbole. Sorry, James, but I don’t think the fandom is mutual. Maybe even less so now!

Speaking of Stephen King, this is an interesting article about How Stephen King Made Pop Culture Weird. The author contends that television and movies–particularly TV–have trended toward the “weird” (e.g., “Stranger Things” and “True Detective”) in recent years, and the popularity of Stephen King is largely to blame. King has been producing weird books since before it was fashionable to be odd, and now King’s brand of odd is becoming mainstream. Whether the stories are scary and horrible, or just a bit mind-bending, it is to King’s credit that he still has such a cultural impact, and has a style that still appeals to a large number of people. So much so that now TV and movies have to have a Stephen King-type spin to captivate an audience.

Finally, it was announced this week that Disney is re-making “The Lion King.” If this re-make is along the same lines as the re-make of “The Jungle Book” (i.e., live action), I’m not sure exactly how this is going to work. There are no humans in “The Lion King,” so they would be effectively re-animating it, only this time with life-like CGI. Or maybe they plan to use real lions and hyenas? My main question with this, however, is WHY? It seems such a blatant attempt to squeeze more money out of the story. What is it about the original animated story that is lacking? It still looks good to me! It can’t be that Disney is running out of movie ideas, can it? A while ago I wrote about the fact Hollywood seems to be making more and more movies based on novels. Now they’re resorting to remaking 20-year-old movies because… they can? I say let the original movies stand the way they are, and devote your energies to new projects, new ideas.

That’s all I’ve got. How about you? How do you feel about the Disney re-makes, and the popularity of movie adaptations of books? Do you think movie makers are becoming lazy when it comes to storytelling?


Who Review: The Sontaran Experiment

The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry teleport down to Earth from the Nerva space station. As they expected, the place is deserted, and the teleport receptors need adjusting. While the Doctor gets to work, Harry and Sarah explore. But the three of them soon discover that Earth has visitors–the crew from a space ship that arrived in response to a distress signal some time ago. When they arrived, their ship was vaporized, and since that time, members of the crew have been disappearing. But it seems the crew weren’t the first to arrive on Earth, and with a full-scale alien invasion planned, they won’t be the last…

SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen this serial. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!

“The Sontaran Experiment” is a two-part story by established Who writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin. The second story of the season, “The Ark in Space,” was originally given a six-episode block, but producer Philip Hinchcliffe preferred to divide the block into two separate but related stories, “Ark” getting four episodes, and this story the remaining two. I think that was a good call; six episodes would have been to much for “Ark.” But it leaves “The Sontaran Experiment” feeling a bit like a filler. The TARDIS crew have come to Earth to do a job, which they do, though they are sidetracked for a little while.

The story is okay, competent enough, but not Baker and Martin’s best. Bringing back the Sontarans is understandable; they were script editor Robert Holmes’ invention (see “The Time Warrior”), and they work well as monsters. However, Sontarans are supposed to be warriors, so the idea of a solitary Sontaran going to Earth to conduct experiments on humans is a little incongruous. Sure, strategically they want to discover human weaknesses so they can exploit them. But let’s face it, they would probably swarm the Earth and blow everybody up. They’re hardly going to try dehydrating them, or scaring them to death, so the information Styre is gathering is ultimately pointless.

Also, the Doctor’s plan to defeat Styre, though it works, is a bit convoluted. Sontarans supposedly feed off of energy, so he has Harry enter the Sontaran ship and mess with the energy machine so it feeds off of the Sontaran. I suppose with only two episodes, it’s hard to develop a more creative solution, but that just seems a bit too easy. I will commend the fact that Styre hinted at this solution when he noted that humans depend on chemical and organic food for energy, which suggests he doesn’t.

A good piece of continuity is the fact that Styre’s gun blast didn’t kill the Doctor because he had some plating from the Nerva rocket in his inside coat pocket. I remember seeing the Doctor take that in episode four of “The Ark in Space,” and I wondered what relevance that might have to the story. I don’t know if that was planned, but it certainly worked out well.

Sadly, the Sontaran costume doesn’t look as good as it did in “The Time Warrior.” Indeed, I doubt it’s the same costume. The original only had three fingers on each hand, while Styre has five. For a clone race, that’s a bit of an oversight.

To sum up, what makes “The Sontaran Experiment” worth watching is the fact that it ties up “The Ark in Space.” You can watch it as a stand-alone, and it’s entertaining enough for that, but there are too many references to the previous story. You would feel as if you’re missing something. So watch it to find out what happened next, but don’t expect too much.