My Book of the Year for 2011

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen… the moment you’ve been waiting for! For at least the last minute, you’ve been tapping your fingers while your browser connects to my page in eager anticipation of seeing what drivel I’ve posted today so you can move on to more interesting blogs… Or perhaps you are actually interested to see which book made it as my BOOK OF THE YEAR!

So, in good reality TV tradition, here are the runners up in reverse order:

NUMBER 5: UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

 

NUMBER 4: THE CATER STREET HANGMAN by Anne Perry

 

NUMBER 3: LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld

NUMBER 2: BEHEMOTH by Scott Westerfeld

 

Which means my NUMBER ONE choice of all the books I read in 2011 is….

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

 

Thanks, Veronica for writing such an excellent story. I look forward to the next in the series, INSURGENT, which comes out in March!

Thank you to everyone that has taken time to read my blog over the past six or seven months that it’s been going, and a big BIG thank you to everyone that has subscribed to it, either by RSS feed or Google Friend Connect, or some other means. If you read this blog and haven’t joined on GFC, it really encourages me to see that number of members increase–so please join!

I hope you all have a wonderful WONDERFUL 2012! See you there. :)

Friday Fives: Best Books and Best Laid Plans

This week’s Friday Fives question at Paper Hangover is “What are your FIVE favorite books in 2011?” I already listed these for this week’s Road Trip Wednesday, so for your convenience, I will re-list them (in no particular order):

  • UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld
  • THE CATER STREET HANGMAN by Anne Perry
  • DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
  • LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld
  • BEHEMOTH by Scott Westerfeld

If you want to know what I had to say about each of these, check out Wednesday’s RTW article. Also, one of these books is my book of the year. Which one was my absolute favorite read of 2011? Check back here on Saturday to find out!

Since we’re nearing the end of the year, and it seems a bit naff to just repeat my RTW for Friday Fives, let me give you five goals I want to accomplish in 2012. Again in no particular order:

Finish my WIP. I would love to get it polished, beta read, and query ready–but finished will do for starters. I still have some research to do, and there are major plot points I’ve yet to work out, and these are things I don’t want to rush for the sake of completing a goal–or even for the sake of querying it. The number one rule of querying (well, one of the number one rules… :D) is never query a novel you don’t think is ready to be published. It should be complete and polished until is squeaks and you can see your face in it before it ever gets into the hands of an agent. Not that an agent won’t find things to change and tweak–but you should feel as if you’re giving the agent your best. And that takes time and work. So, I want to finish the WIP with a view to querying sometime in 2013.

Write more-especially fiction. As if working on my WIP isn’t enough, I need to be writing more–whether it’s the blog, or short stories, or flash fiction–whatever. If I want to be known as a writer, then I need to be doing more of the writing thing. And I probably need to scale back on the blog writing and give more attention to the fiction writing. As sad as I know that makes you all (I wish), I really can’t sustain writing blog articles every day when I need to be working a lot more on my fiction. I may have to adhere more strictly to The Schedule (see tab above).

Read at least 50 books. I’ve almost accomplished this goal for 2011, so I want to set it again for 2012 hoping that I will actually surpass this amount. I can’t hope for my writing to be any good if I’m not feeding my imagination with great stories.

Read more YA. I especially need to read more YA next year, since this is the genre I’m writing, and there are so many great-sounding YA novels out there that I didn’t get to in 2011. And there are some great YA novels due to be published in 2012 (INSURGENT, the next in the DIVERGENT series, for example).

Spend more time encouraging my kids to read. There are things I can do as a parent to encourage my kids (especially the younger ones) to read more. As a homeschooler, I want my kids to grasp the idea that if they can read, they have the basic skill needed to learn anything. The world’s knowledge and wisdom is spelled out in letters both in books and online. I need to do more to encourage them to improve their reading skills, and learn to love reading, and also to be discerning readers (both in terms of determining what’s a good story, and in terms of filtering good and bad information), so they can take learning into their own hands.

There are other things I want to do in 2012, but these are five that I really want to pay attention to next year. So, what are your top reads of last year? And what do you plan to accomplish next year? And don’t forget–if you have nothing better to do for a few minutes on Saturday, check back here to find out which of my top five books of 2011 is my BOOK OF THE YEAR!

Who Review: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Two Notes: First, I assume you have seen the episode, so if you haven’t, the following review may contain spoilers. Sorry, but it’s too difficult trying to tell you what I think of a Doctor Who story without giving away plot points. Second, the original title did not use the Oxford comma (“The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”), but since I am an advocate of the Oxford comma, I insist on using it.

This year’s Christmas special finds the Doctor spending Christmas with the Arwell family. In 1938, Madge helped the Doctor back to the TARDIS after he crash landed on Earth from an exploding spaceship. Three years later, during World War II, Madge receives a telegram saying her husband Reg is missing presumed dead when his plane is lost over the English Channel. She and her children, Cyril and Lily, evacuate London and go to spend Christmas at an old manor house in the country. There they are greeted by the Doctor, calling himself “The Caretaker.” Among the various other-worldly additions to the house, the Doctor has left a large present under the tree. During the night on Christmas Eve, Cyril can’t resist the temptation to open the present. It opens out into a forest on another world. He climbs through, and is led to a tower. The Doctor and Lily follow after him. Then finally Madge goes through the present looking for her children. It turns out that a team from Androzani Major is getting ready to burn the forest using acid rain, and the life force of the forest needs a strong human to help them escape. Luring the children, the Doctor, and finally Madge to the tower, they choose Madge as the one to help them make their way off the planet. Not only does Madge manage to do this, but as their vessel traverses the time vortex, she also unwittingly guides her husband’s plane safely across the English Channel. They all arrive safely at the manor house on Christmas morning, with the life force of the trees now existing safely in space. Madge insists that the Doctor stay for Christmas (no-one should be alone for Christmas), but the Doctor declines. She does, however, persuade him that his friends should not be left thinking he’s dead. So the Doctor returns to Amy and Rory, where it is two years after the events of Season 6. Not only does he learn that River told them he isn’t dead, but also that they’ve been saving him a place at the table in case he should return. Awww!

Okay, so that’s the brief synopsis of the episode. It was a nice, heart-warming Christmas tale, very much in the vein of Steven Moffat’s era. It seems to me one of the hallmarks of Moffat’s take on the show is that the Doctor is not always the hero. He might play the part of the instigator, or the facilitator–the one who gets things going, or encourages those around him–but he’s not necessarily the one who actually solves the problem. In this episode, once they are on the forest planet, the Doctor’s role seems to be only to explain what’s going on. The actual work of rescuing the trees and bringing about the resolution to the crisis is done by the humans, particularly Madge. In previous episodes we’ve seen the supporting cast, or Amy, take the heroic lead. I don’t know if this is intentional in terms of a broad story arc for the Eleventh Doctor, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. The Doctor is supposed to be heroic, and to put his own life on the line for the sake of others. From the classic series right through to David Tennant’s finale, this has been the case. The Tenth Doctor gave his life to release Wilf from the isolation chamber. The Fifth Doctor gave his life for his assistant Peri after their visit to Androzani Minor. I don’t have a problem with the Doctor occasionally being rescued by his assistants, or the Doctor not always being the one to solve the problem. But I think I’m seeing a trend here with the past couple of seasons… and I hope there’s a reason for it beyond “trying something different.” I suppose we’ll see.

Aside from that, it was a good story with great performances (as always), and special effects that would have paid for an entire season of the classic series. But that’s okay, because it’s Doctor Who, and Doctor Who is worth it. The title is, of course, an homage to C.S. Lewis (along with the snow-covered forest), though the “talking” trees were a little more Tolkienesque. Matt Smith gave his now distinctive portrayal of the Doctor, with his quirky, awkward manner that hints at the alien lurking beneath that deceptively humanoid exterior. Smith has really taken ownership of the role, and it shows in how naturally he plays the part. He switches effortlessly from slapstick (falling between the hammocks) to insightful (explaining why Madge shouts at the children).

Steven Moffat has announced that Amy and Rory will be leaving the show during the next season (note–not necessarily at the end), so it’s not surprising that we saw them make an appearance at the close of this story. They needed to be re-introduced so they can get whatever send off is coming to them in the Spring (which is when I presume Season 7 will start). Despite my apprehensions, this story whet my appetite for things to come in the new year. I’m expecting great things of you, Mr. Moffat–don’t let me down!

Did you see this episode of Doctor Who? If so, do you share my feelings about the Doctor’s limelight being stolen by the supporting cast? What did you think of this story?

RTW: Top Five Reads of 2011

Today’s Road Trip Wednesday question on YA Highway is: What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few months, you’ll already know some of my top picks. So, here’s how I’m going to do this. First I’ll give you my top book for December (which is also in my list of “top reads of 2011″). Then I’ll go through the other four that made the list.

My top read for December was going to be Anne Perry’s CALLANDER SQUARE, the second in her series of Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels. Although there are some things that annoy me about Perry’s style (in particular the way she uses a variety of speech indicators–“she declared,” “she uttered,” “she commented”–when “she said” would be sufficient), the story is captivating enough that these become minor irritations. The story revolves around the discovery of two infant skeletons buried in Callander Square, an area of London where some of the richest and most influential people live. Thomas is called on to lead the investigation, but Charlotte gets herself thoroughly involved and, indeed, takes much of the spotlight of the novel. The story gives a fascinating insight into the social mores of Victorian England, where, despite “Victorian values,” the upper classes turn a blind eye to scandal among their own.

That was going to be my top pick for December, but then my wife (bless her cotton socks) got me BEHEMOTH for Christmas! This is the second part in Scott Westerfeld’s LEVIATHAN series, and was not a disappointment. Indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed this for all the same reasons I enjoyed LEVIATHAN: a great story, great characters, and a page-turning style. Keith Thompson’s illustrations compliment the story, but, at least for me, are not integral; I would enjoy the story as much without them. Without giving too much away, the focus of the story shifts to Constantinople (or rather Istanbul), where the future success of the allies against the German Clankers could rest on the position of the Ottomans. But the Germans are already infiltrating the cultural hodge-podge of the ancient city, and a gift from the Germans to the sultan appears to have bought his favor. And while our two heroes, Deryn (the Scots girl disguised as a boy), and Aleksander (the Austrian nobleman who is in fact the heir to the Hapsburg throne), have built a strong–though unlikely–friendship, where will their ultimate allegiances lie now that their respective countries are at war? BEHEMOTH is hands-down my pick of December. The final part in the trilogy, GOLIATH, came out a few months ago… and I’m sure I’ll be ordering it soon!

I have already reviewed three of the other four picks of 2011 in previous Road Trip Wednesdays, so here are links to them. They are:

LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

THE CATER STREET HANGMAN by Anne Perry

For my fifth pick of the year, I’m going with UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. I haven’t enjoyed this series as much as LEVIATHAN, but it’s still a good read. The first book is definitely the best of the series. I think the premise is interesting: a society that seeks to eradicate prejudice by making everyone “pretty” on their sixteenth birthday. This means that for everyone over the age of sixteen, there is no distinction between the attractive and the unattractive because everyone’s gorgeous. And no-one judges based on race or beauty because everyone has perfect skin and a beautiful face. No-one is too fat or too thin, too short or too tall. But, as our hero Tally Youngblood discovers, there’s more to the operation than ultimate beautification, and she must decide whether she wants to become a Pretty, or remain an Ugly. A decision that’s made harder when she meets the mysterious David and his fellow Smokies–a mini society of people who have avoided the “pretty” operation.

There’s my top five for the year. On Saturday, I’ll reveal which of these is my book of the year. Can you guess which it will be? While you’re thinking about that, jump over to YA Highway and look at everyone else’s picks for 2011…

Happy Boxing Day!

In the UK, today is known as “Boxing Day.” It’s the day after Christmas, and in my family, it was the day we would go visit relatives. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was for us a time for immediate family. We rarely had others over, and I don’t recall ever being anywhere other than home on Christmas Day. Boxing Day, however, was a different matter. I seem to recall it is considered a holiday (even a bank holiday–kind of like a federal holiday in the US), but I could be mis-remembering that. When I worked at Toys R Us (see post from last Thursday), we were open on Boxing Day and we had special check out lanes set up solely for returns (i.e., people bringing back Christmas gifts they didn’t want), so at least retail stores were open.

I’m not sure where the term “Boxing Day” originally came from. The best explanation I’ve heard is that in times past, rich people would box up all their leftover food (and maybe unwanted gifts?) and give the boxes of stuff to the poor and needy. Whether or not this is true, it sounds like a great idea.

Anyway, however you are celebrating Boxing Day, I hope you have a happy one!

Sunday Devotional: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (3)

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Merry Christmas! This morning, we conclude our series of devotions using the hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” as a springboard for our study of Scripture.

This verse starts with a couple of allusions to Old Testament passages, namely Isaiah 9 and Malachi 4.  The reference to Christ as the “Prince of Peace” is from Isaiah 9:6–a passage familiar to many this time of year.  Verse 2 of Isaiah 9 begins: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light”–perhaps this is partly what Wesley refers to by the line “Light and life to all he brings.”  More on that in a moment.  The chapter continues to describe the work of the Messiah, who will “multiply the nation,” “increase their gladness,” and “break the yolk of their burdon.”  This One certainly is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Note also, He is the “heaven-born” Prince of Peace.  Jesus was born of Mary, but His origin was not earthly.  He is the gift of heaven to men: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.”  When Mary quizzed Gabriel over his news of her upcoming pregnancy despite her virginity, he simply said that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her.  This was not a physical union between God the Father and the human Mary; this was an act of God’s power by means of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus truly was heaven-born, his lowly crib notwithstanding.

“Sun” in “Hail the Sun of Righteousness” is not a typo!  This is a direct reference to Malachi 4 which prophesies the judgment of the enemies of God’s people and the coming of their Saviour:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.  You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

Does Jesus bring “light and life to all”?  This seems a very Arminian statement, and certainly can be understood that way.  Of course, given Wesley’s own theological persuasion, it is possible he intended it that way.  However, I believe the term “light and life” here can be understood both in terms of that special revelatory light God bestows upon His elect leading to everlasting life, and also the light of common grace God gives to all men by which they are able to make some sense of the world around them, and hence live productive lives, albeit in self-imposed ignorance of their gracious Benefactor.  In Matthew 5:44-46, Jesus exhorts his disciples to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors.  In other words, to show grace to them, and not be hardened against them in vengeance.  Their example is God the Father, who sends rain upon both those who love Him and those who hate Him.  Coupled with the sun He sends to shine on both, I believe this is intended to convey God’s blessings, since in an agricultural society, the regularity of rain and sunshine was something greatly to be desired.  God does not favor only His people with the provisions of life; He is gracious to all.  Christ Himself not only spoke these words, but He lived a life of grace and mercy toward His own, and those who were not His own.  Did He not produce wine for everyone at the feast in Cana?  Did He not feed all of those with Him with bread and fish in John 6, even though he would identify many of them as unbelievers (6:60-65), and all but the twelve would indeed desert Him by the end of the chapter?

Mild He lays His glory by; Born that man no more may die.  Philippians 2:5-11 teaches us that Jesus did not hold tenaciously to the glory that was His with the Father, but, for our sake, for the sins of His people, He laid aside the glories of heaven and took upon Himself the humility of flesh, and eventually death.  “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do,” Jesus prays to the Father in John 17.  “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”  Note that Jesus prays this prior to the cross.  It is in the cross that the glory of God is revealed: the sacrificial love of the Father for His people; the obedience of the Son to submit to this final, and most brutal, humiliation.  All for the sake of the salvation of His own.

Born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth. The connection between Christmas and Easter should never be forgotten, because without Easter there is no reason to celebrate Christmas.  That the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us is indeed a wonderful thing.  But what is most remarkable, and the fact worth celebrating, is why Christ did this.  Is was not just so God could experience humanity first hand; it was not to set an example of good behavior; it was not to be a great moral teacher and leader.  The reason He came was to die on that cross, having lived a life of willful obedience, and rise from the dead that His people may be truly at peace with God, and receive the promise of heaven.

We who were dead in Adam are raised to new life in Christ.  We who were enemies of God are brought near to God and turned into seekers after God.  We who were dead in our trespasses and sins have been brought to life by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, giving us faith to proclaim our love for our Saviour.  And all of this is because God the Son did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but for our sake, for the sake of lowly, undeserving God-haters, was born on earth to a young girl in a manger, so that He might become one of us, that He could offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  May the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised forever!

May you all have a blessed Christmas, as we join with the angel chorus: “Glory to the new-born King!”

Merry Christmas Adam!

According to my eleven-year-old daughter, Abigail, today is Christmas Adam. See, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so today must be Christmas Adam! Yes, my children’s minds work in very strange ways. Can’t think where they got that from! :)

Anyway, aside from the Sunday Devotional I have scheduled for Christmas Day, this will probably my last post this side of Christmas. There is no Friday Fives today since the Paper Hangover guys are taking a Christmas break. And, frankly, I daresay a lot of you are too, so I won’t keep you. Just wanted to say Merry Christmas Adam, Merry Christmas Eve for tomorrow, and I hope you all have a Wonderful Christmastime! See you next week! :)

Indelible Christmas Songs

In November of 1991, about a month before I got married, I started working a seasonal job at Toys R Us in Hull, England. I had graduated with my Theology degree back in July, but had been unable to secure employment. (Yes, back then the job market was tough for graduates with little or no work experience.) I had worked a month the previous year in the warehouse, and I daresay that helped them decide to hire me. This was the only job offer on the table, so I took it. I donned the distinctive orange-and-white striped jacket and took my place in what was then the “300s” section. I’m sure they’ve re-orged a million times over the last 20 years, but back then, this was the section that sold toys for older children: action figures, dinosaurs, and the like.

I have two indelible memories of my time at Toys R Us. One is of when I met Colin Baker (as in the Sixth Doctor), who was in town looking for a farm set for a nephew, I believe. I’m not sure if this happened in 1990 or 1991–nevertheless, Doctor Who fans don’t easily forget when the Doctor comes striding over asking where the farm sets are. I will blog more about this experience another time.

The other memory, most definitely from 1991, is of the Christmas music they played throughout the store for six of the eight weeks I was there. Because I heard this music five days a week for six weeks, looped over and over again, some of the songs are now forever associated with my time at Toys R Us. Indeed, when they come on the radio, I can’t help but be transported back in time to the 300s section, straightening displays, and telling customers for the ten thousandth time that the WWF Wrestling Rings have sold out and we’ll be getting more in as soon as possible.

I thought it might be fun to share with you the songs I remember best from that loop. Now, because a song made it to this list, all that means is that I remember it distinctly from the Toys R Us music loop. It is not a reflection of my opinion of the song. Why these stood out more than the others, I have no idea. But here they are for your festive enjoyment. (For the sake of space, I’m just linking to the YouTube pages as opposed to embedding the YouTube clip.)

There were many other songs on the loop (including White Christmas and The Christmas Song), but these are ones I associate with the Toys R Us loop whenever I hear them. Are there any Christmas songs that, for one reason or another, have become indelibly connected in your mind with a particular event or period in your life?

 

RTW: Confessions of a Book Buyer

Not my local B&N: ours is not nearly this big!

It’s Wednesday, so you know what that means? Another Road Trip Wednesday question from YA Highway! This week, our YA Highway friends want us to confess: Where do you buy most of your books?

In an ideal situation, where money is no object, I would buy my books from a local independent retailer. In this ideal situation, we would also do all of our grocery shopping at The Fresh Market. I love The Fresh Market–the atmosphere, the quality of the food, the range of products… sorry… we’re talking books, not food. I haven’t had my breakfast yet. *Ahem!*

At present I am not living my ideal situation. I have a wife and six kids, so money is an object. This means most of my book buying happens online. Amazon and Barnes & Noble mostly. And… [blushes]… often Amazon Marketplace. I feel *really* badly about buying books from Amazon Marketplace because I know this means the author and publisher get nothing from the sale. But I’m frequently faced with the reality of buying books on a limited budget, and it’s either buy cheap, or not at all. I suppose I could just get the books from the library, but a) I live in a small town, and our best library doesn’t always carry the books I want to read, and b) I like to own my books. In fact, I am building a theology/history/fiction library that will be part of my kids’ inheritance. Over 1,200 books and counting so far.

So I mostly shop for my books online. Sometimes I will purchase from our local Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar store, but usually it’s because I’m getting a good deal, or I’m compelled to make a purchase there and then (which rarely happens–I’m not a compulsive shopper). One of the things that annoys me about B&N is they don’t price-match with their online store. This means when I actually drive out to the B&N and browse through their books (which I enjoy doing, by the way–I love the atmosphere of book shops), I’m more likely to see a book I want and then order it online, because it’s often cheaper (especially as a B&N Member, which I am).

So there you have it, my book-buying confession. What about you? Are you an online buyer, or do you prefer to get your books in a real bookshop? Or perhaps you get all your books from the library. Join in the blog carnival fun! Blog about your buying habits and leave a link on YA Highway. Or leave a comment below.

[Afterthought: This just occurred to me--a number of indie retailers sell used books on Amazon Marketplace, so I've probably bought a lot of books from indie bookstores... just not locally. I feel a little better now. :) ]

My Top Five Missing Doctor Who Stories

Since there will be a new Doctor Who story on Christmas Day, I thought it not inappropriate to include this among the Christmas posts this week. As you may or may not know, there are 106 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s that are lost from the BBC archives. (Click here if you want to know they why precious episodes of Who were trashed from the BBC archives, which stories are affected, and what efforts are being made to recover them.) This is sad for a number of reasons. First, it’s Doctor Who for-crying-out-loud! It’s part of England’s heritage, like the Crown Jewels–only not as sparkly, but far more entertaining, I venture. But also because many of the episodes were good stories, and many of them were from my favorite Doctor’s era (the Second Doctor).

There are, however, means available today to relive these missing episodes. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Target Books published novelizations of nearly all the classic stories, including those that are now missing. The original novels have long been deleted, but can still be found on E-bay and Amazon Marketplace. Also, BBC Audio have, for the last few years, been releasing audiobook versions of the Target novelizations, and BBC Books just this year started re-releasing select titles from the Target range.

Fans of the show back in the 1960s used creative ways to capture the audio of each episode onto tape, such that the audio to every Doctor Who story broadcast in the 60s exists today–even for stories lost to the archive. BBC Audio has used these audios as the basis for a series of CD releases of classic stories, using the cleaned-up audio track interspersed with narration to describe what would be happening on-screen when this was not clear from the sound. I believe these are still available.

Finally, there are some unofficial fan reconstructions available using the audio track accompanied with “tele-snaps,” off-screen photographs of the shows taken by John Cura, who made a business of selling these tele-snaps to actors and directors as a record of their work. While by no means ideal, these at least give an idea of what the stories might have looked like. Loose Cannon is one of the most popular producers of reconstructions. Given the fact that the BBC still owns the copyright to these stories, Loose Cannon don’t sell their reconstructions. They ask you to provide an appropriate-length video cassette (they won’t provide digital-quality versions, again, for copyright reasons) and they will return it to you with the requested story recorded on it. The BBC knows of the existence of these places, but effectively turns a blind eye to them. They never publicly acknowledge them, but they don’t try to stop them either. (In fact, the BBC has posted high-quality versions of the tele-snaps to a number of these stories. The hard-core fan can download these and, if one can locate the audio track, one can make one’s own reconstruction. This, of course, catapults the fan into the higher echelons of Who Geekdom, since this is akin to a Jedi constructing his own light saber.)

As a long-time fan of the show, needless to say I have procured, in one form or another, these missing episodes. So, to whet the appetite of curious fans of the show, and to give you an idea of the kind of stuff we’re missing, here are my top five missing Doctor Who stories:

1. The Power of the Daleks: The newly-regenerated Doctor, along with companions Ben and Polly, land on Vulcan where they find Daleks declaring themselves to be “servants” of a group of scientists. These scientists believe the Daleks are merely machines, but the Doctor tries to convince them that they are not just robots: they are living organisms. And they are breeding…! What’s to love about this story? First, David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner–two of my favorite early Who writers–wrote it. Second, it’s the first Second Doctor story, and it’s the first post-regeneration story. The companions reactions are great: Polly is willing to believe it’s still the Doctor, but Ben–like Rose in the first Children in Need special–has a hard time accepting it’s still the same man. Third, for most of the story, we see Daleks with their guns removed saying “we are your ser-vants!” (I wonder if Mark Gatiss drew from this for “Victory of the Daleks” in new season 5?). Even disarmed, there’s something chilling in that voice, almost sarcastic, as if you know they’re up to something. Great story!

2. The Evil of the Daleks: The Daleks capture the TARDIS and hold it ransom. In return for the TARDIS, the Daleks want the Doctor to help them distill the “Human Factor”–that ingredient in the human species that has enabled them to consistently defeat the Daleks. They want to enhance certain Daleks with this “x-factor” to create a species of Super Daleks that could rule the universe. Written by David Whitaker (again–I told you he’s good!), and featuring the Second Doctor with Jamie and Victoria. This was intended to be the last Dalek story, with them all being destroyed at the end. Of course, they return in 1972’s Day of the Daleks–how could they not? What makes this great? It’s a great premise for a Dalek story (as evidenced by the fact that it was somewhat re-used for the new season 3 two-parter “Daleks of Manhatten”/”Evolution of the Daleks”). Also there are some great scenes. In one scene, the Doctor plays with three Daleks who have been given the “Human Factor.” He gives them names, and they act like children, letting the Doctor ride on them. Wonderful! Then there’s the part where the Doctor goes along with the Daleks in using Jamie for an experiment. Jamie is convinced the Doctor has turned on him, and his loyalty is severely tested. Oh, and remember the Emperor Dalek from the new first season finale, “Parting of the Ways”? This story is where he made his first appearance.

3. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (or sometimes just “The Massacre”): This is a First Doctor historical, in which the Doctor and Steven find themselves in sixteenth-century Paris at the height of the tensions between the Catholic church and the Protestant Huguenots. Since it is a historical, events play out just as they did historically, only we get a ground-level view. I wouldn’t take Steven and the Doctor’s siding with the Huguenots as a statement of religious preference. In this situation, the Huguenots were the oppressed underdogs, and the Doctor tends to have sympathy with such people, regardless of religious affiliation. My interest in this story lies first in the fact that I am a theologian and I love history, so this naturally appeals to me. Also, this is the only First Doctor-Steven story. At the end of this, they pick up another companion (Dodo Chaplet). Historically, there was a Huguenot massacre, but it actually happened on St. Bartholomew’s Day, which has led some to question the accuracy of the story’s title. The TARDIS crew depart before the massacre happens, so maybe the title is intended to convey the idea that this happened on the eve of the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s? Heck, we don’t even have the story’s four episodes, let alone an explanation of the title!!

4. The Space Pirates: Far into the future, pirates are destroying space beacons and plundering them for the precious mineral argonite. The Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arrive on one such space beacon, and discover they have arrived in the middle of a battle between the pirates, and the law enforcers, International Space Corps. Help comes in the form of Milo Clancey, a miner with the Issigri Mining Corporation. When their beacon is blown into pieces, Clancey rescues the Doctor and his friends from a the section they are in. But the TARDIS was in a different section. Zoe believes the segments would have landed on nearby planet Ta, which is dominated by the Issigri Mining Corporation. So in their quest for the TARDIS, our heroes get caught up in the battle between the pirates and the law. There is much ambivalence among fans about the quality of the story. Interest lies mainly in the fact that it’s legendary Who writer Robert Holmes’s second story, and the fact that the model work is supposed to be exceptionally good. This story is also the only one missing from the Second Doctor’s last season, so the completionist in me screams out for it to be found. There is one episode in the archive (episode 2), but the other five episodes are lost.

5. The Enemy of the World: The Second Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria become caught up in political intrigue when the Doctor is mistaken for Salamander, a ruthless politician who has climbed to power within the United Zones Organization by means of technology he has developed to increase the food supply. It seems there is an uncanny resemblance between the Doctor and Salamander, and, after surviving an assassination attempt, the Doctor and his companions side with his would-be assassins to prevent Salamander from using his influence and technology to take over the world. This story has, perhaps, suffered the worst of all the Second Doctor’s stories. While the third of the six episodes has been recovered, there are not even any tele-snaps for episode four! Reconstructions of this story usually have to employ very creative techniques to recreate the visuals for that episode. For this reason, and because it is another David Whitaker story, and because Patrick Troughton gets to play the bad guy as well as the Doctor, I would welcome this story’s return to the archive with open arms.

Other notable stories include Marco Polo (the fourth story, and the first real historical), The Macra Terror (where we first encounter the Macra, last seen in new season 3’s “Gridlock”), and Fury from the Deep (where we are introduced to the sonic screwdriver).

Are there any missing classic Doctor Who stories you would like to see (click here for a list of them)?

 

 

Go to top
%d bloggers like this: