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louisedennis
21 January 2017 @ 11:20 am


Cover of Skaro Issue 7 (Spring 1993) by Brian Hudd


This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/231845.html.
 
 
louisedennis
19 January 2017 @ 08:43 pm
Vengeance on Varos was my favourite Colin Baker story back in the day which, to be honest, is damning with faint praise. It embodies many of the excesses of the era and redeems itself mostly through a consistency of tone and presentation, Martin Jarvis and an interesting and well-executed framing device.

Let's face it, a story set inside a "punishment dome" complete with acid baths, cannibals and a sadistic alien that leers and exults over any prospect of death and cruelty is a very Colin Baker kind of premise. I strongly suspect the story was influenced by Running Man though I don't know for sure. It's at the edge of the sort of setting any era of Doctor Who might have chosen, but it gives the appearance of relishing its more horrific moments for the spectacle rather than for the purpose they serve in telling the tale. Moreover, it lacks the lightness of touch in delivering moments of relief that other eras might have achieved. I have a feeling that Saward's vision for the show was as a black comedy. Vengeance on Varos succeeds in being dark and nasty but never really achieves (or perhaps even attempts) to be comic. It's possibly the nastiest story in this season, though at least it appears to know what it wants to do tonally which isn't always the case.

It's easy to point at what is going wrong here. Unlike a lot of the era the director isn't trying to flood the set with vast amounts of light, but even so it somehow manages to look gaudy rather than atmospheric a lot of the time. The characters with whom we are supposed to sympathise, the rebels Jondar and Areta (who are sufficiently forgettable I've just had to look up their names) are, frankly bland, dull and woodenly acted. A lot of it doesn't make sense at the "world-building" level (for instance the perils and traps of the punishment dome mostly turn out to be a) a bit rubbish and b) well-known to the audience and thus, theoretically, the prisoners). This is mostly possible to overlook, but less so the moment at the end where the price of Zeiton Seven ore rises because an alternative source has been found (my grasp of economics is shakey but I'm fairly sure the price normally drops if supply increases - assuming demand remains the same*).

On the other hand Martin Jarvis delivers an excellent performance as the Governor, invoking our sympathy while nevertheless suggesting that this is a man who has only really found the ability to show compassion and a desire to change the system now he is in a position where the system is more or less actively trying to kill him. Where Vengeance on Varos really succeeds is in the framing device. It takes the concept that the punishment dome is a form of entertainment and gives us the couple, Arak and Etta, who watch events unfolding, bicker about them, yet never take part in the action except for the obligatory votes on Governor policy. In the light of recent political upheavals some of it seems remarkably prescient. Arak desires to vote against the Governor no matter what. "What will the next one do differently?" Etta asks. "Anything, Everything," Arak more or less shrugs in return. He's voting for change without any particular interest in what the change is to. Of course it's prescient too, given that this was produced before the Internet and Reality TV, about our new ability to provide instantaneous feedback on anything and everything.

There are one or two other moments where Vengeance on Varos uses the conceit that all is for entertainment well. Most notably the episode 1 cliff-hanger that ends, not with the Doctor apparently dying, but the camera feed focused on his corpse and the Governor, in the role of director, saying "and cut it, now" as the feed goes blank. The final moments are also a triumph, if a somewhat nihilistic one. As Arak and Etta observe the blank screen that is supposed to symbolise their new freedom they ponder vacantly over what they are to do now.

When I was a teenager I think I was probably as fond of dystopias as the modern teenager, though with a rather sparser supply since YA fiction, as a marketing niche, was yet to be invented. I thought very highly of Vengeance on Varos at the time and I can see now that its tone and tropes match up nicely with with those particular preferences. These days I like my Doctor Who to have more of a focus on humour and entertainment and less of a desire to imagine the unpleasant and grim. As such Vengeance on Varos looks pretty flawed (though, as I say, these are the flaws of the era). Even so it is hard to ignore that there are some things it does extremely well (where so much Colin Baker Doctor Who manages to fumble its good ideas) and somewhat reluctantly I think it remains my favourite Colin Baker story.

*Obviously the price has been kept artificially low but even so it's hard to see how discovery of an alternative source strengthens the Varosian bargainning hand.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/231525.html.
 
 
louisedennis
18 January 2017 @ 07:47 pm
Reading: Still Yuletide fic downloaded on Christmas day, if you will credit it - though there has also been a lack of reading time this week.

Listening: The usual mix of podcasts. I'm beginning to think Stuff you Missed in History is a bit too fact heavy and discussion/interpretation light to really appeal to me, though I liked a recent episode on the History of Beer. I was amused that The Doctor Who Book Club really didn't like The Pit (which has always been a byword for a terrible Who novel but I recall mostly being a bit 'meh' about rather than actively disliking). Even so the podcast didn't manage to score it less than 2/10. Verity Podcast continues to maintain a high standard, though I think they rate Freema Agyeman more highly as an actress than I do.

Watching: The Avengers Season 4 is playing well with the unwashed masses (though this may be because I've variously only had one of them to watch with rather than both - I think their combined forces would tend more towards Futurama).

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/231191.html.
 
 
louisedennis
17 January 2017 @ 07:47 pm
Way way back in 1981 the BBC ran a "Five Faces of Doctor Who" season in which they showed one story from each of the first four Doctors (ending with a repeat of Logopolis and Tom Baker regenerating into Peter Davison), except for the third Doctor who got two stories. It's difficult to say how incredibly exciting this was to a young Doctor Who fan at the time. The two stories picked for the third Doctor were The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters. I assume they wanted to show both the anniversary multi-doctor story as part of the "five faces" theme but also a more typical story. I never really understood the inclusion of Carnival of Monsters which did not (insofar as one could judge from Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks' The Making of Doctor Who) seem to be a particularly significant Pertwee story, even if one assumes they were restricting themselves to four parters.

I was a little surprised by Tame Layman's enthusiasm for this however. He also had memories of seeing it at some point (possibly also as part of the Five Faces season) and recalled it as being a particularly good Pertwee story. The Teenager was summoned so that she could experience it as well.

I don't know. The story is generally pretty pacey, so it doesn't suffer from the longueurs of some early Doctor Who but I'd say that almost everything happening outside the miniscope on Inter Minor is done in a rather broad and heavy-handed fashion. The CSO, while not the worst Doctor Who has ever committed, is among the dodgier the show has inflicted upon the audience and it seems more obvious than usual that the budget wasn't really stretching to many sets.

The parts of the story set on the SS Bernice are among the best ,in part I would say because both the actors and the producers of sets and costumes were far more comfortable with portraying the 1920s than fantastical machines or aliens. The reveal that actually the first parts of the story are taking place inside some kind of peep show is clever and handled well. Still I'd argue that one good idea doesn't make a solid story.

It's fun but I don't really get the enthusiasm. Still, Tame Layman and Teenager enjoyed it so who am I to judge?

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/231076.html.
 
 
louisedennis
14 January 2017 @ 02:21 pm
A more random than normal Doctor Who picture perhaps, in that the only reason for the choice is that it caught my eye on the bookshelf.





This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/230517.html.
 
 
louisedennis
12 January 2017 @ 08:00 pm
[personal profile] nanila recently did a series of throwback thursday post of herself in unlikely metal contraptions from the 1970s. I can't quite compete but here is a picture of me with my grandmother in a 1970s pushchair.





Though I'm sure my parents put me into all sorts of unlikely high chairs and bouncers, just as [personal profile] nanila's parents did to her.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/230193.html.
 
 
louisedennis
11 January 2017 @ 08:42 pm
Reading: Still catching up on fanfic. Currently reading stuff downloaded on Christmas Day - so that will be the Yuletide fics that caught my eye based on fandom and summary - I've not yet got to anything that appeared in a rec post.

Listening: No more Zombies! Run! This is a mixed blessing. I've more time for listening to podcasts, but I'd say the the Verity Podcast remains the only one I'm actively enthusiastic about.

Watching: B. bought a complete Futurama boxset and I bought an The Avengers, Season 4 boxset. G v. enthusiastic about Futurama but B. is away so I'm making her watch The Avengers.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/229977.html.
 
 
louisedennis
10 January 2017 @ 07:09 pm
One of the odder things that happened to me at the tail end of last year was the below appearance in the EPSRC's Pioneer Magazine. It was bizarre chiefly because the first I knew about it was when a colleague showed me the article. The text is cut-n-paste from a piece the University Corporate Communications department wrote about me at the time of the first NASA Space Apps challenge (so approx. 5 years ago) and the pictures were lifted from my website. Still, not complaining...





This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/229845.html.
 
 
louisedennis
09 January 2017 @ 07:47 pm
I've been following the Moogly Crochet Blog for a while and found myself increasingly taken with the fortnightly squares that were being posted as part of their "crochet-a-long" so, once I had finished B's vast crochet thing, I set about making the 2016 sqaures (this was in August, there was a lot of frantic catch-up crocheting). In theory I was using leftover bits of wool, but I ran out of these about halfway through and had to buy more - this became increasingly stressful since the original supply of wool I had acquired on the cheap because it wasn't being produced any more.

Anyway, the final result is this blanket:





I have already started on the first of the 2017 squares and have bought all the wool except for one colour I am as yet undecided about.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/229575.html.
 
 
louisedennis
07 January 2017 @ 12:18 pm
The Web Planet (as well as being a first Doctor story) was my first venture into the world of fanzines. I was thirteen. I had a typewriter, I think inherited from my grandfather in some way, and I used that, a liberal application of tracing paper and a certain amount of recycling of other Doctor who material via a version of cut-n-paste that involved actual scissors and actual glue, to create a master copy which my mother would then photocopy at work for me and I distributed at school.



This is the cover of the first issue. You can tell by the 1 in the top corner which is doing its best to be sparkly despite the limitations of pen, ink and photocopiers.


The first issue contains an editorial, a word search, a shamelessly copied and unattributed Tim Quinn and Dicky Howett comic (bad baby purplecat!), short articles on Monsters (Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and the Master) and UNIT and a Quiz, plus a bonus pullout leaflet listing all the Doctors and companions.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/228943.html.