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18 April 2018 @ 08:07 pm
In my mind the events of Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons often become confused. I suppose this is perhaps not terribly surprising, they both involve Autons and shenanigans in plastic factories. In particular the Plastic Factory politics aspect of Terror with the over-bearing father figure, and his murder by plastic doll, is more or less the same just a lot more vivid than the equivalent sequence in Spearhead where sacked employee Ransome breaks into the warehouse and comes to an inevitable sticky end, so much so that I tend to confuse the Farrels with Ransome and Hibbert (the Nestene's stoodge in Spearhead).

In general, in fact, Terror of the Autons benefits from more vivid characters and imagery. The master, obviously, is far more memorable than Channing - and this isn't just Delgado's performance but I think more care is given to developing the character where Channing was only ever intended to be a somewhat emotionless mouthpiece for the Nestene consciousness. The various plastic killer devices introduced throughout the story are also vividly memorable. On the downside the plot of Terror of the Autons is primarily driven by the Master's various attempts to kill the Doctor in elaborately complicated ways and his sudden switching of sides at the end does not make a whole load of sense (well not unless one assumes that the whole story is basically about the Master trying to get the Doctor's attention and, once he has it, he's not that interested in his allies. This is, I concede, is an entirely valid reading not to mention one with a large following in certain parts of fandom even if it is not, I think, the one the writers had in mind).

It's Jo's first story and, while not terrible (Jo is no shrinking violet), it isn't her finest hour either, with much being made of her getting into various scrapes often portrayed as a kind of goofy incompetance. As Tame Layman observed, there's potentially a lot that could be done with a trainee spy as the companion, particularly in the fairly action-oriented Pertwee era, but beyond her ability to pick various locks, Jo's skill-set it rarely used. She's definitely a companion who has risen in my esteem now I've seen a lot of her episodes and I think she suffered, when I first got into Who fandom, from comparisons to Sarah Jane which tended to highlight the latter's feminism and, in doing so, tended to downplay Jo's agency. Even so, she often feels a bit underused, and even in this, her introductory story, you feel her strong points are rather over-shadowed by her tendency to be accident-prone. She's another vivid new character but I would say that Spearhead was better for Liz than Terror is for Jo, though part of this clearly stems from the ways the two characters were designed.

It would be hard to pick between these two early Auton stories. They're both very solid. On the whole I think this one is the more watchable of the two even if the plot itself isn't quite a strong.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/496414.html.
16 April 2018 @ 08:11 pm

A blooming purper fritillary with white spots, surrounded by white primroses

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/496348.html.
14 April 2018 @ 04:30 pm

A cybermat

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/495732.html.
I have booked a hotel. I have purchased train tickets (first class open single for return journey). I have pre-purchased a photo pack (because, despite the expense, I always seem to end up buying these and it was £15 off if purchased in advance). I have read all the instructions several times. I have a supply of jelly babies and protein bars. I guess I'm ready...

This week I have been tapering, which means running less in order to be well-rested for the race. Mind you, looking at the training plan, the running less mostly refers to the long run on Sunday since the other runs have been 6.5km, 6.8km and 11km which is pretty typical for the runs on this training plan. I guess I haven't had any threshold runs (fast but not ridiculously so), and I've had shorter intervals with more time between them on the interval runs (intervals being fast runs of a few minutes). The long run on Sunday was 13 miles (though I ran an extra couple of hundred yards at the end just to make it up to a half marathon). This was actually a smidgen further than last week when I was notionally resting the ankle (and further than I would have run before I started marathon training) but still considerably less than the weeks leading up to that. The plan said to practice marathon pace on the long run but didn't specify how long for. In the end I ran 7 miles at marathon pace and then slowed to an easy pace. I was quite tired but I know I can sustain race pace better in an actual race so hopefully this is all good. Another Shelter runner who I'm following on Strava, managed his whole 13 miles at his intended marathon pace, but he's complaining that he's not done well at the shorter runs this week so I guess we're about equally ready?

Shelter (the charity I'm running for) sent me a leaflet with instructions for spectators. I don't know if anyone reading is London based, or might be considering turning up, but Shelter have three dedicated cheering points (marked out in the linked instructions) and say they'll let you in if you mention you are cheering on a Shelter runner to one of the members of staff at the cheering point (one of these cheering points is at the Cutty Sark which, I gather, is usually completely packed so getting into a dedicated area is probably a good idea there). After the race they are holding a reception at All Bar One on Villiers Street, so my plan is to make my way there post race if anyone wants to meet up. The marathon also has a spectator app (I assume you can find this if you search in the app store), among other things this will let you track my progress if you type in my bib number which is 8949. If you're spectating that should give you good warning to look out for me on the road, and if you aren't but fancy checking up on me on the day from wherever you happen to be then I imagine that will let you remotely monitor my progress.

The marathon starts at 10am but all the runners will be in pens (which makes me feel like livestock - or at least a greyhound, I suppose) which will be opened at intervals over half an hour to release the runners and prevent congestion. The pen you are in depends upon the time you predicted yourself when you registered and I've no idea what I put down so I've absolutely no idea when I'll actually start the race. FWIW, I'm reasonably confident I'll be running at about 8 minutes 30 seconds per mile until Tower Bridge (approx 7mph) but after that I think it's anyone's guess what speed I'll be doing.

Really, all I have to do between now and race day, I think, is contrive not to trip over an imaginary crack in the pavement and break a leg.

KM run this week: 45.4
KM run in 2018: 585.1

While raising money for charity is not my motivation for participation, it is a big part of the London Marathon. Shelter have bribed me with a T-shirt and the promise of a post-race massage. People have been incredibly generous already, but you can donate here should you feel so inclined.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/495399.html.
12 April 2018 @ 08:17 pm
Four to Doomsday is an often over-looked story. It's a studio bound tale, which is mostly fairly straightforward, with limited action in the middle of a season which contains the flights of fantasy of Castrovalva and Kinda, the pyrotechnics of Earthshock, and the trainwreck that is Time Flight. On a rewatch it seems a little sad that it isn't discussed more often since it contains a lot of interesting ideas bubbling away under the surface.

I suspect a part of the problem is that, while it is possible to see that there are a load of interesting ideas here, the story doesn't seem very clear on how to dramatise them and so (probably wisely) opts mostly only to hint at them rather than risk turning into a philosophical debate instead of a Doctor Who story. It seems obvious to me, however, that by placing Bigon (ancient Greek philosopher turned android) centre stage, not to mention all the dialogue about abandoning the "flesh time", the story wants to explore ideas of the distinction between mind and body. Moreover Bigon's clear and principled ambivalence to Monarch and Monarch's plan, was probably supposed to explore ideas of duty to rule or state versus personal conscience. However, in story terms, none of these ideas really go anywhere. It's as if the story sets up this interesting scenario and set of tensions and then opts instead to drive the action by Adric being a bit of an idiot.

It is also a shame that Bigon's fellow android leaders do not get to present any particular point of view about the situation, particularly since each is supposed to represent a different culture*. They appear to be the only truly sentient androids. It's not clear whether their followers are silent merely because speaking extras cost more, but the impression given is certainly that only the four leaders have any real consciousness. Interesting use is almost made of Tegan's Australian background which potentially could have made Kurkutji (the australian aboriginal leader) a more central and rounded character, but again the story doesn't seem to really know where to go with this (and, of course, has failed to think through the liklihood that any aboriginal language Tegan happened to know would be comprehensible to an Australian who lived tens of thousands of years before she was born).

Even with its inability to quite capitalise on its themes, however, Four to Doomsday is interesting enough to watch, and the ideas give it a depth that many of Doctor Who's more space opera-like stories fail to deliver.

* Though possibly I should be grateful we are spared some 1980s Doctor Who concept of what might represent the cultural viewpoints of the Mayans, ancient Chinese, and incredibly ancient Australian aborigines.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/495183.html.
10 April 2018 @ 08:41 pm
The Deadly Assassin is notable for many reasons: its poor reception at the time; its rapid rehabilitation; Mary Whitehouse's disapproval; and the long and deleterious shadow it cast over the Gallifrey set stories of the 1980s. It is part detective story/court room drama, part a tale of court intrigue and, of course, in episode 3 it is attempting to be an action movie. It is possibly this mixture of elements that make it work so well (and I'm definitely in the camp that thinks this is one of the best Doctor Who stories). Doctor Who doesn't really have the patience for a proper detective story, the understanding for a proper tale of political intrugue nor the budget for an action movie. The trick here is in giving each element little more than an episode before moving on to something else.

In fact episode one is very much its own thing, that doesn't adhere closely to any well-known trope as the Doctor rushes to prevent the assassination he has foreseen before being trapped, apparently, in his own prophecy - its cliffhanger, where it seems as if the Doctor has performed the assassination himself, must have been confusing to viewers who didn't know what was coming next. I suppose the episode is closest in form to an extended chase sequence as the Doctor dodges the capitol guards. Episode four is a much more standard race against time to stop the villain destroying the world and probably the weakest bit of the story - the interesting plot has run out as, it would seem, had the budget.

I'd argue, in fact, that the least prominent aspect of the story is the politcal intruigue so its a shame that that seems to have been the aspect picked up by later stories set on Gallifrey, which give us endless largely similar variations on Time-Lord-gone-bad. Where the story truly succeeds is in the characters of the Time Lords themselves: Borusa, the Castellan and, to a lesser extent, Engin are all, as Tame Laymen put it "grumpy, competent, old men"* and the story shines in their interactions with the Doctor. It's a huge shame that instead of continuing to show us a planet of grumpy, competent, old men the show decided instead that we wanted to see a planet full of bland, incompetent, old men plus one woman (Thalia, Flavia and, arguably, the Inquisitor) who, while grumpier and more competent than the men around her, is still mostly bland and incompetent.

Episode 3 is fine. I can see why the production team were excited about it at the time but it is a sudden departure from the the two episodes that preceded it and, all things considered, does not advance the story a great deal. It is hard, as a fan, to approach the moment where the Doctor is held underwater and almost drowned with a clear viewpoint since Mary Whitehouse's complaints about the scene have been, well mostly derided within fandom. I was interested that Tame Layman commented on it in passing, without knowing the wider context, obviously feeling it was an unusually vicious moment.

In my opinion, The Deadly Assassin, is rightfully considered a classic. It is well structured, with great dialogue and characters, and generally good pacing. It is such as shame that the show seemed to learn all the wrong lessons from its success.

*OK, not that old mostly, but you get the point.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/494888.html.

Once upon a time I had an encyclopaedic memory of the plot of every book I owned and a goodly number that I didn't. These days I can barely remember the plot of books I read last year. I have absolutely zero recollection of the plot of the above. It is the first Past Doctor Adventure on my shelves so I deduce it features the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan. I like the 1950s vibe of the cover. I've just read the back cover blurb and I still remember nothing, though it, together with the cover make me think of When Worlds Collide.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/494448.html.
In the end I ran 20km at the weekend (instead of 22 miles). I did the first 10km at my proposed marathon pace and then slowed down for the next 10. Even so I was pretty tired by the end but I keep reminding myself that in every race I've run I've managed a significantly faster speed over the distance than I have in practice, so this will probably work out OK. My ankle was hurting at the end so, following the advice of the masseuse, I fished some ice out of the freezer. However apparently I was doing this wrong (according to B.) and nothing else in the freezer would suffice (according to B.) so I gave up and had a bath and two ibuprofen instead. The ankle then rapidly improved, so much so that I'm reassured that cutting back the mileage a week early was definitely the right decision. To be on the safe side, however, I have invested in a gel pack which is currently sitting unused in the freezer (so that should the ankle hurt again after a run I can ice it in a B. approved fashion) and I dropped £72 on a new pair of trainers. I have a suspicion that the ankle injury was originally caused by a cheap pair of trainers I was wearing as a stop gap, and as my current more expensive pair are nearing the point where Strava is going to email me to get new ones I thought investing in a brand new pair (of the make and model I know I like) couldn't hurt anything except my wallet.

I was organising a conference in Liverpool Wednesday, Thursday, Friday this week which has complicated the training plan - or at least I kept having to sneak out of the conference to go to the gym. I felt vaguely embarrassed at telling the volunteers at the registration desk "I just need to go and spend 35 minutes on a treadmill, but you have my phone number if anything happens". I managed over 25,000 steps yesterday which seems like an awful lot even taking the 35 minutes on a treadmill into account. My legs were feeling a bit wobbly by bed time and my knee was making its presence felt this morning. I'm hoping this is just a minor aberration because I will be seriously annoyed if I survived 10 weeks of training only to do myself in walking the streets of Liverpool in search of a restaurant.

I need to remember to book train tickets to London. I am contemplating weekend first, if such a thing exists on trains to London. Once the train is booked, I think I'm all set...

KM run this week: 37.6
KM run in 2018: 539.7

While raising money for charity is not my motivation for participation, it is a big part of the London Marathon. Shelter have bribed me with a T-shirt and the promise of a post-race massage. People have been incredibly generous already, but you can donate here should you feel so inclined.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/494324.html.
02 April 2018 @ 01:43 pm
"It's a shame more of this one doesn't exist," Tame Laymen remarked halfway throught the lone surviving episode of Evil of the Daleks. It's another story which very much reflects the serialised form of Doctor Who's roots starting out as a detective drama/investigation in contemporary London to discover who has stolen the Tardis, moving back to Victorian England for a gothic tale that hints at possession and an episode which is devoted to Jamie overcoming traps and obstacles as he seeks to rescue Victoria before moving forward to the Daleks' futuristic city.

Each part has a very different tone and a somewhat different cast of characters. I think the first segment is probably the strongest with its pace driven by the mystery. The second part is more confused, in particular it isn't quite clear the extent to which incidental characters such as Ruth Maxtible are complicit in events (at the very least she is ignoring a lot of distinctly suspect goings on) and the rescue of Victoria, while entertaining enough, is clearly largely an excuse to fill an episode with a small quest narrative and random obstacles. However, while somewhat confused, it has plenty of atmosphere and enough narrative to keep the story moving. The final part harks back to The Daleks with our characters imprisoned in their city for mysterious purposes and it benefits from the strong design of that earlier story. The battle between the Dalek factions at the end, which has been the source of some derision, looked better than I expected (at least in still photographs).

We watched the loose canons reconstruction of this and they had really gone to town in some places with standins for some of the characters (filmed from behind) and CGI renderings of people climbing ropes etc. Monsters like the Daleks are obviously gifts to animators with their clean lines and simple shapes and the reconstruction made full use of this.

I think Tame Layman is correct, if I were making a list of stories I would like to see returned this would come quite high. Not necessarily at the top because I think I would currently reserve that for The Myth Makers, but certainly close.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/493909.html.
31 March 2018 @ 12:42 pm

Drawing in ink with some colouring in using purple and green felt tip.  It shows a Cryon, Sil, a Sontaran, a Roboman, Davros, the Mara and the Dark Tower from the Dead Zone on Gallifrey.  All based on images from publicity stills or book covers.
Fan art from the mid 1980s.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/493478.html.