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07 March 2018 @ 10:18 am
The Randomiser: Colony in Space  
I had never seen Colony in Space before despite the fact that it was one of the formative Target novelisations I had as a child. It doesn't seem to get talked a great deal being, I suppose, a fairly also-ran Third Doctor and Master story. The great strength of the novelisation is in the world-building, particularly its evocation of an over-crowded Earth and the corporation governed society that resides there. It's a piece of world-building that echoed far into the Virgin New Adventures but it is more or less entirely absent from the televised story.

There's still a lot to like here. There's a varied set of characters which, while they have a tendency to draw heavily on stereotype (hot-headed young revolutionary, evil corporate thug), at least give plenty of different points of view and contain some suprises - e.g., Caldwell, the company man with a conscience who I'd always like in the novelisation and wasn't disappointed with here (even if his moustache was a bit of a surprise) - and it is far from obvious (even given the manifest evil of those in charge of the mining team) that a solution which moves the colonists is a bad one, given the colony is failing (until it is saved by deus ex ancient machina in the final episode). There is something rather nuanced here, struggling to get out from under the company bad/plucky settlers good narrative - or at least I think there is, in some ways the vividness of the novelisation makes it hard to evaluate the story in its own right - I was so familiar with the back-stories, aspirations and plans of the characters that it was hard to tell what was evident on screen and what existed only in my memory of the book.

In many ways this makes the Master's sub-plot seem like something of a side-show. There are plenty of Doctor Who stories in this period (well at least three) with variations upon travelling to the heart of a city to meet its vastly powerful former inhabitants and this one doesn't really have anything new to bring to the table.

Like many six part stories, this would probably have benefitted from being trimmed to four parts, and it could use a resolution which smacks a little less of Malcolm Hulke having lost interest and just written down "then the colonists win and the miners are sent back home." No one stops to wonder what the native inhabitants of the planet make of it all. Hulke may have been one of the show's more obviously left-wing writers but some of his writing is clearly very much of his time.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/487996.html.
daniel_saundersdaniel_saunders on March 7th, 2018 07:32 pm (UTC)
I've always been disturbed that the natives all seem to get blown up at the end, and the Doctor just shouts at them to leave the city! Also, it's weird that Ashe gets to do the usual 'redemptive self-sacrifice to save the day' bit when it would finish Caldwell's arc much better.
louisedennis: Who:Threelouisedennis on March 8th, 2018 04:10 pm (UTC)
I quite like that Caldwell isn't required to sacrifice himself - it underlines the point that you can both work for IMC and be a decent person (at least up to a point). The novelisation gives more thematic meaning to Ashe's sacrifice by having him trying to understand the Christian Bible throughout (in that SFnal - "we've never heard of this strange but illuminating text" kind of way).