History More Adventures in Kilt and Khaki: Sketches of the Glasgow Highlanders and others in France is the World War One memoir of Thomas M. Lyon ("Private Leo"), originally published in The Kilmarnock Standard.  Lyon is cautious to suggest that he's offering a definitive portrayal:
"The book does not purport to be a detailed chronicle of the doings of the Glasgow Highlanders: it should be regarded rather as an album of random literary snap-shots portraying certain isolated incidents of life and work in the trenches and behind the lines in France, and a few of the particular individuals with whom I have been associated there. The time covered ranges from June 1915, to September 1916. being the term of the writer's service in France, and with one or two exceptions all the sketches were written at intervals extending over that period."
What's extraordinary is the matter of fact way in which Lyon describes what to our eyes look like great acts of heroism.  Typical example:
"At last we stood on the side farther from our lines, and moved forward in close succession, the Corporal who led the way whispering warning of any irregularity in the earth's surface or other impediment likely to trip unwary feet. Suddenly I heard immediately behind me the appalling rattle of a tin can, followed by a muffled gasp from Pudd'ri and a heavy thud.
"Halt, you two in front !" I whispered, and turning, "What's up, Pudd'n ? Where are you ?"
"I found him sitting on the ground trying to extricate his legs from a contrivance formed of two or three hoops of barbed wire fastened together crosswise, and with a tin can attached. He had inadvertently strayed a little to the right of the path we were following, and had stumbled into the ball of wire designed to warn us of the approach of any Germans to our fortifications and to impede their advance. I helped to free him from the encumbrance, and we moved forward again."

The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Books Done. After nearly eight years and seventy odd novels, my read through these particular Eighth Doctor stories completed with a six hour burst yesterday afternoon. It’s not the greatest of human achievements and something which a small percentage of fans have clearly also managed, especially those who read them in real time during their original publication rather than my start/stop approach, but it’s good to have another of these little projects crossed off the list. How does it feel? We’ll leave that for a final gratuitous review of the whole series, but suffice to say it feels strange not having another one ahead of me. Perhaps this is as close as a Who fan can come to having turned the final page on Harry Potter’s The Deathly Hallows.

Not that this is the end of anything. It’s a full stop or even a semi-colan. It’s the final chunk of a particular iteration of the franchise, something we’re reminded of on the last page with its advert for the first three Ninth Doctor spin-off novels, which entered publication at almost exactly the same time. I’ve often wondered if any young fans did pick up Lance Parkin’s The Gallifrey Chronicles along with them, especially since they were displayed together in Borders. What would they make of it? Would they think, as many fans did watching the chip scene from The End of the World, that it was referring to the same destruction of the Doctor’s home planet? We’ll talk about that again in a bit, but this is perhaps the least stand alone book in the series.

Which is presumably why I want to break format, or at least format for this blog, and assume you’ve read it, and write about it in much the same way as the television episodes, no vagueness in synopsis, or pussyfooting around character development. So if you haven’t read The Gallifrey Chronicles by Lance Parkin, stop reading now. There are some amazing twists in here, especially on page 202. Some of those twists I already knew about thanks to being a Doctor Who fan during publication but there are enough others that it’s important that you simply don’t know. Indeed, I wouldn’t even glance at this review unless you’ve read all of the other seventy odd novels so get thee to Gary Russell’s novelisation of the TV Movie now and don't come back until you've finish.

Let’s be honest, The Gallifrey Chronicles was a bugger of a commission. Unlike The Dying Days when Parkin previous completed a book line, he was to some extent still helping to introduce the character of the Eighth Doctor whereas this is all about reasserting the fundamentals of the character, wrapping up eight, if not fifteen years worth of stories from the wilderness years, narrative reset and conclude story elements from early in the series so that the character can logically head off into a regeneration into someone who looks like Christopher Eccleston without much baggage, but without actually concluding this version of the characters adventures in case BBC Books decide to continue the range anyway later on.

Astoundingly Parkin manages to do all of that with a story which is both typical and atypical and as much about the implications of Doctor Who as a franchise and this novels place within that as putting the relevant toys back in the box. He understands that unlike some showrunners and writers at the close of some television series that the show will go on (not least because he’s writing this book because of that) and so he has fun with it. As he says in the preview for the novel in Doctor Who Magazine, although the Virgin New Adventures were and still are greatly respected in fan communities, the Eigth Doctor Adventures still had a great many things to recommend them and it was important to respect that too.

In Marnal we have a prototypical Doctor Who author who in places sounds like a purposeful homage to Terrance Dicks (he even says, "you see" at the end of sentences) who wrote the very first (if not necessarily the best) of these EDAs, The Eight Doctors (whose cover this also references). His library is the massed collection of Who prose fiction, across novels and magazines, but as the “famous rock guitarist” notes in the opening quote (albeit from 1989) there were so many hundreds of them “you couldn’t pick them up in the middle or anything”, which could be seen as a comment on The Burning, which was supposed to be a reboot but turned out to be anything but because new readers tended to wonder why lost his memories.

When Marnal utilises his makeshift scanner to track the Eighth Doctor’s movements he becomes me, or rather us, piecing together his fellow Time Lord’s journey, perhaps in a similar way to readers who didn’t or couldn’t pick them up in order and might have missed a few, or skipped ahead like fellow traveller Philip Sandifer. He’s especially like us in relation to having more knowledge about the Doctor’s past than the man himself and although it’s a grinnable moment when he inevitably finds K9 hidden in the TARDIS, there’s also sadness because unlike us he doesn’t remember the robot dog (though Parkin still manages to have some fun with our expectations when he’s first namelessly introduced).

In some respects, like Star Trek’s These Are The Voyages, though in a good way, Parkin’s decided his book must also commemorate the whole run of novels through the wilderness years, with a cameo from the Seventh Doctor and utilising one of the more oddball elements of the first Virgin New Adventure, Timewyrm: Genesys, as part of his solution to how what happened to Gallifrey. Not having read those NAs, I assumed Ace remembering Paradise Towers was the author making fun of some continuity error, yet, thanks to @thejimsmith and a glance at the TARDIS Datacore, I’m told that the events as described herein are as they happened then, the Doctor in clearing out some of his brain gives some of Ace’s too.

None of which distracts Parkin from his main discourse, the series finale. Having decided the middle third of the book needs to be a conversation in a cellar, the first third is about reaffirming the structure of the series, the Doctor and his companions whizzing around saving the universe or a planet or even just a building full of people. To some extent, the last few novels have already done this duty but weaved within that is the companion’s own arc which we’ll also look at in a bit. It’s the prose equivalent of so many stories in the Moffat era, glimpses of adventures, a final shift around the universe before the everything settles down for the mainstream of the novel’s symposium.

That the Doctor does spend so much of the novel in that cellar and then isolated from his friends is interesting. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been together so much in the last few novels, the inevitable requirement to split them up here. It’s the process so many of these books have accomplished of stripping the Doctor down to his fundamentals. Unlike many of those occasions though, he’s unable to utilise his usual tactic of being captured so he can find out his foes plan or get someone on side. He tries and with dialogue which is just as poetically beautiful and covering similar ground as the turn of the Earth speech from Rose and the dialogue with the couple in Father’s Day, but unlike those occasions it's thrown back in his face.  Parkin needs to break this Doctor in order to save him.

It’s in here, as we see for the first time the Doctor’s meditative attempt to mentally visit the part of his brain which is shut off, that Parkin’s writing turns positively metafictional, as he describes how the Time Lord is “the finest dream of hundreds of human beings, refined as they (tap) away at their typewriters”. I won’t quote the whole thing, it begins at the bottom of page 130, ending with “after far too long, a new generation of children were about to hear that music for the first time, and they would learn their sofa wasn’t just for sitting on.” Well, reader, I cried, because when Lance was writing this, he didn’t know if it was going to be a success. But like all of us he hoped and for once …

It’s a beautiful passage which entirely captures what it was like in 2005 when this book was published and even that happened oddly after the show had been broadcast and seen (thank goodness) to be a terrific success, not that Lance doesn’t luckily hint at that by adding “Before his sweetest victory, unfinished business here…” which is the book acknowledging its status within its own prose. But it’s curious to note that BBC Books itself hedged its best. This might have been the last of this continuing series, but Nick Wallace had already been commissioned to write Fear Itself, the first EDA PDA with other PDA’s still in publication. If the revival inadvertently flopped, the intention was clearly for all this to continue.

Once the Doctor enters his decimated TARDIS interior (one of the more visual examples of a torched narrative policy), Parkin unexpectedly decides to bookend the series referencing back to the TV Movie, or as I assume its novelisation because it references Gary Russell’s rationalisation that the Eye of Harmony in the TARDIS is a kind of back up power source in case the connection between the timeship and Gallifrey is broken (also explaining how it can still work when the home world has been discombobulated) and tells us that the spectre of the Eric Roberts's Master is still trapped in its innards (though it’s not made clear how that squares with the bearded bloke whose also referenced as a survivor of Gallifrey's destruction as he appeared in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street).

It’s reading these section I realised that the structure of The Gallifrey Chronicles itself is designed to mimic the TV movie. Marnal’s arc initially referenced as having met HG Wells, being surrounded by books, regenerating into a younger man without much in the way of a dramatic gesture, giddily making friends with a real medical practitioner whose caring for him, before shifting him into the Master’s position of convincing her, thanks to the visions in the scanner, that the Doctor’s an evil figure whose stolen his TARDIS (in actuality this time) (the stolen TARDIS bit not the evil) (well not really) (see above). Well, played Parkin.

It’s in the final third the book, as the prototypical alien invasion story kicks in that we really begin to notice how much the books feels like a season finale, specifically Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, Last of the Timelords, Journey’s End and The End of Time. The Eighth Doctor’s justification for destroying Gallifrey with its giant lever is a hairsbreath away from what the Ninth Doctor doesn’t do. There’s a big reunion of old friends and referencing missing ones. There’s the apparent heroic death of a character. There’s a moon drifting into orbit and destruction from above, decimating the planet within hours, focusing in on small human tragedies before calm after the panic.

How much of this is inevitable depends on how closely you think Russell T Davies read these novels. He’s clearly at least aware of them. After the chip scene from The End of the World was broadcast he took to the Production Notes column in Doctor Who Magazine to explain very specifically that it wasn’t the same Gallifrey destruction from the books because this wasn’t allowed due to BBC Trust licensing rules and that having somehow reconstructed his home planet, the Doctor would later be forced to destroy it again. Which is fine, but I much prefer the explanation from Parkin’s own Ahistory that they’re the same event just seen from different points of view, something which the author plays up to here in a flashback.

There are a couple of flashbacks. The one about the destruction of Gallifrey borrows some of the prose from The Ancestor Cell (with permission, the copyright page explains, of the original authors) and would then lend some to Lance’s Tenth Doctor novel The Eyeless on the notorious page 46. As he says on his blog “You’ll know it when you see it and you might even think ‘I can’t believe he got away with that’.” I didn’t then, but now I can see it’s direct from here, I doubly can’t believe it. It confirms The Eyeless to be a direct sequel to the story arc in the EDAs, and Parkin putting into narrative his Ahistory beliefs. Since it was the best novel of that year and you could still read it, I’m not going to explain how. But still …

Another is flashback to during Father Time, and a small adventure for the Earth-arc Doctor and Miranda which glances ahead to School Reunion and The Sarah Jane Adventures in tone, children and their mental capacity being utilised as part of an invasion plan via mobile phones. It’s to introduce the nurse, Marnal’s companion, and to remind us the Doctor doesn’t always remember the people he saves even if he changes their lives or ruins them by opening a window into something extraordinary only to shut it again when he goes. In some respects, Rachel is a proto-Amy, in truth the Doctor does stay with her. She rationally re-enters her mundane existence until Marnal turns up and cracks the window open again for her.

Then there are Marnal’s flashbacks which feature, in a reference to the Leekley Bible that shockingly nearly became the tv movie, the Doctor’s Time Lord father Ulysses (choosing a name being a fashionable affection) and his human mother. Maybe. The TARDIS Datacore is very excited about the whole thing, anyway. They’re not new characters and all this was hinted at back in Unnatural History and they continuity overhang from the NAs was somewhat dealt with in The Shadows of Avalon when the Doctor says he remembers having a father but also being loomed but he’s not sure which was a dream. As ever with Doctor Who both might as well be true. We’ll probably be getting a third option in eight months anyway.

None of this is as shocking as it might be. For all his being a trickster, a mad man in a box and a magician, a lonely god, giving him an extended family arguably doesn’t change much. Both Ben Kenobi and Merlin have parentage, and he’s the Whoniverse’s equivalent of both, not that you’d necessarily want to see a Children’s BBC series about it. Yet the idea that the Doctor may be half-human still terrifies some fans.  I’m not going to make some judgement about it being to do with the mixed heritage implication, though it is fascinating how in some respect we’re one of the more inclusive fandoms but scream bloody murder when our hero is anything other than an asexual wizard with a single origin.

Threaded through all of that Parkin must also provide closure for the Eighth Doctor's companions and delighfully he decides to include all of them, even including a cameo for Compassion. The death of Sam Jones is shocking, and leads to the Doctor and Fitz having the conversation, but tempered by having read the Big Finish collection Repercussions, with its implied retcon which suggests the Doctor’s removed her from Earth in order to preserve the web of time, or some such. Plus the gravestone says Samantha Lynn Jones, which seems to indicate that it’s dark Sam’s grave instead not that any of them notice and it also doesn't rule out left overs from the tampering done by the Council of Eight. Either way when he says that the 2002 expiration date might not mean anything, that she might still be out on her travels, it makes the gravestone seem about as flimsy as Rose’s voiceover in Doomsday.

The return of Anji’s the big surprise even if the connection was rather implied in The Deadstone Memorial. Would she be condemned by the Doctor for bending time? Well, in the new series, he’s not exactly been subtle about saving his companions via lottery tickets especially without the Time Lords around to wag their fingers so he’d probably look on her compassionately especially since she’s being a bit subtle about the whole thing. Plus it’s just nice to have a companion with a genuinely happy ending and completion without guilt (a rare thing thanks to spin-offs) and with all her memories of her travels intact even if she doesn’t want to talk about them too much.

Of greatest importance is sending off Fitz and Trix. Parkin replicates the usual structure of a Doctor Who story, some separation, the Doctor and his companions off doing their own things but in a rare example, their adventure is life, only vaguely interested in whatever it is the Doctor’s up to. This "explains" the structure of To The Slaughter, which places them in solidly heroic territory. It’s implied here that outside of the Doctor’s orbit, they become necessarily self involved, even Fitz who’s been with the Doctor for many, many years. An obvious parallel is with Amy and Rory later, who only become involved themselves when the Doctor’s around, even though as other spin-offs indicate there must be spooky-doos on Earth all the time.

Fittingly, Parkin doesn’t have much interested in explaining much more about Trix’s past. There’s the implication of the murder of her husband, of being a fugitive, but Fitz isn’t interested in the details and so neither are we. Trix will always be one of those companions whose story seems incomplete, introduced too subtly for impact then gone before we know it, like so many of the story elements in the EDAs, the structure of the series with its individual authors writing against each other, sapping it of any logical progression. Perhaps if after Halflife she’d actually become a shape changer, she would have been less of a blank, fulfilling the original promise of Chameleon all those years ago.

You could argue that their coupling is a bit arbitrary (cf, Mickey and Martha), but it’s sweetly handled, and I know this flies in the face of what I’ve been fighting against elsewhere in terms of romantic drama, gives Fitz some much needed closure, his story of effectively growing up in the Doctor’s company brought to fruition. There’s no doubt some psychoanalytical essay writeable about the Fitz shifting his connection between a father and mother figure, attributing Freud to the gesture, but I don’t have time or patience. But doesn’t Trix sign him up for the gig at the pub like a pushy parent and in writing his song, isn’t he trying to impress her whilst underscoring his disconnection from the Doctor? They fuck you up your Mum and Dad etc.

As you know I’ve always oscillated in my appreciation of Fitz, which has admittedly tended to depend on who was writing him. It was always engaging to have a slightly unreconstructed figure in the TARDIS, but without going the full Gene Hunt due to tone and compliance it’s sometimes come across as a bit forced. He was certainly there for far longer than necessary (around fifty five novels) even taking into account his many reimaginings along the way. I’ve yet to see why the authors decided to keep him on all those years, other than to have a figure with a silhouette similar to the Doctor but able to say and do the things which the Time Lord isn’t allowed to without breaking the format.

Which isn’t to say my jaw didn’t drop after reading page 202. This is Parkin expertly playing with our expectations of the sort of thing which happens in series finales (of which I could list a few but I’m not making the mistake of posting spoiler warnings for one thing and then spoiling a whole bunch of other things) (Jen Lindley in Dawson’s Creek) (sorry) and I absolutely bought it even having had an inclining of what was in the final pages. Again he’s offering a template for the future of Doctor Who, in which what seems like a major character death is easily explained due to narrative information having been kept from us and in this case in a form which is again purely the stuff of nuWho.

As is the global alien invasion threat thingy which fills the final third. The Vore are motivationally practically predict the intergalactic termites from Planet of the Dead, albeit shaped like the Prawns from cinema's District 9 and almost as organised. Having referenced HG Wells earlier and mentioning War of the Worlds, this is Parkin gorging on the commemorative cake he’s been given. But he also inadvertently stumbles into one of Torchwood’s central themes. What happens with the Doctor isn’t there to save us or wanders in at the last second. What about all the deaths in between and shouldn’t we take some responsibility for out own safety?  Just to be clear.

Brilliantly, Trix assumes the Doctor’s in the thick of it, sorting things out, manages to find out where he’s been and goes there, but he’s off doing pretty much what they have, sorting out his own problems. The story is set incidentally in June 2005, the publication date of the novel (clever), at the end of the broadcast of the first series (cleverer still), but set nine months before Aliens of London (oh) and according to Ahistory at roughly the same time as the comic finale The Flood (um) and Death Comes To Time (ugh). Such are this franchises inherent narrative pile-ups. In my rationalisation, at this point the Eighth Doctor’s chronology, most of those events haven’t happened yet and time can be written. It’s not much, but it’ll do.

The invasion only really exists to provide an excuse for the book’s final end. Given the book’s status as a finale within a grander shared narrative, it would have been impossible for Parkin to attempt proper closure so he couldn't, end the Doctor's story, since this is now a series filling in a gap rather than pretending to be a continuation.  That’s the approach Scott Grey took in the comics, in The Flood, in the end, commemorating Survival too in its own way, with the Doctor and Destrii wandering off towards adventure, having realised, despite being gifted it by the production team, that a regeneration would have been unworkable. The EDA version would have probably been the Doctor watching Fitz and Trix’s marriage.

Instead, we have the Angel’s Not Fade Away approach of the deliberate cliffhanger which says the adventure will continue, you know it will, we know it will, and so nothing I’m going to write will ever be satisfying enough. So it’s the Doctor taking a leap into danger amid dialogue that touchingly underscores our faith in him. He will win. He always does. Eventually. The Doctor never loses. He has losses certainly. But he never loses, not completely. Which is another metafiction point, I suppose, about how even after cancellation, even after a failed tv movie pilot thingy, he came back because we all had faith in him, and The Gallifrey Chronicles as a printed entity is a tribute to that faith too.

What next? There are still a number of approaches to experiencing the Eighth Doctor adventures across media. Some fans have decided that the books, comics and audios are all alternative, parallel versions. Some do believe they’re part of one long story, but somehow the comics and audios are all tucked in during the three year Greenpeace gap after Vampire Science or the slightly bonkers TARDIS Datacore version in which they’re all kind of weaved together into a complex, unworkable soup. None of these make much sense. None of the novels refer to audio or comic companions other than from the Radio Times strips for start, which is fine for the parallel timelines theory, but looks odd whenever someone like Marnal constructs a list.

As I’ve suggested before, the three are perfectly reasonably designed to be slotted in one after the other which in my head means the books, then the comics, then the audios (from the Mary Shelley arc through to Dark Eyes and beyond). Aha, says the TARDIS Datacore, but explain how Romana’s regenerated in the novels when the Lalla Ward version still exists in the audios? How come Gallifrey’s back? How come during the audio Minuet in Hell, the Doctor talks about Sam? Well the last one’s clearly Samson thanks to Gary Russell’s attempt to separate the lines, something which has since been nullified by the A Company of Friends anthology with its gut wrenching first yet final story for the Eighth Doctor. The rest, well …

After they’ve vanquished the Vore, Fitz and Trix, as implied say their farewells to the Doctor, who wanders off in the TARDIS again probably seeking to reconstitute Gallifrey. My guess? Somewhere in here it’s implied that the copy of the Matrix he has in his brain isn’t one which has been corrupted by the Faction Paradox because in destroying Gallifrey he wiped them from existence. If that’s the case, it also means one of their acts, which was to destroy the Gallifrey back-ups didn’t happen either. So “all” the Doctor has to do is reconstitute the planet from one of the back-ups, and upload his brain to the matrix, which would in theory contain his lost memories and the earliest back-up happens to be the one with Romana II as President etc.

Big red button on the timeline, the Doctor all back to normal ready for the comic strips and explaining why its still Romana on Gallifrey later on. Which isn’t to say I haven’t been trying to work out a more compelling idea, something with some more drama to it, and that would be that the Doctor enters the Kasterborous area to do all of this and somehow Gallifrey’s come back by itself anyway and the Doctor then spends two hundred odd pages (assuming this is a novel) suspiciously trying to work out if it’s the real thing and how it happened. But like the Time War in the revived series, the fun of these gaps between the books, comics and audios is that we simply don’t know. The question remains Doctor who? Or at the very least Doctor how?

Still here? I think you can see now why I tend to write spoiler free reviews of novels, this is a rare occasion when writing this has taken longer than reading the book. It’s probably as long as the book too. But The Gallifrey Chronicles, for all its narrative simplicity is a very rich text, certainly one of the best of the Eighth Doctor’s story in any media and of this line in particular. It’s that rare thing in series finales in any media. It isn’t anti-climactic. It repays the readers loyalty and it respects what’s gone before yet somehow adds something new and looks towards the future, a future which had already begun at time of publication. When I’m asked who my favourite Doctor is and I tell them the Eighth, it’s because of adventures like this. None to go.

WHO 50: 1975:
Terror of the Zygons.

TV  I've never seen Terror of the Zygons.

For some readers, that is like admitting I've never seen Star Wars.

But the truth is, I've always liked having new old Who.

I like that there's still a Tom Baker story I haven't seen beyond clips, random shots of Tom Baker in a kilt, the Brigadier in a sporran and The-Loch-Ness-Monster.

Having remained relatively spoiler free, I don't actually know what the Zygon's original plan to conquer the planet Earth was or what The-Loch-Ness-Monster has to do with it.

One of the virtues of classic Who's generally self contained format is that there's no great need to have seen everything.

Regeneration stories perhaps.

When a companion leaves.

In general though, there's no great loss in not having seen a story, not in the same way as other series television in which a viewer might miss some great narrative revelation or twist.

Truth is, I've never felt the rush to see how Harry was written out.

That said, it is the only televisually available story that I have ignored.  I'd wait for the dvd.  Then it wasn't released for a decade.

There are plenty of stories only available on audio which I've also ignored until now.  I have no idea what The Savages is about other then there are some savages, probably.

When I explained this to a friend, they sounded quite envious as they noted having seen everything, the only way they can enjoy some new old Who is if a missing episode is found.

By the end of this year, I'll be the same position.

By then (hopefully) I'll have finished working my way through all of Doctor Who in chronological order for the first time.

Including Terror of the Zygons.

I hope it's good.



Nature Mariska the equine Houdini:
"The Friesian opens her stables door then those of her stableyard fellows, top and bottom, letting them escape. She takes the dedication to a new level by opening a stable door while ignoring a open haystack next door. She even opens a chest freezer."
The accompanying video is almost as poignant as Au Hasard Balthazar.

To The Slaughter.

Books In my haste to post my review last night I got the title of the book wrong with a correction offered by the author (thanks Trevor) which is a bit embarrassing. But with so few books remaining I’ve given myself a deadline of the private view at the Bluecoat as the deadline (this eight year odyssey must be over by 4 o’clock on Friday, review written and all), which is barely an excuse but it’s all fixed now. I’ve checked and double checked. Stephen Cole’s novel is called To The Slaughter. That’s To The Slaughter. Not To The Death as I originally typed, though Big Finish fans might understand why. Anyway, here we are, the penultimate novel, the first published in 2005 and the last before nuWho blazed its trail across Saturday nights.

Cole will have been aware of all that during the writing process; his author page trails his first nuWho novel The Monster Inside. What interesting is that unlike recent novels, To The Slaughter, which arguably has a very nuWho title, is steeped in nostalgia both for the show’s deep past and recent adventures. With The Gallifrey Chronicles to come with all of its promise, it’s clear Cole felt he had to pull away from providing too much closure, so this is mainly a stand alone novel that glances backward nostalgically at what’s been, though he’s careful not to go too far perhaps recognising there may be curious readers picking up the book in anticipation of the new series, wanting to see what the character’s been up to.

The set-up is pure sixties structural nostalgia. The Doctor, Fitz and Trix have been forced to land at some secret base search for mercury to repair the TARDIS’s fluid link. Before long they’ve become separated from said time machine and from each other and inadvertently stumbled into a plan to artistically remodel the solar system, parts of which they view via the inhabitants of the various space ships they’re trapped in but it soon becomes clear that this Feng Shuiing of the moons around Jupiter is cover for a much more sinister militaristic intent and insanity quite literally ensues. The stage is set for an intergalactic runaround, which leads to the reader realising the novel has a rather spoilery cover.

The novel is also that rare thing in the Eighth Doctor line, a sequel to a seventies story, or rather a line from a seventies story, when the fourth Doctor registers surprise when Commander Stevenson in Revenge of the Cybermen implies Jupiter has thirteen moons, just as a real thirteenth moon and many more besides were being discovered. In his lengthy afterword (yes, even in the penultimate book there’s a lengthy afterword!), Cole says his point in writing the novel was to explain how teeth and curls could have got such a basic piece of astronomy wrong, though to indicate how would be a bit of a spoiler too. Now I expect we’ve all become perfectly happy with such inaccuracies being explained by things just being different in the Whoniverse.

If there’s an Eighties element, it’s that, like so many stories in that period, the Doctor and his friends are essentially trying to make sense of group of infighting antagonists all in it for themselves. Scientists are commissioned by companies to create one set of stuff which is then passed off as some other stuff in order to be sold elsewhere. Work colleagues live in suspicion of one another. Everyone is morally ambiguous, even those who suggest they’re trying to protect the solar system. It’s the cast of The Caves of Androzani failing to reach an agreement with the inhabitants of Terminus, many of them as repellent as Morgus.

But these novels began publication in the 90s and Cole, who was series editor for much of that period offers some juicy references, especially to Fitz’s storyline between Interference and The Ancestor Cell, a period Kreiner now remembers clearly thanks to the events of Halflife. Some of these are pretty “hardcore” and require the reader to have a strong memory for the mythology, especially Cole’s own novels. Having been reading these for as long as most readers back then, I wonder how many of those would remember details from The Fall of Yquatine or Parallel 59. Unless they’re inveterate re-readers. Did that happen much given the rapidity of publication?

Perhaps most surprisingly are the parallels with only recent (relatively) The Tomorrow Windows. Again Fitz becomes isolated from the Doctor. Again he meets a planetary artist, or as is the case this time an interplanetary artist. Again there’s an Alien Bodies alike auction backed up on this occasion with recognisable if unnamed monster cameos (one of which was actually in Alien Bodies). Again the Doctor is forced to work against his natural principles to save the day. Again there’s a possible Douglas Adams reference as it features a genetically engineered beast that wants to be eaten so much it walks into the oven of its own accord.

All of which means I really rather enjoyed it. This is another example of meat and potatoes Doctor Who, but on a grand scale with epic intergalactic vistas, tons of action, some romance (for Fitz, obviously) and a sense of Cole simply enjoying this particular version format for one final time before, as was the case, he began having to write for a much younger audience and without directly referencing this rich tapestry (though ironically his was the one of the three novels which would include an alien race and a location that would be references in the television series itself). It must have been quite a jolt having to ignore all of this.

It’s also Cole in the position of not having to clear up the mess left by other authors in the line. Though Parallel 59 was in the middle of an arc, The Ancestor Cell was about scouring the narrative decks (and Gallifrey) ready for The Burning’s reboot, Vanishing Point was about clarifying the TARDIS team's relationships post Escape Velocity and Timeless was about making sense of the alt.universe arc. There’s none of that here. It’s all about giving the regulars a decent adventure at which he succeeds, especially Trix who is still something of a blank but allows herself to indulge in some Doctorish tendencies, including monologuing, albeit with gun in hand.

Matt Michael’s review, appearing somewhat incongruously in a DWM that’s all about the new series, takes the book to task for having a relatively flimsy storyline which I’d argue as I think you’ve gathered is one of its strengths because it gives the characters time to simply exist, but he acknowledges that its Cole indulging in his farewell. On Outpost Gallifrey (where the reviewing team had dwindled to three) it’s one sort of hit and two misses, though again their main problem, its incongruous genre mixing.  “Is it a comedy, science fiction, a political thriller, a horror?” one asks even though the brilliance of Doctor Who is its ability to be all those things and often at the same time.

I don’t know what it was like for readers picking up these novels just as the new series began, though presumably it was with mixed feelings, the version of the franchise which had sustained them (apparently in dwindling numbers) during the wilderness years ending because of the return of the show to television and the apparent need by BBC Books to merchandise that instead. It must have doubly strange when Big Finish were still merrily releasing Eighth Doctor audios and with the quality of the books themselves having reached something of a renaissance, perhaps thanks to a reduced publication schedule (one every two months).

Here I am after all of that with The Gallifrey Chronicles sitting alone on the shelf, just about where it’s sat for the past eight years, when I bought it on publication knowing I’d want to read it one day and not wanting to be in the situation of it being out of print and having to pay a small fortune. Little did I know it would be back in print and available on some sort of electronic book. Nevertheless I keep hovering my hand over it like the Tenth Doctor finger flirting with River Song’s diary in Forest of the Dead. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I can’t read it for the first time again.  All this will be over. Finally. Oh sod it. One to go.

Mrs. Samuel Pepys's coffee-making skills

Beverages Interestingly, a search through Pepys's diaries doesn't provide much of a mention of Mrs. Pepys's skills in that particular department. Pepys did however spend an inordinate amount of time in coffee houses, which as the annotation page to the republication of the diaries indicates through quotes and other miscellanea, weren't unlike the coffee chains of today in terms of there importance within social circles:
"The coffee house must not be dismissed with a cursory mention. It might indeed at that time have been not improperly called a most important political institution. No Parliament had sat for years. The municipal council of the City had ceased to speak the sense of the citizens. Public meetings, harangues, resolutions, and the rest of the modern machinery of agitation had not yet come into fashion. Nothing resembling the modern newspaper existed. In such circumstances the coffee houses were the chief organs through which the public opinion of the metropolis vented itself."
As has been noticed lately, Starbucks and the like are now being used increasingly for job interviews, because they provide a relaxed atmosphere which presumably means you're able to open up more and give a better accord of yourself, assuming you don't spill latte down your front.

The Deadstone Memorial.

Books Lovefilm care packages sit unwatched (Carlos the Jackal and A Prophet) as the momentum creeps up on me to finish reading these novels sooner rather than later. After I’ve finished speaking to you about Trevor Baxendale’s The Deadstone Memorial, I’ll be straight into the next, penultimate novel, plans to take the process slowly at this late stage entirely out of the window. There’s a momentum in the books too. Despite my reservations about The Sleep of Reason, after the misfiring alt.universe arc there’s a new excitement to the range and a real sense that this stand alone approach could and should have been initiated sooner and a real shame that there’s a full stop coming in just a couple more words.

Except as is also has also been the case in previous books, if I’d read this before 2005, I’d be seeing it echo right into both of the eras of successive producers, as the Doctor and his friends investigate the psychological torture of a small child by an alien force turning Fear Her and Night Terrors into part of an emerging sub-genre of story. Back in 2004, however, Baxendale has movies in mind, the golden glow of a street lamp illuminating the silhouette of the Doctor, Gladstone bag in hand as he visits an already introduced suburban one parent family, Hazel, a desperate mother whose son Cal is experiencing horrific nightmare for which medical Doctors can find no cures and are simply treating with antibiotics.

As this Doctor does domestic and ingratiates himself on the family, cooking meals and offering kind words to everyone, Hazel notices in a Mark Kermode pleasing moment that it’s like living in a cross between The Exorcist and Mary Poppins and as the investigation continues they realise that is all has something to do with the mysterious Deadstone Memorial in the woods and local Scooby Doo refugee Old Man Crawley, the apparently ex-grave digger with an angry dog and the kind of creepy demeanour which children love hanging around with. As with both of the later nuWho adventures, it’s up to the TARDIS team to convince a petrified mother that they’re there to help, before it’s too late, before the darkness engulfs them all.

Which should indicate that this is as creepy as Baxendale’s previous novel Eater of Wasps, but whereas that traded in body horror, this is much more psychological, drawing in fantastical images of nature on the move, of the earth itself as a force for evil. Throughout the author takes the reader into those places, like the basement of a sinister house, which we might look at from the outside imaging our worse fears, and describing them with horrid reality. Standard horror fiction tactics perhaps but as in his previous novel, Baxendale has the ability to give just enough information to creep us out without going overboard, desensitising the reader. There are thing to make you go “ugh” in here.

But unlike some of these authors, Baxendale never lets that detract from the momentum of his storytelling which for all its domestic setting belts along. For a change, there’s bags of dialogue, whole scenes full of people having conversations, a conscious effort on the authors part, perhaps, to offer something akin to what a novelisation of a television story about the Eighth Doctor might look like. It’s an approach which has generally been considered unpopular in these Eighth Doctor novels which have largely been about huge internal moments of soul searching at the expense of actual incident or presenting sci-fi adventure on an epic scale, both of which have their place, but there’s something to be said for this traditionalism.

As in the Target days, there’s a sense of the secondary characters being opened out in subtle ways, especially Hazel, whose given a lovely section about trying to keep her principles amongst her colleagues at the supermarket in which she works. Both of her kids are prodigiously shaded too, especially her daughter Jade who initially seems like a stereotypical brat but is clearly very fond of her brother. When the kid’s school teacher is captured, he has a bit a of self realisation that because it’s the weekend “he won’t be missed”. He’s an ambiguous figure but my heart broke (perhaps because I see a little bit of myself in that sentiment but we’ll move on).

All in all, Baxendale shows that it’s possible to have a fast paced narrative and character insight. That’s also true of the regulars, as for the first time in ages we witness having philosophical discussions about their place on the TARDIS and the implications of that, the bromance between the Doctor and Fitz coming close to Sherlock and John levels of mutual respect (the Time Lord has some especially Cumberatchian moments here especially on the TARDIS as he signals his boredom without an obvious case to solve). Fitz can’t really see a time now when he wouldn’t be travelling with the Doctor which is a sure sign that he won't be travelling with the Doctor for very much longer.

To an extent, Trix is pushed to the edges. After her experiences in Halflife, her one distinctive character trait, her disguises, have disappeared. There are a couple of curiosities. She spends most of the novel referring to herself with the surname Macalister, the Doctor uses it too and during a phone call apparently to a hospital asking after her mum, even though until now she’s used the Adams referencing MacMillan. Also, I’d thought Trix’s original home was one of the alt.universes, but that phone call suggests she’s in her own time and universe. Even having done a huge web search, I can’t work out if I’ve missed something or if this is all new information. Any ideas?

Meanwhile the Doctor’s acting more like himself than he has in recent novels, the tiggerish version from earlier in the series full of jokes and hijinks and stupid, grand, selfless gestures. But there’s still the hint of darkness there as he’s harangued by a spectre of an old friend in the TARDIS and what must be the Ninth incarnation nagging him to get going (although in my version of the canon he’ll have to wait for all the comics and audios before he’s close to being ready) (a conversation for another time). But this very much the mad man in a box interpretation of the character reading copies of the 50s edition of Eagle comic and teaching small children not to be afraid of the monsters.

In his Doctor Who Magazine review, Matt Michael calls this “punchy, pleasing meat and potatoes Doctor Who” and as I think we established last time, for all the excitement of experimentation that’s probably the version of the franchise I find most engaging, though as the Moffat era demonstrates its entirely possible to do both at the same time if you’re careful. The contemporary reviews were mixed, and like me it seems to be that if you held The Sleep of Reason in high regard, this suffered in comparison and vice-versa.  Which is fine. Who is a broad church and it’d be strange if we liked everything (cf, the really positive letter about The Sensorites in the party newsletter the other month) (bless).

The extraneous activities in the novels have also been foreshadowing their demise coincidentally and otherwise. In The Sleep of Reason, Martin Day offers thanks to a who’s who of nuWho, including Paul Cornell, Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Helen Raynor and here Baxendale charmingly notes that his “children may be the only 8- and 5-year-olds in their school who can identify a Dalek, let alone a Cyberman or a Zygon or even the various Doctors.” He continues: “Hopefully, that will soon change … 2005 is nearly here.” Oh yes it will change and how (as The Sensorites comment proves). It’s also a shame it would see the demise of a book line which had kept the flame lit in the meantime. Two to go.


Psychology Are you telekinetic? This online test allows you to find out. Maybe:
"To begin the test, press START. If, at any time, you want to stop, press STOP. The test lasts roughly a minute and half (102 seconds). After you started, try to influence how many times the computer generate the number 1: focus on the number 1, or visualize the green bar going further to the right (whatever seems to work best). The green bar shows how many more time the number 1 has been generated compared to the number 0 (vice versa for the red bar). The little triangles underneath indicate the best score (difference of a number over another) you have reached during the test. A normal result close to 50% for each number would display very little bars in the middle."
Having watched the bar increase without thinking about one I remain unconvinced. Though it could that by desperately not trying to think of the number one, I was thinking about it anyway in which case I am a god.

Doctor Who series eight update. Ish.

TV  There's still life in this old post yet, but since this is practically new Doctor Who news I'll post the update below too for your speed and save on your scrolling finger.

The BBC head of drama Ben Stephenson gave one his speeches today about upcoming commissions bringing with it the unfortunate news that the 30th anniversary special will be in 3D which'll look crap for most of the viewing audience because it'll have lots of things shooting forwards into a flat space and the brilliant news that it'll be broadcast on the 23rd November which happens to be a Saturday thanks to the way calendars work.

Here's the key quote from The Guardian:

"There will be lots of aliens and daleks and things like that – or maybe there won't. There are many different things to take into account and we will also have a Christmas special after that and it all connects. Or maybe it doesn't. There's lots to work out."

Which confirms that there isn't going to be more than the bottom end of seasons seven, the 50th and then the Christmas special this year, which is still ten episodes but also means we've only had one full (modern) series over two years and no idea what's happening with series eight, which I still think is either going to be split in two again in 2014 or might not bother to arrive completely until the old Merlin slot in the Winter.

Of course the whole thing's rather messed up thanks to the also newly announced Atlantis series, or Clash of the Teen Titans.  If that's filling thirteen presumably concurrent Saturday night slots, how likely is it that Who'll ever get another thirteen concurrent slots for itself?

Again we ask.  What is the BBC's strategy for Doctor Who?

The Sleep of Reason.

Books Yesterday after reading the news that someone’s been cast as Delia Derbyshire in Mark Gatiss’s drama documentary about the making of An Unearthly Child and some other things, I repeated on Twitter my long cherished idea of celebrating the 50th anniversary by turning the franchise into a kind meme spread across the BBC’s programming with the Doctor, his companions and elements of Who turning up in unusual places, either subtly or as a full blown part of the plot. So you’d be listening to The Archers and suddenly a familiar growning weezing sound would be heard and the Doctor would pop into the local shop to buy to some tea or he’d be in Waterloo Road as a supply teacher or it’d simply be the TARDIS parked in a period drama or an afternoon play would feature characters which have previously appeared in a Doctor Who story, like Churchill and Bracewell, played by the same actors.

But the trick would be that you wouldn’t telegraph them in advance. Someone would simply be watching Doctors and THE Doctor would wander in and help out in one of the subplots and then be gone again which would lead to a social media frenzy as viewers passed the word and more importantly the iPlayer numbers would be huge as people went back and watched the appearances they’d missed. It’d be great marketing for the various strands through which the meme spread, and at the end of it all, the BBC could release a box set of all the material or if the Who team wanted to be really sophisticated it would turn out that everything had actually all been part of a real Doctor Who adventure, some kind of Key to Time homage perhaps with the TARDIS having leapt between dimensions (just so that it wouldn’t be assumed that suddenly all drama had become part of the Whoniverse).

One of these meme dramas might look something like Martin Day’s The Sleep of Reason, which is in the genre of story, like Love & Monsters, Blink, many Short Trips (notably Glass) in which the Doctor and his friends and their adventure is viewed through the lens and point of view of ordinary beings, only really becoming an urgent part of the story when the fantasy element takes hold. Laska, a young woman with a history of depression is admitted to a “Retreat” where she finds herself experiencing visions of angry wolves and madness seeping from the walls. Amongst the staff works a Dr Smith whose in residence with some research students and find her condition fascinating. As she come to terms with her condition, she reads her father’s papers, specifically two diaries written by a psychiatrist which outline strange phenomena which happen to have occurred on the same spot.

Day shifts the narrative between Laska’s experiences and excepts from those diary which in filmic terms reads like bits of A Dangerous Method and A Company of Wolves being edited into Girl, Interrupted (if you see what I mean). As such the author puts a lot of faith in his reader; for the first hundred pages this barely reads like a Doctor Who story and even when the fantasy elements kick in, it’s still more akin to tv's Sea of Souls. His motive is to allow his characters to breath so that Laska isn’t just some stereotypical distressed woman waiting to be saved, her problems are given a real psychological underpinning and of all the characters she’s the most likeable or at least understandable. The rest of the cast are made up of staff members and patients and of the order that might turn up in post-watershed ITV drama, full of suspicious ambition and carnal foibles.

Contemporary reviews were extremely positive pointing to Day’s book being evidence that there was still like in the EDAs yet, that it was still willing to take narrative chances even this close to the potential conclusion of the series. Matt Michael in DWM adored it. I’m not so sure. I didn’t enjoy it as much and I’ve been trying to work out why and disappointingly my conclusion is that I tend to like the kinds of stories about the Doctor and his companions in which they have narrative agency. With Jokes and hijinks!  Which makes really rather traditionalist, doesn’t it? On top of that, I also have a nagging feeling that if the story was told from the Doctor’s POV it would actually be a rather generic bit of Who instead of what looks like an exciting complex weave, though I’m willing to agree that might be Day’s point. What is relatively mundane business for the TARDIS team is extraordinary to everyone else.

Which, and this is going to be a spoilery paragraph, doesn’t mean there aren’t at least a couple of solidly “intriguing” ideas. For the one thing, the monsters of the month utilise time tunnels which manifest themselves as cracks in time ala the cracks in time one of which the Doctor uses to travel back a century into the period of the diaries in order to stop them. He then goes and sleeps through the century in a mausoleum until time catches up with him, the presumable sleep of reason of the title. Which means by close of business here, while the amnesiac Doctor was wandering the globe between The Burning and Escape Velocity, a future version of him was buried in a crypt at the same time. With the half dozen or so Captain Jacks knocking around as well, the Whoniverse in the 20th century has a fair few stranded time travellers biding their time, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, I will agree that it is admirable that with four novels to go, the EDA editors are (were?) still trying new things, still keeping the experimental underpinnings of the series in play even as they become more stand alone and wind towards their conclusion. Perhaps it’s not a bad novel. Perhaps, I’m just not sure it’s good Doctor Who. I’m perplexed, especially since structurally it’s exactly how I’d hope one of those meme stories might go, the viewer watching Laska turn up at the Retreat only to find the Doctor meeting her at the gates. She doesn’t know who he is, but we do as we reach for the nearest Twitter client to tell everyone, the drama giving people enough time to tune in ready for Matt Smith’s next appearance (as it would be now). So weirdly I’d still recommend it to you especially since it’s a rare EDA that's still in publication, having been re-released on the Kindle.  Three to go.


Religion The subtle (or not) irony of carrying columns about religion on news websites. On the left, David Loy, Zen teacher writes for the Huff Post about Buddhism in the modern world. Highlighted on the right, at least at time of writing, a link to photos of Miley Cyrus's revealing dress at the Grammys:
"Anyone who is paying attention knows that we are living in a time of crisis -- most obviously, severe ecological and economic challenges. They are interconnected: an economy based on consumerism and perpetual growth is incompatible with the well-being of our biosphere. What is less obvious is that there are also fundamental problems with the story that underlies these crises. By "story" I mean our basic way of understanding who we are, what the world is, and our role in it."
Actually it's simply provocative but in a good way. Yes, I looked.  For research purposes.  It's the comments underneath the photos which are the real reflection of what's happening in our society.

Ernie Hudson was busted.

Film Sometimes urban legends are true. Ernie Hudson did audition to play his Ghostbusters character Winston in the animated series but was turned down in favour of Arsenio Hall. From an AV Club interview:
"Yeah, I did, and it was funny, ’cause they said, “You don’t have to audition for the part, but the director wants to hear you read the material.” So I went in to read the material, and the guy said, “No, no, no, that’s all wrong! When Ernie Hudson did it in the movie...” And I’m like, “Well, wait a minute: I am Ernie Hudson!” [Laughs.] So when I left, they said, “No, it’s not a problem, you’re gonna do the voice.” They called me about it—I was shooting a film; I can’t remember what film I was doing—and then I never heard anything from them. Then I found out that Arsenio [Hall] was doing it. I was very busy doing other stuff, but I was really disappointed because the thought of someone else doing Winston was not something I felt great about. Arsenio’s a friend, so there’s no disrespect to him. But they had me come in and read, and even though they said I wasn’t auditioning, I dunno, I guess I was just there to have the director get on my nerves. Who knows what happened there? Whatever the case, I didn’t get the part. Unfortunately."
There's also something about his non-appearance in the publicity material. But the real story is how he was treated in the pan/scan version of the film which was the only version I watched for years.  Only when the film was released in dvd did I realise how present the character is in the film especially in master shots of when all four of the Ghostbusters are on screen. Hudson had all but been removed from some scene on VHS and television.

psychic energy

Science To New York, where authorities say scamming within the psychic community may be rife, "clients" paying thousands of dollars for all kinds of readings.

In 2011, The Times published a piece listing some of the more bizarre interactions, and this week produced a sketch of the scene at the courtroom hearing for one of the accused and interviewed a complainant:
"A crystal-ball reading and Ms. Mitchell’s pledge to meditate on the matter cost $1,000, but the price tag, she said, implied quality. “A lot of these other psychics, if you walk by their shops, they look ghetto,” she said.

"What followed were a series of candles and rituals and a “sculpture” that Ms. Mitchell said she created to absorb the victim’s evil spirits from a past life, the client said. The sculpture, however, needed fancy clothes and shoes, and so the client met Ms. Mitchell at a Gucci store and Bergdorf Goodman and paid for those things, she said."