October Books

Non-fiction 7 (YTD 61)
Ireland in the Age of the Tudors 1447-1603, by Stephen G. Ellis
Pies and Prejudice, by Stuart Maconie
The Great Tradition, by F.R. Leavis
Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State, by Richard Cockett
Up the Poll: Great Irish Election Stories, by Shane Coleman
A Short History of Myth, by Karen Armstrong
Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I, by Stephen Alford

Fiction (non-sf) 4 (YTD 43)
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

SF (non-Who) 2 (YTD 62)
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Earth Logic, by Laurie Marks

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 56)
Blue Box, by Kate Orman
Deceit, by Peter Darvill-Evans
The Crystal Bucephalus, by Craig Hinton
The Many Hands, by Dale Smith
Seeing I, by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman

Comics 1 (YTD 15)
Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

5/19 (YTD 51/238) by women (Armstrong, Rand, Marks, Orman x 2)
2/19 (YTD 18/238) by PoC (Myers, O’Malley)
12 owned for more than a year (A Short History of Myth, Earth Logic, The Great Tradition, Deceit, Seeing I, Burghley, The Sound and the Fury, Pies and Prejudice, A Doll’s House, Fallen Angels, The Many Hands, Ireland in the Age of the Tudors)
No rereads (YTD 21/238) though Ireland in the Age of the Tudors is a much updated second edition of Tudor Ireland which I read in 2008.
~6,500 pages (YTD ~75,900)

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October Books 19) Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I, by Stephen Alford

A very interesting biography of Elizabeth ‘s chief minister, who basically ran England from her accession in 1558 to his death in 1598 (and had held the same office of Secretary of State, though with less power, during the earlier reign of her younger brother). I found it generally more interesting, though in places more frustrating, than David Loades’ The Cecils which I read two years ago.

Alford is excellent at the big picture. The book is beautifully organised – in general chonologically, with occasional excursions into family life or household economics (facilitated by Burghley/Cecil’s obsessional record keeping) – and he usually has interesting things to say about what it meant to Burghley to be in a position of such political power, while running a growing household. He’s also very good at cautioning against Whiggism: Burghley did not know that Elizabeth would live to 1603, that she would never marry, that the Spanish Armada would fail, that Mary Queen of Scots would lose their decades-long battle of wits. I found it fascinating that Burghley/Cecil was so heavily involved with the intellectual leadership of the time, as was his second wife Mildred; even more fascinating that, while keeping meticulous records of his own correspondence and affairs, he was apparently instructing printers to generate largely fictional and utterly propagandistic pamphlets describing the issues of the day, which of course in the days before newspapers, and in a society where information was heavily censored, meant that he largely controlled public political discourse.

Burghley/Cecil was also a keen genealogist, but Alford has him as a man of Lincolnshire (rather than Wales as Loades has it), and the evidence is in his favour. Indeed, there is very little about Wales in this book, but lots about Scotland, which Cecil had first visited in the train of the English army during the Rough Wooing. Alford has Cecil obsessed with securing stability and Protestantism in Scotland, in order to secure England’s rear from the Catholic enemies on the Continent; Mary Queen of Scots became a direct threat to that policy, and had to be neutralised. Alford’s analysis of Burghley/Cecil’s Scottish policy is particularly lucid and convincing. Slightly frustratingly, given my own interest, Ireland appears only as a background issue – my ancestor Sir Nicholas White comes up as a correspondent to whom Cecil/Burghley would confide his concerns, though of course with an eye to the possible interception of the correspondence.

I’m sorry to say that I found some serious flaws in the book. Alford’s prose is sometimes clunky and often repetitious. His efforts to get inside Burghley’s head do not always succeed. An early and unsuccessful chapter deals with how Burghley (then plain William Cecil) dealt with the nine day reign in 1553 of Lady Jane Grey/Dudley, in a situation where he was still Secretary of State (as he had been for Edward VI) but faced with the crumbling of the new queen’s rule from the moment her accession was proclaimed. Alford concentrates on the tension between Cecil’s loyalty to the wishes of the dying teenage king and his obligations under the law passed by Henry VIII. To me the much more interesting story is that Cecil obviously spotted that Jane was dead in the water from the word go, and made sure he had not signed a single document which could demonstrate that he was seriously complicit in her attempt to take power – which is pretty impressive given that he was the chief minister of the government. He obviously could not know whether Mary would take months, weeks or days to take power (in the end it was only days) but equally obvously saw what was going to happen from pretty early on and made his plans accordingly.

So, a bit annoying in places but generally enlightening and stimulating, if you are interested in the period.

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October Books 18) A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

One of those classics which one really ought to see on stage, but can try to get to grips with by reading the script. A rather good psychological study of a woman who is stuck in a bad marriage, infantilised by society, but doesn’t actually realise what is going on until she is confronted with her husband’s readiness to dump her to avoid scandal – at which point she suddenly (and perhaps a little unrealistically) catches herself on. Today (I hope) the situation itself would seem rather unrealistic, but I can see how it might have shocked the audience of 1879.

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October Books 17) Seeing I, by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman

I thought this was a rather good Eighth Doctor novel, with the Doctor and Sam finally reuniting after three years in which Sam becomes an environmental activist and basically grows up, while the Doctor is held in a very creepy and nasty prison. I was one of many Old Who fans who took a while to get used to the romance element between the companions and the Doctor in New Who, but here is an example of it being worked rather well into the narrative. The last few books in the series I have read have been pretty decent, and I hope this trend continues.

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Whoniversaries 31 October: Planet of Giants #1, K9 #1

broadcast anniversaries

31 October 1964: broadcast of “Planet of Giants”, first episode of the story we also now call Planet of Giants, starting Season 2 of Classic Who. The Doctor, Ian, Susan and Barbara arrive in contemporary England, but miniaturised; they witness a murder and face peril from a cat.

31 October 2009: broadcast of Regeneration, the first episode of the K9 spinoff series. In a totalitarian London in 2050, K9 Mark 1 appears, regenerates, and teams up with teenagers Starkey and Jorjie. (This is the only episode I have seen but I enjoyed it.)

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NI Election 2010 revisited: the community turnout differential

A couple of weeks back the Newsletter published my analysis of the 2010 election in Northern Ireland, which gave rise to a typically long discussion on Slugger O’Toole, in the course of which several discussants gently critiqued me for one particular sentence: “The decline from 51.8 per cent of votes for unionist parties in 2005 to 50.5 per cent in 2010 is more than accounted for by the gains made by Alliance and smaller centre parties.” Commentators responded:

…I suggest that the fall in nationalist turnout to levels approximating to Unionist turnout is a more important factor…

…It seems to me that nationalist/republican exuberence with the GFA, and a latter realisation that they don’t need ‘every vote’ to win most western constituencies caused an exceptional voter-turnout in early post GFA elections. Whyte shows that nationalist vote is constant despite latter lower voter turnout down in nat-majority areas…

…do you agree that in the Westminster election there was a narrowing of the differential in the community background turnout with the Nationlaist turnout falling and the unionist turnout either stabilsing or growing?…

I posted a comment that turnout differential between the communities may not tell us all that much, but agreeing that we might learn more from some more analysis. This post is that analysis.

Now, the question itself needs careful unpacking. Many (myself admittedly sometimes included) fall into the lazy trap of assuming that all Catholics are default Nationalist voters, and all Protestant voters are default Unionist voters. This of course isn’t so. A voter can only be defined as Nationalist or Unionist if they actually go into the polling booth and mark the ballot paper for a Nationalist or Unionist candidate. A fall in support for Nationalist parties doesn’t mean that Nationalist voters did not turn out, it means that voters who were Nationalist voters last time either didn’t vote or opted for someone else.

Nationalist votes in 2010 were down from 300,156 to 282,912 (but up from 41.8% to 42.0%); Unionist votes down from 369,704 to 340,602 (decrease from 51.8% to 50.5%). That’s a 5.7% drop in absolute voting numbers (17,244) for Nationalists and a 7.9% drop (29,084) for Unionists. If the Unionist vote had dropped by the same 5.7% as the Nationalist vote in 2010, it would have been 348,464 rather than 340,602, a difference of 7,844 between the counterfactual situation and the reality. The Alliance Party got 14,471 extra votes in reality. So my initial broad-brush statement that “The decline from 51.8 per cent of votes for unionist parties in 2005 to 50.5 per cent in 2010 is more than accounted for by the gains made by Alliance and smaller centre parties” is at least accurate though possibly could be more precise.

(Health warning: all figures for individual seats below are calculated from notional 2005 results rather than actual results. For some of the seats of course this makes no difference but it means that for those that have changed the precision of my figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.)

Anyway, my conclusion from staring at the figures in a jet-lagged state for some time is that one can’t really draw much more from them than that turnout was down overall and particularly in the West and in boring contests. I will, however, refine my previous statement that the Unionist decline is more than accounted for by Alliance growth. In fact, the 7,844 gap between votes for Unionist parties as cast in reality, and as they would have been had their party support declined at the same rate as Nationalist support, is not only less than the 14,471 votes gained by Alliance, it is less than the 9,019 extra votes gained for her party by Naomi Long in East Belfast. The bigger picture is messier. There was no other seat where Alliance gains exceeded Unionist losses. So the picture is clearly much more complicated. (I should clarify that Alliance support is of course much more broadly based than picking up disaffected Unionists; the context of my original remark was an article looking at what had happened to Unionist votes since 1921.)

The four seats with a more than 10% drop in turnout are all safely held by Sinn Fein – West Tyrone (-11.7%), Mid Ulster (-10.3%), West Belfast (-10.3%), and Newry and Armagh (-10.2%). We could add also Foyle, safely won by the SDLP with a turnout change of -8.8%, to this category. However, it is not only Nationalist parties whose vote was falling there. Nationalist vote share actually increased in West Tyrone, Mid Ulster and West Belfast, and dropped by only 1.1% in Newry and Armagh and 0.9% in Foyle; in West Tyrone there were special circumstance because of Kieran Deeny’s candidacy in 2005, but in Mid-Ulster the Unionist vote fell by 2100 and in West Belfast by 1500, proportionately rather more than the Nationalist decrease (respectively 2500 and 3300). So I think this disproves the theory that post-Agreement Nationalists are now sitting back from the polling station, comfortable in the glow of victory, unless we add to that picture post-Agreement Unionists morosely abstaining in the gloom of defeat (ie we would have to believe in people being both less likely to vote if their side wins, and also less likely to vote if their side loses, which rather removes the usefulness of the analysis).

One thing does seem clear to me though. Turnout dropped least where there was an interesting contest (with one exception which I’ll get to later). In the two seats won by moderate women challenging the Unionist establishment, North Down and East Belfast, turnout actually increased (though not by much – 0.8% and 0.9% respectively). In North Belfast, where there was a possibility of a sufficiently split Unionist vote for SF to gain a seat, and Strangford, where the UUP had put up one of its more credible candidates and the DUP were defending the dubious legacy of Iris Robinson, turnout dropped by only 1.5%. In South Belfast, where the SDLP had what would have been a tough defence in a different year, and South Antrim, where the UUP leader was doing his ineffective best to unseat the DUP, turnout dropped by 3.2% and 3.5% respectively. Everywhere else was within the 4-7% window, apart from the five safe Nationalist seats mentioned in the previous paragraph. (The TUV challenge doesn’t seem to have made much difference to turnout.)

One anomaly really jumps out. If people are more likely to keep voting where there is an interesting contest, why did turnout in Fermanagh and South Tyrone drop by 4.5%, 1500 fewer votes cast in an election where the electorate had increased by 1200, and where the result was determined by a margin of only 4? One could of course argue that we’re simply seeing the same geographically based turnout drop of around 10% in other western seats, masked by a bonus of 6% or so extra because of the closeness of the race. In comparison with 2005, the total Nationalist vote decreased by 990, the total Unionist vote by 1625 (and we can be exact because the boundaries were the same). This is the one seat where a local differential in the change in community turnout surely did determine the outcome. Had the two sides lost proportionately the same number of votes – had indeed the Unionist and Nationalist vote totals decreased by the NI-wide average of 7.9% and 5.7%, rather than the actual figures of 7.0% and 4.0% – the Unionist candidate would have defeated Sinn Féin by 175 votes. But my own gut feeling is that the numbers bear out the reports of serious internal problems in the Unionist campaign which were discussed on various blog posts after the election (and, frankly, indicated between the lines of the court judgement affirming the election result).

So, my conclusions are that i) the relatively greater drop in Unionist turnout is very marginal and more than accounted for by the East Belfast result alone; ii) we’re now seeing a lower turnout from both Catholic and Protestant voters in the rural areas where a high turnout was once accepted as inevitable; and iii) voters, like commentators, will pay more attention if the race appears to be a close one.

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October Books 16) A Short History of Myth, by Karen Armstrong

Having been disappointed by Armstrong’s The Age of Transformation, I’m glad to report that I enjoyed reading this very short reflection on the development of mythology through the ages – I’m still not convinced by Armstrong’s Axial Age hypothesis, but I found a lot of resonance for me in her thoughts about the importance of myth and how societies have changed their approach to it in the wake of technological and social change since the invention of agriculture to the present day. She urges a wider appreciation of the importance of myth in the present day to which I’m totally sympathetic.

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October Books 15) Up the Poll, by Shane Coleman

I’ve been on the road for the last ten days, so updates have been limited to linking and Whoniversaries, and actually reading LJ and email has barely happened at all. If anything interesting happened while I was away please tell me!

Meantime I managed to read several more books, of which the first was this set of anecdotes, borrowed from , about (southern) Irish elections mostly since independence (a couple of notes on the 1917 and 1920 elections, and on Cashel as a rotten borough in the years before 1832). A lot of it was material I had lived through or read about previously, though it is all entertainingly told and there are some extra details that I hadn’t previously seen – for instance, on the marathon 21-stage count in Tipperary in 1943, or the biographical details of Richard Mulcahy, or Fine Gael’s tendency to call elections at the wrong moment in contrast with Fianna Fáil’s record of getting that right.

But Coleman concentrates almost entirely on Dáil elections, so missing the drama of European and Presidential elections, not to mention the extraordinary case of the 1925 Senate election (and for all I know local council elections may have also produced moments of excitement I’m not aware of). So while the prose is generally catchy, and it would be a good stocking-filler for anyone with an interest in Irish politics, I wished for a little more breadth as well as depth.

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Whoniversaries 30 October

i) births and deaths

30 October 1978: death of Brian Hayles, writer of The Celestial Toymaker (1966), The Smugglers 1966), The Ice Warriors (1968), The Seeds of Death (1969), The Curse of Peladon (1971) and The Monster of Peladon (1974).

30 October 1997: death of Sydney Newman, without whom etc etc.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

30 October 1965: broadcast of “Death of a Spy”, the third episode of the story we now call The Myth Makers. Steven and Vicki are imprisoned by the Trojans; the Doctor designs the wooden horse and it is brought into the city.

30 October 1976: broadcast of first episode of The Deadly Assassin. The Doctor returns to Gallifrey to try and prevent the assassination of the President – but fails.

30 October 2009: broadcast of second episode of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor, Luke, Clyde and Rani are trapped in a time slip; Sarah persuades Peter to restore normality at the cost of his own life.

iii) date specified in canon

30 October 1938: the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard land in Manhattan and encounter Orson Welles, as told in the Big Finish audio Invaders from Mars (2002).

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Whoniversaries 29 October

i) births and deaths

29 October 1935: birth of Michael Jayston, who played the Valeyard in 1986.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 October 1966: broadcast of fourth episode of The Tenth Planet. The Cybermen are defeated, but when Ben and Polly return to the Tardis, the Doctor collapses and his face shimmers and changes. Will Doctor Who ever be the same again???

29 October 1977: broadcast of first episode of Image of the Fendahl. The Doctor and Leela are drawn to Fetch Priory, where scientists are performing experiments on the skull whose nickname is Eustace.

29 October 2006: broadcast of Ghost Machine (Torchwood), the one with the gizmo that lets you see into the past, and Gareth “Blake” Thomas as an elderly sex criminal.

29 October 2007: broadcast of first episode of Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? (SJA). Sarah has been mysteriously replaced by a woman called Andrea Yates, and only Maria remembers her. The answer lies in a 1962 seaside trip via the Graske.

29 October 2009: broadcast of first episode of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (SJA). Sarah is in love with the handsome Peter: as the wedding ceremony gets underway, the Tardis materialises, the Doctor appears and the Trickster kidnaps the newlyweds.

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Friends request

I just had a friends request on Facebook from someone who rejoices in the name of Anastasia Micklethwaite. That is such a glorious name that I am tempted to friend her back, even though I don’t know her at all.

I fear that she has mistaken me for this bloke who was in my year in my college in Cambridge but Spells his name Wrong.

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Whoniversaries 28 October: Ian Marter, Matt Smith, Abominable Snowmen #5, Stones of Blood #1

i) births and deaths

28 October 1944, 28 October 1986: birth and death of Ian Marter, who played companion Harry Sullivan in 1974-5, and also wrote nine Target novelisations.

28 October 1982: birth of Matt Smith, an actor who I am told appeared in some new New Who episodes earlier this year, though I can’t remember offhand what role he played. Oh yeah, he was on the Sarah Jane Adventures earlier this week too.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

28 October 1967: broadcast of fifth episode of The Abominable Snowmen. Victoria is hypnotised by Padmasambhava; the monks evacuate; and the Intelligence grows in physical manifestation. (Yeah, I posted this plot summary last week mistakenly for episode four.)

28 October 1978: broadcast of first episode of The Stones of Blood, the 100th story of Old Who. The Doctor and Romana find archaeologist Amelia Rumford and local druidic cultists all very interested in the Nine Sisters, a stone circle on Dartmoor.

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Whoniversaries 27 October

i) births and deaths

27 October 1923: birth of Peter Bryant, producer of Doctor Who from The Web of Fear (1968) to The Wheel in Space (1969)

27 October 1991: death of Paul Erickson, writer of The Ark (1966)

ii) broadcast anniversaries

27 October 1979: broadcast of first episode of The Creature from the Pit. The Doctor is captured by Adrasta; Romana is captured by the bandits and then by Adrasta; the Doctor is thrown down the Pit.

27 October 2009: broadcast of second episode of Secrets of the Stars (SJA). Trueman attempts to summon the Ancient Lights, but is thwarted by Sarah and company.

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Whoniversaries 26 October: Towers #4, Remembrance #4, Death #2, the O.K. Corral

i) births and deaths

None that caught my eye.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

26 October 1987: broadcast of fourth episode of Paradise Towers, In a final confrontation, both Pex and Kroagnon are killed, and the inhabitants of the Towers look forward to a new future.

26 October 1988: broadcast of fourth episode of Remembrance of the Daleks. Grand battle between the Dalek factions; the Doctor destroys Skaro and also forces the Black Dalek to explode.

26 October 2010: broadcast of second episode of Death of the Doctor.

iii) historical event in canon

26 October 1881: The gunfight at the O.K. Corral, as witnessed by the First Doctor, Steven and Dodo in The Gunfighters (1966).

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Whoniversaries 25 October

broadcast anniversaries

25 October 1975: broadcast of first episode of The Pyramids of Mars. The Doctor and Sarah land in the future UNIT headquarters, the Scarman brothers’ family home, and encounter robotic mummies and various Egyptian relics.

25 October 1980: broadcast of first episode of Full CircleMindwarp (ToaTL #8). Peri is killed by brain transplant!!! (Or is she?) Her last appearance as a regular character anyway.

25 October 1989: broadcast of first episode of The Curse of Fenric. The doctor and Ace, and also a Soviet military mission, land at maiden’s Point during the second world war, and find themselves decoding ancient messages.

25 October 2010: broadcast of first episode of Death of the Doctor (SJA)

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October Books 14) Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Another in the series of graphic novels about Scott Pilgrim’s battles with Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends – though in this case the evil Todd shows up dating Scott’s own evil ex-girlfriend, Natalie aka Envy. As usual, an entertaining combination of youthful angst with the fantasy of computer games; Scott’s extra life, and Todd being robbed of his powers due to being insufficiently vegan, are highlights.

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October Books 13) The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

Maybe it’s a mistake to try reading stream-of-consciousness literature while on a transatlantic flight and over the subsequent days of jetlag (which has hit me much worse than usual on this trip), but I almost completely bounced off this book about a decaying family of the Old South (apart from the third of the four sections, the one narrated by the cynical and self-centred Jason).

In particular, the first section, whose narrator is the severely disabled Benjy, failed to ring true for me. It seemed to me to repeat the fatal problem of The Red Badge of Courage, in that the writer’s voice is far more sophisticated than his character’s thinking could possibly be. Very specifically, I observe from my own daughters that they are much more interested in their own emotional state than in observing what other people are saying or doing around them; Benjy, as portrayed by Faulkner, is completely the opposite, and I found that so contrary to my own experience that I could not engage with the story at all.

(I also didn’t really like the racism of his characters being displayed but not really interrogated, but I’m also reading Huckleberry Finn at the moment which is rather worse in that regard.)

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Whoniversaries 24 October: Robert Sloman

24 October 2005: death of Robert Sloman, who co-wrote The Dæmons (1971), and was credited as sole author of The Time Monster (1972), The Green Death (1973), and Planet of the Spiders (1974) – the season finales for all but the first of the Pertwee years.

24 October: This is the last date with no broadcast Whoniversaries until 20 December.

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Whoniversaries 23 October

broadcast anniversaries

23 October 1965: broadcast of "Small Prophet, Quick Return", the second episode of the story we now call The Myth Makers. Odysseus demands that the Doctor use his abilities to destroy Troy; Vicki is renamed Cressida by Priam; Steven is captured by the Trojans.

23 October 1976: broadcast of fourth episode of The Hand of Fear. Eldrad discovers that the planet Kastria is dead, and the Doctor manages to dispose of him. Then comes the mysterious 'call from Gallifrey', and – sob! – Sarah Jane Smith leaves after almost three years. Will they ever bring her back, do you think?

23 October 2008: answering that question, broadcast of second episode of The Mad Woman in the Attic (SJA). It turns out that the mysterious Eve had allowed Rani to wish Sarah, Luke and Clyde out of existence; Eve's parent Ship undoes the wish.

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Whoniversaries 22 October

i) births and deaths

22 October 1938: birth of Sir Derek Jacobi, who has played the Master in both the TV story Utopia (2007) and the webcast Scream of the Shalka (2003) as well as the central character in the Big Finish 'Unbound' audio Deadline (also 2003).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

Today is one of ten dates in the year on which seven or more episodes of the extended Whoniverse have been first broadcast.

22 October 1966: broadcast of third episode of The Tenth Planet. The Doctor is taken ill; Cutler decides to launch the Z-Bomb.

22 October 1977: broadcast of fourth episode of The Invisible Enemy. The Doctor manages to kill off the virus with antibodies before it can swarm; and K9 leaves with the Tardis.

22 October 2006: broadcast of Everything Changes and Day One, the first two episodes of the first series of Torchwood. Everything Changes is the one where Gwen joins the team (also therefore first appearance of Rhys, Owen, and Ianto, and return appearances from Jack and Tosh). Day One is the one with the sex-fuelled alien.

22 October 2007: broadcast of second episode of Warriors of Kudlak (SJA. Luke and Clyde rescue the other captured children; Sarah and Maria then rescue Luke and Clyde, and the whole war turns out to be a mistake.

22 October 2009: broadcast of first episode of The Mad Woman in the Attic (SJA). The eponymous woman is Rani, fifty years in the future in a devastated future Earth. She tells the story of how this happened, when she and an old friend investigated a spooky derelict funfair…

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Delicious LiveJournal Links for 10-22-2010

  • Recommendations:
    * An informal ‘trialogue’ involving the EU, Turkey and Russia should be established, allowing cooperation over security to build from the ground up.
    * In order to strengthen Turkey’s European identity, Ankara should be given a top-table seat at the trialogue, in parallel with enhanced EU accession negotiations. New chapters should be opened on CSDP and energy.
    * The EU should be represented by the foreign affairs high representative, Catherine Ashton, institutionalising the EU as a security actor.
    * A European security identity should be fostered by encouraging the involvement of Russia in projects like missile defence that focus on external threats to Europe.
    * Russian resolve should be tested by a commitment to dealing with frozen conflicts and instability in the wider European area.
    (tags: eu)
  • SF3 has withdrawn the invitation to Elizabeth Moon to attend WisCon 35 as guest of honor.
    (tags: sf)
  • Natalie Tocci, like me, is pretty dismayed by the most recent developments.
    (tags: cyprus eu)
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Whoniversaries 21 October

i) births and deaths

21 October 2000: death of Alan Rowe who played Evans and the voice of Space Control in The Moonbase (1967), Edward of Wessex in The Time Warrior (1973-74), Skinsale in Horror of Fang Rock (1977) and Garif in Full Circle (1980).

21 October 2007: death of Peter Moffatt, who directed State of Decay (1980), The Visitation (1982), Mawdryn Undead (1983), The Five Doctors (1983), The Twin Dilemma (1984) and The Two Doctors (1985).

21 October 2009: death of Chris D’Oyly-John who worked in various production capacities on fifteen Classic Who stories from The Ark (1966) to The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

21 October 1967: broadcast of fourth episode of The Abominable Snowmen. Victoria is hypnotised by Padmasambhava; the monks evacuate; and the Intelligence grows in physical manifestation.

21 October 1978: broadcast of fourth episode of The Pirate Planet. Xanxia killes the Captain; the Mentiads destroy her and the bridge; and the Doctor and Romana convert the remains of the planet Calufrax into the second segment of the Key to Time.

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Doctor Who Rewatch: 13

As with quite a number of the Pertwee stories, I found myself enjoying Planet of the Spiders much more than I had expected. Seen in sequence, it is a decided uptick in quality after the last couple of stories; also one appreciates the homage to the Pertwee years now ending – bringing back Mike Yates for a last UNIT reunion, reference to Jo off-screen (the first time I think that an ex-companion has done anything other than appear in reminiscence), the gadgetty chase sequence of Episode 2, even the human colonists of mixed acting ability. The idea that the Third Doctor’s death is in some way an atonement for his arrogance is almost pleasing, and the death scene with Sarah (and the Brigadier less so) rather moving. After the triumphs of Season 10, it is a rather more subdued end to Season 11 and to the entire Pertwee era, but not actually bad. And Dudley Simpson is on good form with the music.

We also have another variation on the encounter between Doctor Who and religion. Back in The Abominable Snowmen I remarked that there seemed to be four approaches to religion in Who: squabbling sectarians, deluded cultists, religious buildings used for nefarious purposes, and true believers. Like The Dæmons, Planet of the Spiders combines the second and third elements; indeed, like both The Dæmons and The Time Meddler, it turns out that the religious building in question is actually being run by a Time Lord in disguise. And as with The Abominable Snowmen, we are left with the impression that Buddhist meditation actually works in the Whoniverse as a method of travel between the dimensions and across space. Saves on Tardis maintenance I suppose.

So the Third Doctor era ends. I don’t think Pertwee will ever again be my favourite Doctor, as he was until I was seven, but he has grown on me – in particular, he happens to have been the incumbent when Who finally hit its most successful dynamic of Doctor plus viewpoint female companion character combined with a background ensemble. The first of his five seasons stands out in a bad way, a show that is uncertain and a bit rambling, but it finds its feet from Terror of the Autons on, helped in particular by Delgado’s Master.

Pertwee’s Doctor is a return to the acerbic Hartnell performance without the sense of alienness (which is why it doesn’t appeal to me as much). He also snarls at people he likes, especially the Brigadier and Jo, which is a personality trait I recognise as realistic but hate when I see it in real people. More than any other Doctor he is part of a particular setting – UNIT, Jo, Master – and when this starts to dissolve he seems a bit unmoored. But in a sense this is a completely new show in its fifth or sixth year, rather than the original Doctor Who eleven years on.

It’s also farewell here to Mike Yates, the last of the UNIT regulars of the Pertwee era to be introduced and the first to be written out. His best story is probably The DæmonsVerdigris he is cruelly turned to cardboard, a nice touch.

By a fortunate coincidence, I was watching Robot at the same time as reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, where the gifted technical folks, feeling that the world does not value them enough, withdraw from it until everyone else has starved to death. The story clearly has roots in Mrs Thatcher and fascism as well as King Kong and Frankenstein; there is a brilliant scene with Timothy Craven playing a character called Short (his only lines in the entire story) who is a real nerds-will-rule-the-world type.

The main delight of course is watching Tom Baker, fresh and new, but walking into the part as if it was what he was meant to do all his life (which perhaps it was); his line about the Titanic, his experiments with costume, his tricks with the scarf, his combination of gritty moral determination with bonkers humour, all make me wish I had seen all of this first time round rather than just the fourth episode.

I’ve often remarked in the course of this rewatch that I’ve revised my view of a story from mediocre to decent (or more rarely vice versa) when watching it in sequence. For the first time, with The Ark in Space, I’m revising my rating from “excellent” to “really superb”. In particular, the first episode, establishing the new Team Tardis (particularly the Harry-Doctor relationship, Sarah already being a known quantity) with no other characters seen, is a great stroke – I think the last time we had a new companion treated in anything like this much introductory detail was Zoe.

The rest of the story is good too, with a great deal made of very little physical material – green bubble-wrap and about three sets in total. And Kenton Moore’s agonised performance of Noah is excellent. (I had missed on previous watchings, but ‘Noah’ is his nickname, his real name being ‘Lazar’, i.e. Lazarus, so in fact a character with two Biblical references.) Slightly let down by the adult Wirrn but they are far from the worst monsters ever (or even this season).

After that, The Sontaran Experiment is a bit ordinary. It’s refreshing to have more location filming after the claustrophobia of the Ark in Space but I find the plot a bit pointless – why are the Sontarans suddenly interested in torturing? and the battle fleet turns around just because the Doctor tells it to?

Kevin Lindsay is great again – third time in just over a year after The Time Warrior and his unmasked Cho-Je in Planet of the Spiders – and it is sad that he died a month after this story was shown.

However, Genesis of the Daleks will never get old for me. First off, it looks good; an astonishing contrast with the previous year’s Death to the Daleks, which just looked like a few sets draped around a studio, here we really feel that we are on a war-ravaged planet with two different factions at odds. The performances range from solid (eg Harriet Philpin as Bettan) to unforgettable (Michael Wisher as Davros, Peter Miles as Nyder).

But it really works because the basic plot idea is brilliant, to go back to the beginning of the Daleks’ story and try to change it, an idea which turns out to be really a character study of Davros falling in love with his own creations, and then finding that they have outgrown him and will destroy him. Since we lost the Master we haven’t had a decent villain in a Doctor Who story (with the mild exceptions of BOSS and Lynx). It is not surprising that Davros has had such a long afterlife (and I really recommend the Big Finish prequels about his childhood and earlier career).

Finally, Revenge of the Cybermen is decent enough but not at the level of Genesis or Ark. The exploration of the internal politics of Voga, a closed and fearful society wrestling with technical change and contact with the outside world, is the most interesting thing Davis ever wrote, and the lead Vogans (including stalwarts Michael Wisher and Kevin stoney) rise to the challenge. The Cybermen are actually the weakest point of the story; apparently the last of their race, suddenly vulnerable to gold (a new Sekrit Weekniss which we had never heard of before) and reprising the plan which worked so badly for them in The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase and The Wheel in Space.

I see that the Vogans have the Great Seal of Gallifrey on display, so they must have had contact with the Time Lords from way back (he said, desperately retconning). Tom Baker is getting a little out of control here, visibly giggling as he tells Elisabeth Sladen that they are heading for the biggest bang in history and posing with the two astronauts as the Three Royal Monkeys in episode three.

Back when I started this crazy scheme a bit over a year ago I deliberately scheduled my writing up of stories so that from now on, for the next few months, I will be recapitulating the Hinchcliffe / Holmes glory years which had six stories in each season. Of course that fails a bit here because the end of Season 12 was not where originally planned, Terror of the Zygons being held over to next year. But in any case, one can see the new team bedding in, with two palpable hits in Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks, and even the misses being less embarassing than some.

I’m away from my statistics right now, but having passed the halfway point in screen minutes and individual episodes of Old Who in my previous write-up, I am more of less at the half-way point in individual stories roughly here. If you follow the standard count of 155 stories, the 78th is Genesis of the DaleksShada and K9 and Company, but tally Mission to the Unknown as a detached part of The Daleks’ Master Plan, the 80th of 159 stories is Planet of Evil.

< An Unearthly Child – The Aztecs | The Sensorites – The Romans | The Web Planet – Galaxy 4 | Mission To The Unknown – The Gunfighters | The Savages – The Highlanders | The Underwater Menace – Tomb of the Cybermen | The Abominable Snowmen – The Wheel In Space | The Dominators – The Space Pirates | The War Games – Terror of the Autons | The Mind of Evil – The Curse of Peladon | The Sea Devils – Frontier in Space | Planet of the Daleks – The Monster of Peladon | Planet of the Spiders – Revenge of the Cybermen | Terror of the Zygons – The Seeds of Doom | The Masque of Mandragora – The Talons of Weng-Chiang | Horror of Fang Rock – The Invasion of Time | The Ribos Operation – The Armageddon Factor | Destiny of the Daleks – Shada | The Leisure Hive – The Keeper of Traken | Logopolis – The Visitation | Black Orchid – Mawdryn Undead | Terminus – The Awakening | Frontios – Attack of the Cybermen | Vengeance on Varos – In A Fix With Sontarans | The Mysterious Planet – Paradise Towers | Delta and the Bannermen – The Greatest Show in the Galaxy | Battlefield – The TV Movie >

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October Books 11) The Many Hands, by Dale Smith

A jolly good Tenth Doctor and Martha novel, which would have made a brilliant TV episode (or couple of episodes). Mostly set in eighteenth-century Edinburgh, where alien tech has created a flock of semi-sentient hands which are terrifying the locals. A good sense of place and a couple of David Tennant in-jokes referencing Bathgate and Hamlet. Entertaining stuff.

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