Sunday 30 December 2012

My books of the year

Once, I stormed through books. I could get through a biggish novel a week, or a couple of slimmer volumes. I'd pick up old favourites between the new ones, and get through them on semi-auto in a day or two. These days, I've slowed down, partly because I have less free time, but more, I suspect, because I use my free time differently. Still, I've managed thirty-ish this year, which I think is reasonably good going, especially considering my habit to put a book down half-read and get distracted by another. I've been reading 'proper' books, as well as downloading them to the Kindle app on my phone. These are some of the books I've enjoyed most this year; some are new, some are older ones I've discovered.

Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (both 2011)
I love Aaronovitch's Doctor Who work from the late 80s and early 90s, but he disappeared from the Land of Fiction for a while. In recent years he has returned, and made a big splash with his Peter Grant novels. I read the first at the beginning of the year, and the second just a few weeks ago. They're tremendously enjoyable, urban fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously, with a genuinely original approach to the science of magic. Easy reading, some people turn their noses up at them, but I find them some of the best fantasy of recent years. Book three, Whispers Underground, sits on my bookshelf in wait, and book four is said to be on the way.

Yesterday's Son by A. C. Crispin (1988)
I've read a few Trek novels this year. Most have been fairly forgettable, particularly the modern ones, and a couple I didn't finish. I enjoyed Christopher Bennett's second DTI book, Forgotten History, a great deal, but my favourite of the year has been this slim novel from the days when the original series ruled supreme and Picard was just getting started. It's a famous adventure concerning Spock's son, plucked from the distant past on a world were Spock once had a saucy encounter (check out the episode All Our Yesterdays). I couldn't help but imagine Zar as being played by Zachary Quinto.

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (2012)
It's been a good year for Pratchett. Two novels published (haven't read Dodger yet - sorry Tel), a collection of his short fiction, A Blink of the Screen, showing how he started out, and news of an upcoming TV series featuring the City Watch. Sadly, his health continues to deteriorate, so we must appreciate his work while we can. It's also been a good year for Baxter, with a Doctor Who novel, The Wheel of Ice, kicking the past Doctor range into gear again, and the Stone Spring trilogy coming to a close. My favourite for them both, though, has been their first collaboration, the reality-hopping adventure The Long Earth. It's an easily readable adventure that combines their strengths to produce something thought-provoking, funny, and expansive.

City by Clifford D. Simak (1952)
The edition I have is actually from 1980, and the stories within were first published between 1944 and 1951. This is bare bones, solid science fiction, very much of its time and very American in its outlook. It paints an intriguing picture of a world under the control of dogs, in which humanity is extinct. The dogs recount myths of Mankind, who cannot possibly ever have existed, while their robots tend to them as nature intended. It's a fascinating look at how humanity is reshaping the world, and how this will have consequence beyond even our own time on this planet. Brimming with imagination, it takes in extradimensional realms, hyper-evolved ants, psychic mutants and the ethics of changing ones body in order to live on Jupiter.

Wildthyme Beyond by Paul Magrs (2012)
The second book in Magrs's new Iris Wildthyme series, picking up where Enter Wildthyme left off. I enjoyed book one, but this feels more like a proper Iris adventure to me, exploring the very nature of myth, fiction, fandom and reality. There's a rollicking account of Iris's ever-changing origins, one that finally feels definitive, and a worlds-shaking quest through the wilds of Hyspero, one of my favourite fantasy worlds. It is, of course, very silly, and quite right too. Iris fans should also check out Obverse Books' second quarterly of the year, Lady Stardust, which mashes the Mistress of the Magical Bus with the songs of David Bowie.

Dark Horizons by J. T. Colgan (2012)
It's been a good year for Doctor Who novels. The publication schedule has been massively scaled back, but this has led to the novels becoming events. We've had Gareth Roberts's noveliation of Shada, and the aforementioned Baxter novel, but it was Jenny Colgan's eleventh Doctor novel that was the surprise hit for me this year. Full review here.

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (2008)
This became my book for reading at work. Sometimes I like something that's all plot, easy to get through quickly. Othertimes, it's better to relax with something light of incident, and to just enjoy the beauty of the prose. Templeton is one of the latter. Groff grew up in Cooperstown, New York, and created Templeton as a fictionalised version of her home. Student Willie Upton returns home, pregnant by her professor, and is drawn into the legendary history, and historical legends, of her family and town, as she tries to discover the identity of her own father. Oh, and there's a monster in the lake, who has just died and sent the town into a sort of bemused mourning. Evocative of a feeling of truly belonging to a place, for good or ill, this mixes humour, romance and tragedy with just a hint of fantasy. Gorgeous.

Thirteen by Sebastian Beaumont (2008)
Another fantasy-tinged urban novel, although this one is set in Brighton, my home city (near as dammit). A semi-autobiographical novel, this told me more than I ever wanted to know about the everyday (or rather, every night) life of a cab driver. All but one of the peculiar cab-related incidents in this story genuinely happened to the author, or so it says. As the story develops, things move from being merely odd to otherwordly, and the protagonist's mental health erodes as the barrier between his life and his own subconscious break down. A downright odd book, and often a very funny one, it ends up as a haunting ghost story.

The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter (1995)
This was my first encounter with Baxter, the master of cosmic fiction. I read it not long after release, so I would have been eleven, maybe twelve. I picked up another copy this year, and remembered why I had adored it. The official sequel to the seminal The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, The Time Ships spans vast reaches of time, forwards, backwards and sideways, grappling with mind-warping ideas while always remaining readable, accessible and fun. I also read another sequel to Wells's classic, K. W. Jeter's 1979 proto-steampunk novel Morlock Night, recently republished. The title is easily the best part of this book. Stick with Wells and Baxter.

The Complete Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens (Wordsworth edition, 1997)
Some spooky winter reading. Every year I read A Christmas Carol, although this year I have instead opted to listen to Tom Baker read it. However, that is only the most famous of the Dickens ghost stories. I haven't read enough Dickens, but this volume collects extracts from his great novels and short stories alike. I picked it up in a cafe-bar-bookshop in Skopje, for staying in when the snow and ice became too much.

Thursday 27 December 2012

WHO REVIEW: 7-X. The Snowmen

Victoriana makes Christmas feel more Christmassy, and Doctor Who more like Doctor Who. Following two mini-episodes to whet our appetites, finally the hour-long special arrives. It’s been months for us, but seemingly longer for the Doctor, who’s been sulking in the cloud layer since he lost Amy and Rory. The Snowmen presents the Doctor, and the series, with a fresh start. The show feels revitalised, with a new look, a new companion, and a new supporting cast.

In spite of the ongoing mystery that is Clara, The Snowmen is a fairly straightforward episode, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A fun, uncomplicated adventure, beautifully realised. Both of Smith and Moffat’s previous Christmas outings have embraced the fairytale ethos of their era more than the regular episodes, and this story continues in that vein. Although there are scientific trappings, this episode is an out-and-out fantasy. The Doctor lives in his TARDIS on top of a cloud, accessed by a ladder and hidden behind a wall of invisibility. It’s a beautiful image, emphasising the “anything’s possible” feel of the current series. Equally, the Snowmen themselves are visually stunning, fairytale monsters as creepy as hell (my poor sister really didn’t like those shark-toothed grins, and she’s twenty-four). As a threat, they’re fairly poor, as even the Doctor points out. They’re useless in the summer and can be defeated by thinking really hard, but they look great.

In fact, that’s something of a problem with the episode as a whole. Both the Doctor and the villains are on poor form here. Richard E. Grant is perfect as Dr. Simeon, putting in a surprisingly understated performance that is quite wonderfully sinister, while Sir Ian McKellen provides the ideal voice for the Great Intelligence. Who else guessed the villain’s identity? Really, for a fan, it was quite obvious, but the revelation that this was the Intelligence’s birth was unexpected. However, this mighty being is reduced to little more than a ghost, having been defeated by the power of a good cry. As a fairytale ending it works beautifully, but it makes the villains seem feeble and the Doctor little more than a bystander.

Indeed, the Doctor isn’t up to much in this episode. Thankfully, Matt Smith is excellent, as usual, and makes the Doctor seem far more impressive than he actually is. He excels at this quieter take on the character, while still being able to leap into the more manic, over-the-top style we’re more familiar with (the Sherlock Holmes moment in particular). However, if the Doctor is ineffectual, then this is just what is required by the story. This episode is about how the Doctor brings the best out in Clara, and how she reinvigorates him in return. To turn the Doctor around would require someone pretty damned special; happily, Jenna-Louise Coleman is more than up to the task. Her Clara is not just a (very) pretty face, but is fun, intelligent, creative and hugely confident. She’s a sparkling personality, but in the hands of a lesser actress could easily have become insufferable. Coleman makes Clara a character we’re desperate to get to know better, and it’s easy to see why the Doctor is too.

Coleman and Smith (sounds like a law firm) dominate proceedings so much, it’s hard for anyone else to make much of an impression. As noted, Grant and McKellen are both excellent in their roles, but feel very underused for such A-list names. Tom Ward barely gets chance to make an impression as Captain Latimer, although brother and sister actors Joseph and Elle Darcy-Alden are very impressive as his children. The Great Detective and her sidekicks get more screentime than in their debut, but even so, are in desperate need of a dedicated episode to explore them fully. Strax gets the bulk of their material, and supplies almost all of the genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy material, but Jenny and Vastra, both potentially fascinating characters, deserve a great deal more focus.

It would also be wise to turn a blind eye to the plot, which works on broad strokes but holds little water under scrutiny. Some apparent problems are possibly deliberate; if the Doctor wants to be left alone, why go to where three of his friends are living and give them his phone number, unless of course he subconsciously wants to be pulled out of his stupor. The one-word-test is utterly daft, and it’s a huge stroke of luck that Clara’s problem involved a pond and so tweaked the Doctor’s interest, but it provides a gorgeous scene and so can be forgiven. However, when the surprisingly shonky CGI ice-governess stalks the heroes, the characters’ oversights take the biscuits. Yes, the first visit to the TARDIS is always a major moment, but we were all shouting “Close the fucking door!” at the screen. One stupid oversight leads to Clara’s death, and while this was all necessary to move the plot forward, it could have been handled better.

All in all, though, The Snowmen is hugely enjoyable, and apart from the door debacle, any quibbles arose only after rewatching and over-analysing. This is a rich serving of Victorian whimsy, opening the door for new adventures for the Doctor and Clara and promising a new mystery to drive the series forward. Here’s to Series 7, Part 2, or whatever we’re calling it. Merry Christmas!

New looks: The Doctor now dresses in the Victorian style, as befits a man living in 1898; however, it looks like he’ll be sticking with the frock-coated look for the upcoming run. The purplish frock velevet frock coat and waistcoat give the elegance of the third or eighth Doctor, while the checked trousers and battered hat evoke the second (Troughton’s birdwatcher’s hat had a very similar silhouette to Smith’s Artful Dodger-styled topper). The bowtie returns when the Doctor gets his mojo back – before that, he wears a cravat, for the first time in a long while.
The TARDIS is looking pretty battered on the outside, but the interior has enjoyed a fantastic revamp. It’s perhaps less interesting than the Heath Robinson-styled madness of the previous design, but I find it far more effective, harkening back to the Brachacki’s hi-tec design for the original console room. Also, we get a revamped title sequence with both a spookier remix of the them tune, and a glimpse of the Doctor’s face for the first time since 1989.

Links: Vastra, Jenny and Strax first appeared in 6.7, A Good Man Goes to War. While the 19th century is Jenny and Vastra’s native era, Strax’s presence is a mystery, especially since he died during his previous appearance. The Doctor says a friend brought him back, and leaves it at that. Sontarans are clones, of course, so it’s not too much of a stretch for him to be recreated.
The Great Intelligence first appeared in 1967’s The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. Not only does The Snowmen seemingly explain its origins, but also its decisions to invade with robot snowmen and to assault the London Underground. It also appeared in the direct-to-video spin-off Downtime – featuring Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (later met in 7.4, The Power of Three), as well as The New Adventures series and as the big bad in TDWP’s Season 37.

Hanky-Panky in the TARDIS: Jenna-Louise Coleman really is one of the most beautiful women ever to set foot in the TARDIS. However, let’s not overlook the gorgeous Catrin Stewart as sexy ninja lesbian maidservant Jenny. For those who like men, Smith is looking rather dashing in his new get-up, but the most handsome man in the episode is the lovely Tom Ward as Captain Latimer; sadly, I’m not sure I like him in a beard.

Best line:  “Sir, please do not noogie me during combat prep.”

Sunday 23 December 2012

Is Santa Claus a god?

He has many names. Being a British household, we called him Father Christmas, and this is how he is known in many countries, be it as Papa Noel in Spain or Kaghand Papik in Armenia, rooted in ancient northern folklore. Some call him St. Nicholas, after the genuine Anatolian philanthropist of the 4th century, whose story has been combined with various mythical figures to provide the modern Saint Nick. In Dutch, he is Sinterklaas, the Good Saint, and this became Santa Claus when imported to America. German Protestants had the Christ-Child, or Christkindl, known also throughout Europe as Jususka or Gesu Bambino. This was a direct attempt to take belief away from Father Christmas, and seems to be an inversion of the biblical story of the wise men presenting the infant Jesus with gifts. This became Americanised too, and Christkindl became Kris Kringle, again stirred into the whole Santa Claus melting pot. Today, millions of children know him simply as Santa.

It makes sense for Christmas, a festival that has arisen from the mixing of Christian, Turkish, Roman, pagan and Scandinavian mythologies, to be represented by a figure whose own origins are a mash-up of various traditions. The Romans had Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to the great god Saturn, himself adapted from the Greek Titan Kronos. Saturnalia was a major Roman imperial holiday, and once the Empire became Christian, Saturnalia was transmogrified, over time, into Christmas. Other cultures had their own winter festivals, such as the Germanic/Scandinavian Yule, which itself became absorbed into the modern, secular Christmas. The focal figure of Yule was none other than Odin, the ancient, bearded chief of the gods.

So, there's the background. Whatever you want to call him, it's clear that Santa's precedents were with major gods in some of the ancient pantheons. Does that make the modern Santa a god? Well, look at is this way: what forms does the worship of a god take? There are prayers to him; every year, thousands of letters to Santa are written, even posted, asking for all manner of gifts from the great giver.

A god needs priests, or acolytes; thousands of men make their living by dressing as Santa Claus during the festive season. Children half-believe that these figures are the real deal, even though they know that Father Christmas is busy at the North Pole. These men become the worldly embodiments of Santa, representing him  in the everyday world.

A god needs temples; Santa has his grotto, to which children are taken to present their letters or sit on the knees of his priests, asking for their hearts' desires directly. A god should have a chariot; pulled by eight magical, flying steeds, the sleigh is Santa's chariot, conveying him to any point in the world all in the space of one night.

A god requires sacrifices, and demands certain modes of behaviour. We leave out mince pies and sherry, or cookies and milk, for Saint Nick, and carrots for his reindeer, while children, on the run up to Christmas, are told that Santa is watching them to see if they are "naughty or nice." They are warned that it's not a good idea to get on the naughty list this close to Christmas, and are threatened with a lump of coal instead of presents. In Germany, Austria and central Europe, it's not Father Christmas himself who meets out punishment, but the Krampus, aka the Grampus, or Bartle, or Pelzebock, a goblin-like monster. The Krampus seems to be the result of a separating out of the benevolent and malevolent aspects of the Father Claus character. Earlier traditions remain, in which the Krampus takes naughty children away in his sack, for punishment.

A god should be powerful; Santa Claus is omniscient, always aware of what children are doing and if they are behaving. He can go anywhere, in no time at all. He can fit down chimneys despite his huge girth, and can simply step into homes where no chimney exists.

Above all, a god needs believers. How many children around the world believe in Santa Claus? Hundreds of millions, surely, when taking into account the children of all the western nations. It's not only Christian and secular children who believe in him; I know Muslim families, who do not celebrate Christmas itself, but who still allow their children to leave their stockings out for Saint Nick. Ask yourself who most children really believe is the most powerful being in their lives, and then ask yourself: is Santa Claus a god?

Friday 21 December 2012

Farewell, Great Macedon!

It’s been a couple of years since I got to do any proper international travel, but finally, I managed to get myself out of the UK for more than a day and spent a good week in the Macedonia. December isn’t the best time of year to visit the country . I’m no fan of the cold – in fact, I despise cold weather and my immediate instinct in the presence of snow is to return to bed and hibernate until it’s warm again. So visiting the city of Skopje during the winter, when the temperature happily dips ten degree below zero on the centrigrade scale, wasn’t the best decision. However, since my sister insists on having her birthday in December, and this trip was to be an extended birthday celebration for her, that was the time we had to go.

Becca had already visited Macedonia four times. One of her closest friends, Nena, lives there. As she hadn’t seen Nena for about four years,  and I hadn’t since she was here in England a couple of years earlier than that, it was definitely long past time for a visit. It’s a place I’d never been before, which is in itself enough to make me want to go, and since Nena is one of the loveliest people anyone is ever likely to meet, I was  very much looking forward to the trip. Even if it was going to be in the snow. So, a week away in a country that most Brits haven’t even heard of, with my sister and her boyfriend (who happens to be my good friend, Jim, with whom I go way back). 

The Republic of Macedonia lies north of Greece, landlocked by its fellow Balkan states. For years it has been at the centre of a dispute with Greece over its name; most of the ancient region of Macedonia lies in modern Greece. Why this is so important, I couldn’t say; there are plenty of places in the world that share names, after all. Macedonia, the nation, is the one that shows up on sporting events as “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” which is an incredible mouthful often shortened to FYROM. Or better shortened to Macedonia, since that’s the place’s bloody name. still, calling the main airport “Alexander the Great” was perhaps not the best move if they were trying to avoid pissing off the Greeks even more.

Skopje is the capital city, up in the north of the country, not far from the border with Kosovo. We stayed in the Urban Hostel, on Mother Teresa Street . Mother Teresa being one of two famous historical figures born in Skopje, although in her time it was part of the Ottoman Empire. The other famous figure, by the way, was the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian the Great. Anyway, the hostel was fantastic; we weren’t staying the in the main hostel bit, but on the top floor in a separate apartment, but even the bunkbeds and shared rooms looked nicer than most I’ve seen in my time. Not only did they provide slippers to all the guests (immediately putting them in my top ten places to stay), but they also gave us a bottle of wine, and a pretty decadent chocolate birthday cake for my sister. You can’t be made to feel more welcome than that.

Skopje’s not a large city, so we saw a fair bit of it during our stay. The days were mostly spent happily wandering to one corner of town or another, after a healthy lie-in, taking our time and stopping off in one of the many coffee shops along the way. The Macedonian denar has a very favourable rate of exchange to the euro and the pound, so for once we all had plenty of money to spend. It’s an odd sort of city, and it apparently looks completely different to the last time Becca visited, just a few years ago. The government has gone to great lengths to revitalise the city, but a lot of this has entailed some very artificial attempts at providing visible history. There are statues everywhere, particularly in the main square, portraying everyone from Alexander to a jolly jazz band, and in every style from baroque to modern surrealist. The addition of Christmas lights only made the mixture stranger, especially considering that Christmas isn’t until January over there (Macedonia being one of the few nations that still runs its Christian fellows according to the Julian Calendar). I rather liked it. (Incidentally, apologies for the lack of photographs – Becca was camerawoman, and shall be supplying them to me in the future.)

We took in the museums, of art and city and natural history, and even the national zoo. This was, I am told, pretty horrible a few years ago, but it has happily been the recipient of much of the revit-funding and is now a decent place, with some proper pens and enclosures for the animals. A highlight of the trip has to be visiting a zoo in the snow, and seeing a pair of lions slipping about on the ice – not something I ever thought I see. Also, the rabbits seem to have the run of the place; possibly they are, in fact, in charge. Being in a zoo made me feel quite at home, even though my zookeeper experience lasted only four weeks over four years ago.

Much time was spent at the Old Bazaar, the last bastion of the Ottomans in Skopje. Galleries are held in the Turkish bathhouses, tiny bars and cafes sit amongst shops and stalls along cobbled roads, and the whole place has the most appealing atmosphere, although I was unable to buy a hat due to the shop displaying being seemingly abandoned for the week. Evidently shopkeepers can trust their fellow Skopjens, since the wares hung outside for the course of our stay and never disappeared. However, as much as we enjoyed the architecture and the shopping and the snow-sprinkled hippos, what we shall really take back with us and treasure forever is the food and drink. Nowhere have I ever felt so full. Nowhere have I ever eaten so much meat, fat and salt. I could happily have eaten kebabs and feta and chillis, and drunk Skopkso beer and local wine all week. In fact, that’s just what we did.

Some things I learned in Skopje:
-          The Cyrillic alphabet isn’t all that hard to get used to; I reckon I’d have mastered in a couple more days, although that doesn’t mean I’d have understood any of the words.
-          Fast food places sell toast – spelt TOCT – which is actually a vast, cheesy toasted sandwich of joy.
-          Ketchup is better in Macedonia.
-          The local moonshine, rakje, could be very dangerous.
-          If you order “bacon chips” in a posh restaurant, go get a huge plateful of bacon. You may, as Jim did, follow this up with a whole pork loin.
-          The authorities have tried to curb disorder and drunkenness by banning the retail sale of alcohol after It hasn’t worked.
-          Pretentious arty folk look just the same in England and Macedonia.
-          Young women in Macedonia are all stunningly attractive. Young men are all tall with impressive beards. Older folk are all mostly short and haggard-looking with unhappy expressions, meaning that either things were once very different there, or that a terrible change comes upon the Macedonians in their forties.
-          If you order hot chocolate in a cafĂ©, you risk getting a bucket-sized mug of thick, molten milk chocolate.
-          Television in Macedonia is terrible, the local music is very odd, but all the radio stations play eighties classics and the bars and pubs play jazz.

So, we learned a little about the culture and the way of life. Most of all, however, we relaxed and braced ourselves for out nights out, when me met Nena and her friends and went for drinks. Becca already knew many of these people, but for me and Jim the faces were all new, which is a wonderful thing, and made it all rather like a week-long party. I made a lot of new friends, drank with a lot of fascinating people, and was thoroughly embarrassed by inability with even basic Macedonian and their proficiency at English. On the Friday, Becca’s birthday, we went to Nena’s home and met her wonderful and welcoming parents, and were presented with a meal which surpassed out ability to finish. My god, though, it was good. Those Macedonians know how to eat.

All good things come to an end, of course, and after seven nights were flew home – via a quick stopover in Zagreb, allowing a swift visit to the Christmas market and the chance for some boozed-up hot chocolate. Macedonia was my sixteenth country, Croatia my seventeenth (plus one if you’re counting my home in the UK). Not too bad going, although there are many, many more to visit yet.

On Sunday night it was Christmas drinks with the workmates. That made it eight nights on the trot, and I am getting far too old for that sort of behaviour. Certainly worth it, though. You’re only young-ish once.

Sunday 9 December 2012

REVIEW: AHistory (3rd Ed.) by Lance Parkin and Lars Pearson

Five years ago, I reviewed the second edition of AHistory, and described it as “the essential work on Doctor Who’s torturous continuity,” and “an absolute must-have for any self-respecting Who fan.” Now the third edition’s out, and I stand by that.

I’ve now given up any hope of trying to resist the updates on these books. For Parkin and Pearson, it is not sufficient to merely bring the book up to date (or as far as is possible, in an ongoing series; this volume covers adventures released at any time up to the last day of 2011). No, each time they dive back in, they alter the parameters, creating more work for themselves than ever before. The result being that each edition of AHistory is bigger than its predecessor by roughly half, and it has now reached the point where standard printing cannot go any larger. If a fourth edition comes to be, it will either have to be separated into multiple volumes, or be published as a huge, bespoke hardback. The fifth edition will exist in its own dedicated library, while the sixth will collapse immediately into a quantum singularity.

So, this latest update not only includes all the TV episodes, novels, audios and comic strips, in the worlds of Doctor Who, Torchwood, SJA and K9, published or broadcast prior to 2012, but also a vast range of licensed spin-off material. Obvious inclusions such as the Benny books and audios are incorporated, but so is less clear-cut or more obscure  material, including Time Hunter, Graceless and that soft porn film with the Zygons in. Some inclusions are arguable; I’m hugely pleased to see the adventures of Iris Wildthyme and Faction Paradox included, but their relationship to the ongoing canon of Doctor Who is questionable at best. No matter, this time they’ve chucked everything in (almost).

There are some notable omissions. The 2010-11 Adventure Games are, oddly, not included, in spite of being marketed as canonical episodes alongside the TV series (and they only really have one outcome, unlike ‘Find Your Fate’ books and the like). Scream of the Shalka has been given the boot, while Minister of Chance, included on principle, is left out of the timeline due to being completely undateable. (No jokes about Doctor Who fans being likewise afflicted, please.) There’re bound to be arguments over where to draw the line, but it had to be drawn somewhere. This could, without care, have gone on forever; including Kaldor City, a crossover with Blake’s 7, suggests that series be included as well (I bet they were tempted). Sherlock Holmes appears more than once; should the Conan Doyle canon be included? This could get silly…

Some of the information now included makes previously unmanageable stories possible to place, while others throw information long held as gospel into question. The Beast Below, while providing firm, well-reasoned dates, is at odds with a huge section of future history - particularly annoying, seeing as there was a clear attempt to fit with previous continuity that was blatantly fluffed. Trying to get Torchwood: Miracle Day to fit, without completely screwing up the world seen in Doctor Who and SJA, would take a miracle in itself. It’s heartening that there are fellow geeks out there who care enough about this nonsense to spend the time and effort forcing these disparate works into one, reasonable coherent, narrative.

I have not read the book through; this one is so vast that it has become a dipper-into, even for me (but give me one long, quiet night, and who knows). A book that charts the adventures of dozens of heroes through over 1400 stories, from the beginning of time itself, right through the end of the Universe and out the other side… it’s not for the faint hearted. Christ, even the contents list is twenty pages long. It’s a mammoth endeavour, showing real love for Doctor Who and the works it has inspired, and any true obsessive will surely love it.

Thursday 6 December 2012

TRAILER UP for Star Trek Into Darkness

So, what does everyone think? A fuller trailer will be shown before screenings of The Hobbit, I am told (I am not interested in seeing nine minutes of the film at the iMax - how annoying would that be, having to wait months to watch the rest?)

As pointed out by some, it does come across as a fairly generic action trailer, but then, all such trailers look pretty samey these days anyway. What little we can see gives us alien planets (looks like Kirk gets a Mustafar moment), starships crashing into the water, lots of big guns and long black coats and a definite vibe of a superhero/blockbuster/summer event movie. The jury's still out concerning who Cumberbatch is playing. Is he Khan or Mitchell? Or someone else entirely? I'd like to see the return of Captain John Christopher, the temporally displaced USAF airman from the 1960s. Twisted with rage due to something dramatic and arbitrary. Because, you know, why not?