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A weekend of Whovianism

I am nearing the end of the latest chapter of my (stupid) teaching portfolio, which is Good News. Soon, I shall be on to the final phase of putting the whole thing together and submitting it, and then you will not need to hear me complaining about it any more. Don't let your guard down just yet, though, as I'm sure that final phase will warrant griping of its own.

Anyway, I'd done enough by the end of Friday to head off with a clear conscience and the knowledge that I would not need to think about it again until Monday, and catch the train to charming Hebden Bridge; there to meet miss_s_b, matgb, burlesque_bunny and her fella, and attend a performance of Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf.

I've heard people quietly buzzing about this show for about a year now, and I'm happy to report that it more than lived up to all the good reports I'd encountered. Of course, it centres around Doctor Who, but it's also about childhood, and loneliness, and feeling like an outsider, and the painful process of growing up, and Britain, and idealism, and small-minded prejudice, and being thirty-something and coming to terms with your own identity. We howled and howled with laughter throughout the show: but it was profoundly inspiring and self-affirming and moving as well, and at the end we all wept quiet tears of pride and joy for the show that means so much to all of us, and the values that do, too.

As miss_s_b has already said on dw_academy, it's hard to review the show as such without just relaying all the jokes and saying how funny they were. So, like her, I'd really recommend that you just buy the CD instead. You won't get the immediacy of the live performance that way, of course: particularly the moments when he handled a bunch of microphone and sound-cue problems so professionally that they actually added to the impact of the show, rather than detracting from it. But if you have any fondness for Doctor Who whatsoever, you'll love it.

Saturday then saw me spending a tiring, but very satisfying, day painting the back bedroom in my house. And I took it as an opportunity for further Whovianism, in the form of some Eight audios. Something like painting, of course, presents the ideal opportunity to listen to stories like that, because the painting itself doesn't make any noise at all (unlike vacuuming, for instance), but it does successfully occupy those parts of your brain and body that might get bored just sitting still listening to a story, while leaving those parts that would definitely get bored just painting to enter entirely into the world of the drama.

First, I listened to Storm Warning, on the very reasonable grounds that it is the first 'proper' Eight audio, following on from (but not making any direct reference to) his version of Shada, which I'd already listened to. It's pretty good stuff, combining the historical setting of the Airship R101's disastrous maiden voyage with an encounter between its crew and an alien culture, the Triskelli, who seem to have literally divided themselves up along the lines of the Freudian ego (the engineers), super-ego (the law-giver) and id (the uncreators).

Paul McGann continues in sound form as the Doctor, and gets a decent script to work from, with a nice balance of light banter and weightier looks at his sense of responsibility towards the Universe and its people. I particularly enjoyed some of the pop-culture shout-outs that were given to him: e.g. H2G2 (when he flips an Altarian dollar), Hancock's Half-Hour ("A pint? That's nearly an armful!") and Network ("I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!").

The story also introduces Charley Pollard (India Fisher) as his new, regular companion. She has hints of an interesting backstory - she begins the story as a self-styled 'Edwardian adventuress' (slightly confusingly, since the story is set in the 1930s), stowing aboard the R101 in disguise as a ship's boy; and although she claims to be in search of excitement, the Doctor also observes that she seems to be running from something. Other than that, though, she seems to suffer rather from the same problem as Astrid in Voyage of the Damned: she's a bit too keen to get out there and travel in the TARDIS, and that rather closes down the possibilities for the gradual development of an interesting relationship between her and the Doctor.

And that impression was very much born out by the second story I listened to, Sword of Orion. Unless I've got the wrong end of the stick somewhere, this is meant to be Charley's first proper voyage in the TARDIS - but although there are one or two references to her being a bit surprised at what she's seeing, or not knowing what technological words mean, she seems to get over the cultural dissonance of leaving 1930s Britain for a far-future spaceport, and to slot into a cardboard cut-out, gung-ho but slightly bemused companion role much too quickly for me. The secondary characters were also much less well-defined than in Storm Warning too - to the extent that I had trouble telling some of them apart.

That said, it's got some interesting elements. The driving context is a future war between humans and androids, with the key point being that the androids are in fact completely indistinguishable from humans anyway. And the villains turn out to be the Cybermen, and in fine, ruthless form, too. But definitely not as good as Storm Warning, and probably only worth listening to if you need something to keep you entertained while you work.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
I think Nick Briggs was completely carried away by the idea of contrasting the Cybermen to the Orion androids. So much so he then went and wrote an entire spin off series about it. If you like that bit fine, but no, there isn't much else in it.

"and that rather closes down the possibilities for the gradual development of an interesting relationship between her and the Doctor."

I suspect the point being made is that the Doctor and Charley are essentially alike. Which is why the following plot has them falling in love at a time when the Doctor would otherwise be sending her back to die in the R101; as the series develops it becomes a choice between her life and the the universe. It may be India Fisher's acting as much as the character, but I did become teribly fond of India.

- K
Jul. 13th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK - that does sound like a bit more of an interesting story-line for her.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 14th, 2008 08:25 am (UTC)
Hey - standing on the shoulders of giants, 'an all that... :-)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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