Prose Review: Fanwinked

We’re back, with another Doctor Who prose review! I say “prose” instead of the usual “novel”, because what I’m reviewing today isn’t strictly a novel; it’s a collection. I’m a bit behind on the New Adventures—didn’t make it through Transit in time to post about it this week—and so we’ll cover something different that I finished recently. Today we’re covering J.R. Southall’s Fanwinked, an unauthorized collection of Doctor Who short stories. It’s off the beaten path, but bear with me; it may interest you, and it’s currently in print (unlike most of the New Adventures). Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read this book!

Fanwinked

I have to say up front, I was a little confused when I discovered this book (via a post on the Facebook page for the War Doctor charity anthology, Seasons of War, which with any luck should be arriving in the mail this week). It’s billed as unauthorized—the author doesn’t shy away from descriptions of “fanfiction”—and yet it’s still for sale. I’ve been working toward publication for some time, and I still have no idea how that can be legal, but apparently it is. At any rate, allegedly all royalties are being donated to charity, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

The key descriptor I have for the book is “irreverent”. It’s not a serious take on the Whoniverse at all, although there are a few serious stories in it. Most of its selections are parodies of one sort or another. Don’t let that discourage you; they’re mostly good parodies, if not quite Curse of Fatal Death good. When I say irreverent, I also mean that there is material here that—while not particularly lurid—would be a bit too racy for the television series, though not by much. (He may allow it to be called fanfiction, but it’s not THAT kind of fanfiction. Mostly.)

It is worth it to take a moment and copy over the book’s back-cover blurb before we go on:

Somewhere in space and time, Peter Cushing really is the first Doctor Who, Hugh Grant’s TARDIS turn lasted longer than a few Fatal Death minutes, and Adric is the King of the Neanderthals.

In this same alternative reality, the United States produced their own domestic remake of the series, Clara met the eighth Doctor over a cow, and the eleventh Doctor had an insatiable desire to terminate Amy and Rory with as much extreme prejudice as he could muster.

None of these things are real. But don’t let that stop you.

The blurb is a bit misleading. There is a Cushing Doctor story, but it’s strictly within the universe of the Cushing Dr. Who films; and as far as I could tell, there is no story that includes Hugh Grant’s Doctor (or if there is, he’s vague enough not to make it obvious; maybe it was a planned story that was cut?). Adric definitely is king of the Neanderthals, however; we’ll get to that. The other stories it references are as it says.

Let’s take a glance at each story. I’m listing them out of order; I want to look at the parodies first, and then finish with the more serious works. Many of the stories are set up like an Unbound audio: “What if…?”

The book opens with “The Silent Space”. This Eleventh-Doctor story asks the question, “What if you open the TARDIS doors while it’s in flight?” The answer really has nothing to do with the question, but that’s beside the point. The story’s real purpose is to provide a send-up of the show’s habit of killing Rory Williams at every opportunity—in fact, he dies a few times in this story—and to that end, it brings in River Song at various ages, and not one, but two Amys—who end up kissing each other. Hey, I did say it was mostly not that kind of fanfiction. It’s a funny story, but it’s a little disorganized; there are certainly better. The book also includes an earlier draft of this story, which is in the form of a script rather than a short story, but hits all the same notes. The story was first published in a fanzine called Fanwnak (and no, that isn’t a misspelling, it’s actually titled that way).

“River Song’s Bedtime Story”, also written for Fanwnak, is a good followup to the “The Silent Space”. It uses the framework of River—the adult River, mind you—visiting her parents, Amy and Rory, overnight for the first time; and she insists on something she never got as a child: A bedtime story. Okay, silly, perhaps, but simple enough. The story they tell her reads as a parody, but actually is fairly serious with regard to its events. In the story, the Doctor takes Amy and Rory (post-The Big Bang) back to Totter’s Yard, 23 November 1963, to show them where his travels had their beginning (yes, I know, not literally the beginning, but shut up, this is fanwank at its best). Their plans take an abrupt turn, however, when they end up rerouted to Dallas a day early, and meet none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. The Doctor’s usual take on such events is to leave them untouched, but there’s just one problem: Oswald is a Time Agent from the future, and he’s here to save the president! Insert chaos, watch things degrade from there. I won’t spoil the ending.

“Companion Peace” rounds out this early trilogy of Fanwnak submissions, all of which feature the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River. This is the only story that I truly didn’t like, and for one simple reason: It’s creepy as hell. In its presentation, it feels very much like Curse of Fatal Death; it features the Doctor divesting himself of past responsibilities—mostly in the form of his companions, whom he repeatedly tries to drop off in dangerous situations—and obtaining a new love interest. That’s fine; it’s funny. Then you reach the last page; and for once, I don’t mind giving a spoiler. On the last page, you find out that the new love interest…is a memory-wiped Susan. You find this out just before the Doctor goes to bed with her. This is completely out of character for this author, and honestly I have no idea what the hell he was thinking, or how he got even an independent fanzine to publish it. I promise you the other stories are not like that.

“Dance of Light” brings us to a section of stories that feel parodic, but really aren’t; the author is writing a serious story, but cloaking it in humor. It’s well done in most cases, and is similar to the way that the Christmas specials tend to run; in fact, one story that we’ll get to could be a sort of Christmas special. More of that later. This story—written under the pseudonym “Terrance Dick”, without the final –s–actually doesn’t involve the Doctor at all. It’s a UNIT story, set shortly before the Third Doctor’s regeneration in Planet of the Spiders, and it gives us the story of Harry Sullivan’s arrival at UNIT. Sergeant Benton, the Brigadier, Mike Yates, and Jo Grant find themselves obligated to thwart an alien invasion while attending a celebration of UNIT’s tenth anniversary. It’s a neatly written story, and gives Jo and Mike a chance to take center stage, however briefly. Harry—the real Harry, if that’s not revealing too much—does appear near the end. The Doctor gets a brief mention, but does not appear. Anything else I could say would be a spoiler; but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and was sorry to see it be so short. (Big Finish, take note: Perhaps a set of UNIT Short Trips wouldn’t be out of order…?)

“Maid of Eight” is another faux-parodic story. It’s narrated by Clara Oswald, although that isn’t revealed until later, and involves one of her many “echoes” from The Name of the Doctor. This one meets the Eighth Doctor; it’s not particularly clear from the story itself that that is the incarnation appearing here, but between the descriptions given and the title of the story, it’s obvious. Eight is traveling alone at this point. I’m not fond of Clara in her later seasons, but I’ve always admitted to liking the “impossible girl” storyline, and this story falls under that umbrella, so it’s not bad. It also includes a cow with green milk. What’s not to love?

“Time-Shock” is the promised Adric story, and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the popular complaint that the Fifth Doctor could have saved Adric. The Doctor wants to go back and save Adric; Nyssa and Tegan, not so much. There are some suggestive moments—okay, some very blatant suggestive moments—between Nyssa and Tegan, and some innuendo involving the Doctor; this is not a family story, but it’s not creepy like “Companion Peace”, either. The story begins at the end of Earthshock, and ends with Adric becoming the expected King of the Neanderthals (and the Australopithecus, and…). How he gets there is something you just have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say, he didn’t die after all, despite the best efforts of his female companions.

“Let’s Regenerate!” is written in script form. I have to say, I’ve read it once, gone over it a few more times, and I still have no idea what’s going on. That in no way makes it any less funny. It involves the various Doctors meeting and progressing through their regenerations, finally culminating in a new, Thirteenth Doctor (gloriously portrayed as John Cleese). The Valeyard makes an appearance; we get not one, but TWO Capaldi Twelfth Doctors; and the first through third Doctors are portrayed by Kenneth Colley, Sam Troughton, and Sean Pertwee. Every Doctor delivers a ton of one-line non sequiturs, but always perfectly in character. I’m still laughing, even if I can’t quite figure out why.

“WHO” asks the question: “What if Doctor Who was remade in America?” You may have seen the list that went around a few years ago of who might play the various Doctors, had the show been made in America (it was quite good, except for Nicholas Cage). This, I assure you, is as far from that as you can get. We’re so deep in parody territory here that we may never get out. The author uses multiple pseudonyms within this story; his favorite is “Stephen Muppet”, poking fun at Steven Moffat. This story is the most egregious example of that. It’s another Eleventh Doctor story, though only incredibly loosely so; it takes the characters of the Amy Pond (or rather, Aimee Bond—yes, it’s that kind of parody) era and loosely retells the story of Genesis of the Daleks, and I do mean loosely. Rory still manages to die, or almost anyway. There’s a lot of innuendo here, but nothing particularly gratuitous, unless you count renaming the TARDIS as “Travels In Time And Space Shuttle”—you figure out the acronym. Yes, they make exactly that joke. It’s a funny story, but I felt like it tries too hard; it’s humor on the same level as the old Mad Magazine or Cracked Magazine comics, but without the experience those magazines had after years of writing such things.

“The Happy Man” is parody by merit of its subject matter, though it tries to be a serious story. It’s a sequel to The Happiness Patrol, and brings back the Kandy Man—excuse me, the Happy Man, as he’s calling himself here. It’s hard to write a story about that character without unintentionally becoming a parody; Southall doesn’t really manage the trick. It’s not a bad story, though. It begins with a drug epidemic, and ends as a human-interest story, and somehow the transition doesn’t seem contrived. It does give us a made-up companion character, Punk, rather than using Ace; I think that was a good decision, as Ace would have taken over this story, and it’s not about the companion. It has one of the better speeches about the Doctor’s (and the companion’s) purpose, and it’s worth the read just for that scene. I enjoyed it anyway, but if you just can’t stomach a Kandy Man story, it’s probably skippable.

“Pieces of Eight” is by far the strangest story in the collection. I was sure at first that it was going to be some kind of parody. It’s written in script form, and an animated version exists on YouTube, although I haven’t looked it up as yet. It’s an Eighth Doctor story, and at first glance it’s another take on the popular trope of having the Doctor meet his past selves inside his own mind. It lampshades this trope by having the Doctor recognize that that is what’s happening; but still, nothing works out quite like he expects. The various version of the Doctor have alternate names here, like “Stream” and “Flavour” and “Choke”; that’s one of the reasons I assumed it was a parody, and laughed appropriately. By the end of the story, you’re not laughing anymore, as the story very suddenly pulls the curtain back, and you realize that it’s a commentary on the Time War, before the War even begins. I was completely caught off guard by this turn of events, and I like to think I’m good at spotting a twist coming. It’s a very good story, though it can only really spring its twist on you once, and probably wouldn’t hold up to rereading (or as I call this, “Shyamalan Syndrome”). It does seem to have been written before the War Doctor was introduced, as it skips over him and ends with a cameo of the Ninth Doctor. (In context, that’s not much of a spoiler—read the story!)

Now we reach the truly serious stories, of which there are three. These occur in the middle of the book, but I delayed them to the end of the post, because they’re worth the extra consideration. “Time’s Past is a short piece, only requiring two or three minutes to read, but it is hands down the most emotional piece in the book. It’s a very brief encounter between an aging Ian Chesterton and the Eleventh Doctor, in which they reminisce without ever quite revealing their identities to each other. It doesn’t matter; they know. (It doesn’t take into account Ian’s previous meeting with the Eleventh Doctor in Hunters of the Burning Stone, but then, stories in other media often overlook the comics, so that’s forgiveable, perhaps.) This story made me cry, which is something that almost never happens with regard to a story. It also takes into account the real-world death of Jacqueline Hill, giving a corresponding death to Barbara at some point in the past, and handling the entire matter very respectfully, but also very emotionally. It’s my favorite entry in the collection, and I highly recommend it. I’ve often imagined such a scene between the Twelfth Doctor and Ian, and I had hoped that he would make a cameo in Class as one of Coal Hill’s board of governors, so that we would have such a scene; but it didn’t happen, of course. This story is very much what I would have imagined, though with a different Doctor.

“The Short and the Tall of It” is the aforementioned Cushing/Dr. Who story. It’s narrated in first person by that universe’s version of Ian, who is still dating Dr. Who’s granddaughter, Barbara, placing it between the two films. It implies that there have been other adventures in Tardis (again, not a misspelling—see any post about the movies for more details) since the first, with Ian a semi-unwilling participant. It’s this universe’s answer to Planet of Giants, and makes clever use of both time-travel (Tardis-free, this time) and changes in size. I’m fond of the films, and I like stories with the Cushing Doctor, rare as they may be; and I really had no problems with this story. It’s pure fun, but that’s exactly what it aims to be, and it succeeds.

Finally, there’s “Everything In Its Right Place”. This story centers on the War Doctor, and constitutes Southall’s contribution to the Seasons of War charity anthology. It seems to hinge on other events covered in that anthology, though I won’t be sure until I receive my copy; it implies that the War Doctor previously relocated Earth into another dimension. In Earth’s place, something else has arisen, riding on the dreams of the displaced planet. It’s told from the point of view of Alice, a peculiar girl who seems to be not entirely human…but she’s becoming human, or so the Doctor thinks. It plays out similarly to such classic stories as The Mind Robber, with changing environments and adversaries; it ends with a poignant loss, before the Doctor returns to his war. It’s the older War Doctor in view here, although I understand that the charity anthology includes stories of his younger self as well. There are two versions of this story as well; the version that was submitted for the anthology appears first, and an earlier draft rounds out the book. Both are good; the changes don’t seem to improve so much as change focus.

As a whole, the collection is better than I expected when I bought it. At a price of just five dollars for the Kindle edition, I wasn’t expecting much; I just thought it would be a few hours’ idle entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised. There’s really only one low point (“Companion Peace”), and several of the other stories give insight into corners of the Doctor Who universe that often slip through the cracks and get forgotten. It’s an emotional roller coaster, running the gamut from humor to sobriety to nobility to “Why would you WRITE that?!” It’s available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition; the link is below. If you’re the kind of fan for whom “canon” is less a structure and more a friendly suggestion, you’ll love this collection; and even if that’s not you, you’ll still find something to enjoy. Check it out!

Next week: Hopefully I’ll be back on track with the VNAs, reviewing Transit. See you there.

Fanwinked, by J.R. Southall, may be purchased from Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.  Link is below.

Fanwinked

Interlude: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

You thought it was over, but you couldn’t be more wrong: Dr. Who is back! And yes, I mean “Dr.”, not “Doctor”. Today we’re looking at the second of two “Dr. Who” feature films, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., featuring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who! Let’s get started!

Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing as “Dr. Who”–NOT “Doctor Who”

Previously I reviewed the first movie in the series, Dr. Who and the Daleks, based on the 1963-1964 television serial, The Daleks. You can find my review here. That film, released in 1965, saw Doctor Who adapted for the big screen, and featured Peter Cushing in the title role as the slightly-mad scientist Dr. Who (Who being his actual surname, as he is human, not alien). He was the inventor of a time-space ship in the shape of a police box, called Tardis (no acronym), and was accompanied by his granddaughters Susan and Barbara, as well as Barbara’s somewhat incompetent boyfriend Ian, to the planet Skaro, where he met the Daleks. Taken captive, he and his companions are forced to overcome their captors and aid the native Thals in overthrowing them for good. It’s an odd mirror of the television series; as it was intended to be a series of movies, with less time for backstory, there is none of the embryonic lore that was even then present in the television series. I had commented that it fit in well with the Disney live-action movies of the day, and I still think so; that doesn’t make it bad, but it is certainly different from its television progenitor.

Dalek invasion 1

The following year, this sequel, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., was released, based on the serial titled The Dalek Invasion of Earth. That serial was a bit shorter than the original (six episodes instead of seven), and a bit faster-paced; it showed a slightly more advanced breed of Daleks, as they no longer require the transmission of electricity through the floor; in fact, they can function while fully submerged in water. This upgrade is also seen in the film version; the sight of the Dalek rising from the river remains one of the most dramatic moments in early series history. Rumors have persisted for years that a third Dalek movie was planned, based on The Chase, but if so, it was never produced.

WILF!  I mean, TOM!

WILF! I mean, TOM!

Things have changed a bit this time. Ian and Barbara are no longer present (coincidentally, by the time the movie was released, their television counterparts had left the Doctor and returned home); they are replaced by Dr. Who’s niece Louise, and Tom Campbell, a policeman with the misfortune of wandering into Tardis while dealing with a burglary. Modern Whovians will recognize Tom: He’s played by a young Bernard Cribbins, who would much later play Donna Noble’s wonderfully worrisome grandfather, Wilfred Mott. While the Doctor doesn’t exactly kidnap Tom willfully, the effect is the same; he leaves with Tom aboard so as to avoid being caught in the middle of the events outside. Much more politely than the television Doctor, he later puts Tom back right where he found him—or earlier, actually, allowing him to anticipate the burglary.

Almost Robomen!

Almost Robomen!

No Thals are present this time around; we stay on Earth for the duration, but we do leap forward to—as the title says—the year 2150 A.D. The plot isn’t too dissimilar to the television version: Tardis is immediately blocked off by a pile of rubble, and its crew fall in with, alternately, the human resistance and the Daleks’ mind-controlled Robomen. After quite a bit of back and forth, and a scene where the Doctor and Tom are nearly made into Robomen themselves, the group ends up at a mine where the Daleks are attempting something ambitious: They want to destroy and remove the Earth’s metallic core, and install machinery that will allow them to pilot the planet through the cosmos, giving them a mobile base for their war of conquest. It varies a little from the television version, in that the Daleks there are defeated simply by the explosion at the mine (presumably leaving other Dalek cells around the world to be dealt with), whereas here they are destroyed by the Earth’s magnetism when the bomb is detonated out of place. This version is less plausible, of course, but it makes for some interesting visuals onscreen, as Daleks are pulled in and crushed like aluminum cans.

Don't fall, Susan!

Don’t fall, Susan!

The Dalek Invasion of Earth had the distinction of being the first time in the series’ history that a main cast member left the show, as Susan left the TARDIS, or rather, was left behind by the Doctor. It’s a great scene, giving us his famous “one day I shall come back” speech. In this version, Susan looks to be about twelve at most, and there’s none of that. Really, she’s a bit unnecessary throughout the movie; but then, so is Barbara—the bulk of the action is carried out by the resistance fighters and Tom. Even the Doctor seems almost to be making a cameo in his own film; he’s definitely less involved here than he was in the previous film. None of that is to say that the movie is bad or unenjoyable; it wasn’t uncommon in the First Doctor era for him to be less involved than his companions, as they serve as audience surrogates.

Dalek invasion 5

Once again, we get the same colorful and explosive (literally) visuals as the first film; the Daleks, again, are clearly ranked by color. They differ from their small-screen counterparts in that they don’t fire bullets or lasers, but rather, a gas weapon of some sort. Everything is a bit bigger here, and that’s understandable. The Daleks still are susceptible to being literally pushed around, unfortunately; while I think this version are a bit more menacing than the television version of the era, it breaks the immersion completely to see them blow up upon being shoved down a ramp by a bunch of humans. If it was that easy, then how did they conquer anything in the first place?

"You've been doing the Tardis up a bit!  I don't like it!"  ~Patrick Troughton

“You’ve been doing the Tardis up a bit! I don’t like it!” ~Patrick Troughton

This movie assumes you’ve seen the first one. It does give some hasty explanation of what’s going on—the nature of Tardis, especially, plus a brief recap of the first film—but it’s very rushed and short on detail. There are references to things such as the Daleks’ previous dependence on electricity, but there’s little explanation.

dalek invasion 7

So, what did I think? Last time, I spoke a bit about the nature of canon, and whether this film can count as canon. I won’t get into that again; my argument there applies here as well. My impression of the movie is that, like its predecessor, it’s a lot of fun to watch—assuming, that is, that you go into it with an open mind. It’s not Doctor Who, and it never will be. It isn’t supposed to be. It’s Dr. Who—and it stands well on its own two feet. It’s very dated, of course, but then, it should be. It’s free of the difficulties that the series often faces with regard to its nature—is it a family show? Is it more for adults? What’s appropriate to show? This is a movie you’d watch with your children and not think twice. At the same time, it’s still based on Doctor Who, and still grapples with the same concepts of time, change, justice, hope, desperation—those things never change, and they’ll always be worth our time.

High entertainment? No. Still worth it? Totally.

dalek invasion 8

So, take a break from saving the universe. It’ll still be there. Series Ten is a long way away. Sit back, grab a drink, and watch some Daleks get shoved around. Have some fun with this film—let the television series be serious. Spend a few hours with Dr. Who. You might be entertained, but you won’t be disappointed.

Note:  Unfortunately I was unable to locate streaming sources for Dr. Who and the Daleks or Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., however both are available for purchase on DVD from Amazon.com, bundled together as The Dalek Collection.

 

Interlude: Dr. Who and the Daleks

Dr_who_and_the_daleks

And now for something completely different! Or at least, a little different.  I’m taking a brief break from my Classic Doctor Who rewatch today, and talking about something related:  the 1965 theatrical release, Dr. Who and the Daleks!

Dr. Who and the Daleks

Wanting to expand the Doctor Who brand (and of course make more money, though that’s understandable), in 1965 the BBC and Terry Nation, the creator of the Daleks, struck a deal with Amicus Productions (by way of AARU) to bring the Doctor and the Daleks to the big screen. It seems hokey now, but at that time it was a big deal:  The already-popular series would get an adaptation with wider reach, and—revolutionary!—in color! Technicolor, to be exact.  The film, titled Dr. Who and the Daleks, was released in June 1965 in the UK (1966 in the US), and starred Peter Cushing as the Doctor.  Loosely based on the Daleks’ first appearance in the TV series (1963-64’s The Daleks), it was the first of two such films, followed by Daleks: Invasion Earth—2150 AD (based on The Dalek Invasion of Earth). Rumors have persisted for years that a third film was to be produced, possibly based on The Chase, the serial that saw the departure of Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright.  Famously they’re known as a sort of alternate continuity of the Doctor.

Tardis interior 1965 movie

Inside Tardis, and hello, Ian!

I had wanted to see this film for years, and (courtesy of a great Christmas gift from my amazing girlfriend) last night I had the chance. It was a surreal experience; it’s just similar enough to The Daleks to feel familiar, but just different enough to catch you off guard on occasion.  Some obvious differences:  This “Dr. Who” is no alien, but rather a human, a mad scientist type whose last name is literally “Who”.  His Tardis—small letters—is a ship called “Tardis”, and it is no acronym.  The ship itself is vastly different inside from that depicted on the small screen, though it is still dimensionally transcendental (if described somewhat differently).  Barbara, here, is not a schoolteacher, but rather is one of Dr. Who’s granddaughters along with Susan, who is some years younger than the version played by Carol Anne Ford.  Ian is Barbara’s boyfriend (perhaps presaging the relationship that had visibly begun to develop in their later appearances on the series, and that has since been more heavily developed in spinoff media).

tardis crew 1965 movie

From left:  Susan, Barbara, Dr. Who, Ian

This film wouldn’t be out of place among the Disney family films of the era. You almost expect to see Mary Poppins arrive and start up a musical number at any moment.  The Doctor is the somewhat-bumbling-but-grandfatherly paternal figure, and Susan fills out the precocious-child role.  It’s the Daleks who save the film from Disney territory; they’re still frightening, and somehow more bloodthirsty than their early-series counterparts.  I really had no complaints about them, except one:  I commented that they were too easily pushed around by the humans, manhandled even.  You would think that powerful death machines would be able to put on the brakes when shoved.  Then again, even as I type this, I’m watching season ten’s Planet of the Daleks, and just saw a couple of Daleks get pushed into frozen pools.  I guess some things never change.

daleks 1965 movie.png

Daleks…

thals

…and Thals

The Daleks’ enemies, the Thals, are overblown compared to their television counterparts: angelic faces, copper hair, gold eye shadow—it has the feel of a terrible drag show.  If I was expecting Mary Poppins earlier, I’m expecting the Village People now.  Still, I realize it was a different time, and the things that constituted innuendo would have been different then, so I’ll overlook it.  It was harder to overlook Ian Chesterton, however; that character’s portrayal was the one truly disappointing thing here for me, as I like Ian as portrayed in the series.  On television he’s the sixties’ ideal of a man’s man—confident, capable, strong, good in a fight, handsome.  In this film, he’s a wuss.  He alternates between whining, stumbling, and getting knocked out; and I couldn’t help wondering what Barbara sees in him.  It’s not often I’ve rooted for a companion to die, but this was one of those times…alas, he survives.

Peter Cushing.jpg

Peter Cushing is Dr. Who

But I digress. I don’t want to give the impression that I hated the movie; on the contrary, it was a fun watch.  In some ways, it even exceeds its television counterpart: you get more Daleks onscreen, and a pretty good destruction scene near the end.  The moment when the Daleks ambush the Thals at the cliff outside the city is very impressive indeed, and is played out very differently from the series version.  The addition of color to the film is a dubious benefit, given that the colors used are roughly equivalent to an Austin Powers film, but it was at least gratifying to see the Daleks in full color (in the series, you completely miss the notion that color signifies rank among the Daleks, at least for the first six years).  You get a few laughs that are absent from the more serious television version—Ian having trouble with doors in the Dalek city makes for a decent sight gag.  And of course, there is Peter Cushing’s great performance.  Although his early lines are lackluster, that’s hardly his fault; and by the end of the film, he is the Doctor, as much as William Hartnell ever was.  I was chiefly familiar with his career from his turn as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, which, while fantastic, is a completely different kind of role.  He pulls off the eccentric, benevolent-but-mad scientist just as well (as anyone familiar with his history of Frankenstein films could probably have told me!).  Of course this film isn’t canon; but you can see how it could have been.

doctor_who_throughout_the_ages_by_luke_the_f0x-d6zbaer

This awesome image courtesy of Luke-the-F0x on DeviantArt.  Used without permission, but credit where it’s due–check  out his work! (See link below*)

Thinking about this film, I can’t help thinking about the question of canon in general. It’s famously been said that Doctor Who is a show without canon; and if you poll any group of fans, you’ll get widely differing opinions on what constitutes canon in Doctor Who.  Do we limit ourselves to the television series?  Or do we allow other material?  The novels, and if so, which ones?  What about the comics?  The Big Finish audio dramas?  That controversial 1996 movie?  Or—one of my personal favorites—the parodic Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death?  Where do you draw the line?  I’m not in any way suggesting that this movie or its sequel should be canon.  I am saying, as a fan, that they can be.  There’s room for all the Doctors here.  It’s not unusual for these things to become an argument, because if there’s one thing we science fiction fans can do, it’s argue.  (And, let’s be clear, I’m all for debate—that’s half the fun!)  But there’s no reason to let those arguments divide us.  After all, when you boil it down, we’re all in this for the fun of it.

Dr. Who and the Daleks, if nothing else, is a lot of fun.

So, Whovians, what are you waiting for? Find a copy**, and check it out!  You won’t be sorry.

*The image above can be found at the creator’s DeviantArt page, here.

**I am not endorsing Amazon.com as the only source for this material; it is simply the first vendor I found.  Please feel free to do business with any vendor you prefer.

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