Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Empire Of The Racnoss.

Its that feeling I get from time to time. Poor Peter Davison having to follow Tom Baker in the role of the greatest adventurer of our time. It never really goes away for me, the departure of Tom Baker as The Doctor being such a seismic event in my, then, young life. Here he is again, following Mister Baker, in the second story of this box-set. So the clever people at Big Finish handle the transition in the best possible way by giving him a cracking story he can really get his teeth into while still remaining true in characterization terms, as his Doctor. In fact his interpretations of the Doctor's sweeter nature, his almost trusting innocence in the face of ravenous evil is a nicely judged counter point to his enemies and their viscous plans which practically drip spider saliva.
             I have always thought that the Racnoss Queen as she appeared in the Runaway Bride ( oh the memory of happier days and happy holidays.) was an astonishing triumph of of costuming married to prosthetics. Her first appearance was a startling revelation and to this day I cannot see Sarah Parrish buried under that hideous make-up. In this story they have managed to recreate the rasping cringey quality of the Racnoss. Like a bunch of wicked Dickensian Arachnids. It was an old BBC drama trick, projecting archetypes using class inspired performances and this one for me is pitch perfect. This always innocent incarnation of The Doctor is unable to grasp how devious and cruel the Racnoss are as a species. That these enormous spider gods are driven by a voracious hunger that practically defines them as a race. Almost everything they do is motivated by hunger of some shape or form.
             Even Tolkien's great spiders, which the always war like Orcs rode into battle, were marked by a similar characteristic. The relationship with everyone they ever allied themselves with breaking down as these great omnivores ate not only their enemies but their allies also. Even giving birth was a hugely dangerous experience as their off-spring were born starving. Baby Racnoss  almost always devoured whoever sired them. Art imitating life.
              It is a spider's web of a tale. Twisty turny as well as timey-whimey.
              Classic Doctor, new expression.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Night Of The Vashta Nerada.

"The piranhas of the air" was how the Doctor in his Tenth  incarnation tried to best sum up this terrifying life-form. " They are not in every shadow but they can be found in any shadow" he added just in case you were not frightened enough. The Vashta Nerada are a truly scary monster in the classic sense of the word, a detail which much befits this collection. Monster is a word the last few series of the telly show seems to shy away from using, seemingly terrified of the context used or misused. As a word it is an extremely descriptive broad blanket whose use feels awkward, bearing in mind the notion that one man's monster is another man's hero. Although it is pretty difficult to imagine anyone thinking a flesh devouring black cloud of death is something to be idolised.
           This is the first story in a quartet of tales, where older incarnations of The Doctor encounter monsters from the more recent era. Written by John Dorney this is a story which evokes much of what I liked, what I loved, about the whole Tom Baker era. It is a story which feels well suited to the first three or four seasons of this most Bohemian of our favourite Time-Lord. A strangely familiar if distant and distorted location where something very nasty lurks in the shadows and dark places. Strong characters emerge and some of those strong characters are reduced to dust and bones.
            Tom Baker sounds so on form too. That towering and yet emotive voice helps the drama move along at a thunderous pace, listen to the consternation in his voice as he is constantly frustrated by the very people he is trying to keep alive. It was such an entertaining ride I restarted it right after I finished it. Barely a breath between ending and beginning again.
             Much like The Doctor's lives I suppose.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shada. The Book.The EpisodesThe Video. The DVD. The Bueray Steelbook.The Holo Pill.

How nervous Gareth Roberts must have been when it came to sitting down and actually contemplating the huge task of adapting Douglas Adams script for the unfinished, but by now,totally accepted notion of a Doctor Who classic era story. He must have giggled at the sheer implied hubris, then got over it when he realised, surely at some point, that he is an extremely talented writer himself and could bring oh so much to the table himself. which is what Gareth Roberts does in spades. He has taken an unfinished sculpture and bashed out a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
            I am gushing, I know, but this book has so entertained me over the last three nights. I am prone to the blues as the dark nights creep over us and this lovely book has so far proved an antidote to that melancholy shade. Not only a great story well retold it also manages to smuggle a host of wee knowing treats within the text. For instance the great Dave Gibbons gets a mention among a list of great artists named as those whose genius are not recognised within their lifetime. (.Pssssst, Dave, we all know.)
            Its a era that is never so very far away from my thoughts. Probably in part because of a framed painting I have on a wall at home of Romanna as played by the lovely Lalla Ward, painted for me by a chap named Roger Shore. In the photo below you will also see a painting by Paul Holden of Leela, signed by Lovely Loise Jameson. Hope these ladies do not mind me prefixing their first names with the descriptive " Lovely." In truth they were and remain so. Lovely, luminous beings.And any friend of The Doctor is a friend of mine.
            Shada was to be Douglas Adams swansong on Doctor Who. What a bitter sweet thing it is to see it out there in the public shared cultural zeitgeist about to find a host of new admirers. I almost envy the sense of discovery of coming across the work of Douglas Adams and his time on Doctor Who. I say almost because I would not want to perhaps have foregone sitting through those episodes on dark Saturday tea times oh so long ago on a sofa far, far away as they were originally broadcast.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Brighton Days.

 (From my sketchbook.)
Maybe its the dark nights coming in but The far off days of the Leisure Hive recently.sprung once more to mind. The Doctor snoring away on the pebbly old Brighton beach as Romanna tried her best to entertain K9 in her Thomas Mann swimming suit. Or maybe its the imminent release of the partially animated SHADA. Or maybe its just the fact that Doctor Who is never very far away from my mind but I got to scribbling in one of my sketch books.
               Next stop The Leisure Hive on the planet Argolis.
               Although I will pass on a session in the Tachyon Recreation Generator.
               Do not want to go to pieces.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Are You My Mummy?

Blimey, absent-minded or what, forget to say why I liked these 19 Tales of the immortal Dead so much, when it could so easily have been little more than a crusty series of Universal Mummy related tropes (or sadly, misjudged updates like the recent enjoyable if flawed big budget movie of the same name.). More than a dozen and a half tales that thrill and scarify in good measure. As is always the case I had some favorites among the varied stories with a more than usual hit than miss rate as is the usual end result when reading even the best anthologies.
            For instance your own tastes may lean more towards the dark and very original comedy of Bubba-Ho-Tep by Joe R Lansdale, the story which became the hit cult movie.  A rightly beloved slice of Egyptology/Americana. Or perhaps there is The Mummy's Heart by Norman Partridge, a great modern noir writer who has produced some great books and short stories. It is a great novella tucked away in the crispy bindings of this book and has the best chance of breaking out to a wider demographic than the one which would normally be drawn to such an outre collection. A coming of age yarn spawning decades  in the history of small town middle america. ( I do not know if that is an actual geographical location. It has always had a location, a welcome place, in the landscape of my imagination.) if you enjoyed a Boy's Life by Robert Mc Crammon or even the movie Stand By Me  or the Stephen King short story it was based on, then this is the one for you.
              I  also really enjoyed On Skua Island by John Langon . It so reminded me of particular movies of my youth such as the Peter Cushing creature feature Island Of Terror. It had isolated locations and mysterious things long buried that would be better left that way. I have always admired and enjoyed the antiquarian qualities of the work of MR James or EF Benson. And this wee story echoes similar themes in spades. A very atmospheric tale with old school perils given a modern twist.
              I could continue this way, breaking down the individual stories and their deserving reasons for being in the big collection but I would rob you entirely of that element of discovery that has enriched the history of anthologies.
               Get in there. Get dirty and dusty.
               Find yer mummy.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mammath Book Of The Mummy.

Just finished this fantastic anthology of Mummy stories. Some real buried treasure between its covers. All sharing a wrapped nightmare of a theme in a series of stories spanning the ages and locations you would not necessarily associate with anything remotely pertaining to Egyptology. Well, because it was not just Egyptians who venerated their dead in this way.

My Filthy Workshop Of Creation.

                                                               (From my sketchbook.)
Here you go, some more scribbles from my dirty old note books.As I go about teaching myself the alchemical processes by which I hope to bring to life a Promethean being.