Friday, April 18, 2014

Scarves, Jelly Babies, and a Robot Dog!

So, April is the month of the Fourth Doctor, the longest-serving incarnation of the Time Lord, and consistently the one voted the best. Tom Baker is also the first Doctor I remember, although I'm a little confused by that - he regenerated out of the post in 1981, which was back when I was all of five. Which means either they are my oldest memories, or I saw some repeats later that has slipped into place into my memory, or perhaps my mind is just inventing things to fill in some gaps? It's a mystery.

This month's short story is "The Roots of Evil", by Philip Reeve, and it's very good - easily the best of the four to date. It features the Doctor arriving in a living space station, part of a terraforming device, where the inhabitants promptly capture him and prepare him for execution for his great misdeeds in the past. The only problem is that he can't remember any such misdeeds, for a reason that becomes obvious when it is mentioned that his face isn't as the ancients depicted...

Anyway, the story is pretty simple from there, with the revelation being largely expected (although there's one question I'm not going to answer... Who?). But it's quite amusing, especially the Doctor's line about gravel pits, and also his reaction to his future self's wardrobe choices. I'm very glad to be able to recommend this one, as the anthology had been a bit weak to date.

The novel is "Festival of Death" by Jonathan Norris. This one features Romana (II, I think), K-9, and the Doctor. And, again, the story nicely captures this Doctor's quirks - he notes that he's usually captured and put in a cell some time in the first 22 minutes after arriving in a new place, he runs out of Jelly Babies (horror!), and on and so forth.

Curiously, this one also has a complex, timey-wimey plot, featuring the Doctor crossing over his own time-stream (although, this time, only this same incarnation). It takes a bit of unpicking, which is no bad thing. There is one thing that I don't think quite works, but that's not bad for such a complex storyline.

And, in both cases, it definitely felt like a Fourth Doctor story - in the same way that the Third Doctor stories captured the distinctive 'voice' of their incarnation, so too did this one capture Baker's unique mannerisms. So, yay!

Next month is the month of 'my' Doctor. I definitely watched "The Five Doctors" live, and remember distinctly the excitement around the regeneration to the Sixth, so this is most definitely where I came in. But the big question is: does my Doctor still hold up?

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