Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Carnival of Monsters

21 May 2008, 11:29 am
Dorney

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Carnival of Monsters 1:

I’m going to start this one by declaring an interest. Carnival of Monsters is the first Doctor Who story I ever saw. Five Faces of Doctor Who repeats, 1981, BBC2. The cliffhanger to episode three leaps out in my memory very clearly (and unlike the third cliffhanger of the Three Doctors, I remember it correctly!).

So obviously I have a certain nostalgic fondness for this story. But putting that aside, trying to be objective… well, it’s still pretty much perfect, isn’t it?

Long time readers of my ramblings may recall that I’ve often suggested that Who fans tend to select what they think of as classics based on how ‘adult’ it feels (in order to reinforce their own comfort with an obsessive interest in what’s often regarded as a ‘children’s show’) and as a result are dismissive of anything that’s not obviously telling us how ‘serious’ it is all the time – say through lots of violence, a lack of humour, etc. To be fair, it’s not exactly limited to Who fans – theatre and cinema tend to praise the straight and the serious (the ‘worthy’) as better than the light and frivolous, as if that’s somehow a poorer relation, as if making someone smile has less artistic value than making them cry. See how the Oscars never go to impeccably made comedies or comic performances (I mean, Sean Penn’s wail-fest in Mystic River better than Bill Murray’s Lost in Translation subtlety, or Johnny Depp;s original tour-de-force performancein Pirates of the Caribbean? Get real). I always like to judge a story not by how worthy it is, but by how well it is made – what its intentions are and how well it succeeds in achieving those intentions.

Which is why I was annoyed by the furore when Carnival was announced as the second Pertwee DVD, over such obvious fan favourites as Sea Devils, or Green Death, or Inferno. As if it was bad. Because it just isn’t. It’s about as beautifully realised a piece of television as the Pertwee era ever managed. Those others have a sombre tone, but they’re nowhere near as impeccable. It’s tragic that people can’t appreciate a story this well written simply because it’s got a day-glo set and some jokes.

Look at this episode in particular. It’s about as good an opening as you can get. The initial hook is gorgeous, and entirely reliant on our status as a viewer – what on Earth connects these two strikingly different plot lines? The gaudiness of the alien world is a vital part of this, of course, as it offers a huge contrast to the naturalistic classic serial feel of the SS Bernice sequences, emphasising the differences and exacerbating our confusion.

But there’s more to it than that. The Inter Minor sequences in this episode are incredibly clever writing – for one specific reason I’ll get to in a moment. On the surface, they’re sparkling. The grey skinned inhabitants are beautifully and wittily written, a note perfect parody of bureaucracy, with their own distinctive speech patterns and behaviour. The Lurmans are equally swiftly drawn, recognisable types we understand. After four not especially exciting stories, this is Robert Holmes really becoming the writer we know – an avoidance of the bland clich├ęs of science fiction, rewriting it all into something quirkier, more distinctive.

But the reason those scenes are so clever is not the deft characterisation and humour – it’s the fairly fundamental problem they avoid. In order to preserve the suspense it is vital that we don’t know what the Scope is, or what it does. Explain that and it becomes fairly obvious where the Doctor and Jo actually are. And the Inter Minor plot can’t really go anywhere until we know that. So the script has a difficult balancing act to pull off – it has to have the Inter Minor sequences (other wise there’s no mystery) but it also can’t really do anything with them (otherwise there’s no mystery). So, once again, we have an exercise in procrastination – but here we have a model example of how to do it, because you genuinely don’t notice. The time is filled with beautiful character work, world building, neat little touches of humour. Every scene has a clear purpose and drive to it. It always seems to be progresses. It’s gorgeous slight of hand.

Equally, the Doctor and Jo’s scenes are exactly how these stories need to work. Constantly moving, always with a purpose. The Doctor has his own sub hook for the story (his determination they’re not on Earth) and that drives his section of the script (which again is, by and large, about avoiding getting anywhere in the overall scheme, just a minor mystery to unravel). Notice how every scene is about something, going somewhere. All engaging, all involving. Nothing is there just to fill time.

About as dazzling an opening episode as you’re going to get. And whilst I may be biased, I’m also right.


#713 21 May 2008, 11:34 am
The Secretive Bus
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You got through the entire Three Doctors review without mentioning Hartnell once!

Everybody bangs on about the dandy and a clown line but for my money his finest line in the story, and indeed the last line Hartnell ever says in Doctor Who (so it's a fairly emotional moment too from that perspective, especially if he's your fave), is the "And considering the way things have been going... well I shudder to think what you'd do without me!"

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#714 21 May 2008, 4:25 pm
Dorney
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To be honest, there's not much to say about him in it, really, and most of what there is you've already covered (his appearance is a little depressing). You get the occassional blast of 1st Doctor there ('stop dilly dallying - and cross it'), and the respect accorded him by the others is a decent touch. It's bittersweet.

#715 23 May 2008, 8:25 pm
AlMiles
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Secretive Bus
"You got through the entire Three Doctors review without mentioning Hartnell once!"

Everybody bangs on about the dandy and a clown line but for my money his finest line in the story, and indeed the last line Hartnell ever says in Doctor Who (so it's a fairly emotional moment too from that perspective, especially if he's your fave), is the "And considering the way things have been going... well I shudder to think what you'd do without me!" "

A lovely line, and a far better swansong than "Stay warm!"

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#716 23 May 2008, 8:40 pm
AlMiles

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dacar92
"Hartnell never looked so old as he did in the 3 docs, for obvious reasons. So, where did the TL's take him out of time and space? Sometime during the 4th episode of Tenth Planet? "

Jon Preddle's "Timelink" posits that the 1st Doctor garden scenes (here, and in The Five Doctors) occur during the "missing four days" at the end of The War Machines (before he goes off with Ben and Polly. This fits quite well with the Doctor needing to recover from WOTAN's hypnotism attempt and perhaps spending time in the country at his friend Sir Charles Summer's residence. Dodo was also meant to be staying there, but had probably gone off to stay with relatives by then (or something)...

Of course, the garden could also be the one which John Lucarotti had the Doctor "semi-retired" to during his prologue/epilogue to "The Massacre" (Target novelisation).

In any case, due to low temporal energy, the garden scenes and the timescooping (of both One and Two, come to think of it) have to be near the end of their incarnations. The Doctor was severely aged by the Time Destructor in The Daleks' Master Plan, and also suffered a great drain of life energy in The Savages, so after those two stories seems likely. During Tenth Planet 3 or 4 (just before his recovery in 4) would fit except for the shots of him in a garden on the Time Lords' screen.

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#717 8 Jun 2008, 4:52 pm
Dorney
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Carnival of Monsters 2:

One thing you may or may not have noticed as a major predilection of mine in these reviews is the concept of padding. This strange notion Doctor Who fans have that unless a story is all plot, plot, plot, the material is ‘padding’.

You see, for me, there’s no such thing, well, not as such. You only have good writing, or bad writing. Every story has sequences that are used to fill in time, it isn’t all story. And that’s a good thing. Cos if it was just story, everything would seem shallow and bland. The meat of a script happens in the gaps between the plot bits. The bits where people are given personalities, lives, proper identities. Where the world is built. You write those bits badly, or not at all, that’s when you get what’s commonly regarded as ‘padding’. Write them well, and nobody notices. I promise you could name me any classic story you like, that you think doesn’t have an ounce of fat and I could find you something that really, really doesn’t need to be there.

Of course, sometimes this can create a problem. If you need to cut it down, the detail is the first bit you’re going to go for, because by definition it’s unnecessary. But it’s a temptation that has to be resisted, because it’s what gives the story life. As I write this, I’ve just finished watching the Silence in the Library two parter, and it has a specific element that’s a case in point – the fact that two characters share the name Dave is completely irrelevant to the plot. But without it, you have a slightly less interesting, real world. All of a sudden these characters are so much more human.

And this is important in regards to Carnival of Monsters because it gives you some important context. You see, if you are going to use the word ‘padding’, then Carnival is one of the most padded stories of all time.

Look at this episode. Nothing that even vaguely resembles plot happens. We get the expository sequences explaining the plot of the first episode, identifying what the Scope actually is… but then what? The Doctor and Jo spend the episode going for a bit of a wander trying to escape from wherever they are. On Inter Minor, lots of conversations go nowhere, and the characters distract themselves with little subplots that don’t really progress. The simple fact of the matter is that there really isn’t enough plot to sustain four episodes. The Doctor can’t escape for a while yet, the Inter Minorans are just filling in time til he can. If padding was inherently bad, this episode would be awful.

But it just isn’t, and that’s because the time is used well. It’s used for witty exploration of character for example. Everyone in this script feels so distinct, so full. OK, some of that is helped by the fact that they’re all pitched as broad stock figures to a degree, but they’re written with such charm this hardly matters. The touches of humour and quirkiness really aid this as well – one of the truisms of a script is that comedy helps. Give someone a couple of jokes, suddenly they comes across better. Because everyone likes someone who tells a few jokes, don’t they? Again, they stop being ‘characters’, they become ‘people’. There’s never a sense that anything as pointless as filling in time is going on. The time is being used. No matter how consequence-less a sequence is (the Eradicator being used on the Scope for example), they always feel like they’re scenes with direction and purpose.

And even then the script has the balls to comment on its own nature. Beautifully, there’s an utterly irrelevant action sequence that turns up out of nowhere, simply on Vorg’s whim. The script is directly having one for the sake of it, because that’s what the show does, and acknowledging that. The Drashigs are there for a bit of entertainment value, monsters for the kiddies, and that’s how they’re described. The Doctor and Jo are basically trapped inside a television show, getting menaced by things at the right points because they need to be.

So ultimately, this episode is about nothing whatsoever – and yet it’s also tremendous fun.

#718 20 Jun 2008, 8:57 pm
Dorney
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Carnival of Monsters 3:

Watching this episode, it strikes me that this is the first - of about two, maybe three stories - that's got an organic structure.

Now, you might not understand what I mean by that so I'll try to explain. Before this story starts there is no plot. No story is going to happen, nobody is up to anything.

That a plot arrives is a natural and, yes, organic process simply from setting a few disparate groups of people in opposition and seeing what happens. The plot develops from the characters operating in a normal and straightforward way, and that causing other people to do something new, and it all following on in a chain. Kalik, for example, must be the only Doctor Who villain who only comes up with his evil scheme half way through the story. Up until that point he's a jerk, but he's not actually a villain. This is a story driven by developing the personalities, by the way the characters interact. A status quo that the Doctor upsets with his arrival.

The only other Who story I can think of that does something similar is Androzani - the Doctor and Peri operating as a catalyst for the pre-existing tensions within a political situation to explode. I have a sneaking feeling Ribos Operation has a similar aspect, but it's been a while since I've seen that. Maybe Mysterious Planet.

It is of course no coincidence that they're all by Robert Holmes. Regular readers (both of them) can possibly remember my frustration at how long it takes for the proper Robert Holmes to arrive. For all their conceptual invention, the Auton stories are dull, the less said about Space Pirates the better, although I do think the Krotons is undervalued. Well, he's here. Holmes is all about character. Detailed, quirky, utterly real, and identifiable characters. So naturally, plot's not going to be a major concern of his. That's not to say they have bad plots, obviously, they're impeccable. But that the plot is defined by the characters rather than the other way round.

There's a real sense in this episode of all the threads coming together. All the seperate elements of the story begin to impact on the others - and I'm not just meaning in the obvious ways with the Drashigs attacking the boat and Kalik's developing evil plan. But it's tying up little details - the Doctor needing rope from the boat, the dynamite from there damaging the scope and so on. The construction is beautiful. Pretty darn brilliant stuff.

#719 23 Jun 2008, 7:11 pm
The Secretive Bus
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The problem comes with the ending; I think you'll revise your opinion when you watch episode 4 again. Holmes sets up the characters and tensions etc beautifully, no doubts there, but because it takes so long for Kalik to come up with a plan the plan itself is a bit rubbish and is dealt with hurriedly. The same thing goes for The Time Warrior, which has wonderful characters but the plot goes back to Terror of the Autons territory with lots of set pieces designed to fill out 100 minutes, complete with a sudden ending that doesn't justify the length of the story.

Come to think of it, Holmes really wasn't much of a plotter. Everybody loves Pyramids and Talons but everybody also complains about the rushed endings. And The Deadly Assassin has a big plot point that comes out of nowhere halfway through part 4. The Caves of Androzani is, for me, the only totally accomplished work of his and part of that is due to the direction - witness The Ribos Operation which in structure is nearly identical to The Caves of Androzani (lots of existing tensions and figures with whom the Doctor and companion barely interact until part 2 and even then they have little to do with the moving story) but seems a bit boring because the direction is rubbish.

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#720 28 Jun 2008, 5:43 am
AlMiles
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That's a good point about "Ribos", and though it's a much-vaunted story (the superb design, great acting and... er, Prentis Hancock? ) I always felt the Seeker was naff (cliched old witch) and Unstoffe terribly mundane... perhaps it's just his haircut

Anyway, though I prefer "Ribos" to "Androzani" (the latter just being the usual 1980s Saward sadomasochism, IMO, despite Petey being greater than ever), surely the usual one that gets unfavourably compared to Androzani is "Power of Kroll" - for having much the same plot if nothing else... how do you think they compare, Bus? Must admit I haven't seen Kroll for years, I'm quite looking forward to seeing Abineri, Madoc and McCarthy, even though I know their talents are wasted in this.

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29 Jun 2008, 12:32 pm
The Secretive Bus
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The Power of Kroll gets compared to Androzani simply because there's a bit of gun-running in it. Otherwise in structure and themes it's a completely different story! Going by the "pre-existing tensions snapped by presence of Doctor" bit, the chaps at the refinery go off to shoot the gun runner off their own bat. The Doctor spends the rest of the time doing traditionally Doctorish things and saving the day multiple times. The Doctor of Androzani is merely trying to stay alive and doesn't directly contribute to anybody's downfall, nor does he achieve anything other than to save Peri and get back to the TARDIS in time to turn into Colin Baker. So there's no similarity between the stories at all.

Fair enough in Ribos the Doctor ends up killing the Graff but the other characters kill each other off. The Doctor spends the first two episodes not getting involved in anything and the second two running away from the baddies. It's also the Doctor that upsets things by his very presence, making everybody paranoid or suspicious and thereby ruining Garron's money making scam.

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#722 3 Jul 2008, 2:07 pm
Dorney

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Carnival of Monsters 4:

This most beautiful and elegant of stories comes to a beautiful and elegant finish.

It's odd to see how much plot is crammed into this episode, given the fairly light content of the previous three. Well, I say odd, but it's not really, is it? They've slightly run out of time. And they need to get through it. Yet, it never feels rushed, or crowded.

And indeed, it's somewhat unfair to suggest that there hasn't been much in the previous three. This is a fairly blatant slow burner of a story, with several disparate thread set up and left to trail before eventually being tied together. All of the set ups start to pay off, the repetition on the ship hits home, and so on. It's all dealt with in elegant simplicity.

For example, the resolution of the Kalik storyline. It's interesting to note that the DWM Pertwee special from years back pointed out that the Doctor doesn't get involved in this ('the main thrust of the storyline' it said) until episode three. Now that's wrong on several levels - the fact it's episode four pretty much being the least of them.

The fact is the Doctor doesn't even realise there's an evil villain in the story at all. As far as he's aware, the whole story is about him rescuing himself and Jo and saving the other inhabitants of the scope. He simply isn't aware that there's another plot. And that's why the swift resolution of said plot doesn't really matter.

Because it's a punchline. The Inter-Minorans are all cretins to a man, but in the grand comic tradition, one of them thinks he's a genius. The only difference is the script doesn't let us realise this until the last moment. One of my favourite jokes of this episode is the fact that Kalik spends a good two minutes explaining to Orum how they'll be perfectly safe from the Drashigs as they cause mayhem and destruction - then promptly gets killed pretty much instantly as their only victim. This is a low key story. Defeating a grand villain in a grand way in such a tale would be out of keeping and disappointing. Much fitter that he turns out to be a rubbish villain, who defeats himself, and has his entire scheme foiled by a supporting character.

The other problem with that DWM thing is that it's a sideshow, not the main thrust. The central thrust is the zoo/television metaphor that is the Scope. Kalik isn't the villain, not really, or at the very most a secondary one. Vorg is the villain. An unthinking, daft one, but the villain nonetheless. What he's doing is at least as bad as what Kalik fails to do... but the key difference is that crucially, when push comes to the shove, he decides to be brave, because he's a decent chap at heart.

And that's why this story is great - it's a genuinely lovely tale filled with wit and heart, where the villains are misguided and likeable rather than out and out bad (heck, even the subsiduary ones are more entertaining than evil). It's honest and true about humanity. Just because it's slight and small and not self important or 'worthy', doesn't mean it's not as good as more ostensibly serious scripts. Along with Inferno, the best story of the Pertwee era.

#723 4 Jul 2008, 2:12 am
Xipuloxx
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*Applause*

Thanks for that Dorney. Carnival is a great story IMO, and it just doesn't get anywhere near enough love. Largely, I think, because people keep expecting it to be something it's not. But it does what intends to do, and does it brilliantly.

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#724 4 Jul 2008, 12:12 pm
Dorney

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xipuloxx
"But it does what intends to do, and does it brilliantly. "

You've just nailed precisely what I think a good script/story is. Ask yourself firstly what does this story want to do? Secondly, how well it achieves that.

Hefty drama isn't inherently better than comedy. It just keeps yelling at you that it's important.

#725 4 Jul 2008, 12:48 pm
AlMiles
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorney
"Hefty drama isn't inherently better than comedy. It just keeps yelling at you that it's important."

That's pretty much what I thought when I read The Daily Telegraph's new "Top Ten Who Stories" list:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main...o-episodes.xml

Androzani? Talons? Genesis?? Inferno??? Mainly the grim and heavy stories favoured by adolescent boys. One of the great things "Classic Who" does is mixing humour with the grimness.

"The Seeds of Doom", with astonishing direction by Douglas Camfield, has the perfect mix of sharp witticisms and suspense/mystery/horror. That easily beats "Talons".

"The Massacre" (interestingly, like "Blink", a "Doctor-lite" story) is perhaps the second-best Hartnell after the superlative and assured "The Aztecs", though I prefer the immaculate writing and performances of "The Crusade" or the devil-may-care abandon of the epic "Daleks' Master Plan" (both Camfield again - I'm spotting a pattern here).

Amusing that they mention "Inferno" as being a great example of Camfield's work - apart from the pre-filmed exteriors and one studio session, the rest was directed by Barry Letts after Camfield fell ill. Ever the hard taskmaster, Camfield (whose wife was in "Inferno") had to visit a cast member on "Seeds" who had also been hospitalised. Although his wife was all sympathy, Camfield himself just asked the actor when he would return to work!!

They need more humour in the list, and Troughton excels at the combination of laughs and thrills. "Power of the Daleks" is the ultimate Dalek story, but also the ultimate regeneration story. And you have to go a long way to beat "The Invasion" (guess what - Camfield again).

However, I love Carnival because it was the first Target book I ever got (it was a birthday present from my Nan) - took me ages to pick it up, but when I had, I became a real fan as opposed to just someone who watched the show.

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#726 4 Jul 2008, 4:31 pm
The Secretive Bus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorney
"Carnival of Monsters 4:

This most beautiful and elegant of stories comes to a beautiful and elegant finish. "

Ah, well then. Colour me "wrong".

I do like the story a great deal, don't get me wrong, but it's very plotless and I prefer my stories to have a narrative thrust. That's what the Kalik plotline seems to be there for and the sudden ending after so many scenes of him plotting and scheming doesn't strike me as any sort of punchline, more a "Oh my God I've five minutes to end the story" convenience. Since Holmes' last story was Terror of the Autons and the next one is The Time Warrior (both of which end suddenly out of nowhere) I don't buy that Holmes suddenly became a master craftsman of plotting for one story.

It's a good collection of set pieces and the performances are wonderful but the lack of a real plot lets it down. Still, it's miles better to what comes next.

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#727 7 Jul 2008, 10:55 am
Richard2801
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlMiles
"...Androzani? Talons? Genesis?? Inferno??? Mainly the grim and heavy stories favoured by adolescent boys. One of the great things "Classic Who" does is mixing humour with the grimness.

"The Seeds of Doom", with astonishing direction by Douglas Camfield, has the perfect mix of sharp witticisms and suspense/mystery/horror. That easily beats "Talons".

...However, I love Carnival because it was the first Target book I ever got (it was a birthday present from my Nan) - took me ages to pick it up, but when I had, I became a real fan as opposed to just someone who watched the show.

A splendid review of Carnival as ever, John, pulling out much of its greatness - it's an odd one for me, having loved it like AlMiles as a kid from the book (has there ever been a better bit of blurb than "The Doctor and Jo land on a cargo ship crossing the Indian Ocean in the year 1926... Or so they think"?), but feeling now that though it's very entertaining, there's something not quite right. Perhaps it's that the TV story always misses some of the little polishes from Terrance’s book for me (and Pertwee nicks most of Jo's best lines), while the book just doesn’t have enough sparkle on its own to be Terrance's best. So, in my head, there's a more satisfying fusion of both.

Pop fact: half-way through doing the special sound for this story, Brian Hodgson resigned to found his own studio, so Dick Mills took over from here until 1989 – which means that the Drashig cry, one of the most memorable sound effects for me, was down to both of them. It’s Brian’s original scream into the mike, with Dick’s treatment on it.

But back to AlMiles on the Torygraph (above). I agree very much with the thrust of your post, but it seems to me a natural consequence of devising a list of individual 'best stories' rather than a list of stories that represent what's best in the series. Two of my favourite seasons are 13 and 16, for example, but I wouldn't call either 'representative' on their own - one's too grim and violent to sum up the breadth of the series, the other too playful and funny (14's a better mix of both, but that's by-the-by). So unless you set out to make a list that deliberately ticks off stories for, say, horror, playfulness, wit, strangeness, big ideas, monsters, villains, action, dialogue, alien worlds, past, present and future - or whatever else you think good Doctor Who encompasses - it's almost inevitably going to have something missing.

The other problem with making a list of ingredients, of course, is that no fan's going to agree with any other fan on which stories have them. I was fascinated to see your attack on "the grim and heavy stories favoured by adolescent boys" being illustrated by The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and then calling The Seeds of Doom "the perfect mix of sharp witticisms and suspense/mystery/horror". For me, it's quite the opposite. There are some fabulous moments of humour in Seeds, but they're overwhelmed by the horror in what's probably the most violent, macho show in the series' history; Talons, on the other hand, never fails to crack me up, whether it's Greel's hysteria, Jago's bombast or Litefoot trying to eat like Leela. Even Caves is funnier for me than Seeds, with Morgus's blackly comic asides. So I'm not saying either of us is right or wrong; just that it shows the perils of saying 'this story is definitively such-and-such', and that you made me smile by picking as your perfect mix the very story I'd think of if asked to name a "grim and heavy" one "favoured by adolescent boys" that I'd still say was pretty good

(Alex, borrowing Richard)

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#728 7 Jul 2008, 6:51 pm
AlMiles
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard2801
"But back to AlMiles on the Torygraph (above). I agree very much with the thrust of your post, but it seems to me a natural consequence of devising a list of individual 'best stories' rather than a list of stories that represent what's best in the series. Two of my favourite seasons are 13 and 16, for example, but I wouldn't call either 'representative' on their own - one's too grim and violent to sum up the breadth of the series, the other too playful and funny (14's a better mix of both, but that's by-the-by). So unless you set out to make a list that deliberately ticks off stories for, say, horror, playfulness, wit, strangeness, big ideas, monsters, villains, action, dialogue, alien worlds, past, present and future - or whatever else you think good Doctor Who encompasses - it's almost inevitably going to have something missing."

The other problem with making a list of ingredients, of course, is that no fan's going to agree with any other fan on which stories have them. I was fascinated to see your attack on "the grim and heavy stories favoured by adolescent boys" being illustrated by The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and then calling The Seeds of Doom "the perfect mix of sharp witticisms and suspense/mystery/horror". For me, it's quite the opposite. There are some fabulous moments of humour in Seeds, but they're overwhelmed by the horror in what's probably the most violent, macho show in the series' history; Talons, on the other hand, never fails to crack me up, whether it's Greel's hysteria, Jago's bombast or Litefoot trying to eat like Leela. Even Caves is funnier for me than Seeds, with Morgus's blackly comic asides. So I'm not saying either of us is right or wrong; just that it shows the perils of saying 'this story is definitively such-and-such', and that you made me smile by picking as your perfect mix the very story I'd think of if asked to name a "grim and heavy" one "favoured by adolescent boys" that I'd still say was pretty good "

True, and a lot depends not only on my memories of a story (I haven't rewatched Talons for ages, but had just passed Seeds in my marathon 1963-2008 episode-by-episode rewatch) but on my mood. Sometimes I'm in a mood to reflect on Talons and all the (Robert) Holmesian humour, black as it may be, comes to the fore - the Doctor berating the policeman, Litefoot and Jago, "Trumpet Voluntary" into a bowl of goldfish etc... and other times the giant rat devouring people, "bent-face", Mr Sin and his knife, and the draining of innocent maidens predominates. Keeping both in mind at once is difficult. I agree that the grimness of Seeds is definitely there on screen, especially for those with a visual memory - the sly humour of most of the dialogue is more prevalent to those with a mainly auditory memory, so for me it only remains in mind when I've recently seen it - I soon forget dialogue, but never images.

And if I'm in a jolly mood when I put it on (as I usually am, because I know I'm in for a delicious treat) then I'm more attuned to pick up the humour. Watching Dr Who can be fascinating, and even if my faulty memory makes me think of Androzani as a morose gun-fest, I am sure when I actually watch it again Holmes's wicked humour will make a powerful impact on me. And hopefully Talons will be a perfect mix of humour and grimness for me when I reach it... perhaps I was too hasty in emphasising its dark side (though the tone of the Torygraph article indicates that humour isn't high on their list of points that recommend a story).

Interesting points you make about Carnival, especially the Hodgson/Mills crossover! I may not have a good auditory memory but I've been paying attention to the sound design on this rewatch/marathon. It's the series greatest technical strength and always worth concentrating on.

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