Articles from May 2012



Chicks Unravel Time – and I’m one of them!

(And this is possibly the only circumstance in which I will be pleased, nay, delighted, to be called a ‘chick’.)

The sister book to the 2011 Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords has now been announced, to be published November 2012. Editors Deborah Stanish (Whedonistas) and L.M. Myles have gathered a host of award-winning female writers, media professionals and scientists to examine each season of new and classic Doctor Who, each from our own perspective.

Diana Gabaldon discusses how Jamie McCrimmon inspired her best-selling Outlander series, and Barbara Hambly (Benjamin January Mysteries) examines the delicate balance of rebooting a TV show. Seanan McGuire (Toby Daye series) reveals the power and pain of waiting in Series 5, and Una McCormack (The King’s Dragon) argues that Sylvester McCoy’s final year of Doctor Who is the show’s best season ever.

Other contributors include Tansy Rayner Roberts (Power and Majesty), Sarah Lotz (The Mall), Martha Wells (The Cloud Roads), Joan Frances Turner (Dust), Rachel Swirsky (“Fields of Gold”) and Aliette de Bodard (Obsidian and Blood series). Personally I can’t wait to see the full line-up – and to read all the other essays.

My piece is on Season 9 of classic Doctor Who, in which the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) tackle the Day of the Daleks, The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils, the Mutants and The Time Monster. Rewatching these stories made for fascinating viewing for me as this is pretty much the first season I really remember. I have those ‘snapshot’ type memories of Patrick Troughton (in black and white) but Jon Pertwee was (and always will be) my Doctor.

I’m not going to recap my essay here, obviously. Suffice it to say I looked at these stories through the twin lenses of ‘then’ and ‘now’ and found doing so rewarding and thought-provoking.

While doing so, I also had a great deal of fun, particularly noticing things which have no place in my piece for the book. For instance, who would have thought, forty years ago, that I would be cheering out loud today when the Doctor refers to his skills with Venusian Aikido and even demonstrates a recognisable technique? Who had even heard of aikido in the UK back then? Not that little girl in front of the telly, who’s now a second dan aikidoka – traditional style though, not Venusian.

That reference also reminded me of the SF I read as a kid, exploring the hot steamy jungles of Venus and skating along the cold frozen canals of Mars. It’s a shame in some ways that modern science has done away with such ‘scientifiction’. On the other hand, I often think that it’s not just my own generation of writers who were inspired by such reading. Isn’t current astronomy and extra-solar space exploration these days driven by a longing to find such places for real, inspired by that same ‘sensawunda’ which we all first encountered reading Asimov, Heinlein et al as kids and watching Doctor Who and Star Trek? If we can’t find strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations in our own solar system any more, let’s go looking elsewhere!

And that’s still at the core of the genre’s appeal for the modern generation – as well as the eternal appeal of good story-telling. It was very interesting discussing these particular stories with my own teenage sons, when they passed through the lounge and sat down to watch an episode or two with me. They appreciated the plot and the characters, especially the interplay between The Doctor and The Master, even if the production values were rather lacking to those accustomed to the revamped Battlestar Galactica. And here and there, harsher edges to the narrative did surprise them…

Mind you, there was one moment when I did wonder if they had been exposed to too much SF at an impressionable age.
Watching The Curse of Peladon, one son said, surprised, ‘Oh, it’s him!’
‘Him who?’ I asked.
‘Him off Robin Hood. You know, the one who played Much.’
‘You mean Sam Troughton?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘You do know this was filmed in 1972? So how could that actor look exactly the same when I was a kid as he did just a few years ago? You do know that the TARDIS isn’t real, don’t you…?’
After a very long moment indeed of them looking at me in baffled incomprehension, I relented and explained that the young King is in fact played by David Troughton father of Sam. (And the resemblance, especially in their voices, is remarkable.)

And of course, those two actors are respectively the son and grandson of the aforementioned Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. Which if you think about it, is just one more of the many things that are so cool about Doctor Who.