Friday, 6 June 2008


2x06 And the Winner is...

Doctor Who [classic]
7x01 Spearhead from Space Episode 1 [4th watch]
7x02 Spearhead from Space Episode 2 [4th watch]
7x03 Spearhead from Space Episode 3 [4th watch]
7x04 Spearhead from Space Episode 4 [4th watch]
See here for my thoughts on this story.

Red Dwarf
2x02 Better Than Life
Fan-favourite episode in which the Dwarfers play a virtual reality game that lives up to its title, Better Than Life. It's all well and good, except that the plot lacks a third act, ending instead with an unsatisfying hurried final gag.


The New Traveller's Almanac by Alan Moore
Chapter Two
(from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2)
This is proving incredibly hard going. In it, Moore cunningly assimilates hundreds of literary locations into a fictional guide to the world. Many of the references are incredibly obscure and it can sometimes be a little dryly written -- more a fascinating and impressive piece of work (laced with clues to the League's history for fans) than an entertaining read. This eight-page chapter (graphic novel size, densely filled with three columns of text) took me almost an hour and a half to get through, as I coupled it with Wikipedia research to try to better understand the things Moore refers to (without such an aid they are almost entirely oblique).

Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space

I seem to be accidentally picking season-openers for my current chronological wander through classic Doctor Who: having had season one's An Unearthly Child and season five's The Tomb of the Cybermen, we now move forward to Jon Pertwee's first story, the season seven opener Spearhead from Space.

Watching Spearhead is almost like coming to a new show, so numerous are the changes made. It's the first story of the 1970s (though only just, as episode one went out on January 3rd 1970); the first with Pertwee's new Doctor; the first in colour; it's shot entirely on location and on film (lending a glossier, higher-budget look that would disappear when the series permanently returned to video from the next serial); the first 'exiled to Earth' story (not a change immediately obvious as the Doctor has had adventures on present day Earth previously); and, by the same token. the first to feature the Brigadier and UNIT as an ongoing regulars (again, a change not necessarily obvious til later). Lump all these elements together -- especially the use of film and location, which give the direction and style a completely different air -- and it doesn't feel like quite the same programme as before.

The story itself gets off to a slow start, however. Episodes one and two almost repeat themselves, with the newly regenerated Doctor stuck unconscious in a hospital bed most of the time. Bits of this work -- viewers keen to know what the new Doctor will be like have such revelations held off for a long time -- but the actual story moves slowly, even for classic Who, and, one or two events aside, it doesn't really kick off until episode three. Personally, I think it would feel better if the events of the opening episodes had been combined, with the rushed part four spread out to fill the gap. As it is, the final episode is far and away the best. The Autons finally come to life en masse (including the (in)famous scenes of them breaking out of shop windows and slaughtering innocents) and there's a nice big battle at the factory. What with the Doctor and Liz heading to Madame Tussaud's to investigate a sideline of the company (an intriguing subplot that's all but ignored), then racing to construct a suitable weapon, before heading to defeat the newly-created body of the Nestene Consciousness, there's more than enough action to fill this single episode. It puts the repetitive first two in the shade.

Which may account for some of the fondness with which Spearhead is remembered -- it starts out with more than a touch of mediocrity, but ends on such a high that it's easy to go away thinking of it as one of the best ever.