Thursday, November 17, 2011


Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters

Terrance Dicks has had a huge impact on Doctor Who, both as lead writer during Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor and then in writing many more Doctor Who novels than anyone else. I grew to love his work on tales like this, his novelisation of Carnival of Monsters – a story which I first saw on TV thirty years ago tonight, repeated in BBC2’s The Five Faces of Doctor Who season. And for me this tale of thrills, comedy, posh trippers and Tories eaten by dragons is still one of the most entertaining, on DVD or on the page.
“One has no wish to be devoured by some alien monstrosity, Kalik. Even in the cause of political progress.”

The Five Faces of Doctor Who
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It’s forty-seven years this week since the very first Doctor Who novelisation was published, and they’re still worth celebrating. Having come to Pertwee’s Doctor through the marvellous early Target Books, as far as I’m concerned many of them remain superior to the TV versions, with an inevitable gap in quality between prose, characterisation and my imagination on one hand and what I much later saw on screen. With BBC Books now reprinting some of those novels, I’ve written about that ‘Pertwee Gap’; and Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters sits right in the middle of it. The TV story is exciting, colourful, full of vivid performances and with a natural advantage for displaying a story in which the Doctor, at long last free of his exile to Earth, realises he is in effect still trapped inside a television programme… But it’s also tacky, silly and very variable in which bits work. So is the book, then, the best of it? In making some comparisons tonight – and running right through, so with many spoilers (grab the book or the DVD first if you can) – I’ll try to work out the answer on one of the Pertwee stories I love the most but find it most difficult to decide on.

When I was a boy, there were two sorts of novelisations that were my favourites, depending on the mood I was in. One sort had greater characterisation and background, and felt like they had a message to them; once I was a little older, I realised that these tended to be the ones by Malcolm Hulke. But the other sort, simpler, more stripped-down, but often telling a more exciting story, might best be described as cracking good stories told at a cracking pace, with cracking dialogue. Books like Pyramids of Mars, Terror of the Autons and, of course, Carnival of Monsters. And I grew to realise that these, too, had something in common: they were written by Terrance Dicks, from stories by Robert Holmes. Terrance has often said that he enjoyed novelising Bob’s work the most, because his were simply the best scripts, and even when I was as young as five or six, it showed. These days, the more in-depth novels have more to offer than the brisker works when – unthinkable back then – the TV stories are on hand to watch anytime you want, and yet the deceptively simple style of Terrance Dicks can still be rewarding.

Carnival of Monsters is an odd beast – which is why I enjoy it so much. Where most of Jon Pertwee’s stories are confined to Earth, working with the military forces of UNIT, and a bit po-faced, this was the story immediately after he regained the TARDIS’ ability to travel in space and time, and not only does it showcase that in an exuberant range of settings but it gloriously takes the piss. No wonder the BBC chose to show it among just five stories to sum up over a hundred so far in 1981 (I very nearly picked it for my own The Eleven Faces of Doctor Who); no wonder it’s been released this year on DVD for the second time, as part of the Revisitations 2 boxed set. By a long way the least Pertwee-like of all Pertwees, with a feel far more Who-ish and a Doctor far more Doctor-ish than usual, it takes the Doctor and his ditzy – or is she? – assistant Jo to a 1920s ship full of strangely repetitive British Empire stereotypes, to the grey, bureaucratic planet of Inter Minor and to the world of the terrifying swamp dragons, the Drashigs. What could connect all these people and places? Could it have anything to do with a disreputable interplanetary traveller with a plucky female companion and a box of times that seems bigger on the inside than the outside (no relation)?

The book is long out of print, though second-hand copies abound; as yet, this isn’t available as a BBC Audiobook either, but you may be able to find in the distant reefs of the Internet a much more primitive version from thirty years ago. Gabriel Woolf, the fabulous voice of Sutekh (from Pyramids of Mars, again), read three books on tape for the RNIB, and Carnival of Monsters happens to be the one I have a wobbly MP3 of (so should you happen to come across his Loch Ness Monster or Three Doctors, please let me know). It’s much brisker than the BBC readings these days – no music, no retakes on the fluffed lines, and rattled off at great speed. He’s got an authoritative voice; his Jo is quite perky (curiously like Katy Manning’s Iris Wildthyme); his Pletrac entertainingly tetchy… But it’s very clear they’d got him in to do a lot of work in a rush, and nobody’s trying to make anything much of it. An historical curiosity, but far from his best work, and it shows how good the modern ones are. Whether or not this is ever remade on CD, though, in this time of wonders, you will shortly be able to buy your very own Drashig toy!

Carnival of Monsters
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Dangerous Arrivals

Chris Achilleos offers one of his most striking though least stylised covers, with a haughty Doctor picked out in black and white as a fabulous mottled green sea serpent twists round to attack a ship behind him. Super-pedants might argue that Pertwee’s pictured from The Three Doctors, or that the plesiosaurus looks little like the one on screen… But, let’s face it, there are two species of sea-serpenty thingy in this TV story, one of which looks terrific, and the other of which looks far better when Chris Achilleos paints it.

This was always one of my favourite novelisations when I was a boy – from the terrific cover to the terrific characters and lines. The book also adds lots of little polishes; it’s clearer, if less vivid, and uses the word “liberal” to mean good and “authoritarian” bad, so it’s appealed to me on many levels and from a very young age, along with the fabulously memorable tagline on the back:
“The Doctor and Jo land on a cargo ship crossing the Indian Ocean in the year 1926.
“Or so they think.”
Even that line presages the approach Terrance has in the book, of taking the television version and subtly refining it – I suspect he wrote the book’s back blurb, as I suspect he wrote the Radio Times teaser for the original transmission of the first episode:
“The Tardis lands on a cargo-ship in the Indian Ocean, in the year 1926.
“Or does it?”
Although Terrance Dicks isn’t known for major structural changes in the way that Malcolm Hulke, for example, would make in his novelisations, Carnival of Monsters is notable for a very different set of scenes to those on TV. I’d be fascinated to see what order everything was in the original script… Was it Bob Holmes, writing for TV, who chopped between lots of scenes ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ to give the TV story a strikingly modern feel of channel-hopping, with Terrance Dicks then collating them to make the book more coherent and straightforward, or did Barry Letts break up the longer passages of the script as director? With different stories running on different levels – in several senses – it’s possible to decouple and play around with them far more than in most Doctor Who stories, and they do, with each format deftly tailored to its own ‘grammar’.

The two versions are quite different from the very first page. The TV adventure begins with a cargo-thruster landing at the Inter Minoran spaceport while villainous Official Kalik sneers (and as his legs fuzz against a dubious blue landscape)… The book, as the TARDIS lands in the hold of the cargo-ship S.S. Bernice, the Doctor insisting they’re in the Acteon Galaxy, Jo indignant and poking around the chickens. Whichever version I’m reading / watching, I always expect to find it opening the other way. And very early, too, another contrast becomes clear. Jo gets more lines in the book – Pertwee probably nicking the good ones, famously as light-fingered over screen time as he was over nautical compasses – but is also more girly and helpless on paper, suggesting the script (or actress Katy Manning) took one view of her and Terrance Dicks another. Still, crossing to Inter Minor after Jo humphs at the end of page 9 that the Doctor’s landed them back on Earth, Terrance has a giveaway that’s as fourth-wall as the serial itself.
“As the terrifying adventure which followed was to prove, Jo had never been more wrong in her life.”
The planet Inter Minor is rather better-characterised than the TV at first, and has the advantage of considerably better special effects in your mind’s eye than on your actual eyes; we have the busy spaceport, an economic boom as trade opens up after centuries of isolation, and tales of long-ago Space Plague leading to “a hysterical over-reaction” (only hinted at on screen, when they could just as easily be warlike as terrified). The progressive party has come to power and changed things – but only because the Officials hope new President Zarb will save them from revolution by the unsettled masses. The Official caste is deftly sketched in:
“They were mostly tall and thin, grey-faced and grey-robed. Grey-minded, too, for the main part.”
Yet though the book has the edge, the TV has much more of a sense of place, of teeming business, and is startlingly vibrant even if some of it’s more enthusiastic than effective (even the wild electronic zig-zags slicing the air around a victim of a toasting-fork gun are far more interesting to watch than just another “blaster” is to read).

The S.S. Bernice certainly works best on screen, however, at least early on – the rather splendid old ship they film on, the music, and most of all the actors make it very watchable. Crusty old Major Daly is far more fun on TV, mainly because Tenniel Evans is hamming it up for all he’s worth – increasing his word-count exponentially simply by changing “What’s going on?” into “What? What? What what what?” as he wakes up! Jo gets some great lines here either way, frustratedly telling the Doctor he should have an L-plate on his TARDIS and explaining about her and her unseaworthy “uncle”… But skip ahead a few pages and (before Jo gets to be the dumb one as the Doctor patronises her over where and when they are, before she recovers with the skeleton keys) while in the book Jo grins cheekily at the first officer when he boasts he’s always stopped his crew making a fool of him and says “Don’t underestimate us,” on TV Pertwee blatantly nicks her line. The first monster, too, is already much better on the book cover, while the mysteries pile up better on the page: the octagonal plate leading somewhere else is very clear in the book; on screen, it’s very oddly directed. Did they not have it ready for that studio day? We keep seeing the Doctor squatting down to look at something that’s below the camera angle, and are only shown it for an instant in close-up. The cliffhanger to Part One / close of Chapter Three will make that distinction even clearer…

Back among the Inter-Minorans, dodgy travellers Vorg and Shirna have disembarked with their dodgier machine. Described in the book as a ‘What The Butler Saw’ machine (despite a much later reference to Jo feeling like an ant inside a television set), the MiniScope seems more tawdry than telly on paper, while on TV it’s obvious what it is – a TV. Or is it? With satirical Officials and Empire characters, I saw this as a boy as a satire on Britishness, while the channel-hopping TV version makes it clear that it’s still more about sending up TV – and one TV show in particular. And yet it’s impossible to overlook the statement
“‘Our purpose is to amuse,’ confirmed Vorg. ‘Nothing serious, nothing political…’”
…is a deliberate non sequitur, and that when conservative Official Kalik seethes at the lifting of the prohibition on “amusement” as “More anti-productive legislation” that will see the end of society as they know it, Terrance and Bob’s purpose is to amuse with something very political indeed.

The Giant Hand

The two places / stories come together at the climax of the first quarter of the adventure – when Vorg, detecting something new inside his Scope (given away far too early in the book, which gives the TV another head start), reaches in… And pulls out the tiny TARDIS. And that’s a brilliantly visual scene which, er, the book wins hands down. That cliffhanger / chapter climax as a section of the ship’s cargo hold opens out impossibly and an enormous hand gropes towards our heroes before they can get escape is, on screen, just a couple of seconds of a hand going straight onto the TARDIS (in itself a very poor cut-out with rotten yellow lines around it). Contrasting the two, perhaps the most disappointing moment of the whole TV story is that curiously unsatisfying delivery for what, conceptually, is a brilliant cliffhanger. In the excellent reviews book Running Through Corridors Volume 1, Rob Shearman notes how he originally scripted his TV episode Dalek to open with a huge face of the villain breaking open, as the helipad bay cover, but that they decided they wouldn’t be able to afford to make it look good enough – and that, in the old days, they’d have just done it for thruppence anyway. Which makes it all the more bizarre that Mr CSO himself, Barry Letts, bottled out of showing exactly that sort of shot.

It’s time for entertainer Vorg to explain about the Tellurians / Terrans in his collection as the story’s early questions are answered and new ones set up, and suddenly you can see Terrance’s slightly schoolmarmish habit of cleaning up the more dubious elements for children to read. Neither the book nor the TV version have the full scene of Vorg speculating on how we breed, of course, just as Doctor Who could never say so, though at least you can find the gag that he can’t talk about it in the DVD extra features (“Extended and Deleted Scenes” on the original release; integrated into the full “Episode Two – Early Edit” on the Revisitations 2 Special Edition). Perhaps it’s for similar fears of impropriety that Major Daly’s daughter Clare (missing an ‘i’ in the book) no longer calls herself a “silly flapper”.

And then the novel surges ahead again with its sharper politics, making the xenophobic horror of the Officials at unexpected alien animal importation much more palpable (and considerably less camp), which is very effective – and it’s a great improvement to have that law against weird biologies one that Zarb hasn’t dared repeal yet, making Vorg’s thoughtless transgression cut to the heart of Inter Minoran disease-paranoia, rather than the TV’s rather weak “The Interstellar Ecology Commission expressly forbids the transportation of live specimens”. Who believes Kalik would give a stuff about the Interstellar Ecology Commission? Still, it gets aggressive enough for Vorg’s clear plastic bowler hat to steam up…

Then the Carnival of Monsters on your screen pulls ahead again with the glorious techno adventure playground that is the inside of the Scope as the miniature Doctor and Jo crawl through the workings in search of the exit – only to find a swamp full of beasties. While the TV version is, of course, the best at sending up television, a prize for the best TV-analogue mention in the book from a man on the receiving end of Mary Whitehouse and co must come here, as Shirna switches channels to show the Drashigs (with new improved Terrans):
“Vorg noted sourly that the three Officials, however much they disapproved of the Scope, were as keen as anyone to savour its excitements.”
The Monster in the Swamp

Constantly talked up and a memorable design despite Bob Holmes’ lack of faith in BBC effects conceiving their name as an unflattering anagram, the Drashigs we see bursting from the swamp look absolutely terrific, beating the more prosaic dinosaur / dragon description of the book hands down. And, yes, if you think about it, beasts written to be near-blind probably shouldn’t have those eyes on stalks, but they’re fabulous, and with an extraordinary roar (uniquely, the work of both Brian Hodgson and Dick Mills as they swap over who does the series’ sound design). They clearly surprised and delighted the production team – to the unwise extent that Barry Letts commissioned a whole show full of dinosaurs to follow – and so, while they never starred in another story, they’re constantly mentioned through the rest of Pertwee’s time, not least in the following story (odd, isn’t it, that Carnival of Monsters and The Space War / Frontier In Space go together much better than the latter and Planet of the Daleks? Two feel like ’70s space excitement with lots of aliens, one like a ’60s rehash with Thals and an stock alien planet from the cupboard).
“Jo thought she had never seen anything more terrifying in her life.”
One small advantage the book gains even at this point, however, is in Terrance Dicks providing a flare pistol for the Doctor to pick up and make use of; a bit late, but he saw the problem he’d left in the script – that the sonic screwdriver sets off marsh gas for no apparent reason (bar hazily remembering that it blew things up in The Sea Devils, a story from the previous year in which sonic vibrations set off landmines, that being a plausible way to detonate a landmine but not a puff of gas) – and corrected it, enabling him to complain these days with a clearer conscience about the new series’ “magic wand”. That small advantage is outweighed by the point shortly after at which the book suffers a major loss of nerve. The Doctor either works out (TV) or breaks it to Jo (novel) that they’ve been caught inside a MiniScope, a peepshow… And while both versions confront the viewer / reader about the thoughtlessness of zoos, for which many would have been visitors at the time, only one sets out directly to make everyone uncomfortable, with Robert Holmes’ sense of humour much blacker than Terrance Dicks’. The only way in which the TV story doesn’t underline its most postmodern point is that Jo’s frightened face doesn’t actually stare right out of the television as she expresses her horror; the book carefully shifts the emphasis away from the personal and makes her outrage less strident. Compare the two:
“Do you mean that that Major Daly and all those people on the ship are in a sort of a peepshow? …And outside there are people and creatures just looking at us for kicks?”
“Very probably.”
“They must be evil and horrible!”

“Jo gave him a horrified look. ‘You mean Major Daly and all those people on the ship are specimens, in some kind of peepshow? And outside there are people—creatures—looking at them just for kicks? That’s terrible!’”
The second half of the story sees a bit of a decline for each version’s trump card: in the book, the lines begin to get shorter rather than longer than on TV; and the Drashigs, so effective seen in the swamp, are rather less well-served tearing around the ship. And so Terrance’s greater special effects budget of the imagination creeps ahead again, with a rather more impressive chase for the Doctor and Jo that ends at a huge shaft “like a great canyon” which is, er, completely missing on screen (we merely see them peering down, and nothing of what they’re peering into), and a lovely line as Jo takes “lateral thinking” a bit literally: “when in doubt, go sideways!” To regular readers, Terrance’s exciting “shattering roar” from the Drashigs and “long, raking burst” from a machine-gun have an air of both thrill and comfort blanket, too.

Jo’s a bit more pro-active on screen and the Doctor less of a git in leaving her when her enormous stacked heel is spotted back in the ship’s hold; rather than her being dragged away and the Doctor just sitting there, improbably undiscovered, Katy plays it that Jo realises she’s been spotted, signals to the Doctor to stay, and gets up. Back in the book, after a wait, the Doctor makes ready to go down into the Scope again, wondering if he should go back for Jo, “but decided against it.” Exactly the same words as he thought four pages earlier when she was grabbed, the cad. Though there’s a nicely characterised flash of vanity when the Doctor feels he’s evened things up for Jo’s skeleton keys when he produces the string file, then drama-queens it by complaining about his aching wrist. And I laugh at most of the crates falling on top of the Doctor. Far less postmodern than the screen version of the story, Terrance does manage one brilliant extra:
“Clare and Jo were sheltering behind a sofa.”
The close of Chapter 8 is quite effective, as Kalik the Inter-Minoran John Redwood plots with his rather dim sidekick Orum for a leadership bid and a war to unite the planet and stop the “liberal policies” “changing our ways”.
“And who will give us all this?”
“I will,” said Kalik quietly. “By leading a rebellion against my brother Zarb.”
The “quietly” rather sets it off, as for once a chapter climax doesn’t have someone screaming into an exclamation mark! Still, turning the page after that to discover that in Chapter 9 “Kalik Plans Rebellion” isn’t all that much of a shock.

Down in the Scope, the damage to the machinery is more effective in the book than altered lighting: “the great metal shapes were twisted and warped” and “the low hum of power [had become] an agonised groan.” There’s “the charred body of a Drashig” which “had bitten through a power cable”, then the Doctor’s dizzying climb to escape the Scope. He isn’t spotted here and almost stamped like a cockroach, disappointingly, but only causes panic on emerging and suddenly expanding to normal size, meaning a chapter climax a little later and more threatening than the cliffhanger – the Doctor free at last, only to face a great big gun…

In the book, we get an insight into the Doctor’s thoughts as he lambasts the Officials; worried about Jo, he reckons there’s “no time for all the nonsense of imprisonment and interrogation” that “usually” happens when he arrives in another of Terrance’s deadpan postmodernisms, and is utterly scathing about the inner weakness of “all authoritarians”. The re-ordering of the scenes to take out all the tiny cutaways rather draws attention to how little Jo has to do around here: she’s absent for two chapters while the ship’s crew chase her, forget her, chase her like a “jolly game of hide and seek” and forget her again, all the while unaware of “the danger which loomed over them all” once the power drops below critical, the artificial sun stops working and that, suddenly soberingly,
“Their world, and their lives, would end in choking darkness.”
Return to Peril

Perhaps the point where Terrance’s urge to simplify (and, perhaps, bowdlerise) most comes a cropper is at this point, when Vorg claims “I’ve worked many a Terran fairground” while at the same time thinking we’re animals fit to be exhibited, and Terrance even forgets which galaxy he’s in when trying (page 99) to explain the scene where he sidles up to the Doctor and speaks Polari as if chatting him up. On the page, it’s “the universal showman’s slang, which had spread out from Terra and across the galaxy”… When, for a start, back on page 43 we’re from “a distant galaxy” instead, and of course his Polari (or “Parlare”, here) is far less camp, far less jarring and very firmly a secret carnival speak and nothing else, so sadly you miss almost all the hilarity of Vorg’s assuming that the Doctor is some sort of fellow dodgy galactic traveller who’s always got a pretty young woman with him. Imagine! Similarly, Official Pletrac is only “tactless” rather than insulting, and far less blissfully camp. Still, even this late there are some smarter touches, as when Vorg goes to warn the Doctor, having failed to rat out on the next spaceship home:
“Since his attempt at self-preservation had failed, Vorg decided he might as well do the decent thing.”
As usual, Terrance handles action sequences deftly, with Vorg’s heroic spasm brief but rather exciting, and evoking what happens on screen both accurately and with greater clarity (the TV admits defeat when, in the event of a CSO effect so terrible even Barry Letts vetoed it, Kalik’s death is illustrated by just a close-up of Kalik bricking himself and then running, followed by a Drashig closing in and then sauntering off triumphantly). The “livestock” collapsing in the Scope as the power fails is quite grim in the book; first Jo falls, unable to breathe, and the Doctor has to hoist her unconscious body on to his shoulders; in the saloon, they worry that it’s getting cold, in the tropics, and dark too, then perhaps that Clare has collapsed from heat exhaustion and finally
“The three bodies lay motionless, while the little saloon grew colder and darker …”
The Doctor struggles to the top of the shaft, but knows he doesn’t have the energy to climb and slides to the floor, muttering a prayer to Vorg. On TV, of course, the moment’s rather less dignified as Pertwee’s nose hits the floor, which is always good for a laugh.

As with the collapsing Sahibs, we don’t see the other creatures dematerialising on screen as we do in the book, just the Drashig – exactly as “In the misty swamp, a Drashig raised its head, bellowed – and vanished.” The awkward questions of exactly what’s in the Scope are raised by the differences between formats: we see the ship itself vanish; we read that just the bodies fade quietly from the saloon. So, in the book, was it a fake ship, on a fake sea (the sea doesn’t vanish on screen)? They don’t drown, as we have that rather lovely little epilogue scene in Daly’s cabin. On screen, there’s rather good lighting around Clare’s eyes as she almost remembers… It’s a great illustration of the respective strengths of the screen versus the page; Clare’s the natural focus of one, while the book plays to its own strengths by following up on her Daddy’s finally finishing his own book:
“Daly yawned again. He reached out for his calendar and crossed off the last day of the voyage, then settled down to sleep. As he was drifting off, strange pictures floated through his mind. He heard the roar of guns, and the bellowing of monsters. There was something about a tall white-haired man, and a small girl with fair hair … stowaways … Daly couldn’t make any sense of it. Must be jumbled memories of some blood and thunder story he’d read a long time ago. Soon he was peacefully asleep. The S.S. Bernice steamed steadily towards Bombay.”
A lovely and memorable passage, and one that probably added “blood and thunder” to my vocabulary as a boy. Even if, like so much of the story, it’s difficult to reconcile with the description of the way the Scope works as a “simple temporal loop” (as in The Time Warrior, time travel isn’t something special but something everyone can use for a short cut that doesn’t necessarily make sense, with Bob Holmes writing less for plausibility than to send up the series)…

And finally, to the closing scene with the three magum pods and the yarrow seed (or, in our Tellurian terms, ‘Find the Lady’)… Points to the book for expanding Jo’s “He’ll probably end up President!” with the funnier comeback “That or Chancellor of the Exchequer,” which is certainly where I learned that title from; points to the TV for Vorg not merely beaming and winking at Shirna as Pletrac raises his wager to ten credit-bars, but for actor Leslie Dwyer positively pissing himself, which is a joy to behold. And points taken from Barry Letts for making such an incredible fuss about the dodgy hairpiece on one of his aliens. It’s just a crinkle as Pletrac’s eyebrows move, not a split, and much less noticeable than the yellow lines round the Drashigs that Barry left in. So the ‘director’s cut’ of the story (as shown in The Five Faces, returning to the first time I ever saw the TV story) rather spoils the ending by removing not just that wrinkled forehead but Vorg getting all his money. Like The Ribos Operation, it’s important in the final scene that we know the loveable rogues have got some cash, even though the Doctor’s taken their main livelihood.

The End of the Scope

All right, all right. So, after all that, which version is better?

It’s the only Pertwee story where I still don’t know. Both Carnivals are hugely entertaining, but as I read one I want to watch bits of the other, and as I watch one I remember better lines from the page. Despite many moments of invention and several sensible explanations, the book is just a little flat by comparison; notably, it’s far less funny, and it starts by giving us a bit more than is on screen, but by half-way through has settled into giving us a bit less. Terrance’s novel polishes some little moments and retains gems from the original script in others, but perhaps lacks enough sparkle on its own to be among his best – it’s good, solid fun, but not much more. Whereas on TV it’s far less good – at times, positively wicked – and considerably less solid, so gloriously over the top that it veers between fabulous and gaudy, and the direction between brilliant bits of framing and close-ups for impact, or clumsy inadequacy. But then, Vorg’s showman’s patter throughout is the hype before inevitable disappointment, so imperfection is part of the point. The definitive adventure, then, exists only in Robert Holmes’ conception and in our heads, but it’s great fun seeing either Barry Letts or Terrance Dicks stretch towards it.

The story as a whole, whichever one of it you take, always feels like it’s crashed in from another period of the show: a mid-Tom Baker piece of knowing fun; the TV references, tongue-in-cheek asides, continuity throwaways, a bit of politics and a lot of virtual reality, not to mention Bernice S.S., could make it a New Adventure twenty years early; and you could just as easily make it again today (in fact, on stage last year, they did). Flawed, tacky; inspired, hilarious; it’s Doctor Who.

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