sovay: (Rotwang)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-07-12 06:44 am
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Have you never heard of the double bluff?

Being sick of not writing about movies, I appear to be writing about TV instead. Some weeks ago, [personal profile] lost_spook recommended me Chris Boucher's The Robots of Death (1977) on the grounds of David Collings and Tom Baker-era Doctor Who generally. The last time I'd seen the Fourth Doctor was "The Day of the Doctor" in high school when a friend who liked Douglas Adams rented The Pirate Planet (1978) with me. All I seem to remember of that one is a cyborg parrot. The Robots of Death delivers all round.

The story is straight science fiction, which I think of as rare for Doctor Who; visible influences include Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Karel Čapek, Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang, Art Deco, and Agatha Christie, so we're talking a murder mystery in a remote outpost of a decadent civilization sustained entirely by the labor of artificially intelligent but strictly constrained robots, with sumptuous retro-futurist costuming (Morojo would be proud) and the elegant aerodynamics of streamline moderne everywhere. The robots themselves are sculpted in black and green and silver metal according to their grade and function, their classical features planed into perpetual smiles, their inlaid eyes as serenely empty as a Tiffany shade. As if flirting with the man/machine boundaries that they otherwise take such pains to reinforce, humans on this unnamed planet make up their own faces in the same contoured patterns, though much more delicately, mostly some linear accents around the eyes and nose. I got a slight glam rock vibe off the whole mise-en-scène, although it might just be this future's idea of reasonable hats. Everyone in the guest cast lives and works aboard Storm Mine 4, a vast mineral-harvesting ship on a world of sandstorm-swept deserts staffed by a small human crew and dozens more robots of all three classes. We get a few hints of wider worldbuilding—the Twenty Founding Families, Kaldor City, the Company—but the touchy dynamics among this small group are front and center, as is only appropriate when one of them is about to turn up dead. Strangled, so there's no chance of an accident, with a curious red disc stuck to his hand—a "corpse marker," which we shortly learn are used in technical contexts to identify irreparably damaged or permanently deactivated robots. Suspicion at once explodes in all directions among the already bickering crew, though there is one possibility no one raises until the arrival of the Doctor and Leela (Louise Jameson), the one the title portends. And should the mysterious serial strangler turn out to be a robot, a voiceless Dum, a reliable Voc, an autonomous Super-Voc with all the "million multi-level constrainers in its circuitry" somehow switched off and the ability to contravene the universal "prime directive" against harm to humans switched on? The Doctor's seen it before: "Oh, I should think it's the end of this civilization." We won't get to see that apocalypse, but we will witness the personal equivalent.

Collings plays Chief Mover Poul, a kind of engineering officer, and between this serial, Sapphire & Steel (1979–82), and the casting of ITV's Midnight Is a Place (1977–78), I'm close to concluding it is his life's work to play the characters I would naturally gravitate toward in any narrative where he appears. He has a trickster look here, too, sharp-faced, copper-haired, a dryly spoken observer with a gift for throwaway sarcasm—asked if a body was like that when he found it, his reply is, "Just a little fresher." The audience may guess that he's hiding something even before Leela observes that he "move[s] like a hunter, watch[es] all the time," but it's not obvious what, except that he feels the least likely of the human suspects. He sees more than he says, distracts when tensions escalate, laughs to himself but says nothing when the mine's commander repurposes one of Poul's own ripostes. He has a nervous habit of fiddling with the communicator that hangs like a medal from the breast of his sharp-shouldered tabard. Sometimes when no one's looking his face flickers apprehensively and he sputters with excessive denial at the Doctor's suggestion of killer robots, but his crewmates are dropping like flies with no solution in sight, who wouldn't be afraid? He smiles and talks easily and cynically with Leela about the money to be made sandmining, the only reason he claims he signed on to a two-year tour in this refrigerated, mechanized sluice box when he'd "rather live with people than robots, that's all." Between one scene and the next, very suddenly, he cracks.

Poul, it turns out, suffers from something called "Grimwade's syndrome" or "robophobia," a hyper-awareness of the uncanny valley that causes "an unreasoning dread of robots" and can turn into full nervous collapse if pushed too far. It's the ultimate mental health stigma in a society that depends so intimately and ubiquitously on unquestioned robot labor; it led to a death in the one other case we hear about and the family hushed up the facts to save face. In a nice twist of hindsight, only after Poul's out of commission do we learn he was an undercover agent for the Company, paired with the robot detective D84 (Gregory de Polnay, really fine voice acting) and sent to investigate the possibility of a link between the brilliant, secretive, and missing roboticist Taren Capel and Storm Mine 4. The very talent for reading people that made him abstractly ideal for the job turned it inevitably into his personal hell. Eight months in daily proximity to the robots that his hunter's senses screamed at him were the "walking dead," pretending he thought nothing more of their presence than he did of a table or chairs, and no respite to be found even with his loyal, metallic partner, like an especially neurotic variation on Asimov's Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw.1 He held himself together even after the killings began—and guessed the nature of the perpetrators, half insight, half paranoia, long before anyone else from his planet had a clue—but the sight of a dead robot with its silver hand sheathed in human blood pushes him over at last. He disintegrates with the head-clutching horror of silent film: "No! Oh, no! Please, no!" And it works, because Collings commits to it, because the contrast between the sardonic, decisive Chief Mover and the disconnected wreck of his next scene is genuinely upsetting. Leela finds him in the robot storage bank, sprawled blankly under a shelf as a deadly green-and-silver sentinel moves past him. He's been crying; it starts again as she speaks to him, as he begs her with mounting panic and plummeting lucidity not to give him away to the robots who are always watching, always hating, obeying human orders to preserve their pretense of subservience "but really—but really—" His mouth is the wrong shape for an adult. Leela has to wrestle him into silence before he gets both of them killed, shouting for the robots to spare him and take her. When she looses him finally, he rolls over with his face in his hands, his face to the wall, his whole body curled to hide. He looked like the character who could solve the mystery, the wry hero who could see the hypocrisies his culture tried to hide beneath hierarchy and filigree and not really jokes about robot masseurs accidentally dismembering their human clients; he did and it destroyed him.2 Merciful inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents, eat your heart out.

I should be clear that I like this story even when it isn't being Breakdowns of 1977. Some of the crew of Storm Mine 4 of necessity get more development than others, but it's notable to me now that they are a mixed-gender, mixed-race group who seem to have been written as neutrally and cast as diversely as the crew of the Nostromo.3 Russell Hunter's abrasive Commander Uvanov at first looks like the heavy with his rank-pulling, his class-based jabs at the impoverished aristocrat who works as his navigator, and his reluctance to leave off chasing a lucrative ore blow (I like how much storm-mining resembles whaling) just to investigate the death of a man he didn't like all that much anyway, but he proves a pragmatic and resourceful ally once he stops trying to pin the murders on the Doctor and Leela; he is unexpectedly gentle with his stricken Chief Mover and faces up to the world-warping fact of a mine's worth of robots with their first principles rewired by passing his second-in-command a handful of shaped charges and making like an action hero: "I think it's high time we went on the offensive." Pamela Salem's Pilot Toos injured her wrist in the near-sinking of the mine and was nearly strangled to death by a Voc in her own cabin, but she takes the blocks of Z-9 and follows Uvanov because she's a trooper, stubborn as when she held the sabotaged mine steady; it takes a creepily calm-voiced murder attempt to panic her and even then she defends herself with a vase. I like Leela, who dresses like an extra from One Million Years B.C. (1966), but is perceptive and unimpressed by technology and has no problem kicking dudes in the groin when they accuse her of murders she has not committed. "You must be stronger than you look," Poul appraises her, following his commander's misapprehension that she strangled the man whose cabin she was found in; she fires back at once, "You must be stupider than you look if you think I did that." Much of her function in the narrative seems to be to provide the Doctor with someone to explain things to, but at least the script notices and lampshades it. And as should always be the case in a story of this nature, the heart of The Robots of Death belongs to D84, the courteous, humane, rapidly evolving agent undercover as a mute, drudging Dum. His mild voice seesaws, sometimes stammers and sometimes vibrates with electronic glitches, but he pursues his own investigations even as his partner comes unglued, makes mistakes, learns from them. On the one hand, he's exactly what this culture should be afraid of: not a fancy automaton that can be reprogrammed into a killing machine, but an actual artificial person with a mind and personality of their own. On the other, he's wonderful. He is quite wrong that he's "not important." His rapport with both Leela and the Doctor makes him a tempting companion to imagine in some alternate version of Season 14. And he gets the incontestable best line in the serial, said in just the right tone of polite reproach: "Please do not throw hands at me."

If I am disappointed with anything about this serial, it's that the robot revolution is not self-willed: the human villain is fascinating once revealed, self-contradictory in plausible, meaningful ways and cleverly mirrored to both Poul and D84, but it somewhat undercuts the metaphor of class/race anxiety if the uprising of the exploited workforce is instigated from outside, no matter how strongly that outside wants to represent itself as part of the oppressed. If I look at it as an inversion of Metropolis (1927), where a robot provocateur sows dissent among a human underclass, I like it better. I hope that was intentional.

In short, this is one of the reviews where I come in late to a classic, but at least I came in. I am not surprised that it's a fan favorite; I don't even know that I can call myself a fan, but I think it's terrific. It's a good science fiction mystery. It has characters as well as cleverly interlocked ideas. It definitely gives good David Collings. This mental thing brought to you by my important backers at Patreon.


1. For maximum irony of the sort that comes to pass if a person does enough science fiction, Collings played 51st-century robot detective Daneel in a 1969 BBC adaptation of The Naked Sun (1957), which I assume like its source novel came down to the terrifying concept of positronic brains not bound by the Three Laws of Robotics—robots that could harm humans, even without knowing it—and which the internet helpfully tells me does not survive in any form barring some of Delia Derbyshire's sound work. Damn it, BBC. [edit] In fact, it looks as though the BFI did a reconstruction from the surviving soundtrack and stills, further details of which can be found at WikiDelia. I'm still side-eying the BBC.

2. I appreciate that he survives the story, though I mind a little that it leaves him at loose ends, catatonic on the bridge of the sandminer without even third-party dialogue to point toward his fate. My preferred headcanon would involve him getting offplanet somewhere he doesn't have to be around robots all the time, but it looks as though radio canon has him reappearing full bore loony some years later. Maybe I will ignore radio canon. Opinions? Everyone is just lucky I did not see this serial in high school instead of The Pirate Planet, because I wouldn't have written Poul fix-it fic—I didn't start writing fanfiction until I was out of grad school—but I am pretty sure hopelessly derivative original fiction would have been guaranteed.

3. I would love to know if there is believed to be any link between The Robots of Death and Dan O'Bannon and Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), because I have to say that one looks a lot like a direct forerunner of the other, not just in the isolated, claustrophobic and-then-there-were-none premise, but elements of plot and atmosphere like company agents embedded in regular crews and futuristic long-haul work being just as tiresome as the twentieth-century kind. Ian Holm's Ash pretty much is what you would get if you combined Poul with D84 and turned the sympathy way down on both sides.
moon_custafer: (Default)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2017-07-12 12:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Some friends of mine have done a series of sf-noir audio dramas set in Kaldor City:
the_rck: (Default)

[personal profile] the_rck 2017-07-12 12:33 pm (UTC)(link)
My understanding is that Louise Jameson left the series, in part at least, because there are only so many ways to say, "What is it, Doctor?" I think she actually gave that as her reason in an interview after the fact.
lost_spook: (s&s - silver)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-12 01:30 pm (UTC)(link)
<3 <3 <3 (I think you should just keep on watching things I like and writing about them and I can just point people to you to explain why I like them. That will inevitably break down at some point, us not being the same person, but certainly as far as 70s stuff involving David Collings goes, we seem to be on the same page.)

I will have more to say later when hopefully less tired, but let me just comment on your footnotes first:

For maximum irony of the sort that comes to pass if a person does enough science fiction, Collings played 51st-century robot detective Daneel in a 1969 BBC adaptation of The Naked Sun (1957)

For maximum irony, enjoy the fact that David Collings's other episode of Out of the Unknown features him being too human to be trapped in an underground bunker, and he swiftly breaks down and has to be lobotomised (his hand won't work! it doesn't want to be here; it doesn't see why any of them should be here! it won't press any more buttons. <3)

I don't know whether it's good news or bad news, given that OOTU is ironically harder to come by without spending £££s since the BFI released the DVD than previously, but his other ep "Level 7" does survive, and the DVD boxset has a reconstruction of The Naked Sun using the publicity photos and the surviving soundtrack - there seems to be a lot more of it than that source suggests. (Level 7 is actually much better and more of a direct link to RoD in terms of David Collings's performance and function in the plot, surprisingly, but interviews with David Collings suggest that he enjoys SFF himself and would very likely have got the connection even if he hadn't already played Daneel. He was in the BBC Radio LotR as Legolas and the adaptor recalls that he was the only member of the cast who had already read the books and knew them well enough to help out the rest of the Fellowship, although some of the others, like Ian Holm, read it in preparation.)

Opinions? Everyone is just lucky I did not see this serial in high school instead of The Pirate Planet, because I wouldn't have written Poul fix-it fic—I didn't start writing fanfiction until I was out of grad school—but I am pretty sure hopelessly derivative original fiction would have been guaranteed.

LOL, Kaldor City! Okay, the thing about Kaldor is that it is actually based more on the BBC Past Doctor Adventures sequel to RoD, Corpse Marker (written by Chris Boucher, though) which is something on which I have mixed feelings, but basically it follows Uvanov, Toos, and Poul back in Kaldor City, where everything has been hushed up and everyone is basically ambitious back-stabbing political whatsits, and there are some Taren Capel fans out there who want to continue his work. Poul unfortunately gets some highly damaging 'therapy' (by people who want to use him for things that I forget because it's been a long time since I read it) and has another terrible experience, although he does come out of it slightly better than RoD, but clearly it doesn't do him any good. The book also throws in one of Chris Boucher's more popular one-off Blake's 7 characters, the psychostrategist (or 'puppetmaster') Carnell. This then makes Kaldor a world somewhere outside the reaches of the Federation in the B7 universe (which fits absolutely; it feels very much as if it could be). This then led to the audio series of Kaldor City, which does sound like something you should avoid with a bargepole, but it actually throughly enjoyable sarcastic crack that all goes bafflingly meta at the end (and possibly destroys the whole universe with it), so its canon is entirely optional because canon is clearly also not sure what's going on.

It combines said character from B7 with the original actor, with other actors from Chris Boucher shows, plus a character who may or may not be a major B7 character (the source of much LOLs, given Paul Darrow's habit of eating the microphone) and basically people are sarcastic while Uvanov hates robots (but is totally not robophobic okay, it's not paranoia when everybody really is out to get you) and I don't even know. (My friend Liadt once wrote a Kaldor ficlet where the Henry Hoovers try to kill Uvanov and it fits in perfectly, so, I mean... *g*)

David Collings describing Poul as a full on loony is just him, though: it's more complicated than that. Poul, following RoD and Corpse Marker has clearly just had way too much and broken with reality in some ways, but he's not running round raving and crying. He's just ending the universe via a weird cult. There's no account of exactly how he got to that point, but it's still interesting.

(The universe ending comes via one of Chris Boucher's other DW serials, Image of the Fendahl, which for various reasons is not as glorious as RoD but still has its various ifluences being brought together in interesting ways, with proper characters and snark, but this is pretty much CB's metier.)

You will probably not be surprised to learn that, this being one of my few DW VHS serials I owned back in the day, that I did write Poul fix-it fic. ;-)

Big Finish audios has a completely different sequel to RoD called Robophobia. It does some rather lovely things and has Nicola Walker in it, but it completely misses several of the points of RoD, which is frustrating. But alternate canon in which Poul may possibly be doing fine and even hanging out with Nicola Walker somewhere is available!

I'm sorry you can't type up about movies, and I hope your hand recovers soon, but nothing nicer could have been posted for me today than this. <3

ETA: if you or anyone else ever write/has written original SF derived from RoD, I NEED TO KNOW. This is what I want my SF to be!

ETA2: These are, as far as I know, the only surviving images of him as Daneel, plus some YT-based screencaps Liadt took from L7 here and here.
Edited 2017-07-12 17:58 (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-07-12 11:38 pm (UTC)(link)
IIRC, the BBC LotR had excellent acting throughout, but I wanted to shoot the music director. I mean, yes, I like that they included lots of the songs, but the music in my head was NOT opera!
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[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-07-13 03:45 am (UTC)(link)
I wonder if that's what they used?

(I have a bunch of Flanders and Swann in my "to listen to" folder right now...)
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[personal profile] tree_and_leaf 2017-07-18 05:09 pm (UTC)(link)
You're right, they're not the same. I like the BBC Radio music, personally.

I have actually seen Perelandra performed - a student production in Keble Chapel, though I am sorry to say I don't remember much about it.
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[personal profile] tree_and_leaf 2017-07-19 02:18 pm (UTC)(link)
I remember I enjoyed it; I also remember thinking it would have been better billed as an oratorio than an opera - of course, it was unstaged, but it still felt pretty - static, if that's the right word.
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[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-13 01:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I believe you've mentioned this! I actually read Mordecai Roshwald's Level 7 (1959) years ago, almost certainly in high school when I would read any genre fiction that wasn't nailed down. As bleakly ironic post-apocalyptic dystopias go, I remember it being batshit.

It didn't seem especially batshit to me, but that may be more of a comment on the nature of BBC 1960s SF than the liberties taken with the adaptation! I seem to recall that the screeenplay was by J B Priestley, who had loved the book, and directed by Rudolf Cartier and had an extra 10 minutes so they could do it properly. It's one of the better OOTUs that I've seen, but then wee apocalyptic David Collings is bound to make me think that. It wasn't as much fun once they lobotomised him.

The BFI DVD set isn't too bad for what it is, but UNFORTUNATELY for me, I got a second hand copy and it turned out that the disc with Level 7 on was broken like David Collings, with a crack going right through it and I sent it back after having briefly started The naked Sun reconstruction only they refunded my money instead of replacing it. And now, having watched about 6 episodes, I feel even more disinclined to buy it again unless it goes cheaper. But one day I must because wee!breaky David Collings and weird 60s BBC SF and also James Maxwell is in the adaptation of Asimov's story The Dead Past, too.

So, it's very hard to comment on The Naked Sun. David Collings hadn't had half enough to do before I stopped watching it and - indeed! - they coloured his hair in wrong, although if you have now seen my screenshots from Night Caller you will at least credit them for stopping to colour it in at all!

(BFI sets are often multi-region or region-free, but I can't remember off the top of my head if that one was, but it may have been and, if so, it may be obtainable somewhere over there. And someday someone's bound to upload some of them again. It was utterly unavailable for years, so some film collectors had digitised and uploaded their copies, which was useful, although they had time codes on them and things, which I assume the DVD set will have got rid of.)

I am unsurprisingly charmed by the idea of David Collings, Tolkien nerd. I've been meaning to listen to that adaptation for years; it's full of people I like. Bill Nighy as Sam!

Bill Nighy as Sam was a revelation to me! Not that he's not always good, of course, but it was such a different role to the things I've seen him in that it was hard to imagine when I saw the casting, but he's amazing - best person in it, as he should be.

I listened to it first in autumn 2011 and I Googled a lot of stuff at the time, and there are any number of rather charming stories around it, like Michael Hordern as Gandalf, being contracted for the whole serial and then getting very worried to find that he had died 1/3 of the way in - had there been some mistake? I'm not sure whether it was he or John LeMesurier as Bilbo (I think the latter) who had also written to a friend that he was in the radio LotR for the BBC, he didn't understand a word of it, but he was having a delightful time with his friend Michael Hordern, who also didn't understand a word of it. <3

(I have to say, though, that the music is huge a part of what makes it special. Some of the songs may not be my thing, either, but composer Stephen Oliver was clearly trying to do distinct things for various races and characters - the eagles are weird and annoying, the Elves are v classical, and the Hobbits' songs are plain. It would have been a good adaptation without it, but it's his compositions that raise it above most BBC radio productions - and it was an unusual thing for the BBC to commission for a radio project; so much so that they had to work the narration to the music instead of the other way around, because it was the only way they could get both done. But judge for yourself. This is the main theme, and personally I'm not sure how it could have been bettered:

And Bill Nighy's two (sadly v short) pieces, my absolute favourites of all the songs: )

Whatever it says about me, apparently "nebulously universe-destroying crack meta" is the part of this description that gets my attention.

LOL, I don't know, but if you can work out what's going on, you deserve a medal. However, you do get the return of Gregory de Polnay as another robot (if not D84).

What are your mixed feelings about Corpse Marker based on?

I think, in part, simply because RoD is kind of perfect as it is; it leaves you wanting more about that society, but at the same time, you don't want it, because you're making up your own ideas from what you've been given. Perhaps I wanted nothing, or a series. (Which, happily for me, in at least some ways is what Blake's 7 is.) I also just wanted Poul to be okay again after, heh. And Chris Boucher's talent lies far more in screenwriting than novel writing, but it's a reasonably enjoyable read. It's been a while - there probably was a time where I could have explained in great detail, but not any more.

I am delighted. May I hope that some of it is on the internet where I can read it?

Have the complete lot of Poul fic on the AO3, why not, all 6 of them: (There's not much but a lot of it was either by, for, or came up via me. I'm not sure whether that's a terrible confession or a good one, but hey...) The fic in question is the one at the bottom of the page, which I wrote as part of an AU series, inspired by Leela's random marriage (and Peri's, and Jo's...) to write AUs where companions stayed to marry other equally random (or in some cases, a lot less random) characters. Most of it is fairly cracky, but some of it isn't, including the resulting Leela/Poul. (Of the other two, Til My Fingers Bleed, does at least contain a brief summary of what happens to Poul in Corpse Marker, and the Uvanov/Poul one - MY FRIEND MADE ME DO IT OKAY - was also my attempt to fill in the Kaldor City gap.)

(I had forgotten, but my inevitable reaction to watching S&S was to write a D84 fixit with Silver, because obviously, and also because Silver/Any sufficiently advanced AI is clearly a workable ship, at least in passing. If you would also enjoy that at all, it;s here:

And maybe I won't need to say more later, because I'm usually a little more coherent in fic than in comments, but I will try, because I did have some thoughts. (Somewhere.)

(Good luck with your con!)
lost_spook: (s&s - silver)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-14 12:50 pm (UTC)(link)
It may be less batshit than my memory! I just remember all the meticulous worldbuilding (which looks to me now like a direct descendant of Zamyatin's We (1924), which I wouldn't read until college) pulling up short with the ironic twist kicker that the deepest Levels themselves are just as vulnerable in the event of a nuclear accident

Ah, the inevitably peeled-back TV version can't have all of that, and so just feels like typically bleak apocalyptic anti-nuclear fare. (The ending was one of the things I liked about it; but maybe you will get to see it somehow. But basically, David Collings was right about everything in it.)

That's like watches stopping around Sapphire & Steel. Maybe David Collings just attracts metaphor independently.

I once tried to make a fanvid of David Collings breaking down, but it broke down and killed my memory stick and all that remains is an even earlier and rougher draft full of placeholders (but it does feature Bernard Archard feeding him to the invisible hyenas here.)

I downloaded the soundtrack from WikiDelia, but haven't had the chance to listen to more than the first few minutes in which David Collings is instantly recognizable and James Maxwell has an agoraphobic breakdown.

Ah, sorry, I think I've confused you: Paul Maxwell is playing Lije Baley. I mentioned James Maxwell because he was in another OOTU Asimov adaptation, and he is an obvious draw for me (if nobody else) in an expensive boxset! David Collings AND James Maxwell AND 1960s BBC SF *check*

I do not think I will have a problem with his music for The Lord of the Rings. To clarify, if it's all of this caliber, I'll probably try to find a copy.

I'd say yes. I'm not sure which is my favourite piece, but obviously the main theme is the first that comes to mind and I could find it online.

I think starting a niche on AO3 is something to be proud of, especially if people write for you.

:-D I oppress people into writing old telly things for me; I am a terrible person. (Actually, the Poul fic is almost as much Liadt's fault as mine, I realised afterwards. In fact, she's probably far more to blame for more RoD/Kaldor fic than I am! I just flirt with the Poul tag every now and then.)

And, aw, thank you! I'm glad you liked them. The Poul one is pretty old now, but I think quite a few years' worth of having RoD living in my head went into it.

And, yes, Poul was a ref to Poul Anderson; Uvanov is an even less obvious nod to Isaac Asimov. The full names come from Corpse Marker (Uvanov is Kiy Uvanov and Toos, Lish Toos - unfortunately the others didn't survive to feature in it!) I think the only name that I know was an in-joke was Grimwade's Syndrome, which was a ref to a director called Peter Grimwade, who did several DW eps, although not that one. (I'm not sure why!)

Sapphire in Assignment 6 taking Silver's face between her hands to make his memories visible: "Love to." He kisses her palm afterward. It is and is not what it appears to convey.

Oh, Elements, and their inhuman flirting that is and isn't! It clearly is serving a purpose; it clearly also is what passes for an intimacy with them. (I'm sorry, i'll start degenerating into incoherency and keysmashes or something. We'll save that for the eventual S&S post. But <3)

Oh, and I know I keep mentioning B7, and I'll try not to do it again, at least for a few comments, but it's rather hard not to in connection with RoD, and it was Chris Boucher that led me there from Doctor Who. In general, I would say that is a series to be watched in order, but perhaps you might find this interesting at some point:

It's Shadow S2, ep2, and Chris Boucher's first episode for the series (although he wrote large amounts of S1 as script editor, because Terry Nation always tended to pass in first drafts and swan off to the US to sell Daleks), and while it's by no means one of his best, it does have the right feel to connect it to Kaldor, and it's interesting and gives every regular something to do, even the often-neglected Gan. (Although it's hardly Vila's most shining episode! Poor Vila. He deserves what he gets in this one, though.)
lost_spook: (s&s - silver)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-14 04:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, the link there is pretty much "it sounds Russian."

At least three of the letters are also the same!

The ad-lib story is the one I've heard, but I'd not come across (that I remembered) someone actually giving a reason for it, just an in-joke.

lost_spook: (s&s - silver)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-15 08:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Now that I have more than five minutes to check my comments in—

Knowing you were at a con, I didn't expect a reply till after the weekend!

And, aww, you found Level 7! I never think about Dailymotion. I'm not good at watching things online, but it's nice to know where I can go to at least see the bit where his arm doesn't work if I feel the need.

There are some notable differences between teleplay and novel, including X-117's plotline and the specifics of the apocalypse, but it's haunting in its own way. The final scenes are correctly nightmarish. I'm glad it wasn't lost.

Interesting! Can you remember any of the particular changes, because I was curious myself, but without much brain to read and the book not being all that easily/cheaply available, I couldn't find out. I'm glad you liked the ending; I did too.

[edit] Okay, I watched until David Collings blew up and now I'm going to bed.

This made me LOL more than it should; especially since I seem to remember literally doing that myself. (WIth his UFO ep, definitely: aliens turned him into a human bomb and exploded him twenty minutes in.)

Being at Readercon is at least useful for making me feel less like I am just permanently stupid at people, although it is amazing how many other writers assume I'm wearing the brace for a flare of RSI.

Anything like a con is all-consuming! I'll look forward to it whenever you're able.
lost_spook: (s&s - silver)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-21 09:02 am (UTC)(link)
I never thought about Dailymotion until quite recently, when it started turning up British TV that wasn't available on YouTube. I have no idea how long this will last, but while it does it's handy.

It seems to be good for when there's been a take-down on YouTube and vice versa, I suppose!

Ah, thank you for the detailed list of the differences. That is interesting, although, LOL, as you say, we could have had so much more breaky!Collings!

I was amused at the unconvincing deaths from radiation poisoning, until watching it again, it struck me that they never said that was what it was, and there was actually a strong possibility it was a nerve agent, which would no doubt still have been messier but would have matched the symptoms they were displaying better. It's been long enough that I can't remember why I came to that conclusion, though.

There seems to be a theme running through it that there's a point at which everyone has something that re-humanises them (and then they break). But it's been a while. It sounds as though maybe that was more the adaptation. (X127's love for Michele Dotrice, and her love for chocolate, and X117 full stop, but there were also things with the other characters. But it has been a while, sorry!)

(Also, if you're after the other Douglas Adams DW - I am nosy, I read all the comments! - there's the unfinished Shada, and City of Death. City of Death is probably the best of the three, though. It included a location shoot in Paris, and has a wonderful turn from Julian Glover as the villain. ("I don't think he's as stupid as he seems."/ "My dear, no one could be as stupid as he seems!") He was script editor for S17 (and the very last serial of S16), though, so even the worst eps are at least enlivened by random Adams jokes. He reused a lot of Shada, which was never broadcast at the time, in both Dirk Gently and some of Hitch-Hikers.)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

[personal profile] larryhammer 2017-07-12 03:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Leila's narrative role as Doctor-explainee is frequently lampshaded throughout her run. Sometimes she also get to be the Action Girl she was originally conceived as.
moon_custafer: (Default)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2017-07-12 03:14 pm (UTC)(link)
If you can treat the yellow-peril stuff as part of the Victorian setting, "Talons of Weng-Chiang" is a great Dr. Who story and Leela is basically action!Eliza Doolittle, which is fun to watch.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

[personal profile] larryhammer 2017-07-12 05:06 pm (UTC)(link)

That is one of the best serials for this.

lost_spook: (b7 - dayna)

[personal profile] lost_spook 2017-07-12 09:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I think it was just uneven, as with much of DW, because of serials being written by different authors (sometimes even with a previous companion in mind, or with a production nightmare, like Underworld) and the handover between producers - although the new team wanted to keep her, very much (unlike some companions who were got rid off because the old team had come up with them, and the new one had other ideas). The reason she got a rather sudden ending was because the production team were begging Louise to stay and thought she would change her mind, but she didn't.

Tom didn't take to her at first, but they'd worked that out via Horror of Fang Rock, which is also another good Leela story. More straightforward than this, but straight-out small group of people stuck in a small space being picked off by an alien monster while Leela has no time for Edwardian values.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

[personal profile] larryhammer 2017-07-13 02:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Different writers had better and worse handles on her, essentially.

ETA: Or, what [personal profile] lost_spook said.
Edited (ETA) 2017-07-13 14:38 (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-07-12 03:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Tom Baker is My Doctor, and Leela is my favorite companion. For all that Leela spends a lot of time asking questions, she *did*, in this serial, get what remains to this day the closest thing to a coherent answer to the perennial question "How is the TARDIS bigger on the inside?"

I rewatched this ome myself, recently, and was struck by how much worldbuilding was present in the costumes, makeup, and general set design, but which was totally invisible to the characters themselves; fish who can't see water.

Talons of Weng-Chiang has several regrettable parts, but *great* character work all around.

(Goes back to check episode list...) Wow. Season 14 is far and away my favorite period, several of my favorites, and no clunkers (though of course YMMV).

Leela's introduction in The Face of Evil is (IMO) excellent. It's the first time I encountered a trope that would later be significant (if subtler) in Rosemary Kirstein's sublime Steerswoman series. And it introduces a really subversive piece of lore about The Doctor's lack of stability.

Her final outing, The Invasion of Time, has many interesting points, but was super-disappointing as a character farewell (especially compared to the excellent seeing-off the previous companion, Sarah Jane Smith, had gotten the previous season). At the end of the last episode, Leela decides to stay behind and *marry* one of the other characters, despite having had no particular chemistry with him!
Edited ((Resumed after interruption)) 2017-07-12 16:40 (UTC)
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-07-13 12:04 am (UTC)(link)
Masque of Mandragora is in the Italian Renaissance. It features a traditionally con-artist alchemist who (via the monster of the week) discovers he can actually DO magic, Machiavellian nobles, creepy pseudo-Roman cultists, and a costume ball with mistaken identities. Also, it was filmed on location in the bits of Portmeiron that looked less modern than The Prisoner.

Hand of Fear starts off as a pretty standard evil artifact/possession story, but gets some interesting character stuff for the villain before the end. For a change, the location-filming-in-a-quarry was actually diegetic (the cursed artifact turning up during blasting). The really notable thing is that at the end of the serial, Sarah Jane gets fed up (for quite reasonable reasons) and demands to go home -- and The Doctor takes her... Quite movingly done.

Deadly Assassin is a rarity, a companion-less story. It's also the first time we see Gallifrey! Complex plot reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate. Features an old schoolmaster of The Doctor's, a Time Lord Detective, and a Time Lord Librarian. Includes a very early example of the "battle inside a VR mindscape" trope.

Face of Evil introduces Leela (independent thinker and deadly warrior), in an Emotional Savages vs. Logical Technocrats setting, also featuring invisible monsters with a significant debt to Forbidden Planet. Only the "id" they are projected from turns out to be (sort of) The Doctor himself!

(I don't want to spoil the connection to Kirstein's books if you haven't yet read them, which I STRONGLY recommend.)

Robots of Death and Talons of Weng-Chiang have already been discussed.

I haven't (yet) listened to any of the radio stuff, so don't know if any of it fix-fic'd Leela.
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-07-13 03:47 am (UTC)(link)
Checked wikipedia, and Leela apparently had a lengthy post-marriage aufio career.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)

[personal profile] cyphomandra 2017-07-13 09:23 am (UTC)(link)
Collings played 51st-century robot detective Daneel in a 1969 BBC adaptation of The Naked Sun (1957),


This made me dig round, and apparently they did The Caves of Steel in 1964, adapted by Terry Nation, with Peter Cushing as Baley and John Carson, who I don't know (although looking at his credits I have almost certainly seen him) as Daneel. Obviously all traces of this are now lost. I am still very fond of these two books (I have issues with the later ones) despite their problems.

My Doctor will always be Peter Davison, although the last time I rewatched any significant chunk of his run I was struck by how relentlessly depressing a lot of it was, even while he himself remains (mostly) cheerful. I drifted away from the reboot rather rapidly; I do feel it lost something important moving to mostly hour-long episodes rather than shorter multiparters.
cyphomandra: Painting of a bare tree, by Rita Angus (tree)

[personal profile] cyphomandra 2017-07-14 10:55 am (UTC)(link)
Your journal is such a congenial assortment of topics and people! I wandered back to this post to look at the discussions and found your discussion of Stephen Oliver - I saw the RSC's production of Nicholas Nickleby when I was a student and it was touring, and loved it. My mother got me tickets for us to go on alternating nights, and I then canvassed my friends until I found one who had the money and was game enough to come with me to the all-day production, which was just incredible. I haven't thought about it for ages! And I didn't realise he was involved in that Lord of the Rings radio adaptation, which I have been meaning to listen to for years.

The clip you linked of The Caves of Steel is tantalising! And it's weird seeing sf that predicted basically an analog future, all dials and solid buttons. I'm sure it looked cutting edge at the time.
thawrecka: (Default)

[personal profile] thawrecka 2017-07-15 03:29 am (UTC)(link)
I feel like a lot of the time the companions in the old series were there for explaining things to, to give a reason to give the audience exposition. I have to admit I don't remember this episode, even though I've watched hundreds of episodes of old Who, but even within its low budget and regular nonsense I often found the show had striking moments of creepiness and some darned good episodes, many of which have aged surprisingly well.

I think I'm going to have to look this episode up to watch it at some point.
vr_trakowski: (TARDIS lamppost)

[personal profile] vr_trakowski 2017-07-16 06:43 pm (UTC)(link)
What squeak, mouse? :D

You might consider giving The Pirate Planet another watch; its plot doesn't hold up so well as this episode, but it's full of Douglas Adams' wit, and the pirate captain is a delight all by himself. He wrote one other filmed episode (I can't remember the title) but I like TPP better. However, if you've read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, you'll recognize bits on that other ep.