Tag Archives: ace

Checking in with DWM 339 [WHO-50—2004]

2004aIt’s 2004! This is the year when everything is happening and not happening. There is a new Doctor Who coming, they PROMISE, but we don’t know much about it yet. And, you know, it’s not like we haven’t been burned before. Still, there’s plenty of Doctor Who to keep us amused.

Let’s check in on Doctor Who Magazine, which has been going strong all these years, and developed into a far more professional looking publication since the regular show last closed its doors in 1989. The current editor is Clayton Hickman – who will later be quoted as saying that they were seriously close to running out of material when the show was recommissioned. But this issue I have pulled out of my DWM stash looks jam-packed, despite being a lot thinner than its future incarnations.

It’s Issue 339, released on the 4 February 2004. The cover displays a rather nice image of Sylvester McCoy from his days as the Doctor, and the tagline promises Thrilling Adventures in Time and Space. We’re also going to meet Hex, the new audio companion, and Gary Downie is going to take us behind the scenes of the Sylvester McCoy era. That should be jolly!

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Here’s To The Future, Love Is the Answer [WHO-50—1987]

1987For me growing up, Doctor Who was a big amorphous pile of everything. Trial of a Time Lord, the Key to Time, the Target novelisation of The Myth Makers, Spearhead from Space, An Unearthly Child and even those Peter Cushing movies were part of this big spinning vortex of Everything Who. There was no forward or backward, no serious attempt at chronological order, and little sense of cohesion. I watched either on VHS tapes, on that perfect ABC time slot between 5:30 and 6:30 pm (a timeslot that also included at various times, The Goodies, Bananaman, Roger Ramjet and Danger Mouse BEST TIME SLOT EVER), and in many cases on VHS tapes recorded from that perfect ABC time slot or exchanged with friends.

But in 1987 (or let’s face it, some time within two years of 1987) everything changed. I was nine or ten, and we were ushered to a living room belonging to a representative of the vaguely-organised Doctor Who fan community in Hobart to watch a New Episode.

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Elsewhere on the Internet: Ace and Domesticity at Doctor Her

I don’t want to keep putting my own stuff in my Friday Links posts because, you know, it’s all about linking to other people! So I’ll be making occasional ‘elsewhere on the internet’ posts to point towards me doing the blog post thing in places other than here, for those who aren’t on Twitter or missed the tweets/facebook announcements.

This week it’s all about Doctor Her, my new shiny thing, though you can also expect a post all about my Pinterest experience Quite Soon I think.

My Doctor Who watching has been all about Ace and the Seventh Doctor recently because Raeli has fallen in love with that era (but mostly with Ace) and actually asks to watch classic Who with me. Shock!

So I wrote a review about the interesting depiction of Female Power in the Curse of Fenric, then followed it up with a coda about The Many Futures of Ace McShane. I also wrote a sequel to my Classic Who Domesticating the Doctor post from the other week: Domesticating the Doctor II: The Missus, The Ex and the Mothers-in-Law. I’m not sure why it is that reading so much about feminism & Doctor Who is making me think so much about the companions’ Mums, maybe it’s that I am actually realising how much closer I am to Jackie Tyler’s age than Rose’s?

Mostly I’ve been loving the vibe over on the Doctor Her blog – we don’t always agree, especially when it comes to controversies like ‘is River Song a feminist character’ but we have some amazing conversations in the comments, and it’s feeling like a really nice community.

This is what Feminist SF looks like: Big Finish, and Gallifrey

I know, I know. You’re sick of me raving about how good Big Finish is. But this isn’t a review, as such. There are some comments that regularly get thrown at feminist critics: you’re so negative, it’s all about tearing people down, why don’t you ever give cookies when we get it right? (It was particularly tragi-amusing to hear these comments in reaction to Nicola Griffiths proposing the Russ pledge, which is entirely positive)

So this is me talking about a bunch of blokes who get it so, so right.

There’s a thing I’ve been noticing, and I was reminded of it again recently while listening my way through season two of Gallifrey, an audio series produced by Big Finish. This series, now into its fourth season, has been produced on and off over the last decade, and was intended by its creators to be an SF version of The West Wing – political drama set on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey.

Our protagonists are Romana, the Lord President, and her alien bodyguard Leela, who comes from a primitive warrior culture. Both characters are played by the same actresses, Lalla Ward and Louise Jamieson, who portrayed them in 1970’s Doctor Who as companions to the Fourth Doctor. I always thought this series was an awesome idea, taking two really interesting characters and giving them a further life than Doctor Who itself allowed them. But then I listened to a story which involved a plot point where the two characters had their brain patterns crossed over – so that Leela suddenly had the President’s cool, ruthless and logical way of thinking, while Romana was overwhelmed with the instincts and uncontrollable emotions of the Sevateem warrior.

And it suddenly occurred to me – how often in science fiction do we get a story in which the two main characters are women, and in which the main conflict between them is how very different they are in personality? Never mind science fiction, actually, how often do we get that in STORIES? YA is probably the only genre where this might be a regular occurence. What Gallifrey does is demonstrate that you can tell interesting, crunchy science fiction stories in which the most important characters happen to be women (most importantly, more than one woman), without it necessarily having to be a story about traditionally female concerns.

A regular character gets killed off in season two, in a very underplayed sort of way at first, which seemed to cut off a plotline in mid-stream. I was shocked and confused by this, waiting for the reveal that it was a fake out. Instead, the reveal was something important about that death, something which rocked the most important relationship in the show: the friendship and alliance between Romana and Leela. Only then did I realise what had happened. The character had been women-in-refrigeratored, his own burgeoning plotline sacrificed to further the story of the women.

Hell, yes!

This is not an isolated incident. As you all know, I’ve been inhaling Big Finish audio plays at a rate of knots all year, and it has interested me how much I am adoring them considering that the majority are written and directed by men. I have a solid history of finding it easier to love works written by women, and I’m not convinced that it’s just my love of Doctor Who that’s making me love Big Finish so hard.

The fact is, they’re all a great big bunch of lefty feminists.

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Half A Year of Big Finish

Big Finish has a huge back catalogue of plays – more than 12 years worth – and it’s hard for people to know how and where to jump on board. I recently discovered the Little Finish podcast, which is great, but probably of limited value to casual listeners, as they review that month’s plays, spoilers and all. If you’re not keeping up with the latest ones, you’re likely to not get much out of it, which is a shame because it’s a very fun podcast! Anyone wanting to check it out might want to pick the Nicholas Courtney memorial episode, which reviews every Courtney appearance in Big Finish, and has some lovely recommendations and clips.

Anyway, in listening to Little Finish I came to the (not overly shocking) realisation that I actually am one of those listeners now – I subscribe to multiple streams of plays, and have caught up so substantially that I’m in a pretty good position to review, say, the Doctor Who releases for the entire first half of this year.

So here we go!

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“She Vanquished Me” – Doctor Who: Battlefield

I ordered the DVD of Doctor Who: Battlefield recently in a wave of nostalgia about the late Nicholas Courtney. His ‘I just do the best I can’ speech had been a big part of many reminiscence post about the Brigadier as an iconic character, and it was ages since I’d seen the story. It was one of my favourites when I was a teenager, and forms part of one of my favourite Doctor Who eras: the Seventh Doctor and Ace.

So the other night, when my honey was away for work and the kids were in bed and no one was being wrong on the internet, I settled down with some sewing to watch it. I was a bit worried that the suck fairy might have visited since I last inhaled this one, especially as I have heard so much fan dismissal of it as a story, but my worried were unfounded.

Battlefield is AWESOME.

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Old Age and Treachery

It’s International Women’s Day! That makes it the perfect timing for a post I’ve been meaning to write for a month as part of an occasional series on things that inspire me: in this case, older female fictional characters.

I have no stats to support this, but I’m pretty sure the average age of a female protagonist in a novel is somewhere between sixteen and thirty four. Which is a shame, because old women are fascinating! So many of our narrative conventions about women are all about them in the roles of maiden and mother, with very little attention paid to the crones. But being a crone can sometimes free women from narrative convention, purely because they are not expected to follow the same kinds of rules as the younger, prettier, more sexually available members of the species. So many stories rely on a woman’s beauty or the beginnings of romance as the main focus of her character. What do you get when you strip all that away? You get character.

Here are some of my favourites – but I’d love to hear your examples in the comments. Who’s your favourite feisty old fictional lady?

Miss Marple, by Agatha Christie.
An absolute classic. As a child I was drawn to these books by Agatha Christie even as I rolled my eyes and was bored by Poirot. There’s something utterly delicious about the sweet old lady with the knitting who seems harmless, but is actually sharp as a tack and the scourge of murderers everywhere. Of course, you do have to worry a bit about how many of her acquaintances end up murdered… One of the things I most enjoyed was how often Miss Marple would be paired with a younger woman, and the way that she found out so much simply by chatting amiably and having a cup of tea. That woman could work a cup of tea like no one else! My absolute favourite Miss Marple is Sleeping Murder, because of the way that she takes a young woman whom everyone else thinks is going a bit bananas, and quietly questions all her assumptions, allowing the truth to unpeel like a piece of aged cornflowers-and-poppies wallpaper.

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Good Listening and a Souffle of Links

So school is back! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to shift most of my workload to, well, now, so that the last several weeks of the summer holiday were all Mummying all the time. Now, of course, I have to go from nought to typing maniac in 60 seconds, and I’m not *entirely* sure I remember how to do it. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is a delicious mix of tidbits from the internet over the last week or so and some great things I’ve been listening to while catching up on the housework, supervising trampoline time, and sewing an Alice in Wonderland wallhanging.

Ben Peek wrote a post which completely blindsided me, about an author who embodies perseverance, the one who to me sucked up the bad times and pushed through them, and the one who should stand as an example for new authors… The twist is, it’s me!

N.K. Jemisin writes about gender assumptions/associations surrounding epic fantasy, and why anything that deviates from the masculine norms of the genre are seen as suspect. There are some brilliant, intelligent comments about gender, romance and the male gaze. Lovely stuff.

Alisa posts about Twelfth Planet Press award eligibilities for the coming awards season. Have you nominated for the stuff you can nominate for yet? Don’t forget that all of us who were at Aussiecon can nominate for the Hugos this year. Would be lovely to have some Aussie names on that ballot.

This amazing, powerful post by Juliet Jacques
about being a trans woman and a football fan really affected me, to the point where I read through her whole year’s worth of columns about transition. I can really recommend these for anyone looking to educate and inform themselves about some of the issues affecting people trying to transition. I found it a real eye opener, and she’s an entertaining and funny writer with it. Plus, football fan!

Jim Hines had some pointed things to say about the ‘self publishing ebooks is totally the way to make a career sing like a canary’ people and the way that ‘ebooks are the future’ so often gets turned into a bashing of commercial publishers and their methods.

So that’s the links done. Now for the listening…

The latest Salon Futura podcast has a great round table discussion about small press publishing featuring our own Alisa Krasnostein (plus Sean Wallace and L. Timmel Duchamp) – those of you mourning the lack of a Galactic Suburbia episode this week (sorry, we’ll be back with all guns blazing next week!) may like to check it out. There’s also a cool interview with Ann VanderMeer about her editorship of Weird Tales which was great to hear, especially the bit where they both start talking about Peter M Ball and unicorns.

My Big Finish obsession has been continuing apace. I have been relistening to all my Ace and Hex plays, and really enjoying the first two seasons of the 8th Doctor and Lucie Miller, which were designed to fit the tone of New Who a bit more firmly than the monthly series. They’re fast paced, funny and character-crunchy 50 minute episodes, with some fantastic casting. The whole first season is great, though the quirky Horror of Glam Rock (featuring Bernard Cribbins before he joined RTD’s Who crew) by Paul Magrs is a stand out, as is the exceptional two part finale, Human Resources.

I’m currently on the finale of the second season, which features a return of the Sisterhood of Karn and (quite possibly) Morbius, though I haven’t yet heard him with my own ears. The standouts for this season were Max Warp, a quite stunningly outrageous Top Gear parody with spaceships and Graeme Garden, and the comedy-romance-tragedy of The Zygon Who Fell To Earth (featuring Tim Brooke Taylor and Steven Pacey), but I also really loved the creative anachronisms of Dead London and the splendid historical heist story Grand Theft Cosmos. The return of the Headhunter, who is officially my favourite female villain of Doctor Who’s history, was a cause for much glee.

Elsewhere, I also discovered the Big Finish Comedy Podcast, which was released fairly recently as a limited series of 5 minute episodes to promote the Mervyn Stone mystery novels by Nev Fountain, which revolve around a script editor of a defunct cult sci-fi show of the late 80’s, who also solves crimes. The podcast is a great introduction to the character and his world, and over the course of about half an hour of bite sized, highly entertaining interviews (the conceit is that this is a DVD extra for “Vixens from the Void”) presents and solves the mystery of who killed the actor who played the quirky translator robot Babel J. It’s very funny, featuring among other things the note-perfect tones of Nicola Bryant, and absolutely free.

There is more, I expect, but I’m sleepy, and it’s school tomorrow!

Spaceships in Your Ears: The Best of Big Finish

I’ve loved the idea of science fiction on audio since the old Earthsearch and Hitchhiker’s Guide plays (all of which we own on cassette tape) – there’s something gorgeously perfect about huge, high-budget space opera played out on such an “old-fashioned” format – though audio has had a huge renaissance in recent years thanks to the iPod. Honestly how did we ever get housework and exercise done before this?

Big Finish are a company who have been tirelessly working away for the last eleven years, producing high quality audio plays based on popular TV shows and comics with “cult” following. Their core productions are a series of really quite awesome Doctor Who plays, featuring actors from the original roles. As a long time reader of Doctor Who Magazine, I discovered the existence of these plays right from the start, but found them prohibitively expensive, and back in the late 90’s it was still a bit of a hassle to order things from overseas. It was before my long-term Amazon addiction really kicked in!

I did purchase Storm Warning, the first of the Eighth Doctor and Charley stories which formed several formal “seasons” and helped to define that Doctor beyond the disappointing TV Movie, and the first awesome “Gallifrey” series featuring Lord President Romana and her bodyguard Leela (plus two K9s!) and thoroughly enjoyed them, but because of my lack of time/opportunity to listen to audios, I didn’t get further into the Big Finish web of doom.

Since I got my iPod Touch, all bets have been off! I found a whole bunch of Big Finish plays through our local library, which served to fuel an addiction. Once I had run through I returned to the Big Finish site to discover not only that many of the plays are a lot more affordable than I remembered, but particularly that the postage is dirt cheap for overseas, and there are downloadable versions which means you don’t even have to pay postage! I have thus embarked on a frenzy of Big Finish – mostly I have to say I have been going for some of the older plays, some of which are are on such good special prices that it’s cheaper to buy the CDs and get them shipped to me than the downloads!

Here then is a rundown of some of the best Big Finish plays I have listened to recently and why I like them!

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