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31 May 2011 @ 05:47 pm
Review: The Daleks  
The first four episodes of the Daleks and the last three feel like very different serials, the first focusing on the Daleks and the second focusing on the Thals (though of course both species are present in both halves). The Men of RtC (not to be confused with the Men of the ROTC) don't have much time for the Thals, pointing out that they're a bit dull and vapid. I thought, when I initially saw Daleks, that they were compellingly alien, in their detached pacifism and seeming lack of emotional involvement--rather a precursor to Nyssa of Traken in that way, maybe, who's consistently remarkable for her stoicism in the face of the loss of her family and society. I once read a fic in which Nyssa had a quite vicious moment at the expense of Ainley!Master, who was getting some come-uppance for body!theft. Though I really enjoy that fic, I can't quite see Nyssa going there--she seems incapable of more than a sort of quiet, persistent melancholy and lack of affect, predisposed to bearing up both by culture and disposition. In some way is Traken functioning as an ideal England, in that respect? An empire held in place by its stiff upper lips, its embedded codes of reserve and civility, with Melcor groves indicating the poisonous underlying weirdness of that set-up and the way in which it stifles all dissent? 

What then do the Thals say in terms of that? The Men again allude to a post-WWII Nazis vs. Appeasers dynamic, but the way it plays that out with Ian and injunctions against pacifism/reclaiming of the Warrior Within is very uncomfortable. The discussion sounds too much like the dregs of the Masculinist movement, or general weird war-hawkishness. I'm convinced of the peril of the situation for the Thals AND for the TARDIS crew, but I'm not convinced of the necessity of returning Thal culture to the state of its mythic warrior past, or swayed by the weird debates about whether the Thals are now culturally or biologically incapable of violence. It has a determinist element, too clearly dividing the capacity for violence from normal behavior, which doesn't ring true. Possibilities for violent conflict resolution lurk at the periphery or condition and dominate cultures' public discourse, they don't occupy a discrete sphere. You'd have to do a LOT to sell me on biological incapacity for violence. Or just have Donna say something great, which then seems blazingly obvious, like 'they *carry their brains around*, probably they are not super violent.'

RTC has a lot of interesting commentary on the origin and development of the Daleks over the years/serials, but the Thals have a kind of odd course to travel as well. When Three runs into the Thals, presumably much much later, they're a technologically adept warrior race once again. Their long-standing mission is to eradicate the threat of the Daleks, who they seem to have assumed a sort of moral responsibility for on the basis of their shared common origins. When Four encounters the Thals much earlier in their timeline in Genesis, they're still biologically identical to the Kaleds, who will become the Daleks, and both peoples appear identical to humans (whereas these initial Thals have a sort of Aryan Super Race aesthetic going on). The Genesis!Thals are interesting in that small details of their writing indicate not just a society in the grip of a centuries-long war, but a sort of genuine alienness, a different morality rather than a variation of an immediately recognizable human system. I can't remember the detail that led me to conclude this at the moment--I'll come back to it if it comes to me, or catch it up when I review Genesis. It probably more properly belongs in that review anyway.

The QUEST!!narrative of the last three serials seems unnecessary--if One hadn't been crowing about how cool he was, he wouldn't have been captured, and thus Team Ian and Barbara need never have gone their sneaky and dangerous way at all? They might have walked up to the front door with just as much a chance of success. That said, crowing!One was adorable--I enjoy One's crisp, seemingly cruel, but actually just rather harshly utilitarian practicality in these early episodes, his sneaking camaraderie with Ian and Barbara both in distinct ways, his petulant component-swapping (which does read as more mischievous than bitchy), and his glee regarding matters of science--his eye-roll-provoking but somewhat dear delight in his own intelligence. I sort of want back-stories for One that take this person and tell me what's happened to form him as he is now: interesting, ambiguous, and seemingly full of internal contradictions, but I want those to be fanfic stories rather than canon or even paracanon, because on this point I think flexibility and ambiguity are necessary tools, allow the Doctor to remain a dynamic epic hero, and I don't want An Answer.  One's complex and a bit great. And Barbara and Ian are doing quite well. Susan's fine, but she's never had a TON of consistent personality, perhaps due to her youth and strangeness. I find it difficult to say much more than that I rather like her. 

I do feel very sorry for cowardly!Thal, and a bit charmed by Barbara's one-off light romantic arc (though I do primarily ship her with Ian--as, I believe, do all sensible people). My GOD the Ordeal was turgidly paced. 

Reading along in Running Through Corridors is, once again, rich in interesting series production information, though I begin to get the feeling that it was produced somewhat cheaply? I'm not a professional copy editor trained to pick up typographical errors (which friends in publishing give me to understand is *much* harder than it might seem, when one's confronted with huge manuscripts and expected to spot every miniscule thing wrong with them--so I'm not chortling over these errors, because I *get* that it's hard, so much as I'm just observing them), but I've noticed several, and I'm what, 20 pages in? My first thought was that, as often happens when people not familiar with a topic edit material, someone editing was a bit befuddled by the subject material, and so missed things he or she might otherwise have seen, say, in a book less technically concerned with the minutiae of a specialist subject. However the publisher, Mad Norwegian Press, out of Des Moines, Iowa, specializes in sci-fi paracanon books, and the editor is listed as Lars Pearson, the company owner/Editor-in-Chief himself. Whether he actually did this work or farmed it out to an underling is an open question, but given that his name's on it and that Des Moines is a stone's throw from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in Iowa City and the associated small presses and underemployed grad students within the program, there's really not much excuse for sloppiness on this front. The company could have commanded many capable proof-readers easily and cheaply, if it had bothered.

The text otherwise reads very well, but I suspect that's due to the two writers having quite smooth, sprightly, and coherent styles to begin with, rather than a credit to the content-editing.