Wednesday 1 November 2017

30 Discs Hath November #1: The City and the Clock

Digital media is a horrible, horrible thing. Physical media takes up space, it sits accusingly on your desk in a pile demanding your attention. Digital media you pay for and it sits silent and invisible on your hard drive five folders deep and it gets even worse when you pre-order things because then by the time it reaches you you've basically forgotten the pain of paying for it and any sense of real urgency goes right out the window.

So as I knuckle down to some intense hobbying in this the most dreary and dull of months I've decided to address the backlog somewhat. Be aware, this is me so these aren't reviews, they're just me jotting down anything interesting that occurs during the listening.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield volume 4
Ruler of the Universe: The City and the Clock
written by Guy Adams

First of all let me get the moan out of the way: I miss the days when Bernice Summerfield was her own act without having to have a Doctor or a Doctor Who logo on the front cover to sell her adventures. That being said, if we must live with this compromise then David Warner's “Unbound” Doctor is definitely the best option. For one thing he's incredibly fun, especially here as he tackles paperwork and moans about in-flight entertainment and how he hates forms of transport that obey the laws of physics. There's also the fact that, from the fan point of view, he's not as important a character as Benny who has decades more history and dozens more stories behind her. For once, the Doctor is a not only sidekick to a more established character but in a way that works.

As to plot, we return to the setting of the last New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield box: an alternate universe that is dying and the Doctor has been elected President of the (remaining) Universe in order to fix it. He's dealing with the day-to-day, soul-grinding bureaucracy and he's sent Benny to an archaeological dig to investigate an artifact called the Apocalypse Clock that might be able to save them all if it exists.

Its nice to see Benny in her element again, digging things up and having trouble with the locals and the hidden truth behind the myths.

Both characters are clearly at the end of their rope. Benny misses her son and her friends and her universe perhaps more than she fears the destruction of the universe she's in. The Doctor, a character not built for the day-to-day, sounds gleeful when he thinks he's been summoned to the dig to deal with a mysterious death or doomsday weapon only to find out everything's going according to plan.

One day we'll find out who Peter married, I hope.

What else? The subplot with the locals who object to the dig is both a bit bare and a bit horribly stereotypical. It could have stood to come off a bit more sympathetically in light of recent events such as the DAPL pipeline. Instead we get a rather spare tribe in (to quote the Doctor) loincloths and carrying spears as they dance and chant in toothless protest at the edge of the dig. A lot of time is spent talking about the past of this world, describing the ruins of the city Benny has uncovered and some local legends, but the tribe are described as “traditionalists” with one more progressive local character acting as Benny's guide and no real exploration of the difference between the two. There's limited time on a single disc story, I know, but its a pity the idea goes largely unaddressed.

The meta-plot of the box set seems to be settling on a theme of how far from the standard template of the Doctor (i.e. Benny's Doctor) Warner has deviated and whether he really is the Doctor anymore. Its not even just a question Benny is asking but something that seems to be bothering the Doctor himself.

Next Episode: Ruler of the Universe: Asking For A Friend

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