Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Elisabeth Sladen - an autobiography

When Elisabeth Sladen passed away in April 2011, I was shocked and upset than at the death of any other of my childhood fiction stalwarts.  She consistent, intriguing and still on TV, but her death shook me up more so than even that of her co-star (and my then-hero) Jon Pertwee in 1996, despite that occurring in the midst of my cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat phase.

Her most notable role by far was as Doctor Who's best ever companion, Sarah Jane Smith, a role she played, on-and-off for nearly forty years.  Her autobiography, released posthumously, is an interesting work which speaks volumes - in hushed tones - about the woman who would have preferred to be known as Elisabeth Miller.  Of course due to the vagaries of Equity, the UK actor's guild, that wasn't ever a possibility but contributes to the defining theme of her memoir, of someone utterly at home in family settings.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Original series audio: The Massacre

Chaplet(te) Vocal Stylings:  Unfortunately, neither Jackie Lane - who'll become renowned during her stay on the show for this - nor Annette Robinson (Anne Chaplette) really know which accent they're supposed to be using at which time.  There's a dearth of consistency in their accents, but they very well may be related, so at least we can call it a genetic disposition.  We can (kind of) forgive Jackie Lane as her character started off planned as a cockney but was forced to change when Beeb management decided the only possible accent for a consistent character was the Received Pronunciation.  That notwithstanding, it's some pretty terrible Cockney/Nor'n/Mummerset going on between ostensible relatives.

Similarity to New Series themes: Many Whovians will be familiar with the haunting soliloquy Hartnell delivers when Steven leaves the TARDIS on Wimbledon Common at the conclusion of the story.  However, it's not the standard, feisty, confident Hartnell we've come to expect, nor even the same decisive Doctor of the past four episodes.  It's the first ever appearance of the Lonely God, a mere forty-two (Oh boy, there's a draw for you!) years before Russell T. Davies coined the phrase.  I don't care what anyone says, I defy you to tell me Hartnell has ever been better.

If Sophia Myles' wonderful Madame du Pompadour was the first offical Moffat "Girl who Waited", then Anne Chaplet was her prototype.  She does little else but spend four episodes afraid for her life where layer upon layer of threat is piled upon her.  Not counting Mission to the Unknown, this is the first ever Doctor-Lite story as well and also perhaps the first pure "companion character study".  There are also harkens to the Tennant story "Fires of Pompeii", where the Doctor refuses to get involved in a great tragedy.

It's incredible upon first listening (true, the first time I've ever listened to this story despite reading the Target novelisation in 1993) how similar many of these methods are reiterated in the New Series.  Next up for Moffat et al: a return for the pure historical?

Intensity:  It's got Steven in it, so it's likely going to be rather erm, focused... Most of the dialogue is delivered with almost Shatner-like intensity, spat/spoken/shouted/whispered as if the lines are lethal projectiles.  This only adds to the serial, making you appreciate simply how much is at stake in a historical episode about which not many people are aware.  In order to make this sink in to the audience, Lucarotti and Tosh had to make identifiable characters to stop us from saying "Yeah, but so what"?  Remember too, that this has so much gravitas because of its context, transposed between two historicals penned by Donald Cotton.

Rating: 4

In a word: Prescient.