Reviews selected from TV Zone #124

Reviews online this month
LEXX Season 3 Premiere (Pick of the Month) • Buffy Season 4 jaw-dropper
• new Doctor Who compendium • and an artistic Gormenghast book

Also reviewed in this issue:
three more episodes each of Stargate SG-1, Voyager and Angel, two further episodes of Buffy and LEXX each, more Doctor Who in audio and printed formats, the latest Trek and Earth: Final Conflict books, Buffy Season Two comes to video, plus unofficial guides to Voyager and The Simpsons.


Short Trips and Side Steps“Anyone can save the Universe – but who can do it with style?”

In the collection’s introduction, the editors’ claim that Doctor Who is now in the hands of the fans might cause readers to furrow a brow. Is this the death knell to the series, a final acceptance that the programme is never to return with original tales on Saturday night tv? Even if it is, then the fans that have contributed here have a friendly but firm grip on what makes Doctor Who truly wondrous.

It’s a pleasure to read the mix of ultra-real terror (Monsters), traditional adventure (the two-part A Town Called Eternity) and comedy (for instance, the sublime The Not-So-Sinister Sponge). The book recognizes everything that Doctor Who is, was and could also be. The three-part Nothing at the End of the Lane, detailing a very different slant on the series’ first episode may annoy purists but author Daniel O’Mahoney’s demonic twist on the familiar makes for chilling reading, and Tara Samm’s Monsters is even more terrifying.

The side steps of the title are a gentle kick in the shins of readers whose imagination is limited to the tv series. Countdown to TV Action is set in the comic world between the TV Action stories The Zeron Invasion and The Deadly Choice. The House on Oldark Moor is a Hammer Horror adventure set between Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD and so on. It’s a great idea that isn’t overdone – but it means you never know what version of Doctor Who the next story will be.

It’s hard to pick favourites when the flavour of each story can be so very different. If pushed, I’d have to pick the eighth Doctor tale, The Queen of Eros, where our hero is about to be forced into a marriage with a morally dubious Queen. Trevor Baxendale’s take on McGann’s Doctor is as good as perfect and, for a story that appears to have little adventure, simply races on.

Edited by Stephen Cole & Jacqueline Rayner
Out: 6 March 1999 • Price: £6.99
BBC Books • ISBN: 0 563 55599 8
Reviewed by Neil Corry

Not rated a 10 because of the pointless (or rather ‘pntlss’) Lawrence Miles’ Vrs. Read this first to get it over with. Nothing should harm your enjoyment of this practically perfect book.

Look behind and listen well

The Art of Gormenghast is a misnomer, as the book does not solely concern itself with the look. Perhaps a little bit too much space is spent on the history and background of the books and their writer, but from the importance given to this by many of the contributors perhaps there is good reason.

The Art of GormenghastStephen Fry provides a highly enthusiastic, clever and warming introduction to the book, with producer Estelle Daniel taking over the narrative of the creation of the series. Throughout the book she adds personal observations and memories, with her frank and fascinating ‘production diary’ towards the end – the trials and tribulations of the actual filming, along with the joys, are recalled. Dotted here and there amongst the chapters are comments by the cast with their thoughts on the production.

The actual ‘Art’ pieces include many storyboards (only for study after the episodes have been seen). Some fascinating design sketches are included**, but there are just not enough and there should be at least two, if not three, times as many, and all larger in size. The amount of work that has gone into the making of the episodes is visible on screen and you would expect to see pages devoted to particular sets, how they were made, used and re-used. Another chapter devotes itself to the extraordinary costumes, a far cry from the biro-covered apparel of the Beeb’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Written by Estelle Daniel
Price: £14.99 • Out now
BBC Books • ISBN: 0 00 257156 0
Reviewed by Jan Vincent-Rudzki

Despite its slight failure to fulfil the promise of its title, this is still a worthy book, and well worth the price.

**See also our superbly illustrated interview with designer Christopher Hobbs in this issue!

selected from TV Zone #124
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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