Reviews selected from TV Zone #128
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Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10)
• Another X-Files mystery explained?
The Avengers – a rare documentary emerges on video
• an uncertain end to a Doctor Who books story arc
• and we dust offt the revised Encyclopedia of TV Science-Fiction

SCIENCE-FICTION
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TV SCIENCE-FICTION Rating: 7
Boxtree Books
Out: 9 June 2000
ISBN: 0 7522 7167 9
Written by Roger Fulton
order it from Amazon.co.uk
Reviewed by David Miller
Roger Fulton's TV Sci-Fi magnum opusTimes past

This timely update of the Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction is a brave and largely successful attempt to bring together in one volume the great gallimaufry of tv Science Fiction. It provides episode titles, synopses, casts and transmission dates for over 350 series and one-off dramas, liberally sprinkled with nuggets of trivia. Like how Gabrielle Beaumont, a director on Star Trek: The Next Generation started her career among the cardboard-and-string spaceships of ITV’s The Tomorrow People in 1979.

We can revisit the glory days of the Sixties and Seventies when Anderson, ITC and Doctor Who held sway, and discover that the Eighties were, by comparison, a rather meagre time. The Nineties however saw a return to form, fuelled by the success of the new Star Treks and the phenomenon of The X-Files.

The Encyclopedia is refreshingly opinionated for a textbook, bemoaning that the talent behind SeaQuest DSV and Crusade could not come up with anything better than these two stinkers, and charts the ignominious decline of such high-concept successes as Sliders and Lois and Clark. Also, more in sorrow than in anger, it highlights the almost complete inability of British TV to make anything resembling decent SF in the last 20 years.

The book plays the nostalgia card very strongly, gleefully invoking long-forgotten titles like Come Back, Mrs Noah (with Mollie Sugden in Outer Space) or Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince, which will either make you scratch your head in bewilderment or weep for your lost childhood. It also shows that today’s Sci-Fi will be tomorrow’s nostalgia – the cover of the new edition now features the creatures from Farscape, which is something of a rite-of-passage in itself. The more worthy Babylon 5 was featured on the previous imprint.

If we must find fault, it is a touch too longwinded and syruppy about Doctor Who, and it fails to point out that The X-Files really should have been put out of its misery at least a season ago. Also the transmission dates would be better placed alongside each episode. On the whole, however, a fascinating and compelling piece of work.

selected from TV Zone #128
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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DOCTOR WHO
THE ANCESTOR CELL Rating:6
BBC Books
ISBN: 0 563 53809 0
Written by Peter Anghelides
and Stephen Cole
Out: 3 July • Order from amazon.co.uk
Reviewed by
Neil Corry
Doctor Who - The Banquo LegacyWe want you as a new recruit!

It’s difficult to hide cynicism when dealing with the final chapter of a Doctor Who story arc. There has not been a totally satisfying one in any medium Doctor Who finds itself. Like the poorly wrapped final Christmas present buried under the tree, any sense of eager anticipation is tinged with the suspicion that the gift should be returned at the first available opportunity for something you really want.

Events have been hurtling along for the Doctor, Fitz and the rather remarkable TARDIS-like Compassion. Cornered by the Time Lords who are out to get Compassion for themselves, the three travellers are buffeted around the time vortex and only a miracle can save them. Cue miracle: a gargantuan edifice seemingly made entirely of bone with strange Time-distortion effects hovers over Gallifrey and aids Compassion’s escape. But the Doctor and Fitz end up in trouble with President Romana and a sinister cult, at the heart of it all is a threat to the universe regular readers will find sadly familiar.

It all starts brilliantly (great cover) but once it’s revealed that no new elements are to be added to the recipe, it all seems stale. That isn’t to say that the regulars aren’t written perfectly (they are), that the action isn’t packed (it is) nor that it fails to keep any tension (it manages to twist the thumbscrews of readers’ anxiety very nicely). It succeeds in all these things… until the final third when the effort to neatly tie all the loose ends hinders any chance of something truly surprising.

There have been hints about an unnamed Enemy ever since Lawrence Miles’ Alien Bodies started it all (that’s over two years ago folks), the Doctor’s history has been re-written and cause and effect have been beaten into submission and no longer know which way around they’re supposed to go. Ancestor Cell, as you might expect, has all the answers: discover the Enemy, discover whether Type 103 TARDISes will be bred and discover the true effects of the Doctor’s re-written history. It all seems exciting but, sadly, the book’s lack of innovation is the real Enemy.

selected from TV Zone #128
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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