Reviews selected from TV Zone #141

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10):
Doctor Who The 8th Doctor encounters some Dark Progeny
Space: 1999 the second half of Season One makes a landing in a 21st-Century format
and The X-Files' Season 8 ends in fine style with Essence & Existence

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Dark Progeny Rating: 7
Written by Steve Emmerson
BBC Books, ISBN: 0563538376
Out: 6 August 2001
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Reviewed by
Neil Corry

Colonists with silly names

Dark Progeny - order this at was with no small relief to dive into Emmerson’s second Eighth Doctor novel after the unfortunate diversion of last month’s The Slow Empire. His Casualties of War, released not even a year ago, is one of the best of the range. So expectations were high, and Emmerson doesn’t disappoint. Proving that he’s a master of the plot where things go bump in the night, Emmerson lands the TARDIS crew in immediate danger. Some external force is attacking the ship and Anji in particular. Of course it must have something to do with the apparent stillbirth of a child on the planet Ceres Alpha, so what unnameable alien terror is about to be unleashed on the universe this time around?

Thankfully, the book doesn’t quite work like that. There is an alien threat to the planet’s Human colonists but, as the Doctor inveigles his way into an investigation of the so-called threat while Anji lies unconscious in hospital and Fitz finds himself on the wrong side of a bunch of thugs, the greatest danger is from the colonists themselves, especially the head honcho Tyran (groan).

What’s wrong with the book is that it’s rather obvious how it must end, with too few surprises on the way. It’s lucky, then, that whether the book’s set in an early 20th Century Yorkshire village or a moving city on a distant alien planet in the 29th, Emmerson fills his books with characters that it’s easy to fall into that comfortable trap of caring about what happens next. And fill it he does as Dark Progeny has an impressive cast list. From the parents whose child is snatched away from them, to the hospital staff who are helping Anji and being decidedly less pleasant to other ‘patients’, the Doctor et al are surrounded and, on a world where trust seems in very short supply, the book’s tension comes from never quite knowing how long an ally will stay that way.

If the resolution appears rushed (I even looked for an epilogue), then my advice is to savour the enjoyable journey rather than its sudden destination.

SPACE: 1999 On DVD
Season One, Vols. 4 – 6 (DVD) Rating: 8
Carlton Home Entertainment
3711501273 / 3711501283 / 3711501293
3 Discs, out: 11 June. Available separately or in a Collectors box-set Reviewed by
Mike Fillis
Order these discs from Blackstar today!

I love 1999

Space 1999: Volume 4 (of 6)In spite of the flared fashions, gigantic computers with the power of a calculator, and a total disregard for hard science, Space: 1999 has more to offer than mere nostalgia value. The first series, at least, is blessedly earnest, and whilst it may have lacked scintillating scripting, it admirably compensated with stunning visual designs. Carlton Video has released the remaining 12 episodes of Season One on DVD and, matching the superb transfer quality of the first batch of discs, volumes 4-6 contain some classic examples of 1974 television.

Eloquent by Space: 1999 standards, the icy and theatrical Death’s Other Dominion is an actor’s piece that proves Brian Blessed can understate in the Sci-Fi genre. The Troubled Spirit is an eerie exploration of science and the paranormal where one man is haunted by his own ghost. Volume 6 has the best of the bunch, with The Infernal Machine pitting the Alphans against a sentient spacecraft (voiced by the sublime Leo McKern) that is rather used to getting its own way. The motion picture scope of Mission of the Darians is breathtaking for a television budget, with Joan Collins adding some Seventies class, and Dragon’s Domain is one of the best monster episodes of its era, even if the creature’s hypnotic siren call is just a load of blurred, spinning cutlery.

As before, each volume contains extra value material such as comprehensive files on memorabilia, the series’ directors, and its crew, production paintings as well as storyboards. Volume 4 includes two minutes of rare behind-the-scenes footage of miniature effects filmed as part of a 1974 Horizon programme, while volume 5 presents the trailers for Alien Attack, two episodes cobbled together into a ‘movie’; the wildly inaccurate hyperbole is a scream! Carlton should be rightly proud of these excellent discs. Now all we want is UFO!

selected from TV Zone #141
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction
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