All Change

My read-through of my Doctor Who book collection is proceeding well, after about 3 weeks.

I’m currently reading The Time Meddler (novelisation by Nigel Robinson, original script by Dennis Spooner). This was the 17th televised Doctor Who story and the end of the second season, although I also have a number of original novels (i.e. ones which are not based on TV stories) and, for some reason, most of the ones I’ve got are for the William Hartnell era and many of these fit within the first two seasons, so this is actually the 23rd novel on my list.

In some respects, this very early period of Doctor Who is an especially interesting one as we see the character of the Doctor taking shape as he transforms from essentially an anti-hero (who kidnaps two innocent people in the first episode and forces them to travel with him rather than risk them spilling the beans on his existence, as well as being quite ready to club an injured man to death in order to facilitate his own escape or to endanger the lives of his crew by faking a malfunction to the TARDIS which necessitates exploring an alien city that turns out to be populated by Daleks) to the hero we know and love who, while still taking his companions into dangerous situations, will do everything in his power to look after them and will willingly put his own life on the line to help people in need, just because it’s the right thing to do.

The story I’ve just finished (The Chase, by Terry Nation and novelised by John Peel – I’m not sure if that’s the radio DJ or another person of the same name) marked the point at which the last of the doctor’s original companions (who started out as the people kidnapped by the Doctor, as mentioned earlier, and by this time have become his close friends) left the TARDIS and the second new companion (Steven, played by Peter Purves who would later go on to be a Blue Peter presenter – although he’d left that programme too by the time I started watching it around 1980) joined (the Doctor’s original companion, his granddaughter Susan, was replaced by Vicki about half a dozen stories back; BTW technically although Steven appeared in the Chase and entered the TARDIS at the end of that story, he didn’t officially become a companion until the start of the Time Meddler, when the Doctor and Vicki discovered him on board). In most respects, I think that the smaller TARDIS crew that became standard for most of the time from now on (the Doctor plus one or two companions rather than three) worked better, but it was still a shame to see Ian and Barbara (who were probably the strongest companion characters in the early years of the show) leave.

The Time Meddler itself is quite an interesting story as it represents the first appearance in the series by another member of the Doctor’s race, although they weren’t identified as Time Lords for another few seasons (not until The War Games at the end of Patrick Troughton’s era). I think largely because of that, this was one of the first of the early Doctor Who stories that I particularly wanted to see or read when I was growing up. The novelisation didn’t come out until 1987 and I don’t think it made it into any of my local public libraries at the time; certainly I didn’t get my hands on a copy until about 2006 (the last time I was working on expanding and re-reading my Doctor Who book collection). I remember watching the serial on TV at some point, probably in the early to mid 1990s, when I suppose they must have been showing some repeats.

In addition to reading the Doctor Who novels themselves, I’ve discovered an interesting resource called the Tardis Eruditorum (by Philip Sandifer). This started life, and continues, as a blog providing a story-by-story commentary on the series, from the first episode up the the present and including a representative (or possibly just personally biased) selection of stories from alternative media (novels, audiobooks etc.) and some other essays on topics tangentially related to Doctor Who. The collected essays on the first two Doctors’ eras (complete with a few bonus essays on some of the non-TV stuff that wasn’t covered in the blog, as well as a few updates or expansions on the existing articles) are available as printed books and also as e-books for Kindle, and it’s this latter format in which I’ve got them for the sake of convenience. I’ve been reading the Tardis Eruditorum in parallel with the series of novels (i.e. read a novel, then read its entry in the Eruditorum) and finding it quite interesting. I don’t agree with all the opinions expressed by the author but it certainly adds an extra dimension to my contemplation of the Doctor Who opus.


‘Tis the season

One of my musical ventures this year has been to join a brass band. This is in fact the second time I’ve played in such an ensemble, as I spent about a year playing with the adult beginners’ band (wonderfully entitled “Last of the Summer Wind”) of the Beaumaris Band a few years ago. That served as my introduction to brass playing and taught me the rudiments of playing the Eb bass (or tuba, as it’s commonly called outside the brass band world).

I had to stop playing with that band after a while as I got too busy with other things but a couple of months ago I was delighted to discover that the Menai Bridge Band meets just a few minutes’ walk down the road from where I live and that they were looking for some new players. In particular, they had a spare Bb bass (i.e. an even bigger tuba than the one I used to play) and wanted somebody to play it. Needless to say, I was more than happy to oblige and it’s been great to be at it again.

I started playing with the band towards the end of September and my first public appearance with them was for a competition in early November. Apparently competitions are a fairly major feature of the brass band scene and (adult) bands are divided into 5 sections, with the best bands playing in the Championship section, the next best in section 1 and the worst (at least of those who take part in recognised competitions) in section 4. It’s a bit like the league system in football, with divisions 1 to 3 and the premiership. I think it made a lot more sense when it was just divisions 1 to 4 with the best teams in the first division, but there you go! (And, yes, I’m as surprised as you that I actually used a football analogy in my blog, given my usual complete lack of interest in the game.) Menai Bridge Band is in section 4, so we’re not one of the greatest bands out there. Still it was satisfying to get 2nd place (out of 6 competitors) in our section at the North Wales Rally at Llandudno this year.

Since the competition we’ve been focusing on getting ourselves ready for various concerts. The first of these was a joint event with a local male voice choir (Cor Penrhyn, in case you’re interested) at Bangor Cathedral in mid-November. It was then that I discovered how good the Cathedral’s acoustics are for playing the low brass instruments. I managed to get the best low F I’ve ever managed. 🙂

For the past couple of weeks, the band has been pretty busy with carol services and other seasonal gigs, including quite a few open air carol singing (or at least playing) sessions. Fortunately they let the basses sit down for those, although the rest of the band play them standing up (unlike our indoor gigs, which are usually sit-down events for the whole band). I haven’t been involved in all of these gigs, as some of them have clashed with prior commitments and some have only required a small subset of the band.

So far this month, I’ve played for one carol service (back at Bangor Cathedral, for the Emergency Services) and a couple of outdoor carol events also in Bangor, next to the town clock. I’m due to be playing a couple of short gigs in Menai Bridge on Saturday morning and may be going up to Holyhead for a couple more in the afternoon (the details are not yet confirmed). I’ll possibly also be playing outside Tesco in Holyhead next Thursday evening. This represents somewhat less than half the total number of gigs the band are doing this month.

I suspect that the lead up to Christmas is probably the busiest time of year for most brass bands. Certainly the sound of carols played on brass is one of the sounds I’ve long associated with Christmas, so it’s quite fun to be part of making those sounds now, instead of just listening to them. I hope that by next Christmas I’ll still be playing with the band and will have experience of a whole year in the life of a brass band to look back on.