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The Keys to the TARDIS: Doctor Who Big Finish Audio Dramas

Doctor Who Big Finish Audio DramaThose of us who were Doctor Who fans back in the day—you know, before the reboot, the era now known as classic Doctor Who—suffered during the long hiatus when the program was not on the air. Spin-off books and comics were interesting but somehow, I don't know, derivative. Doctor Who fans had a long wait: the last classic episode aired in 1989 and the reboot aired in 2005, with only a single canonical Doctor Who text in the interim to sate us: 1996 saw the airing of the made-for-TV backdoor-pilot movie. There was joy—they did it and the Doctor rocked! There was despair—it was kinda bad and wasn't picked up as a TV show! The despair was further compounded by the lengthy rights-related delay between the movie's airing and the region 1 DVD release in 2011: 15 years.

What about the classic-era sensibilities die-hard fans like me loved? How to get that classic Doctor Who fix? Answer: Since 1999, Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. Once I gave them a listen, there was no going back. Here they were, blasts from my past, Doctors and companions, and not only were they good, they were in many ways even better than the original show, particularly in terms of character growth. One hundred fifty episodes have been released in the Doctor Who series, the tagline of which is, "Classic Doctors. Brand new adventures."


Theatre of the Fantastic

SpellcastFirst off, I want to thank Jen for reviewing my contemporary fantasy novel Spellcast and for giving me this opportunity to talk about what went into writing it. The short answer is: my life.

Originally, I was just going to sprinkle in a few memories to add “flavor.” Next thing I knew, Maggie Graham was morphing into Barbara Ashford (which resulted in more than a few moments of schizophrenia for me and the occasional reminder from my husband that I was writing a novel, not an autobiography). Maggie grows up in Wilmington, Delaware; so did I. She chucks her job in educational administration to try her luck as an actress…ditto. We both worked at telephone helplines. We both found love during a summer stock season. And we both believe in the transformational power of theatre.


The Keys to the TARDIS: The Daleks of Old

Daleks...! Wherever I have travelled in time and space I have met no deadlier adversary. Their single-minded destructive instinct has terrorized more peoples on more planets than I have time to mention. They are my greatest enemy! - The Doctor

DaleksThose of you who have only watched the revived episodes of Doctor Who cannot fully appreciate the extent to which the Daleks are an integral part of the whole Doctor Who experience. Without the Daleks, Doctor Who would never have survived the programme cuts of the BBC. Without the Daleks there would never have been the “hide-behind-the-couch” fear induced in viewers. Without the Daleks there would never have been the fan-fiction writers who are now the scriptwriters for the current episodes.

For Whovians of my generation, all the other monsters pitched against Doctor Who are simply place holders reserving the programming slot on Saturday evenings until the Doctor once again meets his nemesis. If we didn’t believe the Daleks would return, no matter how many times they have been totally wiped out by the Doctor, we would give up watching the series.


The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: Mysterious Edinburgh Sculptures and the Work of Su Blackwell

This week, I learned of this unbelievably awesome, beautiful, and fantastic thing that's happening in Scotland: someone is creating sculptures out of books, and leaving them around Edinburgh.

It started in March with a tree and an egg filled with words (that, when put in order, make Edwin Morgan's "A Trace of Words").

And, magically enough, it continued.  There was a scene where a movie comes to life, with horses and men running out from a screen towards the filmgoers.  There was a dragon nestled in a teacup.  Another showed a child in a forest, with the inscription bearing the words "LOST (albeit in a good book)."


Not Just Along for the Ride: The Role of the Sidekick in Fantasy Literature

Shrek: The Whole StoryRemember Donkey from the Shrek movies? Of course you do—who could forget his love affair with the dragon, his body-swapping with Puss, or his “tiny mutant babies”? Sure, Shrek is the hero of these movies, and it is his actions (and those of the various villians, including Lord Farquaad and Prince Charming) that move the plot along. But Donkey serves another function in these movies; he is the perfect example of the sidekick as comic relief. His primary purpose is to relieve the tension created between the hero and villain. Although he may stray into the occasional thoughtful or insightful conversation, his reason to exist is to brighten up the tone of the narrative.

Sidekicks do, however, serve in other positions than comic relief. They are partnered with their hero, providing many needed services. Throughout fiction there are hundreds, if not thousands of famous hero/sidekick pairings: Donkey and Shrek, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and Batman and Robin are just a few examples. In each of these pairings, the sidekick helps out the hero. As Bronwyn Williams explains, “The sidekick tends to be the more passive, literate character who fulfills the groundwork in order to free his or her hero to perform the action.” Sidekicks vary in power and in abilities, but they share many common characteristics and are always beneath the hero.

I would like to propose that the role of the sidekick is not, however, the only role that the friend of the hero may play. There is something more than comic relief with sporadic insight available to characters who support the hero and develop the plot. The sidekick has its place, but in most fantasy literature this role should more truly be called the second, as this character is often a hero in his or her own right.



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