Friday, 19 December 2008

Fanzines Reviewing Fanzines - RTP! #27

The latest issue of RTP! (#27) has been reviewed by Zeus Blog reviewer Alistair Hughes.

Take a look here to read.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

If - "The Killer Cats of Gen-Singh"

A continuing series in which Peter Adamson investigates some of the stories that never quite made it to the screen. This issue, the Fourth Doctor adventure, The Killer Cats of Gen-Singh ...

We don' t have a lot to go on regarding Cats, but perhaps what there does exist and is known to have happened around its first commission and eventual rejection will be enough. Perhaps. Let's go.

Cats was to have been the season closer of Season Fifteen after Graham Williams suggested a sequel by Robert Holmes to The Deadly Assassin. Holmes declined and Cats was its initial replacement. The season had already undergone some considerable change throughout its production, having suffered from the usual conflict of lofty ideas versus limited budget (perhaps to a more spectacular degree in stories such as The Invisible Enemy and Underworld, the latter having been "saved" though the use of extensive CSO, a factor which would be its critical downfall for many years). Already then, the seeds for Cats' early shelving were sown, a fact not helped by the now widely celebrated but infamous "Wembly Park Stadium" scene, reputed to have hosted up to 96,000 extras in full feline attire. But Cats might not have been entirely lost just through one scene, which could still have been realised alternatively with, say, forced perspective (see: The Twin Dilemma). The script must have had its problems. What were they? Unfortunately, these remain unknown.

Certainly some elements of Cats survived to be realised in its eventual replacement, and this should come as no surprise given the rushed schedule to complete the season line-up, along with the co-writing credit by the season's Script Editor. The Invasion of Time kept the Gallifreyan setting, and it might not be too much of a stretch to imagine the felines taking their place within this model. A Sontaran beach-head model at this stage sounds unlikely, but maybe their part was as the aggressor - an attempt by them made on the Capitol? Who can say?

But what of the Killer Cats themselves? All we have to go on is a set of costume designs by Dee Robson (showing male and female versions), and what costumes they looked to be! The Cats would have worn flowing robes according to the design sketches, which by Who terms usually spells two things: civilisation and nobility. Perhaps they were a race as old as the Time Lords themselves. Were they a civilised race betrayed by one of their number who was either ambitious or foolhardy? Perhaps they were the precursors to Invasion's "Outsiders" - the idea of Leela leaving the TARDIS for a life among the felines seems plausible. One thing is certain with Cats however; the series' vision of Gallifrey would have undergone yet another change with the introduction of this new native race.

In some way, with what we know of what followed in the series some of this might not have made a complete clash; we know from Mark of the Rani that cats exist on Gallifrey, and this idea was extended in the Missing Adventures (Goth Opera had the Doctor reminiscing over introducing cats into the planet's biosphere; Invasion of the Cat People linked the book's villains with the Cheetah People and the Killer Cats as relatives). Who knows what fan theories might have sprung up regarding the sixth Doctor's choice of moggy badges had Cats seen production? Far more significant though, would have been the change to Gallifrey within the series. Unless the appearance of the Cats comes as some sort of contrivance (they reappear after returning from a long journey, a la the Minyans of Underworld, or are "woken" from slumber. A catnap if you will) then we must assume that they have always been part of Gallifrey. The only alternative is the contrivance, and this might perhaps have saved the overpopulation problem of the story. Survivors of thought-dead races in Who usually number under ten - often under five (Zygons, Kraals).

Problem solved? Maybe not. After all the supposition, the most famous aspect of Cats is that Wembly Stadium concept. As a season closer, a handful of monsters, grand, ancient and noble as they may be, makes less than impressive television. But then so did the Vardans apparently, which really just goes to show how much of a gamble the whole game becomes in the end.

- Peter Adamson