The Dalek of Platform 13

The Dalek of Platform 13

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for the late, wonderful Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13. I went to King’s Cross Station in 2000, at the end of a two month course in Germany. There were several Harry Potter books out by then, but I don’t recall even thinking about Platform 9 3/4 – it was the proximity to Platform 13 and its gump which thrilled me.

The point of similarity between the books has been much-noted (Platform 13 is earlier than Harry Potter), but is hardly surprising. Railway stations as places of arrival and departure, as jumping-off points, as portals, as doors to other places, lives, worlds – this is a very natural progression in children’s novels (their use in adult literature is rather different). You can catch trains to Hogwarts, cross to the Island, be pulled to another island where Cair Paravel stands in ruins, go back or forward in time, meet small Peruvian bears… Heh, I just looked back at the bibliography to my honour’s thesis (in which I appear to have referred to Ibbotson’s little-known sequel, The Secret of Platform 23, and am remembering how much fun I had, even though my supervisor made me use “liminal” and “quotidian”. I can’t remember how I convinced her that the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer was relevant to railways.

In other news: I recently designed a wedding invitation for friends with certain fannish tendencies. It has hit the streets and I will put an image up as soon all the hard-copy recipients have spotted the Doctor Who references.


10 thoughts on “The Dalek of Platform 13

  1. Well, Miles Cross is a railway station in Fire and Hemlock, but that name comes from Tam Lin, not Thomas the Rhymer.

    When I first read F&H I couldn’t work out where Polly’s hometown was supposed to be located. Most clues suggest it’s west of London (to get to Bristol you change at Swindon, and the Cotswolds are sufficiently close for a day trip) but then when she visits London she ought to travel into Paddington, not King’s Cross, which serves the north. So I asked DWJ. She said her use of King’s Cross was artistic licence, to plant the suggestion in the reader’s mind that railway stations could be called Something Cross, so it would look ordinary when she used Miles Cross.

    • I think it was something to do with roads from the world to hell, heaven and the other place, and the railway platform functioning as a similar junction – the ability to take a direction other than the obvious linear one.

  2. Pingback: A Dalek for Summer « Errantry

  3. I’ve just started reading The Secret of Platform 13, having bought it because of your recommendation. so far, it is wonder-full.

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