Just a small break in the BJ Guest Season, to get back to a topic I am being a bit surprisingly consistent with this year. It’s also a little primer for the next post, which will be a BIG treat for lovers of the Virgin New Adventures books, in particular.
As always with these rambly reviews: SPOILERS ON ALL BOOKS VERY LIKELY!!!!
And a note on order. Target Originals are not read in order of publication, but in order of each Doctor. And I jump about in terms of which Doctor I read at any given time. But each Doctor’s individual stories will be read in order of broadcasting on TV. The Virgin New Adventures for Sylvester will be read in order; as will the BBC 8th Doctor series (as though they had been on TV, see? I’m trying to get an arc flavour). The BBC Past Doctors series and the Virgin Missing Adventures are simply read in terms of which one I fancy next, as they are stand alone adventures slotting in-between the TV ones.
- Doctor Who: Time and the Rani,
by Pip and Jane Baker (Target Original)
(Hmm. I don’t mind this one at all on TV [despite a lot of others seeming to hate it], but the workmanlike writing let it down. There was little pace, and little feeling for the characters. I was seeing it all in my head, but I was watching a repeat of the TV prog exactly; there was nothing added in terms of feeling, by the tie-in. Not that there necessarily needs to be, but I felt unmoored and unplaced while reading this. The sacrifice of Beyus, near the end felt oddly nothingey. Unlike the Ark in Space which I read the same day, where the sacrifices felt like heroism, unremarked as such, no fuss: but …there was soul to the tie-in of Ark, and finishing this one on the same day really showed up the contrasts between the two. I don’t think it was as simple as the era, though Time and the Rani felt distinctly more juvenile than Ark did – the Tom Baker era did feel more grown up for all its tomfoolery sometimes. Then again, Sylvester’s era becomes more serious later on, so I’ll have to judge it as I progress. Ikona came across marginally more sympathetic in the reading here. But overall, despite the Doctor’s amusing misquoting of proverbs [which I don’t find annoying as Stanley does], it felt just a bit flat. And that was down mostly to the blankness of the writing; not the paucity of the actual plot and subject as I know some others feel. Bit of an unfortunate beginning for one of my favourite Doctors, really; did him no favours.)
- Doctor Who: The Ark in Space, by
Ian Marter (Target Original)
(Heroism and tight scrapes abound here. Sarah and Harry don’t feel like subsidiary characters, they feel integral. Tom Baker needs the bounce off they provide. I enjoyed this when I wasn’t expecting to, as Alex likes this one a lot and we had watched it to death on DVD. I thought I would be bored – but no, I read it in a day. It rattled along, Ian Marter doing very well at capturing the feel of it. He also succeeded in giving Vida more of a real presence than I felt her blank face had on TV. The sacrifice of Rogen and then Noah, at the end, were typical of Dr Who of this era, it felt to me. Understated but noted. Like the end of Inferno – which could have been a sentiment fest and was not written that way at all.)
- Dr Who: The Nameless City,
by Michael Scott (BBC 50th Anniversary e-book short story
(2nd Dr and Jamie: A small and perfect gem of a story: well structured, well paced, and whilst the fact that the very chemical elements the Dr needed to restart the broken Tardis turned up most fortuitously right at the end, it shows the strength of the writing that this came off ‘neat’ rather than ‘contrived’. I liked the way the Master was described but not named; just a cameo of trouble causing and off he went. I liked the books, the Charing Cross Road setting – the tone of the whole piece was pleasing. Enjoyed very much. ON KINDLE.)
- Dr Who: The Macra Terror, by Ian
Stuart Black (Target Original)
(I got a real feeling for Troughton’s Doctor in this one. And Jamie. In a way I am glad this story is mostly lost for the TV screen, as I can imagine how badly the crablike creatures could have been portrayed given the budgets and other constraints of the era [not to mention the Hampsted AmDram acting still so prevalent at this period!]. As a book this worked so well – I should imagine it works really well as audio also, which would give the extra dimension of being able to hear the happy happy colony work songs creepiness. The story was well done: the sense of the Dr arriving and being under siege, as much so as the colonists themselves who have no idea why they follow Control and pipe gas endlessly ‘for the good of all’; really none but the crabs, the Macra. If you really think on it, the story doesn’t 100% stand up; but it’s written so joyously and fluidly, it stands up quite well enough to coast you through it. I was laughing out loud at the silly bit of Jamie dancing away doing a Highland Fling while trying to escape – just the kind of silliness I associate with this period, and I wouldn’t have thought it would work in a book, it seems so visual – but it was fine. Enjoyed this one very much indeed. ACTUAL BOOK.)
Who: Something Borrowed, by Richelle Mead (BBC
50th Anniversary e-book short story series)
(6th Dr and Peri: This one was good too. A small but simply plotted story, full of the rambunctiousness of Colin Baker and the weary sarcasm of Peri. The Rani had a guest spot as the villain trying to steal indigenous technology from a race that have modelled their marriage ceremonies and planet after 20th century Las Vegas. It sounds stupid. It sort of is stupid. But it definitely worked as a story. The pterodactyls also helped! So far I’m impressed by these short stories the BBC are putting out for the anniversary. Small and well formed. ON KINDLE.)
- Dr Who: The Faceless Ones, by
Terence Dicks (Target Original)
(2nd Dr: I enjoyed this one, I wish most of it wasn’t lost, as I’d like to have seen it. For a story taking place in a very limited setting [an airport, mostly], it had no feeling of limitation or claustrophobia in a bad way. It felt full of forward momentum, and I was fascinated with the idea of the blobby face stealing creatures. I enjoyed the subsidiary characters here: Jean Rock, the Commandant, Captain Blade [what a name!]. The Dr was very dynamic in this, but the one who was really proving himself was Jamie. He showed courage and honour and was built up well for the departure of Polly and Ben, back in London of 1966 and happy to be so. When the Dr and Jamie leave at the end, they are seamlessly into their next adventure. ACTUAL BOOK.)
- Dr Who: Drift, by Simon Forward
(BBC Past Doctor Adventures)
(4th Dr: This was interesting. It wasn’t just the cold weather snowy setting but I felt many echoes of The Thing here; not in the mimicking aspects, not at all, but simply in the claustrophobia of snow, and in the way the ice creature flailed about when trying to absorb people – reminded me of the scene in The Thing with the dogs changing. This book was on the whole, very cinematic indeed. I keep seeing it very clearly in my head; plus its characters [and there was a rather confusingly large cast of interchangeable soldiery types] had lots of tics that would have translated so well to film. This was an extremely visual novel, which was maybe why some parts of its conversational character led sections felt a little bit forced.
There was a great effort to project a very all American atmosphere, people loading their guns ‘nice and easy’ and lots of slow drawling and cowboy type reflexing. That was about the only annoying thing in the book…I never know whether the attempt from English writers to produce an American atmosphere works with Americans – are the writers relying on TV shorthand from years of US TV fed to us here? Or have they properly visited America and done their research and actually heard people talk, watched them move? Not having been myself I often worry at the multitudes of clichés…but I have no idea how many of them may be true to a degree. I can only go on English TV shorthand about England; and the way Americans do TV shorthand about us – both of these attempts are usually incredibly screwy and I don’t recognise much of an approximation of reality at all. It looks ok sort of, but it feels wrong, the voices are wrong. So I worry it’ll be the same for English writers trying to force an American atmosphere…
The Doctor was done extremely well, I heard him talk in my head as I read the …script I keep wanting to say, it was that cinematic; and I enjoyed Leela: I always enjoy Leela [‘I can’t hit a woman’. ‘Then that is your weakness.’ Exit man, clutching gonads. Go Leela!]. Adored the bit where the Dr told her at the end to leave behind the gun she had been holding a fair while: ‘they can be habit-forming, put it down, there’s a good girl’ – that was delivered very well indeed; it felt very much like Tom Baker. ACTUAL BOOK.)