Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Silence Falls

August is the month of the Seventh Doctor, as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy - sadly, also the last Doctor of the classic era. Thanks to the machinations of the BBC, I actually missed a large chunk of McCoy's tenure - I missed his first companion entirely, and saw only parts of the adventures with Ace!.

Unfortunately, having viewed some of the McCoy stories later, I'm inclined to think that cancellation actually was the best thing for the show. The reality was that computer SFX were just hitting big in the US but they were still very expensive. So Doctor Who was never going to match up with "Star Trek: the Next Generation", never mind "Babylon 5" and the shows that followed it. It really needed massive investment or it would look really cheap... and the BBC weren't in a position to give it the investment it needed.

Faced with that, I'm afraid cancellation was necessary. And in some ways it was good - it allowed a new generation of fans to grow up, and led directly to the RTD and Moffat eras.

This month's short story is titled "Ripple Effect", and is by Malorie Blackman. As the name may imply, it deals with the Doctor (aided by Ace!) making an unwise decision and the consequences being far reaching indeed. It features Daleks, but not as we know them...

It was a good read, certainly being a decent diversion for an hour or so. Still, as with so many of these short stories, it barely gets going before it's time to wrap up. In particular, I think I would have preferred a bit more deciding to fix the problem and a bit less being forced to fix the problem - there was an interesting dilemma there, but it was largely sidestepped by the urgency of the situation.

The novel was "Remembrance of the Daleks", by Ben Aaronovitch, the novelisation of his serial of the same name.

I suppose that was an inevitable choice - when picking eleven novels for a "50th anniversary collection" there are a few things you have to include: one featuring each Doctor, one each with Daleks, the Master, Cybermen... one written by Terrance Dicks, and one novelisation. This hits three of those in one fell swoop. And with it also being Ben Aaronovitch's first published novel, and given his later success elsewhere, it must have been a no-brainer to include it.

It's fair to say, though, that it wouldn't have been my choice.

There's nothing particularly wrong with "Remembrance..." Indeed, given that it was the last Dalek story for years, it made for a good ending for their particular story. And yet, it suffers a bit, as do many of the seventh Doctor stories, by the Doctor having a plan that he's following but which looks like a completely random sequence of actions. He goes here and does that, then he goes there and does this, and then... it all comes together. That makes things quite frustrating - it's as if some exposition is just missing.

The novelisation of "Remembrance..." also suffers from much the same flaw as I found with "From Russia With Love" - with that Bond story the film captured the essence of the book so well (and with "Remembrance..." it's the reverse) that it just seems redundant - yes, it's a decent story, well told and well written, but... I've seen it before. I can't read it without Sylvester McCoy's voice in my head, delivering exactly those lines. When Ace! says "but professor..." it's Sophie Aldred I hear. I know the story, I've seen it relatively recently, so why bother reading it?

None of which is Ben Aaronovitch's fault, of course. Indeed, one could argue that that's exactly what you want from a novelisation. But it does hopefully explain why I think I would rather have had something else instead.

Anyway, that's the classic era done. Next up is poor Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor, the longest and the shortest. I always felt that while his TV movie was pretty terrible, he himself could have been a great Doctor, and I was really glad to see him get another chance in "Night of the Doctor". So I'm rather looking forward to next month's adventures in time and space...

#30: "Firefly Roleplaying Game: Core Book", by Margaret Weis Productions
#31: "Cross-Stitch" ("Outlander in the US), by Diana Gabaldon (A book from The List)
#32: "Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks", by Ben Aaronovitch
#33: "The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day", by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen
#34: "Ender's Game", by Orson Scott Card (A book from The List)
#35: "The Crusader Road", by Michael A. Stackpole

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