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Two Second Doctor novels to finish off the year.

15) The Roundheads, by Mark Gatiss

Gatiss takes the Second Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie back to late 1648 for a pure historical story: they get involved with Oliver Cromwell and a plot to liberate Charles I from captivity. I'll have to say up front that this didn't completely work for me. Simon Guerrier handled this period (setting his story a year later, and the other side of the Irish Sea) far better in The Settling; Gatiss's characters talk like history lessons (apart from his rollicking sailors). In addition, the precepts of historical Who stories are somewhat violated by allowing Richard Cromwell to read a history of the Civil War (though this is dealt with) and, rather more dramatically, having Charles I's escape plan succeed, if only temporarily, provoking the Doctor to intervene rather un-Doctorishly to put history back on track (indeed the last few chapters have everyone acting a bit out of character). Also Gatiss seems a bit hazy about the location of the Solent, which appears in his account to be somewhere in the London suburbs.

There are some nice bits too. Ben falls in with the aforementioned rollicking sailors and goes to Amsterdam and back. Polly has an almost-romance with a young man called Whyte, which I found personally amusing. Charles I himself is moderately well-rounded as a character. So it's not awful, just not as good as it might have been.

16) The Dark Path, by David A. McIntee / lonemagpie

I've heard a couple of McIntee's audio plays, and of course he pops up here in comments from time to time, but this is the first of his books I have read - watervole (or I suppose possibly someone else of the same name) is one of the dedicatees. Well, it's good to end the reviewing year on a positive note: I enjoyed it.

McIntee has managed to flesh out the future galactic federation with Draconians, Terileptils and a hexapod from Alpha Centauri; he brings the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria there straight from an adventure with the Menoptera on Vortis; and of course most gloriously he brings in a bearded gentleman called Koschei who has his own Tardis and (this is hardly a spoiler) by the end of the story has decided to call himself "the Master" in future.

Added to all of this, the plot actually makes sense! We have an isolated human colony under investigation by both Federation and alien fleets, and OK, we end up with a story that has certain similarities to Colony In Space except that it is better. Of course Koschei (the future Master) wants to seize control of the secret at the heart of the colony, and the Doctor must prevent him; but matters are complicated by the fact that Koschei has an assistant who is not aware of what he is up to, and who is herself not entirely what she seems. Giving him a travelling companion is a great idea, and it's amazing that it took the TV series until 2007 to do so (and then Lucy Saxon is not quite the same thing). All very good fun.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
I rather liked The Face of the Enemy, McIntee's continuity-heavy sort-of follow-up to The Dark Path that teams up the Master and UNIT while the Doctor's off doing Curse of Peladon.
Dec. 31st, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)
The Master backstory in The Dark Path assumingly amusingly managed to unite two normally completely incompatible groups of Who fandom against it, from what I hear. The asexualists were all "but Time Lords don't have girlfriends!" while the Doctor/Master slashers were "this is homophobically inserting an unnecessary woman into an emotional narrative that has traditionally been based on blatant homoerotic innuendo!"

Edited at 2008-12-31 11:21 am (UTC)
Jun. 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
I never saw this thread at the time - the Doctor/Master slashers should know me better: I'm the one who wanted to say the pair were ex-spouses, and that their feud was an extended War of the Roses (I mean the novel and film with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner), but nobody would let me...
Jun. 21st, 2009 09:05 am (UTC)
nobody would let me...

What a difference ten years makes...
Jun. 20th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
Heh, you reviewed this on my birthday, but I was offline for the week and never saw it...

Yes, it is watvervole in the dedications
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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