July 28th, 2010

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July Books 19) Doctor Who Annual 1973

I very much enjoyed the 1971 Annual, but there was a gap of two years before the next in the series was published and unfortunately the improvement in quality was not maintained. Most of the stories appear to be by an author with little knowledge of the show - the Doctor is repeatedly referred to as "the scientist" (except in the one story featuring the Master, where the fact that they are both Time Lords in exile gets slipped in) and Jo at one stage is described as having dark hair. The plots of the stories rather weakly reflect those of the first half of the Pertwee era, though have a tendency to end rather abruptly and sometimes limply. One is set in Australia, presumably to compensate Aussie viewers for their loyalty (hang on another few years, folks, and you will be further rewarded, if that is the word, with Tegan). The artist who produced the copious illustrations did a very good Pertwee, if rather obviously copied from various pulicity stills, but the depictions of Jo, Yates, the Brigadier and the Master are pretty unrecognisable (though at least Jo is blonde in the pictures if not in the text). The total page length has dropped down to 80 from 96, so all in all I think I would have felt a bit ripped off even at the time.
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July Books 20) The Highest Science, by Gareth Roberts

This was Gareth Roberts' first Doctor Who book (in the Virgin New Adventures series), laying the groundwork for a subsequent career that has most recently produced The Lodger (though we have a couple more Sarah Jane Smith stories by him coming out towards the end of the year). A small plot element - London commuters whisked through a wormhole in space to encounter an alien menace - was re-used in Planet of the Dead, by Gareth Roberts and RTD. Fannish opinion on this one seems a bit polarised; I thought it was OK but not brilliant, with the best bit being the introduction of the alien Chelonians, a race of militant cybernetic tortoises who crop up in other, later Who novels and who were recently name-checked on screen in The Pandorica Opens. I was less impressed by galactic war criminal Sheldukher who I felt varied between dull and nasty. Poor Benny Summerfield has a hard time of it, with her brain being partially rotted by a spiked soft drink. Various other elements jumbled together, not completely successfully, but a fairly satisfactory Big Reveal at the end. The prelude to the book, published in DWM in 1993, is online here.