Friday, September 29, 2023

Review: Doom's Day: Extraction Point

I'm really not a great fan of these Doctor Who multi-part multi-platform 'event' fiction things ... there's too much baggage to try and explain in a review ... and at the end of the day, I'm not sure who is engaged enough in the idea to want to try and seek out the various online, comic strip, graphic novel, CD, vinyl record, novel and, for all I know, Give A Show Projector slide and cardset given away with packets of tea bags ... it's all too much!

But this novel, Doom's Day: Extraction Point caught my eye, and so I thought I'd give it a whirl, and I'm actually glad I did as it's not bad as a novel.

It's not exactly stand-alone of course, and you need to have some understanding of what is happening beyond the events in the novel itself, which is a shame.

So there's this character called Doom, and she's apparently an assassin ... the Beeb released a video of her before this range started and, to be brutally honest, it was awful:

So I wasn't filled with confidence ...

The book covers four hours in Doom's life (fourteen through eleven). And each hour she has to kill someone. It's not clear at all why this is, or what would happen if she fails ... but there's a lot of agonising about it. She also seems to be looking for the Doctor ... but then, when she finds him - several times - she doesn't find out or ask why or how the Doctor is supposed to help her ...

Instead we're plunged into action as she tries to kill a chap on a snowy planet: it's all chair lifts and skis and fast moving action ... and then we discover that the planet isn't what it seems and the race behind it are an old enemy of the Doctor (who don't then appear again in the book!)  

It's hard to review with no spoilers at all as, to be honest, the book is FULL of old enemies and old Doctors and most of them are pictured on the cover! But from a snowy wasteland we're taken to Satellite 5 from the 9th Doctor adventure 'The Long Game' where Doom has to kill a ghost and the whole plot riffs around the Jagrafess, Cathica, and game shows, just the same as the TV episodes did ...

Then we're off to an asteroid which seems infested with insects which aren't quite what they seem ... and then finally we're back to the real planet the fake one in the first adventure was based on, and Doom has to kill two of the people there ... except that the Family Slitheen are also in attendance ...

It's fast and frantic stuff and M G Harris has an engaging style which drags the reader through with little time to ponder on continuity or plot holes ... or just how Doom manages to keep going through hour after hour of frenetic running, climbing, falling, death defying escapes while working out who to kill and how as she goes ... I'm not sure she even stops to drink, eat or to attend to ... personal stuff ... in the course of her adventures.

What's interesting though that all the Doctor Who continuity gubbins sort of makes this feel like a Doctor Who adventure, even though the Doctor is largely absent ... and when he does appear, it doesn't feel much more like Doctor Who at all ...

A final word on the title ... Extraction Point ... I can't really see what this has to do with the story ... it just seems to be a nice title that the publisher decided to hang on it ...

And of course, at the end, Doom is off to the tenth hour that she is counting down ... with no conclusion or answers to why she sees 'Death', all black cowl and scythe, in a cafe toilet on Earth in 2006 ... seems she might have seen it before ... but I've no idea.

There are, presumably, 24 of these 'hours' scattered throughout the various media and written, with various degrees of success, by different authors ... Here's a handy chart ...

It's a bold idea to be sure ... but I do feel that the overall execution is shaky ... and as to whether any fans will stay the distance and experience all the adventures is anyone's guess, especially as some are in limited-time form like a separate comic supplement given away with Doctor Who Magazine, or two of the adventures as part of a computer game called Lost In Time.

But as a rollicking adventure novel, full of action and adventure in the Doctor Who Universe ... it's not at all bad!

Friday, September 08, 2023

Review: More new Target Novelisations!

 Here's some thoughts on the final two Target novelisations released by BBC Books in the 2023 batch!


This book was delayed from the last batch as the author was hard at work on a new TV series. It combines two episodes into one book: 'The Zygon Invasion' and 'The Zygon Inversion' with a nod to 'The Day of the Doctor' as well ... and it's complicated stuff, as Steven Moffat's Who was wont to be.

Here we have the Doctor, Clara, and a Zygon calling herself 'Bonnie' pretending to be Clara, the UNIT Doctor Who fan Osgood, and a Zygon pretending to be Osgood ... Kate Lethbridge-Stuart running all over the world, planes being shot down, Zygons going underground, no-one being quite sure who anyone is ... and there's some real world allusions to terrorism and race hate and so on running through it all as well. It's strong and important and has lessons for humanity to impart!

But sadly the confusion extends to the book, wherein Harness really seems to have just adapted the scripts, with only cursory additions and deviations. However maybe there are more changes than I think as I've not compared them directly to the transmitted episodes.  A similar sense of confusion came over me in watching the show ... struggling to keep up with who was who and who wasn't ...

I was surprised that Harness adopts the pronoun 'they' when talking about Osgood, as there wasn't, as far as I can tell, anything in the series to suggest this - indeed a quick scan of the Doctor Who Wiki article on the character never mentions or uses that pronoun. However the story arc of The Zygon Invasion is Osgood's, with 'the Osgood Box' being the ultimate deterrent to war between the races, and a cracking speech from the Doctor at the end - some of the very best writing that the show has presented.

Overall I was slightly disappointed with the novelisation. I think perhaps it is a story which doesn't really lend itself to prose form, being so rich in imagery and idea which was presented and realised so well on television. These days I think the novelisations have to work so much harder as the source material is easy to find and revisit.

KERBLAM! by Pete McTighe

The final title released in this batch was a novelisation of a story which received a fair amount of comment when transmitted. The issue was that it's looking at an Amazon-like retail giant called Kerb!am, a company which exploits the human workers and brings in AI-style robots to monitor them - all very pertinent stuff for our time, and the sort of exploration of real world issues which Doctor Who has always done well.

Sadly here, in the endgame of the story on television, innocent people are killed, and the Doctor does nothing to try and change the status quo, leaving the retail giant free to carry on doing what they're doing with nary a word of reprimand from the Doctor.

In the novelisation, McTighe manages to rectify this slightly, and we have an ending where things have been changed for the better - humans are put in charge of the robots rather than vice versa. But we still have the rather horrible death of a sympathetic character to deal with, and we also lose the little cameo from Lee Mack - or rather the character is there, but devoid of Mack's appearance and performance, is very forgettable.

What's good here is the interplay between the Doctor, Yas, Ryan and Graham - more than enough characters to try and get a grip on - but McTighe manages it, and makes them all likable and the dynamic between them works on the page.

Overall a decent adaptation which adds some additional nuances and thought to the episode as seen on screen ... one wonders if some of this was in McTighe's original scripts and ideas but got lost along the way.