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.

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