- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: BBC Books (7 Feb. 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0563486252
- ISBN-13: 978-0563486251
- Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 16 x 1.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,027,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
"Doctor Who", to the Slaughter (Doctor Who (BBC Paperback)) Paperback – 7 Feb 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
But what a disappointment this one was. A very tired book that just marks time before the impending end of the range. The tone of the writing shifts uneasily between comedy and very gory violence. Fitz has a doomed love affair. He's done that so many times before. Trix is very well characterised and fights the baddies well. But even so, it took me three days on and off to get through this one, and it didn't engage at all till the last fifty pages. And it all seems to have been written just to correct one minor scientific error in a 70's story! Did it really matter?
Maybe I'd have enjoyed it more if I hadn't known the end was nigh.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
No, I'm not kidding. But as the Doctor, and gang, digs deeper they found out that somebody, is in fact, trying to hide the development of a deadly weapon. Then they find out that somebody is trying hard to hide the fact that no weapon was developed. Then they find out...you get the picture.
Giant industries, corrupt officials, hidden subsidiaries, terrorists, aliens and artists are just some of the players within the twisted knot called a plot. Or should I say plots. Dune or The Fellowship of the Ring was less complex. Which is good - I hate guessing within the first five pages what's going to happen in the next 200 and so pages.
I also had fun guessing two out of the three alien bidders. One was a Kroton and one was a Sontaren.
Now for the bad. I never saw the made for TV movie that launched the Eighth Doctor into the world and, even after reading a few of the books starring him, I don't know if I like him or not. His character is hard to pin down and seems to be all over the place.
Now for the Ugly. The whole book feels like the author was making a script for the Doctors of the 60's and 70's. As if he was working with the idea that he had a low budget. So not a lot of special effects, no costly aliens and not too many scenes outside the bland cockpitsof the ships, sterile science labs and carpeted business offices of the space stations and so on.
Also I went through much of the book wondering what life was like in the outer planets. What was the food like? Were all spaceships shaped like bullets? Did space suits smell? For a book with over 270 pages I came away with very little impressions in the way of the background. Once again, I got a generic feel from the setting. And there were some mistakes, as the sentences sometimes seemed to have words missing. Nice cover. Get it used.
It's to Cole's credit then that I didn't realize he was trying to explain anything until the book was over and he told us so in the afterword. You see, apparently in the Fourth Doctor story "Revenge of the Cybermen" the topic of the number of Jupiter's moons came up and the number that was cited in the story was out-of-date about five minutes after the episode was broadcast and way off by the present day, where Jupiter has at least count something like sixty-something moons. Now chances are you aren't going to rely on a story called "Revenge of the Cybermen" as your primary source for scientific fact (I wouldn't take its word on gold's effect on the respiratory systems of cybernetically enhanced organisms as gospel either, but that's just me) but Cole decided that he was going to try and explain how the Doctor could have possibly been right about the number of moons in the context of that story. And with that as our dubious foundational premise, off we go.
But you know, it's not half-bad.
Judging by other reviews I've seen of this, it seems to have not been well-received and as I kept reading I kept bracing myself for the moment when a so-far decent story was going to completely devolve into something utterly awful and make me believe I had wasted the time spent wading through it. But either my standards have become so low that I'll just take whatever swill they shovel at me or I'm starting to feel generous in my old age but I found not too much to complain about.
The Doctor and crew wind up somewhere around the vicinity of Jupiter after the TARDIS runs out of mercury for the fluid-link yet again (you'd think they'd start just filling one of the many swimming pools the TARDIS seems to have with the stuff, just in case) just in time for a local conglomerate to shift into a spin campaign after one of their subcontractors apparently blows up the wrong moon. It seems that a famous artist is revitalizing the solar system by improving its feng shui and this involves taking out of some of the moons that are just cluttering up the place. However, as with anything involving the Doctor, before too long it seems clear that the accidental demolition wasn't quite as accidental as the company would have folks believe and instead of just getting the mercury and bailing, he decides to hang out to see what's really going on.
And what's going on is astoundingly complicated. I've knocked other books for their "old-school" feeling, for trying to resurrect specific eras without constructing anything more than hollow shells for us to shove our old memories and nostalgias inside, but here he seems to have crafted a story that is defiantly old-school without seeming creaky at all. The elements of strangeness that have characterized the best books is missing here, and the locales are those old-standbys of future boardrooms and spaceships and asteroid cities and the like, the kind of grimy lived-in future that the series has done a thousand times before (and will probably keep doing as long as they can find some inventive way to keep reusing those sets). But instead of using that setting as a generic backdrop to have people talk about space and saving the world, he does the one necessary thing to make any of this workable: he constructs an entire scenario that exists in a type of twisted homeostasis and then proceeds to drop the Doctor inside to upend the entire affair. The Doctor is forcibly inserted inside a series of plots already in motion and he manages to mess things up simply through a combination of presence and action. This makes his actions a bit more meaningful than having him drop into the midst of a crisis and save the day (or cause the problem in the first place) and forces him to do some digging to figure out the real story, playing on this Doctor's incessant curiosity.
It also means that the scenes without the Doctor are just as interesting as the scenes where he's saving the day (in fact, he plays the White Knight so often here it's almost better when he's not around) because Cole has amped up the supporting cast into a melange of contrasting motivations and desires. Untangling the web of who wants what and who is really working for who becomes part of the fun of the book and it's impressive to see him keeping so many balls in the air at once without resorting to padding or having to rush the ending of the book. A common problem with the BBC line has been the pacing to make it fit the predetermined page count and this is one of the few times when it feels like they got just enough story for the space. Cole accomplishes this by giving us a plot that actually for once shifts gears, so that instead of being told what the conflict is going to be five pages in and then proceeding to watch the Doctor vamp for two hundred and sixty five more until we get the ending we know has been coming all along, the plot is more layered than it at first appears and even the villains don't quite the whole scheme of it. It's nice to read a book and see the initial problem resolved about halfway through and pleasantly realize that enough has shifted to keep the book going without treading water.
He also gives everyone something to do. Putting aside the usual contrived reasons for everyone to separate, just about everyone from hero to villain to in-between has something to contribute to the various aspects of the plot, whether it's Fitz hanging out with the artist and his handlers, Trix wrangling with the board members or the Doctor bouncing everywhere, it means for once very few scenes are wasted. Fitz and Trix getting expanded roles is a bonus, especially for the latter. Finally, as we get close to the end of the series, they decide to start integrating Trix properly and while she's lost some of her "thief with a thousand faces" angle (it's been toned down, although she does impersonate a cooking staff member early on) she proves herself to be rather capable, improvising on the fly and seems to have finally fully accepted the fact that she's a time-traveling adventurer. Fitz still gets the romantic subplots and the sometimes comical effects of the "reach exceeding his grasp" syndrome but for the first time in a while the TARDIS crew seems like a whole, with everyone doing their part. Even the Doctor and Trix work together with a minimum of friction.
It's a combination of the bigger plot and the little moments that make it work, whether it's the love that comes from a fish-man, the Doctor's anguish at seeing animals injured, the wrath of the best food ever, guessing who the other bidders are at a secret auction, or just watching the Doctor save the day as events spiral rapidly out of control in the midst of a hundred other little memorable things. It's watching all the gears meshing together smoothly and seamlessly without turning into a mess, and seeing a book acknowledge the elements of a classic "Who" story without mindlessly rehashing them, creating something new that isn't innovative and still manages to entertain. Comfort food without the guilt, as it were. If there's any complaint to be made about this story, it's that coming so close to the end (it was published a month before Eccelston and his northern accent would revive the franchise again), with the next book advertised as the last, I had hoped for some more of the introspection and "coming to a close" feel that had characterized the last few Virgin Seventh Doctor books, the impending sense of an era ending. Here it's delightful business as usual (though there are more hints that Fitz is thinking of leaving) with a tone that is lighter without being comedic, with a familial warmth (a lot of hugging goes down in this one) that seems to acknowledge we've come a long way to get here. And maybe it's geared toward those of us who have read all books before this to get here but after so many stories of wildly varying quality it's a pleasure to have a nice, normal story that doesn't make you embarrassed to like a well-done, nice, normal story. Maybe this is the last gasp of normalcy before the end. In which case, let's remember this fondly for what it is, and applaud that someone got it right at least once more before it was all over.
Hopefully, some readers will enjoy the author's writing style.