- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: BBC Books (5 Jan. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0563486112
- ISBN-13: 978-0563486114
- Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.2 x 1.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Doctor Who: Sometime Never... Paperback – 5 Jan 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately the downside is that the bulk of the original story of the novel itself is rather uninspiring - the characters are shallow and one-dimensional, the long-heralded replacements for the Time Lords are just as boring, the bulk of the novel seems to consist of the regulars running around in circles in the Institute of Anthropology, and there is - inevitably, large doses of continuity and technobabble.
Sometime Never...is a step backwards for Richards after his previous 8th Doctor novels, and despite the complex arc-resolution this reads for the most part like a speed-written filler. Casual readers should avoid this like the plague, but committed EDA followers will find this to be a welcome release in spite of its shortcomings.
Rather a disappointing read. Having the doctor suddenely wake up and say 'it was all a dream!'wouldn't have been quite as anticlimactic as this. The villains of the piece turn out to be a very dull bunch. And some characters meet their destinies. Some of which we can be glad about.
This is a book that services the needs of ongoing plots. Nothing more, nothing less. As such it's not the first one in the range you should pick up. You'll only get anything out of this is you've read the books in order. And probably all you'll get out of it is sweet relief that we can move on at last
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Recent Doctor Who novels, especially the Eighth Doctor's adventures, have been somewhat depressing lately. "Hope" and "Reckless Engineering" are two of these. But, like "Timeless", this book has elements of depression that don't weigh down the story. The use of time travel in "Sometime Never..." is provacative and interesting, and the book comes to a terrific conclusion, with the Doctor's cunning mind tricking the enemy yet again.
I can only hope that the Eighth Doctor novels to come are as good as this one.
First of all, can I state how tired I am of the whole "a butterfly's flight changing the course of a hurricane" thing? Yes, I liked Ray Bradbury's "A Sound Of Thunder", but I am absolutely sick to death of encountering and revisiting these references in time travel fiction over and over again. Maybe this is a sign that I need to vary the fiction I read. But, look, this sort of stuff was clever the first million times I saw it; can't we just grab hold of some other idea to beat to death?
Getting to the book's specifics, this is a story where The Universe and/or History Itself is threatened. Again. Yes, in resolving a story-arc in which each uninteresting story concerned threats to Everything, we are presented with a story in which there is an enormous threat. To Everything. You can only go to that well so many times, and I think this aspect of the story-arc overstayed its welcome at about, oh, the third or fourth time out. Yet there we go again. A universe populated by utterly uninteresting characters is again faced with absolute, total, and certain destruction. There's something wrong in a book where I, the reader, find myself cheering on the collapse of everything only because I wanted to see something (anything!) interesting happen.
The resolution to the story-arc is vaguely logical, but totally uninteresting. The back of the book tells us of the Council of Eight. And now that I've read about them, I'm disheartened to report that they are exactly as boring and stereotypical as their initial description would suggest. They're mysterious. They have a mysterious plan. They live in a mysterious fortress which is mysteriously cut off from the rest of the universe. There's very little that's original here and, thus, all attempts at forging a creepy or fearful atmosphere fail. And what original material exists is utterly lacking in soul. The plot unfolds dryly, with no passion or imagination.
For a book about predictability, predetermination and events unfolding logically, SOMETIME NEVER... strangely feels random as hell. And worse than that, it feels awfully contrived. Villains delay attacks long enough for the Doctor to explain the plot to the dumb humans. Exposition is given by having two characters explain things to each other that each is already aware of. This is not what you expect from an author whose résumé is as long as Justin Richards' is. Richards has written much better than this before. Richards has written much better than this in situations where he's slapping something together at the last minute to fill the book schedule. What's the excuse here when the book was presumably planned out literally years ago?
Oh, and that weird reference at the end utterly baffled me. It wasn't until I started wandering around the Internet that I found out it was a tie-in to SCREAM OF THE SHALKA. Um, couldn't we have had a reference to something that was actually good? What is the bloody point referencing a dull story in the middle of another dull story? Boredom raised to the power of banal. Oh, and what was up with that bizarre AN UNEARTHLY CHILD thing? I mean... What?! Why?!
If not for the fact that the Internet has informed me that future stories in this book series are more standalone (and indeed will eventually be replaced by Ninth Doctor Adventures), I think I would be giving up now. It's depressing to think that this is the book that the series had been leading up to. This whole arc has been a series of failures at both the individual book level (save for some worthy exceptions such as the brilliant EMOTIONAL CHEMISTRY) and of the overall meta-story. Thank God it's over. And let's hope that the powers that be have learned from their mistakes. Here's to the future.
Let me explain. Some books back the BBC decided to begin an arc in the Eighth Doctor range where it became clear that someone was altering time and creating parallel universes. A mysterious yet large man named Sabbath was involved, a man who was unspeakably brilliant at manipulating the Doctor. It turns out even he was working for some higher power behind this mess, collapsing all the parallel earths to a single universe (sort of like DC Comics' "Crisis on Infinite Earths" story, only with less punching and more meeting at pubs). This story went on for . . . we'll be gentle and say a tad longer than it should have, with no clear resolution or escalation of tension in sight. Now unto us, lo, comes an ending. And it's . . . underwhelming.
Now it's not completely surprising. The BBC line hasn't had a great track record of finishing storylines with a bang anyway. If "Ancestor Cell" proved one thing, trying really hard will get you my respect, but it doesn't mean you succeeded. Here, with some time to think about it in advance, they still aren't able to go the whole mile and after all the buildup and mystery from the earlier novels we're thrilled to learn that the ultimate enemy that has caused all this trouble is . . . the Council of Eight. Wha? A bunch of what seems like old men made of crystal who sit around a table and argue about things like Rogue Elements with straight faces, you can almost picture the terrible costumes and bad special effects with every scene, as they debate stuff interminably that doesn't feel like it was written for fans of the show that grew up to be mature adults as much as them shoving bad SF down our throat that they think we really want. Thus the concept comes across as hackneyed and cliche, when a little bit of strangeness could have made them seem dangerous. Instead they seem run of the mill.
As an aside, this wasn't totally the author's fault as the original plan appears to have meant to include the Daleks. Presumably Terry Nation's estate gave them a hard time for one reason or another but given there hasn't been a decent portrayal of the Daleks in writing yet, this isn't as big a loss as it seems. Yet this story needed an enemy with a bit more flair and personality than these yahoos show here, coming across as creaky and staid when they should be quick and frightening.
Unfortunately this applies to the rest of the novel as well, with a temperature that never rises above "pleasantly tepid". The Doctor and friends once again discover that time is being changed (with a butterfly of all original things) and what's worse, someone seems to know their every move before they make it. What follows then is a cursory splitting up followed by revelations that aren't that shocking to a danger inside a museum that is experiencing the physical manifestation of a clock that is only right twice a day. Crystal skeletons appear, time shifts, Trix uses several disguises, it all feels very rote. By the time Sabbath shows up to add his two cents, it feels less like an event and more like making sure all the subplots are taken care of before we move on. Meanwhile, Sabbath, realizing what the rest of us figured out a long time ago, changes his motivation without seeming too broken up about it to the exact opposite of what he'd been trying to achieve the whole time (which is strange, even if his employers were lying about their goals, didn't he still feel the same about it). The book tries to make this feel like more of an Event by bringing back a character from his time living forward slowly, but she barely gets anything to do before being knocked off perfunctorily. There's threats to some of the old companions, but with the Doctor having no memory of them, it's more an abstract academic threat for us than for him.
The book does pick up steam toward the end, with a Douglas Adams lift (not a restaurant, alas) and a sense of a lot of things happening at once but the preceding has been so run of the mill that all the future science babble and rummaging around with the Council doesn't have the impact it should. Fitz remains the bright spot in this, but even he feels leashed and Trix has yet to distinguish herself as a character yet. It all feels far too old school for this type of era, one that Uncle Terrance would have given us from back in the old days. There's no menace here, no danger, even when the New Adventures did a similar storyline (with the Doctor's history being changed), there was a sense of urgency and risk. In this book, and the storyline as a whole in fact, we never got a sense of the stakes at play. The parallel worlds come across as more from the long line of random places they visited and nobody could seem to decide what kind of threat Sabbath really was (they peaked too early when he took the Doctor's heart, after that he seemed lost on how to top it). If the universe is going to end we don't get a sense of the emotional heft involved, as the universe seems to consist of the Doctor and his friends and a few other random people.
While the end result is pleasant by the end, it hardly redeems the rough going in the beginning with the endless layers of exposition from everyone, and when the chatter gives way to action all the tension has dissipated. If it ever existed. A stab toward strangeness pops up just at the end, with a tentative new past beginning and an out-of-nowhere reference to "Scream of the Shalka" but even that is too little too late. With only a few books left in the Eighth Doctor range chances are we won't be starting a long arc but given the track record thus far, maybe it's for the best. A conclusion if you need it (and we probably did) but at best it's purely functional.