Doctor Who: Catastrophea Paperback – Dolby, 5 May 1998
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The main plot of Catastrophea is that the Doctor and Jo land on the planet Kastopheria which is more commonly referred to as Castastrophea as it is a melting pot of a corrupt company, police, drug smugglers, do-gooders and a native race of giants. They soon get involved in local politics, and the arrival of the Draconians threatens to push the tension to all-out war.
The 3rd Doctor, as you'd expect from Mr Dicks, is very well done. He has the arrogance and tall tales, and also shows a use of martial arts and pressure points to subdue attackers. Jo is also true to her TV form and whilst she doesn't get a lot to do, she still does the companion role well. Given Uncle Terry's history with this era of the show it really isn't surprising, and it makes for an excellent read.
Catastrophea has various factions and as such there are quite a lot of supporting characters. These do fall into the stereotypical category more often than not, but it actually fits quite well with the simplistic nature of the story. You have trigger happy military, pencil pushing administrators, drug/booze fuelled smugglers, and do gooder hippy types of which most are that description to a T. Some show slightly differing tendencies but in the main you know what you're getting.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Review:The back cover blurb sets the story directly after Planet of the Daleks and before the Green Death. There are two Virgin MA's set up in this same gap (Paul Leonard's Dancing the Code, and Speed of Flight), but both are earth bound adventures so Catastrophea easially fits in with their continuity. Dicks captures the feel of the 3rd Doctor's era very well.....
The bottom line: Just because the Eight Doctors was a load of horse dung, doesn't mean you should assume Dicks has lost his talent to tell a good yarn. Nothing new and groundbreaking, just a entertaining read.
Set during the show's tenth season, the Doctor and Jo are travelling away from the planet Spiridon when the Doctor senses a huge amount of pain. He materialises the TARDIS to investigate.
On the planet Kastopheria, they find native race, the People, are being repressed by human colonists. The Doctor is mistaken by the humans as revolutionary leader El Llama (and being a revolutionary, he has to have a Spanish sounding name - very lazy writing!) while the People recognise him as a prophesied saviour.
As it turns out, the humans are using a drug known as skar to keep the People passive. But the Doctor soon discovers there is more to skar than the humans understand...
I think the main problem with this story is that Mr. Dicks came up with some ideas and wrote the book before thinking it through properly. It hangs together OK (Mr. Dicks is too professional a writer for it not to), but there are sudden turns of events that just seem so unlikely.
For Doctor Who completists only!
This only got worse when he inaugurated the BBC line of adventures featuring the Eighth Doctor, as his first novel for that was just godawful, a string of "This happened and this happened and this happened and then the story was over" that wasn't even that entertaining. The saving grace was that it read quickly. So now he comes along again with a novel featuring Jon Pertwee's Doctor, a era of the series he's probably vastly more familiar with. And the difference shows.
The Doctor and Jo Grant, alerted by a psychic distress signal, land on a colony world where the passive native giants are used as slaves by the current landholders. But strange things are starting to happen, as the giants are randomly starting to become violent, smugglers are combing the planet for a local native drug, and every dogooder for parsecs is arriving to further their own cause. The Doctor gets mixed up in things and as usual has to figure out what's going on while everyone is either trying to recruit or arrest him (and sometimes both at the same time).
The novel is impressively readable and while it's not pulse-pounding or emotional, it's highly professional, doing what it has to do to keep the story moving. The main military and administration people are shown to be well rounded and even reasonable, which keeps the situations humorous at times and distracts you from the fact that the story boils down to the Doctor getting captured and escaping and getting recaptured several times, with only mild variations. Like I said, Dicks is able to do this well enough so that the story remains entertaining without being repetitious, but at the same time it points out that the plot isn't really that complex.
As a side bonus, the rather underused Draconians show up and while Dicks doesn't seem to be sure if they are supposed to be comedy figures or taken seriously, it's a nice call-out to a memorable alien race from those years of the show, even if they don't do all that much and seem to be there merely to allow the plot a neater wrap-up (or needlessly complicate things).
You'll read it, you'll probably enjoy it and it will only take you a few hours, at which point you'll rarely think about it again. This literally could have been a TV episode, and does a good job of evoking the era. So if you want a dose of nice comfortable "Doctor Who" then this is probably exactly what you're looking for.