Doctor Who: Illegal Alien Mass Market Paperback – 6 Oct 1997
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In this story, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are in London during the Blitz in WWII. The Doctor has brought Ace here at her request, and it becomes clear in the story that he hopes that a little reality as to the horror of war may help Ace find an adult response to situations that doesn't include Nitro-9. To put Ace's timeline in perspective in this story, it's set after Survival (the last episode of the tv series cancelled in 1989), so Ace is still a young woman who has had a troubled life. Her responses, as shown in the first part of the book still involve explosions and agression. It's really good to see in this book that she matures in her outlook somewhat, and I found myself liking her a lot more by the end of the book as she finds a new way to deal with some of the issues in the story.
This is a pretty dark story; set in and around London during the War, there is already death and violence from the nightly bombings by the Germans. Add to that a killer stalking the streets of London and some strange metallic rustlings coming from the sewers, and you have what the Doctor knows can only be something really really bad - and alien. It's no surprise (given the cover picture) that Cybermen are in this story, and they are out to cybernise as many humans as they can. But the Nazis want their technology as well, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want. Can the Doctor and Ace stop alien future technology falling into anybody's hands and stop the killing?
I really enjoyed this story; the writing is fast-paced, the characters alongside the Doctor and Ace are well realised, and the `bad' guys are nicely subtle. At the end, there's a really nice nod to the 1968 televised story with Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, The Invasion. This is well done, as the Cybermen in this novel are clearly the older style of Cybermen (we know that from their description in the book and also their voice tones used) as depicted on the original novel's cover, and not the newer style of Cybermen depicted on the cover of the novel in the reissue.
The combination of the private eye and the sardonic Special Branch man Mullen are as familiar as the Tardis crew. The tv series often borrowed from other genres in order to create atmosphere in a short space of time. Mix in Nazi spies and "some very old enemies" as the cover summary hints (blowing the surprise completely with the front cover and the caption "Featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace - plus the Cybermen") and you have a marvellous début for the Tucker/Perry partnership.
Whenever the cyber-mats turned up during the tv series when I was a kid it wasn't a case of hiding behind the sofa, it was more like out the door, so it astounded me when I read somewhere that the critters weren't used in Silver Nemesis because they weren't convincing or scary. I wasn't quite out the door when the things turned up here but they still seem pretty effective frighteners even in print.
Due to the long running New Adventures published by Virgin, the pairing of the Seventh Doctor and Ace is one of the most published Doctor Who double acts but I don't think I've ever read a more accurate and faithful portrayal of the two before reading this book. The NA's Ace never really seemed like the same character - even before she underwent her transformation into a battle hardened super soldier. The original character seemed to me to have been abandoned with only Ace as a visual template remaining.
The story is fast paced with many a twist and an about turn along the way. A very enjoyable read.
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