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Doctor Who: Mission Impractical Paperback – 8 Jun 1998
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The main plot device of the novel is an artifact, stolen from the Veltrochini's by a team of professional criminals. It turns out the artifact was stolen for a shady Government and the Veltrochini now want it back, and are threatening war. Time has moved on since the theft though, and the current Government are unaware of the artifact. Therefore a dodgy agent called Mandell hires Sabalom Glitz to steal the artifact from the Government's high security facility and return it to the Veltrochinis. Meanwhile a bounty is put on the Doctor's head and investigating the attempted assassination leads him to Mandell who forces him to help Glitz. It's all very spy fiction, with good guys and bad guys, and plot twists abound. Very entertaining.
The only slight disappointment is that Mission: Impractical claims to be a light read where you leave your brain at the door, but features massive amounts of technobabble. The facility where the artifact is held is phased 5 minutes in the past, with the vault itself phased a day different to that. Once you get your head around that, McIntee just flows with yet more time travel stuff, which requires more concentration than it really should.
The Doctor in question is the often overlooked 6th. I mentioned in my review of Business Unusual that I feel the 6th Doctor gets a raw deal and that authors usually portray him far better than the script writers did. McIntee does a good job in bringing out the best of the 6th Doctor, arrogant and brash but with an obvious good heart. This is the 6th Doctor I wish got shown on TV.
Companion wise we have Frobisher, a character who only exists in spin off media. For those not in the know Frobisher is a Whifferdill, a race which can change their shape at will. Frobisher however likes the form of a penguin. He is also a private detective who joined the Doctor for a few adventures. The character of Frobisher and the Doctor work well together, and he is infinitely more interesting to read about than Mel who is usually the stock choice for companion to the "nicer" 6th Doctor. I'd like to read more novels with Frobisher as the companion.
Mission Impractical also sees the return of fan favorite rogue, Sabalom Glitz and his sidekick Dibber. I adore the character of Glitz, and do wish we had a 6th Doctor season with him as a regular. Both rogues are written well, exactly as you remember them from the TV. Dibber's fate is revealed but you really struggle to feel much for him, which is a shame. Glitz's crew are bog standard criminals, although McIntee does try to hint at romance between Chat and Glitz to spice things up a bit, but it doesn't really work, nor is it needed.
The other cast are not really noteworthy. Mandell is a Government agent who seems to be double crossing everyone, again McIntee tries to liven him up by adding a pregnant wife who is also a police woman, but again this doesn't work, and isn't really needed. The bounty hunters after the Doctor show early promise, and there bits are entertaining, but neither really shine. Likewise the Veltrochini are an interesting race, comparable to the Draconians, but they only really serve as a threat to the Government.
Mission: Impractical is a jolly jaunt through a 6th Doctor TV story with the added bonus of Frobisher. It sometimes tries too hard to be something it's not, but overall McIntee has grafted an entertaining story which is well worth the read. It isn't going to challenge you, but much like the previous book, Catastrophea, it's perfect holiday reading, and who can complain about that.
In essence the storyline revolves around involving the Doctor in a semi-comedic heist scenario with a bunch of galactic misfits. This allows for the inclusion of such characters as Glitz and Dibber, the comedy criminal double act from `The Trial of a Timlord', to make a return. It is the perfect set up to revisit these two characters who would normally be unlikely to make repeat appearances. It also allows for the character of Frobisher, the usually penguin shaped detective from various Sixth Doctor comic strips, to fit into the companion role. In fact, much of the tone and atmosphere of this novel feels as if it would lend itself more to a comic or graphic novel. Frobisher is also fairly entertaining.
The version of the Sixth Doctor presented has little in common with Colin Baker's on screen performance. It is also quite far from the more mature version he gives in the audio plays. It is closer to the comic version in nature, which makes sense. But really this story could have been fitted around any Doctor. The only effort to really characterise the Sixth Doctor are the too often repeated references to his outlandish outfit.
The plot endeavours to make the story exciting and unpredictable but in reality comes over as muddled and confusing. There are far more characters than are warranted and the attempts to make them more real and multilayered are half-hearted and ill-conceived. The love story attempt between Glitz and Chat (yes that is her name) is little more than a footnote to events and the relationship between Mandell and Kala, which could have been insightful and emotional, is just so poorly conceived and so irrelevant to the story that you have to wonder why the author bothered.
There are quite a few in jokes and references (look out for a great `Wallace and Gromit' reference). Thus there is a bit of fun to be had if you read this with an open mind and low expectations. But that is clearly what the author had in mind and as such he has delivered what he intended.
This does not have great prose, and is not an easy read. As a result, it's a dreadful, cluttered, hardgoing mess of a book. And it's not worth your time
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