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Strange England (New Doctor Who Adventures) Paperback – 18 Aug 1994

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dr Who (18 Aug. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0426204190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0426204190
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 11.4 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


When the TARDIS lands in the idyllic gardens of a Victorian country house, Ace, knows that something terrible is bound to happen. The Doctor disagrees. Then they discover a young girl whose body has been possessed by a beautiful, but lethal insect.

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Format: Paperback
Strange England
Strange indeed; this offering from New Adventures newcomer Simon Messingham is a sterling effort, remaining resolutely Sci-fi whilst eschewing the swathes of jargon and self-referential baggage often used by his predecessors.
The Doctor and his companions Ace and Benny find themselves in what appears to be a stereotyped English country house; replete with Butler, maidservants and the whole Upstairs Downstairs kit and caboodle. Appearances however soon prove to be deceptive, who is The Quack and why is he attempting to steal the Doctor's mind and destroy his companions? Who has unleashed the hideous flying insects intent upon draining the life from the local villagers? More importantly, how is it all linked to the Doctor's home and the Timelords?
Messingham takes a leaf out of DW stalwart Terrance Dicks' book; keeping the action going pell mell whilst retaining an original flavour and developing rounded and compassion-inducing characters throughout.
The series now appears to be hitting its stride - this is definitely one the New Adventures highlights - long may its success continue!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange and Stranger 8 Feb. 2003
By Andrew McCaffrey - Published on
Format: Paperback
If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Simon Messingham's only experience of Doctor Who came through the collected works of Marc Platt. Indeed, STRANGE ENGLAND at times feels like a greatest hits tour of some of Platt's previous efforts. This gives the story a very unoriginal feeling to it, yet it adds a much-needed layer of oddness and surrealism to a story that has a very simple heart.
The book begins innocently enough. The Doctor, Ace and Benny land during what appears to be a typical English summer's day. The birds are singing; the foliage is lush and green. It seems like an ideal place for this TARDIS crew to settle down and have a nice picnic for three hundred pages or so. Of course, it won't come as a huge surprise when very early on it turns out that Things Aren't Quite What They Seem. A strange, unearthly insect stalks the characters. The inhabitants of the house appear to be human, but their behavior doesn't seem quite right to the TARDIS crew. The entire environment quickly descends into insanity, with illogical events surprising both the regulars and the people who live there.
The characters are highly varied in their execution. A few of them are one-dimensional, and there's a villain with such a clichéd disposition (he's stark raving mad) that one wonders if he was supposed to be some sort of hilarious meta-textual joke gone bad. Yet, strangely enough, I did enjoy reading that character's rantings, as Messingham manages to take a fairly cardboard concept and make it interesting. His own characters, Messingham mostly succeeds at drawing, with only one or two who become tiresome. But the Doctor, Benny and Ace are a completely different story. They get split up fairly early on, which is an absurdly good thing because whenever they're together they turn into the most one-dimensional characters imaginable. It's quite an odd effect really. At the beginning of the story, they are absolutely awful together, bouncing silly and banal dialog off of each other. But as soon as they're apart, they become almost realistic. When interacting with Messingham's secondary characters they have an individual nature and are recognizable. Yet as soon as the end of the story begins to roll around, the three are reunited and the awfulness of their interacting in the beginning is back. It's as if Messingham understood the characters enough to have them mingle with normal people, but not enough to have to play their characteristics off of each other.
As I said, the final product we see here is what would happen if you put Marc Platt and some fairly bland padding into a Markov chain generator. Scraps of inspiration and portions that seem familiar are spaced out by material that just doesn't draw the disparate pieces together. To begin with, there's a mysterious and peculiar house sitting in an environment where the time-stream seems to be racing around in odd ways. Various nouns and verbs receive capitalization, just so we know how important they are: House, Control, Assimilator, etc. Many of the concepts and themes kept reminding me of GHOST-LIGHT and CAT'S CRADLE: TIME'S CRUCIBLE. Although I don't wish to get into spoiler territory, I'll just say that the eventual explanation for the odd happenings should seem very familiar to fans of Marc Platt.
The writing itself is fairly variable, though overall it's not bad at all. While I've already commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, I found that the prose itself was fairly decent, if nothing to jump up and down about. The story does attempt to counterpoint some incredibly idyllic scenes with ones that are extremely gritty and occasionally quite violent. Indeed, I found myself wincing during a few sections, although nothing felt unduly gratuitous.
As the story progresses, Messingham keeps upping the amount of surreal imagery and bizarre situations. While this kept the story interesting, there is a real danger here for any writer. Make the story seem too unrealistic or strange, and the audience simply won't care what happens to the characters because it can lead to a feeling of insignificance (i.e., at some point we just stop caring because we're subconsciously waiting for the "it was all a dream" type of revelation). Messingham did fall foul of this on a small number of occasions, but more often than not he stayed on the right side of that line.
It's fairly unoriginal, and despite a lot of seemingly highbrow concepts and questions, it doesn't really carry the weight that it wants to. There is an enormous amount of padding between the set-up and the resolution, though fortunately much of that padding is fairly interesting. On the other hand, there's much of it that comes across as faintly boring. I did like the fact that it dared to ask quite a few questions about some of our basic assumptions about the Doctor and his adventures; the downside being that not all of the examinations were fully explored. But, I would argue that despite its flaws, STRANGE ENGLAND is worth reading, even if it isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is.
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