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All Break Down, Role Reversal
on 27 June 2012
I've always lauded the BBC 8th Doctor Who books as a great collection. We didn't get to know Paul McGann's Doctor much on the TV, but through the novels that expand his adventures he has fast become one of my favourites - slightly hippy dippy, with a tendency to mistakenly exterminate races as much as save them. The great thing about the Doctor and companions like Sam is that you know them already so you can get on with the adventure. This time in the form of the Year 3999 on a pleasure planet holding the intergalactic Olympic Games. TARDIS lands, Doctor exits, adventure begins.
If only Gary Russell had heard this theory before writing `The Placebo effect'. The plot is a pretty straight forward one, but the number of new characters introduced certainly isn't. There are several different alien races with their own agendas all planning something during the 3999 games. Throw in a crazy royal who is introduced, then thrown away, and you have one confused reader. Through the core of the book is a coherent story, a race that absorbs other races is making its move, but that is hidden behind too many side plots and side characters.
Once the intrigue is over with and the action proper begins you realise two things; the book is almost over and this is actually fun. The final 50 pages are action packed and a great read, it's just a shame that the earlier 200 pages feel like a trawl. Russell would have been best making use of the fact that the Doctor, and to a lesser extent Sam, is a known entity. Instead the book lacks Dr Who and is more Who are all these new characters and How can I possibly remember all their names?