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3.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 April 2014
In 1977, the great Fourth Doctor and Leela story Robots of Death was based on board a huge Sandminer. On board are nine humans and numerous robots, ranging from `Dums' through `Vocs' and a `Super Voc' which controls the other robots. Robots are being utilised by this society to do work that humans cannot or will not do. But the robots are programmed to not be able to hurt humans - so when humans start getting killed, it can't be the robots - can it? By the time the Doctor and Leela leave on the Tardis only three humans are alive.

In this story, which picks up some years later, those three humans have moved on with their lives - Uvanov, Poul and Toos have found ways to cope with what happened, and as far as the inhabitants of Kaldor are concerned, the events on the Sandminer never happened. The Doctor and Leela arrive on Kaldor and find themselves in the middle of a very nasty and deadly political, economic and cultural disturbance. And could robots be involved?

This novel is particularly strong in its building of the world of Kaldor. In Robots of Death we saw a very small glimpse of the civilisation of humans and robots from Kaldor, and only a very small part of the sandmining operations, as all the action took place on the sandminder. In this novel, that aspect has been broadened to encompass a whole world, with all its ramifications for the civilisation as a whole which depends on the precious minerals being mined, and which utilises robots for many menial tasks. The jostlings for political power and money are a large part of this cut-throat world, and Chris Boucher has taken characters from the original story and built them into this world view very cleverly.

The Doctor and Leela are also very well written here. Leela has a pivotal role in this story and her character is very well brought out. It is, based on her actions and reactions, quite an early story in her travels with the Doctor and her first instinct remains to bring out her knife and sort people out fairly abruptly. The Doctor is his usual toothy-grinned self and there's a lot of wit written into his character. The author has done a great job capturing both of them in this novel.

If you are not familiar with the Robots of Death this story stands alone and you won't be lost. However, knowing the background of the Robots of Death story does definitely add a whole new dimension to this great novel.
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on 31 March 2014
Corpse Marker is a 4th Doctor Past Doctor Adventure by Chris Boucher and a follow up to his Last Man Running. I wasn’t overly impressed with Last Man Running, I found it to be a mediocre novel which tried far too hard and am hoping for better with Corpse Marker.

Corpse Marker is a follow up to the popular TV story, The Robots of Death. We catch up with 3 survivors, all of whom are shunning robots in the still robot obsessed society. Unsurprisingly the robots start acting up again, starting with hunting down the 3 survivors. The Doctor and Leela arrive and soon get caught up in events.

What follows is a mostly brilliant story which keeps you entertained and intrigued right until the end however as the novel draws to a close things do start falling apart. Firstly the ending is abrupt to the point you have to check you haven’t skipped a page or two. Secondly you begin to think of things throughout the book which were not explained fully. Third and finally you wonder why Boucher went to great lengths to make the characters in depth, when a lot of them were in no way integral to the plot.

Character wise The Doctor is well written which is a surprise given his blandness in Last Man Running. I was slightly annoyed with his lack of being able to get control of both robots and fliers, but it was nothing major. I still don’t have much time for Leela, but she’s less irritating here possibly as she doesn’t have a lot to do. No complaints though.

As mentioned the supporting cast consist mainly of the 3 returnees, Toos, Poul and Uvanov who are all built up really well. What is disappointing is that aside from Uvanov the build-up means practically nothing as the characters exist solely for one plot function. Carnell is an interesting character, who I’d be happy to see again, but aside from that all the others are forgettable, even the killer robots are a bit meh as they need an evil genius behind them.

As sequels go Corpse Marker is done very well. There is much to like about the novel, and the minor niggles I have didn’t hamper my enjoyment. The ending could have been improved but it’s still well worth a read.
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VINE VOICEon 2 January 2006
Chris Boucher’s television adventure The Robots of Death was a bona fide classic, but the decision of the author to sequelise it with this novel is ultimately misguided. The main selling point of The Robots of Death was the tension generated by having a cast trapped on a Storm Miner with a group of homicidal robots – here the robots are loose in Kaldor City itself, as there’s always somewhere to run the tension is sorely lacking.
Throughout the characterisation is flat, with a political intrigue grafted onto the robots assault being dull thanks to the unmemorable characters. The story takes an age to get started, with the separated 4th Doctor and Leela wandering around for the first 100 pages in search of the plot, and the finale is a massive anti-climax. There are a few enjoyable action sequences in the books middle section, and its reasonably fun catching up with Uvanov, Toos and Poul, but ultimately everything in Corpse Marker is shallow and underdeveloped: Chris Boucher is still writing in the style of the old Target novelisation while the world has moved on.
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on 20 August 2001
I have to say I largely agree with the previous reviewer, this book is POINTLESS. Like Zeta Major, it is a totally unnecessary sequel to the magnificent story that came before. Like Zeta Major, it falls flat and comes across as laboured and uninspiring...even more so...The problem is that there is just no story, and what little there might be makes no sense whatsoever. The characters just run around or have boring meetings and create no action, the robots themselves do nothing and the whole thing comes out as a dull unintelligible mess that adds nothing to the whoniverse at all. Definitely one you can safely avoid without feeling at all guilty. Two stars is very generous really!
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on 17 June 2000
Yes, Chris Boucher has captured the Tom Baker Doctor with amazing accuracy. I found myself laughing out loud at the way the Dr acted, very much like he did in the Graham Williams era of Dr Who.
The plot itself starts off running as fast as crude oil, but it finds itself soon enough, and then leaves you thinking "Is that it?" when you turn the last page. Too short by far for such an interesting book. If it had been longer and still to this standard, I'd have rewarded it 5 stars.
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on 27 December 1999
Amazing ! Chris Boucher has managed to develop a gripping modern narrative, which can be seen as an oblique critique on the over-dependence on technology, whilst a the same time recreating totally accurately the characters and atmosphere of this era of Doctor Who. The novel carries on from the TV story "Robots of Death" and continues and develops the complex threads created therein. Well worth a read and once you pick it up, you will read it to the end without wanting to stop.
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on 15 November 1999
In the mid to late 70s, Chris Boucher began a successful writing career by producing two Doctor Who serials broadcast back to back, The Face of Evil and the Robots of Death. The latter wasn't wasn't universally liked by Doctor Who fans, and Terrance Dicks could only manage a rather flat novelisation of it. However, The Robots of Death was exciting at the time (and still is, IMHO), and this was probably to do with the Jim Acheson's design of those creepy mechanical men. At a time when Star Wars' stormtroopers were bursting onto our screens, Acheson's robot design was comparable in excellence, and done on a miniscule budget (if you look closely enough, you can see that the robots' gloves are just Marigolds painted silver and that the corpse markers are bicycle reflectors). Acheson went onto to win a couple of Oscars, so it may be no coincidence that his time on Doctor Who is considered to be its golden age. Chris Boucher was another of that talented team. So successful was his work on Doctor Who that he became script editor of Terry Nation's Blakes 7. However, it's still a bit of a surprise to find that the first speaking character in Corpse Marker originates from Blakes 7, and not Doctor Who. By doing this, Boucher has explicitly stated that both these narratives operate within the same universe. In this way, Chris Boucher has produced a typical script editor novel. Like Terrance Dicks and his vampires, Boucher seems determined to bung in all his past successes. All he has produced though, as the Doctor says here, is something "disappointingly familiar". In Corpse Marker, Carnell has escaped from the Federation and settled in Kaldor City, hiring his services out to all and sundry. It's worthwhile reviewing the Blakes 7 episode in which he appeared ('Weapon') and the Robots of Death in order to understand what exactly is going on here. For instance, the three survivors from Robots make very early appearances: Captain Uvanov, Pilot Toos, and Mover Poul. Uvanov and Toos have moved up the Company ladder, and Poul is just as hysterical as he ever was. In The Robots of Death, Poul announced his desire to return to Kaldor City, as he wished to live with humans, rather than robots. However, there are robots in Kaldor, performing the menial tasks laid out for them by their human masters. The Robots of Death was typical of Doctor Who stories vetted by script editor Robert Holmes at the time, in that it was a hybrid of many different tales. There was the Agatha Christie murder plot, stealings from Frank Herbert's Dune (the sandminers here search for lucanol rather than melange), and Asimov's Robot stories. And there seemed to be an ongoing postcolonial gothic running through out many of them. In The Robots of Death, Taren Capel, brought up by robots, created a robot rebellion to free them from slavery. The fact that he's a bit mixed up was brilliantly conveyed by Acheson clothing him in a Ku Klux Klan hood (which also served to hide the true identity of the villain). The robots in Corpse Marker are also slaves. Bizarrely, the main form of transport in Kaldor City is not some form of automobile, but a robot pulling a kind of Asian rickshaw. This is something which Boucher has obviously drawn out from the original serial, as Acheson's robot design had Asian features and the decor of the Sandminer had elements of the traditional Japanese home (screen prints for doors). The crew of the Sandminer were of different Terran races, but the hierarchy there was based on family (the twenty Founding Families), rather than race. Since so much of the decor is Asian however, it does suggests that this is the most powerful influence, and that the collapse of American hegemony is inevitable. One might argue that there is a strong capitalist motive throughout Kaldor City, but this is hardly synonymous with the West. Much of Boucher's drama comes from exploiting the tensions within this hierarchy. The robots themselves never truly seem to be much of a danger. They were always more of a visual threat, creepy because what they said was often quite banal. Camera trickery in the Robots of Death let you see the Robots' victims from their mechanical point of view, in what now seems a quite perverse way (reminiscent of the controversial film Peeping Tom). On the page, however, the robots are very flat and because they don't have personalities, they're very difficult to write about, as Terrance Dicks discovered in his novelization of Robots. Boucher creates new robots and a new Karel Capek robot revolution to go with them. And how has Taren Capel returned from the dead? And that's just about as exciting as it gets. Watching Weapon and Robots of Death in comparison with Corpse Marker reveals some of Boucher's disturbing traits. Characters who do wrong in his scripts are often warned pitilessly that they'll go to the pits: the pit of the Horda in Face of Evil, the slave pits of Ursa Prime in Weapon, and the Sewer pits in Corpse Marker. Each of these stories has an invisible barrier which restricts movement (like IMIPAK in Weapon), a quasi-religious cult, and scientists with a tendency to run off and hide with important bits of information. The author also seems to have lost a lot of his discipline as a script editor: the ending is horribly rushed. The only character who really seems alive at times is Leela, but then Boucher was the writer who originally created her. Chris Boucher almost seems to be complicit in presenting his work as every bit formulaic as that of Terry Nation and Terrance Dicks. In Robots, Leela asks about the TARDIS' magic, and anticipates the Doctor's reply by acknowledging that there's no such thing as magic. But Chris Boucher's work once had magic: where has it gone?
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