‘Festival of Death’ possesses a plot that revolves around the potential complexities of time travel. Since the advent of ‘Blink’ it would be one of those stories referred to, retrospectively, as ‘timey-wimey’. Fortunately, the novel is quite well plotted so its ‘timey-wimey’ nature never gets too convoluted or over the top and unravels itself to a satisfying conclusion.
Tapping into the idea, perhaps most famously postulated in ‘The Face of Evil’, where the Doctor revisits somewhere and witnesses the effects of his previous actions, the Doctor arrives at the intergalactic tourist attraction, the Beautiful Death, to discover that he has recently saved the place from destruction. Only, from his perspective, he hasn’t done this yet. This sets off a chain reaction of events (not all following the basic laws of cause and effect as far as Romana is concerned) that sees the Doctor, Romana and K-9 weaving through different time periods, not always in conjunction with each other. It all adds up to a lot of fun that feels quite fitting for the era of the programme this novel takes place in.
Although the book is supposedly set somewhere between ‘Shada’ and ‘The Leisure Hive’ this story feels very much more in the spirit of the seventeenth rather than the eighteenth series. The actual premise of spaceships becoming stuck traversing a wormhole and the results of such an incident even has some echoes of ‘The Nightmare of Eden’. The style of humour that permeates that particular period is also very much apparent and the author also manages to fit in a few Douglas Adams inspired elements, including a computer with a somewhat Marvin style outlook.
The names of the two prominent alien species featured in the story, the ravenous Arachnopods and the benevolent Arboretans, certainly lack some imagination but both have some interesting genetic aspects. Even the zombies that appear aren’t your traditional undead and have a more science fiction and original explanation. The Repulsion, however, isn’t perhaps the most exciting of villains.
The book’s main highlight though is its superb characterisation of the three mains. The dialogue is spot on; perfectly capturing the syntax of each and the easy banter between them. There are times when some of the lines even seem to channel Baker’s adlibs. The author captures the relationships between the Doctor, Romana and K-9 beautifully (but not deathly) - Romana is frustrated by the Doctor’s foibles whilst the Doctor is petulant in his responses to her efforts to ‘educate’ him; but, when it comes down to it, the affection they feel for each other is clearly apparent.
It is a good choice to represent the Fourth Doctor in the series of republications for the fiftieth anniversary as it captures the latter part of his tenure so well. Although, equally the same could be said of Gareth Robert’s novels set during this period.
"'Did the universe get out of the wrong side of bed this morning, or is it me?' he asked."
This book, first published in 2000, has been re-released as the representative Fourth Doctor story in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. This was written by Jonathan Morris, who has written quite a few Doctor Who and related books etc.
The story involves the Fourth Doctor and Romana II arriving in a hyperspace tunnel which has become the graveyard of a number of ships after an accident some two centuries earlier. Now it is where the Beautiful Death themepark is run, where tourists come to be treated to an experience featuring death itself. But when the Doctor and Romana arrive, they are surprised to find themselves known to people who are there. Have they been here before, and if so, what did they do? And how can they do it again?
This is a complicated time-travel back and forth in eddies of time kind of Doctor Who story, one which you have to keep your wits about you to keep track of who is where, why and when. But that makes for a satisfying read, and one in which the Doctor and Romana, and K-9, all have their own important parts to play in the story. The personification of the Fourth Doctor in this story is spot on. I liked the sly humour that is used in the story, and the characteristics of the Doctor and Romana were both well portrayed. The other characters in the story, including Evadne, Harken Batt and ERIC the computer are all well written in. I did think more could have been made of the backstory of the Rochfort and Byson, to see why they were the way they were, but that's just a small personal quibble. Great stuff; a great Fourth Doctor story, and totally recommended.
In fairness I should have given 4.5 or 5 stars. It's a great read and any one who likes a bit of science fiction should have a read especially if a fan of the 4th Doctor and Romana.
The central characters are true to their TV portrays and the theme fits nice into the era of the programme in which the novel is set.
I found some of the middle plodded along and took a break of a couple of weeks. But generally interested to know how events turn out.
The end is more than satisfying and all the ends very nicely tied up. Not just neatly but thoughtfully and deeply. I liked the reveal of the main protagonist toward the end. And the wY how only the reader knows his back story leaves us with a touch of sadness empathising with the enemy,
Missed out on this classic fourth doctor book when it was first released in 2000,and so I was looking at £20 plus for a new copy.Very pleased to see it as part of the 50th anniversary at a bargain price for one of the best who books.
This was the 2nd Doctor Who novel I read, first being Shada. Promising as ever, the story is interesting, with twists and turns, makes the reader keep interested right from the beginning. Highly recommended for Doctor Who fans.