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by Eric Saward

Book review by Paul Sinkovich

Slipback is divided into two parts. The second part is basically what was originally transmitted, the first a prologue Saward added. Part One is utterly boring, and the only reason I read Part Two was because Paul was jumping down my throat about meeting the Thursday deadline. Anyway, one fault with this book is that Saward has tried to apply the Douglas Adams style of humour to Doctor Who; the other fault is Saward's total total incompetence in writing in this style. Whilst Adams can produce a wonderfully involved story, with humorous sidetracks, interesting characters, insignificant events that turn out to be relevant, Saward produces a drab storyline with side-tracks that are just plain silly. Saward draws heavily on Adams' work; his use of alcohol is very Adams, the bit about the psychiatrists that are always followed by rain is exactly what happened with the Rain God in Adams' fourth book So Long And Thanks For All The Fish in his Hitch-Hiker Trilogy.

Now to the actual storyline. Ignoring Part One, it's possible to salvage some sort of story - definitely not one to fit the Doctor Who format, but nevertheless a story. The reason I say this is simply because this humour, even when written well, is not suitable for Doctor Who. Many people say Graham Williams' Seasons 15-17 had too much humour, but it is nothing compared with Slipback. Things like Peri falling down the shaft and having a 8,000,003 to 1 chance of survival, and as for the Doctor being drunk! The good Doctor with his highly valued morals, his great wisdom and self-control! Ford Prefect, yes; the Doctor, no.

Considering this was written for radio, something new could be expected - I wouldn't mind if Slipback was just a humorous story making fun of Doctor Who as it tries to, but I couldn't get a laugh out of Slipback no matter Saward, and myself, tried. If it was well written, I could've enjoyed it, but it wasn't, and I didn't. I just can't see it as part of the so-called 'Whoniverse'. Can you? You may think this review is extremely mean, unfair, wrong, etc, and that Slipback is a good book. Please write and tell us what you think.

Book review by Paul Scoones

I think Slipback did only one thing for me -it confirmed my suspicions that the name 'Eric Saward' is in fact used by two separate people!

But seriously, it is incredible that the popular and successful script editor from 1982 to 1986, the writer of such TV masterpieces as Earthshock and Resurrection of the Daleks and The Visitation book, can write such weak and flawed books as The Twin Dilemma and now Slipback.

The Twin Dilemma wasn't all that bad, but it certainly doesn't rank on my list of favourite books in the series either; and after reading Slipback, it seems to me that The Twin Dilemma might have been a lot worse if Saward wasn't obligated to (roughly) keep to Anthony Steven's script.

Back in 1982 when I read Saward's first book, The Visitation, I was immediately impressed by the high standard of writing, and feeling for the character of the Doctor and his companions, and it was (initially) a disappointment to me when I learnt that he hadn't been the one to novelise his second script, Earthshock. When his second book did come out, it hardly seemed worth the wait. His unfunny attempts at humour fell flat, and damaged a potentially very deep and dramatic portrayal of the Doctor's relationship with his friend and mentor, Azmael. In Doctor Who Magazine 104, the reviewer likened the style of The Twin Dilemma to the satirical humour of Douglas Adams. Slipback, however, goes as far as to copy lines and ideas verbitam from Adams' Hitch-Hiker books, of which I am very fond. Like the writers of The Unfolding Text, though, I believe that this sort of humour isn't right for the dramatic context of Doctor Who. Slipback was just a bad rip-off of the Hitch-Hiker novels under the banner of Doctor Who, and it failed miserably. It abounds with contradictions and misinterpretations of the mythos and character of the Doctor and his universe - can this possibly be the same Eric Saward applauded for great attention to continuity during his era as script editor? It is plainly obvious that Saward has taken the script he penned for the one-and-only Radio 4 Doctor Who adventure broadcast in 1985, and turned it into a satire of the whole show and only in this respect does it perhaps work. For me Slipback will always be set aside from the rest of the Target novels on my shelf.

This item appeared in TSV 1 (July 1987).

Index nodes: Slipback