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The Season 25 Set

Book Review by David Lawrence

Yes, I've ripped off Paul's idea (see TSV 15) of reviewing the novelisations of a season as a set.

Season 25's novels are now all available (and will have been for quite some time once this gets printed) and the whole season has also been screened in NZ. For what must be the first time since television began, TVNZ are actually up to date with something! Inevitably they screened seasons 25 and 26 one episode a week in a last desperate attempt to get behind, but the current hiatus in the UK has prevented most countries from getting behind.

It's very interesting, as I think Gary Russell once said, that all the script writers for the McCoy era are also exceptionally good at writing prose. The Season 24 novels were released in screening order. The Season 25 novels were released in quality order - worst to best.

In January we had Silver Nemesis. Once past the dreadful cover, upon which Sylvester McCoy looks considerably like the ferrets he was once so fond of stuffing down his trousers, we get a semi-dreadful novel. Although perhaps not as patronizing as Pip and Jane Baker's books, this left a lot to be desired. Kevin Clarke had opted to stick to his original script, which means the beginning scenes are all in a completely different order to that of the TV show, and various scenes in episode one which took place at day in the series now occur during the night.

There is also a terrible amount of extra, and mostly pointless dialogue. One sometimes gets the impression that Mr Clarke is doing his best to pad out the book so that it will fit the page requirements. At 138 pages, it just manages this. The book also has a character in it called Mrs Hackensack. I need say no more on the subject of why the book is so bad! Perhaps I'm just being biased because I hated the television version so much. What a pathetic story to choose for the silver jubilee story!

Released in NZ the Friday before episode one was on was The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. Although it was not as good as Stephen Wyatt's previous novel (for those of you who managed to get hold of Paradise Towers), this one came quite close. Past another cover which does Sylvester McCoy little justice is a nice little book which I enjoyed. Like Silver Nemesis, the book retained material cut from the television version. Unlike Silver Nemesis, most of this material was relevant to the plot. Episode one suffered the most in editing and with this extra material it stretches to a nice length and quickens the pace of the rest of the book, thus avoiding all this padding in episode four that everyone seemed to moan about (I didn't think episode four was padded!). Unfortunately we learn no less about the Gods of Ragnarok than we did in the TV show. Some of the characters are developed rather nicely but some background information on some of them would have been helpful. The whole book is made worthwhile by the last three lines on page 67. Wonderful! Something I myself constantly moan about! Stephen Wyatt's little swipe at the unoriginality of the series' sets was by far the highlight of the book. More tea?

Also released the Friday before it premiered on NZ screens (I tried to read it that night whilst stuck in a dressing room at the State Opera House with a friend going through my bag to see what interesting things I had in there that she could read. I failed!) was The Happiness Patrol. This story is not very popular, mostly because of its zaniness. Being a little zany myself, I enjoyed it, although had I not read the book first I doubt I would have understood most of the first episode! The first scene of the book is brilliantly written, and from there onwards we get a decent read, as well as a good and further insight into most of the characters, and, as always, scenes cut from the television version. There is also the original interpretation of the Kandy Man, which makes the character a lot more human-like and a lot less lolly-like. Personally I find a human-like adversary far more frightening than a pile of licorice allsorts stuck together to vaguely resemble some form of creature. This is Doctor Who, you know, not Lost In Space, where planets are attacked by giant carrots! Sylvester McCoy's face on the cover doesn't look that bad either.

And now we come to what must be the best Doctor Who novelisation ever written (though from what I hear The Curse of Fenric is better!). Forget Fury from the Deep, forget Dragonfire, forget even Black Orchid. This has to be the best of the lot. First we get a brilliant cover, even if Sylvester does look like he's holding a mouthful of water which he's about to spit at Ace. Then we get the prologue; a flashback from An Unearthly Child. I love nothing more than nostalgia (okay, well maybe a few things more) and the television version of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy was full of it. But wouldn't it have been much better if the job the headmaster thought the Doctor was applying for was that of the science master? Or if there had been a photo of Susan on the notice board with 'Have you seen this girl?' underneath it? All assuming, of course, that An Unearthly Child was set in October 1963, and not November. All this is quite well documented in DWM 151's article on continuity. This would explain why the grave had been ready a month, plus a few other things. The stuff seen through other people's POVs is great - especially the Daleks'. I find writing through a Dalek's POV terribly boring and I usually end up making fun of them! The characterisation of the Special Weapons Dalek, or 'The Abomination', is wonderful. There are a few typing errors in the text (wow I'm a hypocrite!) but no peeing over dusty shelves or anything like that. Ben Aaronovitch has done an utterly brilliant job. There is also addition to Ace and Mike's relationship, and the bit about Manisha that Marc Platt ripped off in Ghost Light. I await Battlefield with eager anticipation. Despite how utterly awful the television version was, if Remembrance is anything to go by it should be impressive.

Well that's that then. A set of four novels well worth adding to a collection (except perhaps Silver Nemesis. Gary Russell has voted it his second worst novel. Does anyone know what his worst is?) of Doctor Who novels, or in the case of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy to any set of novels.