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Tragedy Day

By Gareth Roberts

Review by Paul Scoones

After the hugely enjoyable The Highest Science - which has to rate as one of the very best New Adventures yet - I expected great things of Gareth Roberts' second entry in the canon. Tragedy Day is an entertaining read, but by no means exceptional.

The planet Olleril (on which the story takes place) has a society strongly reminiscent of that alluded to in The Happiness Patrol, complete with violent ritualistic deaths, totalitarian rule and an absurd pastiche of late twentieth-century Earth culture transposed on to an alien planet.

Unusually for a New Adventure, no one member of the TARDIS crew stands out from the rest. With the resolution of their differences in the previous book all of the fight seems to have gone out of Benny and Ace, with the latter rather unbelievably upstaged by an assassin in the weapons stakes. I was additionally disturbed to find the Doctor distinctly out of character - that is unless the Season 24 persona is considered to be the 'real McCoy'! Roberts probably has a certain affection for that early interpretation of the Seventh Doctor, but it does not sit well with the considerably deeper and somber individual presented in later TV stories and certainly present in most New Adventures.

The only character who really stood out for me was Forgwyn, a most welcome slight variation for the role of 'guest companion' in this story. Gareth seems to have paid particular attention to giving this young man a strong, likeable personality but it would almost appear that he has done so at the expense of others, as generally his 'cast' are a rather bland bunch, and failed to arouse any sympathy in me for their plight.

I did however find the aging film star Guralza quite appealing and the Doctor's pledge to her touching. The sacked, exiled and devoured science fiction television series producer George Lipton seems to have been the author's statement on a certain real-life individual, but I could be wrong...

In places the novel reads a lot like Douglas Adams on a good day, but taken as a whole it lacked sparkle. If this had been Gareth's first novel I would have described it as a very promising debut, but as it is, Tragedy Day never manages to step out of the shadow of The Highest Science.

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).

Index nodes: Tragedy Day