The Paradise of Death
By Barry Letts
Book review by Paul Scoones
New Doctor Who novelisations have become something of a rarity on Virgin's publication schedules these past few years. The Paradise of Death, for which Barry Letts wrote the scripts, was a five part radio play broadcast last year in Britain and simultaneously released as a twin cassette pack. Readers will probably recall my review of the tapes in TSV 36, so please note that the criticisms I made of the plot are equally applicable to the book.
It first became obvious that Letts doesn't remember the era for which he was producer (and sometimes writer and director), all too clearly when he located the story in a non-existent gap between The Time Warrior and Invasion of the Dinosaurs. If you can overlook this, there's still the problem of characterisation; the three regulars with whom Barry Letts should have been intimately familiar - the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith - seem not quite right. Obviously the reassuring familiar voices of the three actors are absent in the book, but Letts' attempt at giving them greater depth has worked against him. Sarah Jane in particular stands out as a casualty of poor writing. Her thoughts do not seem in keeping with the character as she was played on screen. Elisabeth Sladen gave the character a fiery intelligent independence but Letts reduces her to little more than a caricature, as well as giving her an annoying obsession with clichés.
The Paradise of Death has the page count of an average New Adventures novel at the publishers request; perhaps Letts was also advised to aim the book at the same 'adult' readership; no, Sarah doesn't take her clothes off, but the Doctor does - twice.
If you can disregard the problems of series continuity and characterization, then the story itself is entertaining enough. The radio scripts are reasonably faithfully followed but large chunks of padding have been added to meet the 250 page count. The radio version took a long time to get underway, but the book is even slower in its initial chapters. Conversely, be prepared for a rather sudden and unsatisfactory conclusion.
The publishers' writers' guidelines describe The Paradise of Death as 'a prototype Missing Adventure'. Let's hope it's not indicative of things to come.
This item appeared in TSV 39 (May 1994).