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Goth Opera

By Paul Cornell

Reviewed by Felicity Scoones

Goth Opera, as the first of the Missing Adventures, gets the series off to a strong start. The story is well told and easy to read, similar in style to Nightshade and enhanced with touches of humour. Unlike Cornell's first New Adventure, Revelation, the plot is relatively straight forward but well constructed; all the surprises are credible. Like Cornell's previous book, No Future, the setting is twentieth century England, but Goth Opera presents a friendlier, more cohesive world.

At first it is difficult not to picture the Doctor in his seventh incarnation, but as the book gets going Cornell includes mannerisms which clearly identify him as the Fifth Doctor. The most effective of these is the way that the Doctor does not know exactly what is going on and is not eventually revealed to have masterminded the whole situation!

Tegan is well written and enthusiastic. Although she is more independent than in the TV series this is not at odds with her original portrayal but rather an enhancement of the character as the viewer would like to have seen her. Nyssa is a little less recognisable, bit this is perhaps due to the fact that she is not herself for the majority of the book. Certainly Cornell avoids making the companions into Ace and Bernice clones.

Goth Opera espouses a somewhat negative attitude towards Christians. They are generally portrayed as absurd extremists, the most fundamental of whom spontaneously combust at critical points in the book. Cornell also rather obviously moralises about child abuse.

The portrayal of vampire culture is detailed and credible. The vampires are individualised and some are presented in a sympathetic light. The moral ambiguities are very much in keeping with the nature of the TV series. Some interesting back-ground to Gallifrey emerges and one of the high points is a cameo appearance from Romana.

My only real complaint is Cornell's misinterpretation of basic astrophysics: it is not the case that the whole of the northern hemisphere experiences day simultaneously while all of the southern is in complete darkness.

Goth Opera is a reflection of the mood of the TV series. It reads like an exceptionally good novelisation. Those who find the New Adventures departure from the traditional novelisation style alienating may find what they are looking for in the Missing Adventures.

This item appeared in TSV 40 (July 1994).

Index nodes: Goth Opera