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The Paradise of Death

By Barry Letts

Book review by Phillip J Gray

I have not heard the radio version of Barry Letts' The Paradise of Death, and the reviews for the book having been at best critical; I was rather hesitant about reading it. Thank goodness I did; Craig Hinton's DWM review was far too critical. The Paradise of Death is one of the most interesting Doctor Who books I have read in a long time (New Adventures not excepted). Barry Letts is a very good writer; anyone who can pull off the line 'His unctuous voice vied with the fleshy solicitude of his face' scores big points with me.

The book is a relatively straight forward Pertwee story featuring the Season 11 regulars as well as Letts' own creations, the wonderfully gluttonous Chairman Freeth and the very Peter Miles-ish Tragan (who even gets some very Nyder-like lines). I greatly enjoyed the expanded characterisation of Sarah, apart from her strange obsession with clichés. Is Barry Letts making a comment about Doctor Who companions here? Alas that such could be said for the irritatingly one-dimensional Jeremy Fitzoliver, whose initially amusing pratfalls quickly became tiresome. Because of Sarah's expanded characterisation the Doctor slid into the background somewhat. This didn't annoy me as much as it might have done because it was wonderful to read a book where the Doctor is not the intensely 'dark, manipulative all-knowing' character he has become in the McCoy era and in the New Adventures.

There are a few oddities: the Brigadier calls Sarah by her first name, rather than 'Miss Smith', and where is the sonic screwdriver? The play/book has been criticised for its technological discontinuity and for being out of place set between The Time Warrior and Invasion of the Dinosaurs, but honestly, who cares? Barry Letts knows his era; although I have a nasty suspicion such criticisms are going to become more evident when the Missing Adventures start to filter down through fandom. Accept the offering and enjoy it for what it is. I found it very enjoyable because it was a Pertwee story and I knew almost nothing about it except for brief reviews. If The Paradise of Death is a forerunner to the Missing Adventures, they can't get here soon enough for my liking.

Book review by Jamas Enright

I have not heard the radio play so can only view this as a novel. Still, I would very much like to hear how some parts have been implemented and just how much has been added.

In one word, this book is 'bitsy'. There are several sequences, and Barry Letts has stuck them together, but not very well. It is almost a travelogue in its style, and doesn't work.

It's a pity this book was placed after The Time Warrior, as it would have been so much better after Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I can just picture a scene in which the Brigadier thinks the leg was bitten off by a rogue dinosaur, and tries to track it in London.

As far as the plot goes, there is nothing impressive. First Space World (which had potential), then Parakon, then we are faced with another planet coming towards the end of its opulence, and trying to gain a new source. Nothing original there, and not all that interesting either.

The characterisation was one of the worst parts of the book. Jeremy - someone shoot him. He could be worse than Adric! As for Sarah, why does she keep going on about clichés? This irrelevant point is brought up time and again, and gets more annoying each time. The Doctor and the Brigadier aren't much better off. They could be replaced with any military man plus adviser, and the story would still work.

All in all, this book comes in way below par. Someone of Barry Letts' stature should be able to produce better. I hope The Ghosts of N-Space is better than this.

This item appeared in TSV 41 (October 1994).

Index nodes: The Paradise of Death