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Doctor Who - The Novel of the Film

By Gary Russell

Book review by Jon Preddle

The correct title of this book is simply Doctor Who; the subtitle that has been given to it, The Novel of the Film appears only on the book's spine. This is the first Doctor Who book to be published by BBC Books and, to be perfectly honest although it is a good read it's a bit on the bland side, which does not bode well now that BBC Books are to take over Virgin's range of Doctor Who fiction next year. But this is no fault of Gary's. BBC Books are solely to blame. They gave him only three weeks to write the book. They imposed several restrictions on him, such as to write with a younger readership in mind, and he was instructed to remove the continuity references from his first draft (he has, however, managed to sneakily retain a few New Adventures cross-references!). Not only this, but he was also working from a draft script with only a minimal number of photos from the film to use as reference, plus he was also completing his own Missing Adventure, The Scales of Injustice, for Virgin at the same time. The poor lad must have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

Despite the book's resemblance to a standard Target novelisation of old (I easily read it in one sitting; mind you this was during a thirteen hour flight!) Gary has taken the opportunity to flesh it out, focusing on characterisation, particularly with Grace, giving us more insight into her family background. Gary has also added new characters, such as Professor Wagg's daughter at the Millennium party. This part of the book contains an in-joke which only die-hard fans could possibly pick up on; the party guests have been named after well-known British Doctor Who fans.

The film was saddled with huge plot-holes, and Gary has made a brave attempt to provide reasonable solutions to some of these awkward questions by adding explanatory dialogue; he has even changed the outcome of the Doctor's fight with the Master - in the book Grace and Chang Lee do not die. This could have been because Gary - like many of us! - did not understand what exactly it was that brought them back to life. There was one addition of Gary's I did not like, however, for the simple reason that it is Gary's own speculation and which is not evident in the production at all, and that is the Master's statement that the Doctor's being half-human is the Doctor's deep dark secret; you know, the one hinted at in Silver Nemesis, the one which makes him more than just a Time Lord. This is really only a fan-myth concept that has been blown way out of proportion in the New Adventures, so why was it necessary to include it in this book?

As a Doctor Who novelisation it sits comfortably on my bookshelf next to the Survival novel, but I still regret that Virgin were not given the opportunity to publish the book; to have it in the style - and length - as one of their New Adventures would have been delightful.

This item appeared in TSV 48 (August 1996).

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