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Last of the Gadarene

By Mark Gatiss

Book review by Brad Schmidt

I imagine Last of the Gadarene is supposed to be classic Pertwee, and of the Target and Terrance Dicks kind. Probably quite coincidentally, given that it is a vital part of the plot anyway, the aeroplane on the cover sports a similar logo as those cherished masterpieces, and Mark Gatiss takes the time to inform us of who the man on the cover is.

Quite why anyone would want to emulate any of these three with the freedom of a novel is beyond me. However Gadarene also manages to juggle being a full-length novel quite successfully, and it's not as bland in retrospect as it seems at times in reading. The Doctor, cape-flowing and chin-stroking, is reluctantly enlisted to help UNIT in investigating mysterious goings-on in a small Daemons-esque village. There's also an unexpected appearance by a character utterly evocative of the era, who perhaps ensures a final conviction of where and when these events are taking place.

Gatiss so alludes to - perhaps borrows from - the Alien movies that for a moment I wondered if it was an actual crossover. An international airport is being opened in the east Anglian village of Culverton, by a mysterious group of aliens - the refugee Gadarene - who possess humans by clinging parasitically to their faces. It's another novel in the many squeezed between Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death, but for once Jo escapes possession and her upcoming departure is further foreshadowed.

There's a memorable but almost sadistic scene in which the Doctor forestalls a swarm of zombie-like villagers by throwing laughing gas in their midst, and throughout the story their physical possession is such that they cannot help smiling broadly. Paradoxically, this delighted appearance is a stroke of dark in a light-hearted novel, supported by the fact the Gadarene are nocturnal and to them light is intolerable. This theme of light recurs throughout the novel, especially in that the village of Culverton is holding its summer fete during these events.

I suppose that with the morbidity of the Eighth Doctor novels of late, some balance is needed. Gadarene is at least light without being bland, and features an event that has surprisingly not been presented before. Attempting to be evocative of an already entirely familiar era, Last of the Gadarene is successful. [3/5]

This item appeared in TSV 60 (June 2000).

Index nodes: Last of the Gadarene