Home : Archive : TSV 31-40 : TSV 39 : Review

Theatre of War

By Justin Richards

Book review by Felicity Scoones

Although it is an independent story the beginning of Theatre of War dovetails with the end of Legacy. The Braxiatel Collection receives mention in Legacy but is actually visited in this book - indeed Bernice is heading there when she first appears. This link provides an initial credibility which such an idealistic concept as the Collection might otherwise lack.

The first mention of the Collection comes in City of Death, but then it is implied merely to be an art gallery. Justin Richards has greatly expanded the idea: 'The Braxiatel Collection was arguably the finest and most extensive collection in the known worlds. Collection of what? was an invalid question - it was a collection of everything.'

The Collection and Irving Braxiatel, although appearing infrequently, provide the strongest element of the book, while also making some intriguing suggestions about the Doctor.

'Source documents', attributed to the Braxiatel Collection, periodically appear in the book. These are ostensibly archival data on subjects ranging from discussions of theatrical conventions to 'historical' references to the Heletian war, and are placed at relevant points in the book. This technique, although more frequently used, is similar to the structure of Legacy and serves as an additional link between the two books.

Theatre is very important to the story. Like a modern play the book is written in three 'acts', each marking a significant turning point in the action. The prologue, set five years earlier is called 'The Rehearsal'. The first two 'acts' revolve around the archeological excavation of an old amphitheatre and the third pivots on the performance of a play. The book is set in a culture obsessed with theatre as an art form. The point is constantly made that in a stage play the action is merely reported, not seen; this is reflected in the narrative of the book. The Heletian war, an event which determines the actions of every character, is never directly experienced by the reader. Instead it is reported through individuals' recollections and via communications networks. In fact the spaceship chase sequence, one of the few pieces of real action, seems out of keeping with the rest. A final staged touch is the use of the Doctor's umbrella as a constantly present 'visual' prop. This attention to detail makes it easy to picture Sylvester McCoy in the role of the Doctor.

Bernice plays a pivotal role and once again her archeology background is effectively utilised. Ace is a bland background character, her only definition being her combat skills. There are a number of soldiers and archeologists peopling the story but they are not greatly differentiated. As a result Theatre of War is not emotionally involving. It is definitely plot rather than character-driven, however though interesting and well-constructed the story is somewhat predictable.

This item appeared in TSV 39 (May 1994).

Index nodes: Theatre of War