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Venusian Lullaby

By Paul Leonard

Book review by Phillip J Gray

Venusian Lullaby was my first excursion into the Missing Adventures, and I was blown away by how good it was. Over the past two or three years I have come to believe that the initial TARDIS crew of Susan, Ian, Barbara and the Doctor were the most credible and all-rounded characters ever to populate the proqramme. Venusian Lullaby has confirmed that belief, particularly as the greater part of the narrative centres on one my favourite companions, Barbara. Admittedly there is not a huge amount of plot, and much of the narrative seems to be extended chase scenes. On reflection this is an excellent structural homage to the Hartnell era, where almost every story (particularly in the first two seasons) consisted of the TARDIS team getting separated from the Ship and from each other. Venusian Lullaby's teaming up of Ian with Jellenhut, Barbara with Trikhobu and the Doctor with Mrak-ecado works much the same way as any story of the era, with the regulars meeting up occasionally before being reunited at the end.

The book shines in its characterisation of the regulars and the original characters, the Venusians and the Sou(ou)shi. The regulars are all carefully drawn and are very similar to their television versions. It is Barbara who shines, but Ian also receives his fair share of attention and comes across nicely as the Sixties man, worried about Barbara's apparent adoption of alien characteristics. The Doctor, too, is excellently portrayed, with only one quibble, and this is as much a fault of William Hartnell's screen portrayal as Paul Leonard's writing. Although the Doctor's attitudes and the sentiments are spot on (and the identification of the Doctor through his cane is original and thankfully only sparingly used), some of the dialogue does not quite ring true. This is because one of Hartnell's endearing characteristics on television was his 'Mmms', 'Yes, myboy's, 'Aaah's, and so forth. There are very few of these mannerisms in this book, and perhaps Leonard could have included them as genuine examples of First Doctor-speak. The Sou(ou)shi are actually quite chilling, both in their nature, which seems similar to the Axons, and their intentions. The Sou(ou)shi requiring the consent of a species before devouring them is an original and thought providing idea, a novel twist on the traditional 'aliens invade and seek domination' cliché. All the Venusians are carefully delineated in terms of personality and although their names are at first difficult to reconcile with their personalities this was not as much a problem as some recent New Adventures. From the maternal Jellenhut to the insecure leader Jofghil all the Venusians are endearing and distinct. The Venusian children are delightful and add a rarely-used feature to a Doctor Who narrative, the viewpoint of beings younger and in some ways more insightful than their elders. But the wonderful thing about Paul Leonard's description of Venusian society is how credible the Venusians relate to their environment, their social and political structures and their truly alien culture. In my view this is what the genre should be doing: building carefully on the television lore while at the same time extending it in subtle ways such as the geographically expansive settings in Venusian Lullaby. Venusian Lullaby has really hooked me on the Missing Adventures, as they are what I have been waiting for years, instead having to suffer the pseudo-SF ramblings of the more extreme New Adventures.

Book review by Jamas Enright

At last we have a book telling us about the Venusian culture, and giving us an insight into the species of which we have heard so much.

The bulk of this book covers four Venusian 'hours', and chronicles the events which happen in them. It is near the end of the Venusian civilization, and various attempts are made by some faction or another to save their dying planet. Halfway through the book, a space-faring race arrives to escort the Venusians off their planet and on to the inhabitable third planet in the system. However, what the aliens want in return is not normal payment.

Although this may seem to be an exciting adventure of action, intrigue and aliens, the story comes over more as a list of what happens rather than as an actual novel. While this does not stop one from being swept up in its pace, it does distance the book a little, and makes the reader aware that it is just a sequence of events.

The culture of Venus has been very well thought out, and continuity is kept with the series and the ideas already presented (including those facts mentioned in First Frontier, although it is possible they were included after this was written), although for some strange reason there is no sign of Venusian aikido. The only problem was how could they make iron-tip darts when iron is poisonous to them?

This book worked very well with the background idea of Missing Adventures, and the characterisations and story telling is very much in keeping with the First Season (although the Doctor is perhaps a little too jovial for just having lost Susan).

This is what the Missing Adventures should be and Leonard deserves to be proud of his work.

Book review by Rochelle Thickpenny

I had difficulty keeping my eyes open when reading the aptly-named Venusian Lullaby. Doctor Who has always been escapist literature, but this book not only escapes logic, but also calls for great mental flexibility on the part of the reader.

I'm not denying the fact that Leonard has accurately captured the first Doctor and companions, especially his excellent portrayal of Barbara, a character who clearly shines in this book. Where this book lets itself down, is in the way it has been too clever for its own good.

Leonard has successfully created a rational basis for Venusian culture, covering a lot of their methodology. But this alien species is fixated with eating the brains of their dead, kidnapping the time travellers every opportunity they can get, and furthering their wooden rocket technology in the hope of escaping their inevitable extinction. It is all just too farcical and absurd.

Although this story deals with an alien society, the Venusians' names are too long and unpronounceable, requiring careful attention to follow the same character at any given point. There are a few quirks that disrupt its general flow, such as the brief insight into Susan's future, which gives the distinct feeling that Leonard may have been watching Highlander. There is an inconsistency with the cover illustration; the main villains don't get a look-in until halfway through the book, and the occasional burst of violence is not in keeping with the Hartnell era.

Overall I found this book very slow and tedious. As an alien biography it is good, but painful as a Missing Adventure. The longer it stays missing the better!

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

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