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By Terrance Dicks

Book review by Paul Scoones

After years of buying a countless number of Terrance Dicks novels, there was something indefinably special about walking into a London bookstore shortly after arriving in the UK and purchasing my childhood idol's latest book. The magic of this moment was however later usurped by the realisation that even though he has chosen to write for the TV era of the show he must know best from his time as script editor, Dicks has produced a book that, had it been written by a first time author, I would have been questioning why the BBC had ever agreed to publish it.

Put simply, Catastrophea is turgid. It's like some overlong badly written piece of fan fiction, full of thinly-disguised recycled concepts from the show itself. It is as if the author has decided the best way to evoke the era is to blatantly copy bits of it, so here you have an Earth colony where there is an uneasy coexistence between the humans and the suppressed natives (see Colony in Space or The Mutants...), and a border skirmish with the Draconians - whom it has to be said, have very little presence. Jo Grant is portrayed as a scatter-brained bimbo which does the character no justice, and the Third Doctor is moralistic, pompous and almost unlikeable. This isn't characterisation; it's caricature.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, there's a simply awful pastiche of the movie Casablanca, no doubt inspired by the title similarity, in which Dicks saves himself the bother of thinking anything up for a few pages by simply borrowing whole chunks from the classic movie and probably hoping that if and when the reader notices they'll appreciate the joke.

I was just disappointed, and doubly so because it's Terrance Dicks. This is the man whose novelisations turned me into a voracious reader and a budding writer twenty years ago. He can do a lot better than this. [1/5]

This item appeared in TSV 55 (October 1998).

Index nodes: Catastrophea