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Reviewed By: newt5996Review Date: 3/23/19 5:41 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

Alien Bodies is often cited as one of the absolute best Doctor Who novels ever written. Going in to this one I had already read Lawrence Miles’ previous work Christmas on a Rational Planet which introduced the time travelling voodoo cult Faction Paradox and laid a little groundwork for the story arc he begins here, yet as a novel it is a great first effort and is totally surpassed by its successor. This review will contain quite a few spoilers for the novel so if you have not read it yet, it’s over twenty years old by this point and copies aren’t too difficult to track down. The premise of Alien Bodies is quite simple: it’s Earth in the late 21st century and UNISYC, a successor to UNIT, are holding an auction for the Relic. The Relic is the corpse of a Time Lord and contains important biodata several parties wish to get their hands on, it’s the corpse of the Doctor, but not the one you are expecting. Yes Doctor Who hinges on the fact that the Doctor always gets out alive, but everything has its time and everything ends so this is his final incarnation in the casket. Miles explores the idea of biodata and what exactly it is used for: every living thing has it and the Doctor, having traveled so much through time and space, has a biodata which is crucial for defeating ‘the enemy’. ‘The enemy’ is something that is largely off-screen as it were due to the fact that at some point in Gallifrey’s future there is going to be a war which destroys the planet, a war against ‘the enemy’. The Doctor refuses to fight in this war and his corpse holds the key to defeating them. The war is this plot device that intrigues the reader and the threads are left hanging, which isn’t an issue considering there are over sixty novels left which it can be resolved.

One of the parties looking to bid for the Doctor’s biodata is the Faction Paradox, which in this novel is more fully formed than in Christmas on a Rational Planet. They perform voodoo rituals and have a religious view on using biodata to control people and the universe. Time Lords to them are liars and cheats, not without merit of course, but throughout the novel we see them controlling soldiers and attempting to complete their own plan. Their plans are also left hanging by Miles to be picked up in future books, but the information gleaned in this novel is enough to tell a complete story. It’s not actually the plot which is interesting in the novel, but it’s almost all the setup and worldbuilding Miles sets up for the Eighth Doctor Adventures as a range. The treasure hunt so to speak of taking control of the casket and the Doctor eventually destroying it is an excellent plot and the ending is quite poignant, so the worldbuilding is just icing on the cake for the book. The actual villain is Shift, an incredibly interesting incorporeal creature who communicates through psychic influences. It is something that infiltrates the minds of its victims and intends to create times of great paranoia to gain control of the biodata.

Miles includes the Krotons as one party wanting to take the biodata of the Doctor which actually are quite threatening in this appearance. Time is taken to describe the biology of the Kroton race as silicon base and individuals are able to commit suicide and rebuild themselves to make them stronger. There’s also a Time Lord, Hommunculette, as a bidder who’s more interesting involvement is the relationship with his TARDIS, Marie. Marie, being a Type 103 TARDIS, has an almost human sentience and form and her death about 1/3 into the novel is incredibly effective. It sends her owner into a fit of rage as Miles implies a deep romantic and psychic relationship between ship and operator.

Finally, there is the inclusion of Sam Jones to consider when looking at Alien Bodies. There have been complaints about Sam being a non-character in the previous five novels which only Paul Leonard attempted to rectify in Genocide. Alien Bodies is a book where Sam’s non-character nature is revealed as setup for future novels again. The idea is that Sam Jones has two biodatas. The first is the one the previous five novels have given us: Sam is a young blonde woman, preoccupied with activism and a goody two shoes to boot who met the Doctor when running away from drug dealers in Totters’ Lane. The other is a bit more interesting and a bit deeper than that: Samantha Jones is a dark haired young woman who has fallen into a heroin addiction and is friends with drug dealers. This is the first glimpse of what Miles calls ‘Dark Sam’ and something that the Doctor decides to keep from his companion. Yet outside of that Miles also makes Sam quite the likable character through the first half of the book, comforting a UNISYC soldier and honestly just acting like she wants to help out. It makes a big change from the previous novels where she has been more of a whiny child. Overall Alien Bodies is a novel full of atmosphere that takes a slow burn approach to storytelling. It clocks in at 313 pages and is the first Eighth Doctor Adventure to really hit it out of the park and set up the storyline for the range.
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Reviewed By: newt5996Review Date: 3/19/19 9:01 pm
5 out of 5 found this review helpful.

When announced that Tom Baker had decided to release an adaptation of his aborted film script Doctor Who Meets Scratchman with James Goss, I became incredibly skeptical about the ability to make the project work. Descriptions of the original script in places had an almost 1980s level reliance on continuity: it’s a story with Daleks, Time Lords, Cybermen ripoff’s called Cyberons, living scarecrows, and the Devil himself is almost too much to bare. However, the sheer curiosity of reading a Doctor Who novel written by Tom Baker got the better of me. While this book was only recently released, discretion is advised as this review will contain spoilers for the recently released Scratchman. For quick thoughts, overall it’s a really good novel with amazing prose from Tom Baker and James Goss, terrifying imagery, and rich characters. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the classic series, this can serve as a pretty good introduction to the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, and Harry Sullivan.



The best decision Tom Baker and James Goss made in adapting the script, probably due to the book rights to these characters always being difficult to get, is they cut the Daleks from proceedings. The original descriptions of the script have the Daleks essentially be a cameo villain role near the end to have some last minute danger during the giant game of pinball (trust me it makes sense in context), and by taking them out the climax is allowed to run smoothly to the conclusion of the novel. Baker and Goss also take advantage of the fact that they are writing a novel and not a film script by spending much of the book in the heads of the characters. The novel is written in a first-person perspective from the perspective of the Doctor, with a framing story of the Doctor on trial by the Time Lords recounting events of the story. This framing thematically links the story into the Last Great Time War, with the Doctor appealing to the Time Lords to allow him to interfere with other planets. The interludes in the tale come at perfect moments for suspense and general explanation of some of the possible plot holes written into the script. There’s even a potential reference to Lungbarrow hidden for that eagle eyed to find it. The first-person perspective offers the audience a unique reading experience: the Doctor as written by Baker is truly alien and truly a portrayal of the Fourth Doctor. You couldn’t really imagine any of the other Doctors in this role and the several mental tangents and divergences are just amazing to read.



The structure of the novel is split into two halves, the first being set in a Scottish village in 1960 terrorized by living scarecrows which have been converting the population into them. Baker relishes the truly horrific prose of these segments, shifting the tone from a light and fluffy picnic to a battle for survival. The villagers are led into a church which serves as a fortress while the Doctor attempts to figure out just what is behind these scarecrows. Thematically fear and paranoia are essential for both parts of the novel to work overall and in both halves fear slowly mounts incredibly well. From the light relief of Harry attempting to get sugar to help the Doctor and killing three scarecrows by accident in the process, to the chilling chase through the TARDIS with Sarah Jane, and finally one member of the village ruining it for everyone letting the scarecrows in literally dooming everyone, the first half just has an amazing buildup to conclusion. The chase in the TARDIS includes perspectives from the scarecrow chasing Sarah Jane which humanizes an inhuman monster where it slowly remembers who it was. It’s a truly emotional sequence and involves an interesting concept: there is this clock tower inside a clock and a room which shows your entire life all hidden away in the TARDIS, kept locked for safety. The climax of this half see the two companions changed into scarecrows and the Doctor sent to hell which is an evocative end to the first half. The second half of the novel takes place exclusively in hell, aka another dimension resided over by the titular Scratchman. Baker and Goss follow the Doctor before introducing Scratchman, as he has his defenses slowly chipped away at so when we get to the deal with the Devil, there’s a real sense that the Doctor is willing to take it. There are three ‘torture’ sequences which all have clever endings (one with a cameo from a certain northern woman in a long jacket). Scratchman, himself, oozes charm as he pretty much wants the Doctor to allow him into our dimension to rule. There’s a reason he was meant to be played by Master of Horror Vincent Price. The novel culminates in a giant pinball game, chosen as their fate ala Ghostbusters because Harry Sullivan just couldn’t keep his mind clear. The pinball game really shouldn’t work, but the prose really sells it to the reader and putting it in the mind of Harry Sullivan helps give it this sense of realism. The outrageous statements in neon lights above the game come straight from lines Harry was famous for saying and the ending of the book is heartwarming. Overall, Scratchman comes across as a love letter to Season 12 and 13 and is an excellent addition to anyone’s collection.
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Reviewed By: newt5996Review Date: 3/14/19 8:36 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

As a noted fan of the Virgin New Adventures, it actually didn’t bother me that when BBC Books wrote books featuring the Seventh Doctor they ignored the continuity of that book series and released the first Seventh Doctor novel, Illegal Alien, as a story taking place after “Survival” yet not far enough into the post-television series to have the Virgin New Adventures to have taken effect. This is actually quite refreshing to explore some essentially unseen adventures with the Doctor and Ace free from the baggage of the earlier range. Ace in particular here feels like she came fresh from the end of “Survival” which is at least in part due to the fact that Mike Tucker and Robert Perry’s story was a submission for Season 27 of the television series. Putting Ace at the center of the London Blitz at a point in her life post “The Curse of Fenric” is a stroke of genius from Tucker and Perry. She cannot stand Nazi ideology and some of the torture she endures near the end of the novel are just as brutal as some of the Virgin New Adventures, Timewyrm: Exodus and Just War immediately spring to mind. Characterizing Ace as the teenager she was also gives the novel an edge as while there still is the growth of the television series, she is still a character who acts rashly when confronted with injustices of World War II.

Yet Tucker and Perry don’t attempt to have Illegal Alien be a part of some cosmic plan of the Seventh Doctor to save the universe, sure the Doctor spends much of the novel scheming, but the implication here is that this is just a story that they have stumbled upon. The Doctor of this novel displays a side to his personality that is not always seen in this incarnation: his ability to think on his feet and change his plans at a moment’s notice. The authors also include quite a bit from the point of view of the Doctor, really allowing the reader to sympathize with his emotions. The Doctor is a man who cares deeply about Ace and exploring her room in the TARDIS while she is kidnapped by Nazis is a touching little scene where the Doctor actually is allowed to show some deeper emotions. The main human villain of the novel is George Limb, a man who works with the Nazis under the mantra the road to hell is paved with good intentions. He and the Doctor have interesting parallels: they are both schemers and chess masters, working for the greater good and not afraid to push the boundaries of morality to their ends. There is a minor issue in that Limb is more obviously evil, due to his stance as essentially a Nazi officer which kind of drags portions of their chess match in the back fourth of the novel just not work as well as it could.

Tucker and Perry split the novel into four equally length parts echoing the idea that this is just a television story in novel form. They share a descriptive style of prose fully immersing the reader in the empty streets of London during the Blitz, the novel truly feels like it’s a noir film with muted colors and a jazzy soundtrack filling out the scenes of the novel. Cody McBride acts as a second companion to the Doctor here and he’s almost your stereotypical American detective straight out of a noir film who narrates the opening of the four parts of the book. There’s also this sense of brutality about the book as Tucker and Perry bring the Cybermen to the BBC Books range with scenes that rival Iceberg and Killing Ground in terms of body horror. The Cybermen here are the models seen in The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space and are biding their time. There are initially three Cybermen present, yet they use the citizens hiding in the underground from the Blitz as stock to convert more to the Cyber race. Tucker and Perry even include the image of a baby converted into a grotesque mix between a Cyberman and a Cybermat. While there are no in depth descriptions of the Cyberman conversion process a la Killing Ground, but Tucker and Perry are masters at crafting horror off-screen so to speak. They let the screams and following silence to really let the horror sink in. As a first novel, there’s some real talent in Illegal Alien, giving the Seventh Doctor and Ace an excellent introduction to the Past Doctor Adventures range. Both of their characters are perfectly characterized and Tucker and Perry include memorable side characters with an engaging plot that works incredibly well. It is only let down by a human villain that doesn’t quite work and weakens the climax because of this.
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Reviewed By: newt5996Review Date: 3/13/19 4:20 am
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

War of the Daleks is one of those novels with a divisive reputation amongst Doctor Who fans. Half of the fanbase seems to hate it as a continuity fest, determined to retcon nearly every Dalek story into one timeline as well as the climax of “Remembrance of the Daleks”. The other half seem to think it’s a brilliant piece of Doctor Who fiction, finishing the 1980s arc of Doctor Who Dalek stories with aplomb. With a reputation such as this, perhaps it is not a surprise that my personal opinion on War of the Daleks is very middle of the road: John Peel does a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong when it comes to this novel. Looking at his past work, there is no surprise that Peel was chosen for the first ever Dalek novel: he adapted “The Chase”, “Mission to the Unknown”, “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, “The Power of the Daleks”, and “The Evil of the Daleks” into Target novels and was friends with Dalek creator Terry Nation. Yes, his work for Virgin Publishing is a 50/50 split between good and bad, he only wrote two original novels so third time could be the charm to mix a metaphor.

The highlight of the novel is how Peel uses the Daleks to full effect: they have a formed caste system that makes an extreme sense and recontextualizes the grey Daleks of the classic series the easiest to defeat adding a level of tension to the novel. Daleks don’t just shout exterminate without actually doing anything in this novel, killing characters on sight. The plot concerning the Quetzal and the Thals are also highlights of the novel. Peel does an excellent job in touching on the idea of the Thals wishing to enhance themselves to be more like the Daleks in a bid to ending the fighting against the Daleks. Peel makes them have become a desperate race, sick of the war and plague the Daleks have caused throughout the cosmos. It’s an excellent plotline which creates an engaging moral dilemma for the first half of the novel. Sadly it gets wrapped up around the halfway point. This novel overall is structured quite like a television serial, in four parts with three chapters per part. The simple answer for why Peel did this is that he was adapting a script originally meant for television, with a few alterations to expand the scope and scale of the conflict. The second half of the novel shifts into what feels like a completely different story, one which I would call “The Trial of the Daleks”. It’s a plot like all the post “Genesis of the Daleks” stories bar “Remembrance of the Daleks” that gets overshadowed by the inclusion of the Daleks’ creator Davros. Davros is put on trial, unbeknownst to him, as defendant of the Dalek race which for some reason has decided that if found guilty they should undergo self-destruction. Some of the logic used by the Daleks and explanations given for the trial does not make sense, but that does not matter.

Yet, outside of these instances, there is quite a bit of War of the Daleks that just doesn’t work. First, the characterization of the Doctor and Sam Jones falls incredibly flat outside of the first chapter. The first chapter has the Doctor tearing apart portions of the TARDIS for repairs and in this scene we really get the sense on the aloofness and romantic nature of this incarnation of the Doctor, which disappears once they arrive on the Quetzal. They both revert into generic Doctor and companion characterizations, which is a massive step down from the portrayal in the previous novel. Peel attempts to give Sam a blasé attitude towards the Daleks, and pulls the joke that they don’t actually look threatening, but this really doesn’t work well because outside of this joke there isn’t any character to Sam. She also sees the destruction the Daleks cause firsthand and honestly she almost seems cocky when facing them. In the second half of the novel she also has absolutely nothing to do, with the Doctor taking center stage for the remainder of the book. Which doesn’t work because even when taking center stage, the Doctor doesn’t do much. There really isn’t any satisfactory resolution to this novel as the Daleks just sort of blow each other up really quickly. The final nail in the coffin for this novel so to speak is the retcon: the idea goes that in “Remembrance of the Daleks” the Daleks saw that the Doctor would use the Hand of Omega to blow up Skaro so they replaced it with a similar planet, Antalin, which in turn changes at least some of the motivation of every classic Doctor Who Dalek story. Now it’s nice to get an explanation for why Skaro exists, but the retcon is just too confusing and the plot almost stops for twenty pages or so to stop it. The opinions on this novel are incredibly conflicting, some of it’s great, some isn’t.

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