Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 2/20/19 5:15 am
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A first time author has a lot on their shoulders: they must prove to their audience that they can tell a story with good characters in a good pace and have a unique style to their writing. Some advice to beginning writers is to start by writing fanfiction, and indeed it is fanfiction which has given some Who authors, including Paul Cornell, their start. Writing a Doctor Who novel has some of the same difficulties as writing fanfiction, you have previously established characters to play around with, but you have to write those characters as those characters. Mark Morris is the first new author to be brought on to the BBC Books line to be given his own, standalone novel. Both Keith Topping and Jonathan Blum had their books coauthored with others, so in that sense The Bodysnatchers is an event novel in this sense and it has a lot to prove, and as a first novel Morris does an admirable job.
Perhaps the biggest issue the Eighth Doctor Adventures has had in its beginnings over the Virgin New Adventures, is that the Eighth Doctor Adventures were much less wary when it comes to the use of continuity. The first novel not to use any previous continuity is the seventh book in the series, Kursaal. The Bodysnatchers uses the Zygons and Professor George Litefoot as major elements in the story, and perhaps this is what is holding the book back from being amazing. In using the Zygons nearly every twist Morris executes is broadcast pages before it appears several pages later. Morris does an excellent job using his novel to develop the mythology of the Zygons, giving them a planet and an enemy which caused the destruction of their planet. There’s also the implication that there are several refugee groups of Zygons which have landed on Earth and have been manipulating their way into society, though this is left by the end of the novel ambiguous. Morris succeeds at making his Zygon characters different from the Zygons of “Terror of the Zygons”, mainly by playing out a piece on morality between a Zygon who serves as leader and warlord and a Zygon who leads as a scientist. Tuval, the scientist character, has an excellent arc going from begrudgingly following her leader, into making her own decisions and joining the Doctor, Sam, and Litefoot in the fight against her species. Balaak is a weaker character overall, essentially being more of your standard shouting villain, which works well enough for what the novel is, but Morris could have done more with the character. The climax also needed a bit more work, as the novel loses steam about forty pages from the end.
The Bodysnatchers takes a while to get going, the plot of shadowy creatures pitching off people around a factory owned by a one Nathaniel Seers and a young Skarasen terrorizing Victorian London works well enough. The plot is just incredibly predictable with Seers’ daughter, Emmeline, noticing her father being off and wouldn’t you know it, he’s a Zygon in human form. Emmeline for the first half of the novel serves as an almost companion to the Doctor and honestly she works better as a character than Sam. Samantha Jones continues to really only have the characterization of ‘I’m a social activist, Victorian London needs feminism’ which could work, but it’s just a bit too cliched for anything. By the second half of the novel Sam gets some time with the Doctor and their clashing about how he treats her as younger than he should could be interesting, but it just doesn’t really amount to much of a character. This is not a fault of Morris as it’s something Dicks, Orman, and Blum have also had issues with writing Sam. There just doesn’t seem to be much forethought onto what Sam was supposed to be. Morris is wonderful at characterizing the Eighth Doctor however, as he feels like he just went through “The TV Movie”. The Doctor is a hopeless romantic, there to help the damsels in distress and always gives the villains a second chance, and is willing to let some of the Zygons live. Litefoot as a character is also well written, and while there isn’t any indication that Jago & Litefoot occurs, his appearance here could be inbetween Series 3 or 4, as Jago is in Brighton. He’s a nice addition even without his partner in investigating infernal instances, so there’s a bit missing here. The novel is an enjoyably traditional romp through Victorian London from a first time writer.