Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 10/30/17 1:04 am
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Here we are. The end of the Seventh Doctor’s Virgin New Adventures and the finale before a quiet little epilogue. Marc Platt gives us his second New Adventure, based off the story that would change into the television serial Ghost Light. Secrets will be revealed, plot threads will be tied up, the Doctor will be tested, Chris will leave, and the Cartmel Master Plan will be fulfilled in its entirety. This is a review of Marc Platt’s magnum opus, Lungbarrow. This novel is already pretty controversial among Doctor Who fans for the explanations that it gives and the implications that are made about the Doctor and the Time Lords that have caused much in fighting among the fandom. To start this review off I’m stating right now that I agree wholeheartedly with Marc Platt’s portrayal of ancient Gallifrey, the curse of the Pythia, looms, and the implications of who the Other and the Doctor are.
Lungbarrow while famous for its implications, isn’t really famous for its plot. That’s actually quite sad considering the plot is one of the novel’s strongest aspects. The story starts where The Room with No Doors left off and like many stories, we don’t open with the TARDIS, but a prologue. This prologue opens with a pretty humorous previously on Doctor Who description of events leading up to the novel and then a serious prologue chronicling the fall of the Pythia and the Hand of Omega being almost attracted to the Other, as if he’s the true master of the device. We get a flashback to the idea of the Eighth Man Bound and the Doctor as a pupil disobeying a teacher. The book then establishes that Dorothee, nee Ace, is captured by a time storm and brought to Gallifrey after a date with pointillist painter Georges Seurat. Romana is the Lord President of Gallifrey, and Leela who is still happily married to Andred is searching with K9 into the missing House of Lungbarrow. These plotlines that start here are actually subplots which all feed into the main plot of the story when the TARDIS is dragged off course and lands in an enormous surreal Victorian manor, where the furniture is enormous and a murder has taken place, but the word murder has been outlawed. Quences, the head of the House, and Arkhew have been killed apparently by the Doctor. Yes this is a novel that takes the form of an old fashioned murder mystery which actually allows the story to breathe and explore the characters who are mostly the Doctor’s family. Now as this is a story dominated by character’s that’s really the only way I can tackle reviewing this one.
Starting with previously established characters we have K9 who makes a reappearance as both Mark I and Mark II. They don’t get much in the way of scenes in the novel, but the ones that they do receive Platt injects some light relief from the drama and dark, creepy atmosphere of the rest of the novel. Leela actually gets to go out on her own as she researches Lungbarrow for the first half of the novel which is rather apt as we get to see more of what she actually sees in Andred. Apparently there really was a relationship going on off-screen in The Invasion of Time. She’s still the noble savage and actually has more wit and survival instincts when it comes to the people of Gallifrey. The second half of the novel has her teaming up with Romana and Ace who all have their roles to play in the subplot involving discovering what exactly happened over 650 years previous with the House of Lungbarrow and why nobody can remember that that’s where the Doctor came from. Ace gets herself in the story which allows Platt to go introspective on how Ace has developed over the course of the Virgin New Adventures. A doppelganger of Ace is created as a reflection of the character before any of the manipulation from Season 26 happened. We get to see just how she has changed and how she views herself, and to be honest she doesn’t like who she sees today, but would never go back to the person seen before she met the Doctor. Leela also makes some interesting comments on Ace in the second half of the novel which sees her as a warrior and they’re different perspectives on what the Doctor is to them is interesting. Leela would have asked into the mystery but she was smart enough when travelling with him to know that it is better to keep her nose down and travel while Ace wanted the answers that never came. Romana is intentionally bringing them together as a way to save the Doctor and to regain control of a rebelling Celestial Intervention Agency. The novel shows that Romana as the Lord President is just as crafty as the Seventh Doctor. She’s breaking through glass ceilings by being more open of establishing relationships outside of Gallifrey which has caused the CIA to have their little revolt.
The main murder mystery takes place with the denizens of the House of Lungbarrow who are all suspects in the murder of Quences and Arkhew. Quences was the head Cousin for the House of Lungbarrow in his day, and he only really appears in a few scenes for the novel which allows Platt to work on indirect characterization. What we know is that as a leader he took his time when making decisions, and actually would listen to the Doctor who was ostracized because he was Loomed with a bellybutton, which only appears on people born of natural birth. It makes it all the more weird when the prime suspect is the murder case as the Doctor had respect for Quences. Arkhew is also a character for exposition, but for the introduction of the ideas of Lungbarrow and how it works to Chris. Chris has to play the detective in this novel and Arkhew, while also being reasonable, has to keep him up to speed and what it allows Chris to do is also great for the novel’s progress. The rest of the house is on a spectrum of being against the Doctor in some way or another, with the first of these being Innocent. Innocent is the closest thing the Doctor has to a friend. She still was awful to him as a child, calling him snail because that’s what his bellybutton looked like, but she’s willing to give the Doctor a fair trial. This is because the rest of the House has gone just a bit insane after the Doctor fled from them and she knows if she doesn’t give the Doctor protection under Housepitality, he will be killed and things will get a lot worse for them. Next is the Housekeeper Satthralope, who didn’t want to face the reality that Quences was killed by someone and convinced the House itself, not its members but the architectural structure has been convinced that Quences is dead. Sattralope reminds me of Maggie Smith in her harshness for the rules. She doesn’t know how to deal with anything that’s going on and is just a fun character. Owis is the comic relief character who was Loomed to replace the Doctor illegally and the House seems to have made him this lovable idiot. He feels like the dumber part of a Robert Holmes double act a la The Ribos Operation or The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Glospin is the other part of that double act and he is terrifying. He’s pretty much the First Doctor if he was totally and completely evil. Now I just love the character and a lot of the things that he does makes you just want him dead because of what he does to everyone in the House.
To summarize, Lungbarrow is a novel that hits all the right notes to have all the weird concepts present to make it a success. The Time Lord characters all feel alien, Badger, whom is the android on the cover of the novel, is an excellent mentor for the Doctor, the surreal imagery from Platt is great to put this world together. There are scenes that take us in an action movie like direction while others go to a horror or thriller direction for the story and sees the end for the New Adventures leaving The Dying Days as an epilogue with the Eighth Man Bound. 100/100