Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 3/9/19 2:26 am
4 out of 4 found this review helpful.
The BBC Books line of Doctor Who novels began with a definite attempt to separate themselves from the line of Virgin New Adventures and Virgin Missing Adventures before them. They began a line with the Eighth Doctor and when starting Seventh Doctor novels, only used the companion of Ace instead of picking up at the end of Lungbarrow. Yet, the fourth Past Doctor Adventure is the first novel to be a direct sequel to a Virgin Missing Adventure. The most interesting aspect of Business Unusual is that it follows up the hanging C19 plot threads of Who Killed Kennedy and The Scales of Injustice. The Pale Man is now referred to as the managing director and Business Unusual does not include the Silurian plot, but the elements are there for a sequel. The plot of Business Unusual also attempts to tie together one of the hanging threads from the television series: this is the story where Melanie Bush meets the Doctor and begins her travels meaning it’s the beginning of the end for the Sixth Doctor. Gary Russell writes the Doctor throughout the novel closer to the version of the character seen in Season 22. The Doctor is arrogant and quite put off throughout proceedings as he attempts to avoid the inevitable. He tries his hardest to make Mel put off by the idea of travel, wishing her to stay home in her town of Pease Pottage. Yet, by the end of the novel, he’s accepted the fact that she’s going to come with him and has become closer to the character Colin has played in recent years.
In characterizing Mel, Russell takes his time with her, starting her out with a deeper characterization than the optimist we got on the television series. Here she sees herself as needing to get away from an overbearing family, almost becoming cynical as a result, yet the novel ends with Mel reconciling with her family before going off with the Doctor. Of course they get off on the wrong foot, again the Doctor is characterized as his more arrogant persona and we get the fact that Mel is a vegetarian really coming into conflict with the Doctor. By the time the Doctor and Mel are having breakfast together, any kink in the characterization of the two is worked out by Russell. Staying with Mel is American Trey Korte, a transfer student who has awakened psychic powers due to proximity to either the Doctor or the TARDIS, both are hypothesized to be the reason, yet that remains unanswered. Trey honestly has a lot of potential as a possible companion to the Doctor, he has a good personality and gets along with Mel and the Doctor. There’s this really nice dynamic between the three and seeing a series of adventures would have been a treat.
Ciara and Ciellan, the Irish Twins from The Scales of Injustice also reappear here and Russell takes some time to delve into their backstories. They were young nurses in the 1960s who stole drugs from the pharmacy at the hospital they trained at for parties, were caught and essentially bought by the Pale Man. In giving them both dialogue throughout the novel, Russell gives both characters a decent character arc with a resolution to become better people, in spite of the Auton technology making them totally inhuman. The novel ends with them driving off into the sunset. The Stalker also returns as a threat to Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, investigating SeneNet on the orders of Sir John Sudbury. The Brigadier spends most of the novel in a cell as he is captured and only really gets to meet the Doctor in the final 50 pages or so. This allows Russell not to actually include an introduction between the two characters, while really getting inside the mind of the Brigadier. His deteriorating relationship and eventual divorce from Fiona is expanded upon here: he hasn’t seen his daughter Kate in years and has realized that he’s probably going to be a bachelor for the rest of his life (if he only knew). He remembers the names of every officer killed in the line of duty, and is aghast when someone with a full life ahead of him is sent to his rescue. He also has met several versions of the Doctor by now and they never actually appear in the right order. The book is as much his story as it is of the Doctor and Mel. Business Unusual is a book of many highs and maybe one or two lows, but is an incredibly enjoyable experience giving Mel a fitting introduction, and wrapping up some loose ends from the Virgin books.