Reviewed By: newt5996
Review Date: 3/14/19 8:36 pm
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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.