THIS STORY TAKES
AFTER THE TV STORY
"PLANET OF THE DALEKS"
AND PRIOR TO THE
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN MAY 1998.
races are exploiting
ITS population seemS
INDIFFERENT TO ITS FATE.
The Doctor and Jo
soon become INVOLVED
in a plan to keep
peace between THE
VARIOUS parties, BUT
THE DOCTOR risks
unleashing a force
than the galaxy has
known for aeons...
Until “The Eight Doctors” was released, I do not think I ever had a bad word to say about Terrance Dicks’ inexhaustible contribution to Doctor Who. And even when passing judgement on his last much maligned offering I had to concede that, for all its sins, “The
Eight Doctors” was a nostalgic celebration of the legacy of the series, written very much in the spirit of the old Target novelisations with which Dicks’ name will forever be synonymous.
Now “Catastrophea”, on the other hand, is an utterly delightful book in almost every respect.
It will no doubt come as a surprise to many – it certainly did to me, when I realised – that this novel is the first original third Doctor story that Dicks’ has ever put his name to. Fair dues, he did edit every script that Jon Pertwee ever performed for the series, which of course goes some way to explaining why “Catastrophea” positively reeks of his era. In fact, I think it is fair to say that “Catastrophea” is the closest that any author has ever got to capturing the distinctive feel of the Pertwee era on the page – no small feat, particularly when one considers that this story has the third Doctor embroiled in an off world struggle, far from the bosom of his UNIT family.
The author’s characterisation of the Doctor and Jo, for example, is outstanding. His third Doctor is absolutely nailed on, and Katy Manning’s Jo Grant is captured every bit as vibrantly. If a third Doctor television serial had a recipe of both daft and heroic things that Jo had to do in every story, then “Catastrophea” certainly ticks every box. And the supporting characters are not bad either – nothing amazing, mind, but compelling enough to hold the reader’s interest over two hundred and fifty pages or so. Charteris and his military friend Walton stand out especially, as does the young insurgent, Alanna.
The People are really interesting too, and I actually found them quite unsettling. Easter Island heads on submissive humanoid bodies, prone to going bezerk without any warning – need I say more? The Draconians are also well drawn, and their warmongering tactics really fascinated me - talk about underhanded! Their presence on the book’s front cover is perhaps a little misleading though, as their role in the proceedings is peripheral at best.
The story itself is a fun, lightweight romp with a riveting little Doctor Who mystery at its core, and it really races along at one hell of a lick. Even when the author has to cram in some exposition, the chapters housing it are so short that nothing appears to slow down!
However, Dicks is guilty of using the old capture-escape-capture plot device a little too often here, and he also shoehorns in a few rather brutal sexual references that feel so out of place that it is ridiculous. The drugs aspect of the book is admittedly far less jarring, but I would imagine that it will still give most readers pause. Do not get me wrong though - I am certainly not saying that sex and drugs do not have a place in a modern Doctor Who novel… just that they do not have a place in a über-traditional tale like this one.
In all though, “Catastrophea” marks a triumphant return to grace for Doctor Who’s elder statesman. He has cruelly teased those of us that like nothing better than to pick apart a good story by calling his book Catastrophe with an ‘a’ on the end, yet making it anything
but, though if I am honest that is one cheap shop that I am happy not to have to doll out.
Welcome back, Terrance!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
According to this novel’s blurb, this story takes place between the television stories Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death. Within this gap we have placed it straight after Planet of the Daleks as the book’s opening scene appears to follow on from that story directly.
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