THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BEINGS" AND THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN MAY 2002.
A chain of events has
been set in motion
that will change the
Doctor and Peri
forever. A chain that
involves old enemies
as well as old
be the leader of a
gang of rebel fighters
on an outlying
planet? Who is the
that they are
rebelling against so
does the so-called
'Supremo', leader of
the Alliance forces
ranged against the
General, come from,
and why is he so
interested in Peri?
origins of a conflict
that will affect the
whole cosmos - a
conflict that will
Draconians and even
together for the
greater good and
glory. For the
will test both the
Doctor and Peri to
the limit, and bring
them face to face
with the dark sides
of their own
“Warmonger” is perhaps the most contentious book that Terrance Dicks has ever written, and that is saying a lot given that he has about a hundred to his name. In fact, I do not think that I have seen many people this incensed since John Peel’s Dalek continuity bomb “War
of the Daleks” saw release. So why all the hullabaloo?
Well for starters, “Warmonger” seems to have little or no regard for the continuity of the television series. Whereas “War of the Daleks” was lambasted for trying to revise certain events shown in the television series, “Warmonger” simply ignores just about everything that came after “Planet of Fire”. Not only does Dicks have Peri mingling with Cybermen and Sontarans long before she would ever meet them on television (begging the obvious question regarding why she does not later recognise them) but he also turns her into a grizzled guerrilla very much in the ‘New Ace’ mould; hardly in keeping with her future character development, to say the least.
And the Doctor fares equally bizarrely. Cajoled by the Time Lords (Time Lords from his own relative past, note, that are still on the look out for his roving second incarnation) into leading an army against Morbius and his marauding Gaztaks, over the course of the novel the shorn-headed fifth Doctor turns from his feckless old celery-wearing self into a full-blown war lord – and, worse still, he likes it. Even at a first glance this is absurd, as the fourth Doctor knew
the history of the Morbius war, yet his fifth self here is apparently (and most conveniently) ignorant of the same. Either that or he is really pushing the Laws of Time to breaking, seventh Doctor-style.
Now whilst I concede that these points could be gotten around with a little bit of imagination, such errors really do smack of profound apathy on the author’s part and do not do him any favours when seeking his reader’s indulgence with regard to the novel’s more deep-seated flaws, which we shall look at next.
“A Draconian and a Sontaran in the same army…
Guarded by Ogron sentries. Extraordinary!”
As you may gather from the above quotation, the army led by the Doctor is made up of a rather abnormal amalgam of races. But at first, I bought it. Draconians are noble creatures who would doubtless stand up and fight against tyranny, and Sontarans are bred for war and certainly would not take any shit from Morbius. Even so, it is a stretch to believe that Sontarans would ally themselves with the Doctor and his followers, but I could swallow it all the same for the sake of a good story. But Dicks takes it too far. When the Cyberleader – and he is an emotional and expressive, not to mention oddly congenial Cyberleader –
shows up asking to join the fight against Morbius, my suspension of disbelief could be pushed no further. In a dark moment I even thought that the Daleks were going to join the fight, but thankfully that part of the book is just, literally, a nightmare.
"We've saved hundreds, thousands of people from rape and torture and slavery.
We wouldn't have achieved that by telling Morbius's soldiers that
they were being very nasty and would they please go away."
But for me the above criticisms pale in comparison to my main one, which is that the regulars are portrayed so utterly fallaciously. The Doctor as ‘Supremo’ of a galactic fighting force, loving every second of it? And even before the war, the Doctor strutting around threatening to kill people who upset him and everyone – Peri included – believing that he means it? As if! He never would. And what stings the most is that, with just a little bit of consideration and a slight shift of emphasis, “Warmonger” could have been the most enthralling examination of the Doctor’s character to date.
Even Peri’s pulchritudinous virtues are exploited further than I found comfortable (and that really says a lot). Much to the indignation of many readers, it seems that Peri is enamoured with the Doctor; she even makes a pass at him when she is pissed (when she is not strapped naked to Solon’s operating table or being ravished by the ‘enigmatic’ Rombusi, that is). Yes, Dicks is at it again - “Warmonger” is laden with even more references to rape and pillage than his last few novels, and Peri is usually the character on the receiving end.
But, to my everlasting shame, it is only fair to state that, in spite of its many manifold flaws, this awesome space opera held me riveted throughout like a kid with a Target book (albeit an distressingly perverse one). Despite all of my whinging and the flood of evidence to the contrary, “Warmonger” is absolutely unputdownable; a real page-turner. I know, I know; I
must be mad, but there you go.
For one thing, the structure of the narrative is unusual and highly effective, a real surprise from the ever-traditional Dicks. For once we are not lead from A to B to C, but from B to A to C, not to mention all over the place in between.
More importantly though, no matter how carelessly it is executed, the idea behind “Warmonger” is both ambitious and staggering. “The Brain of Morbius” has always been a fan favourite, and to attempt a prequel of sorts is both a bold and an intriguing idea, especially when you are using a later Doctor encountering the main protagonists out of sequence. Having the Doctor cross his own timestream and interact with a young Solon is truly the stuff of fanwank, and once the Time Lord element and the Morbius campaign are factored in to boot, you really have all the ingredients for a classic. In the hands of another author, this one could really have been sublime, but even as it is, “Warmonger” is well worth a couple of hours of your life. I suspect that even those that truly despised it will have taken great delight in picking apart each page.
And so in all, I have to begrudgingly recommend “Warmonger” as, for all its flaws, it is one hell of a read, and some might say that is all that matters. I read somewhere that this book should be regarded as “a guilty pleasure”, and that is exactly what it is. A guilty, wicked, disgraceful pleasure – one that Dicks would have been best advised to pen using some bland pseudonym!
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.
This novel’s blurb offers no clues as to its placement, although given the Doctor and companion used it must take place between the television serials Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani. As at the beginning of the book Peri appears to be recovering from some ordeal, yet the Doctor seems nonchalant, it seems to fall best between the novel Superior Beings and the audio drama Exotron (i.e. before Peri becomes too seasoned a TARDIS traveller).
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