"THE STORY OF MARTHA"
NOVELLA TAKES PLACE
DIRECTLY BETWEEN THE
TV EPISODES "THE SOUND
OF DRUMS" AND "LAST
OF THE TIME LORDS."
ROBERT SHEARMAN &
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
For a year, while the
Master ruled over
Earth, Martha Jones
travelled the world
telling people stories
about the Doctor. She
told people of how
the Doctor has saved
them before, and how
he will save them
It tells of Martha’s
travels from her
arrival on Earth
as the Toclafane
to her return to
Britain to face the
Master. It tells how
she spread the word
and told people about
the Doctor. The story
of how she survived
that terrible year.
that. This is also
a collection of the
stories she tells –
adventures she had
with the Doctor that
we haven’t heard
about before. The
stories that inspired
and saved the world.
I’ve really been looking forward to this December’s batch of novels. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it is probably the most exciting batch released since 2005. Not only do we have three newcomers to the range (or eight, if you want to be a pedant), but also a book where the Doctor is travelling alone, and a book set in the year-long chasm between two episodes that aired almost eighteen months ago – a departure from previous release strategy, and arguably a risky move. After all, is the market really going to be interested in The Story of Martha when, particularly to younger readers, it all happened so long ago?
Whilst I can’t speak for the younger readers, as somebody who grew up with the Doctor Who novels of old, my answer is of course going to be a resounding ‘yes’. The Story of Martha is essentially a good old fashioned Missing Adventure in the time-honoured Virgin style, albeit with one major twist – it is, effectively, a concept anthology containing one novella and four short stories.
Dan Abnett has taken responsibility for telling The Story of Martha, which charts her journey between materialising on that hillside at the end of The Sound of Drums, and emerging on that beach to greet her future fiancé, Tom Milligan at the start of Last of the Time Lords a whole year later. Abnett captures Martha perfectly on the page, his story really emphasising what an extraordinary thing it is that she is doing.
However, with finite start and finishing points, there is little here in terms of fresh story – in fact, The Story of Martha feels more like a real life account of a sequence of events, rather than a traditional, regimented story. This is by no means a bad thing though – there is a bucket load of post-apocalyptic atmosphere to soak up, and it all comes across as being alarmingly real.
“She had known the Master would be angry. She had underestimated his venom…
He wasn’t going to be vindictive. He was going to be genocidal.”
The culmination of the novella is without a doubt its highlight. Trapped in a Japanese labour camp run by an autonomous alien race of ‘speculators’ called the Drast, Martha unwittingly sets in motion the chain of events that lead to the Master razing the Japanese islands. It’s truly harrowing stuff that really makes the events of Last of the Time Lords feel all the more meaningful.
Incidentally, I really like the Drast. The idea of a third party trying to take over the Earth at the same time as the Master is a fantastic idea, particularly when their methods of conquest are poles apart from the Master’s. Whereas the Master destroys, the Drast insidiously take over the economy. Now we all know who are to blame for the credit crunch - after all, the Master’s year of hell was undone, meaning that the Drast are still out there, poised to seize financial control. Now there’s a sequel waiting to be written!
I was disappointed with the short stories,
however. With the exception of Robert
Shearman’s deeply disquieting effort,
The Frozen Wastes, (a twisting tale
which tells of how the Doctor, Martha,
and Pierre Bruyère set out to conquer
the North Pole, only to end up stuck in a
time loop), the stories are not especially
noteworthy. Worse than that though, they do not feel relevant to the larger Story of Martha. Abnett’s story is laid out in such a way so that every so often, Martha will tell a story to some-
one about her adventures with the Doctor, at which point cue The Weeping or Breathing
Space, for example. But the stories don’t seem to accord with their respective positions in
the book, nor do they feel like they are coming from Martha – they aren’t even narrated in
the first person! As such The Story of Martha feels like a leisurely cut and paste job, rather than a carefully crafted narrative.
Overall though, The Story of Martha is well worth a read on the strength of Abnett’s titular novella alone, and in fairness I’m sure that each of the short stories housed here could be enjoyed in isolation, just as they might be if one were to pick up a Doctor Who Storybook or a Short Trips anthology. However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading this book through as it is presented, as I did, because the experience is altogether jarring.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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