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A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.pig@live.co.uk. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

Now when most people think of Doctor Who they think exclusively of its history on television but Doctor Who also has a long history in various forms of ‘Spin-Off Media’. Of the three main strands that make up the main crux of this Spin-Off Media, Audio’s, Comics and Novels, the novels are undoubtedly my favourite. Doctor Who has indeed had a long relationship with prose, Target novelised the majority of the series during its original run and even then there was the odd original piece of original fiction that cropped up now and then. It wasn’t until 1991 however with the Virgin New Adventures that original Doctor Who Fiction really found its feet, this series and its follow ups (The Virgin Missing Adventures, the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures and the Past Doctor Adventures) we’re different to the TV novelizations in that they we’re written specifically with an adult audience in mind. This meant that unlike the TV show their plots could revolve around darker themes, could contain a great deal more violence and in some cases they even expanded the sex-lives of The Doctor and his Companions. Indeed this is why I enjoy them, their Doctor Who with the breaks off so to speak. For example, a personal favourite of mine ‘Shadow in the Glass’ written by Justin Richards and Stephen Cole is a brilliant novel that concerns the Sixth Doctor meeting Adolf Hitler. Unlike the TV story ‘Lets Kill Hitler’, this story is dark and gritty and the Furher is presented as a monster, not played for laughs. The novels did things the TV series never good, they took Doctor Who to dark places that the TV show simply could not and I adore them for that. Some we’re too much, appearing to be Horror Novels or Hardcore Science fiction novels with the Doctor and his crew slotted in, others didn’t do it enough, appearing as simplistic children’s novels. Some however got it just right adding much needed character and darker themes, creating Doctor Who stories for adults only. Then in 2005 with the TV series returning the Classic Series Novels were discontinued and replaced by a series of books based on the BBC-Wales series and written with a teen audience in mind. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t the same. However last year saw the return of Classic- Series based original fiction with ‘The Wheel of Ice’ by Stephen Baxter. This was part of a new series of novels written by already established authors but for reasons unknown it sort of passed over my head. Then however in June this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary, ‘The Harvest of Time’ was released, featuring my all time favourite Doctor Jon Pertwee and my all time favourite Master, Roger Delgado. To say I was overjoyed was an understatement.


Now one of the things that people have complained about is that some Doctor Who books, having been written by already established Science Fiction authors, more often than not lacked the feel of a Doctor Who story. I must confess this troubled me; I had nightmare visions of the Third Doctor offering people Jelly-Babies before readying his laser blaster. On June the 20th though I was fortunate enough to meet the author Alastair Reynolds when he promoted The Harvest of Time at my local Bookshop. I was really impressed with not only his love for the series and indeed this era of it but for the previous Doctor Who Novels that I mentioned above. Now I had a new fear though, what if this love came across too much, what if it appeared nothing more than a planned imitation of the TV Series and lacked the strong character development that made the previous novels so engaging? That I doubted an author of Mr Reynolds obvious talent is something I am ashamed of. Not only does he manage to capture the Pertwee-era regulars seamlessly (better than most I might add) but he also manages to make it feel like a story from the 70’s whilst also exploring new themes and ideas! But these books are written for all ages, would it have the same appeal as the previous novels? Ok so the book isn’t exactly dark but it looks at aspects of the Doctor, and particularly his relationship with the Master, that have never been touched upon before! The pace never lets up the plot really is accessible to all ages, being explained simplistically enough for a younger readership but containing several high-brow science fiction themes that make it appeal to an adult readership.

Upon meeting Mr Reynolds, one thing that really shone through was his love for the character of the Master and writing for him and indeed this love is extremely evident in the novel. The plot concerns the Doctor and the Master being forced to work together, something that is hardly new for Doctor who fans, but Reynolds explores the relationship between the two in ways that previous authors have overlooked. Reynolds scenes with Roger Delgado’s Master are the standouts of the book, capturing this version of the character perfectly. What I appreciated most though was how, whilst taking Delgado’s Master, he gives him an almost Hannibal Lecter quality, Psycho-analysing him in a way that makes him much more than a typical ‘Comic-Book Villain’. True in places he can appear almost TOO psychotic but these moments are brief and if one had any doubts of Reynolds love for the character then they only have to look at the first few pages and read ‘To all The Masters- Past, Present and Future’. There’s a brilliant scene towards the end of the book where the Master has a chance to change forever and appears to genuinely want to, begging the Doctor to help him but the Doctor refuses, believing it to be a trick. Reynolds states that it could indeed have been nothing more than a trick but he also leaves it open so that the reader can (if they choose) believe that the Master was telling the truth and that in refusing to help him the Doctor has caused him to become the Monster that he was before once again. It’s a superb little moment and adds more to the idea of whether the Master has any good left in him and whether the Doctor is right to be making these sorts of decisions. Like The Master, Reynolds version of the Third Doctor captures Jon Pertwee’s performance down to a tee, even putting in little moments like him picking bits of fluff off his Velvet Jacket. One thing I particularly enjoyed though was how Reynolds looked at The Third Doctor’s boredom with earth, at one point he is tempted by the opportunity to leave it to its fate and fly away, but manages to convince himself not too.

I read online several complaints that the first half of the novel is a little to derivative of the Third Doctor story, ‘The Sea Devils’. To a certain extent I can sympathise with this view, there’s a lot of scenes on a Oil Rig, there’s The Master in a Prison, there’s an Oil Rig worker driven mad by something he saw etc etc. Within the first few chapters though the book really becomes its own and Reynolds uses one of my favourite clichés in Doctor Who fiction by taking The Doctor to a different point in Space and Time to the rest of the cast in the latter half. His fictional world of Praxillion is beautifully described and I love how Reynolds manages to make the place have an almost fantasy feel, as the Guardian puts it ‘Injecting a good old fashioned sense of wonder’ into the book. I particularly like the idea of a world that has been born towards the end of time when Time Travel is no longer possible; he somehow seems to make the idea of Time Travel in Doctor Who wonderful again.

All in all I don’t really know what else I can say to recommend this book, it’s easily one of the best Doctor Who novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan at all of the Third Doctor or The Master then you really should try and find the time to give this book a read. I really hope we get a few more Classic Series Novels like this, it’s certainly made me want to go and have a look at The Wheel of Ice to see if that’s as incredible a read as this.

2 comments:

  1. Hello Callum
    The idea of 'spin-offs', of parallel lives and development of characters, is an interesting one. I guess the 'multimedia' project I'm most familiar with is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which you no doubt know began as a radio series before diverging into TV, novel, computer game and film forms. The differences between the various strands, as well as the common elements, such as Simon Jones' mostly ubiquitous (Martin Freeman notwithstanding) presence as Arthur Dent have much to do with my attitudes towards the different versions, with the TV series realisation of Douglas Adams' vision being my favourite, even if it was filmed in the (in)famous BBC 'quarry in Dorset'!

    Best wishes
    Sammy B

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    1. Hi Sammy
      I must confess that I have only ever actually read the books of Hitchikers Guide but a very long time ago, something I really should check out again

      Glad you enjoyed the post :-)
      Callum

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