Monday, December 8, 2014

The Magrs Method of Reviewing Doctor Who Novels: "Doctor Who: Engines of War" by George Mann

I noticed Paul Magrs adopted a different line of questioning in his reviews of "Doctor Who" episodes, so I thought it would be fun to apply the same approach to reviewing a batch of recent tie-in novels:

Can the best "Doctor Who" stories be summed up in the form of a question?

Will the War Doctor be able to finally end "The Last Great Time War" after discovering the dirty secrets of both the Daleks and the Time Lords without destroying another planet caught in the crossfire?

Best moment for 'old-school' Who?

A LOT of Time Lord mythology, with callbacks to "The Five Doctors", "The Deadly Assasin", "Genesis of The Daleks", "The Invasion of Time", "The End of Time" and "The Day of The Doctor", though those last two aren't old-school, but you get the idea.

Best new thing?

The Possibility Engine - Rassilon's magic 8-Ball, only more horrific.

They'd Never Have Got Away With That In The 20th Century...

Ditto...the Possibility Engine would likely have been the smoking gun/ace in the hole Mary Whitehouse would need to get old-school Doctor Who taken off the air...imagine a Time Lord crucifix...also, you've got the Daleks planning to turn the War Doctor into a Dalek by encasing him in an iron maiden-esque chamber/Dalek casing..ouch!  

Hooray For Jackie Tyler - Best Guest Moment?

Every scene with Rassilon. If you've seen "The End of Time" and  "The  Day of The Doctor" before reading this novel (and you should), then you get to enjoy imagining the sight of actors John Hurt and  Timothy Dalton chewing the scenery as the mayfly Doctor and the Nintendo Power Glove-wielding Time Lord President, whether debating about the  right to turn the Doctor's mentor/father-figure Borusa into a horoscope-dispensing pinball machine or Rassilon casually tapping his gloved hand to thwart the War Doctor's attempt at beating up one of his sniveling  sycophants, the material casually crosses the line into high camp and says, "What line?", but it becomes the main draw of the book.

The "I love me Nan'" Moment?

Cinder..this character is clearly meant to  be an analogue for the pilot the Eighth Doctor failed to save in the minisode "Night of The Doctor", but once she's  established...she's along for the ride, and her relationship as The War Doctor's  companion is payed off with his dialogue more than anything she has to say. A lot more emotional impact is in the scenes featuring Borusa - the old-school  DW character from past Gallifrey tales who gets a sympathetic role as the truth behind Rassilon's resurrection and resurgence as Time Lord President is revealed.


The War Doctor is seen at the beginning of the book leading a fleet of 'Battle Tardises' against Dalek battleships - yet his Tardis has no weapons! He's  supposed to be the anti-hero Doctor! Couldn't he have had some weapons?


We learn what the 'Skaro degradations' in the Time War are - alternate mutations of the Daleks caused by repeated attempts by both sides to eliminate or recreate the origins of the Dalek species...and we get scenes depicting space battles between Time Lord Battle Tardises and Dalek warships...but I can't help thinking  George Mann missed out on something..I  recall Russell T. Davies once suggesting that the Last Great Time War involved more than space battles between CG spaceships - it was a war through time, happening backward and forward and in-between, akin to a Cold War that ended in a catastrophe..or like a large-scale  version of  "The Chase", where the Daleks are horsing around with the history of the universe to tip it in their favor, playing cat-and-mouse games with the Time Lords...and while there are hints of that...we're reading about CG Tardises shaped like BeatsPillXL players.

As for the War Doctor - he's in fine form, behaving more Docterly than anti-hero, save for moments of rebellion against his past decision-making processes, but ultimately, the point is that this Doctor was still The Doctor, and this is one of his finest hours - he thwarts the plans of Rassilon and the Daleks, saves a planet from being destroyed and helps his disgraced mentor/father-figure Borusa redeem himself. Plus, we get some scenes with the War Doctor using that neat sonic screwdriver he kept in an ammo belt in "The Day of The Doctor".

Where Was I?

Seeing as how this is likely to be the only novel set during the Last Great Time War, I was hoping it would be available in the States in hardcover, with a reversible  dust jacket that would feature an alternate cover illustration that resembled the book Clara peaked at in "Journey To The Center of The Tardis". There is a hardcover  version, but it's in the "paper-hard" hardcover style of past DW novels, and that variant is not available here, since Broadway Books, the current publisher in the States, is only offering them in paperback. Pity.

The Singlemost Fabulous Thing..

The War Doctor vs. Rassilon. Forget about the Daleks - they're kind of boring in this..the real villains in The Last Great Time War were the Time Lords leading the rotten core of Gallifrey, and that message is made abundantly clear..

No comments:

Post a Comment