Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Magrs Method of Reviewing Doctor Who Novels: "Doctor Who: Silhouette" by Justin Richards

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

"Can the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, with help from the Paternoster Gang, solve the puzzling locked-room murders in London committed by...angry paper birds?"

Best moment for old-school Who?

All of the stories featuring Vastra, Jenny & Strax are going to have echoes of "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". And of course, this book, the first 12th Doctor novel, is the one that is deliberately meant to feel like a follow-up/nod to the first 12th Doctor adventure, "Deep Breath".

There are also nods to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Poison Belt", Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and  maybe a tip of the hat to Hitchcock's "The Birds".

Best new thing?

The origami paper "angry birds". One paper cut is a minor inconvenience, but can you imagine a flock of paper cranes intentionally slicing away at your skin relentlessly with their wings? It's a stirring surreal visual that could work on the TV show, so...only on Who could a paper bird become a Doctor Who monster, but then again, the most popular episode of the current season ( "Flatline") featured an alien invasion lead by 2-dimensional "flat" creatures.

If this book were an old Target novelization, it  would've been titled Doctor Who and The Angry Birds.

They'd never have got away with that in the 20th Century...

I could argue for those angry origami birds, but there was the Chronivore in "The Time Monster"...this is actually an adventure that they could get away with making in the past, though they would probably replace the flock of cranes with one large crane, played by a production assistant wearing sheets of white cardboard.

Hooray for Jackie Tyler! - best guest moment?

In an elaborate ruse, seven of the Doctor's past incarnations appear in brief cameos during one sequence past the halfway mark, in an attempt to lure the Twelfth Doctor into a trap, but he coolly rebuffs them all. Justin Richards shows off his ear for dialogue, as each incarnation is easy to identify without resorting to naming names, which is impossible, since the Doctor and his companions always reffered to the Doctor as The Doctor and the numbering of each was for our own reference.

The " I love me Nan' " moment?

That would be when Silhouette (the title character), Affinity and Empath reform. The three characters are the underlings of the Master-like villain, intergalactic industrialist (that's the Doctor Who equivalent of upgrading an "evil millionaire tycoon" into an "evil billionaire tycoon") Orestes Milton, who plans to detonate a poison cloud on England that will filter out all emotions except anger, creating chaos. Once Justin establishes that Orestes hitmen are controlled by gemstones upon their person...well, all of this stuff was pretty predictable, really. If you've watched the series often, you've seen the Doctor take on the main villain by enabling their toadies to get their revenge for being put-upon once too often..or maybe there haven't been too many stories like that, but it  sounds very familiar.


Milton is a fugitive wanted by The Shadow Proclamation, the Whoniverse's vaguely-defined equivalent of the Green Lantern Corps - only their enforcers are talking alien rhinoceroses. He believes he can earn leniency for his crimes by offering his research on even nastier things he's been researching. Milton's not just insane, he's a bit stupid, but the plot implies that Richards would love it if Steven Moffat revisited the Shadow Proclamation, only to show them as being horribly corrupt...maybe his copy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is stuck in his Blu Ray player.


Milton learns the Doctor is a Time Lord by taking analyzing the teacup the Doctor drank from...usually people find that out by taking x-rays of The Doctor, so this was a change of pace.

Where was I?!

The book is ok. Even if I hadn't learned that the book was written at an early stage where the only reference Richards had were a handful of scripts and paparazzi photos taken on the set, it was a good guess as to what The Twelfth Doctor's adventures are like, just lacking the spontaneity Capaldi brought, or the new depths Jenna Coleman brought to Clara, whose character was fleshed out  considerably (the Clara Oswald that appeared alongside Matt Smith's Doctor Who now looks like a random groupie he pulled out from a crowd of autograph hounds compared to who she is now). And the Milton character is clearly playing off early rumors that the Master was going to return (and yes, she did). :)

So, yeah...angry paper birds, easter egg cameos...comfort food while waiting for new episodes of the show to debut. It does the job.

Singlemost fabulous thing?

Twelve alludes to meeting King Arthur...allusions to the Arthur Legend are often attributed to the Seventh Doctor claiming he was Merlin, but can you imagine the Twelfth Doctor visiting his younger incarnation while he's mentoring the once and future king? A spoon-playing jam session will break out on the round table!

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