Friday, December 28, 2012

Splendid Chap, All of Them (The Dying Days)

I’ll Explain Later

The Dying Days is the sixty-first and final Virgin New Adventure, and the only one to feature the Eighth Doctor. In it he teams up with Benny and the Brigadier and repels an Ice Warrior invasion in contemporary Britain. And may or may not get it on with Benny for good measure before leaving her to star in her own already covered novel line. Dave Owen says that Parkin makes writing Doctor Who “look deceptively easy,” and Lars Pearson calls it simply “sterling.” It is ranked as the fifth best New Adventure, which sounds very good, right between Lungbarrow and Original Sin, which doesn’t really. Its rating is 83.6%. DWRG Summary. Whoniverse Discontinuity Guide entry.

——
It’s April of 1997. The Chemical Brothers are at number one with “Block Rockin’ Beats.” That lasts a week before R. Kelly takes over with “I Believe I Can Fly,” which lasts all month. Don’t worry. We’ve got a closet all earmarked for him.  No Doubt, the Spice Girls, Depeche Mode, Blur, Suede, Orbital, Daft Punk, U2, and Robbie Williams also chart. 

In news, Turin Cathedral is damaged by fire. Virtually the entire village of Thalit is slaughtered by guerrillas in Algeria, one of three massacres in Algeria this month. Gene Roddenberry and Timothy Leary are buried together, or, perhaps more accurately, shot into space. Martin Bell declares that he’ll run to be the MP for Tatton (an election he’ll win). And we lead right into the general election, which, as we’re skipping May, we may as well spoil: Labour wins big.

In books, the much acclaimed but still rather puzzling The Dying Days. By most reasonable standards, Parkin bites off more than he can chew here. He’s simultaneously in the position of wrapping up the Virgin line, setting up the Benny line, responding to the TV Movie, functionally establishing a character for the Doctor, and on top of that gives himself the twin challenges of cramming in a huge number of intertextual references and of never having more than two Ice Warriors in a scene. Being as I feel like the blog could use a bit of whimsy after Wednesday, let’s start with this last and somewhat curious point.

The stated logic for only having two Ice Warriors in a scene is that it’s a rejoinder to Philip Segal’s claim that the reason the TV Movie didn’t have any monsters was that it would have been too expensive and they could only have afforded one costume. So Parkin set out to demonstrate that you could do an entire alien invasion with just two costumes. Several things about this are puzzling. First, of course, is Segal’s comment. Segal is, of course, a terribly unreliable source about the thinking behind the TV Movie, making bewildering claims like that you couldn’t imagine any other Doctor but McGann’s on a motorcycle, or, more bemusingly, claiming that the logo for the TV Movie didn’t evoke any previous era. This budget claim on monsters is probably similarly dismissible - some monster costumes surely could not have cost more than a shot involving a bunch of chickens running around a freeway at night, which was put in for no discernible reason whatsoever. 

More realistically, then, the reason the TV Movie didn’t do monsters is simply that Philip Segal didn’t want to. This made sense for the TV Movie, since monsters in the Doctor Who sense were, in fact, an odd fit for American television in 1996, and the TV Movie was trying to be as generic as possible. (The X-Files famously did monster-of-the-week stories, but “monster” never meant the same thing it does in the Doctor Who context.) So the quote Parkin is responding to had little to do with the motivations of those making the TV Movie in the first place. Even beyond that, the idea that the quote needed responding to is bizarre. After all, stretching the use of three monster costumes into an entire invasion of Earth is, in fact, the archetypal alien invasion plot for Doctor Who. Writing an alien invasion story where only two aliens appear at any given time in order to prove Segal wrong is like writing a Pertwee Missing Adventure where he rides a motorcycle to prove Segal wrong: you can certainly do it, but why not just put Day of the Daleks in your VCR instead?

But what is more interesting about Parkin’s little game is the fact that it exists in the first place. It is, after all, a terribly subtle point that almost nobody reading The Dying Days would have picked up on their own. It trades, in other words, on the fact that there exists a sizable network of Doctor Who fans in which Parkin is active and across which information like this can be spread. This is not a problem in any meaningful sense, but it does indicate that we’re dealing with a particular sort of thing here: Doctor Who in which the paratext of fandom is part and parcel of how it is supposed to be read.

Parkin is open about this in the comments on the BBCi version. Large swaths of the novel were written with the expectation that they’d be read in light of the fact that this was Virgin’s last Doctor Who novel and that anything could happen in the next 297 pages (RIP Gerry Anderson). Parkin delights throughout the novel in acting like he might just decide to do something really extreme that completely “spoils” Doctor Who with the knowledge that BBC Books is just going to retcon it next month anyway. In some ways reception of the book hinges on the reader being part of the insider crowd who had heard the rumors that Parkin was going to kill the Doctor outright, so that when they get to the moment in the book where the Doctor apparently dies they think the rumors might well have been confirmed. 

But this in turn shows the ways in which The Dying Days cannot quite be what it seems to want to be. It’s clearly a critique of the TV Movie that wants to show how it should have been done, right down to adopting artificial constraints to make it “filmable.” But there is a fundamental sleight of hand involved in this. The TV Movie, for all its failures, is still fundamentally about trying to launch Doctor Who. The Dying Days is about wrapping it up. The TV Movie is about trying to find a new audience, however fumblingly it does it. The Dying Days is unabashedly a love letter to an existing audience. They’re doing different things.

Certainly it’s true that The Dying Days does a far better job of the thing it’s doing than the TV Movie does of the thing it’s doing. Where the TV Movie flails about without anything like an idea what it’s doing, The Dying Days has a clear sense of purpose and is ruthless about getting the job done. The TV Movie has the basic frame of an emotional arc, but relies entirely on dramatic conventions to get each step to work. The result is fragmentary, particularly in light of Grace, who is inconsistent from scene to scene. Parkin, on the other hand, builds meticulously to his emotional climax of the Doctor’s triumphant return. 

But the nature of this build reveals the real difference. The Dying Days works because we have two very well-established characters, Benny and the Brigadier, responding to the new Doctor and to his apparent death. Because their natures are so well-established they become anchors whose reactions guide the reader through things. It’s not just that the TV Movie didn’t have any characters like this; it couldn’t possibly have. The TV Movie had to assume a new audience and thus couldn’t use an established POV character. It’s not just that the TV Movie was never going to use Benny. It’s perfectly possible, after all, to imagine a televised version of The Dying Days using Sarah Jane. The problem is that this couldn’t have worked. Not just because Fox was never going to approve more than one Brit in the movie, but because The Dying Days depends on our familiarity with its POV characters. 

In this case it’s worth flipping ahead for a moment and considering how Davies and Gardner solved this problem in 2005. So much of Rose is focused on establishing Rose Tyler as a character, making sure that we get a good sense of her so that we can use her as a lens into the Doctor. The TV Movie botches this by starting with McCoy, but further botches it by having Grace be so inconsistent and reactive a character such that the Doctor ends up being the POV character on his own story. The differing openings of the two are deeply revealing. The TV Movie starts with the Doctor, whereas Rose opens with a whirlwind tour of or POV character’s life, then introduces the Doctor to that. In this regard, at least, Rose is more like The Dying Days.

But this comparison is misleading. Rose may solve one of the fundamental problems of the TV Movie by giving it a POV character, but it matters what the character is supposed to be providing a POV on. Rose and the TV Movie are introducing a new character. But The Dying Days is about how the Doctor has changed. In this regard too Parkin cheats cleverly. Stuck with a lack of characterization from the TV Movie Parkin does what any decent fan writer does on a new Doctor and writes for Generic Doctor. This is more or less the same thing that happened when writers for Season Two hastily rewrote scripts intended for Eccleston’s Doctor for a new and yet-to-be-defined Doctor. 

It’s always a bit interesting to see what a given writer uses as their Generic Doctor. In this case, at least, Parkin ends up basically writing for Tom Baker, which, fair enough. Parkin, by his own admission, mostly conveys the sense of change in the Doctor through Benny, giving her lots of interior monologues about how he’s totally different but also the exact same man. But this again gets at the odd relationship between this book and the TV Movie. This isn’t really an Eighth Doctor book as such. It’s a “Next Doctor” book - a book that features the unspecified and undefined future of the show interacting with what was, in April of 1997, still in a meaningful sense its present. 

This does, however, turn out to set up the norm for the Eighth Doctor. In the absence of a lot of characterization on McGann’s part, what exists of the Eighth Doctor is largely reaction against the Seventh. Seven schemed, so Eight flies by the seat of his pants. Seven was detached from humanity, so Eight is romantic and, as Benny puts it, has “started to go in for hugging.” Parkin doesn’t completely nail the characterization that later Eighth Doctor novels will take, but he’s got the gist of it. 

There’s a problem here, though. The Eighth Doctor, in this book, is defined wholly in terms of the Seventh. It’s a problem very much like what Colin Baker faced in characterizing his Doctor. The only ideas John Nathan-Turner had for his second new Doctor were to do everything completely opposite to how he had done it with his first. So in every regard Colin Baker is just Peter Davison done backwards. And this is one of the major problems with the Baker era - it’s entirely negatively defined. It only really knows what it doesn’t want to be, not what it wants to be. A similar problem is already plaguing the Eighth Doctor, and it will only intensify: the only ideas in place for how to move forward are “don’t be like the Virgin era.”

Sure enough, the Eighth Doctor is a bit of an awkward fit for the Virgin era and its trappings. This is, to be fair, part of the point - a demonstration of what the series is leaving behind. That it looks more interesting than the future is inevitable. Parkin was, after all, writing without substantial knowledge of what that future would be. More than that, it’s deliberate. Parkin is writing the farewell to the Virgin line. If Virgin went out without making the reader miss them it would be, by any reasonable standard, a bit of an own goal. 

But the way in which Virgin is missed in the wake of this book is telling. Parkin delights at times in the adult tropes of the Virgin line, and even where he’s not gratuitously denuding Benny he’s writing a particularly Virginy book, so to speak. But what steadily becomes clear is that the Eighth Doctor is an awkward fit for this book, to the point that, when he leaves Benny for her own adventures at the end, it’s ever so slightly a relief that she can finally go enjoy herself without being sucked up into his adventures. Parkin’s final act for Benny, having her jump the Doctor’s bones, is delightful not just for its sheer cheek but because it highlights something very real, which is that the New Adventures have a wider palette of options in what they can do. It’s not that having Benny shag the Doctor is necessarily a good idea. The joke is that BBC Books would never in a million years try it. 

Which is a problem coming up. Because right now every idea about the future of the series appears negative. Don’t do things like the TV Movie, go lighter and more romantic than the Virgin era, and make it for kids again. After a decade in which Doctor Who consistently had a positive vision of what it should do it finds itself in the awkward position of not having anything but a list of things it shouldn’t do. The Doctor feels like a constraint on the Virgin books right now, and though, as we’ve seen, his absence proves a problem as well, the two lines are necessarily diverging at this point. And more to the point, Doctor Who looks less ambitious than Virgin at this point.

And so, although Parkin, cheekily, writes, “‘To a,’ Benny paused for a moment, and then smiled, ‘Doctor who might change, but won’t ever die’” the fact of the matter is that it’s visibly entering a rocky period right now. A bombed TV Movie, no clear direction, and a strong sense that nobody has a good idea what they’re doing. BBC Books has a big lift with their first book. Thankfully, they’ve got the most reliable writer imaginable for it: Terrance Dicks. What could possibly go wrong?

25 comments:

  1. "The only ideas John Nathan-Turner had for his second new Doctor were to do everything completely opposite to how he had done it with his first. So in every regard Colin Baker is just Peter Davison done backwards. And this is one of the major problems with the Baker era - it’s entirely negatively defined. It only really knows what it doesn’t want to be, not what it wants to be."

    To be fair to Colin, the same problem afflicted his predecessor during the Davison era and its neurotic backlash against the Tom Baker era. And for that matter Eccleston seemed to be defined in no more imaginitive terms than as the anti-McGann Dcotor.

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    1. Well, every Doctor is at least partially a reaction against the previous one. But it's difficult for me to describe Davison as a pure reaction against Baker. There's a clear sense, at least at first, of what the series wants to explore with this new Doctor - people are interested in seeing what they can do with Doctor Who now that the lead actor isn't hogging every inch of the screen. So yes, there's a "react against the previous" tone there, but it's not purely negative.

      The idea that Eccleston is simply the anti-McGann, on the other hand, I cannot even understand enough to formulate disagreement.

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    2. I don't like to see Eccleston as being anti-McGann so much as anti-TV Movie. He has a backstory, but he doesn't really want to get into it. He has no destiny, he's just seeing where the universe takes him. He is a character first, and the culmination of an elaborate canon second.

      One of the great joys of seeing the 2005 series, going in as a long term fan, was seeing how this character would react to different situations, not what these situations would reveal about his backstory. I think I recall reading in The Scripts or The Writer's Tale about how Davies deliberately ignored getting into Jack's missing years because that's not what his Doctor was about- and it's precisely the sort of thing, I feel, that the TV Movie (and, sadly at times, the Moffatt series) is about. At the end of the TV Movie we know that the Doctor is a Timelord, that he's from Gallifrey, that the Master is his mortal enemy (pure evil!), that there's some race called the Daleks, who exterminated him (or so we thought!) etc. but we haven't learnt anything about who he is. That's the triumph of the 2005 series, and its main point of convergence. Even lesser episodes (always controversial picking these- but to my mind The Unquiet Dead is the weakest link) still strive to reveal something new about the Doctor and Rose- not some vague reference to their family or some continuity wink, but something about them as characters.

      Got a little off track there...

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    3. Part of what I'm really interested in about this section of the blog is exploring just what the McGann Doctor actually is, in the sense of character. The best McGann could do given the terrible script of the TV-movie is portray a protagonist that's reasonably fun to watch in a Doctorish sort of way. But beyond that, he couldn't really infuse himself or any of his own priorities and capacities as an actor into the character, which is how, even in the Hartnell days, the Doctor worked out.

      But McGann's Doctor has all these artificial characterization elements that have to be overcome. The Victorian suit wasn't there because of anything specific about the Eighth Doctor as a character, but because the producers took a superficial reading of the Victorian adventurer element of the Doctor's heritage. His hair was a wig. McGann's attempt to reboot these elements of his Doctor's costume/appearance last year I don't think really took: it amounted to a press conference we all forgot about, and doesn't even seem to have been acknowledged on the cover images of his audios. His height is even more pivotal, being depicted and sometimes described with the bearing of a dashing and tall action hero, even though McGann in real life is 5'8. His character is so hazy because of these elements tacked on as superficial descriptors instead of developments of a consistent movement of the character.

      This tacked-on feeling is also what keeps me from understanding Tommy's and SK's complaints about the Davies and Moffat eras. Davies' interest in crafting working class characters and exploring the domestic effects of his characters falling out of the world with the Doctor I saw as a fascinating exploration of narrative territory the show had never conceived before. I don't understand how that equals a condescending philistinism. Similarly, I don't understand how having your four protagonists be two straight couples deeply in love is a morally appalling heteronormativity (though Moffat does have some very problematic lines sometimes, I'll save that discussion for when we get to The God Complex). These complaints, at least as far as I can understand, seem to be an equally superficial imposition on a more complex characterization as Philip Segal's Victorian wardrobe, clock-filled TARDIS, and Byronic wig.

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    4. "McGann's attempt to reboot these elements of his Doctor's costume/appearance last year I don't think really took: it amounted to a press conference we all forgot about, and doesn't even seem to have been acknowledged on the cover images of his audios."

      Sorry to be nitpicky, but have you missed Dark Eyes? The stuff set early (like the Mary Shelley trilogy) is still "Byronic", so they aren't contradicting previous cover art; but the post-To the Death stories are taking this on board.

      I do agree with it as part of your list of problems to be overcome, though; it's just they are finally getting there with this one!

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    5. I can see Eccleston as not anti-McGann specifically, but an anti-version of all the Doctors in the series up to that point; and since TVM's version of Eight was a mishmash of all the previous Doctors, I can see how that comparison might work.

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    6. I do hope Tommy jumps back in, at some point, to respond and clarify his points...

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    7. "Well, every Doctor is at least partially a reaction against the previous one. But it's difficult for me to describe Davison as a pure reaction against Baker. There's a clear sense, at least at first, of what the series wants to explore with this new Doctor - people are interested in seeing what they can do with Doctor Who now that the lead actor isn't hogging every inch of the screen. So yes, there's a "react against the previous" tone there, but it's not purely negative."

      But Peter Davison is on record as saying he wanted to bring more humour and character to the Doctor and was overruled, which explains what we saw on screen, the Fifth Doctor wasn't being 'developed differently', he was just being stunted and neutered. And whatever else we may think of the Sixth Doctor, he just about makes sense as an anti-hero in his own right, even if his era doesn't (by which I mean it's possible to isolate say the Pertwee or Tom Baker era from the rest of the show and the era would still stand alone well as its own TV series, but the 80's doesn't because it's so wrapped up in what came before).

      With Davison, apart from a few fits and starts of strong writing, the character itself doesn't make sense outside the context of being a contrast to Tom. The moments of seeming compulsive failure and impotence are what causes the character to make no sense as a protagonist, and certainly to make no sense as what's supposed to be a 900 year old adventurer who's survived all manner of dangers all his life.

      "The idea that Eccleston is simply the anti-McGann, on the other hand, I cannot even understand enough to formulate disagreement."

      I would have thought it fairly obvious. Reacting against a posh, gentlemanly, scholarly Doctor with a rough, volatile, thuggish one, and dispensing with the Victorian aspect by rewriting him as a Reality TV watcher and a Heat-reader who buys his clothes from Top Shop.

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    8. "Davies' interest in crafting working class characters and exploring the domestic effects of his characters falling out of the world with the Doctor I saw as a fascinating exploration of narrative territory the show had never conceived before. I don't understand how that equals a condescending philistinism."

      Each to their own, but personally I just found it loud and horribly overwrought, and far from being explored, it just seemed to degenerate into repetitive circular material that got quickly redundant and cumbersome, didn't really go anywhere, and if anything held the show back, and frankly didn't even seem sophisticated enough to bear actual exploration. As a result it was just as unpleasant as the Season 19 companion dynamic, but ended up lasting far longer than that.

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    9. I will, of course, save the intensity of this discussion in regards to its focus on Eccleston's character for the Davies era proper this Spring. But in a lot of ways, the problematic aspects of the McGann era were something to move away from. I think it's another iteration of the focus on superficiality that Phil identified in the Nathan-Turner era.

      McGann's was a Doctor created according to stereotypes and empty images, rather than actual character causality or a foundation in the peculiarities of the actor. Victoriana of a depth you'd find in a poorly-written history Cliff's Notes, which would say something like, for example, "Dickens was primarily concerned with social issues," and leave it there. The Victorian imagery was so associated with the character that one would have to move beyond it. (And I've done a proper amount of research now, to see that Big Finish is finally moving beyond it in the actual Eighth Doctor material.)

      It's weird, because apart from McGann, the Doctor never really dressed in a purely Victorian style before. He just came from that iconography. One would have to move beyond it, and I think Davies and Eccleston did in a literal as well as a deeper sense. I remember seeing an interview with Eccleston talking about his costume, and he said that the Doctor was an eccentric character not because of what he wears, but because of what he does, and he wanted a more ordinary costume to reflect that the actions matter more than the imagery. That's the best kind of rebuke to the Philip Segal approach, because it's not only opposite in the images, but a wholly different approach to the way his character worked.

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    10. Reacting against a posh, gentlemanly, scholarly Doctor with a rough, volatile, thuggish one

      Volatile, maybe, but rough and thuggish? I don't see it. Eccleston's Doctor is a very gentle, sensitive figure - just look at his sympathetic treatment of Nancy in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, for instance, or his devastation at Rose's apparent death in Bad Wolf.

      buys his clothes from Top Shop.

      That's a German U-Boat Captain's jacket. No, seriously.

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    11. "McGann's was a Doctor created according to stereotypes and empty images, rather than actual character causality or a foundation in the peculiarities of the actor. Victoriana of a depth you'd find in a poorly-written history Cliff's Notes, which would say something like, for example, "Dickens was primarily concerned with social issues," and leave it there."

      Well if it's a lack of depth that's the problem then that can be improved upon by adding a full-blooded, gritty and not so chocolate box dimension to the Victorian aspect of the character, as opposed to jettisoning it completely.

      "The Victorian imagery was so associated with the character that one would have to move beyond it."

      I really don't see why. That just reads as a very blanket declaration.

      "[(And I've done a proper amount of research now, to see that Big Finish is finally moving beyond it in the actual Eighth Doctor material.)"

      I don't think Big Finish were doing anything wrong with the character prior to Dark Eyes. I think he was working just fine as he was.

      Incidentally, I cannot determine the actual moment in Dark Eyes where the Doctor's physical make-over actually happens.

      "I remember seeing an interview with Eccleston talking about his costume, and he said that the Doctor was an eccentric character not because of what he wears, but because of what he does, and he wanted a more ordinary costume to reflect that the actions matter more than the imagery."

      I don't particularly place much merit on Eccleston's view on the character, given that he openly was never a fan of the old Doctors, and remains the only actor to play the part who honestly seems adamantly ashamed of that part of his career, and refuses to have anything to do with the show afterward.

      And the talk of going for an ordinary costume smacks of RTD propaganda tapping into fan shame at memories of the Sixth Doctor's coat. And I get the sense far more of fan shame at who the character was than pride at who he now is.

      "That's the best kind of rebuke to the Philip Segal approach, because it's not only opposite in the images, but a wholly different approach to the way his character worked."

      I just don't think the character even remotely gained more than he actually lost from the change.

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    12. "Volatile, maybe, but rough and thuggish? I don't see it. Eccleston's Doctor is a very gentle, sensitive figure - just look at his sympathetic treatment of Nancy in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, for instance, or his devastation at Rose's apparent death in Bad Wolf."

      I'd argue that the more Doctorish side to him seen in Empty Child was more down to Moffat's input than anything.

      And as for his reaction to the 'death' of Rose, well it's not like plenty of tough macho action heroes haven't been driven over the edge or broken down emotionally by the slaying of their significant other, as an action revenge trope.

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    13. "But in a lot of ways, the problematic aspects of the McGann era were something to move away from."

      And yet it's that very 'yeah okay let's pretend that didn't happen, la la la' aspect of the RTD years that show it up as being steeped in completely fannish instigation, and fannish attitudes. Trouble is RTD's fannish mindset seems to be particularly knee-jerk deflective, resulting in a show reimagined into one that seeming has no pride in or respect for itself.

      "I think it's another iteration of the focus on superficiality that Phil identified in the Nathan-Turner era."

      Ironically though I'd say the real problem with the JNT era was its fixation with arbitrary backlashing for backlash's sake. In which case the RTD era is the spiritual successor to the JNT era, not the remedy to it.

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    14. I'd say that New Who has loads of pride in and respect for itself - indeed, that its points of failure tend to be when it forgets to relax a bit.

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    15. "Reacting against a posh, gentlemanly, scholarly Doctor with a rough, volatile, thuggish one, and dispensing with the Victorian aspect by rewriting him as a Reality TV watcher and a Heat-reader who buys his clothes from Top Shop."

      Something of a false dichotomy here. I speak as one who should know, for I am a 5ft8in action hero.

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  2. Oh dear, I seem to be leaping in as a contrarian again, but I can't help interjecting; I read The Dying Days with little or no prior experience of the virgin line (I'd read one Pertwee Missing Adventure), and found it immensely engaging and readable. I was dimly aware that a lot of meta-textual stuff was filtering past me as I went, but it should not be imagined that this is a disengaging or isolating novel of all of its being so involved.
    And whilst the Doctor may have been written broadly generic, and with a strong flavour of Tom, no part of him jarred with what can loosely be called his prior characterization.

    Not that I dismiss any part of your fantastic essay, I've been looking forward to this one for a while, and it was great

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  3. I read this for the first time a few weeks ago and what struck me about the novel is how closely it adheres to the future formula of the new series. Strong focus on the companion who has a sexual interest in the Doctor, big adventure done in a small way (not a lot of special effects), modern day invasions which are explained away, and a few other bits and bobs I don't remember any more.

    Anyway, I thought it was a lot of fun. One of the issues I have with the New Adventures was the endless angst, whether it be the Doctor agonizing over his actions or Ace not trusting the Doctor or Benny not trusting the Doctor or Roz not fitting in or Chris deciding the whole happy adventurer thing wasn't working for him and opted for pining away for his partner before mourning her death. And it was a welcome relief to see everybody in a Doctor Who novel kicking back and having fun.

    Mind you, my early criticism of the Eighth Doctor Adventures (I'm about nine novels in) is that without being able to fall back on all that angst they're at a complete loss as to what to do with any of the characters.

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  4. Just to say, I bought the books over Christmas. I'm glad to see Wheel of Ice made it into the Troughton book.

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  5. So... did everyone like "The Snowmen"? The ending shocked me, in a good way (and, no, I don't mean the Clara bit)... :-)

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    1. Erm... I'm not sure how I feel about The Snowmen. The villains were very poorly used. The scene with Clara venturing up the staircase to the clouds and to the Tardis had a lovely magic to it, but then Moffat soured it by revealing it to be only done this way so Clara could fall to her death from it later- and the fact that she wouldn't have died if the Doctor hadn't been such an obtuse, uncaring cad throughout the story (and how stupid and petty was the 'one word' test?). And although I don't normally go along with the 'Moffat is sexist' crowd, I do find something rather troubling about the fact that Clara's death doesn't matter because the Doctor can always go find another one and that this companion is a *disposable* pretty face.

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    2. I don't know about "disposable"... I think the Doctor has just hit on a mystery he wants to solve, and he WANTS TO SOLVE IT; once he's got on that trail, you know, he's gone -- won't stop concentrating on it, because now he's got no one else in the TARDIS to protect from the knowledge that might result at the end of his search. The fact that there were two Oswins, identical, with the exact same dying words and interest in souffles... well, that's enough to send him on an impossible chase across the galaxy in search of more Oswins, and WHY there are more Oswins, don't you think? ;-)

      Also... I, personally, don't think the Doctor was petty or uncaring; he was just in a MAJOR funk. We don't know how long it lasted, but long enough for Vastra, Jenny, and Strax to be regularly updating him on incidents happening across town (as seen in the online prequel). If nothing else, he was far more remorseful than when he dumped Adam six seasons ago -- perhaps because he was more emotionally involved, but perhaps because, thankfully, we've got a better writer writing these things now.

      I liked that he had an arc for this episode; let's see where it goes, from here. :-)

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    3. The thought recently occurred to me that, from a very mercenary position, given the exact scope of the Doctor's funk, he might just be hoping to find himself a companion that he can get back even after he's lived through her death.

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  6. I remember reading both Eight Doctors & Vampire Science after Lungbarrow. In both cases I never got a real feel for the 8th Doctor, he felt generic. I then read The Dying Days and he felt for the first time like the 8th Doctor and not a generic model.

    I think Phil was right that having two established characters in Benny & the Brigadier is one of the main reasons for this. I mean I felt more excepting of the 8th Doctor after The Dying Days than those two other books or the TV Movie.

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