Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Tragedy Day by Gareth Roberts

Plot: The planet Olleril and the inhabitants are preparing for Tragedy Day, the one day of the year they can gather in their masses and support the underclasses. Under the sea, hidden in a submarine, plans are stirring. This promises to be the most dramatic Tragedy Day ever and nobody will ever be the same again…

Master Manipulator: Not too shabby actually, Gareth Roberts seems to see the seventh Doctor as I see him. Slightly naughty, energetic and intelligent with pity for his enemies, outfoxing them while making them think they have beaten him. The Doctor has a new spring in his step after his recent adventures, he has cheered up and is content. Brilliantly, the Doctor bursts into a room singing and Bernice almost attacks him think it is a madman! He is distractingly reminiscent in this story. You’ve got to love the scene where he would rather risk death than allow a hedge to go untrimmed; it is rather reminiscent of the eccentric Doctor of old. He orders a cheese sandwich, just to inconvenience his captors. He rages at Crispin (“You’re insane.”) and is horrified by the Slaags (“Monstrous”). The Doctor asks Bernice if she enjoys their adventures she asks if he does to which he replies: “Yes, it’s exciting.” His reaction to Crispin’s lack of shame at the horror he has caused: “I care about the damage you’ve done! I said it would all end in tears!” His anger and pity (“He was only a child. He could have done so much good”) has been sorely missed.

Boozy Babe: Bernice and Ace now realise how much they need each others trust, support and friendship. Bernice associates exciting and frightening feelings with the Doctor. She has always felt comfortable in cities and areas with reassuringly human activities. She has star quality. Bernice is so appalled by the state of things she feels inclined to write bad poetry for the first time since her teens.

Oh Wicked: Ace’s sudden acceptance of the Doctor and Bernice is as jarring as her sudden hatred of them in Deceit, but at least it is for the better this time. For some reason Ace feels responsible for all the suffering in the universe which makes her angry but now she has learnt to control that with logic and planning. About damn time. She realises in this book that she is a weaponry bore. Her mum is a hairdresser. She has an interesting discussion about making tough choices on page 138/139 where she discusses wanting to kill the Doctor and not being able to. In Meredith Ace sees a mirror image of herself, viscous, armed and lethal and she doesn’t like what she sees.

Twists: The prologue is intriguing; it feels as though we have started a first Doctor missing Adventure. Roberts creates a depressing dystopian world of gang warfare, brutal police, racism, segregation, territorial disputes and politics. Page 88-91 take a quick diversion from the main plot to visit Lorrayn and how she feels powerful for the first time picking up a weapon and murdering her idol. Yumm’s bar is burnt to the ground just because the police don’t like it. The scenes from the celebroid Doctor are great. The revelation that Crispin the boy genius is the Supreme One is genuinely surprising and well hidden. When the submarine crashes and the Slaags are releases the book really picks up steam… The curse of the red glass is revealed as the curse of fear and guilt.
Funny Bits: The Doctor wears offensively awful clothes…glad somebody finally noticed!
“Release the Slaags!” – was I the only one who thought about the high street on a Saturday night?
“Yes I’ve seen some of your television. This is where you shovel it from, I take it?” – the Doctor on scathing form.
The Doctor gives an aniseed ball to Crispin to try and cheer him up but he bursts into tears!
The biting satire on Children in Need is marvellous: ‘By 8.30, ninety nine percent of the Central city’s accumulated guilt had been exorcised. Nought point oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh percent of the Central city’s wealth had been redistributed. The companies sponsoring the various events had received free advertising to the value of thirty-five million credots.
Ernie the Spider is secretly terrified of humans, the way they scuttle about beneath him.

Embarrassing Bits: The cover is, for once, entirely appropriate but still utterly hideous.
Howard Devor is an unsubtle piss take of Tom Baker during the latter half of his reign.
Anti matter charged dance floors? Come on, nobody is that stupid.
Crispin’s plan to blast the whole population with character traits from Martha and Arthur as he believes they are the ultimate examples to live our lives by is both unconvincing and absurd. Pacifying the planet huh, just like No Future.
The planet Argos, where the Doctor had to deal with a ‘catalogue’ of problems. Oh geez.
There is a subplot about the celebroids that comes from nowhere and disappears into nowhere. I wouldn’t have bothered.

Result: No where near the standard of The Highest Science. The biggest problem with Tragedy Day is it spends far too long setting the scene instead of moving along the (thin) plot. What’s more for a satire it just isn’t harsh enough on the guilt-ridden, charity-driven members of the public it is attempting to parody. The narrative is sprawling and is too concerned with subplots that go no where to drive its point home. However it is genuinely funny in places and the pace really picks up in the last 50 pages, with some memorable action. The Doctor is characterised beautifully, it’s as if Gareth Roberts cannot bother to write about the NA Doctor at all and works his own mischievous jester into the series and the new found respect between Benny and Ace is welcome, if a little sudden. Crispin is a pathetic villain; both his motivation and his plan lack any kind of realism. An ambitious failure then, needing one or two revisions to iron out its problems: 5/10

1 comment:

  1. I thought Tragedy Day was so-so. Not a favorite, but not horrible either. I thought Ernie was a bit too whimsical. I wasn't too excited about Crispin either. I liked Forgwyn and Meredith though, and I thought that it had a good atmosphere. 7/10 from me.