Saturday, 1 May 2010

Escape Velocity by Colin Brake

Plot: Two rivals are competing each other in a race to get into space, both being aided by the monstrous Kulan for very different reasons. The Doctor has a date with Fitz and he’s only been waiting over a century. And a woman called Anji Kapoor is about to get a change in lifestyle she never dreamed of…

Top Doc: This should have been great; it should have been the Doctor regaining his ship and his friends in triumphant style. But something went horribly wrong and the Doctor’s reunion Fitz, his realisation that his ship is a TARDIS and his subsequent escape from Earth is woefully mundane. He is described as a protector, a magician and a storyteller, Anji trusts him instantly because he reminds her of her father when she was younger. She finds him easy going and nice, too very boring features in most people so she cannot understand why he is so fascinating. He grabs Fitz with a great hug of joy when he realises who he is. He recalls the TARDIS as his only remnant of home, remembering that she is his oldest friend. Annoyingly he is somewhat absent from the climax, leaving Anji to make stupid mistakes and her boyfriend to get stabbed and fried. He considers himself a citizen of the universe and his piloting skills of the TARDIS are still bloody awful. And at least he doesn’t like Babylon 5 (good man).

Scruffy Git: Fitz returns to the book range to provide some continuity between the Doctors old life and new. His characterisation is pretty standard stuff, still a clumsy and awkward action hero, hopeless with the ladies (“I find it difficult to keep relationships of any lengths”) and trustworthy. Anji thinks he is a bit weird but gentle. They do have a good chemistry, his scruffiness and stupidity setting her off on one and it looks like they will make a good pair in the hands of a more sophisticated writer. Fitz is awkward around the Doctor and his complete lack of memory and this is something worth following up too. Hilariously, he walks into the TARDIS thinking it has recovered and smacks his nose right into the interior wall! At this point he knows of Gallifrey’s demise.

Career Nazi: Introducing Anji, one of the most underrated companions in Doctor Who. You couldn’t tell from this book but Anji would offer a great deal to the series, the first time we have ever got to experience the adventures of the Doctor from the point of view of a level headed normal person. There are no gimmicks, she is a career woman, level headed and with her feet on the ground and there will be lots of times in future books when her very 2001 viewpoint on future and past events will delight.

  She is in a long term relationship with Dave which is going no where, pretty stroppy with him most of the time but loves him all the same even if he can make her angrier than any other person (oh yeah, that’s love alright!). She is described as sharp, intelligent, with hidden depths, quick, attentive and ruthless. Brilliantly, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and often has to remind the Doctor and Fitz about what they should actually be worrying about! She is calm and logical in a crisis and very proud of her work in the City as a Futures Trader, three things that have turned much of fandom against her and helped me to coin her category name. She is devastated by the death of her boyfriend and even more mortified to find herself on some alien plain at the books climax.

Foreboding: Control, a malevolent presence in the books makes an appearance here. The rocky plain with the shadow grazing towards the TARDIS mirrors the ending of An Unearthly Child beautifully and provides some excitement for the next story, our first one set in space for ages!

Twists: Too be perfectly honest that aren’t that many moments that standout, especially since Colin Brake has a horrible habit of explaining characters motives and plans before they happen (see Embarrassing bits…). I did like the way the Doctor bought the bar and called it St Louis so he had a place to meet Fitz. And the timing of the TARDIS was cool, completing its healing just as the Doctor needs it to get over to the Kulan ship. Oh and Dave being stabbed to death and then fried by rocket fuel was pretty harsh too.

Embarrassing bits: Pretty much the whole book really. The first 50 pages are astonishing devoid of events. The dialogue for most characters is dire, especially Tyler and Dudoin who come across as terrible Bond villains. Tyler actually admits to a perfect stranger he is working with aliens! Sa’Motta reveals his plan to betray Dudoin to Fitz, a man he doesn’t know from Adam! The Doctor luckily manages to pilot his ship, a machine he has lost all memory of to exactly the right place. Anji accidentally triggers a weapons system and wipes out half the Kulan fleet. The Kulan are so stupid they thin they are now in civil war and start shooting at each other! Dave, having been stabbed to death then has to suffer the indignity of being frizzled alive by rocket engines…just to make sure Anji has no reason to stay. Speaking of Anji, she actually has the nerve to crave something exciting and to want to visit somewhere truly alien…for God sakes Brake this is hardly the most subtle of writing!

Result: Oh. My. God. Who on Earth thought closing one of the best arcs in any novel range with this shite? Lance Parkin showed us how traditional Doctor could be done in the novel series with his beautiful Father Time and now Colin Brake demonstrates perfectly why the books shouldn’t mimic the TV series too much. This is bland muck; written so a six year old would feel insulted, with some seriously shallow characterisation, a yawnathon plot, some tedious aliens and a climax that is awful it has to be read to be believed. As an introduction to Anji it sucks (and probably has much to do with her reputation) because it is so poor and she reads as nothing more than a character profile. I cringed with embarrassment throughout most of this book, wanting for it to be over so I could move on to something more interesting. A serious error of judgement, ending the arc on this one, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth after all that sweetness: 2/10

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