Saturday, 16 October 2010

Return of the Living Day by Kate Orman

Plot: For years Benny has been searching for her father and now she has finally found him. England, 1983, saving ETs stranded on Earth. Moping up the Doctor’s mess. But somebody is trying to obtain nuclear codes from the Doctor’s mind…can you guess who?

Master Manipulator: Because everyone else is getting a bit mushy the Doctor joins in and gets himself a girlfriend. Well actually no he doesn’t but that is the implication with Woodworth until she turns out to be the woman who has spent decades capturing, torturing and murdering aliens. Don’t you just hate it when that happens. The Doctor is explored in considerable depth here but it is to the detriment of the book. What Orman forgets is that it is far more interesting to experience a character and his feelings than have characters standing around talking and thinking how mythic and evil and gorgeous and morally ambiguous he is. Seriously you could not read ten pages without one character spending an age thinking about how scary and lovely the Doctor is, trying to figure him out. We should be left to draw our own conclusions about the Doctor, not told at every step of the book exactly how glorious he is. Without going into all of the specifics, because this review would have to recount half of the book, the Doctor is Bernice’s surrogate father, he adores and misses her and she misses him. He’s a bastard but they all love him anyway. That about sums it up. He just wants to busk – drop all his responsibilities and make people happy. He considers the middle of the 19th Century to the end of the 20th Century his home from home. After everything he has done to protect the Earth they saw him as the enemy and that stung. Did the Doctor fight for lust, love and parenthood because he can’t have those things (why not?).

Stroppy Copper: The worst idea in a book full of really awful ideas is the thought that for even one second Roz Forrester would ever consider going to bed with Chris Cwej. She knows him better than anyone. Has the author or the editor read the last ten or so books? Chris drives her insane even if she does have the incessant need to protect him. It says that she is just a shallow Ace clone after all, sleeping with him because he is quite cute. Any respect I might have had for her deserted me when she grabs him in the middle of an action scene and starts snogging him. Kate Orman has presented some of the strongest Doctor Who ladies in their best light (Bernice, Ace, Sam Jones, Anji, Peri) but this is the nadir of her lovey dovey approach to the books. The scenes where they talk about their shagging are really painful, they read as though they have been written by a teenage boy who was feeling very horny. And guess how the book ends their affair…with Roz telling Chris that he is too good for her. Shoot me now. The only line that reads like the old Roz was when she wanted to take the rosiness out of everyone’s cheeks.

Puppy Dog Eyes: I hate him. Can you believe that he snaps the Ace clones neck and then he and Roz start romping about on the blood stained floor? At one point Chris admits he is worried about his brain. Smart.

Boozy Babe: How odd to bring back Bernice so soon. While it is nice to be able to call on the secondary cast the New Adventures have built up for a bit of variety but Bernice only left two books ago! Like Happy Endings this book exploits Benny for her emotion, pushing her into situations where she will emote like a firework. I have forgotten how clever and witty this woman can be because all she seems to do these days is cry and shag and well…menstruate. And that is in the hands of Cornell and Orman. What has happened? One of the reasons she became an archaeologist was because she might one day find her father. She associates the cologne he wore with her childhood. She has loved the last couple of months, staying in one place and working on one thing. However she would not give up her time with the Doctor, not even the horror or the brushes with death.

Foreboding: The Doctor is wearing a burgundy waistcoat and tweed jacket – his clothes from the TV Movie.

Soap Opera: When did the New Adventures turn into an ghastly soap opera? So many characters spout ridiculously goofy emotive dialogue in this book that had me shivering at the sheer hideousness of it all. I’m all for character development but this isn’t development, its Doctor Who pretending to be a Buffy the Vampire Slayer with everybody talking about relationships but not actually experiencing them. I wanted everyone to stop talking about their feelings and get on with the damn plot. Look at some of these choice examples…
Jason to Benny: ‘At least I could do stuff with you the Doctor couldn’t do.’
The Doctor: ‘My adopted daughter has just met her biological father for the first time.’
Jacqui to the Doctor: ‘Do you remember killing my baby?’
Chris to Roz: ‘It didn’t mean anything, right? We could kiss again right now and it wouldn’t matter.’
Joel: ‘I want to be him when I grow up. It’s like he’s my Dad now.’
Benny: ‘You didn’t shag her, did you?’
Benny: ‘I’d hate it if we couldn’t have kids at all.’
The Doctor: ‘I’m getting human in my old age.’
Roz to Chris: ‘I guess we’re just good friends who fancy each other.’
Benny: ‘I expect the men I love to betray me.’
And these are only a few examples…pick a page, the book is littered with indulgent introspection.

Embarrassing Bits: Basically the whole book but lets look at specifics. Taking Benny back to the point of her fathers death is insanely dangerous. He should have said no. I genuinely thought Bernice finding her father would be a truly gripping read, a life and death struggle with their reunion at the climax. Imagine my surprise then when they are sipping coffee together in an oddly muted fashion on page 30. To show how fluffy this has all become it takes Roz to insist that they have a situation after Chris and Jason and the TARDIS have all gone missing. What, nobody realised? Benny is constantly hugging and kissing the Doctor which had it been toned down could have been kind of cute but instead makes you wonder if they have been at it like everyone else. He kisses her at the climax, just to drive home the point. The idea of Chris and Roz making love is so wrong on every conceivable level all copies of this book should be gathered up and shot into the nearest supernova. The scene that depicts their future together with him surfing and saving the world is just made me want to puke. Benny asks her Dad if he has shagged Ace. How wrong is that? Albinex’s cover story is that he wants to steal the nuclear codes so he can return home to Navarro and end their everlasting party with one big bang and force them to be his own personal army. The Doctor bought that? That is the least convincing cover story until…well read on. When Ace turned up as a hostage I threw the book across the room. Okay she turned out to be a clone but that was an even lazier explanation, especially after it was done with the Doctor and Jason just two books earlier. Just when you thought this book could not become more irredeemably twee Bernice and Jason’s baby from the future is spat out of a time rift. As if that wasn’t bad enough the Doctor is forced into giving Albinex the codes by making him have an everlasting orgasm over a cup of tea. Which is only trumped by the unbelievable concept that Isaac Summerfield wanted to steal the nuclear weapons so he could start a nuclear war. You see to protect the planet Earth he was going to start a nuclear war and thus keep our weapons development going so we are ready for the Daleks when they invade over a century later. Congratulations, that manages to ruin a character’s credibility, crap all over continuity and turn a farcical book into a complete turd in one swoop. Aside from all this nonsense what about all the hideous in jokes that are scattered throughout. Jack Beven gets a mention. Tom the graveyard caretaker. Leapers and Sliders. The title. Darmok and Back to the Future.
Woodworth being killed by an Ogri headstone. The Doctor actually flicks through fanzines and says ‘I see what you mean about UNIT dating.’ Oh and the sixth Doctor is still raving at him inside his head which means he is still absolutely batty or they are continuing with the god awful pretence that the seventh Doctor killed the sixth so he could exist. Someone get me a scotch.

Result: The Time Monster of the New Adventures! A collection of obscenely bad ideas, nails down the blackboard dialogue, a stupid plot buried under a wealth of indulgent syrup, appallingly executed. I refused to believe this was written by the same woman who gave us The Year of Intelligent Tigers. Every part of this novel is horribly smug, it’s all trying so hard to mean something it ends up saying absolutely nothing except we have seen all the innovation bleed out of this series. The last book was a joyous celebration of fresh ideas but I am scared this is what can expect from the last handful of books, taking the characters we know and love and examining them to death until they become parodies of themselves. When did Bernice become so predictable and wet? Why does every character spend time psychoanalysing the Doctor? Who was ever going to buy into Chris and Roz making love? More to the point it shows a contempt for your readership to expect them to buy something as ridiculously overblown and thin as this plot. Tea orgasms? Nuclear war to save the Earth? Benny’s Dad the evil mastermind? Quite possibly the worst New Adventure. Thank God Roz is about to die because this series needs a kick up the ass: 1/10

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