Saturday, 11 December 2010

Bad Therapy by Matthew Jones

Plot: 1950’s London, prejudice is strife and a race of alien refugees is seeking existence in the arms of people who need comfort. The Doctor and Chris arrive still heartbroken for their loss of Roz and begin their healing…

Master Manipulator: Maybe it is because he has lost all of his cynical companions (and let’s face it they don’t come much more cynical than Ace, Bernice and Roz!) or maybe it is because he is still hurting over the loss of Forrester but the Doctor of Bad Therapy is a brand new sort of 7th Doctor. A warm, caring, comforting sort of figure, deeply protective of those around him and sensitive to their feelings. The use of Peri makes me wish this had been a Missing Adventures as we are denied the confrontation between her and the sixth Doctor but this is still a porridge-in-the-tummy portrayal of the Doctor that sits well with me. Frankly I had the impression that Jack was a Mary-Sue character and the Doctor was just how Matt Jones would like him to be if he travelled through time and space with him.

He was a 1000 year old toddler, constantly surprised and enchanted by the universe (surely not of late???). For once he isn’t on the lookout for adventure. The Doctor’s face never sat still as though it were expressing a flowing river of colourful thoughts and ideas. When he sneaks around the night time streets of 1950’s Soho, investigating murders, sipping coffee in street cafes it feels just right. He is a magician, a healer. I adored the whole sequence with the Doctor shoved under Jack’s bed whilst his blackmailer taunts him, it should be horribly seedy (it would have been just two books earlier!) but it is charming. I love the Doctor finding the fitness magazine and smiling at the innocence of the human race, I love his angry reaction to the extortion of keeping a quiet moment in the park between two men secret and I love how the Doctor sensitively tells Jack his boyfriend is dead. Jack and the Doctor make a fine pair together; they have far better than Chris and the Doctor: ‘You and I together are more than a match for all their bullying and wickedness.’ Somehow the impossible became possible when the Doctor was around. He and Jack are both different and knew that they didn’t belong at home. There is a great image of the Doctor sitting cross legged at the top of the station steps reading a battered paperback and chewing on an apple! He and Chris have been leaving notes on the console for each other, it was easier than talking. He looks at Scotch as though it might be poison. He is exasperated by the homophobia of the age, turning on Chief Inspector Harris: ‘What? What is it that you see, Chief Inspector?’ When he throws himself in front of a speeding car he thinks, sorry Roslyn. Thinking of Chris makes him think of Roz too and he is not ready to deal with those feelings yet. He just loves human beings, there’s no logic to our behaviour and yet we are so irresistible. It is wonderful to see the Doctor throwing a party for the Toys, to see him going for such a bloodless answer to the problem. Sometimes losing the people he loves hurts so much he can hardly bear it. There are always better ideas than fighting. Peri sees him as a gentler man now, softer, more human.

Puppy Dog Eyes: Maybe its because Bernice and Roz are no longer around to hog the limelight but Chris really, really works in this novel, simply because the cuddly teddy bear finally gets to emote something other than doe eyed wonder and lust! The whole book is geared to deal with his feelings about Roz and handles them with
a surprisingly light but poignant touch. I enjoyed spending time with Chris here because he felt like a human being. It took the death of his best friend to achieve that.

Everything had been numb since Roz’s death. Their friendship, the strongest Chris had ever known had been his anchor in the endless insecurity and change. Now there was only insecurity, that and the Doctor. It was hard to adjust to travelling alone together. Described as both Little Miss Cwej and Christopher Robin! He is less accustomed to but not necessarily uninterested in the attention of men. His grief unfolds as Patsy’ starts singing ‘I’m nothing without you.’ How is he supposed to go on with her? He only feels calm now when he is in danger, where he has procedure, control. During a tense moment he prepares for a manoeuvre he and Roz had worked out and his grief winds him. When it looks like Patsy is trying it on with him he flinches away from her, it is too soon. Eventually he seeks comfort in her arms, throwing off his clothes and getting into the bath with her. When he realises the truth, that Patsy has been feeding off his need for Roz and suddenly spots all the little touches of Roz in her character, his confrontation with the Doctor is fantastic. Who ever knew he had such balls? The Doctor is genuinely scared of his anger; Chris is hysterical, violent, threatening. For a second Chris understands what is like to be the Doctor, gambling with peoples lives. It was the most terrifying thing in the world. He cradles Patsy as she dies, losing Roz all over again. He and the Doctor link arms at the climax and agree save the universe together.

Busty Babe: Well there’s a turn up! She is Queen of Kron’Tep and its 7 systems, Governor of 7 worlds…and she wants a holiday. Her wedding to Ycarnos was steps towards a man she didn’t love and away from the man who had abandoned her. She realises she is not that interested in the history of Petruska…she is more interested in running away from her husband. Page 203 sums up Peri (or rather Gilliam) in a paragraph. The Doctor had abandoned Peri on an alien world without a word with a man she didn’t love…when she finally sees him again she slaps him so hard he tumbles to the floor. She recognises the Doctor straight away despite the change in his appearance…who else would be taking on a monster with just a brolly in his hand? 25 years he had stranded her and somehow he made her forgive him with a simple, boyish smile.

Twists: Eddy’s death with the TARDIS blocking the alley and his escape, a knife stabbed into his throat, is more upsetting and arresting than Roz’s the book before! Six murders have taken place, all people without a past. Tilda, Patsy and the Major are refugees from another world, a racial minority, a servile class. Damaged Goods and Bad Therapy both offer slants on homosexuality: one is all bitchiness, cottaging, aggression and cheap thrills and the other is community, warmth, stolen moments, shyness and bravery. The black taxi sucks the Doctor inside itself. There is a gorgeous moment between Peri and Ycarnos where he refuses to shout at her for running away and asks her to continue with her work. The Toys are genetically engineered therapy instruments. The Doctor cradling the dead girl whilst looking out at the sea of corpses before him is a great visual. Petruska looks like Tilda Jupp! J
ack and Mikey trying to save Dennis is really tense stuff, especially when Carl catches him and threatens him with his razor. Tilda has been planting ‘gifts’ throughout the city, Eddy, Dennis, to provide, to be what is most needed.

Funny Bits: Tilda, such a marvellously camp character: ‘Bring us something decent to drink immediately or I shall be forced to drink here all next week!’

Result: How nice to see the New Adventures jettison all the gore and nastiness and Empire juggling and get down to some simple, human drama. It has a worse reputation than the last two but I prefer it, it’s a better Doctor Who novel than Damaged Goods and a better novel than So Vile a Sin, its more responsible than the former and has more breathing space than the latter. Jack is the companion we never got to keep; whilst the author is probably a little too invested in him he is still beautifully sympathetic and likable and should have hopped into the TARDIS at the end. Matt Jones has written a fine follow up novel specifically designed to handle Roz’s death in a science fiction story. There are lots of seductive little moments, scenes that make you want to step into the book and be a part of it. It starts really well, thrusting us into a world of murder mystery and blackmail but after 100 pages it becomes a bit of a runaround before the shock introduction of Peri and the Doctor’s joyous attempt to throw a party for the Toys. The ending fizzles away…Patsy dies, Peri leaves and Moriah repents…it doesn’t have much of a kick. The writing is easy to read and comforting, like a friend putting their arms around you on a cold day. I enjoyed this book a lot but felt with just a few tweaks could have made it even better. Different: 8/10

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