McIntee, David A.

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3 out of 5

(5 books)

Doctor Who: Bullet Time

A Past Doctor Adventure featuring the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Sarah Jane Smith.  Sarah Jane begins investigating rumours of UFOs in Hong Kong and soon finds that she's not the only one, with UNIT and others already in the mix.  The trail leads into the criminal world of the Triads where Sarah Jane is shocked to discover that a new and darker incarnation of the Doctor is up to his neck.

This is the second of McIntee's Who books I've read (after 'The Face of the Enemy') and both of them barely feature the Doctor for most of their length.  I don't know what it says about the author that he wants to write Doctor Who novels that don't feature the Doctor as the main character, but for me as a reader of Doctor Who novels it's very disappointing.  I was genuinely excited to see Sarah Jane Smith and the Seventh Doctor working together, but their interactions are thin on the ground and mostly acrimonious.  I did like that the author uses Sarah Jane's perspective to comment on the more scheming and ruthless nature of McCoy's incarnation of the Time Lord, but there wasn't nearly enough of it to be satisfying.

Most of this novel is a jumble of confused and misleading subplots wherein almost all of the point-of-view characters can be considered as unreliable narrators and therefore you never actually know what's really going on at any point.  There are also some pretty major narrative jumps and plot holes that the author never addresses and which leave you thinking 'Wait... what?!'.  The most egregious of these is right at the end where a main character is shot in the heart at point blank range and then turns up two pages later none the worse for wear.  If there was an explanation in there, I certainly missed it.

It's not all bad and, in the brief scenes that the Doctor has, McIntee does a nice job of capturing the tone of McCoy's onscreen performance.  Unfortunately, there's just too much bad stuff drowning out the good bits.

2 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: Mission Impractical

Part of the BBC's Past Doctor Adventures, this book sees the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his companion Frobisher (a shape-shifting penguin, if you aren't familiar with the Doctor's comic book adventures) pursued by bounty hunters and manipulated into putting together a heist to prevent a war.

In the introduction to this book, McIntee claims that he wrote this book in a deliberate attempt to be fun and shallow.  Honestly, this makes it a far more enjoyable read than the last of his Who books I read ('Bullet Time') and it means that we don't get totally bogged-down in plotlines or characters who are totally tangential to the actual plot, as happens in all too many of the PDAs.

Beyond that, this is a fairly familiar heist story and it's no coincidence that the title evokes Mission: Impossible.  There's a ragtag crew of specialist thieves, treacherous employers, implacable pursuers and a mysterious shadow group behind everything.  Basically, it hits all the tropes but that's not entirely a bad thing; better to be a bit cliche than brand new, fresh and bad.

There's three things here that are meant to draw in long-term Who fans and they're of very mixed results.  The first is the inclusion of the Ogrons, who are basically used as generic stupid henchmen, although there was one interesting scene where one of them reflects on how much better it is to be mercenaries than to be enslaved to the 'Metal Gods'.  The second returning element is Sabalom Glitz, a rogueish character from Colin Baker's last series on TV.  He's not someone I was overly invested in to begin with and, honestly, he's more or less interchangable with any number of criminal-helping-the-hero types in fiction.  The final returning element, and the one which will either totally win you over or completely put you off, is Frobisher.  A shape-shifting alien detective, Frobisher's preferred shape is that of a penguin.  If that's too ridiculous for you, then this is not a book you should read.  Personally, I've always found Frobisher to be one of the Sixth Doctor's more compelling companions (certainly less annoying than Peri or Mel), so I enjoyed his inclusion here.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Face Of The Enemy

A Past Doctor Adventure.  When the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo head off in the TARDIS, the Brigadier and UNIT are left to continue without them.  The mysterious disappearance of an aircraft becomes linked to an apparent invasion by identical doubles, forcing Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to call in outside help in the form of former companions to the Doctor; Ian and Barbara.  However, even their help might not be enough and UNIT finds itself seeking the assistance of another Time Lord, currently in custody for numerous heinous crimes; the Master.

Set concurrently with 'The Curse of Peladon' (novelised by Brian Hayles), here we get a sense of the resources that UNIT calls upon when the Doctor is not in residence.  This core idea is the book's best and most interesting element and I really liked that the experts that the Brigadier turns to are the Doctor's first human companions; people who do indeed have extensive experience of aliens, other worlds and time travel.  The characters of Ian and Barbara are captured perfectly too, which I can attest from working my way through the Hartnell-era DVDs in between reading.  I also very much liked that McIntee uses this opportunity to show how young Naval Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan first gets involved with UNIT.

At first I found it odd to have the Master operating as head of a criminal organisation from within his cushy cell and it felt weirdly like Noel Coward's role in 'The Italian Job'.  However, once the book's antagonists set their sights on him, I was very pleased to see the dynamic side of his evil brilliance coming to the fore.  Also, this is the complex Roger Delgado version of the Master, who is not the pantomime villain that the Master became in the 80s.  He has depth and I was pleased to see him actually developing a certain respect and affection for Barbara in a way that he's not even able to admit to himself.  There are also a couple of very interesting scenes where he meets Koschei, an alternate version of himself who never turned villainous.

So, lots of good character work on offer here.  Unfortunately the rest of the book's elements are less impressive.  The majority of the book involves criminal gangs battling each other and UNIT doing normal investigative work with help from a police detective.  It's not bad stuff, but it is pretty mundane and that's the last thing I'd look for in a Doctor Who novel.  Even when the science fiction nature of the antagonists is revealed, they still manage to be a fairly mundane enemy.  And it's telling that I've had to use the word 'mundane' in two sentences back to back (three now, I suppose).

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Missing Adventures - The Dark Path

A Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story featuring his companions Jamie and Victoria.  The TARDIS is drawn off course by a mysterious temporal anomaly and arrives on an isolated human colony which has just reestablished contact with the larger galaxy.  Tensions rise between the colonists and the delegation from the Galactic Federation and the Doctor's attempts to investigate the temporal anomaly become far more complicated when another TARDIS arrives.

This is very much a book which fails to live up to it potential.  You see, that second TARDIS has a suave, occasionally ruthless but generally benevolent Time Lord called Koschei aboard.  By the end of this book Koschei will have transitioned into the Master.  That should be a spoiler, but unfortunately the publishers ruin that twist by putting a picture of Roger Delgado's Master right on the cover of the book.  However, it's not the ruining of the twist which leads this book to disappoint, but the fact that it's barely about the Master and his relationship with the Doctor.

I've never known a Doctor Who book to be so crammed-full of plots and subplots and definitely not in a good way.  We have the mysterious temporal anomaly caused by the misuse of an ancient machine, an invisible hunter stalking the colonists, an alien species seeking revenge for the destruction of several of their ships, a diplomatic mission attempting to reintegrate the Human Empire colony with the Galactic Federation and the internal politics of the colony itself.  Somewhere in there the author has to squeeze in the introduction of Koschei, his history with the Doctor and his character arc, meaning that it doesn't get nearly enough space to flourish.

Weirdly, in a 'perfect storm' sort of situation, the swirling mixture of incompatible plots all happening at once actually left me finding the book pretty boring.  Imagine, if you will, a novel which tells of how the Master became a villain and of his first encounter with the Doctor since they both left Gallifrey and which is nevertheless just tedious.  The only reason I've given this three out of five is that in the last thirty pages or so the Doctor/Master story does finally get some traction and becomes very compelling.  Unfortunately, even that good ending just serves to highlight what a waste the rest of the book was.

3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who: The Wages Of Sin

Having recovered his knowledge of the TARDIS, the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) decides to take both Jo Grant and Liz Shaw on a jaunt into the past.  Aiming for Tunguska in 1908, the TARDIS instead materialises in the St. Petersburg in 1916.  When the time machine is then stolen, the Doctor, Jo and Liz become embroiled in the plots and paranoia of wartime Russia, as well as the final days of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin.

Once upon a time I was very wary of so-called ‘pure historical’ Who stories, which is to say time-travel stories that have no sci-fi elements except for the TARDIS travellers themselves.  However, having enjoyed Mark Gatiss’ ‘The Roundheads’ I was much more open-minded going into this one and found myself really quite enjoying it.  There is plenty of narrative milage in 1916 St. Petersburg, with the First World War, the impending revolution, the secret police, the scheming nobles and, of course, the infamous Rasputin, all of which McIntee cleverly weaves into this novel.

The author’s real masterstroke in how he uses the setting, however, is taking the time to make all of the historical characters seem like genuinely complex human beings instead of the charicatures that come down to us through history and popular culture.  Rasputin is the most obvious example of this and it would’ve been all too easy to attribute the mystical powers he was alleged to have to some kind of alien influence, but McIntee instead takes the far more subtle and interesting tack of trying to explain the so-called Mad Monk’s reputation in a realistic way, having the TARDIS travellers swayed by Rasputin’s charisma despite themselves, much as happened in real-life.

So, as a historical novel, this book is really very good.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite so good as a Doctor Who novel and I was a little disappointed at the end in how the Doctor is portrayed as behaving.  For all that he knows the sanctity of the Web of Time, I still don’t think it fit his character not to save someone when he has the opportunity.

4 out of 5

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