Friday, 10 September 2010

Book Review 1: Revenge of the Judoon by Terrance Dicks (2008) – 5/10

Story Summary (Spoilers!):

The 10th Doctor and Martha arrive at Balmoral in 1902, only to discover that both the Castle and the recently crowned Edward VII have disappeared, by means of Judoon technology. With the aid of Carruthers, a friend of the missing King, The Doctor and Martha uncover a plot by an alien-lizard cult known as the Cosmic Peacemakers to conquer the World by wiping out its main cities with Temporal Reversal devices. Led by a Professor Challoner, the Peacemakers have tricked the Judoon via a faked legal document, in order to avoid galactic opposition, and use the Judoon as a form of military support. The King is also being held to ransom by the Peacemakers, via a Temporal Reversal device in London, so he can give their attack a public face in the form of the British Empire to hide behind. After The Doctor reveals the forged document, the Judoon turn against the Pacemakers, and The Doctor disables the Temporal Reversal Generator.


It’s easy to see why Terrance Dicks was chosen for the ‘easy reads’ book range, as his simplistic and visually poetic style of writing is famous amongst WHO fandom. However, it’s a shame that on this occasion, Dicks’ instinct and imagination for telling great stories seems to be running dry.

The story presented here is even more contrived and blasé than one usually expects to find even in the revived Television incarnation of Doctor Who. The Cosmic Peacemakers seem to be an intriguing group at first, but Challoner is just another dull megalomaniac wanting to take over the World. Even the Temporal Reversal Devices, which sound powerful and important to start off with, are easily and casually deactivated by a quick flick with the Sonic Screwdriver. The worst contrivance though, is the inclusion of the Judoon in the adventure - not because they are, but how and why.

Although the Judoon presence allows Dicks an interesting opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the monsters’ character, it is merely a gimmick to get children to pick up the book. For the Judoon to be involved on the basis of a forged document by a generic galactic authority is just so deplorable, I imagine even younger readers would be disappointed at not having a more direct encounter with such a fun character. So in fact, any lesser monsters could have played in their role as apparent henchmen. Other characters get the short straw too.

The 10th Doctor is actually surprisingly well-written by Terrance Dicks considering he’s far from part of the new Doctor Who team, either on books or TV. Martha, on the other-hand is as paper-thin a character as you could get, being portrayed as the stereotypical gutsy sidekick; but then as this was also a partial problem for her character on the TV Series, it’s easy to see how Dicks maybe couldn’t pin her down. Famous names like Arthur Conan Doyle, and Baden-Powell are also given somewhat feature-less cameos (also maybe to wow the kids), although this also could maybe be forgiven due to the short word count available to such a release. Carruthers however, thankfully bucks the trend with a modest and likeable Edwardian gentleman, who seems to be more interesting than Martha. Above all though, Dicks continues to excel in his trademark writing style of prose.

Fortunately, Terrance Dicks’ beautiful descriptions are equally present in this book, as they are in most of his others. His realisation of Balmoral in particular, is by far the best written part of the book; and Dicks always gives us a clear and believable portrayal of what Edwardian times felt like, even if it was more of a snapshot than a portrait.

As much as I understand that this range needs to have simpler and more accessible stories for young readers, I’m sure that a much better class of story than what we have could have been achieved. Instead of an interesting idea that sparks the imagination; we have a basic and dull story with very little life and imagination, written to spec, and squanders an opportunity to use the Judoon more effectively. Although Terrance Dicks dresses up the tale well in prose, and the occasional interesting characterisation; Revenge of the Judoon is a forgettable adventure just to pass the time.

Score: 5/10

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