THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN AUGUST
London, 1894. Amid
the fog, a gruesome
business is being
conducted. The bodies
of the dead are being
stolen from their
Teaming with an old
Litefoot, the Doctor
is determined to get
to the bottom of the
with Sam, they
discover there is a
far graver threat
facing London than
just earthly grave
beings the Doctor
before are at work,
bringING a whole new
twist to the word
The Bodysnatchers may well be one of the most derivative Doctor Who novels to date, but it is indubitably diverting. Whilst Mark Morris will not be winning any prizes for most interesting plot, I have to give the man ten out of ten for style.
For me, what stands out the most about The Bodysnatchers is its grittiness. Morris depicts people being maimed in some of the most horrifying ways imaginable. There was stuff in here that really disturbed me – a dead child’s head rotting on its exposed spinal column,
for example. Juxtapose images such as these with a cavalier eighth Doctor running about Victorian London with a puking Sam and a Victorian lady in her wet, transparent underwear and you should have a fair idea of what to expect from this book.
As I have hinted at above though, plot-wise The Bodysnatchers is lacking in ambition. The Zygons and their miniature Skarasens are wreaking havoc in the foggy streets of Victorian London, and it falls to the Doctor and Sam to stop them. However, this lacklustre storyline is more than made up for not only by Morris’ distinctive and grisly prose but also by the level of detail inherent to the book. After reading The Bodysnatchers again, it really hit home how little we actually learned about the Zygon race from their one-off appearance on television in Terror of the Zygons. Here Morris crafts an intricate and compelling back story for them; one that later authors would even dip into. We learn of their biological distinct warrior caste, their scientists, their ships, and the reason for their presence on Earth. Broton’s ship in Loch Ness was only the tip of the iceberg; there were countless others that survived the crash…
The Bodysnatchers is also noteworthy for bringing back Robert Holmes’ popular character of Professor Litefoot (from the classic television story The Talons of Weng-Chiang) for the first time. After the Professor’s life got back to normal after the events of that story, here he once again finds himself face to face with things that his Victorian mind shouldn’t accept, and he finds himself befuddled that it does. Litefoot goes on a wonderful journey here, and
it is a real pleasure to hear from him again. My only complaint would be that his counterpart, the unforgettable Mr Henry Gordon Jago, is not also on hand. One half of a double act was always going to feel a little bit lacking, but there’s always Big Finish for that now…
Turning to the regulars, the Doctor and
Sam are both impressive again, but
we don’t really learn anything new about
either one of them save for the fact that
Sam is a Levellers fan (good girl) and
that she is almost sexually possessive
of the Doctor. For the most part, The Bodysnatchers simply affirms what we learnt from Vampire Science – this Doctor is not a scheming meddler anymore; he’s a blundering adventurer, and Sam is not half as brave or blasé as she wishes that she were.
And for those who may be put off by this novel simply because it is a sequel, I’d point out
that it is very different to the original – very different indeed. Like all the best sequels, it isn’t merely a rehash, it takes us somewhere new. And, save for the odd decapitated child and near-pornographic Victorian lady, The Bodysnatchers is gloriously traditional.
It may be blatant retro pulp fiction, but I enjoyed it more than some of the more dense Virgin novels. Not bad at all.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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