THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE NOVELS
"THE FACE-EATER" AND
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
1963. Six different
people have been
for study by DOCTOR
Charles Roley in his
stately home outside
London. All of them
claim to have been
possessed by the
and the Taint
Working my way back through these early eighth Doctor adventures more than
a decade after they were published, I’ve been really looking forward to getting up to Doctor Who and the Taint. Whilst it isn’t a great novel by any stretch of the imagination, it was the story that introduced us to Fitz Kreiner – the eighth Doctor’s longest-serving and, I dare say, best-loved companion, who just last year was brought to life in the audio medium by Hustle star Matt di Angelo for the groundbreaking Big Finish release The Company of Friends.
Listening to Fitz’s Story last summer really whet my appetite for these books again. He’s such a shameless, see-through, relatable loser that one can’t help but to take an instant shine to him. And as a vehicle for Fitz, The Taint is an unqualified triumph. Its opening third in particular is relentlessly engrossing; so much so, in fact, that on my first reading I had to keep checking the spine to confirm that it had indeed been penned by Michael ‘Longest Day’ Collier.
Collier’s prose is much more florid and effective here than it was in his preceding effort, and his handling of the Doctor, Sam and especially Fitz is simply sublime. I had forgotten about many of Fitz’s opening foibles – his faux-French accent (a front to deflect the attention of his employer’s customers) really made me laugh, for instance, as did his futile attempts to bed Sam. I love how, despite some of his advances bordering on sexual assault, they are wholly justified in Fitz’s view as he’d just saved her life. Fair’s fair, after all.
Indeed, the most enjoyable passages in the story follow Fitz and Sam - two characters that couldn’t possibly be any further apart. Boy / girl. Sixties / nineties. Sexist loser / tree hugging do-gooder. They’re a stimulating combination, to say the very least. Their ‘date’ sequence especially is a real joy to read - Collier has Sam thoughtfully comparing the London that she finds around her with that of her natives nineties, whilst all the while Fitz is concentrating on trying (and failing) to project a mysterious and brooding exterior so that she’ll let him knob her.
The Taint doesn’t just exploit Fitz’s more sensational traits though. Collier spends a lot of time building up the character’s remarkable past, fleshing out his troubled upbringing and
his German father in quite some detail. Even the novel’s narrative revolves around Muriel Kreiner, his elderly mother, and the events in which she has become embroiled, leading to
a surprisingly affecting and ethically-ambiguous resolution.
Unfortunately though, the merits of
The Taint begin and end with Fitz.
In the earliest chapters, Collier’s
narrative does promise to be rather
gripping as he builds the mystery
surrounding Roley’s patients and
their inexplicable, shared dreams;
but after a hundred pages or so the
intrigue has given way to brazen, expository technobabble, and some promising supporting characters have morphed into faceless ciphers.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting The Taint. Particularly having read the book as part of the series, on the back of a trio of dark and heavy outer-space adventures, it comes as a real breath of fresh air – fresh air tainted only by the overwhelmingly alluring stink of Fitz Kreiner...
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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