THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN APRIL
1967: The Revolution
has just started. All
you need is love - but
the ability to bend
space and time helps.
An entity called the
Revolution Man is
writing his graffiti
across the surface
of the Earth, using a
drug called Om-Tsor.
wantS to defeat the
is the most powerful
means available, and
A source is on their
doorstep. If half of
India is immolated -
well, you can't make
an omelette without
Man has decided.
Mankind is evil, not
good, AND The only
way forward is to
destroy all of it.
The Doctor and Sam
struggle to find him
but time is running
Paul Leonard’s Revolution Man stands out as one of the most controversial of
the eighth Doctor’s adventures in print, not to mention one of the most alluring. The blurb is intriguing - the late 1960s settings are a really big draw, particularly as they examine the era in a way that the series never had done before - and, more principally, Black Sheep’s stylish and succinct (and ultimately very telling) cover illustration really catches the eye.
But for two hundred pages or so, Leonard’s novel is a quick and easy read – big print, few pages, and a narrative that’s gripping without ever really taxing the reader. Revolution Man concerns the Doctor’s ardent attempts to undo the nebulous Revolution Man’s meddling with history, and the consequences that inevitably ensue. With the story’s principal action spread across three separate time zones (each of which are just a year apart), events move along
at a rate of knots and are punctuated with some thrilling psychedelia-soaked set pieces and some burning, really quite profound images. The pyramid with the Revolution Man’s brand carved into it lingers especially.
This novel is more of a character study than it is a rip-roaring adventure though, as Leonard systematically goes about crucifying the three regulars. Sam is presented very well indeed, gifted with the opportunity to make some aberrantly astute observations about the type of life that her parents must have led back in the 1960s, as well as the chance to assume a more protective role in the TARDIS following the tale’s dramatic conclusion.
And Fitz really comes into his own here, becoming much more than just the writers’ comic whipping boy. Leonard really focuses on the character’s anguish, exploring his feelings of isolation and loneliness and using them to steer him down a path that will see him fall for (literally!) the most unsuitable of all potential lovers, be brainwashed by iniquitous Chinese despot Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and shoot a baddie in the head… badly.
Which brings me to Revolution Man’s big taking point: the Doctor’s execution of Ed Hill. At the end of the book, in a moment of bungling panic, Fitz puts a bullet in one of the villains of the piece, but it doesn’t quite finish him off. And so in order to save the world and spare his newest friend the trauma of having to shoot a man twice, the Doctor has to step in, pick up the weapon, and shoot the villain dead in cold blood.
It’s easy to see why this audacious
scene caused such uproar. After all,
it’s one thing for the Doctor to blow
up planets and the like from a hazy
distance, but to shoot a villain dead,
execution-style? “Inflammatory” just
doesn’t do it justice. Yet I think it was
an inspired move on Leonard’s part. After years of watching the previous
Doctor scheme and plot to try and get people to do his dirty work for
him, the eighth Doctor does something altogether more brave - he takes the responsibility
himself to pull the trigger and end a life, and in doing so save the world and spare a friend
a lot of pain. The fact that he has to make the decision to do so in less than a heartbeat only makes it even more excruciating. Had he ruminated on the choice, I have no doubt that he’d have done something else; found another way. A better way. But he didn’t have time to, and that’s what makes Revolution Man such an exceptional Doctor Who story – it doesn’t veer away from the tough calls with traditional science fiction trickery. The fact that the Doctor’s actions provoked such a fervent reaction from many readers only serves to underline just how effective Revolution Man is: the Doctor did something that we all thought he wasn’t capable of, and we’re all disappointed with him. For me, this only makes him more real.
Perhaps the real beauty of this bold conclusion was the opportunities that it presented. As this novel draws to end, Sam is infuriated with Fitz for putting the Doctor in that impossible position, and Fitz is even more scathing of himself. And that’s just the companions…
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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