THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "THE SPACE
AGE" AND "THE
ANDY LANE &
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JUNE 2000.
Banquo Manor - scene
of a gruesome murder
a hundred years ago.
Now history is about
to repeat itself.
the accounts of SOLI-
CITOR John Hopkinson
and Inspector IAN
STRATFORD FROM THE
Yard, the full story
of Banquo Manor can
now be told AT LAST...
The Banquo Legacy
The Banquo Legacy is an exceedingly unusual book, even for Doctor Who. Penned
by incoming editor Justin Richards and frequent contributor Andy Lane, this unique offering fuses time-honoured mystery and horror with artron inhibition fields and randomiser codes, creating a novel that unsteadily straddles two genres, teetering precariously throughout.
As a starting point, I love the authorsí innovative premise. As the penultimate instalment in
a complex and sprawling story arc, one expects a certain amount of progression and The Banquo Legacy is able to boast this in spates. Having eluded the Time Lords for at least three novelsí worth of adventures, this story opens with Compassion becoming snared in
a Time Lord trap Ė an artron inhabitation field set up by one of the many Time Lord agents hunting her across all time and space. Although the field drains almost all of Compassionís energy, she is able to save herself by materialising around a human host and blocking the Time Lord agentís transmission to Gallifrey. The snag is, until the Doctor can find a way to shut down the field, she will not be able to dematerialise, and the Doctor will not be able to regenerate, should the need arise. And unless the field is shut down quickly, Compassion will be consumed by the young woman whose form she has temporarily appropriated. She will be, effectively, dead.
However, the narrative is presented not as omniscient prose, but as first person narration, which is a risky move in a range like this if it isnít the regulars that youíve got telling the tale. And here Iím afraid that itís a risk that doesnít pay off - whilst the pomposity of the prose and the tautness of its grammar instantly evoke a 19th century feel, neither of the storytellers are particularly interesting characters, and almost inevitably their dreariness infects the story that they conspire to narrate. This is a real shame as at its best, The Banquo Legacy captures the feel of Sherlock Holmesí investigations as told through Doctor Watsonís reminiscences (of which Lane is an aficionado), particularly given the analogous twists and turns of plot.
It is admittedly quite fascinating to read about the Doctor and Fitz as seen through different eyes, but personally Iíd have been much more interested in the Doctorís inner monologue. How often in Doctor Who has the Doctor been in a situation where, for an extended period, he is forced to confront his own mortality? Lane beautifully explored the Doctorís feelings about death in his Virgin novel Original Sin, and so itís doubly disappointing that we arenít made privy to the mortal Doctorís heightened fears here.
The novel improves greatly in the final third as Simpson is revealed as the Time Lord agent and events hurtle inexorably towards The Ancestor Cell. Itís as if, in an instant, all the clichťs have evaporated; what had been almost a genre parody is suddenly afforded real depth.
The frightful injuries that Simpson suffers are brought into sharp focus when we realise why heís put himself through what he has... or I should say for whom. The gentle passages that deal with Simpsonís emotional motivation are juxtaposed with lurid descriptions of empty, cavernous eye sockets, provoking the readerís revulsion and pity in equal measure whilst also ensuring that going into The Ancestor Cell, thereíd be no lingering doubts about the beneficence of the Doctorís erstwhile companion / the Time Lordsí incumbent President.
Moreover, the final chapter and
epilogue are rather stirring. The
image of rats nesting inside a
dead scientistís skull is incredibly macabre, even for Richards, and
the brilliant simplicity of the final
line really whets the appetite for
the cataclysm that is to come.
ďHe started down the corridor. It was the last thing he never did.Ē
However, much like that of the story that it tells, The Banquo Legacy is a failed experiment. Itís bold and innovative, and at times downright brilliant, but Iím afraid that all of its charms are quite easily outweighed by the sheer tedium of its bloated middle.
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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