THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
THE NOVEL "LAST OF
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'MISSING
RELEASED IN APRIL
Jo is sent on a top-
secret mission to the
nation of Kebiria. But
upon arrival, she is
and consigned to a
prison. The Kebirians
have something to
hide: deep in the North
African desert, an
alien infestation is
rapidly growing. And
the Doctor and UNIT
soon discover that
unless stopped, the
alien presence will
spread to overrun
the entire world...
Dancing the Code
- sweet sweet honey honey -
- sweet sweet good good honey dancing to be dancing honey –
Not the most promising opening for a novel I am sure you will agree, but if you can get past Paul Leonard’s rather bizarre, poetic Prologue then I am sure you will find that “Dancing The Code” is an absolute powerhouse of a novel. The third Doctor himself may not be a favourite of mine, but I have always had a fondness for the UNIT family. In this book, the author tells a UNIT story the way that I always imagined it would be – gritty, brutal, and realistic. It is written very much in the spirit of the New Adventures in that it is certainly too broad and too deep for the small screen, both in terms of the the story’s very adult subject matter and also the massive, unfilmable (well, unfilmable on a 1970s budget!) set pieces.
“Dancing The Code” sees UNIT involved in world politics. This was always hinted at on television and explored very lightly in stories like “The Mind of Evil” and “Day of the Daleks,” but here more than half the book is set in the fictional war-torn Arab nation of Kebiria. With the same vivid descriptions he used to bring Venus to life in his last novel, Leonard conjures up the sights, sounds and smells of the Far East. His writing is so good that at times, you
are there. As good as “Venusian Lullaby” was, I simply could not get into it, whereas “Dancing The Code” had me hooked from the first chapter - I just found the story so much more compelling. The early scenes in the prison really set the tone for the novel – a lot of violence, a lot of mind games. His Catriona character is one that the reader can really identify with. She has read horror stories about what happens in these war-torn nations, yet even when she is being beaten and interrogated in a prison cell with the threat of torture hanging over her, she still cannot quite believe it is really happening to her. And when circumstance forces her into killing a prison guard, she is wracked with guilt.
It is characters like Catriona that make this book so engaging. I also thought Vincent was a fascinating character: a world-famous terrorist. A cold, merciless killer. And Jo’s sat next to him in a jeep, in a strange state of shock. She thought he had seemed quite nice until she realised who he was. Little scenes like that in this book really makes you think, especially with the state of the world as it is today. Jo Grant herself is given quite a bit more depth here than we ever really saw on television. She really kicks arse here, quite literally at times. She is separated from the Doctor for a huge chunk of the novel and during that time, she quite easily manages to fend for herself. She nearly gets raped at one point, and is almost killed several times, but on the whole she looks after herself much better than she ever did on television – she even earns the respect of her cell-mate, Catriona, who had Jo pegged as a helpless young pretty face! I wonder where she got that from, hmm? Some things about Jo are the same, though. Her mild flirtation with Mike Yates (who has a fairly large role here) carries over from the televised stories, as do her ambiguous feelings towards the Doctor.
Furthermore, the Xarax is not your usual run-of-the-mill alien menace. It is more of a force of nature that has been abused. It evokes some beautiful imagery in the mind of the reader in
how it copies and duplicates Earth technology. It sees helicopters, so it makes its own, organic version of helicopters. Jet planes? The same. Nuclear missiles… well that is when things get serious! Of course, having this sort of baddie does have the major drawback of… well, not having a baddie. The Xarax are not evil; at least, no more evil than, say, a swarm of bees. There is no-one for the Doctor to shout out or spar with verbally, which is a bit of shame, but I suppose after having so many Master stories set during the UNIT era, Leonard can quite easily justify a faceless aggressor.
The story’s hook is quite interesting in itself, but Leonard executes it a bit sloppily - I would love to have seen, for example, how Steve Lyons would have written the get-out. The Doctor builds a machine to predict the future, and it shows the Brigadier murdering him and Jo in cold blood. Obviously, we know it cannot really happen, so the only question is how does the writer get out of it? Sadly, it is the predictable old route of the doppelgangers! In his defence, the writer does flesh it out a bit with multiple duplicates, but in the end we know that the Brigadier is never going to shoot the real Doctor and Jo. Were this the whole plot of the novel, Leonard would have been in deep trouble, but luckily it does not matter all that much in the end. It is almost incidental to the plot, in fact.
Finally, the Xarax mantra? It is absolute nonsense. Is it just nonsense? It sounds like nonsense. I do not know! “Dancing the code”? I was expected something a bit X-Files; code-talkers or something, not - sweet sweet honey honey -
- sweet sweet good good honey dancing to be dancing honey –
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
According to this novel’s blurb, this story takes place between the television stories Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death. Within this gap we have placed it between the novella Nightdreamers, (which has stronger links to Planet of the Daleks) and the novel Last of the Gaderene, which was released later.
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