THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "RAGS" AND THE
TELEVISION STORY "THE
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-426
-20487-5) RELEASED IN
The TARDIS lands on
Nooma, a world in the
midst of an industrial
revolution. But the
Doctor, Jo and Mike
discover that there
is no limit to the
upheaval. The sky is
alive, and at war
with the ground.
the Doctor must find
out what is really
happenning to Nooma
before the struggle
for survival kills the
world and everyone
Speed of Flight
Now Paul Leonard’s preceding third Doctor novel, “Dancing the Code”, I liked. Gritty, brutal, and realistic, “Dancing the Code” portrayed UNIT and the world that it inhabits in a way that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks would never have got away with on television. For me, that book really added something new to the mix; it gave me a whole new perspective on the UNIT era. But this effort, entitled “Speed of Flight”, does not measure up in the slightest…
…or at least, not in my opinion. Whilst I struggled through the relatively light page count, in the back of my mind I was continually aware that many Doctor Who fans would be lapping
up the heavy science-fiction content. Initially, “Speed of Flight” put me very much in mind of a couple of Jim Mortimore’s New Adventures, particularly “Parasite” which is also set in a low-gravity, unreservedly alien environment. On reflection though, this book is probably more analogous to Leonard’s own debut novel, “Venusian Lullaby”, which as you would expect was written in a very similar style. There is no doubt about it that Leonard can bash out delightfully descriptive prose with the best of them; whether he is evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the Far East or the rich and vibrant tapestry of a completely alien world, Leonard takes the reader exactly where he wants them to go. And so in the case of
“Dancing the Code”, it is hard to fault him. An interesting plot furnished with compelling, relatable characters and written magnificently – what more could one want? However, in the case of “Venusian Lullaby” and undoubtedly in the case of “Speed of Flight,” I simply could not get into the stories. Both novels washed over me entirely.
In fairness, I have never enjoyed Doctor Who stories that have been heavily rooted in hardcore science-fiction, and in print this has proven fatal for me; I just cannot get into them, especially when the plot is as generic and plodding (albeit with a few gratuitous shocks) as this one is. Moreover, I cannot identify with aliens that are entirely alien; there was not one new character in “Speed of Flight” that I can even remember the name of, save for Epreto who only sticks in my mind because his name crops up on just about every other page and also, for some reason known only to my subconscious mind, I kept expecting him to pull off a rubber mask and reveal himself to be the Master! Suffice it to say that he did not. Had he, this review may be reading very differently indeed.
On the other hand though, this novel does have one or two positives that are worth mentioning. To say he had to have all the toys back in the box by the end of the book, Leonard seemed to relish really pushing the envelope so far as Jo Grant and one-off TARDIS traveller Mike Yates are concerned. “Speed of Flight” contains some really quite outrageous stuff regarding these two; they do not just get killed off, but they do so time and again… I think… and the ending is categorically bizarre, yet it somehow still manages to sum up the third Doctor brilliantly. The last few scenes really call to mind that sort of ‘mother hen’ compassion that is synonymous with his character.
Furthermore, Leonard again does a tremendous job of bringing Jon Pertwee’s Doctor to
life. He is debatably one of the easiest Doctor’s to capture in prose but even so, the third Doctor really does leap out at you through the text here. Regrettably Pertwee passed away during the writing of the novel, but quite graciously the author dedicated this book to his memory.
I think on balance, it is certainly fair to say that “Speed of Flight” is an acquired taste. Those really into their hardcore science-fiction will probably love this book, but as for me – well; I think it is beginning to look like I am just not going to be a Paul Leonard man! Sadly “Dancing the Code” is proving to be the exception rather than the rule.
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 just prior to The Green Death, as it seems to lead into that story very nicely.
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