THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "GENESIS OF
THE DALEKS" AND
"REVENGE OF THE
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-426
-20501-4) RELEASED IN
Why have the TARDIS
crew been scattered
across the stars?
And what could
interest the Time
Lords in this war-
torn sector of space?
At the heart of a
conspiracy lies an
ancient quest, AND
someone has finally
ultimate device of
A Device of Death
“A Device of a Death” has a luminous and utterly engrossing four-page prologue at the start and an almost equally captivating and controversial final two pages. Lamentably though,
Christopher Bulis has bludgeoned in 253 pages of complete rot in between.
Despite being set in the tight gap between “Genesis of the Daleks” and “Revenge of the Cybermen” – a gap in which the TARDIS crew are, quite remarkably, travelling without the TARDIS – this story feels incredibly formulaic and humdrum. For reasons that will be explained towards the end of the novel, the TARDIS crew find themselves separated and each thrust into different parts of the same war. All three of them remember little of their recent adventures and spend as much of their ‘screen time’ struggling with their memories as they do with their respective situations. Oddly enough, this actually makes the novel much more palatable than it otherwise might have been as the situations that the TARDIS crew find themselves in are so predictable and monotonous that having them piece together the events of “Genesis of the Daleks” is considerably more diverting.
At times though, I do concede, Bulis’ plot threatens to grab the reader’s attention. The fascinating premise of a society that has distanced itself from war to such an extent that they are looking to develop ‘humane’ weapons and deal with the war relatively even-handedly really gets the reader thinking. Unfortunately this concept is not explored all that much beyond the Doctor saying something about how the weapons testers should make their crash test dummies bleed.
However, I did like how, towards the end, Bulis had the Doctor dispose of his regular outfit and dress like a native. The author’s intention was clearly to give the situation some extra gravitas, and at least in part this worked. If only the events surrounding the Doctor’s change of clothes had a little more weight, it might have worked better.
Ironically, the facet of this novel that I appreciated the most is arguably its greatest flaw – its unqualified dependency on the television serials that surround it, most notably the peerless “Genesis of the Daleks”. Indeed, both the prologue and the last two pages of this book ruminate heavily on the consequences of the Doctor’s actions on Skaro. It seems that the Doctor did undeniably stall the Daleks’ development by a millennium or so – perhaps one reason why the “Dalek Invasion of Earth in the year 2000” eventually became the Dalek Invasion of Earth of the year 2157. More fascinatingly still, in the prologue we actually get to see the Time Lords watch the future of the universe contract and unfurl from inside their temporally immune Citadel on Gallifrey. I love how the ‘old’ version of Dalek history is insidiously superseded by the ‘new’ version. Dates in history become myths. Myths pass
into legends. Legends are forgotten and the new timeline takes root. Its truly fascinating stuff for us geeks! Similarly, the very last page reveals much about the origins of the Daleks’
bitter enemies, the Movellans. It seems that by virtue of his meddling in this novel, the Doctor may have once again stalled the Daleks development, two stories in a row…
And so save for a few pages of unashamed fan service, “A Device of a Death” is poor in the extreme. It is not even bad enough to be memorable; it is just plain and simply forgettable. I certainly expected more from a proven Doctor Who novelist capable of penning the likes of “The Eye of the Giant.”
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.
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