THIS STORY TAKES
AFTER THE EVENTS OF
THE NOVEL "THE EIGHT
DOCTORS", AND PRIOR
TO THE COMIC STRIP
ANTHOLOGY "END GAME."
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN MAY 1997.
On the Mare Sirenum,
are walking on the
surface of Mars for
the first time in over
The National Space
Museum in London is
the venue for aN event
where the great and
the good celebrate a
In Adisham, Kent, the
most dangerous man
in Britain has escaped
from custody while
being transported by
In Whitehall, the new
Home Secretary is
convinced that a plot
EXISTS to overthrow
In west London, MI5
agents shut down a
that got too close to
And, on a state visit
to THE USA, the Prime
Minister prepares to
make a BIG speech,
totally unaware OF
THE dark forces THAT
are working against
As the eighth Doctor
and Professor Bernice
all these events are
soon all will be
time, the Doctor is
already too late...
READ THE E-BOOK
The Dying Days
After bringing the seventh Doctor’s era to a resounding climax with the peerless Lungbarrow two months earlier, Virgin took the decision to make their final New Adventure to feature the Doctor an eighth Doctor story. Lance Parkin’s ensuing novel is… unique, and
I use the word in the truest sense. There is not another Doctor Who book out there like it.
On the face of it, The Dying Days appears to be wholly traditional - excessively so, perhaps; a knee-jerk reaction to the heavily Americanised Fox TV Movie. Parkin’s plot is aberrantly straightforward – it is the year 1997. British astronauts accidentally desecrate the tomb of a Martian Ice Lord and so his clan, led by the wicked Ice Warrior Xznaal, launch an invasion of Great Britain aided and abetted by the power-hungry British Politician Lord Greyhaven. And only the Doctor and his friends can stop them…
However, whilst in principal The Dying Days is no more than another bog-standard Home Counties invasion, certain things set it apart from your standard Doctor / UNIT escapades. Most evidently, when all is said and done, this invasion can’t really be covered up with a D-Notice: a Martian spaceship hovered over London. An Ice Warrior was crowned as King of England. ‘First contact’, as they say, has been irreversibly made.
Further, whilst the eighth Doctor is freed from the shackles of the TV Movie and is placed
in a more familiar setting surrounded by Bernice Summerfield, Lethbridge-Stewart (pre-regeneration!), Winifred Bambera, and even his old roadster Bessie, The Dying Days is
still very much a New Adventure in the mould of the sixty foregoing novels. I certainly can’t recall any classic television serial that saw a naked woman watch from her lover’s window
as a Martian spaceship descended, or where the Doctor shared a kiss (and quite possibly more…) with his companion.
The third noteworthy constituent is something that
both benefits this novel and detracts from it at the
same time. As was the case with Eternity Weeps – the first New Adventure to abandon the Doctor
Who logo and set up the New Adventures as a
series in their own right – this is a story about
Bernice more than anything else. It is not really a
Doctor Who novel – it’s a dry run for the Bernice Summerfield New Adventures which just happens to feature the Doctor.
On the positive side, this allows Parkin to treat us to several chapters comprised almost purely of first-person narrative from Benny’s inimitably wry perspective. On the downside though, the Doctor is written out about half way through and doesn’t appear again until right at the end. Now this is a real shame because not only is it refreshing to read about a new Doctor in print, but Parkin has captured Paul McGann’s portrayal so very well in his writing - this romantic, swaggering antihero is every bit the Doctor that we saw so briefly on screen. Whilst Benny and the Lethbridge-Stewart can easily carry the story on their own – the Brig repelled invasions from both the Drahvins and the Bandrils without the Doctor’s help, you know – and whilst both are an unqualified joy to read about, The Dying Days does suffer from a lack of the man whose visage takes up most of the front cover.
My only other gripe with The Dying Days is that Parkin has consciously limited his canvas; the whole book is written as if it were a television script, rather than a novel. Consequently the epic, Independence Day-style invasion is limited to just three Martians, one spaceship, and one nation! Hardly “too broad and too deep for the small screen”, but I suppose that at least it proved TV Movie producer Philip Segal wrong. I think in a lot of ways this sums up The Dying Days – it may be a fun, rollercoaster ride but it clearly has an agenda. Even the book’s suggestive title could be applied to the twentieth century, Mars, or indeed to Virgin’s Doctor Who licence.
On a finale note, I think a bit too much has been made of the book’s last scene – which sees Benny snog the Doctor and then throw him onto her bed – as it is hardly a certainty that they had sex. Parkin has clearly left it open so that you can think that if you want, but let’s face it – it’s nigh on inconceivable that they did. This is the Doctor we’re talking about!
And so the Doctor takes off in his TARDIS to wherever and whenever the BBC Books will take him, and Bernice settles into Dellah University for what will undoubtedly prove some uproarious - but Doctorless - new adventures. And just like that, the most distinctive era of Doctor Who comes to an end.
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.
This story is explicitly set in May 1997 and marks the first chronological meeting of the eighth Doctor and Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. However, the later audio drama, Minuet in Hell, is set in the “early 21st century” yet in that story the retired Brigadier doesn’t recognise the Doctor’s eighth incarnation. Looks like the recall-busting effects of Mawdryn Undead and No Future had far-reaching effects on the old Brig’s memory…
The events depicted in The Dying Days are also difficult to reconcile with stories set on Earth post-1997 as,
to quote from the above review, “a Martian spaceship hovered over London. An Ice Warrior was crowned as King of England. ‘First contact’, as they say, has been irreversibly made”.
However, the same could have been said after The Christmas Invasion, Doomsday, or The Sound of Drums. Indeed, it probably wasn’t until the Daleks stole the Earth itself in 2009 that most humans begrudgingly came round to the idea that they aren’t alone in the universe, and whether this acceptance will be carried forward or fade is anybody’s guess. It seems that the seventh Doctor’s wise words in Remembrance of the Daleks were correct: “Humans have a seemingly endless capacity for self-deception...”
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