THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "THE TIME
MONSTER" AND "THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN APRIL
Jo Grant had no
inkling of the ship
that revolved in
orbit like a discreet,
in the mind of someone
serene but bonkers.
and its crust of smog,
stretched tall above
the soapy atmosphere
of the Earth, is a ship
the size and exact
shape of St Pancras
and that mysterious
lady adventurer, Iris
bargaining for their
lives with creatures
infiltrate the 1970s in
the guise of
UNIT, the Doctor and
his friends face the
daunting task of
sheep, the mysterious
Children of Destiny
and... the being who
“Verdigris” is a vivacious, rollicking novel that flies past in a heartbeat. It is also one of the most staggeringly imaginative past Doctor adventures that I have ever had the fortune to read. This one sees author Paul Magrs truly in his metafictional element.
For starters, the pairing of the third Doctor and Iris is absolutely inspired; the brazen “Trans-temporal Adventuress” the perfect foil for the most straight-laced of Doctors. It is nice to see Iris share an adventure with a Doctor other than the eighth too; after all, her
appearances to date have made it unequivocally clear that she knew the lot of them intimately.
“Will it end?”
What really makes “Verdigris” so interesting though is that it is essentially told from Iris’ perspective, which is one of hindsight. Never one for adhering to those pesky laws of time, here Iris has quite intentionally encountered the Doctor out of sequence (relative to her in
this novel, I think the Doctor is in his seventh or eighth incarnation). This forced retrospection gives the novel a unique feel as for the first time, it really feels like we are experiencing an adventure that is brand new – ‘live’, even - yet still retro. “Verdigris” was not there in the Doctor’s timeline before, but cue Iris and hey presto; a new-old adventure is bludgeoned in.
This distorted perspective also allows us to learn more about the Earthbound Time Lord; things that by their very nature did not come to the fore on television, but things that are of evidently of some importance to Iris and are thus included here. For example, “Verdigris” introduces us to the Doctor’s house; his village; and the lady that runs the corner shop, who lusts after the Doctor to such an extent that her friends call him her “fancy man”. Oh, and his whopping United Nations paycheck. He kept that one quiet…
“Verdigris” also lifts Iris’ veil a little higher, suggesting that she spent considerable time as part of the Sisterhood on Karn and, in an astonishing twist, that she was a member of the order during the events of “The Brain of Morbius”! This revelation naturally dovetails into the most thorough retelling yet of Iris’ blockbuster battle with Morbius in the Death Zone. It is woefully referential stuff, of course, but I find that it really does make Iris all the more alluring.
The story itself is, as I have come to expert from Magrs, a post-modern fairytale sated with his own characteristic style. Reading the book, I could practically see the fun that he must have had in writing about aliens masquerading as great literary characters, not to mention in turning convention on its head at every possible turn. Iris’ homosexual companion Tom is only the tip of the iceberg – here we have a villain who masquerades as the Master! Talk about wrong side up…
"Do you really think that there would be an organisation like UNIT here, in the 1970s?"
It also find it fascinating how Magrs deals with UNIT in this novel. Not only did he take the decision not to feature them heavily in this story, he took the decision to write them out of the proceedings in a way that I can only describe as Magrtian. Reading this one, at times Magrs even had me questioning whether UNIT was real or not, never mind poor old Jo Grant! Indeed, the passages that see Jo wander through an empty, dreamlike UNIT Headquarters are told in the most innovative and (to Doctor Who fans at least) suggestive of ways – telesnaps and low quality audio recordings! Absolutely inspired.
Furthermore, certain deft touches - such as turning Mike Yates into a two-dimensional cardboard cut out, for example – are positively dripping with the author’s ineffaceable perspective. Whilst I do not agree with what I can only imagine is a thinly-concealed scoff at the UNIT Captain – who was, in my view, one of the most three-dimensional UNIT characters – you have to admire the author’s brazen and wholly inimitable style.
"Here the timelines are intact, causality is unimpeached
and one historical event follows another in strict chronological order."
On a final note, Magrs’ apparent insensitivity to continuity in “Verdigris” has been lambasted by many, but to be fair there was nothing in the book that had me tearing my hair out beyond the age-old UNIT dating inconsistencies. If anything, the story feels like it has been woven into the tapestry of the third Doctor’s era effortlessly, the novel’s finale bleeding seamlessly into “The Three Doctors” (and do you not just love the idea that it was Iris’ meddling in this story that ultimately led to the events of “The Three Doctors” and the lifting of the Doctor's exile!) and “Frontier in Space” for the Doctor and the Master respectively. Fair dues, the Doctor does make one incongruous comment to Iris about certain events on Peladon not having happened to him yet, but even this can be explained away relatively easily by those that wish to do so.
And so all told, despite having gained a reputation as a something of an opinion-divider, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed “Verdigris”. In fact, I much preferred this hushed classic to even “The Scarlet Empress.”
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 novel appears to lead into the television story The Three Doctors.
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