THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
"YEAR OF THE PIG" AND
THE TV STORY "THE
TRIAL OF A TIME LORD."
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN JULY 2004.
In the 101st century,
from the 20th century
is the new obsession,
and Reef Station One
broadcasts from a
distant Earth of the
them to a waiting
audience. BUT WHEN
the Doctor and Peri
arrive, they find that
the STATION's LARGest
entrepreneur is in
league with THE
Given how much I enjoyed Craig Hinton’s last novel, “The Quantum Archangel”, and, for that matter, his recent Big Finish audio drama “Excelis Decays”, I really had high hopes for this one. The sixth Doctor and Peri versus the Autons – one has to admit, it is certainly an inspiring premise. Nonetheless, while I did rather enjoy “Synthespians™”, it did not quite live up to my perhaps unrealistic expectations.
I love the idea of a society living vicariously through ancient television shows, particularly the more tasteless ones. There was a lot of sniggering going on as I read through this book, noting the titles of fictional television shows like The Secret Files; Space Journey - Traveller; and of course, Professor X (which incarnation is he in again? And will they ever find episode six of “The Snow Vikings”?)
Reef Station One is a magnificent backdrop for the story too. Garish, loud and insuppressibly vulgar, Reef Station One is 1980s America all over again. And who would find herself right at home in that environment? Suffice it to say that this story bleeds beautifully into events of parts 5 to 8 of “The Trial of a Time Lord” in how it so elegantly highlights Peri’s weariness and longing for home.
“Prepare Space Station Zenobia.
Order the High Council to appoint both an Inquisitor and a Valeyard.
It’s time to bring him in.”
But, just in case you had missed the signs, the author’s epilogue - which stars the Celestial Intervention Agency’s Coordinator Vansell, of numerous Big Finish productions - makes this novel’s propinquity to the Doctor’s trial unequivocal. So much for going easy on the continuity, Mr Hinton… (as if we would have had it any other way!)
That much said, in my view Hinton does go a bit too far with Peri in this book. Whilst I am all for making Doctor Who novels a bit more adult, exploiting Peri’s history of being sexually abused by her step-father Howard was a bit too much for me, particularly in a novel that is otherwise quite playful in tone.
Nevertheless, it is great to see Colin Baker’s bombastic Doctor let lose in what is, essentially, his arena. For once, neither his multi-coloured coat nor his outspoken manner is out of place. There is one particularly brilliant scene where he talks all the way through a movie, slagging it off something rotten, only to come out of the cinema talking about how brilliant it was. Marvellous stuff.
Unfortunately though, I found
that the key element of the story – the Autons – were far from being such.
Hinton sews the seeds of their arrival very early on through his
Walter J. Matheson III character and his Skin Deep™ treatment, not to mention through a surfeit of other ‘clues’, but ultimately I found that the first half of the book dragged terribly as I waited for something – anything! - to happen. Thankfully though, once the Autons do arrive, “Synthespians™” truly lives up to the imposing imagery conjured up by Black Sheep’s idiosyncratic cover artwork.
All told, “Synthespians™” is a reasonably respectable read. It is certainly not without its flaws, but one thing that shines through in all but its very darkest moments is that this novel is fun, pure and simple. This is Hinton taking it back to basics.
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’s blurb offers no guidance as to its placement. The text itself is more helpful, however, as at the beginning of the adventure the Doctor is “fiddling around” with the TARDIS’ Zeiton-7 ore, which may suggest
its recent acquisition, and therefore indicate a placement straight after the television story Vengeance of Varos. However, this novel must take place after Grave Matter, as the Doctor mentions Peri’s scar acquired on Dorsill in that adventure, and Grave Matter is specifically set after Vengeance of Varos, and apparently directly so. To muddy the waters further, the novel’s epilogue sees the Time Lords’ order the Doctor’s arrest
in readiness for the trial depicted in The Trial of a Time Lord.
Taking everything into account, we have placed this story immediately prior to The Trial of a Time Lord. For one thing, “fiddling around” doesn’t necessarily mean installing, and in any event the Grave Matter reference obviates an immediate post-Varos placement. More importantly though, there is no way that 1980s Doctor Who would have had the foresight to set up the Doctor’s trial so far in advance; it just feels fundamentally wrong – it would be the equivalent of having The Chase’s Dalek execution squad set loose at the end of The Aztecs instead of The Space Museum. Had the Time Lords wanted to apprehend the Doctor “straight away”
(a relative term, admittedly) then they could have plucked him out of time when they knew exactly where and when he’d be in The Two Doctors (the second Doctor’s post-War Games missions being a matter of Celestial Intervention Agency record).
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