THESE STORIES ALL
WITH A DÉJÀ VIEW" AND
THE NOVEL "THE TAKING
OF CHELSEA 426."
OFFICIAL PANINI BOOKS
HARDBACK (ISBN 1-846
53-095-1) RELEASED IN
Join the Doctor and
his trusty TARDIS
as they travel to
and places in this
new collection of
The Time Lord faces
up to a shapeless
horror in a Victorian
sentient doors from
gaseous Gelth on a
reality TV show,
travels to the end
of the rainbow -
quite literally! -
and battles Vikings.
A lot of Vikings...
(EIGHT SHORT STORIES)
It’s that time of year again. The shops are stocking Christmas cards, the annuals have been released, it’s the season of good will. Yes, it’s late August 2009. It’s time for the annual Panini Lovely StorybookTM. Another fine release featuring eight stories in a beautifully designed and illustrated hardback, this year’s edition is as gorgeous a publication as ever. Panini is still giving the BBC a run for its money when it comes to these annual publications.
Story-wise, we again get a good mixture of tales, each with their own peculiar setting (and peculiar is the word, this time round), from a range of names that will be well known to fans. Out of the eighth authors, four have written for the television series, three are better known
for their works in print and audio, and one is new to the range – altogether, a good mix.
It is the new author who pens the first story, Total Eclipse of the Heart. Apart from the nerve of naming the lead story in the book after a Bonnie Tyler power ballad, it’s great to see the publishers taking the chance to open a book with a new name. Oli Smith is a young author who has previously worked on his own comics, and this is his big break into mainstream publication. Since working on this piece, he has written the story Blue Moon for the BBC Doctor Who website, although this has, due to the vagaries of publishing, appeared first. Total Eclipse of the Heart is a fine story, dealing with the launch of an undermanned colony ship from Earth, timed to enter hyperspace at the moment of total eclipse. The ‘Heart’ of the title is the ship itself, of course. In spite of Smith’s almost chatty writing style and fairly blasé Doctor, this is actually quite a dark tale of lies and sacrifice. It’s served well by Martin Geraghty’s excellent illustrations, which include the beautiful – the vista of the Earth from space – and the gruesome – an astronaut torn to atoms horrifically. Overall, fine stuff.
The End of the Rainbow is where the peculiar side of things comes in. Jacqueline Rayner’s tale involves, as the title suggests, a rainbow, but one that has bizarre effects on the people of a small English town. The idea of people being changed into single colours, and then collapsing and vanishing in the order of the rainbow, is somehow both twee and chilling at the same time. The Doctor gets to terribly heroic, scaling the rainbow to its source (which
is dynamically illustrated by Brian Williamson), and gets a young sidekick, Bobby. While the resolution, when it comes, seems a bit easy, this is another good story.
Scared Stiff by Mark Gatiss is another winner. Gatiss has long been one of my favourite Who authors, and here he presents a spooky tale of phantoms infiltrating a supernatural television show, a sort of mockery of shows like Most Haunted. Not the world’s most
original idea, but effectively depicted in Gatiss’ rich prose. It also has the distinction of
being a sequel to one of the author’s television episodes - see if you can guess which
one! Ben Willsher – well known to Doctor Who Magazine readers as the cartoonist for
the reviews page – reigns in his caricature style to present some absolutely gorgeous illustrations – with, of course, a few of his trademark nudges and winks. Writing and illustration work perfectly together to provide an effective chiller with a sense of fun.
This volume, along with those earlier in the series,
also includes a single comic strip adventure. Space Vikings! by Jonathan Morris is good fun, if a little slight, and involves, would you believe, Vikings from space. There is an almost plausible reason for their existence, and the mythical horned helmets are included with a witty technobabble explanation – the horns are aerials, y’see. The resolution is a bit abrupt and easy again, but it’s good fun. The artwork, by Rob Davis and INJ Culbard, is just batty and cartoony enough to carry the daft story.
Bennelong Point, by Keith Temple, is the weakest story in the book for me. Set in 1979 Australia, it involves a crashed spacecraft and gaseous aliens that can possess people’s bodies for their own ends. So far, so sci-fi. The problem is in the telling – the main prota-gonist, Harvey, is just so Australian, it’s hard to take. I’ve met a lot of Australians, and not
one of them would say something like “I was beginning to think this bloke might be a few kangaroos short of a full herd.” The climax, with Sydney Opera House taking off as a space ship (not really a spoiler – it’s boldly illustrated on the final page), is a great idea, but hard to accept, since the Opera House was still there last time I looked, and certainly didn’t vanish
in 1979. Neill Cameron’s style of artwork is odd, but works well, especially his depiction of the possessed victims, but it’s not enough to lift the story. This one might have worked well on television, but Temple’s prose falls short.
Matt Jones’s story, The Shape on the Chair, is a child-friendly horror, in which inanimate objects come to life and people are dragged screaming into the walls. Set in an all-girls orphanage, and gifting the Doctor with another young sidekick, Lola, this is an effectively creepy tale, and the pseudoscientific explanation works without jeopardising this. David Roach provides effective illustrations, although the killer furnace reminds me of an episode of The Real Ghostbusters. The ending’s lovely, too.
Knock Knock! sees Paul Magrs being as barmy as you’d expect. Having previously brought us a walking, talking vending machine and a handbag that contains the afterlife, Magrs now presents us with living doors on little wheels. The Doctor makes friends with the ambassador (ambassa-door?) of the aliens, whom he names John Henry, after the inventor of the door-bell. John Henry’s a cracking character, great fun and hugely likeable. The doors are a little hard to take, even if they are rationalised as sentient wormholes disguised as furniture, but
if you suspend your disbelief this is a great little tale, as the main door force turns out to be malevolent. Perhaps having more living household objects is a bit too much like Magrs’s previous novel, Sick Building, but the story works well, and Adrian Salmon’s bold, simple artwork matches it perfectly.
The Haldenmor Fugue is the final, and best, story in the book. James Moran provides a stirring tale of time paradoxes and Viking war parties. Having two stories featuring Vikings against a sci-fi background is a mistake, it has to be said, and this story suffers inevitably feels a bit samey after the earlier comic strip. Which is a shame, because this is by far the better treatment, with genuine Vikings interacting with the world of the 22nd century. I’m still not a big fan of Andy Walker’s artwork, but I have to admire the excellent image of the long-ship emerging from a glass-walled building. The Doctor gets a companion figure in this tale, a butch security guard named Carla, is described, rather wonderfully, as looking like “she
could beat up dinosaurs with one of her eyebrows.” The story is wrapped up in a temporal quandary, and there’s a real sting in the tale’s end. It even extends the tenth Doctor’s life by several years, although to say why would spoil the excellent ending.
So, another winner from Panini. Beyond the main entries, there are two things that still need mentioning. One is the Walker’s frontispiece. This makes me quite disproportionately happy simply due to the fact that it features the alien Voord. Secondly, more significantly, is the now traditional Doctor’s letter. Russell the Davies once again provides this, probably one of his last bits of Doctor Who fiction, and it’s an intriguing one. Rather than an actual letter, this takes the form of a scrambled transmission, featuring scraps of Doctor’s dialogue from the series. Seemingly in reverse order, the final line reads “Hello! Ooh, new teeth.” Seeing as that was the tenth Doctor’s first line, the nature of the first line of the transmission becomes very interesting…
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
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