Monday, July 20, 2009

the story of martha

And Martha didn’t hesitate, she put her own hands upon the Doctor’s cheeks too. She felt how cold they were, and she was so warm against them, and she pushed harder until she could feel she’d reached the Doctor’s warmth too, she knew it must be deep inside somewhere.

I wonder if any of the BBC books can claim to be any closer to fan fiction than The Story of Martha. In that case I wonder why I held off reading it for as long as I did! It’s a curious book, because imbedded in the overarching narrative (of the Year That Never Was, the grand 365 days described in “The Last of the Time Lords” which saw Martha walking the world, spreading the Gospel of the Doctor) by Dan Abnett are short stories Martha tells of the Doctor to inspire the pseudo-religious faith we see so ridiculously demonstrated. I realized halfway through that the short stories are our way of actually making this a Doctor Who book, because without them the Doctor would figure almost not at all. I guess that’s one way in which it differs from fan fiction: if I’d written The Story of Martha you can be sure there would have been a lot of angsty Doctor-yearning, though I suppose this might be the place where Martha might start to “get over” the Doctor . The narrative is really quite spare; I almost wonder if Abnett had made it more complex and was told to tone it down so the book didn’t end up being 1,000 pages long. Again, see, if it were my fan fiction it would have been twice as long because it would have followed Martha with more precision, rather than picking the random incidents to detail. But I digress.

The quality of the incidental stories varies. I wasn’t surprised that the strongest one by far was by that Very Clever Man, Rob Shearman. The others are “unknowns,” at least to Doctor Who book fandom. Many of the stories are so short, I imagine it’s difficult for the writers to get any kind of characterization in before the plot begins—at least I hope that’s why the characterization is, in my opinion, a little sloppy. “The Weeping” reminded me of the Adrian Salmon “Universal Monsters” comic from Doctor Who magazine in fall 2007 (the dialogue in this is a bit off). “Breathing Space” reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke and I liked the general idea, but I found the dénouement rather confusing. 102 “The Frozen Wastes,” I’m pleased to report, starts out a bit like “Over and Under” part two! It was certainly the most memorable part of the book, dreamy and engagingly manipulative of time. It had some great images and appealed to the senses. Plus it had the Doctor and Martha dreaming together , hot air balloons, and a French explorer trying to get to the North Pole (like Raoul, alas). (Though I can’t see Martha fantasizing about Leonardo DiCaprio, can you?) “Star Crossed” has a twist reminiscent of “The Doctor’s Daughter,” and somehow the grungy atmosphere reminds me of Firefly!

Martha’s UCF (Unified Containment Force) nemesis, Griffin, is okay for an adversary, but some of those scenes suffer from blandness. Early scenes feel like 28 Days Later, yet I can’t imagine Martha would make the rookie mistakes of wearing perfume and earrings when she knows the perception filter is the only thing keeping her alive. Martha’s French operative friend Mathieu obviously made me think of Mathieu Frenchie the whole time, which was very amusing. I was very disappointed when the Brigadier in charge of the Turkish side of the Underground was not Alistair or even Winifred (though this guy’s father knew Benton, which is why he assumes the Doctor is still a dandy). Where was the Brigadier? Everything goes a bit too real when Martha ends up in the slave camps in Japan—her despair was so palpable and depressing (visions of Empire of the Sun). However, this is probably the strongest point in Abnett’s narrative. The Master, interestingly, shows up very little!

I guess the best compliment I can give the book is that it inspired me to write more fan fic! :-D

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