These stories are so much shorter than I thought they were going to be. Or I’m just tearing through them because they’re so awesome. Let’s begin:
The Fourth Doctor: The Roots of Evil by Philip Reeve
About a month ago, when I woke up way too early to actually function, but not early enough to be able to go back to sleep, I stumbled across Doctor Who on Syfy. Thinking I’d catch some Nine, Ten, or Eleven before I had to do things, I switched the channel.
All of a sudden Sarah Jane and the Fourth Doctor were staring back at me. I vaguely remember squealing with joy. Sarah Jane in her days with the Doctor? Brilliant! And of course, Four. I was so excited.
Even though the first three stories of this collection were amazing, Reeve’s tale was about a Doctor I was actually familiar with. I even knew who the companion was: Leela. Leela fascinates me. I am such a Classic Who newbie that Leela was my first companion not from modern day England. I loved it. She called the Doctor’s knowledge of science “magic” and is quick with a knife, often acting as the Doctor’s bodyguard. Leela is never the damsel in distress. Well, not from what I’ve seen. There was a moment in this story where Leela pulls out her knife as protection from the oncoming enemy and the Doctor tells her to put it away. The Doctor never carries weapons, after all.
This story was one of my favourite kind: where the population don’t adore the Doctor for being the Doctor. The people of this story actually despise the Doctor with a hatred that has burned almost a millennia. The first native of Heligan Structure we meet is called Ven, short for (I kid you not) Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-The-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths.
Funny thing is, these people hate the Doctor for something he hasn’t done yet.
Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey.
According to the Heligans, the Doctor left the people stranded on their planet (which is actually just a humungous tree) and left them there. Doesn’t sound very Doctorish. There’s always a reason for the Doctor’s actions. We find it out partway through the story but I won’t give it away.
Which regeneration is the culprit? See if you can guess:
”There is a certain resemblance. Two eyes, two ears, one nose – I suppose you could call that a nose? – and it’s true that I’ve changed a bit over the years. But I’m certain I’ve never looked like that.”
“He’s so young!” said Leela. “And so handsome!”
“I mean, he’s wearing a bow tie!” The Doctor explained patiently. “Ridiculous objects! I wouldn’t be seen dead in a bow tie!”
“The Doctor told our ancestors ‘Bow ties are cool’,” said Ven.
Even when Eleven is exiling people to a tree-planet, he can still defend bow ties. I really hope Amy or River slapped him for this.
The story had so many of the ideas of Doctor Who that I have come to love: the uncertainty of time, the other side of the Doctor’s influence, Doctor sass, and Leela running around being awesome. I will definitely be looking up Philip Reeve’s work. Especially since, according to GoodReads, he’s dabbled in steampunk. God, I love steampunk.
Both the subject and the author of this story intrigue me. I have been fascinated by Five ever since Time Crash, with Ten, and upon the discovery that Five is Georgia Moffatt’s father (remember Jenny from ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’?), and is also Ten’s father-in-law.
I love Doctor Who. It’s even messed up in reality.
As for Patrick Ness, he wrote More Than This, a book that follows me around from bookshop to bookshop just begging me to buy it. And I would have by now, except for the fact that it is a hardcover. Hardcover is not only expensive but the covers are freaking annoying.
Anyway, this story didn’t actually focus on the Doctor for a change. We follow the adventures of teenaged Jonny and Nettie during the Second World War. Jonny is a German Jew at the worst possible time and Nettie is African-American.
I may have forgotten to mention that this story is set in America. But moving on.
We see Jonny and Nettie dealing with the fact that both of their families are struggling financially and so they both work – at the tender age of fourteen – to help provide for the family. But the story opens with Jonny buying something called a Truth Teller. It’s this little contraption that everyone who’s anyone in Jonny and Nettie’s hometown have. So in order to fit in, Jonny buys one of these things.
But why are they called Truth Tellers? Because they tell the truth. A painful, angry version of the truth, but still they tell the truth. And the truth can be a damaging thing.
We get glimpses of the Doctor and Nyssa as they run around in the background trying to figure out what’s going on, while we’re focussed on the fact that Jonny can’t see that Nettie is madly in love with him. Isn’t that always the way?
After a pretty dramatic explosion, Jonny and the Doctor finally cross paths. Alongside the Dipthodats, the aliens responsible for the Truth Tellers. Ness’ description of the Dipthodats was the best example of description I have ever read. Ever. Yes, this includes Cassie and Gaiman. The Dipthodats, according to Ness, were “pumpkin squirrel sheep fish”.
Brilliant! Fantastic! Molto bene.
If I tell you how the Dipthodats and the Truth Tellers are related, I’ll be giving away the end of the story. Let’s just say, it’s a bit darker and more convoluted than you’re probably thinking.
It wasn’t until I got to this part of my Doctor stories that I realised I actually don’t know anything about the Sixth Doctor. Everything I know about Classic Who stops at Peter Davison. Except for the fact that the Eighth Doctor only had that TV movie. Annoyed by my ignorance, I asked one of my fellow Whovians what he knew about Six. The answer I got was a surprising one. Apparently Six was the death of Classic Who and essentially the reason that Classic Who ended up axed by the BBC.
How is that for Whovian hatred?
I can kind of see it, though, through Mead’s portrayal of Six in this story. As I read, I saw a Doctor who was vain, pompous, arrogant, and basically felt he was superior to everyone else. None of these are characteristics I associate the the Doctor. Ten could be a little arrogant, but he was, at heart, a truly wonderful person. With truly wonderful hair. So when I read:
…’Besides, I think it’s clear that I just keep improving.’ Studying his reflection in the monitor, he gave a decisive nod.
I was shocked. No wonder the fandom turned on the show, with a Doctor that was so in loved with himself.
What kept me reading this time around was the fact that I love Richelle Mead. Plus, the storyline was excellent. A little sappy for a Doctor Who story (the whole thing was basically a metaphor for the regenerating power of love) but it was still amazing. Except, I never quite understood why Peri would continue to travel with this Doctor, after Five. Maybe she was just hanging around, hoping for a glimpse of Five’s Doctor. Poor woman.
What annoyed me, though, was a certain similarity between this story and one of Nine’s stories. There’s:
- a wedding
- a church as the scene of the climax
Name that episode, New Whovians!
Luckily for Mead, the whole “Rani” thing was new enough to me to distract me from those coincidences. A cold, analytical Time Lord (Lady?) who isn’t actually evil; just so obsessed with science that she carries out her experiments no matter the consequences.
Interestingly enough, the Rani’s TARDIS doesn’t have a broken chameleon circuit, so she hides hers as a vase at one point. The poor Doctor, stuck with a police box that only makes sense during the tiniest window of English history.
After this story, I think I may skip the Colin Baker years of Classic Who. It just doesn’t seem worth it.