Alternate History Cycle
DW & The Silurians
The Alternate History Cycle Part One
|ISBN#||0 426 20399 2|
|Synopsis: The TARDIS is attacked by a mysterious force and is promptly destroyed. Benny vanishes and the Doctor and Ace materialise on a vegetation-covered present day Earth ruled by the Silurians. The few human survivors, led by an increasingly desperate Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, are launching a desperate attack. Meanwhile, the Doctor convinces the Silurians to bid for peace, but discovers that reality only changed when his third self was killed. Just who is manipulating the time stream?|
A Review by Kris Johnson 10/12/99
After reading my first couple of New Adventures, having started very late in the series and several years behind, I became very puzzled and irritated by an unexplainable enigma. I had come across references to the TARDIS being traded, that this was a new older version, confusing stuff like that. The reappearance of the Zero Room, hold on! That was jettisoned, I have that episode on tape. What is going on? So I checked Lofficier's Programme Guide, read the synopsis of all the New Adventures recorded in it, and narrowed the TARDIS trade to the story Blood Heat. Then I did nothing, with little option left to me; aquiring these books in the U.S. is hard. Then one day I got lucky. I found and bought a very, very trashed copy of the book at a used book store. Finally, a concrete answer.
The overall impression I got was boredom. I didn't feel an overwhelming desire to keep turning pages. All in all though it was evenly paced, with a good sense of build up. The action was okay, but again didn't excite me enough; it was also difficult to believe some of what was going on. The Silurians are well done, I think. This is yet another book that I am not familiar with the monsters'/species'/alien races' original appearance story. They come across as threatening (part of that might have to do with the fact that they have conquered the Earth) especially when they use their third eye offensively. We are shown their more sympathetic side, which seems insincere; but I'll give credit to the author for at least trying. The Doctor seems to be himself, and Ace is treated well, and I didn't feel on edge about her forceful personality. At this point in the game I was still unfamiliar with what Bernice is like, and this book didn't help much because she is absent for a long while. That didn't bother me when I read it.
I like the way this book operates on a grand scale, but I was disappointed by the uselesness of the whole thing. Establish a story arc about alternate futures, check. Returning enemies, check. TARDIS trade-up, check. In the end, the Doctor, Ace and Bernice lose because of what the Doctor does out of necessity. Anything victory won is an empty one; not only have the regulars lost, we have to. Reading this one mean you have read a DW action novel that might as well have never happened. Fighting the good fight for no good reason is what this book is about, which is too bad. The only good thing about this is it demonstrates exactly why this problematic genre is best left unexplored beyond one or two stories, let alone a whole self-contained saga. 2 1/2 out of 5.
A Review by Dominick Cericola 1/3/00
Before getting down to business, let me just say this: What I am about to do is almost the anti-thesis of everything I believe in. Plain and simple, when someone reviews something (whether it be a book, movie, even a work of art), the finished product is one person's opinion/perception of that object. It is that same review that will make/break a creation. However, I am doing this all the same. Why? Because in the entire run of the Virgin New Adventures, there were certain books that fans just literally nitpicked to death. I am here to represent one such book, Jim Mortimore's Blood Heat. Hopefully, I can put it in a better perspective than has been given in the past..
The book opens with an argument sorts, between Benny and the post-Spacefleet Ace, and ends in a similar fashion, with Benny's spot now replaced with that of The Doctor. But, it isn't the bookended arguments that make up the book - it's what's inside that counts..! Blood Heat sets up the Alternate History Cycle, a story arc that runs through Daniel Blythe's The Dimension Riders, Kate Orman's The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Steve Lyons' Conundrum, and concludes with Paul Cornell's No Future. The entire arc presents old faces, forces everyone to re-evaluate their Roles in the Universe - including The Doctor, and in the end manages to give us one hell of a ride.
The Doctor and Ace, and eventually Benny, find themselves in the first of many alternate Earths. In this version, The Third Doctor was killed during the Silurians awakening in the 70's, giving way to a revamped Earth, one in which the climate was like at the dawn of Time. Even dinosaurs were alive again! The Brigadier, once a man with a conviction to make the Earth safe but who still believe in Life, has become a frightened shadow of himself, hiding behind a gun, his only goal to wipe the Silurians from the face of the planet!
I won't give a full synopsis (as there are plenty of them out on the net already), or spoilers even, out of respect for those who haven't read it yet. What I will give, though, is an honest opinion of the book and it's content.
Jim Mortimore's name is synonymous with literary bloodbaths. His "body counts" are notorious. And, Blood Heat, his first solo work (his first NA was Lucifer Rising, a collaborative effort with Andy Lane), is chocked to the brim with corpses a'plenty, some of them familiar faces! None of that detracted from the story in anyway, it only added to it - creating a sense of horror and even confusion, as if I, the reader, were an observer of the events as they unfolded.
The story was a tense, angst-laden tale that could have used a bit of humor here and there, but all in all, succeeded for me. We see The Doctor as an imperfect individual, a hero with flaws - something that I feel worked throughout the run of NAs, giving us a chance to see all the facets of the Time Lord's character, making him appear more three-dimensional. Ace is still edgy, dealing with the conflict of emotions - her previous self vs. the hardened, Spacefleet persona. Sadly, the only character who suffers is poor Professor Summerfield - but I don't know if this was Mortimore's or Virgin's NA editor, Peter Darvill-Evans' decision.
One of the major gripes I have seen concerning this book is how it was too gory, creating a bland book that is naught more than a retelling of The Silurians. I dunno. I've seen The Silurians, and yes, there were similarities, but I took them as intentional, thrown in by the manipulator of The Doctor's past. Perhaps if I ever get the opportunity to meet Mr. Mortimore, I shall have to ask him...
I hope I have given the book the turn it deserved. And, I hope that for those of you who read it with a bad taste in your mouth, I hope that you will give Blood Heat a second chance. Thank you.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 16/9/02
Blood Heat has the honor of being the first of the New Adventures that I read. And, at the time, it was more than enough to pull me enthusiastically into the series. I was fascinated by the new companion, Benny. I was quite interested in the story-arc that began in this book. Seeing the old television stories in a new light and from a different perspective really warmed my inner fan-boy heart. Before I reread the story, now many years later, I couldn't wait to see how well it had aged. Although I had never read it since my initial perusal, it had always remained one of my favorite NAs.
To say that rereading this book came as a disappointment would be an enormous understatement. Perhaps it's because the NAs (and later, the EDAs) would reach much greater heights. Maybe I was a less sophisticated reader back in those days. But whatever the reason, I couldn't help but notice that many of the sequences really didn't seem to be much beyond the level of the Target novelisations. There are far too many action-oriented sequences that simply weren't interesting enough to sustain my attention. A lot of the characters varied between being stereotypical and just plain dull. The plot meandered into numerous vague areas; the storyline just feeling boring and uninspired. "Dreary characters wandering off on mind-numbing wild goose chases" is a summary of far too much of this story.
The book is structured around several moral dilemmas. When is war inevitable? What price is too high to pay for victory? To fight monsters, is it necessary to become one? Each of these questions (and the many others that the book raises) are interesting and intriguing concepts. Yet Mortimore never brings these questions out of the realm of one-dimensionality. Instead of complicated character motivations, we're treated to stock, cliched ciphers. We have the warmongers, the peacemakers, and the pawns, but not one of them has apparently given more than thirty seconds of thought to their situation. Some very interesting questions are raised, but the answers that we're given are beyond shallow. Far too many of these apparently high-concept arguments just come across as overblown, superficial, and pretentious.
A few sequences and conversations that occur are fairly enjoyable. Unfortunately, they're rather spread out. It was a nice idea to see the how some familiar characters dealt with extraordinary circumstances, but the execution was sorely lacking in many areas. A few of these gems did manage to shine through; indeed, there's a powerful scene near the end where one of the characters takes his limited portrayal to the logical conclusion, creating an involving and emotional passage. But, unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. For every one thing that I was interested in, there would be half a dozen things that had me rolling my eyes. Great massive chunks of this book could have been cut right out without losing anything. There would have been much to be gained from magnifying the things that this book did manage to succeed at, rather than having them buried under mounds of uninteresting and unbelievable moralizing. Giving the characters some realistic motivations wouldn't have hurt either.
If I hadn't reread this one, I would still have the much higher opinion of it that I formed back when I read it for the first time. Still it's interesting to read this in light of where the Doctor Who books were to go in the future. The topics and ideas discussed here about war and fighting monsters would be revisited again and again (a few times by Jim Mortimore himself). Blood Heat shows these arguments in their immature infancy and at least we can see how much better they got.
Fight the Future by Marcus Salisbury 30/9/02
Friedrich Nietzsche: philosopher, poet, Doctor Who reviewer. "He who fights monsters must take care that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze into the void, the void gazes also into you." (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146). Kate Orman uses this quote as the preface for her masterly Left-Handed Hummingbird, but it could be the motto for the entire story arc in which that novel appears.
Who story arcs are by no means unique or original. Think of the Master arc in Season 8, for instance, or Key to Time season, or Trial of a Timelord. Better than the latter two examples, though, was the Season 20 Black Guardian arc. In these stories (Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, and the vastly under-rated Enlightenment), an unsuspecting Doctor was manipulated by a malevolent, omnipotent aggressor (The Black Guardian). The Virgin NAs picked up on that idea with the Timewyrm and Cat's Cradle arcs, although the linking ideas in the Cradle series were a little desperate. Well, non-existent apart from the cat on the cover of all three novels.
The Virgin NAs from Blood Heat to No Future feature a textbook story arc, perhaps the best and most thought-through of the range, which builds on elements of several prior arcs in the series. This "season" kicks off, of course, with Jim Mortimore's Blood Heat. For its time (that's nearly 10 years ago, give or take) Blood Heat is innovative in many ways, and at times quite disturbing stuff. I remember reading it just after its 1994 release and being quite unsettled.
It helps that Blood Heat takes its cue from the deep, dark and epic season 7 story The Silurians. That story had the usual elements that made Malcolm Hulke's stories resonate in your mind for weeks after you saw them: moral ambiguity, well-drawn characters, and a sprawling non-linear storyline, which incorporated sub-plots within sub-plots. Think of The War Games also, or Ambassadors of Death (original story by David Whitaker, but much of the final drafts were Hulke's work).
Blood Heat begins with the death of the TARDIS, and ends with the erasure of an errant alternative universe. To quote the blurb on the back of the book: "the TARDIS is attacked by an alien force... and the Doctor and Ace crash-land on Earth... they meet the embittered Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leading the remnants of UNIT in a hopeless fight against the Silurians who rule his world. And they find out that it all began when the Doctor died..." Interesting ideas, and in a handmade kind of way Blood Heat sets the pace for more recent excursions into retcon such as Interference.
The plot is eminently straightforward. The Doctor finds himself torn between residual loyalty for UNIT and a desire to reconcile the humans and Silurians in a peaceful way (much as in The Silurians). UNIT plans a last-ditch strike on the Silurian capital city, Ophidian. Much of the action concerns the build-up to this attack, and the Doctor's journey through Silurian society (which is, admittedly, very interestingly drawn). The Doctor discovers that his past has been meddled with: the Silurian virus wiped out most of humanity after he was killed mid-way through The Silurians. This version of Earth is an aberration, and the book's most disturbing moment occurs at its very end. After the carnage, struggle, strife and, ultimately, peace of Blood Heat, the Doctor flicks a switch that erases the alternative universe.
Like Mortimore's earlier collaboration with Andy Lane, Lucifer Rising, Blood Heat features illustrations throughout (by Tim Keable). These genuinely add to the novel, and create a distinctive visual "look" for the text, as it did for Lucifer and All-Consuming Fire a little later. If only this practice had been continued for the 8DAs.
A notable overall achievement of this novel is to darken the tone of an already dark era in Who history - the show's seventh season - and, in doing so, prefigure some notable recent redevelopments of the (novel) series. In some ways, Blood Heat owes more to Inferno than to The Silurians - it draws heavily on that story's central premise of a doomed, hostile alternative world in which values and alliances are more or less inverted. Much of Blood Heat's alienation-effect derives from the constant shock value of meeting familiar faces in less than becoming situations. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, for instance, is presented in a less than flattering light. The valiant, principled old warrior is here presented as a desperate, bitter soldier in a dirty last stand against an unstoppable enemy.
Given that his relationship with the Doctor stopped mid-Silurians in this universe, Lethbridge-Stewart still displays hints of the antagonism toward the Doctor that characterised Season 7. This antagonism has been inflamed by time into genuine hatred of the individual who could have saved this world, but had the temerity to die: "How exactly like you to return from the dead" is his unsmiling greeting for the Doctor. To paraphrase Fritz Nietzsche, he who fights reptiles has become cold-blooded in the extreme. The development of the Brigadier from this state to that of a reluctant peacemaker at the conclusion is one of Blood Heat's best features. The regulars are at their Virgin NA best, with a manipulative and evasive Seventh Doctor complemented by brash Bernice and homicidal Ace (who forms an impressive double-act with an equally homicidal Sgt. Benton).
Liz Shaw turns up as a sympathetic character, as does a feral Jo Grant. Jo's fate is particularly grim: dying pointlessly in a makeshift hospital bed after being rescued from a Silurian hunter (in true Planet of the Apes fashion), and miscarrying. Nasty deaths come in rapid succession in Blood Heat, from Jo to the millions killed by the Silurian virus, to the Silurian child trampled to death by sauropods in the final attack on the reptiles' city (an attack in which Sgt. Benton gets to go out with a bang aboard a captured Silurian airship). On that level, Blood Heat's basic theme is death... the kind of horrible and senseless death that occurs amid conflict in which neither side recognises the other's sentience and therefore regards its members as animals. Chapter five is entitled "Ground Zero", by the way.
Lest I sound like I like this book all round, its down sides include the actual writing, overly verbose at times and heavy on the description and emotive depictions of post-Armageddon London where less would have been more. The plot assumes a heavy degree of background knowledge on the part of the reader to fill the continuity gaps and silences. "Morka" and "Okdel" for instance, are The Silurians' Old and Young Silurians, and were only given these names in Hulke's novelisation of that story. Readers unfamiliar with the novelisation simply won't pick up on this fact, just as those who haven't read or seen The Sea Devils won't understand the significance of Captain Ridgeway of HMS Revenge. Like many Who writers before and since, Mortimore provides some big, interesting ideas at the expense of the actual story-telling (Taking of Planet 5, anyone?)
Compared to the Future War/Compassion arcs from the 8DAs, Blood Heat is a Sunday walk in the park, but the seeds of later developments are sown here. It's not the kind of book one sits down and reads compulsively from cover to cover, but it is interesting at times, and presents (in a lumpy unvarnished way) the direction the Who franchise was to take into the '90s and beyond.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 26/11/03
Blood Heat offers something other Jim Mortimore books do not: an ability to make you feel the deaths.
Mortimore's books feature high body counts, but this time, Mortimore uses familiar characters which give the deaths more weight.
Blood Heat is the opening saga of the Alternative History Cycle. Time has been tampered with and an alternative Silurian Earth is created, one where the Third Doctor was killed before the virus cure could be released. 20 years have passed and a small group of humans, led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, are fighting for their very existence on this new Silurian friendly planet. The Doctor's TARDIS is attacked by a multidimensional force, forcing it onto this version of Earth. Bernice is separated, and Ace and the Doctor run into a familiar face....
It's a pretty wild premise. Truth be told, it's something you might find in fan fiction. In a nod to another Pertwee tale (Inferno), we get alt-versions of various UNIT members (The Brig, Benton, Liz Shaw, Jo) who have darker tendencies. Even though these are familiar names that will give the fanboy within the fuzzies no matter what, Mortimore does try and take them as far as they can go in the unlikable direction. To his credit, Mortimore doesn't go overboard in making the Silurians sympathetic either. Alt-Earth is filled with hard cases hell bent on destroying each other, and you have to dig for the humanity (for both races). P>Mortimore's Doctor is very interesting. He has hard decisions to make, in terms of the events on Silurian Earth and in terms of the bigger universal picture. And although he does try to prevent further bloodshed while on Silurian Earth, the Doctor knows he has to pull a nasty trigger and destroy this Earth, for the sake of the universe. It's one of the best examples of how to handle the Time's Champion concept in the series. Also, this Doctor is more catalyst than true character. Um, he's involved and acts Doctorish, but Mortimore imbues the character with a mythic quality that sees him go way beyond being what we expect any Doctor to be.
Bernice gets sidelined. Her role is loyal lieutenant, when she has a greater presence in the last sections of Blood Heat. Gets her ass whooped pretty bad, but is far more understanding of what the Doctor needs to do than Ace.
Ahh, Ace. It's a miracle that Mortimore made me almost care for New Ace. I think that Ace's rant at the end, angry at what the Doctor needs to do, is meant to be hypocritical. It's as if Mortimore wants to have the reader see what a horse's ass Ace is for questioning what the Doctor needs to do, especially since she's become a supersoldier. New Ace is a diabolically bad character, and Mortimore does what he can to make some sense of her, not that any one really did until Kate Orman turned her back into old school Ace in Set Piece.
Blood Heat is an intriguing book. There's a lot going on, both in terms of character and story. Despite it being a kick off to an arc, Blood Heat stands on its own as one of the stronger Virgin line novels.
A Review by Finn Clark 5/5/04
I wasn't looking forward to Blood Heat. I really admired it in 1993, but... well, it's an alternate universe book. My opinion of those isn't what it was. Nevertheless it's Jim Mortimore and I'm a big fan of his, so I gritted my teeth and started reading.
Fortunately the memory hadn't cheated. It's really good.
This book reads like a Pertwee-era PDA with guest appearances from the Virgin regulars. New Ace gets a fair bit of screen time, since she grew up here and gets to address baggage from her past (Manisha), but the Doctor is sidelined and Benny hardly even appears. None of that matters. This is the Doctor Who equivalent of The Day of the Triffids, in which an unforeseen catastrophe turns Western civilisation into a dead relic of itself. Our heroes wander through what used to be Bristol and London, fighting the creatures that have taken possession of our world and watching buildings decay into overgrown shapelessness. Instead of Triffids this book has Silurians and dinosaurs, but everything else is in place - disease, degeneration into neo-savagery and a theme of peace versus violence.
The book starts appallingly. I was shocked. I'd always assumed that Mortimore was born with a word processor in his brain, so it was a jolt to read awful prose and dire TARDIS scenes in the first thirty-odd pages. However things perk up once the story gets going and Mortimore gets to focus on the people who really matter: the inhabitants of this Silurian-ruled Earth. The TARDIS crew are passing through, but for Liz, Jo, Benton and the Brigadier every day is a life-or-death struggle. They've changed over two decades (the book's set in a divergent 1993), but these aren't eyepatch-wearing fictional versions. It's them. Liz is Liz, to the last bloody drop. The Brigadier and Benton are downright frightening, but you can see how they got that way. Arguably it's a cheap trick to put our old friends through hell in a "hey, we can do anything" alternate universe, but this once it works.
No less importantly, Mortimore doesn't wimp out on any level. We get to see everyone's motivations, which keeps the book from being a shallow deathfest. You're made to feel sorry even for the most dangerous man on the planet. And of course it's utterly uncompromising, with its Mortimore-ness turned up to eleven even in the man's first solo novel. To pick one random moment, Liz Shaw (the anti-Brigadier) finds herself in an underground battle and in terror empties a gun in the direction of a Silurian. When the lights come on, she's left wondering whether she just killed a human soldier who happened to be standing in approximately the same place.
It's bleak, monstrous and a scene we'd get from no other Who author. Mortimore has acquired a reputation for using such tactics for the sake of shock value, but this is arguably his most human apocalypse to date. There's death and savage irony, but always with a focus on the human level instead of pulling back to the big picture. By the time he wrote Beltempest, some people thought that his system-spanning apocalypses had got a bit distant and repetitive. No one could say that of Blood Heat.
The all-action climax is a bit flat, but fortunately it's not the real ending - which assumes a model of parallel universes that in these post-Sometime Never... days seems downright disturbing. That's right; in addition to their other crimes against literature, the second Alternate Universe Arc (in the 8DAs) screwed up the first one (from Virgin). Should we assume that the laws of the Whoniverse had changed since the McCoy era? (Bearing in mind everything we've seen in the 8DAs, it's not impossible.) Or is the Doctor perhaps mistaken? In that case, what really happened to this parallel universe? Note that this book was published at the same time as another "what if Doctor Who and the Silurians had happened differently?" story that also starred the 7th Doctor, Benny and New Ace (Final Genesis in DWM 203-206), at a time when the books and the comics interweaved in the same universe. It makes one wonder.
Blood Heat is more of a continuation of Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters (Target) than Doctor Who and the Silurians (TV story). That's quite funky, actually. Malcolm Hulke did good work with his novelisation and it's nice to see his ideas being continued. Continuity-wise, we also learn that Jo's uncle is General Frank Hobson. Blood Heat kicked off Virgin's five-book Alternate Universe Arc, but it works well as a stand-alone since the arc elements are only trimmings and it's easy to ignore them. (Mind you, I'm not sure if the race-fear treatment Benny receives in this book doesn't contradict a plot point from Eternity Weeps. Perhaps it wore off?)
I've never read a Jim Mortimore book I didn't admire and this is no exception. It's an alternate universe story, but it overcomes this and delivers the goods in style. Even the cover's gorgeous.
I Believe The Children Are Our Future by Matthew Harris 1/6/04
Having just got my hands on a copy of Campaign - but being unable to read the thing for seven weeks (it's a birthday present), I thought I'd give myself a primer on the world of Jim "Lord Of The Apocalypse" Mortimore. I've got Eye Of Heaven and (gulp) Beltempest, plus (slightly smaller gulp) Eternity Weeps on order. But first up, I went for his first solo work (I had neither the money nor the stamina to tackle Lucifer Rising). Blood Heat.
Blood Heat, of course, kicked off the Alternate Universe Arc from the NAs. Either this needs to be posthumously renamed, or the EDAs one needs to be renamed, or the whole issue needs to be ignored completely because it's just a couple of tie-in book series to a (then) defunct television show, for heaven's sake. There are people dying, man.
And by God, there are (linking seamlessly). Jim Mortimore has become famous for his blood-soaked narratives, in which almost everyone in the story, or even in the world, or even in the entire solar system usually ends up dying. Horribly.
A couple of pertinent quotes from Andrew McCaffrey's Eternity Weeps review:
I imagine that if you were to ask Mortimore to mow your lawn for you while on vacation, you'd return home to find that he's accomplished this task by sending your sun supernova.and:
I couldn't shake the image of Jim Mortimore sitting in front of his work processor, dressed as Omega from The Three Doctors, pounding on his keyboard, shouting "ALL THINGS! ALL THINGS! ALL THINGS MUST BE DESTROYED!"Nicely put. Mortimore seems to say that a lot. And of course, the effect of this (as I understand it) is to render the blood and horror cold and impersonal and faintly wrong.
Luckily, Blood Heat doesn't do that. Fewer people die than normal, and when they do, we feel it. Largely because they're UNIT-era regulars, but still...
The first thing that struck me is the "prologue" or something - it's not marked as such, because Blood Heat doesn't even write in chapters. For someone like me, whose bookmark has been stuck in Dune for the best part of two years, and who likes to read books by chapters so he can see where he's going, this is JUST NOT RIGHT. It's very annoying.
I did that "tangent" thing again there, didn't I? Anyway, that ersatz "prologue". It's a paragraph long, it's called Involution, and I don't know what it's about (even having finished the book I'm not certain - must be an arc thing, or maybe I'm just really, really stupid) but it's incredibly troubling to the peace of mind.
Unfortunately, Finn Clark's right - much of what comes next is all old bollocks. Benny does nothing and vanishes, the Doctor mooches around and New Ace is basically New sodding-well Ace. I like Darvill-Evans' idea of separating the Doctor and Ace in order to examine their relationship, but was it necessary to make her into a hardened, angry, world-hating, gun-toting, psycho-bitch from Hell? And in a terrible book, I might add. Most of this first part represents everything wrong with the NAs. And worse, it's not even well written.
Luckily things pick up. Many debuting writers write one terrible book, and have to improve incrementally over the course of many other books. Lucifer Rising notwithstanding, Mortimore does it in about 25 pages. Blood Heat finally becomes interesting around about the time that a) Benny starts screaming MAMA in a first-person sequence and b) Jo Grant turns up, having gone feral, clutching what I should tactfully describe as a bittersweet bundle of misery. That's right, Jo Grant. What were the chances of that happening, eh? Fortunately, the Doctor points this out fairly early on; I'll accept it as a get-out clause because Mortimore is so gleeful in torturing most of the old UNIT characters - there's no Mike Yates, which is kind of a shame, and I don't remember Sarah Jane being in it, but there's a brief cameo appearance toward the end for Harry Sullivan, in a paragraph basically created just so that Mortimore could use Harry Sullivan.
We have Liz Shaw, having seemingly absorbed a lot of the Third Doctor's character in the fairly brief time she must have known him. We have the Brigadier, apparently an inch from going completely out of his mind. We have Benton, footsoldier since 1872 or so, with vast reserves of anger inside him. And then we have other guys we'll recognise: Morka (aka Young Silurian), still the Leader, finally grown out of his desire to kill anyone who looks at him funny. Manisha ("white kids firebombed it") appears. Best of all, to one of the two people who likes Warriors of the Deep, just when I was thinking the story would be ignored, Icthar turned up.
The great thing is, these aren't just names glued to any old characters to give them extra emotional weight, these are the people we remember. The Brigadier's almost completely barking mad, but we can see why. Liz is still Liz. Benton is less cuddly, but you can understand why. Mortimore Knows What He's Doing.
The plot blends Quest with BaseUnderSeige: the Doctor stays behind at the Complex, while Ace traverses Silurian Britain looking for the body of the Third Doctor (the question of how the Doctor has managed to land on a planet where he died in his own past was conspicuous by its absence from my head while reading the book, which is quite an achievement). As for Benny, she's mostly absent; she's not in parts two or three, and while she takes part in parts four and five, it's mostly for the sake of a few set-pieces. But this isn't really her story - this is a book primarily about the television series, from the UNIT era to the Ace era. It would probably have worked even better with just the Doctor and Old Ace.
The Doctor's BaseUnderSeige stuff is fairly routine in form, but not in style - when the Doctor and Liz try to convince the Brigadier to make peace, it has a little more edge than it did in the 1970s, because this is a Brigadier at right-angles to the old one. He's a hair's breadth from madness, the Old Brigadier turned up to 11. He not only won't listen, he might just kill them in a fit of pique.
Meanwhile, the Quest, which takes up the bulk of the story, is where Mortimore turns up the Mortimoristic style - giving us likeable characters, then killing them horribly. One unfortunate is given a deadly disease before being trapped, blown up and squished, just for good measure. But fortunately it works anyway, because Mortimore is, at his core, a bloody good writer. He can create an atmosphere of doom with as few words as possible. He can create people who are so obviously doomed, it's a wonder he doesn't give them badges saying "I'M CANNON FODDER! ASK ME HOW!", and make us NOT want them dead. In this book he can, anyway.
Maybe it's because everyone feels doomed. The journey through Silurian Britain reads, to borrow a phrase from Roger Ebert, like a travelogue of Hell. Horrible, horrible death could come from anywhere, and often does. There's no doubt whatsoever that this is the Apocalypse. It's very, very nasty, and very, very good.
Meanwhile, there's a theme of "children". From the "birth" of whatever-the-Hell in "Involution", Benny screaming MAMA, Jo Grant's child, and Tom-o at the Complex. Both Morka and the Brigadier have their own ideas for ending the conflict, and they both keep saying that they "only did it for the children". The idea seems to be to reiterate that each generation has a duty to the next one - and that means everyone in it, Humans, Silurians, Norman, everyone.
It's deep, and scary, because this particular Apocalypse works on a very human level. It's ridiculously well-written (except for the first 25 pages). It's good stuff. It's a good one to start with if you want to get into Mortimore. On to Eye of Heaven.
A Review by Brian May 28/2/06
Blood Heat brings out my ambivalent streak perhaps like no other Doctor Who novel. The basic ideas and plot are excellent. For Jim Mortimore, Who fiction's king of alien worlds and concepts, it's more straight down the line as he blends the sci-fi staple of alternative realities with a thought-provoking Malcolm Hulke-style moral drama. But when it comes to the fundamentals of writing, i.e. description and prose, he's quite wanting.
The book is extremely verbose, filled with overly descriptive paragraphs and sentences. The opening is mixed; the entire section as the TARDIS is invaded is only just bearable, but once Ace and the Doctor are dumped in the jungles of England, the real struggle begins. Even basics like expository descriptions of their surroundings and depictions of the various dinosaurs are a chore. It doesn't stop there, continuing with string after string of treacly, sometimes unreadable set pieces. The sequences around the hospital in London are a great example - there are some terrific moments (Ace's realisation the Silurian she and Alan incinerated was still alive), but on the whole it just drags for ages. The various battles, both in the gorge and the final assault on Ophidian; Ace and Manisha's attempts to enter the TARDIS during the ozone bombardment; Benny and Billy's various adventures aboard the Revenge, and the subsequent attack on the vessel - these are all very boring when they didn't have to be, all because of the overbearing prose. Blood Heat is a clever story, it's just an arduous task getting through it.
The novel is not exactly a sequel, but a "what-if" follow-on to Doctor Who and the Silurians. The central premise rests on the Doctor having been killed and thus unable to stop the spread of the Silurian plague. Mortimore shows great respect for Hulke's story - it's the return appearance that does the reptiles justice, not that disgrace known as Warriors of the Deep. Despite the almost obligatory over-description, the jungle covered England (London in particular) and the majesty of Ophidian are effectively realised. There's a prevailing grim tone and despondent feel - it's made absolutely clear this no longer humanity's world. Blood Heat is very gritty, but it has to be. This is one of the book's strengths, as is its intelligence. Like Malcolm Hulke, Mortimore presents the points of view of both sides; Silurian and human culture and history have equal integrity and validity. Both have their peacemakers and their warmongers. There's no easy solution; Hulke would have approved. And for dramatic oomph, you cannot go past the death of Tom-o and the final end, as the Doctor wipes out an entire world; an alternative one, one that should never have existed, but a world nevertheless.
However once again I must turn negative, at times donning my Discontinuity Guide hat. Couldn't the seventh Doctor have given Ace the TARDIS key, rather than have her traverse all the way to Wenley Moor to fetch it from the corpse of the third? Surely the one key would have opened both versions of the craft? Like the various vulnerabilities of the Cybermen, the humans' race fear of the Silurians is conveniently hit and miss, depending on the scenario and the importance of the character. There's no real need to have Jo in the story at all. Although her fate is tragic, her presence is too forced, as is that of Dr Meredith (Silurians) and Ridgway (The Sea Devils). And is Nan meant to be Nancy from The Green Death? I suspect so. How does Ace find the City Farm? She discovers Manisha's message and on the next page she and Alan are there. Did Manisha leave a map? Not according to the text: it was just a date and a signature. Is the City Farm a location Ace is already aware of (i.e. it's fixed in both her England and this one)? But likewise there's no indication of this. Ace tells Manisha "You said I was dead..." (p.197) - hang about, no she didn't. At least it's not anywhere in the book; it would have been a great dramatic moment if it had been.
But my pendulum of ambivalence swings again. It's not all badly written. The most readable parts of Blood Heat are the quiet, character focused scenes: those with Liz and the Brigadier; the Doctor's exchanges with Chtorba, and later Morka; Ace and Alan; Ace and Manisha; these are all wonderful to read. Jan's public denunciation of the Brigadier is great, as is the incredibly naturalistic rapport between Alan and Julia, who can still share laughs despite what they've been through. And there are small touches that are magical: for example, the rhamphorhynchus walking onto the Doctor's arm. While Ace and Bernice suffer in the characterisation department, Liz and the Brigadier are amazingly recreated. The former is very much like her televised persona, with a realistic hardened edge due to the situation. The latter is an utterly credible equal and opposite of his other alternative self, the Brigade Leader. But unlike the eye-patch wearing sadist of Inferno, the Blood Heat Lethbridge-Stewart is a good man, although misguided by fanaticism to the point of mania. The individual Silurians are good: Morka is excellent; the author once again does justice to the legacy of Malcolm Hulke. The character Hulke wrote as the Young Silurian on television and expanded upon in Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters is expanded upon even further here, with great results.
So after alternating between commending and condemning Blood Heat, what's my final verdict? Am I here to praise Jim Mortimore or to bury him? I don't know, really. I've read it three times. I return to it knowing I'm in for a haunting, tragic story, but also a feast of "when the hell will this bit end?" frustration. In the end, I think I'll settle on a six and a half out of ten; a mark too low for such a brilliant set of ideas, but too high for painful prose and interminably boring spurts of action that could sit alongside the likes of Deceit.
The jury may still be out, however. 6.5/10
A Review by Joe Ford 5/7/07
Blood Heat is a superb novel with only one major drawback. The plot. Or rather the lack of a plot. I might be daft in this respect but when I read a book I do demand a plot to help guide through its pages. Blood Heat's plot begins on page 254; that was the first time I felt the regulars had a real impact on proceedings and things began to change.
Instead of a plot, Blood Heat flaunts its magnificent setting - and the setting's impact on the regulars. It's a wonderfully crafted alternative world with lots of details that bring it alive with astonishing clarity. A hot, steamy, dinosaur-ridden jungle that just happens to be Earth, poisoned after a successful Silurian attack. Characters we recognise and sympathise with are given important roles in the book: Liz as the conscience of this new Earth and the Brigadier as its military brutality. Intriguingly, Benton is used as a good, clear example of how this world has changed people; instead of the friendly everyman of yesteryear he is now an aggressive, violent, passionless bully who thinks nothing of killing the enemy in the most painful fashion. Let's face it, these ideas are pure gold, how could any writer go wrong with them?
Jim Mortimore isn't just any writer though. He's intelligent and literate and blissfully capable of getting right to the core of the drama in any situation. His contribution to the New Adventures should never be forgotten; until this point, the majority of the books had been sloppily written, badly plotted and characterised without charm. Jim's books are always interesting and well written and his ability to set a scene and plant the reader right there next to the characters is extraordinary. Very few "mainstream" authors have that ability.
Jim takes his meaty ideas and grapples with them until blood and sweat are flying. The action sequences are especially good in Blood Heat; the pack of wild dogs attacking Ace and company is one of the more terrifying scenes I have read in a while. More than the action though, Jim makes his war between the humans and the Silurians a gripping moral debate where both sides do awful things and (technically) neither side actually deserves to win. Benton shoots a Silurian right through its third eye just as Ace is holding a hand of friendship and it is wavering on a response, the Silurian Morka murdered the Doctor in cold blood, the Brigadier risks killing (and eventually does kill) Jo to find out information about the Silurians... each side is doing horrific things to make sure that no more of their kind has to die. It is a fascinating moral contest, the Doctor spending time amongst each side and allowing the reader to hear both sides of the argument. I left the book with the feeling that had the book not chosen its bleak conclusion I would have been appalled that the humans were victorious, so good was Mortimore at presenting his argument.
New Ace... oh New Ace. It's a really silly name to give her, isn't it? But she's a pretty silly character and it's the only way to define her from the pleasing adventurer that accompanied the seventh Doctor on the television. At this point in time Ace had so much power, depending on how she was depicted in a book she could decide whether book sunk or swam. She was like an emotional firework blasting her way through the running plotlines. A weak writer would use her as a sadistic, angst-ridden bully. A strong writer would explain why she was a sadistic, angst-ridden bully. Blood Heat is an excellent example of the latter. It takes her through a roller coaster of emotions, forcing her to ask questions about herself that she would rather ignore. Does she depend on her armour? Why does she keep scaring Bernice? Was she responsible for Manisha's death? Why does she like this fiercer, wilder untamed Earth? Is death more than just killing? Fascinating questions and ones Ace finds herself at the mercy of. She proves to be an excellent fighter, able to kill people if the situation requires it but still cannot see the bigger picture when it comes to murdering people on a universe-wide scale.
The alternative universe cycle really belongs to Ace; she is the character who is examined more than any other. The Left-Handed Hummingbird deals with why she can't leave the Doctor. Conundrum sees the three of them at their most explosive - Ace confiding in Benny that she still loves the Doctor - and all of the animosity bleeds into No Future where Ace officially turns traitor before patching things up for good. It's healthy development for the character but we have to go through all this depressing angst to get there. In the hands of Jim Mortimore (angst master extraordinaire) it works. Almost.
I like the clever use of continuity, a feature that is often a hindrance in the New Adventures but works a charm here. The entire story is built up around the continuity of the Pertwee era. A lot of the fun in the first half of the book is figuring out where exactly the two universes divided and the answer to that comes in a horrific discovery by Ace, discovering the Doctor's corpse in the old Cyclotron base. His inability to save the human race from Major Baker's virus is a satisfying device to spring this universe from. Smaller details work too; Morka having turned towards peace after having killed the Doctor, Liz recognising the Doctor despite his different face, the meeting of Jo and Liz (under very unusual circumstances), the Brigadier being so close to the man we recognise but for the bloodlust in his eyes. Despite being a New Adventure through and through, this is probably the closest the series has come to capturing the feel of an old-school Doctor Who adventure. It is the complete opposite of No Future, which steals a lot of continuity from the Pertwee era and botches it entirely.
People moan about Trix's lack of personality in the EDA range over her eleven or so books (durr, that's the idea) but had Bernice had the same amount of books as Trix people would be moaning that she was the weakest book companion in any line. Reading the New Adventures in a row is an educational experience and my biggest complaint so far (aside from New Ace and the depressing Doctor) is how appallingly Bernice has been used. She's been brainwashed a couple of times, kidnapped and ignored in most others; only Love and War and Birthright have really given her a decent voice. Blood Heat is another book which pushes the marvellous Benny to the sidelines. She disappears early on and doesn't leap back into the narrative until pages 200+ and even then she doesn't really do anything effective. People say that Bernice and Fitz are the two writer-proof companions but frankly, I'll go as far as to suggest that during their eras as companions, Fitz was treated far more compassionately and sympathetically. He had much more to do. Benny only really came into her own when she gained her own series. Then she was no longer a hanger-on but a fully-fledged protagonist in her own right. Shame on Jim, he would go on to write one of her best books (Sword of Forever).
I'm not sure if I buy the Doctor's rationale on the last page. If there had been some kind of forboding throughout the book it might be more convincing but it just feels like an additional bombshell to close the book with. Basically if the Doctor doesn't destroy this universe then it will bleed energy from our universe and that will die billions of years too early. It feels like a lazy answer to the problems the book has set up. Anyway, I much prefer the Sometime Never... explanation to parallel universes: that hundreds of thousands exist side by side, without affecting each other. An infinity of possibilities. Where the Doctor regenerated into Richard E Grant. Where Paul McGann had hundreds of TV adventures. Where Colin Baker wasn't sacked. I want to visit them all and see how things turn out.
Regardless, Blood Heat is a damn fine book. It reminds me of Alien Bodies in that it deals with the Doctor's death, features some amazing worldbuilding and has confident, unmissable characterisation. The lack of plot is only annoying when the character introspection takes a breather. Most of the book is already set up before the novel begins, leaving the characters to indulge in moral debates and breathless action sequences. Some scenes are disturbing, graphic, dramatic and for sheer emotional power this is easily one of the best New Adventures yet. Both the Brigadier and Liz Shaw are beautifully brought to life within its pages.
A classy book.
"The ripe crop cannot appeal to the reaper" by Thomas Cookson 23/3/13
Yes, this will be another sort-of circular reckoning with Warriors of the Deep, but hopefully one with a positive, cathartic outcome that finally stakes the issue through the heart.
Because this story is in many ways a more morally twisted version of Warriors of the Deep, and as such it should be far worse to my mind. And yet I would give anything if this could have been televised in its place instead.
First of all, there is no getting away from the truth that this book's moral angle is based on a fallacy that peace and pacifism works in any context, just because the Doctor says it does. That the story's premise is based yet again on a wild and baseless empathic assumption being acted upon and justified as a moral certainty.
Basically, this is a parallel universe version of The Silurians in which the reptiles won, they reclaimed the Earth and killed the Third Doctor, and humanity was brought to the point of extinction by the plague. Now the Brigadier leads the last outposts of UNIT to preserve and defend a few survivors of humanity against the Silurians who are still intent on hunting down and exterminating the last humans. And yet, the Doctor is still condemning the Brigadier's violence, military measures and failure to negotiate peace with the Silurians.
At least in Warriors of the Deep, one could argue that the Doctor was sticking up for an endangered minority, and that the presence of mankind's nuclear war machine would have made the Silurians especially fearful of their survival with the humans running the planet. But here the Doctor is dealing with a scenario no different to the human resistance cells in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, whom he actually encouraged to fight back. Back then, he didn't come out with any rhetoric about how even here "the cause of war can be determined and a solution devised, almost always", because that would be insane. And yet, here the Brigadier is being villainised for not buying that.
Like Warriors, it veers too close to characterising the Doctor as no morally better than the U.N. who refused to intervene or take action in the Rwanda genocide, in the interests of 'peacekeeping', and in doing so condones the worst moral philosophy of ethnic cleansing. You had it coming just for existing.
Whilst most fans believe Warriors of the Deep can be dismissed as just another bad story the show comes out with occasionally, I'm still baffled. Sure a fan of this show has to take the rough with the smooth, but they shouldn't have to take the morally repulsive with the smooth. By the show's nature, that's something the series should be dead against.
There's something I've not been getting about 80's fandom's seemingly myopic perception of the Silurians as being sympathetic no matter what (and this story almost turns the young leader Silurian from the original story into a fan author's Mary Sue for the sake of the happy ending), but I think I finally have begun to.
If there's a film that defines the mood of 80's Britain well, it's The Long Good Friday. A film about the rich, corrupt and powerful being persecuted to ruin by the relentless rage and violence of a faceless nebulous disaffected militant group who cannot be pacified or appeased. This spoke for a constant state of rage that defined the decade. IRA bombing campaigns, riots, Football hooliganism. A crisis of masculinity where violence seemed the only mode of self-expression. As Johnathan Hili argued, 80's Doctor Who reflected a culture that had become 'a haven for violent souls'.
Concerning the 1981 Toxteth riots, the public and many left-wing groups and left-wing families seemed to be on the rioters' side. Many working-class communities had lost faith in the police, seeing them as violent, brutal oppressors, and seeing the rioters as victimised people without prospects asserting their defiance and vengeance. Our more recent riots were a continuation of that revenge narrative.
Malcolm Hulke may have created the idea of the legitimate violent militia with grievances in The Silurians. But he went on to villainize rioters as warmongers in the absurdly optimistically liberal Frontier in Space. Now the Third Doctor of Day of the Daleks and Monster of Peladon argued that rioters and anarchists with gripes against the state deserved a dialogue. But here there was no possible settlement.
This attitude echoed through the generations. A belief that with no justice, fairness, or hope, it's our right to be violent and destructive, to be laws unto ourselves and treat each other and our community as horribly as we like. Criminality and violence being praised as defiance of the state. As violence and domestic abuse almost became a glue for broken families and communities, and victims of violent crime or abuse could even be declared 'class traitors' for calling the police. Much of this strikes uncomfortably close to home for me.
Warriors taps into this mindset horribly, as the Doctor sabotages the base, beats up security guards, and defends and praises the Silurians whilst they're massacring people. Like the insane calls to empower the rioters and their ceaseless rage and relentless violence, and cripple the police's attempts to stop the violence. That the Doctor is arguing the mob's right to be violent, and denying the soldiers the right to protect themselves or their society. It's typical of Davison's pacifist Doctor, yet utterly antithetical to him. Previously, he'd been negligent or pacifist in ways that resulted in needless deaths, but he'd never before done so just to spite those he was supposed to save. His actions never so totally void of any possible 'greater good'. But that's typical of Eric Saward's incoherent misanthropy.
Then there's Ian Levine demanding rewrites of Warriors of the Deep on continuity grounds. Perhaps the public mood of rage and disillusionment was being channelled more by a fanboy who thought himself a law unto himself, and seemed in a constant state of rage and childish entitlement.
However, more perniciously, the riots proved that anger, violence and rage were insidiously attractive and addictive. The rioting seemed repulsively subhuman to some, yet it also inspired a public camaraderie that was beyond reason. Perhaps JNT learned the trick to inspiring fan loyalty by perpetuating similar rage. Hence the Doctor's hateful characterisation.
It seems to me that Jim Mortimore often taps into this mindset. In the same way that Natural History of Fear made heroes out of terrorist bombers and climaxes with mass rioting. Natural History of Fear also shares things in common with this story in terms of characterizing this parallel universe as a womb, a place of dreams and of forgetting, but also of nurturing, of both ideas and of hope. Which unfortunately gains a dark undertone in the conclusion where the Doctor is forced to essentially commit an act of abortion.
This I think is why Blood Heat works. Maybe it's just that the art of prose feels healthier than anything ugly the show was doing on TV between the Tom Baker and Matt Smith eras. The same way that whenever I read Castrovalva's novelization, I feel sure that at that point Doctor Who would have thrived as a novel range that would have been infinitely preferable to the TV show still existing post-Logopolis. Preachy stories can be horrible and angering when done wrong. They can be a hateful experience where the story itself seems to despise you after a while. But when done right they can be, essentially, 'good for the heart'.
Warriors of the Deep has enough hints of a strong premise in its first episode, between references to oceanic plates, psychological conditioning and muscular degeneration, to fool you into thinking you're going to be watching something intelligent and worthy, rather than something completely junk. But Blood Heat is such a crafted novel with such a beating heart, ecosystem and lifecycle, that it does deliver on its promise, in ways that makes Warriors of the Deep all the more unforgivable for its cheap bamboozle and pointlessness.
That's part of the crucial difference, which is that this is carefully written and authored for a purpose and point. Warriors of the Deep, like the majority of 80's Doctor Who from Time-Flight onwards, came off as a wino's vision of the show and its hero, and pretty much was. Spiteful, irrational, pointlessly fraught and difficult, and ultimately hopeless. There is a scene when the Doctor first hears the Brigadier being told by a subordinate that 'measures are already in hand', to which the Doctor outright says in disgust "I don't know why I don't just leave now." So in a way the Doctor is characterized by the same kind of spite towards the humans that he was in Warriors. The difference is, Warriors of the Deep made his spite his only legacy. The story ending in a way that ensures he holds onto his principles for no other reason than holding onto a grudge, and effectively lets all the humans die just to spite them. Once that kind of spite becomes the Doctor's legacy, the show is not only dead, but it deserves to die.
The crucial difference in this story is that the Doctor's anger is shown to motivate him towards a positive goal. And, more importantly, in the end he achieves it. He proves that peace was possible (which is kind of essential if we're to still care about his quest for it), and that there was a method in his madness, rather than just indulging suicidal madness for the sake of it. He is as snidey and duplicitous as he was in Warriors of the Deep, but the outcome reaffirms the honourable intent behind it for the greater good, rather than him having nothing to fall back on, nothing to show for it but disastrous failure and mass deaths, and therefore just being impossible to respect for a second. This is not a wino's vision of the Doctor, reimagined in their own bitter, limited, inadequate image.
More importantly, this is an incredibly vivid novel of picturesque landscapes and sensual sensations and visceral experiences placing you right in the fight for survival, with dinosaur stampedes and the besieging physical and mental attacks by Silurians on the human survivors. It's cinematic and soaring. And the characters are worth caring about. The Brigadier is a much sadder figure here who has lost everything and clings to his military discipline and procedure like a lifeline. Liz is characterized superbly, and Ace is as down to Earth and charming as we remember, whilst the story really wouldn't work with any other Doctor than the Seventh, and the writer captures his voice brilliantly, as well as his mythological strength.
The most crucial difference is that this book was a vivid, thrilling, almost euphoric experience in which people survived against tremendous odds. And I cared about that experience. The book was engaging and riveting from beginning to end, and didn't bore me for a moment. But it was also life-affirming. Warriors of the Deep (moreso than any other story that Eric Saward has treated) is only death-affirming. It embraces death, and trivializes it, going to contrived lengths to ensure it, and spiteful lengths to demonize any willingness of the humans to fight for survival. The story seems to hate life and hate any trace of the survival instinct. In the process, it completely destroyed the crucial suspension of disbelief at the heart of the show that makes the premise work at all. That the Doctor, our central hero, is capable of surviving 900 years fighting injustice in a savage universe. But the paralytic, brainless, hopeless liability of a Doctor we were presented with in that story clearly couldn't possibly have survived a day. And there's nothing redeeming whatsoever about it.
Blood Heat, on the other hand, was a story that made life seem beautiful and precious and worth preserving, rather than something to be ashamed of.