|Authors||Robert Perry & Mike Tucker|
1-903889-26-X (standard hardback)|
1-903889-27-8 (deluxe hardback)
|Featuring||The Seventh Doctor and Cat|
A Review by Finn Clark 17/1/04
I had no clue what to expect here. To put it mildly Perry-Tucker aren't the most consistent writing team of all time, but somehow Companion Piece overturned my most modest expectations. Theologically it's interesting, but as a Doctor Who adventure it's trivial nonsense.
Take the new companion, Cat Broome. I groaned at her first line of dialogue and three pages later wanted to throw her out of an airlock. She's like Ace, but WORSE! Imagine Ace at her most cartoonish and cheeky-chirpy, wearing a donkey jacket and using phrases like "dozy pillock", "funky" and "saved your ass". That's Cat. Oh, and she's smug too. You could post this as an example of how not to write companions. And then, having established her as more annoying than the genetically engineered love child of Trix and Sam Jones, Perry-Tucker abandon it all and give her a completely new personality when talking to priests!
Heuhhhhh, I dunno. Cat is at the heart of Companion Piece, as is suggested by the title, and she undergoes changes and makes discoveries about herself that are important to the story. It's just a shame that whenever she appeared I had a powerful urge to skip over her pages in search of, well, anything else.
The writing feels clunky, from the ground up. I was astonished on p86 (out of 100) to find a threat to the Doctor's life that wasn't countered by a deus ex machina. I liked the characters from the prologue... but after those five pages they never return! Page 29 steals the real-life party piece of Sylvester McCoy, as seen on BBC1 with Terry Wogan for Children in Need. The first half the book is wasted on the kind of silly runaround we'd find in a World Distributors annual from the 70s. It's bollocks, basically. I've heard it said that the story here is less important than the thematic material, which I can't help but agree with... but bad is still bad.
And yet I really liked the religious stuff. The Reverend Colin Midlane's foreword blew me away, being a theologically literate sermon that quotes Remembrance of the Daleks and discusses the difference between the 7th Doctor and his predecessors. Awesome! Moving on to the book itself, I loved the way Perry-Tucker don't faff around with made-up religions (e.g. the Chapter of St Anthony's Fire) but instead go for the big one. Welcome to the Roman Catholic Church. Normally religious Doctor Who stories pussyfoot around with evasions and invented names, but this is the real deal - Christianity in the 28th century. Within these pages you'll get church doctrine in a pan-galactic setting, non-human popes and the question of whether non-humans have souls. Doctor Who has too often sneered about religion (e.g. the Curse of Fenric novelisation) and I found this more open-minded treatment refreshing.
The book's best characterisation is that of the Church itself. Its strictures are as silly as they've always been historically (p53, p75), sometimes to amusing effect. Similarly it seems that some of the Church's more surreal episodes will recur in the future, e.g. Antipopes, the Inquisition and merry accusations of "Antichrist". I found the book's second half interesting, not for the plot (such as it is) but for the theological discussions. They're rather enjoyable!
[WARNING: if you're the kind of person who flips forward to start with the afterwords and "About the Authors" sections... DON'T. There's an authors' note on p101 that will completely ruin the book if you accidentally read it first. Though it's interesting to note that Companion Piece is actually the third recent instance of what they're talking about rather than the second.]
This is very much a Perry-Tucker book. It refers to Loving the Alien and talking dolphins, at one point making us wonder exactly how far the authors might go. The Telos novellas can have a semi-detached relationship with regular continuity and Perry-Tucker have prior form in such matters (e.g. Dorothy Gale, their use of the Master). I wouldn't go so far as to refer to Patriarch Julian and Grand Inquisitor del Toro as good characters, but things improve when they show up. This is a really daft book at which I often hooted in disbelief but also found kinda interesting. Approach, but with caution.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 6/4/04
This is what I wrote after completing the first 50 pages or so, a pre-review so to speak, before I write the complete one:-
Now this is more like it. Just as I thought the Telos books were fading away, along comes a story full of drama and brilliance. A book that perfectly encapsulates for me how good this format can be.
The 7th Doctor has a new companion here - Cat. Throughout I couldn't help but visualize the only other Cat I am aware of - Cat Deeley - her off kids and teen TV. She seemed to fit the bill admirably. Impressive too is the way that this new companion emerged from the book. At first I wasn't sure about introducing a new companion - but if anybody needs fresh faces in the TARDIS - then it's the 7th Doctor. I thought she was excellent, and I hope Mike Tucker and Robert Perry include her in another story sooner rather than later.
I have always been impressed by Tucker and Perry books. Their books form a wonderful extra season to the 7th Doctor and Ace TV adventures. I was involved and enjoyed all of them, totally hooked on the flowing adventuring style. This stands favourable comparison with anything else they have done - and that's the biggest compliment I can give it.
The world that is created here really hooked me. The Spanish Inquisition spreading to the stars - I've always found religion to be both enlightening and horrifying - both emotions are present here. Haven was so full of life and atmosphere. I felt I knew the place, even though I wouldn't want to go there! My mind kept picturing an old Paris, with Notre Dame at the centre. Cat indeed could very well be seen as the Esmerelda character. As a huge fan of that book, and that city, the book took on a life that I delighted in.
I like this kind of story. Great Doctor, friendly companion, TARDIS getting captured, great villain/monster with plans above his station, running around, getting captured and escaping, in larger-than-life setting, well-told easy to follow storylines. I know what I like, and Companion Piece is supremely likeable.
So there we are - that was the tentative review, ready to be amended when the book has been completely read. Nobody ever gets to see it usually. The second and subsequent drafts always feature quite a few changes, but not enough to change things substantially. I tend to know at the halfway stage if it is a hit or a miss. The reason I present it here should be pretty obvious - the contrast between the second half to the first half.
The second half of the book - essentially when the Church takes the Doctor and Cat into space, away from Haven - feels like a completely different book. It's tempting to think that with two authors one wrote the first half and one wrote the second half, but I'm probably wrong in that idea. Essentially all the reasons I liked the first half diminished in the 2nd.
Let's go through them:-
Telos books are fading away. The last great book was Cabinet of Light, and that was ages ago.
Cat was a good companion - that is until the very conclusion. A dramatic end it may have been, but one that became increasingly telegraphed during the last part. Also very similar to a recentish story (which the authors do mention, but it still smacks of copycatting).
I have been impressed by Tucker and Perry before (I haven't read Loving the Alien yet). The first half does indeed stand favourable comparison with their previous work - the second half is easily the worst thing they have done.
Haven is a fascinating place, the spaceship nowhere near as interesting. This is the single biggest reason why the book changed in its quality.
I might like the story as presented in the first half - but the second half just lets the side down.
And so a very different review, because I can't think of another way to present it. I suppose it is a fine example of how things can fade away, when they appeared to be going so well! 7/10 (the 1st half raises it from the 6/10 I am tempted to give it).