Face of the Enemy
The Dark Path
|Author||David A. McIntee|
|ISBN#||0 426 20503 0|
|Continuity||Between The Web of Fear
Fury from the Deep
|Synopsis: The Doctor travels to the Earth colony of Darkheart where he discovers a plot to upset the balance of peace and change history.|
A Review by Reuben Herfindahl 22/5/98
As always with McIntee's books, the setup within continuity is good. It takes place directly before Fury from the Deep, even going as far as to have the book end with the TARDIS landing in water. It starts with the Doctor being drawn to Darkheart, a forgotten 300 year old Imperial colony, by a time disturbance that he speculates could be caused by another time machine. It then takes off at galloping pace, introducing more threads and characters, which weave in and out of contact with each other, creating a gripping, tight story.
The book was billed as the first meeting of the second Doctor and the Master. This is not the most accurate description. It would be more accurate to call it a book about the creation of the Master. The Doctor meets up with a former classmate and friend of his, Kocheci, and his female human travelling companion. Through death, betrayal and the temptation of ultimate power Kocheci becomes the Master. McIntee smartly realized that the best way to have us understand the transformation of Kocheci was to see it through the eyes of someone familiar to us, Victoria. Victoria looks up to Kocheci the same way she looks up to the Doctor.
The line between the "baddies" and the "Good Guys" is very narrow in The Dark Path. The alien race described as "a cross between a Klingon and a Predator" is part of the Federation, but yet very savage. Even Victoria is not immune to the narrow line. Kocheci tempts her with the destruction of Skaro. She is very vulnerable at this point in her travels, McIntee prefaces her departure in Fury from the Deep by stressing this. Although the Doctor and Jamie have helped her recover from the pain of losing her family to the Daleks, she has seen too much death since to endure the travels much longer. Kocheci's proposal to destroy Skaro in the past seems to her more rational because of this mindset.
The second Doctor has been described as one of the toughest Doctors to catch the sprit of on paper. Troughton played the Doctor many times off the general gist of the scripted lines, and his mannerisms many times are not reflected properly in print. This is an exception, the second Doctor is captured remarkably well: he stumbles around, pretends his umbrella is a gun and generally gives the appearance of being a fool, while really knowing quite clearly what is going on most of the time. There are so many great continuity references worked into The Dark Path, that one would think they would drag the story down into over-referenced crap. This is not the case, all the references are very well mixed in and simply serve to bring a smile when you stumble across them. There are references to Evil of the Daleks, The Time Monster (Chronovores), The Highlanders, Ben and Polly, the Doctor's regeneration, and more. The bottom line? A great read, one of those that you have a difficult time putting down once you pick it up.
A Review by Bryan Burford 8/4/01
I bought this on auction a while back, and finally read it last week on holiday. I was looking forward to it a lot - a Second Doctor/Master story should be entertaining, some backstory and an origin for the Master being one of those fanwanky holes that really does scream for filling in. And I'd read some good reviews (in I, Who for one). So, expectations were quite high. Spoilers are below, but in a word - dreadful.
So, this supposed backstory for the Master: he's a Doctoralike out doing research/discrete intervention for the Time Lords. Well, okay so far. He's a bit of a maverick though, doesn't stick to the rules, the Frank Burnside of temporal intervention, so the TLs decide to stick a handler with him. They do this by planting an agent on Earth (obviously) who will eventually run into Koschei and hook up with him as a human companion sort. My problem with this, that TLs can identify each other instinctively may be down to my mistake - but I still don't like it.
Anyway they have a flirty, Doctor/Tegan-esque relationship over a series of adventures, before arriving in this story (apparently on a mission for the TLs). Then it all goes completely bollocks. Koschei shows he's not afraid to do Bad Things by blowing up a planet for the Greater Good. Then Ailla apparently dies and he goes a bit bonkers, wanting to reverse time (though not actually, or something) to get her back. Meanwhile she's regenerated, and when he finds out he goes completely bonkers and decides he needs to be 'Master' (geddit?) of the Universe. And that's it. That's his motivation for becoming the slightly crap loon we meet in Season 8.
Didn't convince me. If anything, if we accept he was driven barmy by the Ailla death/not death thing, then he should have been more of an Ainley-esque eye-roller when we first met him on TV, especially with the infinity taken to escape from the black hole we leave him in.
The Doctor/Koschei relationship was completely underwhelming as well. On first mention of the name the Doctor has a 'Them'-fear attack, which is forgotten when they meet. There's a sort of sub-Logopolis alliance for a bit, then the Doctor goes all huffy at the destruction of Terrileptis, and finishes by saying 'He was a good man'. Right. They have about 10 pages of interaction in the whole book - all of them underwhelming.
The rest of the book wasn't much cop either - too many narrative non sequiturs - characters jumping from scene to scene without any apparent link. Most of the supporting characters were either wholly dull, or where some detail was provided, it was like rough colouring in with a wax crayon rather than proper shading (the Federation captain's footwear habits for example).
Another major gripe was the Veltrochni on the planet - a murderous 'demon' to start with, an erudite but understandably bitter noble warrior at the end. I did wonder whether that was a deliberate pastiche on 60s TV conventions, but only hopefully.
Endless bloody continuity references - okay so the Evil of the Daleks stuff was relevent to Victoria's 'motivation' for being hypnotised (or something), but what was all that about bloody Vortis - presumably DM's other MA, but please, no.
There are some good bits, but two days after finishing I can't remember them, so in summary - a wasted opportunity.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/5/01
The Dark Path makes for a very enjoyable read because it is a strongly told story. In its simplest form it is an explanation of how Koschei, one time friend of The Doctor's begins his transformation into The Master. David McIntee has done an excellent job in characterising the regulars here, Koschei is Roger Delgado without him being The Master. Patrick Troughton`s Doctor is the best here though; David McIntee really makes the character leap from the page and speak the dialogue. Similarly Jamie and Victoria are charmingly drawn, with some great scenes, such as Victoria teaching Jamie to read. Overall this is a must buy book and one of, if not the best Patrick Troughton novels. 10/10.
A Review by Finn Clark 20/4/04
NOTE - during this review I mention an unpublished version of The Dark Path which I've never read. My unreliable speculations are based entirely on second-hand reportage (e.g. a quick Google-ing through David A. McIntee's old rec.arts.drwho posts) and are probably completely wrong. To complicate things further, McIntee says that his personal "Director's Cut" is shorter than the published version, itself trimmed down from a 450-page earlier draft. Since I know nothing about this "Director's Cut" (a third version of the book!), I'll concentrate on the other two.
All right, but it should have been awesome. I kinda enjoyed The Dark Path, but for such a cornerstone of the mythos "all right" isn't all right. This is the Who equivalent of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the story of how Koschei turned to evil and became the Master. As with those movies, this novel isn't terrible if taken on its own terms but not everything we might have hoped for.
Mind you, having just cited Star Wars, in fact The Dark Path reminded me more of another SF franchise: Star Trek. As a Trek story this would be good, but as Doctor Who it's overlong, genteel and uneventful. There's a battle at the end, this being a McIntee book, but until then this story concerns a Federation starship conducting long and sometimes underhand dealings with forgotten people on an out-of-the-way planet. Some Klingons - sorry, Veltrochni - show up and rattle their sabres, but this is mostly a story without villains. The characters have no evil scheme to destroy the universe. No one's wicked, just occasionally xenophobic, twitchy or paranoid. Only two people really matter in this story... and both of them spend most of the time merely gathering clues and observing.
The Doctor and the Master are those two people and obviously the most significant characters, though strictly speaking the Master only becomes the Master towards the end. Until then he's Koschei, a neutral observer who's obviously Delgado but suavely efficient rather than villainous. He doesn't turn bad until late in the day, in a climactic anticlimax. It's okay, but this is the Master turning evil! This should be awesome! I wanted to be blown away, but spine-tingling drama is conspicuous by its absence. In fact, if you think about it the scene is slightly silly. However that aside, Delgado rules and he's still the book's best character by miles.
When Koschei was offstage, my favourite bits of the story were the character interactions on the survey ship Piri Reis. This novel has long, looong passages of technobabble, discussion and diplomatic functions, which kinda sucks in a Doctor Who story but if viewed as Star Trek is fine - and on that Trekkish level I got happily involved with Captain Sherwin and her crew. Salamanca is a dude, Epilira is funny and I enjoyed the multi-species crew, despite tinges of fanwank. We have Alpha Centauri, Draconians, Terileptils (a rare return for a JNT-era monster) and more. I particularly liked the Xarax, though we didn't see much of 'em. Check out p17 for a description.
There's lots of continuity, but weirdest are the Twilight of the Gods references. Virgin, in their wisdom, decided that putting two stories into the same gap between TV stories meant that McIntee's book should be a sequel to Bulis's. Thus for no reason The Dark Path goes on and on about this dreadful novel that no one will ever care about or even remember. That was surreal. However far more annoying were chapter two's Adjudicators, named after actors from Aliens: Al Matthews, Colette Hiller, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Tip Tipping and Ricco Ross. It wouldn't be so bad if one of 'em hadn't been the late Tip Tipping, who did stunts for some McCoy stories and thus grabbed my attention twice over.
(a) I'm still irritated that this book nails The Ice Warriors to 3000 AD instead of 5000, but that's just me.
(b) I like the Empire vs. Federation issues, which created a sense of future antiquity. Doctor Who has built up so much history that it's nice to be made to feel it occasionally.
(c) Yet again the 2nd Doctor accurately pilots his TARDIS in a novel, which felt as wrong as ever. Couldn't Koschei or Ailla have flown it for him instead? That would have been funny! The later TARDIS-piloting could have been pre-programmed on time-delay, grumble, grumble...
The regulars start off a bit wooden, but soon improve. David A. McIntee is Scottish, so for once Jamie gets a bit of authentic Highland flavour to him. (Some might say too much, but I appreciated it.) Victoria felt a bit overdone, but the Doctor was okay. Not great, but okay. However best by miles was Delgado, whose character McIntee clearly adores. He's better as Koschei than as the Master, if only since by that point the story has degenerated into "my doomsday weapon will control the universe!" nonsense, but I enjoyed his scenes.
Time for the history lesson. The Dark Path had a famous earlier draft that's 50% longer than the published version. McIntee didn't see eye to eye with Virgin's editors on the changes and even commented on the subject online and in the pages of TV Zone. A few deleted scenes appeared in Perfect Timing, the 1998 fanthology, but all the rest will probably remain the exclusive property of its author until BBCi decide to make The Dark Path their next e-book. If anyone asked me, I'd vote to see that - though things might get awkward continuity-wise since Face of the Enemy clearly refers to the published version of The Dark Path.
As for whether the cuts were an improvement... well, 450 pages was surely too many. [McIntee's previous novel, The Shadow of Weng-Chiang, needed to lose a third of its word count too.] Even the published version of The Dark Path isn't exactly fast-moving. The plot's understated; no one really has an agenda. What's worse is that the cuts don't seem to have helped the story logic. Koschei's transformation into the Master was to have been gradual and cumulative, with a series of half a dozen traumas instead of one magic moment. He had a different relationship with Ailla, the Piri Reis situation had some resolution, the Darkheart wasn't such a "bwahahaha" doomsday weapon, etc. I'm glad I didn't have to read a 450-page version of this novel, but the book I read falls flat on the central tragedy of Koschei becoming the Master... which is the whole point of the novel. <
Overall I quite enjoyed The Dark Path. It's Star Trek rather than Doctor Who and ends with a dull space battle, but it has some nice characters and a great 'WTF?' moment. A Delgado-Troughton story could have felt wrong, but that works fine too. If you don't worry about what could have been, this is a civilised novel that thinks big and gives us plenty of time to get to know its world and its characters. It's pleasant and even charming at times. Unfortunately it's trying to be a grand tragedy - and that central element doesn't work.
The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions by Matthew Kresal 2/11/11
Missing Adventures. A simple two word phrase with so much meaning, particularity in the context of the Virgin Doctor Who novel range by that name. The term implies that there are gaps to be filled and that the novel sitting in one's hands is the doorway to take through such an adventure. 1997's The Dark Path by David A. McIntee, the penultimate novel of that range, is one such example. It is the tale of the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria on Darkheart, the lost colony world of the fallen Earth empire. More then that though, it is the tale of their encounter with the Doctor's old friend, a Time Lord named Koschei and the encounter that changed him forever.
From the few Second Doctor novels I've read and the reviews I've read online, Patrick Troughton's particular characterization has proven very difficult to replicate in prose. Maybe that's because Troughton was known for what Barry Letts termed "semi-improvisation", meaning that he didn't stick to a script. What I am certain of is that McIntee managed to capture the Second Doctor perfectly in The Dark Path. It's perhaps most evident in the dialogue spoken that one can hear Troughton saying the words on the page as, somehow, the novel captures that semi-improvisational spirit that Troughton brought to his Doctor. It is particularly evident in the final chapter as the novel reaches it's climax as the Doctor flips back and forth from whimsical to serious that McIntee knows this Doctor and knows him well. This isn't a recreation of the Second Doctor, it's almost like a lost performance being discovered.
That also goes for the other Time Lord character of the novel, Koschei. Koschei is of course another character that we know and love (and I don't think I'm spoiling anything as a look at the novel's cover will reveal who it is): the Roger Delgado Master. Except this is before he became the Master. All the trademarks of the Delgado Master are apparent and beautifully done: the suave and assured nature, even the choice of words in the dialogue that, like the Second Doctor, one can almost hear Roger Delgado delivering the lines. All that makes what happens in the novel all the more incredible if not shocking.
That's not forgetting the companions though. Jamie and Victoria are just as well done as the Doctor and Koschei. In fact, Victoria is almost the third star of the novel and even becomes a potential companion to Koschei for a good chunk of the novel. McIntee reveals that there's more to Victoria than just the "screamer" often remembered by fans. Here is a troubled young woman, her family dead, wandering the universe and seeking peace, but finding herself in one incredibly dangerous situation after the other. In fact, the novel's setting between the TV stories The Web Of Fear and Fury From The Deep is perfect because The Dark Path, in it's very last pages, sets up Victoria's exit in the latter story. It explains why she seemed to make that decision to leave when she did. It's retconing at its best, or perhaps at its second best.
Because there's something else that this novel does. It shows the reader that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The friendship between Koschei and the Doctor is apparent from the first time they meet in the novel, about midway through. From there though, things begin to go wrong for their friendship as events overtake Koschei and he finds himself walking a fine line between good and evil. The worst thing is, it's not that he is evil. What Koschei does throughout the back half of the novel is for a cause I think anyone can identify with (and as much as I want to, I won't spoil). Even that good reason can't stop what we know is coming: the moment when Koschei will cease to be and the Master is born. McIntee pulls out the stops for this transformation including a jaw-dropping final chapter where a friendship ends and a rivalry begins. No sound of drums required: just a man in the wrong place, at the wrong time, trying to set things right and becoming something far worse.
The Dark Path is many things. It brings two brand new performances from two of the best actors to appear in the series and does so, amazingly, in prose form. It's an excellent addition to the Missing Adventures range, living up to what it's supposed to be as a result of that and much more. It is, above all else, a tragedy. It is like watching a train wreck: there's something horrific about it but one just can't turn away. For two good men came to Darkheart and neither man left the same as he came.