THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

BBC Books
Deadly Reunion

Authors Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts Cover image
ISBN# 0 563 538?? ?
Published 2003
Featuring The third Doctor, Jo and UNIT.

Synopsis: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and his colleagues at UNIT investigate a spate of unexplained deaths and murders. Meanwhile, the Third Doctor and Jo are caught up in strange events in the small English Village of Hob's Haven.


Reviews

A Review by Finn Clark 25/11/03

NO SPOILERS

That's one brave title! According to Shannon's Online Rankings, the last solo efforts of Deadly Reunion's co-authors were respectively the worst-rated MA (Ghosts of N-Space) and the worst-rated PDA (Warmonger). Those aren't even the authors' only books in the all-time bottom ten (The Eight Doctors, The Paradise of Death), which is particularly unfortunate for Barry Letts since until now those two aforementioned books comprised his whole oeuvre. Whoever came up with the title Deadly Reunion either has balls like cantaloupes or a particularly nasty sense of humour.

Fortunately I can say that Deadly Reunion exceeds expectations. Sort of. It may at times be silly, formulaic, unbelievable and/or surprisingly flat, but at least it never descends to the depths one might have feared. It's perfectly readable. I enjoyed it.

We'll start with Barry Letts's contribution. (Most Terrance Dicks books are actually made up of two or three Target-length novelisation-style runabouts, rudely shoved together and published as a complete novel. Sure enough, Deadly Reunion is no exception. Normally one suspects that it's just Terrance's way of adapting his personal style to the full-length novel form, but it also lends itself naturally to co-authorship. For those who'd been wondering how Uncle Terry goes about the business of co-writing, it's quite simple: Barry Letts wrote the story that comprises the first 116 pages and Terrance wrote the rest.)

Barry Letts's bit is a Doctorless story starring the Brigadier (currently Second Lieutenant) around the Greek islands after World War Two. It's a fairly unremarkable story that eventually gets silly, but it has one redeeming feature. Squabbling Greek gods and their other-dimensional underworld I can take or leave, but I really enjoyed Barry's portrayal of post-war National Service. I don't know if he served in the Navy himself, but it wouldn't surprise me. His account of shipbound life has detail and verisimilitude - which fulfilled the vital function of grounding in reality a story that's otherwise completely absurd. No matter how ridiculous events got on the Greek islands, I always believed 100% in what was happening on His Majesty's Motor Launch 951.

With the possible exception of his novelisation of The Daemons, I'd say this is Barry Letts's best writing. As with Ghosts of N-Space it's a bit too mythical for my tastes - I prefer my Whoniverse more sci-fi and down-to-earth - but otherwise I didn't really have a problem with it. It's a simple yarn at about the level of a TV episode from 1973, but we knew to expect that when we saw the authors' names on the cover. For what it is, it's enjoyable.

And then along comes Terrance Dicks.

The book's second half isn't Warmonger-bad, but I think it's below-par even for Terrance. His most annoying traits return and the story's a bit bleah, but still more disappointing was his portrayal of the regulars. They're okay, but I expected better. This is his era! Terrance writes for Pertwee's Doctor even when he's ostensibly doing other incarnations! In Catastrophea the Doctor and Jo were fabulous, while he even nailed the era perfectly in a throwaway like his short story Reconnaissance in Marvel's 1994 Yearbook. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT of Deadly Reunion are merely all right, which is a long way short of what I'd been hoping for. If you're not going to dazzle me with brilliant storytelling or verbal pyrotechnics, you might as well entertain me with vivid evocations of my favourite characters - and Terrance has proved in the past that he's capable of that.

Moving on, the actual story is a rewrite of The Daemons. I'm not talking about the usual Terrance Dicks sequelizing, but a blatant scene-by-scene lifting of that story's most famous set-pieces. The only bits of The Daemons I can think of that aren't stolen for Deadly Reunion are the archeological dig, the morris dancing and Bok. It's a good thing Barry Letts was co-writer on this book, or else he could have sued! There's original material too, but most of it's either centred around an English country house (civilised, dull) or a pop concert in a field (like Rags, except that it's written by Uncle Terry instead of Mick Lewis).

There's , which amazingly turns out to be interesting rather than groanworthy. The Brigadier gets one laugh-out-loud scene, in which the usual formulae are busted right open and the reader's jaw drops... but unfortunately nothing is done with this and the book simply carries on as if nothing had happened. Things get a bit apocalyptic towards the end, but of course everything's solved through a big deus ex machina. Ho ho boys, very funny. It's appropriate, yes, but also a bit crap.

And then there are Terrance's patented annoyances, those needles under the reader's fingernails. They're only here and there, but they irritated me every time. I'll list a few...

p128 - "The landlord served the drinks and the Doctor paid. He downed his pint in one, with the swallow perfected in the Golden Grockle in Gallifrey's Low Town, and ordered another."

(Just what every book needs: a reminder of The Eight Doctors!)

p129 - "The Doctor looked offended. 'I'll have you know, Jo, that in my younger days, my much younger days, I played lead perigosto stick for the Gallifrey Academy Hot Five - until the Faculty closed us down. The Master was on drums.'"

p198 quotes the "sleep is for tortoises" line again. Dear God, why? The thing about wit, y'know, actual witty wit, is that it's funny... ONCE. This isn't the first time a book has recycled that line and if we see it any more it'll turn the Doctor into one of those sad old farts who trot out the same old jokes at every opportunity.

Oh, and it wouldn't be a Terrance Dicks book if no one talked about rape. Please, please, stop! I'm begging you here. Someone explain to Terrance that it doesn't suit his fluffy style to bring up such matters. It soils the reading experience. In fact I can only think of a couple of Who authors who'd be up to the task, and even then they'd probably have more sense than to try. Order Terrance to cut out the rape references - or better still, delete 'em for him. They're unnecessary. They add nothing to this book. They're inappropriate, they're distasteful and he's been doing them for far too long. (They started right back in his Virgin days, if memory serves.) I don't care that it's only a couple of fleeting mentions this time; two rape references is two too many. Enough, already.

However, despite all these nitpicks, I enjoyed this book. I appreciated the throwaway explanation of the Players and the attempts to do something a little different with a couple of the regulars. Deadly Reunion isn't highbrow entertainment, but it's much better than some of us feared it might be. (It's better than most of the other 2003 BBC Books, for a start, faint praise though that may be.) The story gets a bit daft at times, but don't be afraid to buy this book. It's almost everything its authors wanted it to be. It's... okay.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 9/12/03

Who better to write the book that co-incides with the 40th Anniversary than 2 of its most illustrious contributors. Terrance Dicks is always the main man for the celebration story - as he showed magnificently in The Five Doctors. Barry Letts - a less obvious choice - but with his wealth of DW expertise - the duo fits. And when the book is 3rd Doctor and UNIT story, with all the trappings of that golden age of Doctor Who, then a Dicks/Letts book is as natural as you will ever get.

With the nostalgic writers in place, I was expecting that golden glow that transports me back to the easy chair with my Grandad by my side, on a Saturday night. And looking at the book now I have finished it, I have to say it largely succeeds - and that's no mean feat. I have to say though that is the 2nd part of the book that brought this glow on, and not really the opening 100 pages.

The book is written by both Letts and Dicks, but not in the usual way of collaborations. There is a 100 page story of the Brigadier's post wartime exploits, to start us off - written by Letts. Then the last 180 pages are handed over to Uncle Terrance for a traditional, wonderfully nostalgic Pertwee story. It is the final 180 pages that I will remember most - and also is where the most magic of this book lies.

The younger Brigadier section is notable for its setting. Letts seems to be attracted to the Brigadier in far off places, and the Greek Islands is another excursion into the territory he covered in Ghosts of N-Space. As the Brigadier battles for his princess, there's a definite mythological feel to it all - one that I found a little too far-fetched.

When reading this opening story, I didn't know the way the book was structured, only finding this out just after starting on the second story. Therefore I was constantly awaiting the Doctor, and after 100 pages without him, I got rather cheesed off. I may go back and read it again now, expectations really can destroy or uplift your perceptions of a book.

The second story in this book - that written by Mr Dicks - is worth the price of the book alone. A wonderful "comfy slippers" story set in the English countryside. It's almost as if Uncle Terrance is ticking off the required ingredients that go into making an early 70s Doctor Who Story - and as script editor of this popular era - he knows best.

When Past Doctor Adventures capture the spirit of their era as well as this, you begin to wonder which is the best example of Dr Who we have had. There really are so many to choose from, and books like this and Last of the Gadarene really make a case for the Pertwee era - they are that page-turningly brilliant.

I mentioned in my Catastrophea review that Terrance must have a brilliant 3rd Doctor novelization in him (Catastrophea certainly wasn't it!). Well he has, and here it is.

For a dive into the glorious ocean of Doctor Who's brilliant past this, that is the Terrance Dicks part of this book, has rarely been bettered. Proving once again that he's right up there with the very best - I have never doubted it. Brigadier/Letts story 6/10. 3rd Dr/Dicks story 10/10.


I Love The Seventies (But I'm Not So Keen On The Forties) by Andrew Wixon 13/12/03

Everyone likes the Brigadier. At least, I’ve never seen a Brig-bashing piece here or anywhere else. The Pertwee era as a whole gets bashed, but the Brig is exempted from criticism – only the way he’s presented in stories like The Three Doctors, as a comic stooge, comes in line for a kicking. The closest mainstream fandom has come to proper Brig-bashing relates to his contentious return in dodgy stories like Mawdryn Undead and Battlefield. But as a rule we all love the fella (no doubt in part a tribute to Nick Courtney’s rock-solid performances over the decades).

Slightly more surprisingly, we all like Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts quite a lot, too. Tel’s been pilloried as the King of Trad fairly recently, and the less said about Baz’s Pertwee radio scripts (let alone his Blake’s 7 plays), the better, but they’re also popular guys. So putting them together to write a novel about the Brigadier seems like a recipe for universal popularity.

Um, well, fine in theory. The said novel (Deadly Reunion) is, as you might expect, a bit of a mixed bag. It’s probably overstating the case to say this is the work of the Terrance Dicks who co-wrote The War Games, and the Barry Letts who co-wrote The Time Monster, but you get the general idea.

It would be clear even to a complete ingenue to the world of Who that the two chunks comprising this novel were written independently of each other, because the styles are completely different. It all kicks off with 100 or so pages about what the Brig gets up to in the Med just after the Second World War. The best way to describe this would be as ‘soft’. The tone is gentle and rather whimsical, the subject matter (Greek mythology) is given a SF makeover lacking in originality or attention to detail, and it’s clear from all the naval jargon that this is autobiography masquerading as fiction – not quite Alien Superfiend: My Part In His Downfall, but heading that way. Some of the prose is a bit purple too. It’s a side of Baz we’ve never quite seen before. Not sure it does him any favours, though, and for the first time ever I found myself impatiently awaiting the appearance of the Pertwee Doctor in a novel. Wonders will never cease…

In fact I would almost advise you to skip Baz’s bit and dive straight into Tel’s contribution, as it’s really quite a beezer treat. Tel’s signature style hasn’t changed a bit: we’re in a world of beaky noses, young-old faces, and very short paragraphs (particularly at the start of chapters). But what’s new is the almost discernible sound of the man who virtually single-handedly taught my generation of fans to read laughing up his sleeve. He sets out to write what’s almost a self-parodically cliched UNIT family yarn, lifting easy riffs from all the most famous stories of the era, albeit giving them some odd twists along the way. The tone is knowingly jokey, poking fun at Pertwee’s silly insistence on ‘moments of charm’ and undermining the Master’s credibility (as if that were still possible) by conjuring up the image of him riding a bike or playing drums in a band with the Doctor. It is enormous fun, and it’s shame it wasn’t 100 pages or so longer.

Admittedly the plot seems like a bit of an afterthought and the Doctor doesn’t really actually do an enormous amount towards stopping the villains’ rather half-baked plan (and, come to think of it, there’s a huge continuity cock-up when two days pass for the Brigadier while the Doctor and Jo only go through one), but this isn’t meant to be terribly deep or serious literature. Between them Tel and Baz (well, mainly Tel) have come up with an enormously fun and entertaining tribute. At times it seems more like a tribute to The Tomorrow People or the novels of James Herbert than actual Doctor Who, but one shouldn’t quibble. Baz, Tel, and the Brig – don’t you just love ‘em?


Prove me wrong... by Joe Ford 15/12/03

In the past ten years the writers of this novel have been responsible for the absolute worst merchandise in the Doctor Who range. Their consistency at producing truly awful work is matched only by the extraordinarily mundane run of bland storytelling known as Star Trek: Voyager. So bad they could both be regular writers on that show! The Paradise of Death: An insult to the audio medium. The Ghosts of N-Space: an insult to the Brigadier. Players: Yawn inducing nonsense. Warmonger: Possibly the worst BBC book yet, messing with continuity and perverting the series. And their introductory stories in the Sarah Jane Smith audio stories betray the series' intentions of producing hard hitting drama and lack even the basic ability to entertain and surprise.

To say I was not expecting much from Deadly Reunion is the understatement of the century. To say it was the book I was least looking forward to is perfectly accurate.

And I was wrong. In this day and age of endless adventures for the Doctor it is nice to know that I can still be totally and utterly wrong in every way. I should be ashamed that I let my prejudices blind me and forget that these two men, no matter what aberrations they have brought out in recent years maintained the delightful Jon Pertwee era for over five years! A period of the show where its survival was not in question and the behind the scenes team were always seeking to try out new things. I have a lot of time and affection for the 3rd Doctor's era and with Deadly Reunion Dicks and Letts have kindly reminded me why.

The PDAs have been kind to companions this year. Peri is given a revisionist look at her relationship with the Doctor in Blue Box, Loving the Alien revolves around the shock incident of Ace's death, Jamie and Zoe get all the best bits in The Colony of Lies and Wolfsbane brilliantly concentrates on the charming Harry Sullivan. Well this time it is the Brigadier's turn and what a turn it is too...

Why shouldn't we get a book devoted to old Lethbridge-Stewart? He has been involved with the Doctor throughout his entire life, we have followed this man from youthful and eager Colonel to retired and tired maths teacher, he has been involved with many of the good Doctor's best adventures and forged a timeless friendship with the greatest hero the world has known. A tribute to this stalwart, stiff upper lipped, dependable chap is not only welcome but also expected, he deserves nothing less.

And instead of just re-hashing past glories (although that is also welcome at times of anniversary such as this) the writers take this opportunity to give us a peek at Alistair just after the war where he was a naive and adventurous soul. The book, split into two novellas gives us a good chance to see how restrained and disciplined 'our' Brigadier is in comparison.

I loved Second Lieutenant Lethbridge-Stewart, the sort of man who falls in love at the drop of a hat and rushes off to face all sorts of demonic perils to rescue his hapless damsel. Barry Letts clearly brought a lot of his own experiences to the first half of the book and as a result the charge around the Greek island in military naval vessels has a sense of realism. It convincingly explores Alistair's pre-Brig service and this humbling, heroic character makes such an engaging protagonist, so much so that the Doctor's absence is barely noticed. Alistair has the balls and the intelligence to deal with the monsters on his own. That's my Brigadier, capable and efficient.

But there is much more than character exploration in this first section, you are also treated to a fine education in Greek mythology, albeit never lectured but revealed through a carefully written and exciting adventure to the Underworld to face Hades. Letts and Dicks remember Doctor Who was originally set up to educate and entertain and they certainly do their homework, I have a sketchy knowledge of the Greek Gods myself having just bought my boyfriend a book about world myths recently. Joyfully I found myself remembering snippets (Hermes' treachery for example) and was a few steps ahead of the novel at times.

The nightmarish journey through the Underworld is captured rather graphically, far more so than I would expect from either writer. Certain sections, taunting ghost like wraiths and giant insects, their bellies swelling with blood are discomforting and highly memorable. Indeed, Alistair's confident handling of these horrors says much about his character.

Mythology and fiction combines well and heads for a dazzling climax where the Gods face one another. These last few pages I would love to see on the big screen as even Hollywood would have troubles trying to capture the awe-inspiring battle on the ocean. It was a suitably grand finish to this section of the book, capping off an original tale before the traditional stuff settles in.

Traditional never seems like a nice a word does it? It brings other negative words to mind... cliched, stereotypical, archetypal... but in Deadly Reunion's case traditional puts a positive spin on all those words. Reading the second half of the book is like being transported through time to the early seventies and turning on your creaking, fridge sized television and watching a really good four parter starring Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Nick Courtney. In fact if Deadly Reunion had been written back then we would all be praising it as the best Pertwee adventure, with all the gang involved, lots of engaging interplay, exciting moments and joyous melodrama. It would be a classic if I dare use such a word (in fear of the dreaded re-evaluation...).

Of course it's good, the scriptwriter and the producer putting their heads together? Reading the second half of Deadly Reunion you know exactly what you're getting, the UNIT team consisting of three people, the Doctor and Jo drowning in their own company, the Master up to some dastardly scheme and of course the end of the world as we know it!!! Not only do Letts and Dicks enjoy resurrecting these staple ingredients they positively revel in them. With their knowing winks at the audience (especially in one scene that should be hugely climatic and yet they simply write 'Of course, it was the Master' Brilliant!) and finally able to provide a few answers here and there (why does the Master never seem to kill the Doctor? Does the Doctor love Jo? Is Yates an upper class prick?) it was a joy to walk once again in the Doctor's exile.

It also helps that they concentrate on one of the most defining relationships in the Pertwee era, between the Doctor and the Brigadier. These two, always at logger heads despite how much they need each other (without him the Brigadier would never have saved the world, without him the Doctor would be a nobody on Earth) are often the most entertaining parts of the Pertwee stories. Deadly Reunion captures their bizarre relationship well, the Doctor refusing to maintain correct RT procedure, the Brigadier reminding the Doctor that he is in charge, the Doctor leaping to his defence when Hermie insults him, the Brigadier praying the Doctor will come up with a non military soloution. It is especially good to see the Doctor's treatment of his friend, treating him as a military buffoon but deeply respecting him all the same.

The plot is simple and engaging with lots of action. I love the target-like cliffhanging chapter ends, each chapter seems more dramatic than the last but succeeds in pushing you on to the next and the next...

While the hard-hitting use of narcotics might upset some fans there are so many trad trappings it almost becomes a moot point that the world's population will be set at each other's throats thanks to some nasty alien fungus. The Sarg is merely an excuse for Letts and Dicks to kill people horribly and they succeed, one chapter positively glowing with marcarbre violence. But we know who is on hand to save the day...

Well it's the Master unexpectedly. Delgado in every respect, his cool grovelling, his surprising and hysterical visit to the UNIT team, even his cigar puffing exit, it was pure class in every respect. This is back when the Master could be highly ambiguous, deadly and friendly, often at the same time. His lines in Deadly Reunion are pure magic ("Brigadier!" he scoffs before Alistair can insult him, glancing at Jo "Ladies present!").

Demeter, Hermes, Sephie, Hades and Zeus make quite a family and their appearances in the book raise the stakes considerably. Sephie's romance with the Alistair might seem a bit cheesy but considering he is having doubts about Fiona back home I found it spellbinding. That he would risk so much, his career, his family, even his life for Sephie shows how much he cares for her. Their moments together are sweet and their final parting more touching than you would imagine.

The Doctor and Mrs Dempster get similarly moving scenes, both outcasts living the lives of human beings, one willing the other not, it is marvellous to watch their reaction to each other. When all her lies and cover ups are said and done she is as desperate to leave the Earth as the Doctor and I think he senses their shared wish from the first meeting. A moment where they look up at the stars together is quite revealing.

No the prose isn't going to win any awards and the storytelling is largely not as adult as some of BBC books recent offerings but that is hardly the point of Deadly Reunion. No, we are here to celebrate Doctor Who's fortieth anniversary and what better way to do it than to bring together the closest Who family there is and stick them in a imaginative, exciting adventure that makes you yearn for a simpler time where the world was in danger every week and a frilly, dandyish man saved the day with the aid of a pretty blond and three butch (well one mincer and two butch!) military types.

Indeed for capturing the mood of the series, in making you want to rush to the player and watch a story set during the era it is trying to represent (I watched The Daemons last night!), this is the best PDA of the year.

What a revelation. Dicks and Letts remind us quite brilliantly how they created magic during the Pertwee era.

A total success story.


A Review by John Seavey 22/12/03

The one-sentence review: I think someone left the middle word out of the title.

Actually, "dull" doesn't quite describe this reunion of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. Awkward, confused, lumpy and top-heavy, generic, and loopy all work as better substitutes... but if you could boil it all down, "dull" works better than some other words.

Part of the problem -- in fact, most of the problem -- is that the novel begins with a huge mutant prologue that takes up a full third of the novel. It's like there's a novella about the Brigadier's adventures just after World War II, and then there's a second, somewhat larger novella about the Doctor, the Master and evil Greek gods. (I'm aware that I probably just gave away a huge spoiler about the Master... to the approximately six people who heard about a Barry Letts/Terrance Dicks Third Doctor/UNIT novel and didn't immediately expect the Master to be in it.)

The prologue is a vast mistake. First, it's got these bloody Greek gods in it, and they all have the charisma and interest of particle board. The account of their origins is ludicrously bland -- just a "Oh, yes, we're ancient and powerful beings and we've all posed as Greek gods, and by the way, Hades is really evil and wants to take over the world, and we should probably stop him, and by the way for those of you who've wondered, that's who the Players are too. Tea?"

Second, it's way too long, and features a silly caricature of the Brigadier engaging in a silly "what-ho old top" adventure to defeat Hades... only to have the whole thing end in a literal deus ex machina. This should have been broken up into smaller chunks, and interspersed throughout the book to keep it from sticking in the reader's craw.

Third and fatally, it gives away most of the plot; when you reveal that Hades is an evil Greek god, and that Demeter, Persephone, and Hermes are good Greek gods who oppose him, and that Zeus is out there as well but is off contemplating his navel and isn't getting involved... well, when the Doctor shows up in a quiet English village and finds a three-person family with near-identical names to the Greek gods muttering about how they daren't try to stop "Him", the plot from here on is going to be an exercise in the characters finding out things the readers already know.

And the plot is a masterpiece of "generic Third Doctor", almost like they were working from a checklist. Brigadier being militaristic? Check. Doctor arguing with him? Check. Quiet little English village with something sinister going on? Check. Evil cult? Check. Master shows up? Check. Jo into "pop culture" in a way that seems oh-so-dated? Check. They've added an attempt to be socially conscious by lecturing on the evils of drug abuse, in an afterschool special sort of way, but otherwise this could come out of a Markov chainer fed with the scripts of the Pertwee era. And it ends with another bloody literal deus ex machina, to boot!

I'm probably being too hard on the book, truth to be told; after years and years of doing Target novelisations, we've probably been genetically conditioned to like Terrance's style of prose, and he always has a certain minimum standard of readability. So it's not totally bad. You'll be able to get through it. But Lord, it ain't good.


A Review by Dave Roy 18/8/04

One of the staples of "trad" Who fiction is Terrance Dicks. His time on the series, between production and writing stories, is legendary, especially known for the Third Doctor. Barry Letts was the producer for the entire Third Doctor era. So you'd think that, writing a Third Doctor book, they could do no wrong. Right? Well, sort of.

Deadly Reunion is a 40th anniversary Who special, and in doing that Dicks and Letts have written a wonderful homage to the TV show. Unfortunately, what they forgot to do is make an interesting book. Sure, there's a lot of Who nostalgia in it, especially Third Doctor nostalgia. However, considering that Third Doctor fans are only a small part of a rather small to begin with fan base, you have to wonder who they're trying to cater to? And why they couldn't write a good book on top of the nostalgia trip. It can be done. Not this time.

Deadly Reunion starts out with an extended prologue, with our Brigadier (then a 2nd Lieutenant) on a mission in post-war Greece, around 1946 or so. He's on a mission to show the flag, demonstrating that Britain has not abandoned them to the Communists. He and his fellow officer see a rampaging black bull kill a man, and then stumble on a house with three rather strange people in it. They turn out to be aliens who once passed themselves off as Demeter, Persephone, and Hermes, back in the golden days of ancient Greece. Lethbridge-Stewart falls hopelessly in love with "Sephie," who is then kidnapped by Hades, who is attempting to start a third world war to bring more chaos to the world. Lethbridge-Stewart saves Sephie, but then is given some water from the river Lethe to make him forget everything.

Years later, the Lethbridge-Stewart, now a brigadier and commander of UNIT, is investigating a series of murders and violent incidents. The Third Doctor take Jo to the village of Hob's Haven to get tickets for the massive pop concert that's going to be held there. But something sinister is happening in the village, and they get caught up in everything. Something that could bring the end of civilization as we know it, if the Doctor can't stop it.

Deadly Reunion throws in bits of Dr. Who cliches all over the place. There's the companion, running from the bad guys, tripping and injuring her ankle. There's Sergeant Benton threatening to "thump" somebody. There's the Third Doctor's Venusian aikido. There's the Doctor's penchant for name dropping (he talks about running with the bulls with Ernest Hemingway, or "Ernie" as he calls him). An old friend stopping by (though he's really inconsequential and obviously just in there for the anniversary). A sedate English village where trouble is brewing. It's all there, in point form. Unfortunately, Dicks has also acquired some new, somewhat distasteful cliches as well. There's the numerous references to the possibilities of rape (first Sephie and then Jo), which just gave me the willies. It's like your elderly uncle sitting down and telling you sexual stories. Ick.

Then there are the structural problems. In fact, there's one huge internal continuity problem that I don't know how it was missed. When Jo and the Doctor are going down to Hob's Haven to get tickets for the festival, it's supposed to take place "next week." Then, events happen, but they're all confined to one day. All of a sudden, they're talking about the festival beginning "tomorrow night." Huh? There's no mention of it being moved up. In fact, the timeline is a bit suspect no matter how you think about it. All of the sequences involving Sergeant Benton and Captain Yates seem like they would have to take place over a matter of a couple of days, but given the text of the book, it's impossible for them to have done so. It all has to happen the same day. It was enough to tax my mind as I was trying to figure out just what was happening when.

I also had a problem with Lethbridge-Stewart falling in love that quickly. He sees Persephone and he's immediately in love. This is not like him at all. However, there is no indication there was any kind of mind-control, even unconsciously, on Persephone's part. She talks like she's instantly in love with him too. It was just too unbelievable, even more so if you know Lethbridge-Stewart's character like most Who fans do.

There are some good parts to the book, though. With the exception of Lethbridge-Stewart falling in love so quickly, all of the main characters are tremendous. These two authors know their Third Doctor and friends, and it's like old home week. The Doctor is wonderfully arrogant but also kind-hearted. He's offended when he's mistaken for one of the pop stars that are coming to the festival. He's witty and I can almost hear Jon Pertwee's voice when he's thundering at the policeman who can't seem to realize that somebody cannot cut their own head off cleanly with a scythe. Deadly Reunion was a wonderfully cozy book on this front.

Unfortunately, as the book was drawing to a close, I couldn't see any way out of it but the obvious deus ex machina. Granted, this was what the Doctor was trying to do in the first place, so I guess it doesn't totally fit that expression. I was hoping, though, that he would fail and figure out some other way to defeat the menace. I was wrong. The ending is trite, and more importantly, doesn't even use the "love" that's between Persephone and the Brigadier. When you think about it, there's no point for the love story between them, as it's only responsible for setting the Brigadier off on a macho military plan that he ultimately would have decided to do anyway, even without the love story. Why was this in there? There's no "Aha!! Lethbridge-Stewart! So we meet again!" confrontation between the Brigadier and Hades. They never even interact again! I was left shaking my head.

I've gone on longer than this book probably deserves. It's a bit of nostalgic fluff, and it won't amount to any more than that. Thankfully, it doesn't try to. Even a Who fan will see all its flaws. The question will be: are you so much a fan of Dicks and the Third Doctor that you will overlook it? I'm glad I read it, but I won't be racing to read it again.


Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 13/9/04

What's better than one book? Two books! What's worse that two books? Two half-books! Part One and Part Two are essentially two different books, that in the hands of other authors might have been expanded (i.e. grossly padded) into two fuller sized novels (not that we're looking at Terrance Dicks and his Players duet (trilogy?)), which we get to enjoy at the same time without many months between. A special anniversary treat, one might say. Well, this is in keeping with other special 40th anniversary treats, in that it isn't really that special.

If you had asked me whilst I was reading the book, I would have sworn that Terrance Dicks wrote the first half, and Barry Letts the second. I'm sure there was some cross-pollination of writing, but the styles did seem to involve those writers into mind. But I'd be wrong. While that does mean I can't be trusted to spot writers, it does raise questions that it was those two writers that I got confused...

PART ONE:

It's a good old boys-own adventure with one Second-Lieutenant Lethbridge-Steward! In fact, never mind Barry Letts, or even Terrance Dicks, it was Ian Fleming who wrote this part. Except for, of course, all the supernatural adventures that James Bond seems to be missing out on. I didn't know how long this section would go on for, and was continually surprised (annoyed?) by the fact that there was yet another chapter ahead with the Brig-to-be. Not to say that it's bad, but the Doctor is on the cover! One might except to be in his own book...

Lethbridge-Stewart does come across as a rather different person here, a lot more open-minded about the possibility of weirdness in the world. In other appearances (TV, etc.) he comes across as far more unwilling to accept the true nature of the menaces he faces, but here he positively leaps to the odd explanation! Perhaps it's love? Yes, that's right folks, it's another love story, although fortunately (?) it never gets the chance to enter into continuity as Barry Letts finds a way to deal with it, rather neatly admittedly.

Actually, I found that last part to the most contrived part of the story, and that story had lots of contrivances in it. Otherwise good stuff in there.

PART TWO:

Leap ahead some years, and it's that action packed story The Daemons. And if that's not enough, Terrance Dicks even throws in a little bit of Rags (although that is probably far more coincidental). The action comes really thick and fast, and every chapter break signals yet another action point climax. Don't like a particular one? Just wait a few pages and another one will be along shortly. The story flies along, even to the point of compressing a week into one day (The story claims the concert will be next week, and then when tomorrow comes, it's on that day!).

But Terrance Dicks knows all about capturing the characters, and does so with his usual flair. We've got the tightly knit crew of the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton, and that's about all U.N.I.T. ever seems to be. Terrance Dicks also takes great pleasure in describing the food everyone is eating, and certainly a lot of food gets consumed through the course of this novel. Perhaps that is to make up for hardly anyone eating during the series?

The bigger plus of two stories in one is that everything is a lot tighter. I wouldn't say it wouldn't have been nicer to spend some more time developing each story, but this is a good read from some of the elder statesmen of Doctor Who.