Decalog 3: Consequences
A Collection of Short Stories
|Editors||Andy Lane and Justin Richards|
|ISBN||0 426 20478 6|
|Synopsis:Ten stories - seven Doctors - one chain of events. The Doctor cuts through the threads that bind the universe together, with consequences coming back - and forward - to haunt him.|
A Review by Jill Sherwin 16/8/99
Decalog 3: Consequences is the latest in the series of Doctor Who short story collections from Virgin Books. With a fresh new editing team for this series comes a fresh new attitude as well. I enjoyed the original Decalog with its grab bag-quality of short stories and its interconnecting plotline for the search for the Doctor. Decalog 2: Lost Property was an unfortunately apt title as the quality of the stories and interconnecting theme of a place to call home was distressingly poor. Lane & Richards dispensed with the attempt at an interlocking story and instead allow one element from each story to travel into the next: a suggestion, a headdress, an explosion, a life saved, a joke tossed off. Hence the theme of consequences. Some of these links are more intricate than others, some more ironic and most are effective.
To me, the risk that the editors took with their story selection that I appreciated most was in choosing stories that had unusual structures. The stories that stood out to me were first, Moving On by Peter Anghelides, a modern-day Sarah Jane/K9 & Company story told in leaps and bounds of time. This story was odd, not because the Doctor didn't appear (David McIntee wrote a lovely K9 & Co story for Decalog 2 that was the book's saving grace). But Moving On is dark and actually quite as depressing as its title, a passage from the innocence of the time Sarah Jane shared with the Doctor(s) to life after him.
I also enjoyed Tarnished Image by Guy Clapperton, lightheartedly told from a post-adventure perspective as the 1st Doctor and Dodo read over newsclippings about their recent appearance on a planet.
Another standout, though I refused to agree with its rather dangerous implications of what the Doctor is capable of doing, was Continuity Errors by Steven Moffat. This is the first 7th Doctor and Benny Missing Adventure and is simultaneously incredibly funny and incredibly bleak. The Doctor arrives at a library he set up in the previous story to check out a book. The librarian's personality won't allow her to give him this book, so he keeps going back in time to tweak her life so her disposition changes. The lengths he goes to to accomplish his goal are hysterical, yet frightening. Of any of the Doctor's incarnations, the Seventh always seemed to me the most capable of causing great great damage. He is Time's Champion and woe to any who get in his way.
Timevault by Ben Jeapes deserves recognition for wonderful 4th Doctor characterization and Zeitgeist by Craig Hinton is a strong Turlough story, if a confusing read. This last, above all, was a short story begging to be a novel.
Actually, that's been my reaction to many of the stories in the Decalog series: gosh, I wish that had been longer. And that's about the nicest thing you can say for a story, except: I look forward to visiting again.
With the Virgin Who license now history, I hope that Lane & Richards take their editing abilities over to BBC as they've made a terrific start with Decalog 3.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 27/8/99
Here's the review of perhaps the best Decalog yet - with, as always, a few exceptions.
I knew as I picked it up that anything co-edited by my man Justin would be wonderful. Still, he didn't actually write any of the stories, so there was always a chance... :-) Anyway, 1-10, quickfire:
..AND ETERNITY IN AN HOUR - Off to a...morose start. Good Jo Grant, but I had my usual 3rd Doctor troubles. And the plot is the first of several to be unrelentingly downbeat. Cheer up, it may never happen. Oh, right. 6/10.
MOVING ON - Great Sarah, and the plot flows much better. I loved the villain, and the bibliography is, of course, wonderful. This one's really downbeat as well, though. Two stories in and it's a Morrissey album. 8/10.
TARNISHED IMAGE - Brilliant characterization, and for this one I'll forgive the "unhappy" ending, since the style is so excellent. I particularly liked the reporter's reaction to the end of all he believes in. One point off for a bad tie-in to Moving On. 9/10
PAST RECKONING - well...I know that she's famous in fandom, but this story was more dull than anything else. The 5th Doctor and Nyssa were entirely unnecessary to everything, and I'm skeptical of the Doctor just standing there and letting her kill herself. Maybe the others, but not Peter. 5/10.
UNITed WE FALL - A nice romp, with the Brig coming across the best. Some of it seems to be an excuse for showing off New York, but it's written well, so hey, NY, NY! 8/10.
ALIENS AND PREDATORS - There's always one. In the first Decalog, it was David Howe's story. The second one...I don't have on me, but I'm sure there was one. And now here's...the story Sean really hated, Part 3. Colin Brake becomes another author caught beneath the treads of Troughton characterization, but I expected that. The problem is that everyone in this story reacts as if they've got about 3 brain cells. I really got annoyed by this story. 2/10.
FEGOVY - grumble...grumble...Sean? What? You promised...Yeah, I know...OK, Fegovy is great. Yes, it suffers from the Gareth Roberts style of over-the-top everything, but this fits the 6th Doctor and Mel *much* better than the 4th and Romana. The characterization is dead-on. OK, Gareth, you win this round. But I'm still dreading The Well-Mannered War. 8/10.
CONTINUITY ERRORS - The definitive Seventh Doctor story. So utterly brilliant in so many ways that I won't ruin it. Read it and kvell. 10/10.
TIMEVAULT - Pretty good. The 4th Doc is well done, and I like the general idea. The villains seem pretty vague, though, and the heavy moralising that the Doctor goes through doesn't really fit the Williams era. 7/10.
ZEITGEIST - Ummm...what happened? I get the feeling I'd lilke this story if there was even one more line explaining it. Yes, I did read the explanation, but still...oh, Craig makes up for GodEngine, this prose is excellent. Turlough in particualr is wonderful. It's just...HUH? 8/10.
Overall: Excellent, perhaps the best Decalog so far. Buy it, if only for Steven Moffat's story. 8/10.
Continuity Errors by Robert Smith? 2/8/00
This, right here, is what it's all about. A complex chain of events, twisting and turning from Doctor to Doctor, event to event, winding their way throughout all of time and space and history. Events so gargantuan even the Doctor can only glimpse their importance and it takes the combined skill of the finest authors the range has to offer to put this labyrinthine structure together. Are we in for a treat or what?
There are some books that seem initially disheartening that go on to flower into amazing gems. There are others where you can see the brilliance from the outset and the unfolding text within is like a virtuoso violinist playing out the gorgeous score laid before her, taking a good idea and making it magnificent. Then there are those books which have the fantastic idea, but give it to a bunch of has-been musicians with toneless instruments.
Never before or since has a book made such a hash of such a brilliant concept as Decalog 3. And I say this, having read the entire published output of David A. McIntee.
Things look promising initially. The creature that links the first two stories is intriguing enough and seeing it from two different perspectives in two different time zones works just fine. In fact, I think that this could have been the sole villain in each of the stories and I think we would have something pretty impressive on our hands.
Sadly it goes downhill after this. An object from one story pops up in the next? Oh, yes, what a tangled web of consequence we weave. Not.
Of the remaining stories, I quite liked the newspaper article approach to Tarnished Image. An otherwise goofy story is just saved by this approach. It's a risky approach, but it works. Gareth Roberts' Fegovy is also a treat; writing the sixth Doctor's dialogue Pip 'n' Jane style is a mark of brilliance, in an otherwise forgettable story.
Timevault is pretty lame and Zeitgeist has some promise, but goes on far too long for its own good. It's a disappointing end to the collection, as you just start wishing that Craig Hinton would wrap things up already.
There is, however, one story that stands head and shoulders above this disappointing collection. Continuity Errors is utterly, utterly brilliant. It's hilarious, it's touching, it's moving. It's exactly the sort of thing a short story should be and consequently precisely the sort of thing that so many Doctor Who short stories fail to achieve. It knows exactly how long it's supposed to be and stops when it should. It's the definitive work on the seventh Doctor, in many ways and it's the only story to even vaguely realise the potential in this collection. I intend to kidnap Steve Moffat's dog and hold it to ransom until he agrees to write a full length novel (Moffat, that is -- I hold less hope of the dog agreeing to pen an 80,000 word masterpiece, although doubtless the result would still be more intellectual and complex than any of the other stories contained within this collection). Using Professor Candy for the epilogue is a good touch, but not enough to dispel the gross level of underachievement that the rest of this book aspires to.
In summary, Decalog 3 is probably the most disappointing Decalog yet, which is quite a feat. True, the stories aren't quite as bad as some of the other short stories that have been perpetrated under the Doctor Who banner, but this collection promised more and failed so spectacularly in its aim. There is one story of sheer brilliance and nine of numbing mediocrity, held together by a tangled web that wouldn't confuse Jo Grant. It only reinforces what a shame it is that we didn't get a whole novel from Steve Moffat instead of this sorry collection.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 4/9/04
Published in 1996 near the end of Virgin's run of DW books, this was the another bold attempt to make a series of short stories work. Andy Lane and Justin Richards take the job of editing the range, and that filled me with hope. A linking theme was decided upon, and the collection follows on from each story more than any other as a result. I'm never convinced that linking themes is a good thing though - Star Trek books being the obvious bad example in recent years. Nonetheless all existing Doctors are to be used, and a special effort made to use different TARDIS teams as well.
...And Eternity in an Hour by Stephen Bowkett
I suppose not every 3rd Dr and Jo story should be set on Earth, but this far reaches of space story seems out of place. It's a decent enough story though, and it sets up Cerunnos for the next. 6/10
Moving On by Peter Anghelides
The shutting off of K9 and Sarah-Jane adventures altogether strikes me as a bit of shame. The events here seem so final, and K9 and Company wasn't that bad. Ironically though this forms a nice bridge between that show and Sarah-Jane's Big Finish series of dramas. Nothing special. 6/10
Tarnished Image by Guy Clapperton
Another story, like the first, that seems out of place for its Doctor. In this instance it's the 1st Dr and Dodo, on the planet Tarron. The news reports are an innovative way to tell the story though. Shame about the story though - A strange mismash of large corporations and artefacts. 6/10
Past Reckoning by Jackie Marshall
The best story so far in this collection, reminded me of a recent Jonathan Creek episode. The 5th Dr and Nyssa arrive at a Castle, where the Doctor's old acquaintance David, is unearthing treasures. 7/10
UNITed We Fall by Keith R.A. DeCandido
The 4th Dr here prevents a bomb at UNIT. It's a sort of Doctor on trial setup too - UNIT has been buying expensive equipment for him over the years, and justification is now called for. The Brigadier helps, but this doesn't quite convince in its execution. Not bad, just not that great. 6/10
Aliens and Predators by Colin Brake
This is a good one, the first published work of an author who went onto write novels in the future. The 2nd Dr, Jamie and Zoe arrive aboard a ship carrying the DNA necessary to repopulate the Earth. This far future setting is intriguing, and I thoroughly enjoyed this segment of the drama. 8/10
Fegovy by Gareth Roberts
With links to Earth History, even though it is set in the future, this is a pretty okay story by Gareth Roberts - who is undoubtedly better at the novel format. It's all about an auction, and the 6th Dr and Mel form a likeable team. The ongoing story arc continues to be shoehorned on, and that alone distinguishes it from other collections. 6/10
Continuity Errors by Steven Moffat
The NA team of 7th Dr and Benny (you really need only 1 companion in a short story) meet a dodgy librarian and try to borrow a book. What starts well in the Library of New Alexandria peters out thanks to some dodgy sci-fi technobabble. Too New Adventurish for my tastes. 5/10
Timevault by Ben Jeapes
The quaint combination of 4th Dr and K9 arrive on a human storage ship where a plague is killing people. It's a great premise, with a great Doctor, and a fine story. Very good. 8/10
Zeitgeist by Craig Hinton
A Technologically advanced culture once again in a book that focuses on the future travels, rather than the past and present. It's not one of my favourites. 5th Dr and Turlough work well together, but that's it. 6/10
A book that has connections from one story to the next should be better than this in all fairness - it should keep the interest going longer. I was disappointed with the stories overall - I just expect more from DW, especially with the talent on offer here. It's not the worst Decalog - that's the first, but it comes close second 6/10.