The Scales of Injustice
Terror of the Autons
The Devil Goblins from Neptune
|Authors||Keith Topping and
Scales of Injustice and Terror of the Autons
Synopsis: When a mysterious space craft crashed to Earth, several
governments race to make contact with the alien race inside. However, the
that the craft is inhabited by the Waro, a race who's only intention is
utter destruction and war.
A Review by Leo Vance 29/3/98
In this first BBC Unseen Adventure, Martin Day, author of the boring Second Doctor MA The Menagerie returns, co-writing with Keith Topping, in a novel I felt wouldn't be very good.
But this is a very enjoyable novel, without being great. The plot is convoluted and interesting (at times, obvious. Try spotting the UNIT traitor). Unfortunately its too convoluted, and the prose style is goodish, if mixed.
Where this story succeeds is characterisation. The Russian characters are very realistic and well-written. The Waro are excellent monsters, and one of the few who manage to come close to being frightening in the novels. The villain is well thought-out, and the hippy characters are hilarious.
The Third Doctor is well-written, and hard to miss. His is a strong character. Liz Shaw is also hard to get wrong (Gary Russell did it) and is well done here. The Brigadier is his usual wonderful self, the CIA links are interesting, with Bruce being the best original character in Devil Goblins and Benton is well done.
The development of Yates' character is very good, and the good aliens are interesting as well. The aboriginal interlude is also well written, and the characters at Cambridge are good as well.
All in all, it's just another runaround with some juicy extra bits. 7/10
Utter Claptrap by Oliver Thornton 15/5/98
I had doubts about this book before I started reading it, and by half-way through, all my worst suspicions were confirmed.
This novel is a fragmented mess of unjustified or unjustifiable contradictions and complications. While a little confusion over the chronology of technological developments is par for the course with UNIT era stories, changing the entire history of the human race is not acceptable, if there is no purpose in the story (in particular, in this novel, the continued existence of the Beatles as a five-piece having ditched Paul and hired two new members). If there were some kind of altered-timeline plot going on here somewhere that the Doctor has to resolve before the Multiverse unravels at the seams, it might be understandable -- but no such luck.
And what's with the CIA? I find it impossible to believe that UNIT were totally unaware of their activities (at least the American branch of UNIT should have spotted something!) -- I mean, I know UNIT in its early days is obviously amateurish and underfunded, but they are trained soldiers with some idea of security, surveillance and so on. While they might not have been able to catch up with the CIA's operation, they should at least know that something is going on!
The party in Cambridge is, I feel, the last major sticking point. Too many links to the Doctor's personal past and future are drawn in -- hinting that he has stayed closely in touch with Ian and Barbara is very out of character. The Doctor has tended to move on and let his companions lead their own lives after they choose to leave him.
The good point was the characterisation, which for the most part was very good. Two points here didn't help. One was that the Doctor seemed to be more "John Steed" than Doctor Who, particularly with the so-called "Progressive Club" scene. The second was Bruce, the CIA's infiltration man to British UNIT -- he seemed just like an amalgamation of all my worst prejudices of Americans, and that was unfortunate, since I really couldn't take him seriously. On the other hand, the Russians were believable and the Brigadier was especially so.
I really can't find a great deal that's good to say about this novel. It makes an unholy mess of the UNIT saga, tangling everything up so that there is no room to move.
The Drooling Gargoyle by Sarah G. Hadley 17/6/98
Well, that's what it looks like, anyway... on the front cover, just behind the Third Doctor. Maybe it simply salivates in anticipation of the first Past Doctor book published by the BBC, and if it does, it knows exactly what to drool for... because this is a fantastic book. No Pertwee novel has reached these heights before; most were badly written, tiresome and gratuitously violent, while the rest were simply 'okay.' So it came as a great surprise to me that the first BBC novel I read was not only a great book in itself, but also the first Third Doctor novel I thoroughly found enjoyable.
The characters are exactly right: the Doctor with his sharp, somewhat patronizing character; Liz, the female scientist who is more than a little tired of the violence; the Brigadier, who lives by that same violence. The secondary characters are less memorable, but there are so many that it really isn't worth selecting certain ones to admire...they all work together as one, big whole to make the story interesting around the main characters.
Unfortunately, the villains themselves are a bit of a letdown. While not uninteresting, the Waro aren't particularly original, and wouldn't hold up well for an entire sequel adventure. Yet the Waro are more a presence in the book than a group of characters, which is exactly how it should be... allowing us more time with the Doctor, Liz, and the other humans (as well as aliens, towards the end of the story). Therefore, I'm pleased to see that the next book penned by Messrs. Topping and Day, The Hollow Men, does not feature the impish gremlins; I think it will be all the better a novel for it, and I look forward to it even more.
In the end, I heartily recommend this book, despite misgivings on the Devil Goblins themselves who, in the end, aren't as major an element of the story as one might think. So only one question remains... why the appalling title?
Unrealised Potential by Robert Smith? 16/9/98
Devil Goblins is thankfully a much stronger start to the BBC's line of Past Doctor Novels than The Eight Doctors was for the eighth Doctor novels. It begins wonderfully and the reader is really drawn into the conspiracy, the kidnap attempts, chases across London, gentlemen's clubs and, of course, helicopters. The first half of the book is really wonderful, almost unputdownable. Very much a book in the season 7 mould. Did I mention the helicopters?
Unfortuantely, it all goes a little pear-shaped in the second half. The Doctor displays a hitherto unknown Gallifreyan ability of 'soul-catching' (also known as 'pointless-plot-exposition') and after that things aren't really quite the same. It's a pity, because the soul-catching idea wasn't needed at all. I can think of at least three different ways the Waro's background could have been communicated to the Doctor and Co. without this "Oops, just remembered an amazing ability I have that I've never mentioned before or since." File it between 'Hostile Action Displacement System' and 'Respiratory Bypass System'.
The second half has some potentially interesting stuff with the Brigadier taking centre stage in one of the subplots, discovering all sorts of things, including the Tzun, sorry I mean Nedenah. Unfortunately, the Doctor, Yates, Benton and especially Liz get sidelined, the Doctor's sole contribution to the second half of the book seeming to consist of trying, failing and trying again to build a jamming device.
The Waro are on some levels an interesting race and it's always nice to see authors who are capable of a bit of originality. The sheer menace they posed was always clear, although I thought they worked much like the Cybermen: far more effective in the early parts of the novel, when they were more of a creeping menace than an outright horrific threat. Their history is unfortunately inserted far too early via the soul-catching plot device (and since Rose knows quite a bit about them, this exposition could easily have come from him later on) and the "there are thousands of them out there, Brigadier!" ending seemed just a little OTT. I'd rather have seen a more personalised struggle. Instead we got Independence Day, in more ways than one and that's not exactly a winning template of a movie to base a Doctor Who novel on.
Mike Yates gets a lot of development, although unfortunately a lot of that seems to consist of making him overtly heterosexual, something not really consistent with the character as shown onscreen (supposed date with Jo Grant in The Curse of Peladon excepted). On the other hand, his Russian counterpart, Captain Shuskin, is quite an interesting character and one for whom a return appearance would not be unwelcome. Unfortunately, for no reason at all, her appointment to the British section of UNIT is explained away as being part of the conspiracy. I really didn't think this was necessary and indeed would have worked better without it.
Also, the 'main' villian never really gets to carry out his plan or confront the Doctor. I'm still undecided about whether this is a nice change from the ranting megalomaniac who gets his traditional exposition-shouting-torturing-and-laughing-villianously scene or a case of tying up a loose plot thread too quickly.
On the whole, Devil Goblins is above average, but there were so many points in the second half that had me shaking my head, wondering why they didn't just do this a much better way. That said, the characterisation of the third Doctor is really wonderful, making him a sympathetic character, but not losing the rudeness or upper class snobbery that characterised his era. In fact, the characterisation of all the regulars other than Mike is quite good, even if Liz and Benton aren't given all that much to do.
Devil Goblins from Neptune isn't by any means a bad book and as the first in a new line, it's quite good. However, the phrase which seems to sum it up the most is "unrealised potential" and that's not a particularly good note upon which to leave a book.
A Review by Reuben Herfindahl 21/11/98
Topping and Day put out an amazing work with Devil Goblins from Neptune. They manage to capture the essence of Pertwee's Doctor, as well as suprising us a bit with maintaining the inconsistancies of 70's Who (e.g. the Beatles didn't break up.)
This story is placed after Inferno and before Terror of the Autons. It attempts not only to tell a great classic alien invasion Who story, but also to explain the reason Liz Shaw left and show more of the reasons Mike Yates betrayed humanity in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. They seem to suceed in their attempts.
Day and Topping are big Pertwee fans, and it shows. They manage to capture the essence of Pertwee's Who. From his membership in an exclusive club, to his imporvizational gadgetry, all the trademarks qualities are there. It also manges to be a great international Who story. Involving the CIA, the KGB and corruption within UNIT, all the regulars get a chance to shine.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 22/5/01
Despite the title, The Devil Goblins From Neptune is a great read which captures the feel of the early seventies with ease. Characterisation is high with the Brigadier on the road to helplessness (without being inept), and Liz Shaw shooting and parachuting. The Doctor is also excellently portrayed if a little too keen to namedrop. The plot is intriguing and complex (sometimes too complex), with effective villains in the Waro; shame they never really confront The Doctor though. Devil Goblins is a good start for the BBC PDA range, although better books would follow.
A walk on the Waro side by Peter Anghelides 4/6/02
As an example of "constructive commentary", I provided a series of coments and observations about Devil Goblins on r.a.dw in March 1998. The comments were pretty much straight off the top of my head, so don't look for too much in the way of a structured and considered review piece. (The joke at the time was that, allegedly, TV Zone's review wasn't a particularly considered review piece either :-)
Devil Goblins from Neptune by Keith Topping and Martin Day is a jolly good read: UNIT meets the X-Files, as cast by Cubby Broccoli. That feeling of "snobbery-with-violence" even extends to the love of brand names and technology (though perhaps the Doctor would have specified a year for his Krug?).
Keith and Martin capture (no pun intended) the regulars well, especially the Doctor and the Brig. They give Yates and Benton credible and interesting new things to do. Yates becomes the young Roger Moore, which retcon pedants will have to reconcile with his later gay incarnation in Happy Endings - though personally, I was more surprised to see his parents gave him initials which spell "Mary".
The secondary characters are interesting too, especially Bruce (even if his character mysteriously flips in the epilogue - just at the moment when we learn all about that family of his we never knew about during the rest of the book). I did ponder Rose's character motivations - perhaps all the aristocracy are actually completely staring-eyes- breadknife-bonkers). And as soon as Rose has served his purpose (bringing the he's-a-traitor-oh-no-he's- not-he's-a-TraiNor to the US), Keith and Martin then peremptorily shoot Rose dead.
The plot cracks along nicely. Some of that is helped by the fast-cutting between contemporaneous events. Nevertheless, I'd have been tempted not to split them quite so much - it does hop between two parallel but disparate sequences at some points, and maybe it would have been better (IMHO) to concentrate on one set of events at a time, a luxury which one has in a novel but does not have in a teleplay.
I think the Waro are wonderfully horrible and relentless, and the authors used two ways of "personifying" the faceless mass: one was the ID4 echo in the "soul- catching" (or "mind-meld" perhaps?), and the other is Rose as the human face of the threat. How would they achieve this next time? Maybe there's a "Queen Waro"? A "Waro King"? (Waro King on the Wild Side?)
I confess that I felt the Nedenah to be a bit "Deus Ex Machina" - knowing exactly how to defeat the undefeatable Waro, so that our heroes almost sit back and watch, albeit they must first stumble on the Nedenah and release them. And only then because the CIA decide to transport the Brig to the US rather than pop him into concrete galoshes and take him swimming in Lake Geneva. At least, as Keith pointed out on r.a.dw, they foreshadow the Waro's need for cobalt, so some of the others have reason to go there. It would have been just as interesting to have the Nedenah REALLY frightened of the Waro (like the Aboriginal one?), and secretly manipulating the CIA to get the Waro to attack and get wiped out... you know, like the mice in the science experiment where one says to the other "all I have to do is go down this cardboard corridor, and I can eat as much cheese as they can give me". Maybe they allowed themselves to get captured, so that they don't have to confront the Waro on their own home world (wherever it is, but who cares).
This would also have emphasised what I really like about them, which is their ALIENness - they don't mind about individual Nedenah deaths, since they do seem surprisingly phlegmatic about the dangers of crashing their ship, or human planes, or even the brutal killing of one of their number after fifty-odd years in captivity. So maybe they're a long-lived gestalt species, who don't mind planning the demise of their mortal enemies over a period of decades. Maybe this sounds like burning down a house to boil an egg, and more akin to the Seventh Doctor's antics, but I'd have found it more plausible than a helpful bunch of captive aliens who pop up in episode seven with a mental laxative up their (invisible) sleeves.
I did like the Waro's bluff in the USSR, and the various UNIT involvements there. Very John le Carre. In fact, I was John le Carre-ed along with it for quite a while.
Continuity: cheeky references to Ian and Barbara and their sprog, plus Rachel Jensen. This tidily debunks the Quatermass link with Bernard Trainor. They neatly reference Carrington. They naughtily forward reference Kasterborous, remember Munro, and explain Liz's academic credentials. There are also (serendipitous) links to Vampire Science and The Eight Doctors in the mentions of vampires, humans not being at the top of the food chain, and other oddities like "Kumbaya" (different spelling).
Goofs? Cambridge is a congregation of colleges so it doesn't have a "campus". Lots of paragraph separators have gone missing in the typesetting.
In-jokes: "Take a man around the rear". The authors miss a chance to have the Doctor refer to "The Navy Lark" instead of "Round the Horne". I'm sure Chelsea were a women's football team once (thank you, Captain Yates), but they did unexpectedly well just before the book hit the bookshelves! I also laughed at the line when the Doctor's being picked up from the water: "said the Doctor drily".
Things that puzzled me: Yates' dream about raining fish; the Brig's unexpected interest in dead poets; "I lied. The only science that matters is the search for the truth."
Maybe some people will object that the story's set early in UNIT's TV history (season 7.5) and then affectionately debunks the "ten-men and an Action Man tank" resources that a TV budget allowed (the CIA especially are very rude about the UNIT organisation and resources). I thought it was interesting, even if I'm not sure how I reconcile it with the on-screen attitudes to UNIT in Seasons 8 and 9.
So, a lot of fun, and it kept me interested right to the end. I like action adventure stuff, so this was right up my street. Perhaps other reviewers will let me know if I'm talking out of Neptune... er, I mean Uranus... er, no, I mean my arse.
Hippies and monsters... by Joe Ford 8/5/03
This book manages to achieve an amazing thing. Something not many Doctor Who books manage effectively and that is to have an excellent middle section. I'm not kidding, most Doctor Who books (and Doctor Who television) start well and end well but just run endlessly in the middle. The dreaded third episode is a particular example but the middle sections of The Devil Goblins from Neptune were superb, fast paced, action packed and really engaging.
Not that the begining and ending were terrible, they just lacked the same punch. Most of the good stuff in the first one hundred pages comes from the fleshing out of the UNIT characters. And the Doctor. I often forget how different Doctor managed to be in the early seventies, its earth bound formula giving it a more realistic, less fantastical approach. And the books are no different, it is indeed enjoyable to have a book that mixes human politics and alien action after so many overdone SF novels in the range.
The third Doctor is captured perfectly, from his continual name drops (and he never name drops anybody we've never heard of! It's always somebody really famous!) and his pleasure in taking all the best from life. His scenes in the country club are divine showing this elegant showman at his height. But as Robert Smith? ably points out he is almost entirely redundant in the second half of the book which is shame because earlier scenes such as the gorgeous moment between him and Liz looking out at the starlit sky yearning for home prove just how beautifully they have captured his voice.
The best bits belong to the Brigadier who I have never seen written for so efficiently. His willingness to risk his rank and reputation to take on a conspiracy in the heart of UNIT is breathtaking. His personal reminiscing is nice too, we get to hear about his tour of duty before UNIT. His scenes are the highlight of the second half of the book, his reaction to the aliens in captivity and subsequently aiding their release are top quality Brigadier moments.
Yates and Benton are treated pretty much as they were on screen, the earlier version getting most of the action and the latter basically a boring old swot. At least Benton gets to score some acid! Go man! Yates is so obviously a poofter I found it hard to believe his continual one night stands and all this lusting after women. Wasn't he a confirmed homosexual in later books? And yet these down to earth scenes focussing on this total chauvinist were some of the best in the book, indeed Shuskin provides a beautiful summary in the books coda.
The ending is just sooooo... easy. After lots of pulse racing scenes with this seemingly unstoppable force just to spray some chemical in the air is disappointing. The Doctor's horrified reaction compensates slightly as does Liz's reaction to her old friend's death. I'm not saying the plot is useless as lots of the double crossing, violent moments and unexpected deaths provided much delight. There are some decent twists in the plot and the action and character bits balance each other well.
At points it's almost too much like season seven for its own good. Armed convoys, moral Doctors, stubborn Brigadiers, international involvement... I'm not saying these things are bad but at times the story almost felt like a piecemeal of different Doctor Who's spliced together, albeit rather entertainingly.
Another reviewer (I forget the name) above states the story makes a mockery of UNIT but I must disagree. UNIT is written well here, the new boys in the pond just learning to swim. It is great when the Brig, sick of the Americans telling him his department is useless, instead of throwing insults he simply escapes with ease and overthrows the whole situation. Well if that isn't an example of UNIT effectiveness, what is? The world is in capable hands as far as I'm concerned.
So was this book a classic? No, but it was so ruthlessly entertaining it was way off a failure too. It's a quick pacy read with lots to say about its characters and quite nostalgically season seven in tone. It started the PDA range very effectively offering up little that was new but proving the range was going to do its best to keep you interested.
A Haiku by Finn Clark Updated 5/5/20
And plot: all forgettable.
Fun, but throwaway.
A Review by Jason A. Miller 18/4/05
I picked this back up yesterday to supplement the Green Death DVD. Sergeant Benton's musings about the Doctor and the Brigadier are really fan-theory awful, but that's the only sour note so far. The out-of-place reference to The Simpsons is still there, of course. And then he threw a Buffy reference into King of Terror, which is kind of like some character in the Ed Wood universe talking about his friends the Karamazov Brothers.
A Review by Steve White 25/2/13
This is probably going to be unpopular but here goes.
I really struggled to find anything remotely interesting about this novel. First of all, the title is very off-putting, like some old awful B-movie. It doesn't immediately make you want to read it and neither does the cover blurb. In fact, the only selling point for me is that it featured the 3rd Doctor, who is one of my favourites.
Secondly, the book starts off very very slowly, and tries to build up the characters of UNIT. Sadly, most of these characters are very two-dimensional; aside from the Brigadier and Liz, the characters are all far too samey. Benton, Yates and Bell could be anyone and the character-building just slows the book down. UNIT works as an organization, but trying to juggle so many characters just doesn't work for me. Likewise, Liz's friends in Cambridge are so generic it just isn't good reading. The Doctor, however, is perfectly characterised, all his mannerisms are there and you are left in no doubt that it is the 3rd Doctor you are reading about. Likewise Liz is as you'd expect from the TV show.
When the pace does get going, the story is actually quite entertaining, but the authors then insist on going to interludes continually which serve more as an irritant than anything else. I like my Doctor Who books to be about the Doctor and his companions, not random hippies. The general plot is that a race of flying devil goblins from Neptune called the Waro are trying to destroy Earth. The concept is OK, but the authors then introduce a subplot of a traitor in UNIT. If that wasn't enough, towards the end of the book it gets all conspiracy-laden with the introduction of a second "good" alien race called the Nedenah. I'm an X-Files fan, but this is far too similar for my tastes; in Doctor Who, we all know aliens exist so the Government conspiracy angle really isn't needed.
This novel isn't bad, but it isn't great either. Had this been released a few months later, it might get a more favourable review, but as the first book in the Past Doctor Adventures series it needed to pack a pretty big punch, which it just didn't do for me.
The Devil Whats from Where? by Andrew Feryok 14/4/13
"Constellations means something rather different where I come from - although the notion becomes somewhat redeemed by science in the far future of this planet. It's not a concept fixed by actual location, of course: it has elements of time and relativity involved. When I call an arbitrary cluster of stars a constellation, I do it in the knowledge that in a million years some of those stars will be long gone, and others will have been created in their place..."How can you not like a book whose title is The Devil Goblins from Neptune?!? This has to be one of the most brilliantly corny titles ever to grace a Doctor Who book or story anywhere! Keith Topping and Martin Day's book kicks of the BBC Book's Past Doctor Adventures series; the heirs to Virgin's Missing Adventures series in the years prior. Their book's reputation had preceded it and fan opinion is that this is a brilliant book filled with nostalgia for the UNIT-family era. A lot of the fan elation for this book came from the fact that its Eighth Doctor counterpart The Eight Doctors was received so poorly and is still held up as an example of how bad a Doctor Who book can become. So not only did this book have to start fans off fresh with a new series, but it also had to live up the nostalgic standards of fans who loved the era. Personally, the Third Doctor UNIT era is not one of my favorite periods of the show. I do occasionally get in the mood for it, but I don't find myself racing to it on a regular basis. Therefore, this book had to not only impress me story-wise, but it also had to put me in the mood for an era I don't normally like.
- The Doctor explaining an alien perspective on constellations to Liz, Page 77, Chapter 6
The book for the most part succeeds and I came away feeling like I had just been on a roller coaster ride of intrigue and action. In fact, the action sequences of this book are some of the best I have read in a Doctor Who book so far. We have the Brigadier and UNIT troops running from Geneva police in a gunfight, or the intense sequence where the Doctor and the Russian army have to infiltrate an alien mining complex and their fleet of helicopters comes under attack from the goblins! It's an action-packed adventure that makes full use of our karate-chopping Doctor and his military cohorts.
Speaking of the goblins, I came into the book a bit skeptical about these seemingly plain-looking monsters. But the way Topping and Day present them, they seem like an unstoppable force of nature that no amount of military or alien hardware is going to deter. They end up being a memorable one-off monster for the book series and I never thought I would be saying that!
Topping and Day also did a marvelous job creating a lot of twists and turns in the story that even I didn't see coming, including a finale set in Area 51 with the CIA as the enemy. I've never really been a fan of Area 51 stories (such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, Dreamland, or The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon), but it's used so effectively here that I had to applaud the authors for winning me over. Topping and Day also nail the Third Doctor's quiet moments with Liz Shaw. I adored the sequence where the Doctor and Liz are at a Cambridge party and they are on the back porch discussing the nature of constellations, which eventually highlights the Doctor's loneliness in being exiled to Earth. And there was plenty of intrigue with at least two or three rogue organizations running around and keeping us guessing as to who is allied with the devil goblins and for what purpose.
However, I can't call this book perfect. The depiction of the Doctor and UNIT varies wildly throughout the book and I suspect it is due to the fact that there are two authors with two different visions of how UNIT should be portrayed. It seems that one author likes the serious, competent, and espionage-riddled UNIT of Season 7, while the other likes the buffoonish, overreacting and incompetent UNIT of the later era. Same with the Doctor. There were times when he was a gentle, peaceful, but brilliant hero and other times he was a blustering blowhard who liked to lord it over everyone how superior he was while attending exclusive, elitist clubs. I never envisioned the Doctor as the latter and I always believed that those who interpreted him as a wine-sipping establishment figure completely miss the point of the Third Doctor. He was always an anti-authoritarian figure, even if he often allied himself with an establishment organization. I was also disappointed that Liz is largely sidelined from the story and plays no real part in the proceedings other than being an observer to most events. Come to that, the Doctor himself is also sidelined for a great deal of the story once the initial kidnapping attempts on him are over, and he plays very little role in the actual outcome of the story. He spends virtually the entire book working on a jamming device which does little more than temporarily impede the devil goblins without ever stopping them. It takes a random appearance of another alien race at the end to finally save the day. And while I loved the twists and turns of the story, by about midway through the book I came to the realization that the authors were really just padding out the story with subplots for each character and that the story itself really wasn't advancing all that much. And because there were so many plot threads going around, it was often easy to lose sight of exactly who the villains of the story really were. Even in the end, there is still no real reason given why Viscount Rose is ultimately the villain. It seems in the epilogue that the only reason given is that he was a just a madman and this is somehow supposed to paper over all this.
I think if this book hadn't been released alongside one of the worst ever Doctor Who books, fans would have been more critical of the book. But as a result, The Eight Doctors made this look like a classic which it really isn't. It's a good, fun book that has plenty of adventure, action, and espionage, but I wouldn't call it brilliant. Just plain old good. 7.5/10