BBC Books
Dying in the Sun

Author Jon de Burgh Miller Cover image
ISBN# 0 563 538?? ?
Published 2001
Featuring The Second Doctor, Ben and Polly

Synopsis: The Doctor helps track down a murderer while trying to stop a motion picture from being made.


A Review by Finn Clark 26/10/01

This review is spoiler-free, so can be read safely by all.

Strangely, I've never before felt guilty about writing a review. Normally I'm happy to apportion blame or credit as I see fit; a bad book deserves to be labelled as such. The newbies of the early BBC Books (Collier, Baxendale) produced such horrible first novels that skewering them to the fullness of one's vocabulary was almost a moral duty. Whereas when one of the old-timers vomits up a stinker, they've been around the block often enough to be able to take a bad review or two.

But here we have the debut BBC novel of Jon de Burgh Miller, a chap against whom I have no personal animosity and is undoubtedly kind to children and small animals. Admittedly this isn't strictly speaking his first novel since he co-wrote Twilight of the Gods 2 for Virgin's Benny range, but one shouldn't hold that against him. He has bared his neck publically, in print. He deserves our compassion and sympathy.

Unfortunately his book Dying In The Sun sucks dead donkeys.

It's got a nifty cover, albeit one that's strongly reminiscent of Jean-Marc Lofficier's The Nth Doctor. It's also got some interesting stuff going on with the collision of fantasy and reality. Um, I think that's the good points covered.

I really shouldn't have read this straight after City of the Dead. The author has some great potential here. The Doctor in Hollywood! In the forties! With strange and mind-bending cinematic stuff going on! This is exciting and promising, but unfortunately it's treading in some heavyweight footsteps. Chandler, Gardner, Hammett et al sit on our left hand, while King, Campbell, Lansdale and Barker are on our right. And that's without taking in the delicious outrageousness of Hollywood itself, a monster beyond the imagination of anyone not on life-threatening medication.

Even one of those elements would be a hell of a challenge for a writer, but to evoke the combination successfully would undoubtedly produce a masterpiece.

Alas, Dying In The Sun isn't one. Firstly, the hard-boiled narrative voice ain't there. We don't get the Chandleresque verbal power of American English, but instead the rather bloodless detachment of an Englishman putting everything in just the right order. I'd have settled even for the slightly camp pastiche that Terrance Dicks produces in Blood Harvest and Mean Streets, but no. There's a really awful action sequence too. The prose just doesn't pulse.

The characters are pretty dull, even down to having Hollywood family relationship bollocks. It's groanworthy, but then again I guess it's appropriate thematically in a book about the movies. Perhaps this was intentional? There's a particularly daft policeman who manages to be suspicious of the Doctor in a manner so unthreatening that you wonder if he's meant to be comic relief.

If you deleted a few lines of physical description then the Doctor could be any of his incarnations - or, in other words, none of them. (I'm especially miffed since it's been ages since Troughton got a novel and after this he still hasn't been in one.) Polly's fondness for the idea of being in the movies is rather odd. Ben is... well, there. This was a fairly colourless TARDIS crew and a rather oddly chosen one in my opinion, since Troughton was at his most outrageous at the start of his tenure but he doesn't seem to bounce quite so well off Ben and Polly in print.

It felt rather odd to have the Second Doctor spending so much time hanging around the police, but that's a lesser nitpick. The bad guys' attitude to the Doctor also felt inconsistent, at one point trying to kill him out of nowhere but later tolerating him underfoot in sensitive places and giving him almost a free hand.

The weirdness was better than the forties Hollywood setting, but even that never really caught fire. In itself it's merely bland, but it's the missed opportunities and potential that really kill this book. There's little here that hasn't been done better elsewhere, even in Doctor Who. See the short stories of David J Howe or Jonathan W Dennis in Perfect Timing 2, or perhaps Curse of the Scarab in DWM 228-230.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 19/2/02

Dying in the Sun is as empty a novel as the Hollywood blockbusters that are so central to it's story. Like the big-budget spectacles from Hollywood, it's concerned more with being all about getting the audience into the seats with a flashy advertising campaign (the cover serves as that trailer that turns out to be far more interesting and exciting than the film turns out to be) and the fast-moving story, so the audience never notices how quickly the clichés are coming and how the characters never develop beyond being two-dimensional. Like the Hollywood blockbusters, it's a story that's enjoyable enough while you're reading it, but once you step away and start to think about the possible bigger issues that are developing, it leaves you empty. It's the PDA equivalent of bubble-gum--good at first, but it rapidly fades once you've stop chewing on it.

The second Doctor, Ben and Polly decide to visit Hollywood in the late 1940's. The Doctor goes to visit an old friend who subsequently ends up dead and the Doctor becomes the prime suspect. In typical Who-style, the Doctor quickly exonerates himself and joins forces with the police to uncover who really killed his friend and why. All roads seem to lead to the new film, Dying in the Sun, which is marked as the next big thing to hit the silver screen (think Star Wars: Episode One and the hype and secrecy surrounding it). The Doctor and company soon discover the film isn't all it's cracked up to be but is, instead, a way for a group of aliens to invade Earth -- they're looking for host bodies and servants to rebuild their world (at least that's as far as I understand it anyway). Before you can say, "When I say, run, run like a rabbit," Polly has accidentally sided with the aliens in her desire to be a star and the Doctor is thwarting yet another alien invasion of the planet Earth.

The thing about Dying in the Sun is that it moves at a good enough pace that the reader moves from one plot point to the next without really being challenged to think of where the plot is going or if it even makes a lick of sense. (Think "Independence Day") The story moves well and it seems to flow a bit -- though there is one awkward moment with the discovery of said aliens comes to light (honestly, it would fit better in the prologue rather than as an abrupt flash-back). And there are some things in there that are genuinely interesting -- such as examining the cult of personality that surrounds Hollywood stars as well as some jabs at the church of Scientology (which deserves all the jabbing it can get, in my book). However, these ideas are quickly brought up, only to be dropped a few pages later. Instead, we're left with a story that's content to merely build up to the slam-bang finale.

Also, the supporting characters in Dying in the Sun are a bit too one-dimensional for my liking. Everything about them feels clichéd -- from the on-the-outs detective to the over the top maniac who wants to help the aliens to the aliens themselves. The exact motivation for the aliens wanting to invade Earth isn't exactly clear -- and it feels like it should be made clearer once the story wraps up.

But the biggest character mistake is Ben. The poor guy makes virtually no impact on the story. He's there, but he does little more than serve as a sounding board to the second Doctor. It's almost as if the author had no idea what to do with Ben and relegates him to the backburner, hoping the audience won't notice.

However, there are some good things about Dying in the Sun.

For one thing, the second Doctor is fairly well captured on the page. I could hear and see Troughton's Doctor delivering most of the lines in the story. And the characterization of the second Doctor works for the most part in the story. The other character who works well is Polly, who gets caught up in the cult of celebrity and the desire to be famous. The only jarring part of her storyline is that she disappears for large chunks of the story at a time, almost reminding the reader of the days when certain actors would have vacation come up during filming and thus make their character go off stage for an episode at a time.

And while it's not terribly deep, the story flows well. It's not a book that is overly challenging or has a lot of depth. It's telling a decent story and it does that pretty well. It's certainly not anything that is going to change anyone's perceptions of an era or being as Who-niverse shattering as Alien Bodies, but it's still a decent enough story.

So, the big question becomes -- would I recommend Dying in the Sun? The answer would be a reserved yes. There's a lot of good to it. Just don't think too hard about it and you'll probably come away satisfied. You get to invest a few hours in an interesting world. It's not Earth-shattering, but it's a nice way to pass the time with some old friends.

Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 23/2/02

It has been fifteen books since the last Second Doctor adventure, and that was the two Doctor The Heart of TARDIS. Perhaps that's because of everyone saying that the Second Doctor is so hard to capture on the page. In Dying in the Sun, the Second Doctor, Polly and Ben are in Los Angeles in 1947, and quickly become involved in the movie industry. There was a problem right there in that it didn't feel like 1947. Sure, I wasn't there, so how would I know what it was like, but there was no wallowing in the atmosphere of the time that so many other books have done to their advantage. In fact, it wasn't until late in the book that there was a mention of the main film in the book being in black-and-white.

The book is an easy read, events flow quickly. One thing I noticed, and liked, is that the people actually ate and slept. Too many books seem to have their main characters on the run for days at a time without rest. Although at one point I was wondering if a day slipped past without mention, there being two days to the premiere then suddenly it was the day of the premiere. Still, it was nice to have events take time and for people to do mundane things in the gaps.

The Doctor is running about and sticking his nose in everywhere he can find as usual for him, but I can see why people say that he can't be captured on the page properly. The Second Doctor was always on the move, even if only moving his hands around while explaining something, and that is tricky to portray in written form. There is no mention here of his recent regeneration, but he doesn't have a problem going to meet his friend Harold Reitman which must have been as the First Doctor since Ben and Polly don't know of him. Not a big point, but it could have lead to an interesting revelation in what would have been early in the series.

Ben and Polly come across as fairly generic versions on themselves. Polly doesn't seem at home when she goes into a bar, which is odd considering she used to hang out in one (well, close enough). And Ben has lost his outrageous accent, which, it must be said, is for the better.

I found the character of Robert Chate to be rather boring, and was glad when his scenes were over. His relationship with Charlie Wallis seemed forced to me, more of a cliché than anything else, an excuse for a dynamic that also failed to hold interest.

De Sande, I felt, had more potential than was realised. He wasn't over the top as he could have easily been written, but he could have been moved a few notches towards the top without ill effect. This leaves William Fletcher to be hold the reader's interest, and I found him to be engaging enough that he was believable and his scenes played well.

After such a long absence it's good to finally see the return of the Second Doctor, but I found Dying in the Sun to be, one the whole, largely average.

I'm Not Ready For My Close-Up, Mr De Burgh Miller by Rob Matthews 27/2/02

Two things-

  1. I'm fascinated by forties Hollywood. The shimmering image of it versus the often very ugly truth, illusion versus reality, all the beautiful garbage. William Randolph Hearst, Louella Parsons, HUAC, Frances Farmer, Thelma Todd... I must admit to finding it all horribly fascinating. Plus, its a city built on a faultline with no natural water supply. It's the edge of the western world. Its a postmodern godsend.
  2. Pat Troughton is my sometime favourite Doctor and as an unapologetically shabby tramp ought to contrast very well with all the glitz and glamour. Besides, his 'oft-cited 'Chaplinesque' quality harks back to that era.
Quite simply, this book fails to do justice to either of its main attractions. There's a couple of half-arsed 'hardboiled' characters there to represent Hammet, Chandler or film noir, there's a weird society of proto-scientologists, there are vague unidentified 'celebrities' in certain scenes. The main thing the books does is provide us with a silly SF explanation as to why we're interested in celebrities - as if one were needed!

The Doctor could be anyone. Not just any Doctor, I mean he could literally be anyone at all. The way he's portrayed is entirely at odds with the TV stories this is meant to be set between - wasn't he more unpredictable and unstable at this point, a la The Highlanders? Here the author makes concessions to Troughton by having the character randomly - and I do mean randomly, you almost feel he did it by cutting and pasting - furrow his brow or twiddle his thumbs or whatever.

The companions are no better - since when was Polly a wannabe film star?

But even more important than all of this, the story is cack. Its riddled with absurd contrivances, convenient coincidences and nonsensical character behavior. It's clumsily written too, as if the writer didn't read any of it back to himself - for example Ben 'suddenly remembers' a stolen roll of film in his pocket as he leaves a studio. It's a roll of film he snatched about one paragraph earlier - its still in our frigging short term memory, we don't need reminding that it's there!

Perhaps most unforgivable (then again, perhaps not), is the final revelation of how bad the Dying in the Sun movie is without the presence of the Selyoids. It's tacky-looking and unconvincing and, we are told, therefore rubbish.

So a fantasy drama with tacky and unconvincing production values is inevitably going to be worthless. Think about that.


I didn't want to write such a wholly negative review, and no doubt if I were to try to write a Doctor Who book it would turn out as inept this, but I really can't believe Dying in the Sun got past an editor. In the words of that guy from The Simpsons -

Worst. Book. Ever.

A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 18/6/02

I quite enjoyed the beginning of Dying in the Sun. The story opens with a mock pulp style consistent with the 1940's period in which the book was set. It eventually moves on from this into a more straightforward Science Fiction tale that isn't quite as gripping. The book does quite a lot of things well, but unfortunately it does almost an equal number of things poorly. While I did leave the book feeling positive, there were several points along the way that made enjoyment feel like an uphill battle, as if the narrative was occasionally insisting that I dislike it. It didn't totally succeed, but I can't shake the feeling that the book could have been much more interesting than it was.

The dime novel feel to the beginning of the story was quite effective at evoking the setting and capturing the mood of the genre it was mimicking. It's not the most original pulp style ever seen in a novel, as it mostly follows the conventions of that genre rather than subverting them or offering up anything new. Still it makes for a fair enjoyable read, if one likes that sort of writing, and I found it to be quite entertaining. The crew of the Second Doctor, Ben and Polly seemed to fit right into this type of storytelling, and putting that team into this setting was a risk that mostly succeeded. Upon reflection, I think I would have preferred to see the entire book written in this style rather than having it phased out halfway through.

The replacement to the pulp is a portion of the story that would feel right at home on The Twilight Zone. These sections are fairly successful as well, though I found them less engaging than the opening passages. The eventual menace is an interesting idea, though it lacks a certain something in execution. Maybe it's because we never get an adequate explanation of what the eventual goal of the aliens is. Perhaps the lack of explanations about the nature of the creatures is what leads to the unsatisfying ending. Whatever the reason, there simply wasn't enough "oomph" to the aliens. And this is a problem mainly because the human spokesman for the villains isn't all that interesting either. It seems frustrating to see a baddie fall back on the same motivations and plot devices that we've seen before. There were glimmers of potential, but very little of that manifested itself in the adversaries.

The Doctor and his companions are portrayed adequately, but not excellently. Jon De Burgh Miller gets much of Troughton's Doctor correct, though there are several passages that seemed quite out of character. Still, the Second Doctor is notoriously difficult to capture in print, and the depiction here is better than others have attempted. I'm much more familiar with Ben and Polly through their outings in the old Target novelisations than in their televised episodes, and their characterization here certainly seemed consistent with my memories of those books. It's only a pity that Ben has so little to do, with most of the attention focused on Polly. Fortunately, Polly more than carries the slack. There were a few places where her motivation seemed a little over the top, but for the most part she was a believable and noteworthy character.

Ultimately, I think the story could have done quite well with some tighter editing, or another draft. I found myself enjoying the story, but slight and avoidable oversights kept jumping out to annoy me. No major mistakes caused me to hurl the book across the room; rather there was an accumulation effect as all the small individual cuts took their toll. Small oddities in the narrative, "revelations" that came out of nowhere, and coincidences just slightly too big to be believable all added up.

While Dying in the Sun has a couple of flaws that annoyed me, I managed to enjoy enough of the story not to be too bothered by them. There are portions that just appear to be sloppy, but the narrative moves fast enough for these not to be a big problem. There are a few missed opportunities, but overall it's relatively enjoyable and works fairly well as a simple, undemanding story. I did find quite a lot to like, and it's a fairly fun tale, but I couldn't quite describe it as anything more than average.

Sunburnt by Robert Smith? 22/7/02

These days it seems that writing a second Doctor PDA is almost taking your life into your own hands. This field is littered with the bodies of those who came before, each thinking that they were the one to succeed and only Justin Richards managed to survive with minor wounds. While I appreciate the attempt, it's clear that we have another casualty to add to the list.

The problem with a lot of these novels is that Doctor Who started off in a visual medium. Despite the fact that we now have more original novels than TV stories, most authors seem to think their novels should be a visual spectacle in book form. Which is okay some of the time, but it gets a bit boring when this becomes the house style. Dying in the Sun does this as well, but for once it works quite well, due to the movie-centred nature of the setting.

The best things about Dying in the Sun are the things it doesn't do - which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Specifically there's not a single mention of the word TARDIS in the entire book and the only thing which could even vaguely be said to be a continuity reference is the last line of Chapter 14 (though I wouldn't swear to it). I really like this approach, not least because the next PDA is by Gary Russell. The lack of continuity gives this book a freshness it would otherwise lack.

This isn't just a spurious point; Jon had a similar sort of short story in Walking to Eternity that fell extremely flat because the idea of the Doctor visiting a movie set where they're doing something based on his adventures is an extremely overworn joke that was barely funny in the first place (see various Short Trips collections as well). I was rather nervous that we'd get something like that here, but thankfully we have a proper story in its own right.

Sadly, the biggest problem with Dying in the Sun is that it's a bit boring. Not irredeemably so, but the ending in particular suffers from the snooze factor. The nature of the Selyoids seems to alter willy-nilly whenever it suits the plot, but they're still quite effectively drawn. I had sudden flashbacks to Terry Nation stories when their name was first revealed, because I thought it was in all seriousness, but it's explained a few pages later, so fortunately the palpitations went away.

I liked Ben and Polly quite a lot. Despite what others have complained about, Polly only seriously considers wanting to be a movie star once, which doesn't seem unreasonable. The other times she's either trying to get information or possessed. Despite what I said earlier, the Doctor isn't awful by any means, so the regulars don't drag this down. I liked the way the Doctor kept getting himself attached to the police investigation. I also liked the 1940s detective prose style that's used early on and I'm not really sure why there wasn't more of it. It's not overly intrusive and I think it may have helped make the book a bit more memorable if we'd seen a bit more of it.

Sadly, the most consistent fault with most Doctor Who novels is that they completely abandon all inventiveness and ideas about three quarters of the way through and give us the most perfunctory ending possible, thus completely lessening any effect they might have had from the rest. There are some exceptions, but they're fewer than you'd think. It's a fault that isn't unique to this book by any means, but it does just as much damage here as elsewhere. And when the rest of the book has been plodding along at a rate that's best described as a bit above average, that's a real problem.

Overall I enjoyed Dying in the Sun, just not as much as I could have. It's a decent read whose biggest problem is that it doesn't really have anything big going on, so it doesn't shine. A decent ending could have changed all of that. It's a bit of a shame that the fake ad campaign Jon organised on the internet was about a billion times cleverer than anything in the novel itself. It's not the worst PDA of the year, but there's still a lot that needs work.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 27/2/03

It's 1947 and the Doctor, Ben and Polly are in Hollywood. A friend of the Doctor is murdered and Los Angeles is in a tizzy about an upcoming film that could change the world...

Where to begin? Um, first nice touch was that there was no mention of the TARDIS. The second nice touch is that Ben and Polly -- companions I'm not overly familiar with -- came off well. The 2nd Doc is a difficult one to pull off on the page, but Jon De Burgh Miller does well -- although I think Dave Stone did better in ,a href=heart.htm>Heart of TARDIS. The writing is okay. One thing that annoyed me in the beginning was the obvious slapping on of American 40's slang. Seemed very forced. Besides that, no glaring errors, except for the fact that the HOLLYWOOD sign had already lost the LAND part of it by 1947. The plot itself is interesting, as are the subtle digs at Scientology (always a good thing). The concept is relatively original -- invasion via propaganda and hype.

However, Dying comes off the rails by the end, with a tacked on double cross that turns out not to be, and a couple of other bits straight from the writer's cliche manual. The guest characters are two dimensional, and tend not to have any staying power, or much motivation. Chate is the only standout, but even he is slave to the cliches that JDBM is working with. The villain, De Sande is supposed to be the confused man gone wrong. However, he doesn't have any presence. Wallis is just bad. In the end, lots of potential, shoddy payoff.

For completists only.

Dianetics in the Sun by Jason A. Miller 4/11/03

There's a great wicked Hollywood-cult-frenzy parody waiting to get out of Dying in the Sun. The underlying notion is that a bunch of possibly-benevolent glowing particles attach themselves to the celluloid print of a ludicrously awful Hollywood "B" film in 1947, in an attempt to take over the world. Funny concept. However, first-time Doctor Who author Jon DeBurgh Miller (who previously cut his teeth in a DW-spinoff range) also takes a somber look at the notion of "celebrity". Not only can his Selyoid (ha ha) creatures attach themselves to reels of film, but they can also meld with B-list actors (with evocatively phony names like "Caleb Rochefort") and turn those poor schlubs into international icons.

The novel kicks into gear about halfway through, when the Second Doctor and Ben are invited to the "Dying in the Sun" launch party, and meet a group of robed cultists who're using the Selyoids to further their aims of world domination by the power of rational thinking. Curiously, there are no blatant L. Ron Hubbard jokes, although we do get the token gag about the Jewish screenwriter who offers to change his religion, if it'll help him sell his scripts. That's about as topical as Dying in the Sun gets.

Oh wait -- there's also one very anti-Communist LAPD captain, a villainous part based probably on a bunch of film noir roles, and almost certainly in part on John Mahon's character from "L.A. Confidential" (and "Angel" Season 1, for that matter). But that's the B-plot, and it seems to be there for atmosphere, mostly.

Miller's novel is easy to read, easy to forget. His choice of TARDIS crew is handled adequately. The Doctor could easily be Patrick Troughton's Doctor. Most of the scenes are told from Ben's perspective, although he remains defined by his accent more than by his choices. Indeed most of the action scenes seem flat, perfunctory -- the flashback to director De Sande's discovery of the Selyoids, which could have been a grandly creepy moment, is rushed through, and that's a representative sample of the rest of the adventure. There's an issue of demonic possession, as one of the regulars is absorbed by the Selyoids... but then promptly vanishes from the story.

The novel only really falls apart in the final 20 pages. The showdown between the head Selyoid honcho and the surprise bad guy turns into... a drinking contest. Later, one of the regulars casually commits double murder by causing an airplane to explode (by bombarding it with skyscraper-sized projections from "King Kong" and "Birth of a Nation"). Still, the ending is not enough to sour the warm, bland taste of the rest of the novel.

Unlike the recent release of another late-'40s Hollywood film just out on DVD -- "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" -- this is not an offering you'll watch again and again, but it's OK the one time.

NEXT EPISODE: Instruments of Darkness. Sigh.

A Review by Brian May 1/5/05

Well, I rather enjoyed that! It didn't grip me initially, but after a second reading, I like Dying in the Sun a lot more. Jon de Burgh Miller loves his movies, especially 1940s film noir, and so he bases a Doctor Who novel around them. Discerning readers - and of course a discerning editor - should put their feelers out in the event of a disastrous overindulgence on the part of the writer. However, there's no need to worry in this case - de Burgh Miller keeps his whims in check.

It's a typical Who tale told in an atypical way. For much of the time it doesn't feel like Doctor Who - which, really, isn't a bad thing. We all know it is Doctor Who, so a story that's not what a Who adventure should be like ought to be commended. (Within limits of course, I'm not talking soap opera, historical romance or teen movie stuff here.) But the attempt at recreating the hard-boiled dime novels of the early 20th century, combined with the significantly noticeable influence of more contemporary takes on the genre, James Ellroy in particular - is quite a good one. I'm not saying it's brilliant; but it's fun.

The author is never setting out to create a set of realistic characters - he's keeping to the cliches of the genre because he's respecting its rules and boundaries. But when all is said and done, they fulfil their supporting roles quite capably. The corrupt cops scenario is straight out of Ellroy's L.A. Confidential, while the latter half of p.37 is a nod to Curtis Hanson's excellent film adaptation. The two-bit crims, gangster bosses, movie magnates and glamorous dames display all the hackneyed attributes that give them their literary life, and to enjoy this novel properly you don't want them any different. And the author does create reader sympathy in some cases - Chate and Fletcher in particular.

Ben is terrifically realised. The author has him down to a tee, and you can perfectly imagine Michael Craze delivering the lines. The Doctor and Polly - hmmm, not so good. Troughton's Doctor is difficult to capture in print, and only a few authors have done it successfully; de Burgh Miller is not one of them. But I certainly wouldn't call it the worst. The gleeful, mischievous second Doctor is present and correct in the moments that call for this behaviour, but attempts at the more contemplative, thoughtful facets of this incarnation, plus his outrage and indignation, are lacking. Polly comes across as very bimboish, I'm afraid to say. She seems too easily taken in by the attraction of the Selyoids, especially as this is the Polly who's no longer the superficial, glamorous Chelsea girl of The War Machines, but an open-minded traveller in space and time. Further to this argument, in The Murder Game (p.193) we learned that she used to be a model, but gave it up after seeing how shallow and exploitative the industry is. Whether you decide to place this story before or after Steve Lyons's novel in terms of continuity, it's the same Polly, more or less. Unless of course, you put The Murder Game after this and retcon Polly's musings on the modelling world as an added result of this adventure! (John Peel, where are you?!?!) Of course, this is not to say she wouldn't fall under the Selyoids' spell - a strong character like Fletcher succumbs at the end - but given that Polly has already overcome their influence when she shoots Caleb Rochefort and saves the Doctor, you'd think she'd be more cautious and resilient later on. The author isn't insulting Polly's intelligence, but I think he certainly underestimates her.

The story is set in Hollywood, one of the shallowest, most superficial places on Earth, and the lure of fame, celebrity and adulation is the means by which the Selyoids reach out to their intended. They're a common Doctor Who alien - a disembodied entity seeking to re-create themselves and regain corporeal existence in another form, which was practically every other being encountered at a point in the New Adventures. But their form is fascinating; existence as a glowing, soup-like liquid, although the demon that comes to life is poorly explained and is just a contrived attempt at a traditional monster. Like the best written Who thingies, the Selyoids aren't depicted as necessarily evil, and there's an ambiguity that suggests they won't simply conquer and devour, but would genuinely co-exist with their human hosts.

The story falls down in a few areas. Apart from the Doctor, Polly, and the demon, De Sande explains way too much to the Doctor and Ben at the initiation ceremony, especially as they haven't yet been taken over. It's the means by which the author offloads a lot of relevant plot details to the reader, but it just reminded me of many a James Bond villain bleating out his entire dastardly plan, instead of just killing 007 on the spot! And the story loses it a bit with the ending; the final climax does go on a bit too long.

But I'm not going to bury a story on these grounds. I've read a few scathing reviews of Dying in the Sun, but there are others which place it in the "inconsequential, but fun" category, which I tend to agree with. It's a carefree tale with no continuity references, and provides some imaginative variations on some Who staples. It pokes fun at McCarthyism, brainwashing, capitalism and the trappings of fame and celebrity while never bludgeoning you over the head. The author's chosen genre is incorporated into Doctor Who in an interesting and entertaining way. 7/10