THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Virgin Publishing
Eye of the Giant

Author Christopher Bulis Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20469 7
Published 1996
Continuity Between Inferno and
Terror of the Autons

Synopsis: The Doctor's attempt to identify a mysterious artificact lead him to a a desert island, where he becomes trapped 40 years in the past. Meanwhile, a rash of UFO sightings puts UNIT on the alert.


Reviews

A Review by Sean Gaffney 24/8/99

Pretty damn good book. Not as good as Sorceror's Apprentice, but it's no Shadowmind, either.

Plot: Fiendish, perhaps the main reason to read the book. It's got one of those classic fifth episode "Whoops, something completely different has now gone horribly wrong!" type dealies.

Doctor: Very Pertwee-ish, in a good way. He doesn't get a lot of action, but he gets to do a lot of science. And relatively little patronizing.

Liz: OK, if a little underwritten.

UNIT: The Brig is great, Mike is very well done, and Benton is Benton. I like the Osgood bits, too. He really is useless, isn't he?

Others: Nancy is a pretty lousy villain, but then she would be. I kept hearing Sandra Dickinson reading those lnes. Amelia is almost too good to be true. The others were pretty interchangeable.

Overall: Pretty good, but I'm not wild over it. 7/10.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 30/3/01

What you get with The Eye Of The Giant is a great read, and another winner from Chris Bulis.

PLOT: The Doctor is trapped in the past, somewhere that doesn`t exist. There`s something B-movieish about the scenes on the island complete with a film crew. And this is part of its charm.

THE DOCTOR: Better with the scientific stuff than anything else; but then he doesn`t get too much action.

COMPANION: Similairly Liz doesn`t do a lot, but she serves her purpose, and any book with Liz Shaw is an added bonus for me.

UNIT: All present and correct, the Brigadier`s great, Benton is functional, Osgood is stupid, and Mike Yates is well catered for, even getting a promotion (if my memory serves me correctly).

OTHERS: The film crew are stereotypical. There's the scheming stepdaughter, bickering relatives. It could be from a soap opera.

OVERALL: There's little to fault, the movie references are clever, the Doctor`s feeling of being trapped is exploited more than ever because of his exile and even the Time/Space Visualiser makes a comeback. Perfectly Pertwee. 9/10.


A Review by Brian May 3/2/04

The Eye of the Giant is one of those annoying middling adventures that alternates between being boring and being a complete mess. Despite an engaging middle, and some interesting ideas, Christopher Bulis's stab at early Pertwee fails to grip the reader.

Firstly, while Bulis captures the essence of the third Doctor/Liz Shaw/UNIT quite well, he misses entirely in recreating the dark, gritty atmosphere of the televised season seven. The attempt to avoid 20th century Earth as the sole location doesn't work either. The use of the time-space visualiser to travel through time seems a bit forced and incongruous - Bulis wants to have his cake and eat it too by writing Who at this point in its history and travelling to a different period. "Oh, let's just take a forgotten instrument from the Hartnell years and travel backwards in time using that!" the author seems to have thought. It just seems forced. Of course, the third Doctor visits Earth in different dimensions or time periods, independent of the Time Lords' influence (Inferno, Day of the Daleks), but those incidents are actually logical progressions of the respective stories' narratives - they're not simply used to create the story, which is what happens here (yes I know, the story is precipitated by the discovery of the artefact in the shark, but it's evident from the top that Bulis plans to use the TSV to get things going).

Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, the UNIT arrangement is realised quite successfully. The Brigadier and Benton come across well, as does Osgood, who actually feels like he's been part of UNIT for a long time (as he does in The Daemons, his only televised appearance). Mike Yates's personality traits are convincingly reproduced in print - but why make him a sergeant? This just seems like another contrivance. If Yates is a sergeant at this point, how does he get promoted to captain so quickly? Anyway, the televised character is such a public school, rugby playing ponce of an upper-class twit, it's obvious he went straight into officer training from Eton, or wherever.

Okay, with his grievance out of the way, let me start on another. The first part of the story is just so boring* Especially so regarding the crew of the Constitution. It's a boat full of cliches: fading movie starlet; lecherous and alcoholic lead actor; obsessed German scientist (how many Sternberg's have cropped up in Doctor Who?). Amelia doesn't quite work. Despite her religious devotion, nobody can be this perfect. The build-up with these characters - their arrival on the island, their encounters with the gigantic life forms and the sea tanks, Amelia's separation - is incredibly tedious. There's way too much description, especially the battles with the crabs, ants and bats. Bulis doesn't seem to be able to write action scenes too well (but he's not the only one, a la Ben Aaronovitch in Transit, Jim Mortimore in Blood Heat). Yates and Amelia's travails in the pit are just as plodding. It's only the sighting of the UFOs happening back at UNIT that insinuates anything exciting - it indicates that something else will happen soon, so we're just going to have to hold on!

It's not until the Brokk begins to revive that there is any real action or excitement. Brokk is perhaps the best thing in this story. He belongs to an original and interesting alien race; his thought patterns are excellently portrayed, as is the way he interprets the alien world around him. The whole concept of the ampules, and the loss of one which enlarged everything on Salutua, is absorbing. The pages are actually worth turning here! The imminent eruption of the volcano gives a much needed race-against-time element to the tale.

Wow, I thought! It's actually getting quite exciting! A story that actually improves as it progresses! And there's the UFO's to come! Chapter 17 has a large climactic feel - Brokk's ship takes off, the Constitution crew make it safely back to the ship and sail away, the Doctor and UNIT team make their way back to the present. As Sean Gaffney points out in his review, a real "fifth episode" plot twist is evident, although it's a bit of a giveaway when you're holding the book and know there's about 80 pages left! We know the sub-plot of the UFOs, which Bulis has cleverly kept to a minimum, in order to tantalise the reader into further anticipation, will come into its element in this final section.

And it does so quite superbly. The "fifth episode" is quite bizarre and disconcerting. We're all meant to think the Constitution crew take no further part in the adventure - but the short chapter 18 indicates this is not so. The notion that it's one of the crew that is affecting what is now happening in the late 20th century is fascinating, but before you can say "not another flipping time paradox", the whole thing turns silly.

Not the concept of the time paradox. That's excellent. But this feels like a remake of Back to the Future part II - the new, readjusted timelines in which Nancy becomes a virtual god, echoes the Biff Tannen empire of 1985. Were Nancy's ambitions that grand? The whole thing with the Sisters is rather silly as well. And the climax, with Marty and the Doc... oops, the Doctor and UNIT team, returning to the Constitution in the 1930s to readjust things, is not very exciting. It's too action oriented and very tired.

There are some good elements to The Eye of the Giant, which mainly occur in the middle. Otherwise it's surrounded by contrived boredom, or contrived silliness. Christopher Bulis knows his Doctor, Liz and UNIT characters, but doesn't do much justice to the series' history at this point. It's not the worst missing adventure I've read, but it's certainly not the best. 5/10


A Review by Finn Clark 23/5/04

It's as if World Distributors published a novel. The Eye of the Giant is enjoyable, but in the same high-concept, low-rent way we saw in Dr Who annuals.

Let's start with the biggest problem: the author's name. Only the most generous reviewer could call Christopher Bulis a novelist. He can plot with the best of 'em, but his published books seem to be crying out for four-colour illustrations and five words to a page. They feel like the result of a fortnight's work at most. Eye of the Giant's first forty pages are like an endurance test for masochists. Reading equals pain. Wooden characters lurch through the motions, clunking out thought processes that wouldn't convince a three-year-old. I was on the point of surrender.

But then the plot kicked in. If you whisk through at speed, overlooking the characterisation, there's fun to be had here. Everything's high-concept, especially the cast. They may be one-dimensional stereotypes, but this makes them instantly recognisable: the Gold Digger, the Selfish Scientist, the Sweet Young Girl, the Movie Producer... you know where you stand with Bulis. Subtext? Who needs subtext?

The setting and the aliens make my World Distributors parallel positively spooky. In 1934, millionaire Hollywood producer Marshal J. Grover lands on a legendary lost island of giant ants, snakes, crabs and bats. It's King Kong! Okay, there's no giant ape or chanting natives, but otherwise there's no point of deviation. I also liked the aliens, which are a bit wackier than usual. Brokk the Grold is an eighteen foot tall stone Cyclops who needs temperatures of 200+ degrees and can hardly stand Earth's gravity. Meanwhile the Semquess are bio-engineering deep sea squid, kinda like the aliens in John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes. At atmospheric pressures we consider normal, they explode.

If you're in the right mood, you can have a ball with this. If read at speed, the plot carries you along effortlessly and even has a few good twists. I even laughed a few times. This may not be the most heavyweight book in the world, but I'd choose it over any Baxendale you'd care to name. I admire the Doctor's improvised time travel machine, which is more entertaining and more faithful than a handwaved TARDIS trip during Season Seven. Apart from anything else, it's vital for the plot. And Amelia Grover is genuinely sweet... okay, Bulis lays it on a bit thick at times (e.g. the Amelia-Nancy scenes) but I fell for her. The missing arm is a nice touch too.

There's little more to say. It's like a novel-length World Distributors story. Bulis's shortcomings as a novelist mean that he tends to stand or fall by his plots, which has made for gruesome results (Twilight of the Gods) and, worse, forgettable ones (A Device of Death, Shadowmind, The Ultimate Treasure). However I genuinely enjoyed this. If you're not in the mood for literature and can force yourself through the first forty pages, it's lively fun.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 21/1/05

The reason I enjoyed The Eye of the Giant is almost certainly because I saw the name on the cover and adjusted my expectations accordingly. I knew to expect readable prose, shallow-to-middling characterizations, a straightforward plot and not much in the way of surprises. That's what I expected, and that's what I got. And I liked it. It won't win any awards, but if you're looking for something that just entertains, you could do a lot worse.

"I could imagine this one actually being filmed in the 1970s" is often used as a complaint about a book that hasn't reached the full potential that the written word offers. Yet while that statement is applicable here, I don't see it as a disadvantage on this occasion. The Eye of the Giant invokes the spirit of the era without rehashing the same material.

There's not really much to talk about here. The plot is adequate, not being overly flashy, fancy, complicated or deep. However, I'll give it a lot of credit for being entertaining, which I expect is all the author was attempting. Of course, on the downside, there's a couple of really odd false endings, where it seems that the story has ended and then it jerks to life unconvincingly like a dead celebrity reanimated for a beer commercial. The book would have been a lot stronger had these additions to the end been removed.

On the subject of the book's cast, well, let me say that I doubt whether Bulis has ever written an entirely three-dimensional character in his life. But he's written much worse caricatures before, and his original characters here perform their functions adequately. His depiction of the UNIT cast as it existed in the show's seventh season I found surprisingly effective. He doesn't provide any superior insights into the era, but he does invoke it well with very few paint-strokes.

It gets a little fanwanky at times (Captain Yates first meets the Doctor), but overall I enjoyed this one. I may not remember many details about it a year from now, yet for the few days it took me to plow through it, I cannot deny that I was having a good time.