The Dark Path
Face of the Enemy
|Author||David A. McIntee|
|ISBN#||0 563 40580 5|
The Curse of Peladon
Synopsis: While the Doctor and Jo are off a trip to Peladon,
UNIT must content with an alien threat to Earth. And in order to stop the invasion, the Brigadier
is forced to call upon the help of the Master.
McIntee's Best by Michael Hickerson 7/5/98
Take three major elements from the Pertwee years (the Master, UNIT involvement, and a threat to Earth), add some old friends and the return of an old enemy, subtract the third Doctor and Jo, and what do you have?
David A. McIntee's latest novel, Face of the Enemy.
If this is the standard the previous Doctor books is going for, it couldn't be better. From the opening pages, McIntee grabs you and doesn't let go until you read the Brigadier's final words to the Doctor as he returns from Peladon. It's just that darn good.
Which, quite honestly, surprised me. In the past, I've found McInee's short, clipped sentence structure to be a major distraction in some of his work. Not so here. It fits in perfectly with the description of the UNIT characters, as well as some of the more graphic descriptions of violence that are portrayed in this novel. In addition, McIntee thorougly captures the flavor and spirit of the Pertwee era characters he is using. The Brigadier is wonderfully well done and the Delgado Master is at his manipulative, coniving best. But beyond that, McIntee scores major points for bringing and older Ian and Barbara into the story seemlessly as well as giving a glance at a future companion's introduction to the world of the good Doctor.
When I first started reading, I felt sure I'd miss the third Doctor. McIntee insures that this doesn't happen by giving us a novel full of interesting character to identify with and to move the plot forward at breakneck speed. He literally gives you no time to miss the good Doctor and Jo.
But it wouldn't be a McIntee novel without a few attempts to tie up some of the series continuity together. And he succeeds in spades. McIntee builds upon some of the situations described in The Scales of Injustice as well as his Dark Path. He also gives us the fate of such UNIT regulars as Corporal Bell, who appeared on screen several times and then mysteriously went the way of the dodo.
What it all adds up to is one of the most enjoyable, taut, and suspenseful Who books in recent memory. If this is the high standard that the BBC previous Doctor books are trying to achieve, I think we are in for some excellent novels.
It's a can't miss novel--especially if you love the Pertwee years, or more especially Robert Delgado's portrayal of the Master. It has replaced The Scales of Injustice as my favorite 3rd Doctor MA, which is no small feat.
A Review by Reuben Herfindahl 21/5/98
I'll preface this by saying that Pertwee has always been my favorite Doctor. UNIT, Jo Grant, and the Master provide the most consistant base of charecters Who has ever had. The sets are great (considering when it was made), and the stories are consistantly high calber (although many suffer from a bit too much padding).
With that said, I was rather looking forward to Face of the Enemy for obvious reasons. The set-up within continuity is a good one. The story takes place at the same time as The Curse of Peladon, and starts with the Doctor and Jo bounding off in the TARDIS. As soon as the Doctor is gone UNIT is called in to investigate a crashed Jet which has an odd radiation signature and who's pilot has been missing for a week. Then, in classic UNIT story style, it takes off full bore. It never takes time off to explain in detail new insights into the characters, instead it weaves those insights into the thick of the plot. Those annoying little questions such where does the Master get all his money and where is his TARDIS is hidden are answered. Other wonderful little bits of continuity thrown in are: The Brig and Doris, why did he move so slowly; Yates and Jo; and an odd bit with Corporal Bell.
I'm not sure if it was intentional, but I had a tough time guessing who the baddies were. I knew they had to be returning villians of some type, but it took me a long time to get which episode it tied-in to.
The Baddies: Kyle is a great charecter. Her ruthlessness nearly matches that of the Master, and she plays the political game as cold hearted and manipulative as her inspriration, Blake's 7's Servalan (although much to my embarrasment, I didn't catch it until David pointed it out to me).
The Good Guys: The Master reveals his nice side and gladly pitches in when the Brig asks for his help, revelaing he isn't such a bad chap after all. Okay, maybe not. He does fill the Doctor's role, but only to suit his own needs. His TARDIS is missing, and he needs the talents of UNIT and some other very familiar faces. So he uses them, sometimes very cruelly. You never once forget that this is the Master as only Roger Delgado could play him.
Lingering Questions: The Master's other self in the alternate universe and the references, to how his spat with the Doctor started don't settle real well with me. They leave quite a few questions left unanswered, but they do revel a bit too much for my taste. Like the Doctor, much of the Master's appeal is not knowing all about his past. This and Devil Goblins from Neptune are definately my favorites of the BBC series so far.
A Review by Leo Vance 26/6/98
David A. McIntee has been impressive in every outing since his debut in 1993, but here, he excels himself with the best of his novels yet.
The Delgado Master is highly impressive, and his manipulation of other characters a very strong element. The female Fascist is very strong, and the Brigadier is effective as well. The 'Koschei' subplot is moving and superb.
Ian and Barbara are excellent in the first glimpse of their married life. The moving period when Ian thinks Barbara is dead makes for McIntee reading not seen since Sanctuary back in 1995. Generally, the prose is very good and the plot particularly strong.
None of this makes it better than his previous novels, but the non sci-fi plot early on makes this brilliant. This demonstrates why Doctor Who should be more realistic (and in realistic I don't mean Hinchcliffe realistic, I mean Cartmel realistic), and it works well.
Corporal Bell excels in this. She is a superb character, with an excellent subplot created around her. Benton and Yates get their chance to shine, and the Brigadier is at his best, something he could never be while the Doctor was there.
This is not just a runaround like Lords of the Storm or a deep emotional story like Sanctuary, it is both. A magnificent blend of drama and humour. Great Doctor Who. 10/10
Pretty Good, but Could Have Been Great by Robert Smith? 15/12/98
McIntee seems to have taken a giant leap in quality over his lacklustre Missing Adventures. This book still isn't as good as it could have been, with parts of it simply screaming to be improved, but on the whole I'm quite impressed. Of particular note are the action sequences in the book. Almost all of these are truly excellent, keeping up the excitement level and providing a strong visual hook.
The UNIT "family" work far, far better than I was expecting. Freed from the Doctor or Jo, they really have a chance to shine. The Brigadier is especially good here, getting lots to do and not coming across as dimwitted. Lots of his backstory is incorporated here and helps to sketch out his background for the novels very well.
Benton is less well handled, but only because he's given very little to do. I never felt as though his character was being properly utilised, which is a shame since there's so much more to it than we get here. That said, I didn't feel that what was done was bad, so I'm not overly concerned. Mike Yates has more to do, but most of it could have been fulfilled by any soldier, really.
It's the two old companions who really shine, however. The sequence that reintroduces Ian and Barbara is fantastic, helped immensely by not having them on the cover. Ian is a great character, playing a role that isn't quite Doctorish, but serves some of the same functions. He's also given quite a useful story arc that never wavers from being totally believable.
Barbara doesn't work nearly as well, but the deficiencies in characterisation are partially made up for by an examination of some of the consequences of travelling with the Doctor. I'm quite impressed to see that McIntee has used his own weaknesses to good effect. Most writers would have struggled on with a characterisation that they couldn't quite get a grip on, whereas McIntee has realised that this would be off-putting to the reader and so done something more useful instead.
The final regular character is the Master. While I really like the situation he was put in, both orchestrating the original dastardly deeds from prison and then later forced to work with UNIT as his underlings develop their own plans, I have some problems with his internal thoughts. In some ways the character works well, but mainly because once you visualise Roger Delgado, the actor takes over. As a character in a novel, he's less strong, but he does have a lot to do and does it well. This is quite frustrating, because if he were written in a more Doctor-like way (that is, seeing the results of his actions, but very little of the thought processes that cause such actions), I think he'd be fantastic. As it is, he's merely competent and that's a real shame.
Overall, however, I'm very impressed by the handling of the regulars.
Sadly, the book really dips when it comes to its original characters. I'm not sure if that's because the characterisation of the regulars lends itself so well to association with the actors playing them, or because McIntee has more affection for characters from screen. There's also quite a large number of competing characters in this book, so perhaps it's no great surprise that they aren't all given sufficient attention.
I think the main problem is that there's a continual problem in the representation of internal thought processes. While the plotting and the action sequences are fantastic and very well thought-out, the internal stuff is immature and cliched. Evil characters think evil thoughts and there's very little attempt to do anything other than the superficial with this. I felt as though I got very little information out of reading a character's thoughts that I didn't already have through their actions. I have to wonder why this was even included, since the other facets to the novel obviously play more to McIntee's strengths.
Baron is appallingly shallow, but so is Marianne and that's far less forgivable, since so much of the story rests on her characterisation. Boucher works better, mainly through his interactions with the regulars, but nearly as well as he should. I thought that this was a real problem with the novel that perhaps a few rewrites could have fixed. It's frustrating to be so close to something good, only to have a great novel reduced to a merely competent one through a lack of time or thought or effort.
That said, I really did enjoy The Face of the Enemy, despite its problems. The internal thought processes are the worst offender, but the overload of continuity with no point also brings the book down. These problems are offset by the action sequences and the plot and some of the characterisation of the regulars, but I can't help feeling that there's a fantastic book here just desperate to get out. Instead, I'll just have to settle with one that is merely pretty good.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 20/11/99
I was a little wary, I'll admit. I still have not finished The Dark Path, which is languishing in my backlog pile. In addition, David's prose has a tendency to irritate me at times, much like Gareth Roberts. (I believe I once referred to him as 'Why use one word when ten will do' McIntee.)
Finally, it's a conspiracy book featuring UNIT. Not my cup of tea. I despised Who Killed Kennedy, the only Virgin book I absolutely refuse to finish. The Scales of Injustice, while I could tell it was well written, also did not set me on fire.
That having been said, why did I like Face of the Enemy so much? Let's do the roundup of the usual suspects:
PLOT: Rather clever, considering it has so many continuity balls to juggle. David loves continuity, be it relevant or no. Sometimes this works fairly well (White Darkness, most of Weng-Chiang), and sometimes it works not so well (Lords of the Storm, the Decalog story with Sarah and the Master). It works here, even though there's more of it than in any of David's other books.
THE DOCTOR: N/A.
THE MASTER: Probably the reason I enjoyed the book so much. Impeccably written, every single line seemed to ooze from Roger Delgado's throat. The Master does indeed spend a good deal of the book functioning in a 'Doctor' role, and yet you never forget that he really is a nasty piece of work - albeit a 3-D one. Shades of black, more than shades of grey.
UNIT: Mostly the Brigadier, actually. Yates and Benton don't get as much to do. The Brig is also written very well, though I wanted a little more closure in his thoughts about Doris. We also see the 'first' appearance of Harry Sullivan, and I wonder if David read 'Harry Sullivan's War' before writing him here. ^_^
IAN AND BARBARA: Also very well done, especially Ian. David had said that Barbara was supposed to die, and indeed you can tell that she gets very little to do in the second half of the book. Nevertheless, it was nice to see them again, and I wish they'd been able to meet the Doctor.
KYLE and the VILLAINS: The villains, for the most part, were rather generic villainy. Kyle, however, was something special, and I'm glad to see that David kept her alive. The core of uncertainty and need for attention at her core was very subtly played, while allowing her to still be creepy. More.
BOUCHER: For a guy who I spent the entire book wondering on what page he'd die, he was very well done. ^_^
STYLE: I dunno, maybe it fits the espionage/conspiracy genre better, or maybe I'm just getting used to it. There wasn't any prose here that slapped me in the face and called me Susan, such as the Doctor's quotes in Weng-Chiang did. So pretty good.
DRAWBACKS: The rushed ending. Now, I know that a bunch of stuff was cut, and I'd love to read the full version someday. But the last forty pages left you a bit dazed. I'd especially have liked to have seen more done with the final confrontation between the Master and Kyle. And the Corporal Bell subplot felt VERY tacked on, as if it was added at the last minute.
OVERALL: Despite all my reservations, I liked this book a lot. And it didn't even need the Third Doctor (maybe that should be another plus ^_^). Kudos.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 14/9/00
Straight to the point here, The Face Of The Enemy is a good read. Wanna know more? Read on...
PLOT: Complicated, more so than any previous novel by David McIntee. In some ways it reads as a conspiracy theory and in others as an intense character study. Enjoyable nonetheless.
THE BRIGADIER: With no Doctor, the Brigadier takes one of the central roles; out of his depth, he is still portrayed as competent and believable.
THE MASTER: As played by Roger Delgado; the characterisation isn`t as strong as in The Dark Path, although several of his facets are very well realised. His respect for The Doctor and his calculating evil being just two examples.
IAN & BARBARA: The former is definitely the stronger of the two, largely because Ian is motivated by Barbara and her apparent demise.
OTHERS: Yates and Benton are by fits and starts weak and strong, although they don`t feature enough. Marianne Kyle is definitely the best original character, warranting a recurring role and a great villain as well.
OVERALL: The plot and characters make this compulsive reading, even without The Doctor`s presence. Only the rushed ending lets things down, but otherwise this is recommended reading.
Priceless by Joe Ford 28/8/02
Messing with continuity is a dangerous thing indeed. If you cock it up you end up annoying the fans and their precious views of the series, diminishing the stories you have stolen from effect. This is the fine line the PDA's have to cross on occasion and to be honest it rarely works. Who can forget the forgettable Mission Impractical or the horrible work done to the Zygons in The Bodysnatchers (oops, that's an EDA). David A. McIntee (what a cool name!) looks like he is going to join the queue when you think he includes the Brigadier, Mike Yates, Benton, Osgood, Dr Henderson (Spearhead from Space), Corporal Bell, The Master, Ian, Barbara, The Doctor, Jo, Koschei, the parallel world from Inferno, thousands of references to other stories and books and the marvellous Harry Sullivan.
How on earth do you even begin to craft a book around all these staples of Doctor Who?
Imagine my surprise then when I actually thoroughly enjoyed this book for precisely the reasons above. I think Mr McIntee must have spent many hours trying to graft these elements into a coherent story and to his everlasting credit he not only makes the continuity work but never, not once does it appear gratuitous. Read my list again. That takes real skill, people.
The fact that he manages to write a book that surprises, grips and (by golly wow) thrills never ceases to amaze me. I will admit I've never read The Dark Path but I wasn't that impressed with First Frontier or Sanctuary so whatever he was doing wrong he certainly improved come The Face of the Enemy.
UNIT are brought to life superbly and I got more of an inkling of the workings of this atypical organisation in this book than watching the entire Pertwee era. On paper they appear professional, competant and like a REAL army unit (I have a friend in the army who often scoffs at some of stereotypes that appear in the show!). All these attributes fit firmly into one character, our very own Brigadier. He is marvellous here, thoughtful and engaging and not without a sense of humour. Any scene where he talks to the Master is excellent, not just for the juicy dialouge but to hear what he's thinking about the arch criminal too. Yates and Benton aren't a priority, like in the series but dependable enough. McIntee did milk the 'Benton lost Chin Lee' from Mind of Evil a bit but not enough to be irritating. The late appearance of Harry Sullivan was not only a great shock but a real joy. I love Harry. I would follow him in the TARDIS anyday. This is the pre-Doctor Harry, all gushy optimism and english to the core, reminding me of the lovable oaf from Robot. It's actually quite rewarding to see the pre Harry here and the later Harry in (I recently read) Millenium Shock with the series slotted in the middle. Very believable.
Ian and Barbara make a very welcome return and remind me just what the series lost when they were shoe horned out at the end of The Chase. Obviously two of the best companions ever it is very satisfying to read that they finally got married as their affection for each other was soooo obvious in the series. This is an eaxmple of building on the series, continuity wise, for the better. Go back and watch their frolicks at the begining of The Romans and tell me they weren't in love! Anyway I just loved the way Barbara was described, slightly crabby, intelligent and sophisticated... just how imagined an older version. And the world weary Ian, happily married, mature and eager to help was impressive too. His grief when it appears Barbara is dead is gorgeously explored and the scene where he attempts suicide was just gripping. Truly wonderful work.
But of course amongst all these delicious characterisations the reigning champion has to be The Master. The superb Delgado version at that. Every line, every thought, every piece of dialouge was just perfect. His manipulations, his icy cold demeanour, his willingness to pick up a gun and fight for his life... I loved it all. Especially good were his scenes with Ian discussing love and death and his mind games with The Brig. He was captured to a tee so no complaints at all.
The plot was thick and syrupy, complicated and full of mysteries. I like a good mystery and with the bank robbery, the duplicates, the Master's unseen involvement and the mysterious Conclave I was certainly scratching my head a lot. I found a lot of the answers well worth the wait, particularly the follow up to Inferno which caught me entirely by surprise. It was like a big jigsaw and when it was all completed it was certainly an imnaginative and well structured picture!
The other joy is how it all fits perfectly around Day of the Daleks and Curse of Peladon so next time I watch either of those two classics I can know all the fun The Brig and co were having whilst The Doc was away.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 22/2/03
Get ready to root for the bad guy.
This book is designed to answer one question. What would happen with the UNIT team if the Doctor and Jo were off gallivanting around the universe while a major crisis occurred on Earth? Along the way, we get a full UNIT squad with the obligatory turncoat/spy within, past companions, future companions, a boatload of continuity references, and everyone's favorite evil Time Lord. This is fan fic on a giant scale... and it holds together, somehow. Mcintee's tell, don't show style is a bit jarring, as is his habit of dividing his story into short segments with huge chunks of exposition.
On the other hand, the characterization is strong, especially with Marianne Kyle and The Master. The Master... this is how he should be played: arrogant, manipulative, Machiavellian, brilliant, pragmatic. It holds the book together nicely. He plays dirty and mean, but he's as effective as the Doctor in helping save Earth. If McIntee's objective was to show the Master as a darker reflection of the Doctor, then he succeeded admirably. The Brig is solid, as are Yates and Benton. The others are okay, figures with functions.
Overall, this is recommended, mainly for McIntee's take on the Master. Be warned, if you not a fan of continuity, this book is awash in it.
A Review by Finn Clark 26/4/04
The Face of the Enemy demonstrates that at its heart, good storytelling need be no more intellectual than a small child with two bees in a jar. This book is really cool... and it's cool in a way that has nothing to do with theme, metaphor or complex characterisation. No, this book rules because it has Ian, Barbara, UNIT and the Master kicking arse.
It's like a comic-book crossover, full of heroes who could have carried the book on their own. Ian and Barbara were the real leads in Season One, not the Doctor. They rule. It's as simple as that. The UNIT team can take on anything, of course - hell, the Brigadier could do it solo. And then there's McIntee's favourite character, the Master, in his finest hour to date. He's like the hero, but evil! Imagine the last fifty pages of First Frontier, but done right. He's up against serious bad guys and eventually forced to team up with our heroes, but he never stops being a bastard. Nothing could be cooler than seeing Delgado open up on a lift full of bad guys with his twin automatics as helicopter gunships tear the building apart around him. It may not be very sophisticated, but by God it's fun.
Ian and Barbara probably fare least well, if only since this isn't their milieu. They're fish out of water in this story of gangsters, soldiers and military operations. However Ian gets some strong emotional material and the book gives them enough to do to justify their presence. [I'm also pleased that Steve Cole stopped McIntee from killing Barbara; the novel's far stronger for not being overbalanced by the death of such a major companion. Barbara's survival even gives Delgado another opportunity to be a bastard!] Meanwhile the Master is arrogant to the point where you can imagine him tipping over into his Ainley-era insanity. He's lots of fun, of course.
Oh, and there's some classic Brigadier-Master comedy. Nick Courtney and Roger Delgado were the best of the Pertwee-era actors and you can imagine them relishing their lines here.
The book's first half is stronger than the remainder, sadly. The behind-the-scenes real villains are fine, but it's much more fun seeing our heroes deal with weary cops and London gangsters. This is true 70s hardboiled action, like The Sweeney. It's also the best portrayal of London gangland in the books to date by miles, booting Amorality Tale down the stairs with a broken bottle in its face. These people are utter bastards! McIntee kicks off with ultra-violent brutality and keeps up the intensity thereafter. They may not be deep or sophisticated characters, but I wasn't too fussed about that. They're menacing and get plenty to do. That's enough for me.
Later we move on from the gangsters and weary cops, largely because most of 'em are now dead. The death toll is high, with some genuine surprises regarding who makes it to the closing credits. The developments with the not-so-alien invaders are fine, though at one point I started to wonder if things weren't being dragged out a tad longer than they might have been. That's a minor quibble, though.
The continuity is over-the-top, but that's the whole point of the book. Osgood, Henderson, Bell, Beresford... you get hardened to it. It gets a bit much when even Harry Sullivan pops up, but by then one has learned how to go with the flow. The book also works well as part of a trilogy with The Dark Path and First Frontier, carrying on from the former and foreshadowing the latter. (Of course that's really McIntee dropping a reference to a book he'd written three years earlier so he can reconcile it with The Devil Goblins from Neptune, but if you're reading the trilogy in Master/Doctor order then it's foreshadowing.)
This book has a strong 70s feel to it, taking seventies TV (Doctor Who, The Sweeney) and explicitly contrasting it with the sixties (Ian and Barbara) and the fifties (Dixon of Dock Green). The latter is portrayed as a gentler, more innocent era, as against this book's world of blood, bullets, massacres and other such jollity. This is far from being McIntee's only attempt at an action-based story (e.g. First Frontier, Lords of the Storm) but it's comfortably his most successful attempt at the genre. For me Sanctuary will always be McIntee's finest novel, but it's easy to see why this went down so well too. It's a lot of fun.
A Review by Brian May 31/1/07
I was in for a pleasant surprise when I read The Face of the Enemy for a second time: I enjoyed it a lot more. I was aware I'd be re-treading a mish-mash of fanwank. Just look at it: UNIT and the Master teamed up with Ian and Barbara, soon joined by Harry Sullivan, all mixed into a sequel to Inferno! It's a fanboy indulgence certainly, but it works. If you're ever going to mix and match Who characters and scenarios, at least bring them together with some semblance of logic and credibility.
This said, however, the fanwank does go overboard at times. The author makes the most of his chosen era with something of a free for all; we get name-checks of Dr Henderson, Captains Turner and Munro, and Lieutenant (soon to be Major) Beresford. I can accept the inclusion of current personnel: Yates and Benton naturally, but also Sergeant Osgood and Corporal Bell (thankfully there's no Major Cosworth!) The references to The Web of Fear and Delta and the Bannermen on the one page do push the envelope somewhat, but at least the Master's TARDIS landing in the crypt in Devil's End ties in with The Eight Doctors?.
But there are some excellent characterisations. The three companions slotted into the proceedings - Ian, Barbara and Harry - are all wonderfully re-created. The Chestertons are a spectacular couple, both individually and in their interactions with each other, and you can believe every second of their backstory since The Chase. And the moments when Ian contemplates suicide after he believes Barbara to be dead are compelling as they are sad. Harry's first words before his identity is revealed - "Oh I say! Just wait there, old chap, I'm a doctor" (p.161) - are obviously him, but for the sake of authenticity they're spot on, and the rest of his depiction is just as good.
But for characters, McIntee has struck gold with the two stars of this book, the Brigadier and the Master. The author's literary love affair with the latter continues; there are references to First Frontier and The Dark Path, which I consider to be acceptable efforts at maintaining a writer's own world-building framework within the Whoniverse, rather than fanwank. But the triumph is in the characterisation itself; it's one of the finest tributes to Roger Delgado I've ever read. The late actor's portrayal comes to vivid life, with McIntee going beyond what we saw on screen in the 1970s. Partly due to the censorial restraints of the time, but also in the cartoon villain approach taken by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, the Master we watched back then was lacking somewhat, despite Delgado's fine performances. This novel is one of those rare cases in post-1989 Doctor Who in which violence actually enhances a character. In short, the Master's a total bastard! He's desperate, calculating, amoral and sadistic; you can perfectly imagine him murdering Reeves, then unloading an Uzi into a bunch of thugs and a helicopter, while his torture and execution of Barron is just as chilling. And only a right prick would talk Ian out of killing himself and then withhold the truth about Barbara's faked death. And it's all believably Delgado. His best moment: throwing the Kalashnikov to the Brigadier just as the latter believes he's about to be killed by the renegade.
Lethbridge-Stewart also comes out on top. He's every bit the efficient, professional soldier from The Web of Fear and season 7. His interplay with the Master is an extension of their enforced working relationship in The Claws of Axos, scenes that also brought out the best in the pair. We see a little of the private man, all of which is reasonable enough, but the inclusion of Doris as his wife seems to contradict Planet of the Spiders, in which it's implied she's merely an old flame. But he gets two great moments - the gentle but firm threat to the Master re Ian: "Very well, but if he dies tonight, he won't be alone" (p.183), and the book's last line, when he gets to turn the tables on the Doctor in a nice subversion of the final moments of Colony in Space.
After all this praising of characters, I suppose it's time to mention the weak link, the one misfire: Marianne Kyle. She simply doesn't work. All the alleged femme fatale charm and sexual tension between her and the Master is as sizzling as dandruff. She's a one-note individual, and it shows in all the repetition: her relationship with her father and husband are reiterated to a tedious extent, and while her fanaticism is believable, it's hammered home way too often. The attempt to make her human with her devotion to country and western music is also unsuccessful (and a bit daggy really!)
The idea of a UNIT adventure without the Doctor is a good one, and McIntee pulls it off with style, creating a nice little thriller. The story itself is well structured and paced, with some great action pieces; the ambush at the petrol station and the shootout at the Birnam Hotel being quite spectacular. The author brings to life the seedy British underworld in all its cliched glory, with appropriately hackneyed cops, crooks and low-lifes to match. As in White Darkness there's a James Bond feel, with a more-than-obvious nod as the Master reads On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which itself is an amusing take on Frontier in Space, when he reads H.G. Wells. There is also, like The Devil Goblins from Neptune, a 1970s soundtrack. But this is where McIntee loses it a bit, veering into self-indulgent territory. He aims for nineties Tarantino uber-coolness, but "Little Green Bag" and "Stuck in the Middle With You" have been immortalised by Reservoir Dogs; unless you're deliberately taking the piss (in Swingers, for example), why bother? It's only going to be a poor imitation, however sincere the flattery. The Master quoting the latter song is very uncharacteristic, as is his listening to "Diamond Dogs" and "Ring of Fire"; the Delgado Master is far more cultivated than this. McIntee may know the character well, but he shouldn't impose upon him his own musical tastes, even if seventies music is (was) cool again.
A few other things bug me: for example, the Master should never have had access to the phone to take Dr Henderson's call in the UNIT lab. Surely he'd be under constant watch? Then there's Barbara not being guarded properly in the complex, thus allowing her to roam free. It's explained away later with the mention of the building not being designed to hold prisoners, but duh! Surely the Conclave would have put at least one guard on her door, especially after all they did to bring her here! Finally, the Master forgetting the demat box, therefore allowing Kyle and the others to transfer to the Redoubt. He wouldn't overlook something as important as this! He's too organised, as the whole novel has been pointing out.
But overall The Face of the Enemy is an enjoyable yarn. The characterisations of the Brigadier and - despite some minor inconsistencies - the Master, are worth the price of the book alone. And they have great support from Ian, Barbara and Harry. There are other positives and flaws, including some atrocious proof-reading, but the story flows along quite nicely. 7.5/10
Enemies & Allies by Matthew Kresal 1/4/13
The Face Of The Enemy is what, in the terms of the New Series, would be called Doctor-lite. The third Doctor and Jo show up in the novel's prologue and its epilogue, a matter of about five pages out of 281. The novel therefore focuses on two other major aspects of that Doctor's era: UNIT and the Roger Delgado Master. Throw former first Doctor companions Ian and Barbara as well as quite a few bits of continuity into the mix and the result is an intriguing take on the Doctor Who universe.
In his previous novel The Dark Path for the Virgin Missing Adventures, David A. McIntee showed his incredible characterization of Roger Delago's Master. In this novel, McIntee takes the Delgado Master even further as he makes him into the most unlikely thing expected: UNIT's temporary scientific adviser. But just because the Master is working with the "good guys" doesn't mean he isn't the same old Master. The novel also gives the Master to play a London gangster as well during it's first half which is a role that perhaps isn't quite as convincing at first but one that, as the novel progresses, actually serves the Delgado Master well thanks to McIntee's characterization. The novel also gives McIntee the chance to tie back into The Dark Path as well in a rather unexpected way. The result is that this remains of the Master's strongest stories in any medium.
This strong characterization extends to other familiar character's from the TV series. McIntee perfectly captures the UNIT family from the Brigadier to Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton, bringing them to life with the same skill he brought to the Delgado Master. The Brigadier in particular comes across well, tying into elements from previous Who novels. The novel also reintroduces sometime UNIT Corporal Bell and shows us the first time a young naval lieutenant named Harry Sullivan came into contact with UNIT, with McIntee bringing them both to life splendidly.
Perhaps the shining stars of the novel, besides the Master of course, are Ian and Barbara. McIntee perfectly captures the two characters as believable extensions of the characters we saw on TV. McIntee in fact takes their characters even further, especially Ian in Chapter 13 onwards when the character is pushed to the edge but a seemingly tragic event. The result is a novel full of strong character's all around.
That extends to the cast of new characters as well. They range from DI George Boucher, who finds himself tied into the novel's events through a seemingly unconnected bank robbery, to the novel's set of characters who are not what they seem. High up on that latter list is Marianne Kyle who spends the novel as something of an enigma as she constantly swaps sides and allegiances until the truth about her is revealed. These new character's come across strong as well and each add something to the novel as a whole.
The plot of the novel is a curious one. It does what Doctor Who does best: combine different genres into something that is undeniably Doctor Who. The novel starts off as a cross between Quatermass, a gangster movie and a spy thriller. The mix is an at-times uneasy one, especially in the earliest parts of the novel, but the farther along it gets the better it becomes. It all works because McIntee inserts Who elements into it, bringing it all together into a complete whole as the novel races along to its climax. It also helps that McIntee keeps it moving at quite a pace, turning this into what may could easily be called the Doctor Who equivalent of a techno-thriller.
The Face Of The Enemy is an intriguing Doctor Who novel. It's a Doctor-lite tale that focuses on many of the supporting character's of the third Doctor's era as well as two previous companions and illuminates them. It does so while putting them all into a thriller plot that mixes genres to create a story that is undeniably Doctor Who. It's an intriguing take on the series and a strong novel to say the least.