THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Virgin Publishing
Invasion of the Cat-People

Author Gary Russell Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20440 9
Published 1995
Continuity Between Power of the Daleks and
The Highlanders

Synopsis: The Doctor, Ben, and Polly join forces with a group of ghost hunters to stop a group of invaders from conquering Earth and using it as a source for energy.


Reviews

A Review by Sean Gaffney 13/8/99

You know, I started out hating this book. Then I was bored by most of it. Then I liked the ending. Another trip into the writing of Gary Russell.

You know, there are people talking about the continuity of David McIntee. Uurgh. Take a look at Gary's books. Besides that, his characterization of Polly was weird. I mean, making Jo stronger is fine. Making Polly COMPLETElY DIFFERENT is another.

And speaking of which, the Doctor. The Second Doctor and the Seventh, though similar, are not alike. I know Gary likes him, but Pat Troughton's Doctor was never as manipulative as he is here. I just criticized Gareth for making the Seventh Doctor too TV, now I have Gary making the Second Doctor into an NA Doctor. Don't.

Despite that, the main problem with the book was it was dull. I felt no compunction to finish it at all. But I did, and thus to the good point. I'm a sucker for a happy ending, as regular readers know. Anyway, Udentkista and Tarwildbaning surviving the final explosion made me smile. But that was about it. This elevates the book to a 5/10, but that's still the lowest mark I've given since Parasite.

And I'm easy to please. (In NA reading, anyway)


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 24/12/00

I`m normally a big Gary Russell fan, but this had something lacking...

PLOT: It's 1990. The Doctor Ben and Polly meet some ghost-hunters, one of whom is in league with the vicious Cat-People who want Earth`s energy.The title alone suggests something outlandish, but it doesn`t really deliver the goods in the way that Dave Stone might.

THE DOCTOR: Difficult to capture, or so its been claimed, he starts off strongly but slips quickly.

COMPANIONS: Ben is functional but nothing more, Polly is stronger but seems to be based on Anneke Wills (as anyone who has seen her Myth Makers tape can attest to) rather than Polly herself.

VILLAINS: The titular Cat-People are OTT and straight out of a soap opera, perhaps unsurprisingly. Gary even gives a cast list, several of whom were from soaps.

OVERALL: Seeing how Ben and Polly coped in 1990 was interesting, but there isn`t much else to recommend in this. 6/10.


A Review by Keith Bennett 10/9/01

When The Missing Adventures first started to get published by Virgin, we were assured by Peter Darvill-Evans that they would fit "seamlessly" into whatever period of Doctor Who they were representing. I read this book (for the second time) straight after reading John Peel's excellent novelisation of the classic The Power Of The Daleks, and there is no better example of how Mr Darvill-Evans was speaking hopefully rather than acurately.

The idea of two alien races invading Earth at once is a good one, and the story as a whole is quite reasonable, but the book is not particularly enjoyable for several reasons. For a start, some of the violence is nasty and very unpleasant. I've seen the goriest of horror films, but I still found certain parts of this book repellent. Maybe I'm getting old - or maybe I'm maturing.

But the most annoying factor of this book is Gary Russell's enormous desire to display all his knowledge. We're treated to all sorts of trivia, like stuff about the Australian Aborigines, and Ben and Polly trying to cope with the 1990s, and other things that the author presumably studied hard to find, and it all seems like he's trying to make it clear to everyone just how much he knows. It all reaches its nadir with the boring Tarot reading sequence with Polly and that creep Tim; we get all the details of what the cards mean, etc, and this is nothing more than showing off. Heck, even soon after that, Russell includes a minor line from Tim about Qantas' no-crash record (in fact, this whole section of Polly and Tim travelling to Australian is incredibly tedious).

The invading Euterpeans are unappealling (I know they're supposed to be evil, but still...) and the Cat-People are irritating. The Doctor, Ben and Polly are well characterized themselves, and the ending is actually better than everything before, but it is a very annoying book overall, and certainly does not fit into the fourth season in which it is supposed to be a part.

Read, watch or listen to the surrounding stories and see for yourself.


A Review by Matt Quarterstein 17/9/02

In Doctor Who, there are three major phenomenon. Invasions of Earth (be it Daleks, Cybermen, Axons or whatever), aliens manipulating the Earth (Scaroth, Suketh, etc) and Gary Russell. The guy gets everywhere! He writes books, comics, directs Big Finish Audios, and even wrote the latest Internet adventure Real Time. Glancing at its cover, I could see that the Missing Adventure Invasion of the Cat People had all these phenomenon.

An early offering from Russell, his second Doctor Who novel, Invasion of the Cat People pits the newly regenerated Second Doctor, Ben & Polly against two races of aliens, both seeking to exploit the energies of the Earth. The aliens in question are the Euterprians (a humanoid race with sonic technology), and, obvious from the title, the Cat-People. The Euterprians have been around for 40,000 years, and have, like so many other aliens in Doctor Who, shaped much of humanity's culture. The Cat-People are ruthless, and are, like all good Doctor Who villains, backstabbing. There is intrigue, mystery, betrayal and a lot of soul searching. Yes, this is a Missing Adventure that seems to have it all.

But does it really?

The consistency of Russell's writing in this novel is often erm... inconsistent. There are some parts that are crystal clear and wonderfully written, such as the Prologue, then there are other parts that were vague and confusing, leaving me lost. Not Interference vague and confusing, which was all part of the intrigue, far from it. It was the bad kind of vague and confusing, as in "I thought this character was supposed to be there. How'd they get over here? Why is this character trying to kill so-and-so? Etc". It made it a very frustrating read. I'd get through the good bits, quickly and excited, then I'd get stuck, not knowing what's going on. Then again, I may be dyslexic. If you are someone who has their wits about you, you should be able to brave the confusing parts.

Russell has put a lot of work into the research of this novel, and the science and historical elements of the piece are all the better for it. The Euterprians using sound to create things around them using resonant frequencies is a fascinating concept. The Cat People's behavior is very accurate to those of real cats, I can imagine Gary Russell at home looking at them for "inspiration". The explanation for ley lines and the Aboriginal dreamtime is also to be commended. It's funny that Polly, an English girl from the 1960s seems to know more than me about Aboriginal song lines and such, and I live in Australia. Yes, Russell's portrayal of Australia is a little off, some of the places visited are spelt wrong and the geography and knowledge of the roads is a little muddled up. If his introduction is anything to go by, his insight into Australia itself is based on hearsay. You know, I might just be nitpicking because I live there. Sorry!

If you want a really good portrayal of Australia in a Doctor Who novel, (though I don't know why you would feel the urge to look for one) try Goth Opera by Paul Cornell or anything set in Australia by Kate Orman.

One of the fun things to do with a novel written by Gary Russell is play "spot the continuity reference", there were certainly lots in this book. Everything from the Cat-People being relatives of the Cheetah People (Survival) to the Doctor measuring up the TARDIS looking for entropy, only to decide to put it off until his fourth incarnation (Logopolis). These references, although written in good fun, are often pointless, and don't add much to the plot.

Considering all these references it's surprising that this book, with a plot so standard, doesn't fit in to the continuity very well. The potrayal of the Second Doctor is muddled at best. At one moment, his words and actions sound like the fourth Doctor, then another they make him sound like the seventh. I find this a lot with Russell's work, he can't quite understand that the Doctors both look and ACT differently (in Real Time, for example I thought the Sixth Doctor acted way more like the Fifth). There's a bit more to writing the Second Doctor than having him say "Oh my giddy aunt" and blowing on his recorder every now and then. Also, the whole subplot about Polly's-powers-that-she's-apparently-had-all-her-life comes out of the blue and is a bit hard to swallow. If she had these powers, how come she never used them in the series? I know Russell wanted to honor Polly's character in this book, (as he mentions at the start), but there are better ways to do it than tacking on some cheesy sixth sense. Poor old Ben Jackson, he doesn't get much of a go in this book, just stands around on the sidelines, but maybe that's just as well.

At the end of the day, it is a fairly average book. Light reading, fun, but doesn't add terribly much to the world of Who. That is, after all, what Past Doctor Adventures are all about. In my opinion though, if you are really after a story where aliens take over the Earth, or where aliens are responsible for the some development in mankind, stick to the TV series.


A Review by Finn Clark 23/9/04

I liked this back in 1995. I quite enjoyed much of it this time around too, but in the end its structural problems proved too much.

This novel has some likeable people in whose fate I was definitely interested... but also assorted random aliens I didn't care about and could hardly tell apart. Broadly speaking, these baddies are boring. That's not invariably true, but even the world's best villains would have struggled in this technobabble-fuelled plot. The Euterpians are looking for their beacons that could destroy the Earth. I think. It's possible that this destruction actually happens at the end, though I'm a bit unsure about what happened around then and presumably it all got reversed afterwards anyway.

The bloated cast list doesn't help. We have two sets of alien invaders: the Euterpians (Atimkos, Tarwilbaning, Thorgarsuunela, Udentkista and Godwanna) and the Felinetta (Aysha, Aall, Lotuss, Jayde, Nihmrod, Nypp, Tamora, Tensing, Tuq, Chosan and the Pride Mother). Got all that? I suggest brushing up on those names, since there may be a short quiz later. Anyway, once the poor readers have that lot straight - or not, as the case may be - then they might be ready to learn about the Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Nate Simms, Nicholas Bridgeman, Marten Kerbe, Simon Griffiths, Carfrae Morgan, Peter Moore, George Smithers and Charlie Coates. Phew.

The book does better than you'd think at distinguishing all those, but I definitely got a bit hazy on the Euterpians. Those long names tended to blur into each other. The nice guys are easier to remember. The baddies are looking for the beacons, arguing with each other, entering dream states, looking for the beacons again and... oh yes, at one point they visited ancient Baghdad. That was fun while it lasted.

The Euterpians squabble among themselves, underestimate their allies and fail to realise something fundamental about the beacons. They're superpowered immortals, but I can't say I was enthralled. Except the nice ones, obviously. I liked them, though I couldn't remember their names.

The Felinetta (Cat-People to you and me) are... well, they're Cat-People. Says it all, really. They're goons which could almost be cut-and-pasted into Ogrons. The goofy cover painting helps give them character, but these must be the most unthreatening big cats in the universe. Imagine big cats... tigers, pumas, panthers, etc. Now imagine an organised intelligent race of 'em, talking and planning. You're scared, right? Unfortunately this lot rely on their guns and squabble like tabbies who've been at the catnip.

At least we learn about their different races, though: the Lion-Men of Mongo, the mercenaries of Gin-Seng and, yes, the Cheetah People and their kitlings. It's on p38 and anyone who spotted all the references in the above can groan along with me.

In fairness, this book's strongest feature is actually its characterisation. (The plot certainly isn't.) No one has enormous depth, but there's a fair bit of backstory floating about. Even the regulars are better than I'd expected. The Doctor is fine, once you're past a painful first scene in which he explains that the TARDIS console is shrinking with every regeneration and that by the time he becomes Tom Baker it'll probably be the size of a broom cupboard. Oh dear. Ben is decent enough, but Polly gets plenty of narrative focus and comes out of it rather well. I particularly liked their 1966 reactions to 1994, which beat anything we ever saw from Fitz in the 8DAs.

Oh, but did I call her Polly? Sorry, that's not her name. She's 'Polly Wright', eleven letters that you'd be forgiven for thinking were one word. The poor reader can hardly turn two pages without being bludgeoned with her (uninspiring) surname. Polly Wright got up in the morning and said to herself, "Polly Wright, it's a good thing you're called Polly Wright," didn't she, Polly Wright? Gaaaaaaahh!

There's also a Tarot sequence (pp162-165) which reads like the infamous Creationist debate in Placebo Effect. The reader boggles, then skips forward in search of the next section.

There are some great ideas which impressed me in 1995. All the stuff about ley lines, continental shift and more is little more than technobabble if you want to be brutal about it, but it's commendably high-concept. I like. The superpowered aliens and their beacons probably looked good on paper too, but unfortunately the last fifty pages collapse under the weight of babble. Big cosmic shit is going down. Heavy, man. Oh, and there are also power struggles among the Cat-People. Remind me why I should care again?

At the end of the day, this is an unremarkable book that passes amiably enough for the most part. At least its setting of the start of the Troughton era helps to restrain Gary's fanwank tendencies, though alas he couldn't resist a pre-reference to the house at Allen Road. I winced. In the book's favour it's also thinking big, with multiple timezones and some funky concepts, even if a smaller novel might have resulted in a tighter narrative. Overall... it's okay.


A Review by Brian May 18/12/09

Invasion of the Cat-People is quite an impressive book. Of course, by "impressive" I mean it's quite good by Gary Russell's standards. However, compared to a plethora of other Doctor Who novels, it's his usual badly written, fanwank-saturated rubbish.

But what I do like is that it's one of the few Russell books that isn't a piece of sequel-whoring. The Ice Warriors, Silurians, Sea Devils, Autons, Nestenes, Celestial Toymaker, Wirrn and Foamasi have all been dredged up by this author; at least with the Cat-People, he's created an original bunch of aliens. Almost. They're related to Survival's Cheetah People, whom Russell cannot resist name-checking, along with such "clever" references to other stories: Earthshock (p.2), Shada (p.82; 251) and The Faceless Ones (p.198). Drax is brought up (p.228), so too a contrived foreshadowing of the seventh Doctor's house on Allen Road (p.87). All par for the course, really, for Virgin fiction. Russell isn't the only culprit, but he is one of the most gratuitous.

What an awful name for a monster! Cat-People?!? Why couldn't he have kept to Felinetta? It's far more catchy. And the title's one of the worst ever, too! Even if it's a reaction against the New Adventures' more arty efforts, it's still crap. Ironically, the title creatures aren't the central characters. The Euterpians are really the focus of this book, and to Russell's credit (crikey, three words I thought I'd never string together!) this mob are an interesting bunch. At first you think they're another Eternals/Guardians/Old Ones knock-off, but juxtaposing their powers and virtual immortality against their inability to leave the Earth is quite good. Dent and Mrs Wilding are the best; their relationship is quite touching, and the latter's sadness at her partner's mental deterioration could indeed be an analogy about the pain and anguish felt by the loved ones of dementia or Alzheimers sufferers.

Sakes, this is very disturbing! I'm actually giving a Gary Russell work substantial praise?!? I'm commending it for depth?!? Don't worry, not for long.

Not many of the other characters are particularly well rendered. The author's suggested cast list at the end has a varied effect; I could well imagine Maurice Roeves as Kerbe, and Jacqueline Pearce would be perfect as Godwanna. However the list has a shocker: Jude Law in Doctor Who? Never!! And I'm sure Colin Jeavons wouldn't have taken too kindly being described as "weaselly". Other character moments don't work: Bridgeman's background feels like it's from a formulaic writers' course "Family Tragedy 101". And as for the regulars? No, no, no! They're awful! Ben would never be as nasty as he is towards Polly at the beginning! The second Doctor is unrecognisable (he sits in cat poo!?!? - p.225). And poor Polly! No way is she from Devon! If she's not a born and bred West End Londoner, then she's at least Home Counties! Her latent telepathic ability is one of the most unconvincing authorial impositions on a companion I've had the misfortune to read. The inconsistency is terrible: one moment she's written as a blonde bimbo, the next she's a sensitive adept. And her comment on the Doctor as a pacifist (p.117) demeans both characters. Continuitywise, this precedes the Doctor's excellent "They must be fought" speech from The Moonbase, but the novel follows The Power of the Daleks, in which the Doctor proved himself to be anything but - and which Polly was witness to.

This is indicative of a strong political correctness that crept into the Virgin novels. It's also in evidence with the Australian Aborigines. I'm sure Russell set out with the best intentions, but he fails dismally in what seems like an effort to uphold a repressed people. At various moments, in particular following Nate Simms near the beginning, the sacredness in which the indigenous Australians hold their land is examined. This and the "ignored intelligence" in the cab driver's face (p.168) virtually scream out issue consciousness. But Russell shoots himself in the foot by then declaring their Dreamtime stories to come from the Euterpians. Okay, alien influence upon history and belief is common in Doctor Who - The Daemons, Death to the Daleks, Pyramids of Mars for instance - but these stories aren't over-earnest, or even slightly earnest, attempts to champion a downtrodden race and culture. Frankly, if I was an indigenous Australian with respect for my heritage - even if I didn't believe in it personally - I'd still find the above notion quite insulting.

Oh Gary, by the way, you use - twice - a term for the Aborigines which is very derogatory. I won't repeat it, but in the first instance it's uttered by Simon, who seems to know a lot of their history and wouldn't be so bigoted - just to let you know it is NOT a mere colloquialism! Polly is the second character to use the word in an internal monologue, but based on the televised character I can actually believe this.

Okay, socio-political commentary aside, back to the more mundane considerations of reviewing a book. Pacing is one of them. It deliberately sets out to be a Troughton six-parter, but the structure is very uneven; "episode six" is very short, as opposed to the longer earlier sections. "Episode four" is a useless waste of time; all it achieves is the creation of the double-Thorgarsuunela scenario. If this really was a television story, it would be derided as a padded runaround, and I have no qualms whatsoever in applying the same criticism to the written page. There are certain sections that are quite good. For example, Polly's tarot card reading. It's still out of character but is nevertheless interesting reading - and which Russell admits in his introduction wasn't by him at all! The way Lotuss's demise is engineered at the end is quite clever, too.

But it's small consolation. Overall, this is pretty bad. The usual Gary Russell fanwank in overdrive; the usual MA trait of transposing television companions into 1990s situations; some unsuccessful Buddhism (Bridgeman's healing is written by a poor man's Christopher Bailey); and a boring story. It's still one of the author's best efforts - relatively speaking, of course. 3/10