THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Curse of Peladon
The Monster of Peladon
Virgin Books
Legacy

Author Gary Russell Cover taken from the excellent Broadsword home page
ISBN# 0 426 20412 3
Published 1994
Cover Peter Elson

Synopsis: The Doctor and Bernice return to Peladon and team up with Martian Ice Lord Savaar to investigate reports of the evil diadem's appearance on the planet. Peladon is being turned into a tourist resort and the Doctor is framed for murder.


Reviews

A Review by Tammy Potash 27/8/00

Once, long long ago, Gary Russell could actually write. No, it's true! At one time, he used to review Dr. Who books, too. Apparently, he recently has been struck by some sort of brain rot and has forgotten everything which made a good book. Well, that explains Divided Loyalties, anyway.

Legacy, on the other hand, is actually a decent book. I don't know why they didn't just call it Return to Peladon or something; these days people are likely to get it mixed up with Legacy of the Daleks... then again, I actually think people might be confused between Frontier in Space and Colony in Space.

The Doctor, according to the back cover, "is in pursuit of a master criminal. The trail leads to Peladon..." Well, you can pretty much rule out anyone who's actually from there, then. But other than that, you won't guess who it is.

Ace is sent to the planet Pakhar to track a dangerous bit of jewelry and also so she doesn't disintegrate any annoying ambassadors. (Stand up, Alpha Centauri. If you can. Well, you can, but how can you sit down?)

Speaking of annoying, Keri the Pakhar has the most annoying verbal tic I've seen in a great long while. The epitome of this is her comment of, 'Oh shit, yeah!" (This is not the same thing as saying, hell yeah!) She almost can't stop, yeah! It'll get on your nerves, yeah!

Between this and The Dying Days, Benny gets to kiss a lot of Martian butt. Truthfully, I'm amazed she didn't marry an Ice Warrior.

Russell invents an alien race, the Cantryans, which apart from their orange skin are indistinguishable from humans. At least the Chelonians actually had something of an alien behavior pattern.

The Doctor is, well, the 7th Doctor. He's even wearing the question mark pullover again. Benny is saddled with a ridiculous love-interest (this was before Cwej, so someone had to do it, as even Ace won't stoop to shagging a Pakhar). And yet the book is fun. The first thirty pages are great stuff indeed, as we watch Pel society literally being founded. No it's not a dull, David McIntee overly detailed mess; it feels more like a Robert E. Howard story. I like the reference to Mavic Chen as a child. You can play the same "spot the reference' game with this you can with First Frontier. I believe this is what's known as fanwank, but in Legacy it hadn't gotten totally out of control, unlike Placebo Effect and, god save us, Divided Loyalties. (Although the Deva Lokan wind chimes are pushing it a bit.)

The body count approaches Jim Mortimore levels. The evil bit of jewelry somehow escapes to one of the Decalog books. (If anyone knows what the title for chapter six is supposed to mean, send me an email.) We're not talking essential read, no Left-Handed Hummingbird or anything here, but if you want to see Gary Russell actually writing, give it a shot.

Anyway, you know you've got to read it to see how the Doctor's going to get out of the mess on the cover.


Early Form by Robert Thomas 26/9/00

Let's be honest, when we think of Gary Russell's books we think fun run-arounds with well characterised Doctors. Imagine if Russell hit some form and wrote a classic book. Well get this, he did!

Gary Russell has been fairly consistent in producing good, fun Doctor Who books. I'll admit he's done two clunkers but if you want a guaranteed slice of authentic Doctor Who then he's your man. Believe me this book ranks amongst Doctor Who's best.

It features a return to Peladon and return of the Ice Warriors and Alpha Centauri. Indeed the Ice Warriors are at their best in print form and future authors could do worse than research this. Also we are shown a side to Peladon that could never have been shown on television. This includes a trip into Peladon's past and Aggedor's introduction into Pel society.

The Seventh Doctor is at his best in the NA's here. Russell all but ignores the miserable git who appeared in most and even brings back the televised costume. Finally the Seventh Doctor that I know. Still manipulative but not too much.

All the other characters are good and do well, as Russell himself says they are all shades of grey and not good and bad. There are plot twists galore in this book that keeps the reader guessing at what will happen next.

This is one of the best Seventh Doctor NA's and well recommended. Don't just sit there get out and find it.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 30/11/02

For the first twenty-four pages of Legacy, I was really enjoying myself. Gary Russell opens with a short history of the planet Peladon, fleshing out a lot of background that had merely been hinted at during the first two Doctor Who stories to use that setting. This was quite entertaining and it had me completely captivated.

Then I started reading page twenty-five.

While the opening had used its continuity references as building blocks for the story, what immediately followed was an unrestrained and pointless gallivant through Doctor Who stories too numerous to count. The references during that opening were necessary, but not off-putting. I hadn't watched the previous Peladon stories in quite some time, but I didn't feel as though I couldn't follow the story because of the referencing. But I simply can't imagine what someone who without an encyclopedic knowledge of Doctor Who stories would make of some of these. I kept waiting for the book to regain the momentum that it possessed during the beginning, but it simply never did. Portions of it were enjoyable, but between the overburdening continuity references, minor sloppy plotting, and strangely worded sections of prose, there was just too much carelessness for me to really enjoy this book.

If the story outline of Legacy had been written to its absolute fullest potential, then the book would have been a fairly average and non-demanding action adventure. But there are just too many little things dragging it below what it could have been. Pointless and gratuitous continuity references abound, and rather than enhancing the story, more often than not they are distracting and silly. There are several passages that would have seemed poor in a first draft, yet somehow made it through to the final manuscript. For example, someone is going to have to explain to me how Alpha Centauri (who's entire skull is a gigantic eye socket - he has the biggest eye in Doctor Who history) could possibly not identify an assailant that was standing directly in front of him. And Ace is relegated to a pointless and boring subplot that, despite what the narrative actually comes out and tells us, does not have any impact on the main story. Just too many minor things spoil this average adventure.

The pulpy action-adventure clichs actually work part of the time. But for every sentence that can be read with a knowing smirk, there's another one that appears with a groan. Still, I found myself somewhat enjoying the simplicity of the plot even though the book really seemed to be daring me to like it. Despite the flimsiness of the storyline, and the shallowness of the characters, I kept finding little pieces to enjoy. To put it another way, while at the end of the day I still can't say it was a good book, there were enough little moments to prevent me from labeling it as totally worthless.

This book certainly feels very earnest. It's attempting to hit quite a lot of buttons here, but many of them are missed. Legacy may have its heart in the right place, but its brain is slightly off-center. A lot of the problems are relatively minor, but the sheer number of them prevented me from liking this one.


A Review by Finn Clark 21/9/04

Full of its own variety of dumb fun, but if you read it too much you'll go blind.

I like a fair bit about Legacy, but that most certainly does not include its continuity. This book references (deep breath) The Daleks' Master Plan, both Peladon stories, Trial of a Time Lord, Colony in Space, Creature from the Pit, Frontier in Space, The Ice Warriors, Mindwarp, Carnival of Monsters, Tomb of the Cybermen, Pyramids of Mars, Nightmare of Eden, The Seeds of Death, Kinda, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Robots of Death, Caves of Androzani and many, many more. Once you've wiped Gary Russell's man-juice off the pages, there's not much book left.

Annoying in-jokes further sandblast any goodwill the book might have built up. Izlyr from Curse of Peladon apparently retired to the planet Bennion, conveniently named after the actor who played him, while a doctor on p165 has a receptionist called Gillatt and a balding patient called Briggs. Sigh. Attempted continuity patches fall on their own swords thanks to Gary's inattention to detail. Legacy is set during the mid-39th century, the 40th century, six centuries after The Ice Warriors, a century after Curse of Peladon, more than fifty and less than thirty years before The Daleks' Master Plan and presumably post-3948 (when some of its reference texts were written). What, all at once?

Unwanted explanations are provided. Galaxy Five is retconned into being a mere terrorist organisation on p27 (grrrrr...), in a totally gratuitous scene whose sole purpose is to explain why the Time Lords sent the 3rd Doctor to Peladon. Well, thank the Lord for Gary Russell. I'd been lying awake at nights worrying about that. We even learn where The Robots of Death took place! Well, slap my vitals and call me Sally.

Oh, and there's even the sodding Sword of bloody Tuburr. AAAAAAAAAAARGH!

I laughed at one internal logic goof, though. The Martians are repeatedly said to be eight foot tall, but on p140 the Doctor's face is level with the Ice Lord's neck. This gave me the amusing mental image of an Ice Warrior with a five-foot-tall body and a three-foot-tall head. Oh, and shouldn't Benny have died for violating the Sacred Temple of Aggedor on pp240-243? In addition you'll marvel at the amazing tendency of incriminating night-time conversations to take place outside the bedroom doors of either: (a) Benny or (b) the Doctor.

In other words, this book is laugh-out-loud ridiculous. However it's also quite enjoyable, almost entirely thanks to its characters.

If you plough through the continuity cesspool, you'll find specks of originality. Keri the Pakhar is so cool that her species became one of the most common alien races in in Virgin novels, while Kort is so incredibly annoying that he's a whole barrel o' fun. What's more, Gary's obviously having a ball playing in Brian Hayles's toybox. His enthusiasm is infectious. Ice Warriors, Alpha Centauri and more all plot, squabble and change colour in reassuringly traditional fashion. The book's murder mystery plot structure lets the book just kick-start its characters and set them running into each other without ever achieving much. It doesn't matter. It's fun to read about these people and their comedy scenes.

Unfortunately the, uh, 'plot' sometimes intrudes. The Doctor's execution (as seen on the front cover) is taken way too seriously given that it obviously won't be for real, while the book cheats on the rules of a whodunnit by planting a false clue on p191 and then never going back to explain it. Mind you, this matters less than you'd think since Legacy's murder mystery has only one realistic suspect. Nice one, Gary.

The regulars are okay, though New Ace gets blatantly shunted off into a minor subplot on another planet. (Hey, maybe Gary liked the character as little as everyone else did back then!) The Doctor and Benny get all the screen time while Ace goes off looking for the Ancient Diadem, an artefact that warps your mind and turns you into a psychopath who only wants to destroy all life in a never-ending orgy of manipulative violence. So presumably the Doctor sent New Ace because she wouldn't be affected, then.

Most of the book is daft fluff, but bookending the trad crap are two good sections: a prologue and an epilogue. The first 25 pages are great, telling the history of Peladon with plenty of axe-swinging style. It's energetic, violent and gory. Robert E. Howard would have approved. That's the best bit of the book by light-years. Then at the end, after the trivial nonsense of the plot is over and done with, we return to what actually matters with a nifty twist regarding Peladon and the Galactic Federation. It's particularly funny if one views Gary's Federation as a continuation of the Pertwee-era European Union metaphor. There's a great story buried in Legacy, if you ignore the 270 pages of padding shoved in the middle of it. I particularly enjoyed the last Tarrol-Atissa scene, by the way, which is genuinely strong.

This book is a silly, self-indulgent, self-contradictory romp with fun character scenes and a few strong bits about Peladon. It's laughably easy to nitpick, but it's also one of Gary Russell's best novels. I enjoyed it.


A Review by Brian May 13/1/06

Three years into the New Adventures, Gary Russell puts his stamp on the series with Legacy. No doubt his intention was to share his knowledge of Doctor Who with the readership. To show us all he can cram a multitude of references to the programme's televised past into one book to prove how clever he is. In other words, to show off. I don't know if the word "fanwank" was in common use in 1994, but this is one of the all time examples of groan-a-minute continuity obsession.

However the main problems with Legacy lie elsewhere. It's too long and too slow. The prologue is boring as hell, and the first third is excruciatingly tedious. Things get off to such a slow start that by p.130/140 you're reading things you'd expect to occur around p.60/70. Similarly the murder of Lianna and subsequent arrest of the Doctor should have happened much earlier. Some events seem to take forever to read and end up going nowhere. There are meandering, boring sub-plots and interludes that don't contribute anything, including the travails of Iain Martyn and a pointless moment when Ace becomes a bedhopping home-wrecker, after she's discovered with Bill Cook. It seems to be another attempt to inject "adult concepts" into the series, which in other words means to have Ace appear naked. Russell doesn't seem to have bothered writing for Ace at all, simply shunting her into her sub-plot, not making the time or effort to develop any sort of character. He goes back to her from time to time, solely through obligation for the plot more than anything else. Russell doesn't even chronicle her meeting up with the Doctor at the end, which just goes to prove my point.

The entire Diadem sub-plot is banal; all the characters involved are nothing more than cardboard cut-outs. The Diadem's possession of Sadler and all that ensues from this fails to arouse any sense of tension, and accordingly the very last, sequel-inviting lines don't evoke a single iota of dread; nobody seems to be anticipating "The Diadem Strikes Back" (and nobody's bothered to write it so far).

However, all is not lost. Not quite.

The Peladon-based parts are quite enjoyable. It's easy to tell this is where Russell has directed his energy. While a second sequel to the Peladon saga is an obvious author/fan indulgence, a great deal of care has been put into it. Alpha Centauri is wonderfully re-created; readers familiar with the televised stories can easily imagine the actress's voice delivering the dialogue. Savaar and Sskeet are the third Ice Lord/Ice Warrior pairing we've seen on this planet, and Savaar is so Alan Bennion-like it's quite delightful. There's lots of fascinating stuff happening here and Russell's updating of the situation is well done. The ambiguous position of Savaar - is he friend or foe? - is teasingly developed; his apparent denunciation of the Doctor on pp.199-200 is terrific, as is the fake execution. Benny is excellently written; she gets to flirt with two characters, although the romance with Savaar is the best. There are some other great characters here: Geban, Atissa, Kort, Keri, Corry, and Nic Reece - or who we believe to be him. However while Russell creates some sense of mystery, it's blatantly obvious Reece is the one whose identity the villain has assumed. The Peladon story tends to fall apart when it merges with the Diadem sub-plot, but overall there's some good reading here.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, there's also lots of boring filler, and as a whole the book is badly uneven. And then we have the fanwank. I've said before in reviews that the odd continuity mention here and there is something I've never objected to. Certainly as a third Peladon tale there will be references to the first two stories; I have no qualms with Lianna originally being an extra from Monster, nor the story of King Peladon's mother, nor the Doctor's prejudiced attitude to the Ice Warriors, nor the booby trapped refinery (well, almost - this last one stretched my tolerance a bit).

But it's nothing compared to the plethora of continuity nods that are just plain awful. Russell weaves together the ambiguous Galaxy Five situation (cf. Daleks' Master Plan and Monster); while it could have been a neat tying up of loose ends from the televised series, it just feels like the author's smarminess. However Justin Richards did the same thing in The Sands of Time and nobody complained, so I shouldn't really criticise Russell too much for this. But we have a pointless attempt to give The Robots of Death a time and place (I preferred the mystery of that serial's unknown locale). The same story, along with Master Plan and The Caves of Androzani are grafted into the future history created in the earlier NAs, although once again trying be fair, Androzani had already received the same treatment in Lucifer Rising. The cameo by a young Mavic Chen is needless, as are the references to Tomb of the Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen and Kinda (probably others, but this is where I gave up). But the prize turkey goes to a terribly poor piece of attempted humour on p.88. Yes, that one! Worst. In-joke. Ever. <

Well, there's not much else to say. Gary Russell shows he is an enthusiastic fan, which is probably the worst thing an author could do. There's some good material here, especially on Peladon, but unfortunately the rest of Legacy is a boring, overlong, self-indulgent slog. 3.5/10