THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Virgin Publishing
Managra

Author Stephen Marley Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20453 0
Published 1995
Continuity Between Planet of Evil and
Pyramids of Mars

Synopsis: On a futuristic world, modeled after 19th century Europe, the Doctor and Sarah are accused of murdering the Pope.


Reviews

A Review by Sean Gaffney 16/8/99

Well, after three in a row where I wasn't so happy, I finally get a book I can enthuse over. Managra is wonderful! Fantastic! A week with nine Friday nights! (A shiny penny to anyone who spots that reference.)

This book totally captures the spirit of the Doctor Who shows, neither being too comical (Bucephalus) or too serious (Millenial Rites) or too stupid (Evolution).

In fact, Evolution came out one year previously, and I think the difference shows. Tom Baker's Doctor is allowed to be both funny and alien, Sarah interacts brilliantly with Byron. The Michael York refs are hilarious...

I find it much more difficult to go on about something I really like. So: funny, exciting, horrifying at times (the climax, truly an anagram in itself).

Geez, I need a book I don't like. This is all I have to say.

10/10.


The Ultimate Face-off by Tammy Potash 31/5/00

Managra is one of the most frequently re-read Missing Adventures on my shelf. It's a real pity Stephen Marley never wrote for Who again, as he captures the Fourth Doctor and Sarah perfectly, while delivering a chilling tale that deserved to be on the TV screen. To my mind, that's what Missing Adventures ought to be, perfectly capturing their time, yet not restricted by such petty things as a miniscule budget.

Europa is an SCA member's dream come true; a hodgepodge of historical eras and characters. Where else can you have Torquemada interacting with Aleister Crowley? The mention of the Overcities ties this book nicely to the Virgin NA's without giving the MA-only reader a feeling that s/he's missing something important. The idea of Managra and what it really turns out to be, I found fascinating and the writing is executed flawlessly. The book's characters are as well written as the regulars. My only wish is to someday be told just what it was that was WORSE than Managra...


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 16/10/00

Put simply, Managra is a masterpiece of Doctor Who fiction and one that deserves rereading time after time.

PLOT: The Doctor and Sarah arrive in Europa, where fiction and history overlap; accused of murdering the Pope they flee with Lord Byron... In short -- and this sums up the storyline and its conclusion -- Managra is a play on words.

THE DOCTOR: Spot on, dark but with hints of comedy as befits Tom Baker at this point in his tenure.

COMPANION: Sarah Jane is well realised here, her background exploited and arriving in the Vatican in a bikini, seems typically Sarah.

OTHERS: Obviously based on film stars of days gone by, with the likes of Miles Dashwood evoking Errol Flynn or perhaps even Michael York, alongside other players such as Shelley and Casanova.

VILLAIN: Once he is finally revealed, he doesn`t really carry any weight and pose a threat; as if The Doctor knew his every move in advance.

OVERALL: Unfortunately the plot is thin if you take away the red herrings thrown in for good measure, but in spite of this Managra is still a great read and a joy to behold at that. A pity Stephen Marley hasn`t written a follow up. 9/10.


A Viewer by Ed Swatland 2/10/01

As you are probably aware I’m an NA fan, but with the constant quality of the Big Finish audio range, I’m enjoying non-televised Past Doctor stuff much more than I used to. It is also readily apparent that the BBC PDA range is much better than the Eighth Doctor range (you can argue against that statement, but pre-The Burning they’ve been shit). The MA’s were always called unimaginative and unadventurous, unlike their counterparts the NA’s. But during and after reading Managra I’m rather stunned by this comment. To my delight Managra was excellent, superbly written by the one-book-only Stephen Marley (come back, please!).

You see, Managra succeeds because it brings out the best of everything that was good about the two of the best Doctor Who seasons, 13 & 14. It stretches and magnifies their good points to create something really special. There’s so much imagination on display, that you can’t help wondering why this wasn’t that popular when it first came out. Europa is an inspired setting. It’s a place where, seemingly, anything can happen, what with “ghosts, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and other grotesques spawned from old European folklore” running rampant as well as ‘reprises’, clones of people in history as well as old fiction. Doesn’t appeal to your imagination? Sorry, you’re a Dalek. With this interesting setting and premise, Mr. Marley makes Managra unputdownable

The characters are people from history and fiction (the ‘reprises’, hell I’m repeating myself, d’oh!) as well as original people born in Europa (like Miles dashing). Marley presents gothic-fiction stereotypes and turns them into full-blooded characters, but with a twist. Crocker, Dashing’s whining, apparently thick servant is actually very intelligent. The multiple Byrons can get a bit confusing at times but they are memorable characters, as is Mary Shelly. The baddies are equally well portrayed, I won’t list them all, but the character that is still etched in my mind is the terrifying Doctor Sperano/Persona/Managra. His chilling white face and opera cloak make him one of the best villains in the MA’s. Many people complain that the Doctor and Sarah aren’t in it enough and then go on to complain that the Doctor isn’t very well portrayed. Well sorry, but I though he was Tom Baker through and through, his witicisms, puns and comments are spot-on. Almost in the NA vein Sarah goes through hell, the book focusing in her background. The book is worth buying alone, if, unlike me, you’re a Sarah fan.

There’s so much in the book, or is there? You see the plot is actually a bit thin. It struck me just as I got to the end. I wouldn’t go on to say parts were better than the whole, but bits of the novel were much more enjoyable than the overall theme. Many could argue that this is a very bad thing, but it’s really not. You see the novel is supposed to have a thin plot! It is the goings on during the book that enhance the overall story. See what I mean? What really grabs me though is how the themes and settings of the book were used to create a whole that was entertaining. Not too comical (the humour is rather like that of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books), or to serious, or completely ridiculous. The book is very clever in fact, the premise of how the Mimic bonded to Pearson and became Managra or Persona, or whatever. That part is a bit complicated, so I’ll have to give Managra a second reading it so deserves. As I say there are so many entertaining, chilling, plain disgusting and humorous moments I can’t list them.

So, was it any good? Yes! It was, very much so. Seek it out, it really is worth your money, especially if you’re a fan of seasons 13 & 14. There was so much that was excellent, you don’t notice the thin plot. Which I couldn’t (quite frankly) give a toss about.

10/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 6/4/02

Stephen Marley's one and only contribution to DW Fiction is a wild ride through a future amusement park-cum-self contained universe based on factual and fictional creations of historical Europe. The 4th Doctor and Sarah arrive in this strange world, and are immediately accused of assassinating the pope. Teaming up with Lord Byron, The Doctor has premonitions of a horror from his home.

I have a nice early warning system for how I will opine about a book. If I feel a smile forming on my face, then I know I'll be a very happy reader.

The smile appeared the moment the Sarah walked into the Vatican clad in a black bikini, and it never left as Managra unfolded itself to me.

The book has anagrams as one of its recurring motifs, subtle at first, but then driving the key points of the plot. The plot is a twisty thing, filled with sharp changes and left-hand turns. I shan't reveal much, but it does revolve around the political machinations of the papacy, the head of the Anti-Church, a group of unbelievers who want to democratize the world of Europa and the sinister Theatre of Transmogrification, who wield more power than realized.

There are lots of characters running about, including multiple Byrons, a pair of dueling Casanovas, Mary Shelly, Cardinal Richielieu, Torquemada, Aliester Crowley and Faust, among others. We meet three Bryons, designated Mad, Bad and Dangerous, with Dangerous the one who teams up with the Doctor and Sarah, and the one who gets the most development. The others, including a chivalrous hero named Miles Dashing, all go through some development above their one note status. The Villain, Doctor Sperano, the force behind the Theatre of Transmogrification, is a great enemy for the 4th Doc. Nasty, creepy, his shadow is cast across the whole of Europa and the book itself.

The regulars: Sarah, as per usual, is great. We get some nice backstory developments that weave seamlessly into the plot. She is also TV Sarah in all her glory, rushing in to help, getting herself into all sorts of trouble, but never failing to keep going. The 4th Doc is a solid portrayal of the character, getting lots to do, quoting lots of Shakespeare, and showing off his wise ass side, something I haven't seen other writers haven't touched on as much.

I'll end this by saying this is something very special. A great adventure that deserves to stand as how one should write a Missing Adventure/Past Doc Adventure.


A Review by Finn Clark 7/7/04

A novel in advance of its time. Managra's rich Magrsian setting of fantasy, outre SF concepts, cloned historical characters and the undead is remniscent of nothing so much as The Scarlet Empress and the BBC Books that followed in its wake. However in September 1995, at the height of the Virgin era, it felt kinda overwhelming. I was blown away, but its Gothic extravagances still felt a little over-the-top and unWhoish. However today it feels just right.

I hasten to add that Managra has a plot. It's just that Stephen Marley is so obviously having fun playing in his world. It wallows in weirdness, luxuriating in a universe-full of detail... there's genuine 17th century history, a recreated Vatican and even real fictional characters, if you get my meaning. It's a richer experience than we normally get in Who, but that's a good thing! What's more, 33rd century Europa may be wildly bizarre but it's also coherent, well explained within the narrative and in harmony with in a larger Whoniverse context. There may be spectres, poltergeists, fallen angels, unfallen angels, trolls, hobgoblins, vampires, werewolves and suchlike entities, but it's not gratuitous random fantasy.

At times it's funny! The Sarah-Byron and Miles-Crocker double acts are a hoot, especially the latter's genre awareness and cliche-spoofing. (Europa is divided into Dominions which recreate 14th-19th century historical eras, in which anachronisms are a crime. Thus many Europans, especially the commoners, are playing the parts expected of them.)

This book is even ingenious on a mundane plot level. The Reprise clones (multiple Byrons, etc.) are a terrific story device. They allow Casanova vs. Casanova duels and other such comedy scenes, but they also let the book wield a deceptively large cast while enjoying all the virtues of an apparently smaller one. Reader memory isn't strained. Further memory crutches come with the recognisable figures from history or fiction - Lord Byron, Mary and Percy Shelley, Elizabeth de Bathory, Tomas de Torquemada, Cardinal Richelieu and more.

Oh, and for the first and last time we have anagrams in a Doctor Who story that aren't annoying! They're important to the story, y'see.

There are continuity nuggets, e.g. Earth Empire references, John Dee (i.e. Birthright's Jared Khan, though I don't know if that's accidental or not) and an Empire of Glass nod on p56. The latter hadn't been published when Managra came out, but check out the author's acknowledgements. Incidentally, while we're on the subject of Jared Khan, he may be Reprised in his Cagliostro incarnation (p155, p237) despite what the Doctor and the history books believe.

The Doctor and Sarah were occasionally off-base, but they're full of energy and fun to read about. Offhand this is the best Hinchcliffe-era 4th Doctor portrayal I can think of in a novel. The only bits I didn't like were their clunky introduction and a certain sexual awareness. The Doctor gets propositioned by Mary Shelley! I don't normally object to that in a novel, but I can't think of two more consciously child-like performances in Who than Tom Baker's and Liz Sladen's. Having said that, Sarah-fetishists will love this novel. After spending the first chunk of the book in a bikini, she dresses up as an altar boy! Even the Doctor and Byron raise an eyebrow.

Sadly Managra undermines itself by being a sequel to an unseen 17th-century adventure starring Countess Bathory and a much scarier monster than this one. What's worse, the text keeps on bringing it up! However if you want to read a real sequel, check out Stephen Marley's 'Baron (Count) Dracula and Count (Baron) Frankenstein' in Perfect Timing. I reread that after finishing this and it's fantastic, every bit as funny as the best bits of this novel. (It also dates Managra to approximately 3278 by starring Crocker and Miles Dashing and being set in 3279.)

This is a novel to relish. It offers a luxurious reading experience that outclasses almost all Doctor Who novels in its wildly imaginative setting, but then it tells a story too. A treasure.


A Review by Jamie Beckwith 16/1/11

I've not read this book since it first came out and I don't think I was the right age at the time (14) to fully appreciate it. Earlier this year I read Decalog 5 and enjoyed the two Stephen Marley short stories, so I was looking forward to rereading this and seeing whether I was better able to get it, my 14 year old self having labelled the story boring.

Well the short answer is yes, I did enjoy this. The sheer imagination and attention to detail in creating 33rd Century Europa was amazing. I also have a better understanding of history and so could appreciate more the various historical "reprises" like Byron and Casanova, though I'm sure that there are many many more references that went over my head.

My only criticisms of the book are the rushed ending but more importantly the character of the Doctor. He just doesn't sound like Tom Baker, even allowing that in his earlier years like Season 13 (this novel is set between Planet of Evil and Pyramids of Mars) he is a lot more moody and alien. The Doctor in Managra has the odd flash of humour but on the whole is very secretive and overly verbose. The rhythm just seems wrong and I couldn't hear Baker's fruity voice at all.

Given that criticism, I would still nonetheless recommend this book. Europa ia a world I'd like to revisit.

As an aside, was it ever mentioned in the TV series that Sarah Jane's parents died or was that an invention of the novels? If the latter is the case then it's been canonised by the Sarah Jane Adventures.