THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Doctor Who and the Silurians
Eternity Weeps
Virgin Publishing
The Scales of Injustice

Author Gary Russell Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20477 8
Published 1996
Continuity After The Eye of the Giant

Synopsis: A rash of strange occurrences leads the Doctor to believe another group of Silurians is awakening. Liz Shaw joins forces with a reporter to investigate reports of mysterious cave men, while the Brigader struggles with reduced funding for UNIT and the break-up of his first marriage.


Reviews

What a Pertwee MA should be by Michael Hickerson 22/4/98

If there was an era in the history of Doctor Who that begged to have a series of novels written while it took place, it's the Pertwee years. Namely because the MAs could go far beyond the scope of what we saw on TV, not only in terms of plot, but also in giving us a unique insight into the private lives and thoughts of the characters we saw and came to know and love on screen.

However, most of the original Pertwee MAs were rather pedestrian affairs. It had the 3rd Doctor and his UNIT companions all working together in farily well told stories, but I found myself yearning for me. After all, most of the Earth bound Pertwee stories had the feeling of some time passing betweent them and I desparately wanted to find someone who would fill in those gaps.

Gary Russell does that admirably with The Scales of Injustice. The main plot concerns the re-emergence of another sect of Silurians who are bent on conquering Earth. But Russell adds to it an almost X-Files like feel with a complex government conspiracy plotline that is intriguing. And while the main plot is interesting enough to keep the reader turning the pages, the real strength of the novel is character development.

Russell gives us insight into the backgrounds of the UNIT cast. We get to see their private sides, from the crumbling of the Brigadier's marraige to Liz Shaw's frustrations at being enlisted to help with UNIT to seeing Mike Yates' rise to being second-in-command of UNIT. Each character is enriched and made much more of three-dimensional character as the story progresses. But Russell doesn't stop there. He brings in some of the more minor UNIT players such as Corporal Bell and gives them a moment to shine.

It's a real treat.

But, any good Pertwee novel wouldn't be great if the characterization of the Doctor wasn't spot on. And Russell succeeds. More so than other MA authors, Russell captures the spirt and the flavor of the era he is writing for. The 3rd Doctor is vitally important to the plotline and well written for.

All in all, this is by far, the best of the Pertwee MAs. BBC books, Virgin, or otherwise. It far outshines even such newly praised works as Devil Goblins From Neptune. If you're a Pertwee fan, this one comes highly recommended.


A Review by Sean Gaffney 30/8/99

Y'know, I really wanted to beging this review with an old SCTV bit: "I loved it. It was much better than Cat-People. I'm going to read it again and again." Unfortunately, though the second statement is true...

The Scales of Injustice is Gary Russell's best book so far. The prose is excellent, the moralistic approach is in character, and the characterization of the regulars is deep and touching.

Nevertheless, for reasons I'll mention later, I dragged my way through this novel.

What to do...well, let's do my normal review bits.

Plot: I hate conspiracy plots. With a passion. That does not change the fact that the plot is very well thought-out, blithely executed, and as twisty and turny as a Mara. There were times where I could read Gary's thoughts as he wrote the next bit... (that's good, btw)

The Doctor: See below. Plus, he seemed underused. He may have been there a lot, but most of the time he observed. In Season 7, Pertwee wouldn't have been trapped for 4 episodes without escaping once.

Liz: Very well done. Gary ignores Prisoners of the Sun (which seemed more like a fever dream, anyway) and gives Liz a real motivation for leaving. The last few pages put a lump in your throat.

UNIT: The Brig is the tragedy of the piece, and it's done with all the pain Gary could muster. Good ties to Downtime. Yates is excellent, but best of all is Benton. Who gets a speech! With whole paragraphs of exposition! Wow!

Villains (so to speak): I did have a little more trouble getting into the heads of these Silurians, as opposed to Malcolm Hulke's book. But they're pretty well done. The description of the Myrka as terrifying was the best joke in the book.

Style: Similar at times to Who Killed Kennedy (this is not a good thing), Gary's prose flows much better than his other two. I'd like to see more, now. Perhaps a different Doctor. He does a good Malcolm Hulke, too. Where were the interior illustrations? (I know, talk to Andy Lane...)

Why Sean Is Waffling: You gotta understand, I love Jon Pertwee. The man was a brilliant showman, and his appearance at a con I went to was a delight. But if I ranked the Doctors, the third would be at the bottom. He irritates me, and worse, he bores me. That's probably the fault of Barry and Terrance rather than Jon. However, it means a struggle getting through a MA. I took a long time to finish Chris Bulis' book, too. (I'd rather not go into The Ghosts of N-Space right now, thank you).

So that was one problem. Then, as I mantioned, I hate conspiracy books. It was one of the reasons I couldn't finish Who Killed Kennedy. (The other being that the protagonist was a complete a**hole.) Thus, a major part of this book was just not my thing at all. But, a lot of people loved WKK, just as a huge amount of people love the third Doctor. So, here's the solution to my dilemma.

For Pertwee enthusiasts, X-Files fans, and people looking for a good read: 9/10.

For me: 6/10.

PS: You'll notice I didn't mention the Introduction. You're right, I didn't.

And Corporal Bell changes her name after 2 pages. ;-)


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 23/4/01

The continuity king Gary Russell returns with a relatively short but ultimately rewarding Pertwee tale of Silurians. What immediately struck me was the structure of the book, divided into separate episodes each with their own cliffhanger. This makes reading The Scales Of Injustice easier and more interesting. There are criticisms to be levelled here though and the most glaring is the lack of action for the Silurians, attention is heavily focused on the humans. Another is the terrible cover, which doesn`t do either Jon Pertwee or Caroline John any favours.

The plot is simplistic, The Doctor tries to make amends with the Silurians, Liz wonders whether her place really is with UNIT, the Brigadier is suffering marital problems and someone is taking potshots a parliament officials. Of course this is a brief overview, but these central storylines keep the plot flowing. Things that stand out would include the explanation of how Mike Yates is promoted over John Benton, and the subtly handled departure of Liz Shaw. Add to this great characterisation and you have the makings of a cleverly written tale. 9/10.


A Review by Luke Sims 8/7/01

Wow. That was the first thing that came to mind when I finished this fantastic book. It is the most action packed Who book I have ever read. Season 7 is one of my favourites, so I was excited when I came across this book. I was also dreading it because I found Eye of the Giant hard to get through and I never finished it. I'm now glad I read it, because this has to be one of the best MA's ever written.

Plot: A well thought out conspiracy that keeps the pages turning, plus it is a sort of sequel to the 7th season story The Silurians. It takes what you saw of these reptiles and expands it making them seem more believeable.

The Doctor: Pertwee is 100% perfect here, you can easily imagine him saying every line. Though he is not in a lot of this book there is so much happening that you don't notice and when you do see him the pages just fly by.

Liz: Also great here, the book shows her using her brain and doing her own thing. This is good, because Liz was always treated as a lab assistant no matter how smart they made her in the series. Plus we get to see why she leaves.

The Brigadier: Was treated really well, and it was good to see the other, more personal side. It was sad to see him lose his wife. At work though he was the same guy we all know and love and I always skipped ahead to see where he would came back into th plot (in fact I did this with all the main characters).

Other Unit characters: Benton and Yates were fantastic also, but I liked Benton more as we actually get to see him say more then a few lines. The others were also good, but were not as memorable as the main ones.

Villains: The Pale Man was a cool baddie. It was good see his first appearance in Who fiction (the other being Business Unusual). Auggi I found was a bit annoying and I was disapointed when she didn't die at the end (I'm sorry but she deserved it!).

Style: This book has lots of action and Mr Russell's writing were just perfect. I also enjoyed the fact that he broke the book up into seven parts, just like the season he was writing for. Mr Russell this has to be you at your best!

Overall: I liked nearly everything about this book what more can I say. It's a classic. 9/10


A Review by Finn Clark 23/1/03

That was good! 'Tis not perfect (it has a pretty ragged storyline) but even now I think it's still Gary Russell's best book. Taking inspiration from the X-Files-ish conspiracy stuff in David Bishop's Who Killed Kennedy, Gary creates some genuine atmosphere. Scales of Injustice is sinister. It has more depth than most of Gary's books, and even with its plot problems more obvious on a second reading I still enjoyed it.

First of all there's a six-page introduction, which may be the longest of any Doctor Who novel. Personally I love such things, so I lapped it up. There's some Invasion of the Cat-People discussion which probably belonged on rec.arts.drwho rather than in print, but I was fascinated by Gary's attempts to reconcile real-world and Silurian science. Mind you, it's a shame he only hints at the since-canonised fan theory (see the Barnes-Salmon Cybermen comic strip in DWM 215-238) that Mondas was effectively our moon until the arrival of the real one (see Eternity Weeps) threw it off into space and drove our Silurians into hibernation. Nevertheless this is all good stuff.

The regulars are well portrayed. Gary Russell often does well with his TARDIS crews, even in books I otherwise hate (e.g. Business Unusual on my first reading) and here everyone gets their turn in the spotlight. We see important turning points in the lives of both the Brigadier and Liz Shaw, but the Doctor, Mike Yates and even good old Benton aren't neglected either. (Benton doesn't have a major role, but he gets a big speech!) This is actually an important book. It feels like the end of an era, easing out the Season Seven set-up and foreshadowing the changes of Season Eight. However the larger picture isn't allowed to obscure the personalities involved.

The Brigadier probably fares best, with some standout moments. We see the conflict of work versus home life that leads to the break-up of his marriage with Fiona, which could have been excruciating but actually yields some of the book's best scenes. (Anyone looking to learn more about the Brigadier's life could do far worse than to read Scales of Injustice, Downtime, Happy Endings and Shadows of Avalon, with the further option of learning about his more obscure relatives in Transit and Ghosts of N-Space).

Meanwhile, the Brigadier's relationship with Fiona is being reflected with the Doctor and Liz (and, on a larger scale, between the humans and Silurians). Again and again we see the consequences of poor communication and failing to consider others. The Doctor's diplomatic shortcomings get plenty of stick early on, but that's largely because we're seeing him through Liz Shaw's eyes. The only weird thing is the way in which the regulars' early dialogue is dotted with TV quotes (Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Five Doctors, Shada)... 'twas annoying when Mark Morris nicked a Web of Fear line for The Bodysnatchers, but I think Gary gets away with it here. It feels odd, but Gary's clearly paying homage rather than stealing other people's jokes. He's too much of a fanboy (like us) to think it won't go unnoticed.

However there's more to the novel than that. There's a sense of texture and atmosphere, with curious snippets of real-world information and wonderful little stories like the tale of L'Ithe on pp85-7. The villains are true bastards instead of being just Dicks-a-like panto baddies, which lent a serious edge that I appreciated. The Silurian also add to the book's atmosphere, with much being made of their Lovecraftian ability to drive humans insane. They get a bit boring later, but for a while it's almost spooky.

I do have a few quibbles, though.

The first is the title "Earth Reptiles". What a load of rubbish! That's not a name; it's a classification, and a ridiculously broad one at that. Do we go around calling ourselves "Earth Mammals"? At least "Silurian" is a name. It may be inaccurate, but one could perhaps justify that as a translation convention. Even the narrative eventually ditches the "Earth Reptile" nomenclature in favour of something less vague; the lengthy scene that starts on page 196 refers to them throughout as "Reptile People". (That's bollocks too, but it's better.)

Gary Russell's infamous continuity is surprisingly palatable, apart from page 154. Using names from Malcolm Hulke's novelisation (Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters) added a frisson for me, while the UNIT stuff merely feels like compensation for the lack of such continuity in the TV series. If we're going to see the Brigadier's marriage, it feels right also to see Scobie, Bell, Isobel Watkins, Yates's impending promotion and Sir John Sudbury. (I wasn't wild about Osgood, though.)

There's also a goof on page 96, where the blond man shoots someone "cleanly up through the chin" instead of beating her to death (as we were told on page 94).

The only real problem is the storyline. The A- and B-plots (C19 and the Silurians respectively) barely intersect, with the Doctor relegated to a Silurian plot backwater for almost the whole book while the C19-Glasshouse A-plot potters along happily without him. If you haven't read Who Killed Kennedy lately, it might get confusing trying to tell apart the various quasi-secret bad guys and decide who's trying to kill whom. A lot doesn't get resolved, not all of which was followed up in Gary's two sequels: Business Unusual and Instruments of Darkness. What about Auggi, eh? And the final Silurian attack is pretty laughable; if all villains operated like that, the Doctor could give over his world-saving duties to four Enid Blyton kiddies and a dog.

But despite all that, the book still carried me through. Scary stuff happens, we learn important background information and the regulars are done well. Not perfect, but definitely enjoyable.


The Scales of Mediocrity by Neil Clarke 13/9/09

I recently reviewed the perverse, experimental and rather wonderful Man in the Velvet Mask. By contrast, this book represents the polar opposite approach: it's traditional, continuity-ridden, and the writing is fairly mediocre. But hey, what was I expecting? This is a Gary Russell, after all!

This isn't a bad, bad novel (I could point to many that are much worse); it's readable, even enjoyable. It is just wholly lacking invention or inspiration. Which wouldn't bother me so much, except this is evidently what people want from Doctor Who novels. I mean, really?! Are people's expectations so low?

This feels like less a novel and more an excuse to explain various details from the series that have been niggling our Gary: namely, the Brigadier's family life with his first wife Fiona (all set for Battlefield and Downtime); C19's role in UNIT's affairs (from Time-Flight and Who Killed Kennedy); the circumstances of Mike Yates' promotion to captain (!); the initial encounter between the Doctor and the Triad from Warriors of the Deep; and (more laudably) Liz's final story.

It's like, once these boxes were ticked, he then draped an uninspired plot around them. It doesn't help that despite its "traditional" feel, the whole thing is rather mean-spirited; there's lots of drearily wannabe-graphic shootings and decapitations, which are presumably meant to be cool, in a nihilistic way, but which don't actually mean anything and are therefore utterly pointless.

The author's note - which amounts to a bitchy rant against the rec.arts.drwho users who had the temerity to criticise the pseudo-science of his earlier MA, Invasion of the Cat-People - doesn't help, starting things off on a slightly uncomfortable note. (It is annoying both when authors wilfully ignore even the most basic scientific principles, and also when readers pick fictional science apart, but, I can't help thinking: they were probably just having a laugh; get over it, Gary.)

The idea of alien invasion leftovers being used by the government for its own devices, while not desperately original (and this was years before Torchwood!), has potential. Unfortunately, this is undermined by Russell's lack of restraint: there's barely a relevant TV story which isn't unambiguously referenced. A little subtlety would've gone a long way here! Maybe the author doesn't trust us to work out anything too taxing; the monstrous dog infected with green slime, for example, really didn't need to be called "Stahlman's Hound".

There is such a cavalcade of eager, fan-pleasing ideas (look - the base of an Imperial Dalek!), that they become very irritating. Similarly, the book is crawling with unnecessary references to everyone from Sir Charles Sudbury to Group Captain Gilmore, Ann Travers, Ruth Ingram, George Hibbert... Gahhh! Give me strength! Struggling under this torrent of fanwank, the already barely present Doctor seems rather anodyne; he rubs his neck a lot and a few "old chap"s are thrown in, but there's nothing to make this ring true as Pertwee's Doctor.

None of this would matter if Russell's prose wasn't deeply underwhelming (there are lots of phrases of the "He felt very hot" variety), and, tonally, it's irritatingly pompous and moralistically preachy. There is even an annoying tendency to reuse already-all-too-ubiquitous quotes (sleep is for tortoise - come on!). Even the title's crap! A book featuring Silurians with the word "scales" in its title... Oh dear. (And speaking of the Silurians: a few names with apostrophes in them doesn't cut it as world building.)

Writing this, I feel a lot less well-disposed to this book than I did whilst reading it. It's not hateful, or unbelievably bad. In a way though, it's worse than that for being so depressingly unoriginal. You can really see all the joins; Russell obviously thinks he's allowing us to relate to Mike Yates or whatever, or making the story into a sizzling rollercoaster ride. He isn't. If this were a one-off author, I'd let him off. But this is a man who has had his fingers in all the Doctor Who pies: DWM, Big Finish, and even the new series. We're doomed.