THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Sam is Missing
BBC Books
Seeing I
Sam is Missing Part Four

Author Jonathan Blum and
Kate Orman
Cover 
image
ISBN 0 563 40585 2
Published 1998

Synopsis: Alone, the Doctor lost, Sam finds herself having to start a new life, with no skills and no contacts. Meanwhile, the Doctor tangles with the powerful INC corporation, but finds the price he has to pay may be more than he bargained for...


Reviews

A Review by Oliver Thornton 7/6/98

At last, a really well-done novel for both Sam and the Doctor. There is no doubt about it. Of all the authors who have written for the Eighth Doctor and Sam, only the Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman have ever really got it just right. Sam learns to fend for herself and to save (the) planet(s) for herself, and basically, she learns to be the person she set out to be with the Doctor at the beginning of her adventures. If the next novels keep this trend, I'll have to revise the review I wrote of her!

As for the Doctor, this is one of the few Eighth Doctor novels here it makes most sense to picture Paul McGann as the Doctor saying the lines, as opposed to one of the others (usually Peter Davison or Sylvester McCoy). The McCoy mannerisms do creep through ocassionally, but only enough to emphasise that this is the same Doctor as all the others.

So the characterisation is wonderful, what about the plot? The novel falls into more-or-less three distinct parts to the story -- the Doctor's incarceration and escape attempts, Sam's building of her own life, and the final crisis and its resolution by the Doctor and Sam. Across all three parts, clues as to the what is happening are all around, and yet the ending is something of a surprise as well -- a pleasant sensation indeed! And finally, hopefully not revealing too much, Sam is for once a major help to the Doctor in resolving the situation, rather than a hinderance -- another pleasure to see.

Once again, this pair of authors conjure the most amazing word-pictures with their writing, so that there is no difficulty picturing a great deal of the action. There is less detail than in their other contribution, Vampire Science, but it is all the same a vivid read. A lot more description is spent on what would, in a TV story, be "special effects", since this is a more futuristic/alien technology style story.

Overall, some great developments in the story arc and the relationship between the Doctor and his companion; and a little more of a peek inside the Doctor's own mind (but not much).

Smooth, flowing and complete in every sense, this is another masterpiece and I sincerely hope to see more of Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman's work in the future!


Character Building by Eddie Robson 8/6/98

Let's not mince words; this is the best eighth Doctor novel that BBC Books have yet published. Kate Orman and Jon Blum have produced a superb novel that at last answers the critics who have said that this Doctor and companion are a bland combination.

The real point of this novel is to build Sam up; that much seems obvious. Hence, she is cut off from the Doctor for what she thinks will be forever, and we get to see her fend for herself in a world where she has nothing, and officially does not exist. To do this, she has to draw on strengths that have previously not surfaced, and face up to her own beliefs to see if she can remain true. The fact that she passes these rites of passage sees her fit to rejoin the Doctor at the end, almost as an equal rather than being forever one step behind.

This plot runs parallel with the Doctor's own experience on the planet, which I actually enjoyed even more. Kate Orman has put her characters through a great deal in her previous novels, but nothing compares to what she and Jon do to the Doctor in Seeing I. It's harrowing to observe, but utterly compelling. Just don't believe the Doctor when he says that he expects to be out of the prison within an hour. More to the point, it's all well characterised; the eighth Doctor's laid-back, polite but info rmal manner is just right.

One of the trickier topics the novel faces up to is Sam's crush on the Doctor, hinted at in previous novels but never really explored. Seeing I makes it clear that she is deeply, intensely attracted to him, even to the point of going out with a Doc-a-like named 'Paul' during her time on the planet. Hmm... It's tidied away at the end, of course, but with the prospect that it just might return in the future.

The final sixty pages or so are a little bit of a let-down after what came before, as the Doctor and Sam come back together, but they are necessary to wrap up the plot effectively. It's appropriate that we get a quick bit of traditional Doctor Who adventuring to show how the dynamic of the two characters has changed. Oh, and the "Interlude" which precedes it is beautiful.

I sincerely hope that the characterisation in Seeing I is maintained throughout the eighth Doctor range, especially for Sam; she's a much more rounded character now, no longer the person who wants to do things but the person who actually does them. This is not dissimilar to how Deceit developed Ace's character, but here it is done far more effectively, since it doesn't just tell you what happens to Sam -- it shows you as well. And when was the last time you heard anyone say that the BBC Books had done something better than Virgin ever did?

Things are looking up.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 30/8/98

There were times while reading Seeing I that you feel like you're watching an epic. The story is a sprawling one that isn't content to take place over several days or a week as is typical of many of the Doctor Who stories. Instead, Jon Blum and Kate Orman allow the story to unfold over a much longer period of time, which allows for not only the feeling that you're reading a pivotal story in the fiction line, but does exactly what the Sam is Gone trilogy intended to do--allow Sam to get some much needed character growth, change, and depth.

The book works well because it specificially deals with some of the issues brought up in the first set of eighth Doctor novels. Orman and Blum spend a lot of time looking into the exact nature of why Sam chose to travel with the Doctor to begin with. And it's not exactly why you think. They also deal frankly with Sam's school-girl crush on the Doctor and the Doctor's reaction (or lack thereof) to it. The time frame also allows Sam to grow beyond her guilt at leaving the Doctor for dead in the end of the Longest Day and truly decide if she fits the role of the companion as defined by Alien Bodies (and the dark headed Sam we saw there crops up in this novel as well). Sam is given a chance to develop her own character, to grow up and to become an adult in a stronger sense of the word, such as Ace's deparature and then reintroduction worked in the Virgin books. The difference here is we get to see Sam's growth and I think that her character will benefit from this.

I came away from this novel liking Sam a lot more than I have in most of the previous efforts I've read.

But, no Doctor Who novel would be complete without the Doctor. And Orman and Blum show why they are the masters of handling this new character. The Doctor is vividly painted. Of course, this being a Kate Orman book, some type of torture of the Doctor is involved. But watching it unfold on the page, as the Doctor rots in prison and realizes the utter hopelessness of his situation is utterly compelling. The eighth Doctor really shines as his own character here and made me want to go back and re-watch the telemovie just to pick up on how much he's changed since we first met him.

The only thing that stands out as disappointing in the novel is that the lack of cohesive explanation for the computer program. I went back and re-read certain parts trying to place the pieces together. And while I can find certain intuitive leaps, I wish Jon and Kate had fleshed this plotline out a bit more.

But in a novel that gives us the best work for the eighth Doctor and Sam that I've seen in the entire BBC line to date, I can overlook this flaw and heartly recommend this book. So far, Jon and Kate are batting a thousand with their eighth Doctor adventures. I only hope they keep up the great average.


A Review by Finn Clark 25/2/99

In my opinion, Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman are the best of the BBC authors to date. They're not flashily brilliant like Lawrence Miles or Lance Parkin, but are intelligent, insightful and thoroughly professional. Whatever they do, you can be sure that they will do it very well. Seeing I is their second co-written book and just as solid as Vampire Science. That book I absolutely adored and for a while I couldn't understand why DWM's survey placed it only third out of the first six BBC 8DAs. Then I read Seeing I and started to understand.

What Blum and Orman do brilliantly is to tell the story they want to tell. They're not self-indulgent and they don't go off at irritating tangents, so what you see is what you get. If you're happy to read about a straightforward, intelligent romp with vampires in San Francisco, then you'll love Vampire Science. On the other hand, if Hammer movies leave you cold and you think vampires are a hackneyed cliche with no place in Doctor Who, then you're probably not going to get very enthusiastic about their latest treatment. It's superbly done given the subject matter, but no more. It is what it is. It doesn't have the 'wow' factor of a Lungbarrow, Alien Bodies or Cold Fusion.

Seeing I shows the same discipline. Its simple story is laid out starkly and with the kind of transparent simplicity that looks so easy but is so hard to achieve. It's not a trad book at all. In fact, it feels rather self-consciously rad... rad for rad's sake, if you like.

Like Timewyrm: Revelation, it's great, but you wouldn't want to see too many like it. It's so far from a conventional Doctor Who adventure that it actually becomes a deconstruction of them, contrasting the assumptions and conventions of most Doctor Who tales with reality as it would actually be for people in the 23rd century.

Not content with doing that, Kate and Jon then change direction again for the end of the book. Unfortunately, this feels a little tagged-on-at-the-end. It isn't, of course, but it flies in the face of the deconstructionist anti-Who theme of the rest of the book and doesn't feel completely organic. Still, even this bit is well done, really.

Future history after the Dalek invasion is built on yet again. This really is corporation rule, something we've heard about so often but never seen properly until now. We also have yet another reason why Earth is more backward than the colonies, the third in three books, which I rather like. It makes things seem more complex. Different people have different views of the big picture, so it becomes a nice touch that Earth is described in Legacy of the Daleks as too proud for assistance, while in Seeing I the colonies are painted as wary of building it up to the point where it could regain power. And of course in Dreamstone Moon, Earth really does pretend to power over its colonies, complete with battleships and heavy-handed intervention. It becomes a more complex situation and thus more interesting.

Other matters... It feels more like a Kate Orman book than Vampire Science. I was particularly reminded of Set Piece, and of course one of its great strengths is the female companion. Sam has been accused of being an Ace-lite, but here she shows herself to be far more. In this book, she grows up. It's a rather blunt way of putting it, but quite frankly it's the only way to put it. Blum and Orman do it absolutely deliberately. We see Sam grow and learn and (naturally) make mistakes, developing her own way and acquiring her own priorities without sacrificing her most important principles. We see the development of her feelings for the Doctor. We see her relationships, we see her new emotional maturity and we see her gain confidence. The Sam of Longest Day and Dreamstone Moon was a recognisable, sympathetic character and a rock that stabilised stories that otherwise struggled to grab the reader, but here she gets a brain too. It's only a year since The Eight Doctors (and Sam doesn't appear in allthe intervening books) but she's already evolved beyond all recognition from the truly dreadful character summary that the BBC put out. Much of the credit goes to Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman.

In summary, I didn't like Seeing I as much as Vampire Science. Others, I'm sure, will greatly prefer it. My tastes run to the trad and this story was one that I could admire greatly without necessarily being gripped by it. Nevertheless, it's a hugely intelligent and worthy addition to the line that deserves applause. More, please.

Supplement, 4/4/02:

And it was so nearly Kate Orman's masterpiece. (Jon's too!) I'm gonna talk about Seeing I in some detail, so I wouldn't recommend reading this review if you haven't yet read the book.

This was really weird. It's hard to describe the fear I felt at approaching a novel containing Sam Jones. (The Eight Doctors didn't count.) 1998 is a strange and terrible black hole for the books, a time when the books were so relentlessly mediocre that it's as if Doctor Who had been kidnapped and replaced by its evil twin. The Doctor and Sam were appalling. Book after book after book, we were force-fed regurgitated pap from which all significance had been surgically removed.

Two books - count 'em, two - that year were good for more than landfill, specifically Seeing I and The Scarlet Empress. Apart from those, we got Kursaal, Option Lock, Longest Day, Legacy of the Daleks, Dreamstone Moon, Placebo Effect, Vanderdeken's Children, The Janus Conjunction and Beltempest. Just typing those names makes me want to run and hide. I remember the abuse heaped upon the books back then on radw, and poor Jon Blum protesting that they weren't that bad really... no, they were that bad. It's a vile, vile era in which almost none of the books made a difference to anything [1] and the regulars sucked.

[1] - except occasionally for evil; see Legacy of the Daleks.

And slap-bang in the middle o' this comes Seeing I, a book which seems to think the 8DAs were a continuing story after all. No, guys. The Eighth Doctor's story was a mythical beast in 1998. It didn't exist. Reading this book is like discovering a forgotten medieval manuscript.

So, is it any good?

Sam Jones works really well in Seeing I. It's bizarre that Alien Bodies revealed that her biodata had been altered to make her the perfect companion, since she was in fact the exact opposite. Sam was a slogan-waving, politically correct, self-righteous bitch with the winning personal charm of Atilla the Hun and the brains of a pond snail. SHE FANCIED THE DOCTOR! Everything that could possibly go wrong in a companion was present in Sam.

And in Seeing I we see how this can be a good thing. She sustains her story with more human frailty than any other companion - admittedly a big part of this is the fact that she's as dumb as a box of rocks, but it still makes her ultra-real. Her crush on the Doctor is surprisingly (though not completely) free of "ewwww factor", and the OrmanBlum didn't get a choice in that one anyway. She's everything a companion normally isn't, and it's fascinating.

She has scary depths, i.e. Dark Sam. That's spooky. It even made me want to reread Unnatural History. Even Sam's coy bisexuality (pp82+100) didn't bug me so much this time, possibly because since then we've seen three heterosexual companions! [2] Wow, who'da thunk it?

[2] if you don't count a hint in The Blue Angel regarding Fitz.

The Doctor... well, he's the Congenital Idiot again. That's not a criticism, just a simple description of the man he was at this point in his life. Here he's been granted a few brain cells, but he's still the kind of guy who'll spend an entire day gazing at a kaleidoscope 'cos it's, like, pretty. He also gets locked up yet again. That's my main memory of the Cole-era Eighth Doctor - him being impotent in a prison cell. Wow, I'm so glad he's not around any more.

Admittedly the Doctor keeps pushing his luck throughout most of his prison stretch - but once he's escaped, the threat of returning is enough to send him into shock. Okay, he's been though a lot, but it still seemed wussy to me. I'd have preferred to see him trying something when the aliens appeared and saved his neck, rather than just waiting for re-incarceration or deus ex machina.

But what about the book?

It's fabulous, basically. Act One is a triumph, as are Acts Two and Three. I loved every word therein. There's some stunning material here, in which all the happy-clappy bollocks from Kate's later NAs is given a good kicking and turned inside-out so it works. Acts One and Two give us something utterly unWhoish... and it's wonderful. It feels so right. It explores the Doctor and Sam in a startling new context: ordinary life. This isn't guns and explosions, but simply living from day to day like everyone else while trying to make a difference.

And then Act Three turns everything on its head, wheeling out the alien monsters... and this works too. It doesn't feel disconnected, but forms a coherent whole with what's gone before. The juxtaposition enhances them.

But then comes Act Four and everything goes tits-up.

Yup, that's right. This is a four-act story. The three-act structure is more classical, but there's nothing immutable about it. For the curious, in my opinion Seeing I's acts are divided as follows:

ACT 1 chapters 1-4
ACT 2 chapters 5-11
ACT 3 chapters 12 & 13, plus the interlude
ACT 4 chapters 14-17

The first two acts of Seeing I only contain hints of the aliens' presence. They're set in an ordinary world which is utterly grounded and truthful, unlike Sleepy and Return of the Living Dad. I described it as un-Whoish, but that's only true in that we've been stripped of the usual cliches and convenient moral shortcuts. Here the Doctor and Sam must re-examine their principles while threatened by the terrifying possibility that there aren't any bug-eyed monsters trying to kill everyone.

The first two acts of a story are often preamble. Here they're unique and special in themselves.

Act Three changes the rules. Suddenly it's a Doctor Who adventure again, and the Doctor's arguments with his gaolers get turned on their heads. But it's still the same questions that were being discussed earlier, just the other side of the coin. This is what we've been waiting for. The Doctor's line at the act's end made me want to cheer.

But then comes Act Four.

With the last part of the book, Kate and Jon are trying to write a traditional adventure with running around, getting captured and escaping. And, sadly, it's a bit crap. There's no scary menace to overcome, just a couple of easily distracted group minds that probably couldn't walk and chew gum simultaneously. Admittedly this is funny. But they're not threatening. The story turns to blancmange and a masterpiece becomes boring.

And more's wrong with those final chapters. The continuity references had hitherto been welcome and interesting, but here they go too far. Time trees, oh dear. Shoehorning Life into the novel (as a bloody cat!) was also a mistake. With Virgin's era gone, there's no need to cling on to their bad ideas like we missed them or something. However the scene in question is coy to the point of impenetrability for the uninitiated, so I imagine most readers would merely have wondered what the Doctor was wibbling on about.

Random observations:

  1. The I are cool! A bit gormless, but cool.
  2. The data-umphs are funky too.
  3. This is the best "abandon a companion for a few years" stunt ever in the books. Admittedly there's little competition for that title, Ace's being a fuck-up and Fitz's being a waste of time, but the subtlety and truthfulness of Sam's personal journey in Seeing I is really, really good. I'm not exaggerating when I say there's nothing even remotely like Seeing I elsewhere in Doctor Who.
It's very reminiscent of other Kate Orman books, especially Set Piece. The Doctor gets locked up and tortured, although this time it's the torture of people being nice to him. (As with Return of the Living Dad and its torture by cup of tea, Kate has become aware of her reputation.) There's another artificial intelligence, plus mentions of FLORANCE. As in Set Piece, a companion is stranded and left to make a new life until insect-like aliens show up with mind-altering technology, an intelligent Ship and a convenient tendency to become harmless if separated from their group mind.

I don't mind all that, though. The reused ideas generally have an added twist or have been honed to new subtleties. The Doctor's greatest struggle is against his own instinctive reactions to being imprisoned, while the Ship this time isn't a prison but a prisoner itself. I'm happy with writers returning to familiar ground if they're offering a new and more interesting take on the material.

If Doctor Who is a landscape of cities, savage wilderness and rolling open roads, then by revisiting 1998 I took a trip into the strange, isolated redneck backwoods where the locals have webbed fingers and talk real slow. To find such sophistication in the swamp surprised and delighted me. Even with the disappointments of Act Four, this is an astonishing book. Don't be misled by its publishing date. This is special.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 29/5/01

There was one moment while in Seeing I where I cheered out loud. It was the passage in which Sam Jones (having run out on the Doctor in an earlier book) gets fed up with her boring, routine, desk-bound, nine-to-five job and quits to try to make a life for herself that means something. And this portion demonstrates the strength of this book. No longer is Sam merely Generic Companion #1, but a thinking, living, human character who's forced to deal with life after her first series of travels in the TARDIS.

The Doctor is well characterized here, but that isn't surprising as Kate Orman and Jon Blum are the team that gave us the first real characterization of the post-TV-Movie Eighth Doctor. There are a few places where his extreme touch-feeliness may feel a bit shallow and false, but there is something positive to be said about a Doctor who goes bungee jumping in between adventures. The plot is fairly thin and serves mostly to explore the two main characters, Sam and the Eighth Doctor, and their relationship -- something that had not been done as well or as in-depth in this BBC range it had been in some of the Doctor/companion teams of the Virgin-era books. This is something that the series was very much in need of -- in prior books, the Doctor and Sam had become almost faceless, with Paul McGann's one-time portrayal of the Doctor being reduced into small basic mannerisms that captured none of the charm and enthusiasm that had been brought to the role. Seeing I did a wonderful job of giving the Doctor more character than simply repeating his friends' a (not inconsiderable) number of times before addressing them.

All in all, this is an excellent return to form. With far too many of the early BBC books reading like simple churned-out children's books, it's nice to have something that appears to have been thought all the way through. We have an interesting villain in the form of the I, who could have done with a little more face-time. We get to learn a bit more about Sam and we see the authors handle her in a way that doesn't make her seem like the most annoying companion that ever existed. We get a good solid adventure story, and like all of Kate Orman's books, we get to see the Doctor actually going through some suffering during his trials and tribulations. Seeing I definitely left me wanting more.


Agonizingly Splendid... I See by Sam Fain 10/9/01

It's been over three years since my last review, my first review, my only review, until now, of course. The last one suffered from desperately wanting to like everything about Doctor Who and in retrospect I probabaly wouldn't have been as glowing, perhaps I'll revisit The Eight Doctors sometime, but for now it's moving on to Seeing I. Needless to say I'm behind on my reading, but am determined to get caught up over the next few months, so enough of the preamble and onto the review.

I enjoyed Vampire Science quite a bit and have read tons of glowing comments about Kate Orman solo and the teaming of her with Jonathan Blum, sepcifically Seeing I, so I expected a lot and pretty much got it. The plot is secondary to the character evolution that takes place in Seeing I, but that by no means makes it uninteresting. Throughout the book seeds are sown and by the time everything is drawn together in a neat little package it makes perfect sense and kept me engaged to find out what, why, and how would the Doctor and Sam stop it.

The Doctor and Sam are the best things about the book. Seeing I is different from most Doctor Who adventures as it takes place over three years rather than a few days or so. These three years allow for a lot of character work and that's exactly what is done, excellently I might add. I'll be the first to admit I didn't really have problems with Sam before Seeing I, I accepted her as a companion and just got over any complaints about her, yes I found her to be an annoyance at times, but mainly I just didn't care about her... Before Seeing I, that is. At the beginning of the book I was treading slowly and carefully, worried that Sam was going to take up too much of a book that would be just as good without her, she seemed to be too much of a whiner with no direction, but that's exactly what she needed to be.

It's the main thing that made the book so excellent in handling Sam, because by the end Sam has direction, isn't whining, is likable, and I cared about her. The way her character evolves is believable and comes off extremely natural and the best part is, you get to see pretty much every step of the way. The problems Sam deals with in Seeing I are something a lot of people can relate to, well except for the monsters and such, she has to get a job, pay the rent, and find her life and she does. Sam really takes form in Seeing I, she becomes someone you can care about and relate to whereas before that was very very rare. She finds her purpose and it's a logical step, but a good one and she's less militant about it thankfully. I was kind of suprised to see her rolling into and out of bed with three different men over the time she was on Ha'Olam, especially when it didn't seem to serve much purpose other than saying I'm a big girl and can get involved with men. Then again being in the TARDIS for a year with someone you dream about but can't have may explain that; I suppose that's just nitpicking, though. The only real detractor relates to her pining for the Doctor, a few sentences made me think, 'Oh please!' I understand the 8th Doctor is supposed to be sexy, I understand he's supposed to have that Byronic intensity that attracts anyone of the opposite sex, but the way Sam moons indecisively over him is frustrating, the pining I can deal with its a trait that adds to her characterization, still I could've done without knowing about her shivering thighs... And it wasn't because she was cold...

The thing that truly drew me in, made me want to read Seeing I as quickly as possible and yet savor it was the Doctor. First off it's very easy to imagine the Doctor wanting to find Sam, not because he misses her, not even because he needs her, but because he wants to know why she left and he needs to know she's safe, he is after all the hero, the champion of life and time and as such can't let Samantha Angeline Jones just disappear. His crusade to find Sam leads him straight to jail before which he has some amusing run ins with the local establishment. While his confinements may seem like a nice little place to be imprisoned, to the Doctor it becomes the truest definition of Hell.

Seeing the Doctor in so much turmoil was a painful pleasure. Painful because you agonize with him, but a pleasure because things you may have only thought about begin to seep to the surface. It's predictable that the Doctor would want to escape but the fact that he can't tortures him to no end. Much of what the Doctor does and goes through is not ordinary not even for him, but in no way is it out of character especially for the Eighth Doctor. You can see McGann delivering the lines, going through the emotions. You actually get to see his humanity shine through only to leave us with an even more alien Doctor and that in itself was splendid and agonizing all in one. Indeed to an extent it was dark, mysterious, and slightly scary. To see the Doctor tortured more by his inability to escape than his actual imprisonment - in fact he is only once actually directly hurt by his captors, most of his torture comes from within. He's the one behind his own pain, but he can't help it and that makes it a joy to read in a sadist sort of way.

Needless to say it's very easy to feel for the Doctor in Seeing I, that's the humanity, but the alien part of the Doctor is ever present as well. At one point after he's out even Sam doesn't understand, three years should be a blink, but to the Doctor it wasn't. And I think many readers understand that better than Sam ever could. Three years of nothing, is the Doctor's reply to Sam and it makes so much sense it almost hurts. But the one thing the Doctor should understand more than anything is change, of course if it wasn't for Sam he wouldn't have seen it. Sam saves the Doctor when he couldn't save himself. And while the Doctor is the hero Sam proves throughout the book just why she should be around, it's almost as though she's proving it to the readers, yelling who I am and like me or not I'm needed. Once the Doctor is out of prison and back to himself, sort of, it may seem like he's going to stuff what happened away and forget about it, but it's apparent to the very end that he's been deeply affected by the three years of nothing. There's a particularly touching scene at the end of the book between the Doctor and a cat, that's all I'll say except that it exemplifies what the Eigth Doctor is about.

Seeing I is one of the best books in the EDA range I've read. Everything about it really does click. The Doctor and Sam make a difference and evolve through this story. By the end of the book I cared about Sam and I loved the Doctor even more. I can't stress enough how vital this book is to the EDAs, you may have heard it before and I thoroughly agree, read this book. 10/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 7/3/02

It's an absolute mystery to me why this book leads the novel rankings. Because I believe it to be one of the most godawful hunks of shite ever printed under the BBC label.

No, I'm not kidding, either.

It starts off as a character driven piece, allegedy, then transforms itself to a tradtitional 30 climaxes in twenty pages bog-standard runaround.

The plot revolves around a colony with a mixed bag of technology planted by a race to see what happens and harvest the results. This we learn only in the last fifty or so pages.

Before that, we get Samantha Jones in all her PC-crunchy granola- slogan shouting glory. BLEARUGH!!! I've never been a huge fan of Sam, but especially reading this rendition of Sam after Interference... let's just say the book went flying across the room numerous times. The impression I got was that Sam was the mouthpiece for all of the "Big Lie" ideas (see the Miles Menace Interviews for an explanation) that the OrmanBlum wanted to cram in the book.

However, what they do to the Doctor is criminal. Welcome to the first official portrayal of the Congenial Idiot. He is the idealized sensitive male, in touch with his feminine and hippie sides. Boring and painful to read, page after page.

It wouldn't be a OrmanBlum book without their recurring setpiece, the "Torture the Doc" subplot. This time, he's imprisoned for three years, transforming the Congenial Idiot into the babbling paranoid idiot. YAWN. There was absolutely no point to this, except to keep him out of the way while the sloganeering prat named Sam did, well, not much of anything except get more annoying.

Um, maybe it's me. Maybe Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman are the greatest writers ever and this book is the greatest thing ever published under the BBC banner.....

Nah!. The only reason to own this book is to use it to balance out the couch in your rumpus room that lost a leg.

Avoid

0 out of 10

Supplement, 30/7/03:

We've all seen magicians escape from a water tank. It's a common enough effect. Invariably the magician tries to sell the danger of the water tank, even though WE know that there is no danger in the water tank. Instead, we look to the conjuror and his/her personality and decide on how to appreciate the water tank based on him or her.

What does this have to do with Seeing I, you might ask?

Well, Seeing I does have its own water tank, the Doctor-proof prison. The big problem is that since WE know the Doctor will escape the Doctor-proof prison, is to buy into how the Doctor-proof prison is executed through the character of the Doctor. If we buy into the Doctor then we'll buy into the Doctor-proof prison, and the rest of the novel as well.

More on this in a bit.

It was inevitable that I'd return to Seeing I after I was doubly impressed by Kate Orman's first two Who offerings, The Left-Handed Hummingbird and Set Piece. I went into Seeing I the first time with an attitude. My only other experience with Kate Orman at that time had been a partial reading of Return of the Living Dad, which I found boring and painful.

I think my perspectives are different because I don't read the novels in order. I can imagine that fans desperate for a book anywhere near the quality of Alien Bodies would have latched onto Seeing I because it tries to be something more than a giant-sized Target novel with a hard-to-characterize Doctor and generally-despised companion.

I don't think Seeing I works as planned by Orman and Jonathan Blum. And the reason is that for a book that is supposed to be character-based, there's really no discernable character change for either the Doctor or Samantha Angeline Jones. Yes, Sam goes from 18 to 21, but she still wants to shag the Doctor, she still is a fervent believer in her causes, and goes back to travelling with the Doctor in the end.

The parallels to Set Piece are blatant. Sam is on Ha'olam, separated from the Doctor, in a world she doesn't understand. Just like Ace in Ancient Egypt. The Doctor is imprisoned by powerful technology that tries, but fails to understand him and his motives. Both Ace and Sam learn to fend for themselves, and somehow thrive in their new worlds.

But... what has Sam learned, if anything at all? I don't think it's that she wants to help everybody and save the world, because she did do that with the Doctor in her previous adventures. Is it that she no longer wants to shag the Doctor? No, because she still wants to. Maybe the point is that Sam doesn't really learn anything in three years on her own, but Orman and Blum try to convince you through her actions in defending Livingspace and waging war against INC that she's grown up. I think choosing a less obvious target that a mammoth and souless corporation would have helped. INC is a blatant enemy for Sam to take on. If Sam had been forced to take a group which had similar goals and beliefs, but inethical methodology, it would have played out better. Orman and Blum emphasize her beliefs, but never question them, directly or otherwise. (This is what my PC argument was all about, in my initial review -- badly done, I should add.) So, in the end, there was no reason to age Sam three years if there is no change after. It comes off as a gimmick instead of character development.

To answer the question about the Doctor-proof prison, we have to look at the eighth Doctor as presented by Orman and Blum. In order to sell the trick we have to emphasize with the conjuror. And I'll be blunt; the OrmanBlum eighth Doctor is annoying and unsympathetic to me. So I didn't buy into the Doctor-proof prison and his collapse when the Doctor realizes he'll never be let go. Part of the problem is a matter of blowing an opportunity to generate suspense by not having the Doctor figure out about the implant until after Ziba is killed in one of his numerous escapes. By having him know about the implant and what it does right away, but still going on with his attempts to escape would have added the much needed suspense and sold the Doctor-proof prison. It also would have made Sam's rescue much more satisfying. The larger problem is that except for a couple of brief moments where the Doctor "freaks out" when threatened with being taken back, his character hasn't changed either. It's all for naught, like aging Sam three years.

The last part of the novel dumps the attempted character insight for chases, captures and lots of "then suddenly" moments, like The Shadows of Avalon. The revelations and twists come fast and furious, but are, like the character development, non-existent and meaningless. Events bounce along, and then the confluence of coincidences end, and the Doctor and Sam save the day.

One more thing that got on my nerves. The continuous use of 1990's sayings/catchphrases caused much eye-rolling and vulgarity muttering. I gotta also give some pimp-slaps to both authors for ripping off dialogue from Casablanca. If you're going to steal dialogue from a movie, steal from a movie that people won't recognize two words in, or don't take the most famous and obvious quotes.

I was hoping to have something positive to say about Seeing I, beside solid prose.

I can't. Read Set Piece instead. Same novel, better execution.


"Doctor, I love you" by Joe Ford 21/3/04

This book comes close to being the perfect Doctor Who story without ever being a Doctor Who story at all. It is so far removed from anything I would recognise as Doctor Who and yet embodies so much of what I love about the show, and the book series in particular.

Kate Orman and Jon Blum are Star Trek: DS9 fans. I can tell. That series was always the bastard child of the Star Trek legacy, the one that never fit in. It played by its own rules, created an entire universe to set its stories in and focussed on one thing, the most important thing that sustains any drama be it book, TV or audio... characters. And like DS9 this book takes perverse pleasure in examining its two lead characters, breaking them down and putting them back together again, creating two brand new characters for the series to thrive on.

It is no secret that the pre-amnesiac Doctor and Sam are not going to win the most engaging companion award. More likely they will come bottom of that particular list but cleverly, impossibly Orman and Blum grab the pair by the shoulders and shake them with such ferocity out pops the riveting characters they always had the potential to be.

Sam was such a generic character from the word go, one of those do-gooders that fights every cause going but never really knows why, just gets off on it. So it must have been a dream come true to travel about time and space in the TARDIS where there are millions of causes that needed fighting and one man who is almost as obsessed with getting involved to share her life with. The problem was Sam was a typical teenager, a miserable, whiny kid who sticks her fingers up at everybody who doesn't agree with her morals and we had already gone through all that with Ace. To be honest, I thought the book range should have matured beyond all that by now and be dealing with more adult characters (like say Anji!).

So to add a bit of spice to both the Doctor and Sam the editor decided to split them up over a few books, spurned on by the dramatic moment where Sam let her feelings tumble out and turned CPR into a French kiss (oh please... I would do the same and be proud of it! It's Paul McGann for Godsakes! I wouldn't go brooding over it for years, another example of the childishness of this character). And the Doctor is desperate to find his companion again just to understand why.

Which brings us to Seeing I, a book that treats both characters like normal people caught up in extraordinary situations. Yes Sam is still dealing with her feelings for the Doctor but wonderfully the book takes the time to examine why she loves him so much and it proves rather sweet rather than sickening.

Starting with the brilliant idea of setting the book over three years (itself an original idea for Doctor Who), it convincingly builds up a picture of Sam coping in an alien environment. The first few chapters are enthralling and hardly anything happens in them, it is the realism of the situation that hits the reader, Sam is alone on Ha'olam with no possessions, no credentials and no friends. We get very close to Sam as she tries to find shelter, work and company, you have to admire somebody who works as hard as Sam does here for so damn little. Plus Ms Jones is written in an attractive, thoughtful way, lots of teenage emotions bursting from her mind in urgent italics. This was all we needed from Sam, a chance to see her at her most desperate, to see how much character she has in managing to build a whole life for herself, alone.

Which brings me to chapter six which takes place over ten months of Sam's life and remains the strongest piece of writing she has ever had. She joins a new community, meets friends, gets together with a guy, falls in love, gets bored with him, splits up and meets someone else all in the space of 21 pages. It is the point where she finally starts to settle on Ha'olam, where you realise she is doing just fine without the Doctor and that she is a human being just like you and me and capable of making some very mature decisions. It is a defining point for her character as far as I'm concerned.

When she finally meets up again with the Doctor it is astonishing how emotional it really is, for the reader as well as the characters. Such emphasis has been placed on their split; it has affected them to such an extent that their partnership is beautifully re-written to please the reader. Dealing with Sam running out on him should have been painful but instead it is compelling, his complete inability to realise how much she loves him. Sam cannot touch him; too afraid of the feelings it will dig up after she has spent three years burying them. But even more brilliantly it is Sam who demands that they stay and help the people of Ha'olam. She isn't sure how to tell him that she has found a new home and a new life without him and is torn as she realises he could never comprehend that she would leave him.

Kate Orman is such an emotional sadist I have to wonder why she takes such delight in putting the Doctor through such HELL. To be frank, thank bloody God she does because this is the best examination of the Doctor since the early days of the New Adventures, for once we get to see what makes the Doctor terrified. What an unpleasant idea, discomforting to think of but even more unsettling to experience throughout the pages of Seeing I.

It is so right that the Doctor would lose his mind in the prison where escape is impossible and everybody is so bloody NICE. Here is a man who has found himself fighting monsters his entire life and escaping from prisons is part and parcel of his haphazard existence. So he tries to escape from prison on Ha'olam. And fails. And fails again. And again. Ad nauseum. And nobody tries to hurt him or make his life anything but pleasant. He starts to lose it, why can't he escape. He is the Doctor. He can do anything. Slowly after hundreds of failed attempts to release himself he starts to realise he will never see anything but this prison ever again. So he just stares at his wall. For a long, long time...

Oh it gives me the heebie jeebies just writing a short synopsis of his time in prison. It is disheartening to watch his spirit get crushed, to feel embarrassed for him as the guards treat him as a minor annoyance rather than the malevolent trickster he wants everybody to think he is. In prison there is nothing special about the Doctor. That is scary.

When Riffat finally snaps and beats the living daylights out of him it is extremely revealing to hear the Doctor say "At last." He has tried to get out so many times, to an obsessive point that he has forced somebody to snap and attack him. He NEEDS someone to fight; it gives him a reason to live. So it is quite a blow to have his little victory snatched away from him by the ever-amiable Dr Akalu who apologises profusely for Riffat's behaviour and informs him that he will be taken away for psychiatric care. Once again, the Doctor has achieved nothing.

There is one scene that encapsulates everything the Doctor was going through, in the TARDIS, once again reunited with Sam. She seems to want to shrug off the past three years as a handful of heartbeats to a Time Lord. He quietly states, "It was three years of nothing."

So when he is again caught and threatened with prison we understand totally his violent reaction to the suggestion. Rarely have we snuggled up this close to the Doctor or seen him in such an unforgiving light. Orman and Blum take you on a ride of psychological terror, the plot is as thin as paper but the feelings the book provokes are unquestionably frightening. It is one of the darkest Doctor Who books I have read and there isn't one moment of alien horror.

But even when the book isn't pushing the BBC 8th Doctor range forwards several bumps up the ladder characterisation-wise it is doing a whole bunch of other stuff that is worth mentioning. World building, for one. You see Ha'olam only through the eyes of the Doctor and Sam and it is painted in such an intolerant light I for one would never want to visit. A capitalist environment, with mindless drones working, working, working... companies telling you how to live, breath and have fun (work, work, work), an ugly, provoking planet that leeches from other worlds for its scientific advancements without ever thinking about the consequences. There is gorgeous scene early on where the Doctor is trying to get information about Sam and is forced to go through a nightmare of polite smiles and refusals. He gets more and more frustrated until he attacks their database vindictively just to bypass the ignorant bureaucracy. Even better is when Sam, coaxed into the job of secretary drone, rips away her headset at quits, she realises that it is crazy to stay in a job for money when it is turning your brain into porridge. And that is what Ha'olam is, planet of porridge brainers.

It doesn't seem quite as densely written as Vampire Science but then this is much more thoughtful, concerned with what is happening in characters' minds rather than what is going on around them. The writing is almost gentle and poetic but that only seems to push the emerging terror to the surface, like playing a brutal war scene with soft music, it highlights just how scary everything is because they try and pass it off as normal. Comfortable. Brr...

I love how the novel twists unexpectedly into a techno thriller in the last 70 pages, the aliens suddenly arrive to take back what was stolen and the Doctor is suddenly in the uncomfortable place of saving the very place he wants desperately to escape. It works very well in exposing this new and improved Doc/Sam team, they appear more aware of each other and their abilities, to enjoy each other's company and after three years of living a very alien life for both of them to be fighting monsters again feel so RIGHT.

I love this book; it is an absolute powerhouse of drama and has the unfortunate effect of throwing a harsh light on all the flabby, inconsequential novels surrounding that can never match up. It is experimental and brave, takes risks and wins through the sheer emotion in the writing. I can see why people would resist it (hey Terrance), it is hardly a barrel of laughs and aims at being the last thing you would expect from a Doctor Who story, a love story between the Doctor and his companion. But it takes that concept to terrifying extremes and goes to prove that Sam and the Doctor CAN work, if only you push them to the limit.

The cover is divine too.


A Review by Brian May 5/8/06

Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman's second joint book is a marvellously focused character piece, but it's not really accessible to new readers as it assumes two things. One, we know the eighth Doctor and Sam backwards. Two, we'll be continuing on from Dreamstone Moon, eagerly awaiting the final instalment of the Sam is Missing series.

The story arc really needed an adventure that was completely Doctor-less (or a brief "top and tails" appearance at most, a la Birthright). True, Dreamstone Moon was more about Sam than the Doctor, but despite their fleeting reunion and further separation, his very presence meant Sam wasn't as "missing" as she should be. No, she needed her own story, and gets it here, even though the Doctor's around. This might sound contradictory, but the book convincingly plays out two distinct, parallel storylines.

The chapters alternately devote considerable time to the Doctor and Sam's lives, with their physical and geographical distances well emphasised. The clumsy near-miss contrivances that occurred in Dreamstone Moon are avoided - you could argue the Doctor's arrest when he's on Sam's trail is such a moment, but at the point of his capture he's only found out where she worked, and that she's moved on. It's "so near/so far" rather than a near miss; anyhow, the continued separation of the time travellers is convincing. Sam's absence from Legacy of the Daleks was dramatically effective, but when we discover Dreamstone Moon takes place immediately after Longest Day - from her perspective - and it doesn't take up too much time, there's no feel that her separation from the Doctor is a long one. That's all taken care of here, what with at least three and a half years of real time being spanned, definitely giving Seeing I definitely an epic feel. If you're a fast action fan you'll be disappointed, but you'd also be missing the point. Pace is not the purpose of this book; rather it's character evolution. The various episodes in Sam's life, and the people who drift in and out of it - some last, some don't - depict a terrific coming of age.

The added bonus is that she's excellently characterised - but as Blum and Orman had produced a similarly good Sam in Vampire Science, this is not difficult for them. Sam finally grows up and gets to practice what she preaches - the do-gooder/liberal/activist finally experiences life via a series of lengthy and tumultuous episodes. From being destitute and dependent on charity to establishing herself and eventually working on a housing project, the idealist finally becomes the pragmatist, summed up perfectly on p.164: "sometimes you had to eat whatever you could find and bugger your vegetarianism. Sometimes you had to compromise." And subsequently the protests and subterfuge she undertakes in the latter stages of the book are carried out by a more convincing person.

The authors don't ignore the Doctor however; he's the definitive eighth incarnation of the Time Lord and, true to Kate Orman, he suffers a hell of a lot. Not the possession of The Left-Handed Hummingbird, nor the intense physical torture of Set Piece, but a long captivity. It doesn't make for light reading - the revelation of the implant in his eye is particularly disturbing, as is the off-page trauma he endures to have it removed once back in the TARDIS. His constant escape attempts and subsequent re-capture are frustrating, and the reader is constantly holding their breath as he makes his next bid for freedom. The encounter with the alien in his cell is Kafkaesque in the extreme, perhaps the book's most surreal and upsetting moment. The "real time" factor works here just as much as it did for Sam.

Ironically Seeing I only disappoints when the Doctor and Sam meet up. Of course we all know they will, but it happens too early, despite the passing of time that's occurred - after this it's just a typical bug-eyed monster tale. You can tell the authors have done their utmost to make the I a different type of alien, but they don't really succeed; on the whole they're not that spectacular, nor is the sentient ship. The exploration of this ship, the confrontations and resolution are bog-standard Doctor Who, and Sam's trip into the IXNet is just a rip-off of the end of Transit. Of course the story needs to be wrapped up; but it's just that the journey is much more interesting than the destination. It's not merely three and a half years of hell for the Doctor and growing up for Sam; there's a sombre examination of corporate ethics, work (middle managers get their just desserts in a wickedly funny sequence!), and above all the nature of individuality and what threatens it. All the characters are excellent and Ha'olam is a superlatively realised planet - the various cities, desert locales and overall history are up there with The Keys of Marinus and especially The Ribos Operation when it comes to the depiction of settled, urbanised worlds.

The various usages of continuity are smartly incorporated, a few indulgent Vampire Science references aside. There's the tying in of TCC and the events of Longest Day, which reinforces the story arc in the same way the final episodes of Trial of a Time Lord refer back to the first few. "Dark Sam" from Alien Bodies is resurrected, with an unnerving portent that she will be revisiting soon. The use of the cat is clever: its constant appearances in the book, and the rest of the Sam is Missing books, are underplayed (unlike the Cat's Cradle trilogy to which all this tips its hat) and the moment when it leads Sam to the TARDIS is a surprise indeed.

Seeing I is a fantastic journey, which happens to end too soon and then becomes your typical runaround. But when it's good it's extremely good. 8/10


A Review by Steve White 24/11/13

Seeing I is the 4th and final part of the "Sam Is Missing" arc and thankfully is a lot better than the rest of the arc (not counting Legacy of the Daleks) and is one of the best EDAs to date.

Seeing I starts with Sam looking for shelter and a job after being sent to sent to Ha'olam after the events of Dreamstone Moon. She soon gets a job with INC and starts to live her life without the Doctor. The Doctor continues to look for her and finds her name in INC's records, but it soon becomes clear that there is more to INC than meets the eye. However, before he has a chance to find out, he is captured and put in a prison even he cannot escape from.

Jon & Kate got the 8th Doctor down perfectly in Vampire Science and that trend continues in Seeing I. The Doctor is both charming and a bit bumbling at the same time, and you know it's McGann. The novel has him locked up for the vast majority of it, but, instead of forgetting about him like Paul Leonard did in both Genocide and Dreamstone Moon, the authors keep us with him the whole time. As the Doctor struggles to escape, his sanity takes a bashing and it's down to Sam to rescue him and restore his mindset.

We also catch up with Sam and you soon realize that previous authors have really struggled to write for her. Jon & Kate do the seemingly impossible and make her interesting, and someone you actually care about right off the bat. Throughout Seeing I, Sam matures greatly and even has a stab at normal life. It helps of course that the novel encompasses a three-year period, but right from word go the authors have you on Sam's side.

When Sam does finally rescue the Doctor, it really is a truly brilliant moment and fairly emotional. It's good to see them back together and back on form, but that could be because Jon & Kate write well for both characters. Let's hope this partnership is as good carrying forward.

Seeing I is odd in that there are very few supporting cast. It is written as a Doctor & Sam story, with alternating chapters catching up with the other party until they meet. There are other characters around, but they are all mostly just background noise; it's just the leads doing what they do best, and, with Jon & Kate at the helm, they do it well.

The enemy is kept well hidden until the end of the book. At the start of Seeing I, we are introduced to INC, a faceless corporation that has fairly unethical practices. Of course Sam instantly campaigns against them and the Doctor finds out that INC are using Time Lord technology so he is fighting against them too. Once the Doctor and Sam reunite, then it soon becomes clear that the technology was planted by a collective known as the I, in order to harvest data and they've come to get it back. I didn't enjoy this third of the book as much as the first two, but it serves to show exactly what the Doctor and Sam do bring to the table and that they do need each other.

Seeing I ties up the "Sam is Missing" arc nicely. Whilst it breaks no new ground in the same way that Alien Bodies did, it does advance time by 3 years and serves to refresh the series, and Sam in particular, before the start of year two. It does help to have read Longest Day and Dreamstone Moon first, which most casual fans will want to skip, but no one will want to miss out on Seeing I as it really is a very good story with great characterization.

9/10