The Curse of Peladon
The Time Monster
The Three Doctors
Frontier in Space
The Scarlet Empress
The Blue Angel
|ISBN#||0 563 55592 0|
|Continuity||Between The Time Monster
The Three Doctors
|Synopsis: High above London is a ship the size and shape of St Pancras railway station. On board, the Doctor and Iris Wildthyme are bargaining for their lives with creatures determined to infiltrate the Earth in the guise of characters from nineteenth-century novels.|
A Review by Finn Clark 11/4/00
I'm a Paul Magrs fan, but I found Verdigris oddly disappointing. It didn't blow me away. It surprised me by not surprising me. It didn't revolutionise the concept of Doctor Who fiction or make my brains dribble from my ears in sheer confusion.
There isn't any Evil Deconstructionist Plot behind the bit on the back cover which conspicuously fails to mention the fact that Verdigris fits between The Time Monster and The Three Doctors. Maybe it's just that Paul's giving equal billing to the Doctor, Jo, Iris and Tom and he didn't want to emphasise the former over the latter by defining it in terms of the Doctor's adventures. Or maybe there was a production boo-boo. It doesn't really matter, to be honest.
This is a Doctor Who book, plain and simple. As with The Blue Angel after The Scarlet Empress, Magrs has flatly refused to churn out a duplicate of what he's done already. This time around, the result is nothing more than a pleasant adventure, as straightforward as you could wish.
It's set on Earth in the seventies, which goes some way towards keeping Magrs grounded in reality. He can't embark on flights of fancy as he did in his last two books. However "Earth in the seventies" is a rather nebulous concept in Doctor Who, especially in the novels where it could be anything from point-and-laugh satire (Devil Goblins from Neptune) to a semi-mythical Neverland of nostalgia (Last of the Gadarene). In the hands of Paul Magrs it's something different again.
This isn't the real world of the 1970s, or even the videophone world portrayed in the Pertwee UNIT era. This is a homage to seventies cult television.
We have Doctor Who. We have The Avengers. We even - God help us - have the bloody Tomorrow People. It's all done at one remove, but there's no mistaking it. As the narrative progresses we are drawn into a world with all the cosiness, loopiness and trademark Avengers surreality of those various televisual worlds. There's a little of Magrs's famous fairy-tale storytelling, but not much.
So given that it's a simple adventure, how well does it work in those terms?
It's got Iris Wildthyme, of course. She's at her most annoying yet, largely because she's so blatantly a meddling old bag. At least in her previous appearances there was something enigmatic about her motives and purpose in the plot; one felt she could turn around and surprise you. Not any more. We feel we know the daft bat. When the Doctor starts losing patience with her antics, we're right behind him.
But having said that, once past page fifty I rather liked her anyway. The plot was under way and she actually had something to do apart from flaunt her personality and annoy the Doctor.
The prose style is... interesting. On page 182 I counted seventeen paragraphs and only nineteen sentences. Such eccentricities aside, the style is simple but vivid, with lots of colours and smells. As with last month's Tomb of Valdemar it's refreshingly direct, with none of the bloated feel one sometimes got with Virgin ("I've been contracted for 280 pages and that's what I'm damn well going to give you".) However it's intelligently direct. When Magrs nicks a joke, at least he does so from Ibsen instead of Timelash.
At the end of the day, it's exactly what it says on the tin. A Pertwee Missing Adventure, also starring Jo Grant and Iris Wildthyme. It's got some good jokes and surprises, but it's not going to blow your mind like Magrs's other books. It's fluffy. It's got a sense of humour and the televisual cross-references add a surreal touch to the reading experience. Not recommended for stuffy people.
A Review by Sean Gaffney 23/4/00
Boy, was I waiting for this one. Not only did I enjoy Paul's previous books and want to see more of his work, but there was a hot radw debate on this from the moment the cover art became available. Good old Iris, she takes the heat off of Compassion when it comes to controversy...
And never being someone who likes to be pegged, Paul has taken us on yet another odd journey, still with his metatextual issues, but far more normal... in fact, one might almost say trad.
This is a fun book. Make no mistake. This isn't the Season 7, gritty UNIT or even the later Pertwee UNIT made gritty, such as in a David MacIntee book. No, this is the Pertwee era that spawned Terror of the Autons' flashy colors, The Claws of Axos' weird plotlines, and the entirety of The Time Monster. And much to my surprise, Paul writes the era wonderfully. Parts of these books SING with in-characterness.
PLOT: This is perhaps the least trad part of the book, of course. On paper, you could describe it as your typical Who plot, with nice aliens trying to settle on Earth secretly being manipulated by forces behind the scenes who mean to destroy the Doctor and all he holds dear, and the Doctor saves the day with only a few stirring speeches and some Venusian Akaido. The trouble is this leaves out the actual DETAILS, such as the 19th-century fictional characters. Or the robot sheep. In any case, wonderfully twisty, and you really don't know what's happening till the end.
THE DOCTOR: Fabulous. If Jon was alive, I'd love to hear this as an audio, because the Doctor's dialogue is superb. Dealing with Iris brings out some of 3Doc's more churlish traits, and the scene in the prison where he threatens her is quite marvelous. Satisfied with his exile and his cushy job on Earth? Like hell. :-D
JO: Equally wonderful, if only because for once there's an author who doesn't try to give Jo three dimensions or a tragic past or a tragic future or something else of that sort. She's the dim, loyal, lovable assistant to the core here, and was always the best at asking lots of questions without being annoying.
IRIS: Yup, she's back, and boy, is she irritating. I don't mean that in a bad way, though... she's irritating in a fun, grates-on-your-nerves- but-you-like-her-anyway sort of way, only getting slightly less successful when actively groping the Doctor. (This is, btw, not the more serious, Jane Fonda Iris we saw in TBA, but the batty broad that... well, most every other regeneration of hers seems to be). I'm beginning to wonder if Iris had never actually met the Doctor till his Eighth incarnation, and because his timeline was so malleable thanks to Faction Paradox, managed to inveigle herself into his timeline. Now she's going back and ensuring she actually DID do all this stuff with him. :-D OK, just a theory...
TOM: Nice companion, 3-D, and bless his soul, does not get taken in by The Tomorrow People and their giant Simon toy. I'd like to see more with him. (In fact, how bout an Iris and Tom novel sans Doctor?)
VILLAIN: That'd be Verdigris, then, even though he's not much of a villain, more of a genie used poorly. You do feel for him a bit, even with his 9 or 10 different motives and 2 or 3 different masters. But, when all is said and done, he's a walking Deus Ex Machina.
OTHERS: The scene with the Brig as a supermarket manager has to be read to be believed. The gang of kids are OK, if slightly annoying and bratty... but then, kids are. Sally was also a lovely character.
STYLE: Actually, it's mostly a generic, well-told adventure novel style, with a few stopoffs here and there in Magrs-metatext-narrative causality-Land. It's also quite, quite funny, with lots of wonderful in-jokes involving concurrent spy shows of the 70s, and even has a few moments that totally weird you out, so to speak. (The Master kissing Jo, etc.) Oh, at one point there's some sort of continuity error involving Peladon, but it's so small I doubt the reader will even notice it, really.
OVERALL: This was a wonderfully fun book to read. Not as totally Pertwee to the core as, say, Last of the Gadarene, but the Doctor and Jo are done wonderfully true to TV, Iris is... Iris is Iris, and as such she works very well. ^_^ I can't even think of anything I disliked, really. Smashing stuff.
Non-stop fun from beginning to end by Robert Smith? 15/8/00
Some have said that this is the Magrs book for people who don't like Paul Magrs. I'm not sure I agree. I think there are plenty of things here that will annoy Magrs haters (post-modernism, non-sequiturs, stylistic tricks, originality, Iris). Instead I think this is the book for those who thought Magrs was the BBC's most promising author, but mainly by default. People like me, who were cautiously hopeful, but put off by some of the denser things that apparently required having taken Magrs' Lit. Theory 911 class before reading.
Once again, this is far more Iris's book than it is the Doctor's. Fortunately, with the third Doctor this is a positive bonus. The third Doctor is usually at the centre of the action, larger than life and looking like everybody's Mum. There have certainly been some entertaining books featuring him, though they've either been enjoyable runarounds (Last of the Gadarene, most recently) or not interested in looking at the Doctor's character (Dancing the Code). Here I think we've got a Pertwee tale with a twist - one that's actually interested in seeing what makes this character tick. I think it's no coincidence that it bears a striking anamnesis-esque similarity to the Target novels, without actually being like any of them. Suddenly, after fifteen or so years of reinterpretive analysis, someone's actually come along and made the third Doctor just like the one we grew up with all those years ago (ie the one dimly remembered from the show and constantly seen in the novelisations), yet for the twenty first century, rather than yet another exercise in nostalgia. And who else to cut right through this analysis and get away with it than Paul Magrs?
Iris is simultaneously besotted with and disappointed by the Doctor. She wants to like him so desperately, but she's exasperated by his propensity to ring up the Brigadier and call in the local authorities to sort things out. That's not a million miles away from post-convention fandom's approach to both the character and the actor. He's the childhood hero we once had and still secretly yearn for, who can't help but disappoint us when it comes down to it. His launching into Venusian karate at the first sign of intruders in his chateau is hilarious. Indeed, this book is full of Pertwee-era touches for added flavour. Name-dropping, mentions of the Time Lords as the mysterious "Them", the Doctor arrogantly believing he could relearn the dematerialisation codes, if only he could fix some circuitry.
I'm not a Pertwee hater, but he's my least favourite Doctor, mainly by a process of elimination. He was also the first actor I saw in the role and the one I most adored when I was young. Verdigris appeals to the child who stared in awe at The Green Death episode 6, over twenty years ago... but also the adult fan in me who's interested in examining the fundamental character of the Doctor. I'm interested and fascinated by the third Doctor for the first time in simply ages.
Consequently, Jo doesn't get much development, especially with Tom getting his share of the companion limelight (and he even gets a mention on the back cover!). She's mainly there to act stupid or occasionally morally uptight and be laughed at. That's a bit of a shame after the character showed considerable promise in various Paul Leonard novels, but it's understandable. Tom gets more attention, but isn't really that interesting. He seems to be defined solely by the fact that he's a gay companion. Yes, fine, okay, but that doesn't mean he can't have some character as well, does it? Mind you, I did like his believing that Iris didn't know and her having known all along.
I'm not sure if she's mellowing, or that my tolerance for Iris is getting better with every book, but she was rarely annoying this time around and often very sympathetic indeed. Her approaches to everything are invariably amusing and having her as a member of the sisterhood of Karn seems just right to me. Having her on screen at the time, will doubtless send fans scurrying to their VCRs as they did with James Stevens' appearance' in The Mind of Evil. However, I'm not convinced that we needed to have the entire tale about her battle with Morbius in the Death Zone told once again. Far too many authors do this sort of thing: rehashing their best bits from earlier novels and making them far more dreary when they pop up again (eg Ace barely mentions Jan in the post Love and War books, until No Future, where he turns up again, as though no time at all had passed between the two books. Then again, even Joseph Heller did this, filling Closing Time with all his best Catch 22 jokes, so I suppose Magrs is in good company).
There are lots and lots of neat touches. One of my favourites is the aliens who dress as literary characters having invented post-modernism in the seventies to try and cover their embarrassment. That made me laugh out loud and still brings a smile to my face. It's the sort of thing only Paul Magrs could get away with. Another is the series of telesnaps as Jo makes her way through surreal-UNIT HQ, complete with crackling and incoherent audio tracks. That's a stroke of brilliance, even more so when we're told that many of the video tapes were wiped in the seventies. When Magrs wants to be clever he certainly pulls out all the stops. The trouble with TSE and TBA, in large part, is that they're brilliant books that are ultimately a bit dull. TSE barely even tries to be funny and the Star Trek lame-fest is about as amusing as an Eric Saward novelisation. But inject some humour into the cleverness and suddenly an overwritten and I'm Sure It's Worthy Because People With Degrees Tell Me So, But That Doesn't Make It Any More Fun books suddenly become brilliant gems. So much of Doctor Who was always about humour anyway - and arguably it's (almost) universally when the series forgets this that it stops being good.
The UNIT stuff is amazing. The robot sheep are funny and the hippy-chick HQ is amusingly seventies, but the fate of the UNIT regulars is astonishing. It doesn't hurt one bit that we don't get even a mention of this until right at the end (not counting the very funny two dimensional Mike Yates), but it is truly amazing. I laughed, I gasped in awe and I nodded to myself thinking about just how disturbingly right this felt.
The fake Master is quite good, especially as he disguises himself as the Brigadier, just so he can go around slapping the Doctor on the back. The revelation and counter revelation works really well. Verdigris is a fun villain-who-isn't-really. He's just a child, who makes things inadvertently uncomfortable and has a pang of conscience when he realises what he's done. That's lots of fun, IMO. It allows the Doctor to moralise the villain into submission, as we always know he has to, without it looking silly. I also really like the aliens who live under a mountain in Wales.
The Tomorrow People parody works a lot better than the Star Trek one, IMO. That might be because I'm less familiar with the source material, or because I haven't seen a billion Tomorrow People parodies before. It's less a case of Magrs retreading his lamest hits than it is of him redoing it until he got it right (ala Robert Holmes turning The Power of Kroll into Caves of Androzani). Unfortunately, I think this answers one great question from The Blue Angel - that no, the lameness of the parody wasn't deliberate after all, it was just poorly done and shrouded in post-modern obfuscation. Oh well.
The Doctor's country home and the surrounding village, complete with dotty old ladies flirting with him, is quite touching. The mention of the Doctor having houses all around the country, his being forced to spend great amounts of government money, the UNIT Christmas party - complete with the Master attending (though whether villainously or not, we don't find out; mind you, I can just imagine the Master turning up for brandy and cigars) - are all great. Then there's that line about The Curse of Peladon. I don't think it's a problem in the slightest, actually. Not only is it ambiguous enough ("That hasn't happened yet" doesn't have to refer to the events of Curse, it could just as easily refer to the Doctor's telling Iris of the incident), but all those who complained about the setting of the book based on the back cover and this line are either dunderheads or haven't read the book. It's very, very clear by the end of the book when this is set and indeed that's part of the point. What's more, the back cover setting was likely altered to disguise a plot point, not for any sinister BBC conspiracy.
In summary, Verdigris is an unqualified success. It has things to say and it says them better than Magrs ever has. It's his most straightforward book, for sure, but I think that makes it far more accessible for those of us who actually want to follow along, but sometimes got lost before. It's also lots and lots of fun and will certainly appeal to a broader spectrum of people than his denser offerings. There are lovely touches all the way through, some truly hilarious and mind-bogglingly clever bits and a great look at the third Doctor. Highly recommended.
A Review by John Seavey 19/9/00
It skirts the edge of bloody infuriating, but manages to coast safely into the shores of merely bothersome but not that bad.
Well, I'll admit this much -- this is the Paul Magrs book for people who hated Paul Magrs books. Mainly because he finally has begun to latch on to the idea that Iris Wildthyme is a really, really, really, astonishingly bad idea. She was clever in The Scarlet Empress -- a female, "non-canonical" version of the Doctor who claimed that she was the one who'd had all the adventures, and who fit perfectly into the whole "subtext as text" theme of Empress that stories were infinitely mutable. Then Magrs decided to run with the character far beyond she was sustainable, and forgot one of the most important rules for writing for any ongoing series: Never create a character, and then have the story revolve around the established characters' interactions with the new character you've created. < /rant >
In any event, a lot of the subtext to Verdigris is that Iris is not anywhere near as skilled or competent as the Doctor, that she's actually kind of sad, and that her companion plans to ditch her at the next available opportunity. (Which might have been also a commentary on the Doctor, but I'm choosing to ignore that. :) ) This was something I didn't mind one bit, and the plot was decent enough (although the whole "Tomorrow People" bit went right over my head, so much so that I wouldn't have gotten it at all if not for you kind English people :) )...but there was one unforgivable bit of post-modernism. "Gee, didn't it ever strike you that all the monsters you've fought look like cheap, low-budget fakes?" sigh It's hard enough to suspend my disbelief when I'm seeing the cheap, low-budget fakes -- to suggest that they aren't crude representations of what the characters are seeing, but are in fact men in silly looking suits, really is more than I ever needed. Sure, it's explained away as a mind game by Verdigris, but I didn't really care.
A Review by Rob Matthews 25/9/00
As I've pointed out in other reviews, I'm pretty new to Who fiction (this is #3 for me). At the time of reading I had no idea that Iris Wildthyme had appeared elsewhere before, so goodness knows what else I may have missed out on in this book. Hopefully it's as self-contained as it seems, and I guess I'll just have to speak as I find.
For starters, this is exactly the way I'd like to see a 'new' Pertwee adventure done. 1973 is seen from our new millennial-type point of view, and the Doc is actually thought of as a 'past Doctor'. I enjoyed the Doctor-companion parody presented by Iris and Tom at the beginning (particularly his boredom with the 'historical adventures'!), and I think for all intents and purposes, they do take the role of Doctor and companion for a good part of the book; Tom's latter-day perspective is easier to identify with than that of any of the other character's.
The Pertwee era isn't one of my favourites, but Magrs does well in fleshing out the details of the Doctor's exile while affectionately taking the piss. I like the idea of Jon Pertwee's Doctor living in a 'More Tea Vicar'-type village and discussing military secrets in the local corner shop (and how refreshing to find him buying strawberry bon bons rather than jelly babies!). I also enjoyed that he's portrayed as restless and desperate to leave Earth. Iris notes at one point that she'd forgotten how humourless this Doc could be, and it makes sense in the context of him being constantly irritable, constantly itching to get back into the continuum. It's funny when she keeps mentioning his robot dog and such, and when she rambles on about him fulfilling a great destiny and he has no clue what she's on about. The book avoids revisionism as far as the Doctor's character is concerned, and in fact makes fun of it - that is, the Doctor here knows nothing of the past bestowed on him a few incarnations down the line.
The Doc's portrayal verges on parody but, gosh, it's funny; "Unhand me, woman!"
Jo is exactly the way I think of her - nice, sweet, a bit thick, and a rather unlikely secret agent. I can just imagine the bemused look she gets when she steps into the bus and complains that it's the same size on the inside as the out. It's also great when she's forced to concede that some of the alien species she's met have been a bit unconvincing.
Iris is highly enjoyable. A previous reviewer has complained about this book trotting out all the stuff about battles with Morbius in the Death Zone. But I don't think Magrs dwells on it, and it certainly helps fill things in for a newcomer like me. I don't know which Doctors she's appeared with in other books, but she seems tailor-made as a foil for Pertwee.
Tom's not bad. He starts off witty, anyway - "You make him sound like Milton's Satan", but then fades away somewhat. I liked at the beginning that he'd wandered onto Iris's bus by accident and ended up being kidnapped like Barbara and Ian. Then I was disappointed when it started to seem that it wasn't an accident after all, that there was some prosaic purpose to it. But then it turned out to be a neat little paradox. His love interest thing with Kevin seems a bit pointless, since it goes nowhere after he and Iris fade into the background. And it irks me that gay characters always have to be into Dusty Springfield and Abba. The character is written rather sketchily anyway, so throwing predictable stuff like that in doesn't help.
The Master is appalling. Lucky it turns out not to be him.
The story - well, come on, it's just an excuse for lots of silliness, and a couple of sharp - though strangely isolated - cracks about postmodernism, deconstruction etc. Strangely, Tom's English degree is mentioned at the beginning, yet he's not there to join in the discussion when all this stuff comes up. Ah, well. The killer robot sheep, talking handbags, and Welsh-accented planetary officials were enough for me. If only season 24 had managed intelligent frivolity this well. Verdigris is a delicious little cupcake of a book.
Big Green Man Compared to several Little Ones by Matt Haasch 29/10/00
Is there a review of a Dr. Who book I've written that tarnishes a book? If there is, it's not gonna be this one. I am critical, it's just that I love these books. Especially this one, which took me about a week to read.
First off to bat is Magrs. I read his bit Old Flames a while ago. It wasn't fantastic, but it was likable. Iris, I must say right now, is a fantabulous character. She's got potential + 10. I picture her in this incarnation to look like Molly Sugden. Oh that wicked Mrs. Slocum! Anyway if you read the book, know she's in Old Flames, and seen Brain of Morbius, I think the flame concept between the three separate stories is funny. Anyway, I enjoyed Iris so much, I want to have her children (perhaps in her Blue Angel incarnation). Tom is OK, not sub standard, in fact it's about time we have more sidekicks that stand up and say "Wait a tick, this ain't right!" I could comment on his sexuality, but I find it somewhat trivial, and since Dr. Who started out as a kid's program, I'd hate to see it escalate into naughty hijinx. Thank the Maker Magrs didn't pull the "Adult Novel thang."
The Doctor is on top form, once again. The Third Doctor is possibly one of the greatest literary figures of all time. An overstatement? I dunno really, I rather do like him, unlike my pal Paul Cornell, supposedly. Must ask him why. He's dashing, charismatic, heroic, even flawed and I think he is a bit too hard on Iris. Even though their bickering is great fun to read. Jo is Jo, not much else though. I suppose it fits like a glove with the series in that respect. The Unit team's cameo is great, and BOY are there references to other episodes, so no need for the bit "This story takes place between:" on the back cover. Well, maybe. I sort of got confuseled (yes confuseled).
It's a breeze to read, and the characters are good for the most part. Past literary characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Miss Haversham are a nice touch, but the group of psychic kids running around, being all 'ambassadorial' to other planets would be a nice club. Unfortunately it's chalk full of half-wit, naive boy and girl scouts that are rather condescending.
The whole thing is fantastic, and you see how the Doc's stay on Earth has changed him into a semi-homo-sapien. Gives the guy some empathy between him and the reader. I find it to be one of the best Who books I've read. Now I'll need to get the Scarlet Empress! Muwhahahaha!!!!
A trashing (oh all right then, a review) by Mike Morris 12/11/00
My pattern for buying Doctor Who books is sometimes a bit odd. I bought Verdigris because I didn't have any change for the bus. No, honestly, all I had was a twenty pound note, and I'd eaten all the chocolate I could possibly eat that day, and it was getting dark and it was raining. So I thought to myself that maybe I should buy a book, not a Doctor Who book but, you know, a proper one, but they didn't have the one I wanted; so, creature of habit that I am, I returned to the Doctor Who shelf and decided it was PDA time. I dallied over Prime Time, was very nearly seduced by the cover of Festival of Death in all its monochromatic glory, and thought long and hard about some new Fifth Doctor book by Keith Topping. But then I saw Verdigris, with its gorgeous cover and that magnificent blurb on the back cover, and I remembered all the nice things that had been said about it on these pages. And I remembered how much I'd liked The Scarlet Empress and The Blue Angel. And so, that was my final answer. No fifty-fifty, no phone a friend, and if I'd asked the audience they'd have thought I was a nerd. So I bought it and I was happy.
Why, you might ask, have I bothered to recount that? The answer is to give some balance to my review. Because that is the very last nice thing I'm going to say about Verdigris. It has rocketed up there into the esteemed position of the most unlikeable Who book I've ever read, although that said if I hear a book's not much cop I tend to avoid it. So maybe there are worse books out there. I haven't read The Pit.
By page twenty I was thinking this was all vaguely silly. By page fifty I was bored and annoyed at the same time. By page seventy I would have given up, in fact I seriously considered it, but two things kept me going; it was by Paul Magrs, and if it was this bad the whole way through I had to trash it on these pages, and to do that I had to read it. Every last self-indulgent, self-satisfied, smarmy smart-arsed word. The Magrs book for Magrs-haters? The Magrs book for Pertwee-haters, maybe. And no, I don't have an English degree, and yes, I do eat potatoes on a regular basis.
A brief run-through of the characters.
There's a horribly bland, dotty girl called Jo who nobody likes. She's annoying, as dull as a ditchwater, and does absolutely nothing useful. She's like the kind of pretty girl you spot at a party, but then you talk to her and after five minutes you run off screaming. She's awful. Nobody in the book likes her, but they don't say so because she's so nice.
There's some sullen, smart-arsed teenager who swans around in an antique silk dressing gown being miserable. He's been taken on a wonderful adventure through time and space, and the ungrateful little shit doesn't even care. He does have an English degree, though, so I suppose he's allowed to be like that because he's so much cleverer than everyone else. Nobody in the book dislikes him, mainly because it would be a waste of time and effort.
There's some old bat who's self-interested, clingy, self-righteous, annoying, meddling, the kind of horrible woman who gatecrashes parties (the same ones you might see Jo at) because she thinks people simply forgot to invite her. She then tries to "lively things up" and annoys everybody present. Even Jo. Nobody in the book likes her.
Then there's a pompous, opinionated, arrogant twat who also thinks he's a cut above everyone else, the kind of bloke who bemoans the fact that the Empire's fallen and the youth of today have long hair. He says things like "madam". He's egocentric, authoritarian and he would get invited to the party, but only because he's somebody's relative. Maybe Jo's. Most people in the book dislike him, but some don't because he seems to have a lot of money. And he has the gall to call himself the Doctor.
A brief run-through of the plot.
No. What's the point? Plot's never been important in Paul Magrs books anyway, just an excuse for a whole ream of wonderful ideas. On this occasion, though, it's an excuse for a collection of sneers. Everything you could possibly imagine is sneered at. The Pertwee era. Iris. The seventies. Kids. Post-modernism (and I'll come to that later).
It opens... all right. The style's pleasantly Target-esque, even if POV leaps all over the place. And then there's stuff about somebody being a chosen one, and voices in Tom's head, and I thought; great! It's Midnight's Children! Magrs is going to do Midnight's Children, he'll be so good at that!
Sadly, Magrs is doing The Tomorrow People. Apparently. I only know because I've read the reviews on this site, and a very dim once-off memory. I didn't watch The Tomorrow People, you see, because it was crap. I'm not convinced by words like "kitsch"; if something's crap I tend not to watch it. I certainly don't want to read satires on something so woeful it's a satire of itself from the word go. The Star Trek parody was poor, but I let it go because so many misguided fools like Star Trek, so it's not the worst idea in the world to tell us all how crap it is. Now we're being told how bad the The Tomorrow People was, and my response is; who the hell cares?
Magrs also does the Federation. Again. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
We get told that Doctor Who had a bad budget, and all the aliens looked like men in rubber suits, and there was a lot of crap CSO. Because of that it was clearly no good at all. Sneer sneer. I suppose this is original... oh no, wait a minute, it isn't, Steve Lyons did it in Head Games (a book that was, up until today, my holder of the "Most Spiteful Work of Doctor Who Fiction" award). Still, if an idea's not worth having, it's worth writing two books about, so Paul Magrs tells (again) us that a lot of Doctor Who was tacky and bad. Jesus, nothing gets past Paul, does it? He must be a detective as well as an English Lit. lecturer.
It's the recurring theme of the entire book. Telling us bad stuff we already knew, and then laughing at it; how clever. How witty.
Jo is dotty, a bit like she was on telly sometimes. The Doctor is pompous and opinionated, a bit like he was on telly sometimes. Look, I'm not the biggest fan of the Pertwee era, or Pertwee's Doctor. But at times he was great, and I like to remember those bits as well. I like to think of him in Inferno, screaming "That's the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!", I like to think of "A tear, Sarah Jane?"... I don't want to be reminded of that git who said things like "That bounder, Hitler". Okay, so I get the strong impression that Paul Magrs doesn't like the Pertwee era much. Fine, nor do I. But if you don't like something, you shouldn't write a bloody book all about it, giving us every bad thing rehashed and mocked. It's a cynical and mean-spirited thing to do.
The ideas in this book revolve around St Pancras station (who's read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, then?) and electric sheep (Philip K. Dick, via Wallace and Gromit would be my guess). Wow. I have to remind myself that this is one of the best plunderers of the magic realism we've got, the kind of writer who's previously borrowed from Italo Calvino and Salman Rushdie and the like. Now he's borrowing from Nick Park and Douglas Adams. Which could be fine, if it was well handled. I mean, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul is one of my favourite books. But the tone of the whole thing is wrong, and the ideas just seem crappy and... pointless. As someone on this site so rightly said, magic realism only really works when it takes itself seriously. Otherwise it's just an author creating silly things that he can laugh at because they're silly, and then this is supposed to be clever?!
Iris. Iris... I never really disliked her as much as everyone else did. I thought she was absolutely fantastic in The Blue Angel, and in both previous books she had some sort of mystique, an enigmatic quality. When she started claiming the Doctor's adventures as her own in The Scarlet Empress, I half-believed her. But the author's bottled it. He's clearly heard too many people moaning about how they hate Iris, so he's clearly decided to hate her too. A lot of this book is an exercise at laughing at Iris, the Daft Irritating Old Bat. This is so blatant that the book could be called I Never Liked Her Either, Honest, by Paul Magrs. And it's been done by the guy who created her! What's this supposed to prove?
In an odd bit of sadism, we kill off two kids and their mother. This is presumably because they were playing slot-machines, and were hence just a few ordinary clods (without English degrees) who can be killed off because they're too stupid to survive. Or maybe they were too dull to laugh at, and hence not worthy of inclusion.
Oddly, we don't laugh at Tom. Ever. I actually think we're supposed to like Tom. Which is even more horrible. Because I've met a thousand Toms, and will probably meet a thousand more, and as far as I'm concerned every moping, smug, look-at-me-I'm-so-overcome-by-angst-and-everyone's-too-thick-to-understand one of them needs a good solid boot in the groin.
But we do have a good solid laugh at the seventies. The time when everybody believed in the revolution and Abba hadn't happened yet. Sounds like heaven to me. People who aren't smug know-it-alls and no awful Swedish europop given some sort of credence by people who should know better. Oh, but weren't their clothes silly? Oh well then, it must have been bad.
We have a good solid laugh at UNIT, and Mike Yates is "exposed" as two-dimensional. More stuff we didn't know (sure we didn't) and Paul Magrs has been good enough to point out to us. Mike Yates? A two-dimensional character? You don't say!
There's even a dig at London's new architecture. Okay, fine. The Millennium Dome is a hunk of shite, I'm not going to dispute that. But the statement that the London Eye is "self-consciously sci-fi"... making a big bicycle wheel is about as quirkily English as you can get. I love the London Eye, for reasons that have nothing to do with science fiction. It's elegant and beautiful. Okay, this is one sentence out of an entire book, but... we've laughed at the supposed tackiness of the seventies, now we're laughing at the supposed tackiness of the present day as well? Does Paul Magrs like anything at all?
And then - and this is the really staggering bit of chutzpah, the most outrageous words I've ever seen committed to print - we criticise post-modernism. We slag off the internet as all style and no substance. This in a book which has no substance at all, which is hollow and mean and might be described as "all style and no substance" if it had any dribble of style whatsoever. This in a book which is full of nods and winks and (mostly) V-signs to the Pertwee era, which gives us a cannon-fodder poacher called "Ted" in a bout of supposed cleverness (real term: self-indulgent self-referential arrogant bullshit), a book which neatly sums up everything that's bad about post-modernism, whatever "post-modernism" may be. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. I was sitting there, mouth open, absolutely flabbergasted at the sheer big-headed ignorant rubbish that I was reading. This is the kind of thinking that gives us an all-powerful deux ex machina alien (the Verdigris of the title), and then defends itself by saying "well that's the whole point, you idiot, and if you don't get it you're just thick"...
To summarise. This book is horrible. It's all the more horrible because it's written by an author who I've raved about, who I thought of as a leading light for a new direction in Doctor Who fiction. I'm dismayed and disappointed and I never want to see the bloody thing again. It's a stupid dull pseudo-intellectual's book, written by the kind of bloke who wears black polo-necks and drinks posh foreign beers to look cool. The most positive thing I can say is that I'm glad I got to the end without my mind melting. And I'm sorry if this review seems like a big long preachy whinge, but I'm too bloody angry to care.
In today's gossamer world, when our butterfly lives slip by all too quickly in a haze of wasted opportunity and sad regrets of "What if? What if I..?", I'd advise no-one so far unscathed to use up valuable moments of their short time on Earth reading Verdigris. You could be doing far nicer, healthier and wonderful things to your brain. Like drinking twenty pints of Guinness or getting a full frontal lobotomy. Trying out that home-made guillotine you've been working on. Anything. Just avoid this moronic rubbish and the world will be a better place.
We Really Want To See Those Fingers by Robert Thomas 31/3/01
Welcome to shooting stars
Welcome whoever you are
Its time to be seated and successfully greeted
So come along and lets play Shooting Stars
After and during the reading of this book you might wonder to yourself, does Paul Magrs like or hate the Pertwee era? There are enough clues during the course of the book that it's all for fun and not detrimental. Most blatant is the Reeves and Mortimor style of humor, just when the story is giving me the impression of one of their sketches the handbag of Ishra turns up to have an important part in the plot. In fact some of The Doctor and Iris scenes could have been read The Doctor by Bob and Iris by Vic.
This is a fantastic piece of work and I can recommend it to those who like and hate the Pertwee era. Magrs pokes everything you associate with the era with a stick to see what happens and the results are mostly good and often funny. Iris is as funny as ever and her interaction with the most straight laced Doctor is hysterical. The UNIT scene is fantastic and Magrs shows a mean streak in his treatment of Mike Yates.
It's all a matter of nostalgia by Joe Ford 26/7/02
There are two things you should know before entering the bizzarre world of Paul Margs, in his books: 1) anything can happen and 2) he may take the piss out of the series a bit. It is clear from his scarily accurate rendition of the Pertwee era that he does have a strong affection for the show but if you don't know these two things you may wind up perplexed, annoyed and pissed off. Who is this guy taking the mickey out the budget restraints? How dare he point out how dippy Jo Grant is! And to have a fold out Mike Yates in Jo's handbag! What the hell? You see what I mean, his work is utter madness but he does clever things with it.
I don't think he ever was trying to say the Pertwee era was crap because most of the things he pointed out (that UNIT was a bit of a daft idea, that Pertwee was a little fey with his politeness) make me yearn to see his era again. I get that same pang of nostalgia I got when watching say Remembrance of the Daleks. Yeah the Pertwee era could be tacky and look cheap but who gives a shit... it was fun and full of juice... just like this book!
It was the Doctor who was captured perfectly and his jealousy of Iris to get back into space was wonderfully revealed. His reaction to being in the vortex again made for a very rewarding scene. As ever it was his relationship with Iris that topped the book and there constant bitching at each other was ideal Pertwee material ("You madam are a oafish and clodhoppin harridan!" is something you can just hear Pertwee exclaiming!). He clearly likes Iris but perhaps now more than ever he is driven mad by her time travelling escapades. The fact that he is still civil and polite to her is a testimont to Pertwee's portrayl.
Iris was great fun as usual and her story about 'mad staring eyes' Ohica from The Brain of Morbius made me laugh myself silly (thank god somebody noticed her scary eyes... I thought it was just me!). Her affection for the Doctor was sweet and touching and all her attempts to get phsically close to him were brilliant ("Unhand me madam!"). Her journals were a fun addition and let's just say give a 'unique' perspective on situations.
But what our two trusty companions, Jo and Tom. The chapter concerning the fake UNIT was Margs at his imaginative best and highlighted Jo at her scatterbrained best (and most endearing!). But it was Jo who I thought was the least successful transition to page... she did very little but get tied up and scream (on the other hand maybe that is accurate!). I just seem to recall her doing a whole lot more in the Pertwee tales. Still it provided the wonderful moment where we discover the Master isn't involved and her not understanding how that couldn't be as he was always involved with alien invasions!
Tom on the other hand did very little for me. I'm all for gay characters in Who but not when it's as clumsy as this. Tom who we discover has no other character apart from the fact that he's gay. Yawn. He just trips over backwards to try and bed some spangly Tommorow Person. Yawn. Oh sorry is he gay? Right, that's hip and interesting then. Not. Sorry but guys like that are just as dull in real life. Trust me, I've dated half of them. Compare to the far more interesting Alan Turing in The Turing Test and that shows you how it should be done.
But I don't want to moan because I did really enjoy this novel. All right so there were moments when I thought (especially during the first half with it's increasingly ludicrous events) Margs would never be able to tie all these threads together but I merely let the madness wash over me. The final solution to the problems was actually worth waiting for and quite rewarding.
A 'despicable' book is one person's review for this novel and 'a delicious cupcake of a novel' is another. It is interesting to see how a short, unusual little novel can provoke such different reactions but I'm inclined to side with the latter. Verdigris is a whole lot of fun and there can't be anything wrong with that!
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 1/10/02
The good news about Verdigris is that it has the honor of being one of the only Doctor Who books that I found time to finish reading in one sitting. The bad news is that the only reason I managed to complete the story so quickly was because I was on an airplane and had run out of other things to read. Not that it was a horrible book -- I found it to be a bit mixed, all things considered. The Doctor that Paul Magrs writes for is perfectly Pertwee, in every way. The UNIT regulars appear briefly, but are again deadly accurate to how they appeared on television. Jo Grant's portrayal is relatively shallow, but considering the basis that Magrs had to work with, that probably means he was again completely in keeping with what came before. I had enjoyed every other of Paul Magrs' Doctor Who books (Scarlet Empress was a personal favorite, but Mad Dogs And Englishmen and The Blue Angel both have much to recommend), but this was his book that I appreciated the least.
Verdigris is a book that lives or dies based on how well the satire works for the individual reader. The plot is paper-thin, and many of the secondary characters can be described similarly, being rather shallow and stereotypical. The storyline is unpredictable purely because it flies along in a confidently irrational manner. The main villain is not something to be terribly frightened of, and the Doctor's allies are almost entirely incomprehensible. Of course, these features are all part of the point of the big satirical joke running through the narrative (the joke being that Doctor Who was often camp, silly, and cheap). Doctor Who has always had some aspects to it that simply weren't up to par, and many of them have been poked fun at by fans for decades. But having many of them in a single book meant that I found myself being forced to encounter loads of things that I hadn't particularly enjoyed in the first place and I was now having to read about them again. This did little to endear the book to me.
Doctor Who has always been a series with the ability to poke fun at itself. But humor is a very strange thing; what is funny to one person isn't necessarily funny to another. Even a single joke can float or sink depending on that individual's mood. What I've described above about the book doesn't really sound necessarily awful. The problem for me with Verdigris was not that the idea of a paper-thin plot revolving around fun jokes is necessarily a bad one, nor was it that Doctor Who should always take itself seriously. What I didn't really like was that the execution here left a lot to be desired in numerous places (i.e., many of the jokes fell flat). Had there been something else to entertain me, I probably would have had a more positive opinion of the whole. Unfortunately, with virtually the whole of the book (plot, characters, motivations, etc) tied up in the central joke, there simply wasn't anything else left to interest me. I finished the book feeling faintly underwhelmed.
I did laugh out loud a few times while reading Verdigris; when Magrs' humor is firing straight, he strikes with a resounding bulls-eye. The biggest problem for me was simply that the individual jokes started wearing a bit thin by the end. Sure, there is a lot to take the mickey out of in the Pertwee era, and the jokes that worked for me were hilarious. But unfortunately not all of it was as amusing as the author probably intended. I was entertained by some jokes, but they just weren't enough to justify the rest. The concept of, say, the villain being silly just because there were other silly villains in Doctor Who may be vaguely amusing, but actually having to read pages and pages of the dull villain didn't add up to a pleasant experience. If the book had been significantly shorter, I think the humor would have held up better. Not only would the plot have not felt nearly so vapid, but the comedy wouldn't have had the chance to grow cold. There's a lot to recommend about Verdigris, but unfortunately, there's just a little bit more that I found to counter those positive attributes. Approach with caution.
A Review by Brett Walther 8/11/03
Ooh... I was supposed to HATE this one!
Before I'd even read any of his books, I had made up my mind that Paul Magrs was a threat to Doctor Who. I disliked the notion of Iris Wildthyme, who I felt ran the risk of upstaging the Doctor in his own range of books. Reviews of The Scarlet Empress made it sound as though Magrs regarded the Doctor as a supporting character to his own creation, and the whole Doctor Who universe as a backdrop worthy of ridicule; something for Iris to chew her way through in each book.
I hate being wrong.
Iris is... Fantastic. How can you not love a woman who mistakes an alien god as a gold lame handbag? I must also confess that another reason I loved Iris is because throughout the book, all I could hear was Jennifer Saunders spouting Iris' dialogue. Although I haven't heard Katy Manning's Big Finish performance, it's hard for me to imagine anyone but the AbFab diva behind the wheel of Iris' bus. I mean, the similarities between Edina Monsoon and Iris are incredible -- both have a bizarre dress sense, are social pariahs and drunks, etc. It's a natural fit.
Although, as I mentioned above, I had concerns that Iris was being touted as a surrogate Doctor, it turns out this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I have always wanted the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, and this is probably as close as Doctor Who's ever going to come to that. I was hoping that Iris would be travelling around time and space with a dimwitted, blond, male bimbo (mimbo?) of a companion, but we got Tom instead, who's just boring. Well, maybe boring isn't the right word. "Full of untapped potential", then.
It's cute that for once, someone turns out to be disguised as the Master, as opposed to the other way around. The unmasking of the Master comes as quite a relief, as I cringed at the earlier bit in which he plants a kiss on Jo. Gah. I mean, if this had really been the Master, it would have had to have been the Jonathan Pryce version from The Curse of Fatal Death.
There are so many fun bits in this book that it ultimately doesn't matter that Verdigris, the titular villain, has concocted a scheme that is so ridiculously complicated it stretches the bounds of credulity.
There's a great sequence, for instance, in which Iris and Tom prowl about the Doctor's house and find portraits of the Doctor hanging everywhere. This is incredibly evocative of Pertwee's Doctor, and is absolutely hilarious. You know from that moment that Iris and the Third Doctor are going to be a riot, and the chemistry between the characters is undeniable. Iris is a complete menace, which is exactly what the Third Doctor needed to knock him off his high horse. When I say that, it's not out of contempt for Pertwee in the slightest. It's just way too much fun to throw these two larger-than-life characters together and watch the sparks fly.
Having said that, parts of this book inevitably rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't care for the joke about Jo being persuaded that her adventures with the Doctor must have been faked because there were "blue fringes" around all of the monsters they encountered... At least when Steve Lyons used the CSO reference in Head Games it was appropriate (Land of Fiction, and all). Here it just seems like an attack on the Pertwee era production team, and threatens to sabotage enjoyment of the stories from this era.
Things go dangerously overboard with Mike Yates' unnecessary (apart from making a very obvious statement about the lack of character development afforded to Yates in the series) transformation into a cardboard cut-out. I mean, Iris alone is enough to make the book over-the-top without these silly postmodern flourishes.
Magrs redeems himself later on by remarking that postmodern thinking was actually introduced on Earth by the alien Meercocks to justify the ridiculousness of their scheme to invade the Earth in the guise of various fictional characters.
Even though I enjoyed this book immensely, I didn't realize the impact it had on me until the morning after I'd finished it. When I was a kid, I (like every other fan) wished that on my way to school I'd bump into a battered blue police box. Today, however, I caught myself wishing that instead of a grimy old Toronto Transit bus at the stop, I'd find a bright red, double-decker, Number 22 with the Abba tunes cranked, and a purple-haired driver at the helm.
It's fun to be a Doctor Who fan.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 11/5/04
Well, it's in my bottom 40 list. But it was also something I haven't read since I picked it up 3-4 years ago. Since I do consider meself a fan of Mr. Magrs's work, it was time to pick up my copy and see if old opinions still held.
I'll digress for a moment. Verdigris falls under a category of tales that I call the smug self-loathing tales - stories that feature veiled attacks on all thing Who for reasons I can't fathom. Other examples of this are Head Games, Conundrum, and others. And I know there are lots of fans who enjoy these types of tales, but they always got on my tits.
Why, you ask?
Because they seem to be dragged out by the author in order to justify why they're writing a Who tale. And frankly, if your justification is to make fun of it, then you need to fuck off and write about something else.
Now, Paul Magrs has gone this route in certain sections of Scarlet Empress and The Blue Angel, but he always managed to balance it out by showing what he loved about the series and what makes Who so damn special.
But he seems to forget that in Verdigris. In fact, he seems to hate everything. Name an idea and concept, it gets trashed in Verdigris. The 70s. The Tomorrow People. The Pertwee Era. The Internet. Post Modernism. And as these potshots come rolling along, I just kept wondering "Why, Paul, Why?"
And it's a shame, because there are some fun moments. The supermarket scene had me laughing out loud in public. The Telesnap scene showed some imagination. And the writing is, per usual, wonderful.
But, the characters are all, to a one, annoying twats! I hated the lot of them, even Iris, who I usually think is a hoot. And methinks Magrs wants you to hate them too, which boggles the mind.
So, I hated Verdigris not because of the story, but because of the undercurrents, which, to me are just wrong. And it's a shame, because I know Magrs is capable of much better, without much effort.
A Review by Steve White 14/5/16
Verdigris was the PDA I was most looking forward to reading when I first got it, as it featured a cool cover and featured the 3rd Doctor, my all-time favourite. Since then, however, I have read the average The Scarlet Empress and the mind numbingly awful The Blue Angel, both also by Paul Magrs, which have seriously made me want to not bother with this book. Still, it's a short one and it has big writing. Much to my surprise, I found myself enjoying Verdigris tremendously. Magrs' usual metafiction is present, and bits are very tongue in cheek, but the result isn't as bad as The Scarlet Empress or The Blue Angel, as it happens in an era I am comfortable with. What I really liked about Verdigris was the fun poked at the era with Yates being reduced to an actual cardboard character a work of genius. I won't ruin the book any more, but there are plenty of little jibes and in references to the 70's era which make it well worth a read alone.
Plotwise, Verdigris is a bit wobbly. UNIT have gone missing and a train carriage full of literary characters have turned up, along with Iris Wildthyme and her companion Tom. Tom is approached by a cult to help dispose of the Doctor. Things get really confusing when robot sheep appear along with the Master. The thing is, as much as the story is random, it all makes senses in a linear way which is a huge improvement on The Blue Angel.
Despite my dislike of most of Magrs' ideas, he has had one excellent creation, the wonderful Iris Wildthyme. I prefer the model we get here, the old lady, but her super-sexy Barberella model is also a joy to read. The relatively unknown relationship between her and the Doctor is great, and the bickering is superb; not to mention her constantly trying to bed him. The Doctor himself is spot on as the grumpy but kindly 3rd Doctor, full of pomp and ceremony. Jo and Tom are done well too, although the 70s vs 00s difference isn't touched on nearly enough as it could have been. Tom is an interesting character, but sadly the plotline about his Mum is left wide open, as is his possible romance with Kevin.
The other characters are all fairly minimal, with the various Destiny's Children being the most built up, although not very exciting. No real complaints though, as the four-strong TARDIS crew own the show. Verdigris himself is a bit of a let-down as well, and, although it's all tied up reasonably well at the end, I feel he was underused as a threat.
Robert Smith? said in his review that he didn't agree that Verdigris is "the Magrs book for people who don't like Paul Magrs", but I think that it is the case. For me, The Scarlet Empress was too fantasy and The Blue Angel too random, but Verdigris manages to please this Magrs hater. It's not a serious book, it's light-hearted, fun and a joy to read.