BBC Books

Author Terrence Dicks Cover image
ISBN# 0 563 538?? ?
Published 2002
Featuring The Fifth Doctor and Peri

Synopsis: How does Peri come to be the leader of a gang of rebel fighters on an outlying planet? Who is the mysterious 'General' that they are rebelling against so violently? Where does the so-called 'Supremo', leader of the Alliance forces ranged against the General, come from, and why is he so interested in Peri? The answers lie in the origins of a conflict that will affect the whole cosmos - a conflict that will find Humans, Sontarans, Draconians and even Cybermen fighting together for the greater good and glory. For the Supremo.


A Review by Finn Clark 2/7/02

"Some fans like any old rubbish so long as it's got lots of continuity. Never let it be said that BBC Books neglects any of its loyal readers! We'd better commission some."

"What about this?"

"No, can't use that. It's not rubbish."

For first time in ages, I had four exciting-looking books waiting for me. Admittedly Trading Futures was a nasty shock, but I have a lot of time for Terrance Dicks. In fact I chose to read Warmonger before Amorality Tale and The Book of the Still despite the fact that I expected those to be better books. If I wanted literature I'd have started Jude the Obscure. A Terrance Dicks novel bounces along merrily, plugging into that section of your brain that was once occupied by Enid Blyton and the Target novelisations. I wanted adventure, short sentences and well-worn adjectives. I had high hopes for Warmonger.

The story might be Terrance's most ambitious to date. He's actually exploring the Doctor's character, putting him through big changes and making him do stuff that normally falls to the villains. It's an epic, galaxy-spanning book. By Terrance's standards it's nearly original (i.e. it feeds off a TV story he hasn't recycled before, rather than being yet another retread of The War Games or State of Decay). I'm officially impressed.

It's just a shame that the book itself is rubbish.

Warmonger is a continuity-laden epic (in itself not such a bad idea, since continuity is appropriate for the big star-spanning spectaculars) which screws up continuity. It's one thing to insert Peri/Davison adventures before Caves of Androzani, but it's quite another to turn Peri into a veteran guerilla. What with this and Players, Uncle Terry seems on a one-man mission to contradict Season 22. In this book Peri meets both Sontarans and Cybermen. Yes, that's right.

Live by the sword, die by the sword - that's what I say. And even if Warmonger wasn't continuity-obsessed, a goof is just as distracting as a gratuitous reference (and wrong, to boot).

Gallifrey's definitely in our future here, and it's not even the right Gallifrey. Where's it positioned relative to the Doctor's timeline? You'll go cross-eyed trying to decide. But at least the continuity geeks have another Time Lord President for the files (Saran).

The Doctor is unDoctorish even when he's not supposed to be. He casually talks about killing people, which is stupid to boot since some of them are people he can't afford to bump off. Though having said that, it feels oddly appropriate for Davison to bleat, "I can't interfere for the sake of the timelines," given that this is in the same season as Frontios. (To me, it always felt like high-handed bollocks from most of the other Doctors.) It would be nice to able to believe that this was a deliberate touch.

I also dislike Terrance's idea of a filthy rich Doctor, though it's a common theme in his books. The Doctor isn't Bruce Wayne, he's a dodgy geezer on the run in a stolen motor!

Elsewhere the characterisation is paper-thin, which does the returning characters no favours. I think this is where I mention my single least favourite aspect of the book: the sex. There's rape, rape, rape and more rape. What the fuck? In Transit or Henrietta Street, it could have worked. Maybe. Here it's just distasteful. Peri's honour is repeatedly threatened and there are never-ending references to her physical charms. It's too much, like something written by a sniggering schoolboy. Oi, Terry! NO!!!

And then, after pages and pages that leave you feeling dirty... page 212. Dear God, why?

Random observations:

p10 - Terry quotes Churchill. Again!

p25 - "'Wait!' shouted Peri. There was so much authority in her voice that the two guards actually waited." Oh dear, oh dear.

p112 - he's doing a Lance! Fuck off!

p176 - given the Doctor's track record, I think that statement needs more justification. Well, any would be a start.

p186 - NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

p230 - you're fighting a space war, but suddenly you land all your forces in one small geographical location on a single planet. Mmmmm, there's no chance whatsoever that your enemy would just nuke the site from orbit?

Good things: there's some Draconian and Ogron comedy. I liked the war's aftermath. Also the future history actually fits pretty well with Lance's suggestion in A History of the Universe for dating the TV story being used as a source (if you go with my pet theory that Tomb of the Cybermen is set in the 31st century). Okay, I'm reaching.

Warmonger has a great premise, but it's horrendously mishandled. You've got huge, dramatic events taking place in an Enid Blyton atmosphere of jolly hockey sticks. You've got all the sex stuff. You've got deadly enemies snuggling down with nary a hint of friction (if I was a human fighting alongside Cybermen, I know what I'd be thinking).

This book isn't just the usual dumb, shallow Terrance runaround, it's actively bad. It's not down there with The Eight Doctors, but it shoots itself in the foot so often that it's sometimes a close call. A shame, especially since it's full of strong ideas and images that will stay with you long after you've forgotten the likes of Catastrophea or Players.

Four out of Five by Jamas Enright 26/11/02

See now, this is how you do a blurb. Nothing is given away, but the story elements are hinted at in a way that makes you want to find out what's going on by reading the book. Good on whoever wrote that!

As for the story... is 'an easy read' a good or bad commendation? On the one hand it has positive connotations in that the story is easy, is good. On the other hand, it intimates that the story isn't incredibly deep. Well, considering this is Terrance Dicks writing a past-Doctor novel approaching Target style in its surface details (the chapter titles alone tells you everything you need), Warmonger deserves the appellation of 'easy read' with whatever meaning you want to give it.

Which isn't to say that this book isn't deep. This book is about war, and Terrance Dicks has his characters moralise all over the place as to whether they have to become a monster to defeat one. On the flip side, the page count cracks along as the events sweep you along and you'll just sit back and be encompassed by the sheer joy of writing that shows in Terrance Dicks' prose.

Most of the story is told via flashback, which does have the effect of removing some of the tension in that we know where the characters end up and so some of the story is marking time until we get to the point we know that they must do. Also, this story is a prequel (to what, I won't say, but it isn't hard to work out), so we also already know the ultimate outcome. Still, there are some nice moments as we see the Doctor scramble around making sure everything does happen as it will suppose to have (ah, the torturous language of time travel).

Speaking of the Doctor, this has to be the most out-of-character presentation of the Doctor I have ever seen. Sure, the fifth Doctor can get rather tetchy, but here he shows a side of himself no-one would have expected, and one I wouldn't have thought he'd be capable of. And by the end of the story he suddenly just reverts back without impact! Here is where the people who say that the past-Doctor novels are limited in how far the characterisation can be taken might have a point.

Him and Peri. Peri becomes a guerilla leader. Right, that'll happen, sure... But we know that there is no sign of later in later stories, so her character is forced to become by the end, for lack of a better term, a whiney fall-down companion. Peri is also side-lined for most of the story, and her contribution to events is largely summarised. Here the flashback nature of the story is made extremely evident and takes away a lot from Peri (although everything character-development-wise gets taken away anyway).

Of the other characters, the General wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and I'm starting to wonder how he got the reputation we know he ends up with. High Commander Aril and Battle-Major Streg are a fun duo, and the Ogrons tend to steal the scene.

Warmonger is Terrance Dicks on lite-writing, but fun-writing. Aside from the majorly off-centre characterisation, Warmonger is an easy read and (not but) a good read.

A Review by John Seavey 21/2/03

This book almost defies description. It's awful -- cheerfully, gleefully awful. The characterization of the Doctor and Peri is so different from any other version ever seen of either of them in print or on screen that I began to suspect Terry had gotten his notes mixed up and thought he was writing for Blake's 7. The plot, while epic, is "epic" in the sort of Boy's Own Adventures way that's probably only fun if you're ten years old. The continuity is a walking, talking nightmare, the sort of thing that will give serious fans aneurysms and could well be the final stake in the coffin of canon.

And yet...

I loved it. I loved every single page of this book, whooping and hollering in places as another continuity treasure got plundered for the sake of a single book, laughing insanely as time twisted around and characters got run through the mangler, and generally enjoying the hell out of myself. Like Blood Harvest, another Uncle Terry sequel to one of his famous TV stories, Warmonger carries off its prose style with such verve and sheer enthusiasm for the act of writing that I couldn't help but be carried along with it. This isn't fanwank, because in fanwank, the story exists to fill holes in continuity. Here, the holes in continuity exist because of the story.

So, where to begin? With "The Supremo", the Doctor's alias for most of the book? Aside from being the sort of name that provokes hoots of derisive laughter, and sounds like someone the Karkus might have fought in the Daily Telepress to boot, it's actually a clever idea. The Doctor is crossing his own timestream and, in his own personal past, leading the fight against the Time Lord Morbius who he will someday encounter as a disembodied brain. He certainly can't call himself the Doctor.

There. I've given it away.

Warmonger is a sprequel (part sequel, part prequel, only possible in a universe with time travel) to The Brain of Morbius. In fact, that's my only real problem with the novel (he says, awaiting the hoots of derisive laughter.) Dicks should have realized that any serious fan has figured out who "General Rombusi" is within two pages (and I mean that literally -- this is one of the rare stories whose main plot twist is given away in its dedication), and skipped the whole mystery thing to just go gung-ho with it. As it is, we're stuck watching the mysterious General, a charismatic renegade Time Lord, discuss private matters with Solon on Karn while the Doctor wonders, "Who can he be?" He's the Rani, Doctor. In a very cunning disguise.

Still, he does go pretty gung-ho. Peri becomes a guerilla leader, the Doctor leads an alliance of Ice Warriors, Sontarans, and Cybermen against Morbius' troops, Peri gets drunk and makes a pass at the Doctor only to be turned down when the Doctor describes the intended tryst as "incestual", Solon makes his first appearance, we get a vampire adjutant to Morbius thrown in for no apparent reason, and to top it all off, we get the first chronological appearances of Borusa and the Sisterhood of Karn to boot. This is a book that does not slow down for its readers. (And I didn't even mention that the Doctor threatens to kill Solon even before he becomes "The Supremo".)

The whole thing is a walking, talking, continuity nightmare on top of that. The Doctor travels from Karn to Gallifrey in a space-ship (contradicting every story that talks about Gallifrey as existing in the ancient past), and meets Borusa in his first incarnation, presumably before the Doctor's even been loomed (which contradicts all the rules about not being able to travel to Gallifrey in one's own personal past). Then the Time Lords recognize the Doctor, despite this being in his own personal past, and begin threatening to imprison him for the theft of a Type 40 TARDIS he hasn't stolen yet. By the time the Cybermen ally themselves with the Sontarans, The History of the Universe has gone right out the window.

Even so, it's just so much fun to read. Terry's having a blast writing this, and I can't say I had a bad time reading it. Great lines pepper the book, like, "The operation is a brilliant success. The life or death of the patient is largely irrelevant." It just feels like so much fun -- it might be cheesy, but it's a high-quality cheese.

Ultimately, I have to recommend this novel, although you should read it with the understanding that it's a "good bad" book. However, I do wish he'd chosen a different Doctor/companion combo for it. Sixth Doctor/Peri would have worked a bit better... but in a perfect parallel universe, it was Warmonger and not The Eight Doctors that kicked off the EDAs.

Inane, but fun by Robert Smith? 1/4/03

Take the plot of The Quantum Archangel, throw away all the physics, make it a prequel instead of a sequel, add a dose of Divided Loyalties and have it written by the man who perpetrated The Eight Doctors and you have a surefire recipe for disaster.

And yet, Warmonger is a great deal of fun.

Don't get me wrong, everything bad you've heard about this book is true. You've got a galactic war where every known race gets together to fight. You've got Peri drunkenly attempting to seduce the Doctor, shortly after faking a venereal disease to fend off Morbius's advances. You've got the fifth Doctor with shaved head leading a military alliance. You've got Peri as guerrilla leader, with an entire missing year interrupting the thematic flow of Season 21. You've got vampires that seem to having nothing to do with the Time Lords' enemies thrown in for no readily apparent reason. It's all here.

Truth be told, if Warmonger were written by anyone else, it would be the disaster it always threatens to become. But there's something about Uncle Terrance's style that draws you in. It's as though your favourite teddy bear decided to write a Doctor Who book after spending several years staring at an out of date and error-filled Programme Guide. Try as you might, you just can't hate this book.

For one thing, it absolutely zips by. This is one of Terrance Dicks' best strengths: the sense of a finely tuned craftsman who knows exactly what he wants to do and isn't too fussed what anyone else thinks, because frankly he was the guy who invented most of the show and we didn't. He's a bit like a bad magician; it doesn't matter that his tricks all derivative and you can see the rabbit up his sleeve, because he goes through everything so fast and keeps up such a witty patter that you come out of it entertained in spite of yourself.

For another, despite the fact that everybody and their dog teams up in this novel, the continuity is surprisingly light. This is how The Quantum Archangel should have been done: the stage is a big one and the continuity to its parent story is appropriate, but there isn't actually a whole lot of waffling about with extraneous stuff.

Actually, the biggest problem with the continuity is much of the Brain of Morbius stuff itself is a bit dodgy. On page 78, a character who lives on Karn refers to Gallifrey as being a remote planet in the constellation of Kasterborous, while in Brain, the Doctor claimed they were quite close and that he recognised the stars. Then there's the fifth Doctor stating that the events of Brain occur in the distant future, which seems unlikely, given Solon's age and the fact that he's already head surgeon (which I'm convinced is a deliberate pun) in this novel. And on page 197, Aril refers to the Doctor as "Supremo" a full six pages before he's given the title by the Ogrons.

Then there's the Doctor's complete bafflement as to who Solon could possibly be working for, despite the fact that he's on Karn, remembers Solon's evil future deeds, met up with Reverend Mother Maren in the first few moments, checked out the elixir of life and basically did everything except drop a rubber brain on the floor. Who could the mysterious Rombusi possibly be, who? If only there were some subtle clue. You know, the Doctor really should take a course in anagrams some day; it would save him a great deal of time, given the number of villains who use them as pseudonyms. One day, Doctor, I'll be coming for you and I guarantee you won't see me coming, or my name isn't Tim Brothers.

The book's worst scene by far is the one where Peri attempts to seduce the Doctor. And yes, it's as bad as it sounds. It's bad enough that there's all sorts of attempted and actual rape going on - as with Catastrophea, it simply doesn't suit Terrance to be discussing such weighty matters in his fluffier-than-thou style. But Peri's attempted pass at the Doctor is wrong, wrong, I'm going to claw my own eyes out because they had to read that, wrong. And the book knows it, given that the Doctor refers to it as incest. Are the PDAs even being edited any more?

Reading Warmonger is like going on a blind date with someone who turns out to be immensely stupid, but also lots of fun while you're with them. You can't help being entertained by the goofy antics on display, even if they defy all rational sense. A bit of a guilty pleasure.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 16/5/03

I am often tempted to read reviews of books, before I actually read the book itself. Some reviewers you can be sure will contain no spoilers - so it's okay. Just don't touch DWM Reviews, or Outpost Gallifreys. But The Ratings Guide can be relied on to be pretty spoiler free, especially for the latest releases.

I stayed clear of any Warmonger reviews however, because I knew they would be bad - I didn't want other fans' vitriol to influence my enjoyment of a book I felt I was going to enjoy. Terrance Dicks has gone from being one of the best loved writers (thanks to TARGET and the nostalgia glow of childhood for many), to one that is criticized more than most. The fans still love him, they just are disappointed with his recent original books. I believe it's a case of "Could do better, because we know he has done better in the past". Fan expectations have grown, totally ignoring the fact that he wrote very simple novelizations of TV scripts. They expect all his books to be great when the majority of his TARGET books were just average.

I must be in the minority then who still considers Terrance Dicks one of the greatest writers DW has ever seen. Warmonger fully justifies that - it's just brilliantly entertaining.

DW tells lots of different styles and types of stories. It also gives us a vast array of different authors, each of which relay their stories in very different ways. Compare 2 prolific writers of the range:- Lawrence Miles and Christopher Bulis, for example - and they're miles apart. You know what you are going to get with Uncle Terrance, references to past TV stories (usually his own) - and that's one reason I like his books so much - they were great stories! For my money he has only written 1 bad original novel - Catastrophea. He has written plenty of excellent books - Exodus, Shakedown, Blood Harvest, Players - and now Warmonger.

I was expecting another sequel to War Games because of the title. It is actually a prequel to Brain of Morbius, and a pretty good one too. It puts the 5th Doctor and Peri in very unusual situations - but I think their characters stretch far enough for this. I suspect many will have a problem with their roles. Many will have a problem with Terrances use of old monsters. It's no problem, because the pages turned and turned and turned, quickly - I loved it! It's all about telling engrossing stories I believe.

Tying it into established continuity may be a bit of a problem (was there really that much of a gap in between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani?), but who cares! The story is there to be enjoyed, and Uncle Terrance gives a real rollercoaster. He includes enemy race after enemy race, even though their motivations and allies are quite a bit different than what we are accustomed to. The threat to everyone, everywhere - that surely needs an army of former enemies. The threat is perceived to be that great.

I loved the scenes when the Doctor and Peri arrive on Karn. How Morbius tries to win over Peri. How the Doctor gets deeper and deeper in, resulting in his eventual supreme role. I enjoyed hearing of Solon's early experiments. It was wonderful to see the adoration that the Doctor received from all his allies. It was great to see the pieces that form Brain of Morbius slip into place in the last few chapters.

There are a great deal of DW books out there that are a bit of a struggle - especially after a tough day at work on the train. I pick the book up, and 10 minutes later just find the whole thing too much. Warmonger is definitely one of the lightest books to read. It rolls along smoothly, demanding just that the reader is entertained. It's the literary equivalent of Easy Listening music.

It may be not up to the intellectual challenging fare of many 8th Dr books. It will never be on any literary lists for exceptional writing. But it was a fabulously entertaining mixture of Doctor Who. It's a story that has a nostalgic quality. All round solid entertainment. 9/10

Very different from the norm - perhaps too different... by Tim Roll-Pickering 10/9/03

Warmonger is an extremely difficult book to review. On the one hand it features a well thought through situation that allows for a degree of originality (and also it isn't yet another book feeding off either The War Games or State of Decay) but on the other hand it does not feel like a typical Season 21 story at all. We are presented with a situation in which the Doctor becomes a warlord and Peri a guerilla leader. Neither feels entirely natural, especially given the traditionally more subtle nature of both Peter Davison's portrayal of the Doctor and the situations which he faced. Terrance Dicks has often claimed that all the Doctors are essentially the same character with some window dressing, but this is a role which it would be easier to envisage the Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker or Colin Baker incarnations undertaking far more so than Davison's. As a result this makes it very hard to accept the story as a natural extension of the contemporary tales. The "Supremo" feels more suited to Blake's 7 or Star Trek than Doctor Who and this makes things further stand out like a sore thumb. Peri gets some good material in the story but again feels highly out of character, especially in light of her character in subsequent televised stories, and so again the story feels inauthenic.

The storyline does however show many promising signs but gets bogged down in several areas. Rather than telling the story chronologically we begin with a prelude on Gallifrey before jumping forwards to Peri's adventures and only learn how events came together through flashbacks. This method of story telling can work but here it just results in the narrative becoming disjointed and slow. There's a heavy surplus of continuity, with the book acting as a prequel/sequel to The Brain of Morbius as well as featuring many different alien races, but all too often there are passages reminding us of other events and encounters in the Doctor's past but other people's future, whilst of all the alien races only the Sontarans and Draconians are given even cursory exposition. Gallifrey features as well, but unless I've missed something it is utterly unclear whether this is Gallifrey before the Doctor's birth or after he has been exiled which has a significant impact upon the Doctor's relations with it. Gallifrey is also shown as existing in the future, but although this may contradict other novels the television series itself was never especially clear on this matter. Whilst The Brain of Morbius is a story that hasn't yet spawned numerous book sequels, it isn't the easiest story to generate new branches from. The use of Solon and Maren seems entirely gratuitious, whilst the Doctor's actions to preserve the timeline come across as equally coy and dubious. Morbius himself is portrayed very differently from his televised story, coming across as more of an intergalactic thug than an all powerful Time Lord seeking to overcome a previous setback. Few of the other characters specifically stand out, with many featuring as little more than window dressing.

Of the many Doctor Who books so far written by Terrance Dicks, this stands out as one of the most "untraditional" yet and there is a lot to be said for the originality, as well as for its galaxy spanning scope and willingness to do something different from the norm. But it has perhaps gone too far, with the result that it feels very unlike the televised season it has been set in, whilst the Doctor and companion team used is not the best one that could have been chosen. Given a different team (perhaps the Fourth Doctor and Leela or the Sixth Doctor and Frobisher) and a chronological telling this could perhaps have shone out but as it stands it feels like another failure to give the Davison incarnation a spectacular novel adventure. 5/10

A Letter to my 7th grade English Teacher by Jason A. Miller 15/12/03

Dear Mrs. Arnold,

I graduated in your class since 1986, but I still haven't figured out what you had against me. Your bizarre system of seating the class alphabetically meant that I had to sit in the very back of the room, even though I was shorter than the four kids in front of me, and even though I had glasses and they didn't. I also don't understand why you gave me low grades on my book reports. It's one thing if you didn't want me reading "The Andromeda Strain", but you didn't have to go and give me a C+, either. I still maintain that I tried real hard on that one.

What I want to say now is that I've just finished Warmonger, by Terrance Dicks. When I was in your class, most of the books I read were by Terrance Dicks, although I wasn't allowed to do book reports on Doctor Who novelizations since they weren't real books. So now I want to write a review of Warmonger for you. I know you didn't encourage essays... you wanted us to write capsules, in which we described the book's conflict, its major characters, its setting. You only wanted a four-sentence plot summary and you punished me when I couldn't describe "The Andromeda Strain" in that short a space. But here goes... even though Warmonger is a huge novel, it's very simple and not very sophisticated.

The book opens with a literary flashback, which you might have appreciated. We're taken right back to Gallifrey, to watch a younger version of our old friend Cardinal Borusa, depose an unnamed President who will come back to be important later. Then, we're jumped right to the present, but it's very disconcerting. Peri, the Doctor's sweet young American companion, is suddenly an embittered guerilla fighter on a one-dimensional planet of farmers and outdoor cafes. All her fellow rebels are killed off in Chapter 1. Then Peri kills an evil soldier, and gets kidnapped herself by an all-powerful warlord called "The Supremo"... who turns out to be... the 5th Doctor!

The rest of the book jumps back in time one year to show how Peri and the Doctor became so unrecognizable. I guess you could say the conflict in Warmonger is "person versus self". The Doctor fights against his nature to become the unwilling leader of an army of thousands! Draconians... Ogrons... Sontarans... every villain created during Terrance Dicks' turn as script editor on Doctor Who returns as friends here. Even the Cybermen show up as allies ("That battle was excellent!", says the Cyberleader). Also, every character for whom Terrance Dicks ever wrote dialogue, is brought back in Warmonger for a cameo. You want me to list the book's major characters for my book report? It would take too long, too long. Mother Maren. Ohica. Solon. Borusa. Morbius. And then there are the original characters -- Hawken, Delmar, Vidal. Good heavens, there's even a General Nadir! He sure is, Mrs. Arnold. He sure is.

There are lot of big moments in Warmonger. There are epic battles, clever strategems, lots of politics. However, it all goes by so fast, so unconvincing. The climactic battle on Karn is resolved in two sentences. When Morbius is finally captured, the Doctor then has to turn against his allies and fight on Morbius's side, just so Solon can steal his brain and skulk off into the sequel story The Brain of Morbius, which Dicks already wrote in 1976. There are lots of "adult" themes, too... Peri is threatened with sexual assault every three pages. Literally! Except for when she's trying to seduce the Doctor, because she's suddenly turned on by his Supremo self with the military brush-cut.

For all these set pieces, though, I was just never convinced that this is how things really were. In 1986, I spent most of my time in your class waiting for the TARDIS to materialize so Doctor Who could take me away. I wanted to travel with the Fifth Doctor and be in stories like The Visitation, and The Awakening, and The King's Demons. If I had known this was in store, I would have daydreamed instead about Elisabeth Shue.

Doctor Who was never this cartoonish when Terrance Dicks wrote for it on TV. The War Games and Horror of Fang Rock were very literate scripts, which still hold up today. Even The Brain of Morbius sails through on charm, even though it's not very good. But in order to write the prequel to Morbius, Dicks is just going through the motions. His action spans a whole year, and dozens of planets, but there's never a moment of true reflection. If I had tried to write Morbius fanfic when I was twelve, I think the Morbius I invented would have had more weight and life than this.

Mrs. Arnold, I'm not 12 anymore. I don't think you were successful in getting me to love literature. You taught me that books were to be dissected, not enjoyed. You taught me that notebooks were to be inspected for note-taking quality; how could I hear your lessons if I was busy taking notes? The only real moment of kindness you showed me the whole year was when you gave me a pencil with the name "Demosthenes" on it. I can't figure that out. I've anagrammed that name a hundred times since 1986 -- a thousand! -- and it still doesn't resolve itself into the name of a Terrance Dicks villain.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 15/3/05

"I want you all on your best behavior. Best uniforms and everyone's to wash, whether he needs it or not. Eat with the implements provided, and keep your hands off the serving staff, they're not on the menu."
Terrance Dicks, Warmonger. P 113
It goes without saying that the Doctor Who book ranges have been geared towards adults, more or less, ever since Paul Cornell wrote Timewyrm: Revelation. The books were aimed at the core Who fans at the time, who were in their teens and twenties. And as the book lines chugged along, they and their intended audience have grown up alongside them.

Warmonger, however, comes from every Who fan's uncle, Terrance Dicks, who is the last of the old stalwarts writing Who books. And he is still gearing the books toward a "family" audience. Which, methinks, causes a good chunk of the bile thrown his way. Most fans of the book line want depth and literary skill of some sort in their Who novels, not shallow, Target-esque runaround sequels based on TV serials.

Warmonger also reads like enthusiastic fan fiction. Technically you could label all Who novels fan fiction, but being that these Who stories are being published under auspices of the BBC, we do expect a certain professional level of writing, a bit of skill that separates the pros from us amateurs. But Warmonger reads like something that any one of us who has written fan-fic could crank out on their own.

So, what do I think about Warmonger?

On the one hand, it is painfully bad as a story and concept. Characterization goes out the window for the Doctor (it was supposed to be written for the Sixth and Peri, but suggestions were made). And Peri bounces back and forth between being a double hard guerrila and a Valley Girl. The rest of the cast is just a herd of one note cliches. For some reason, Uncle Terrance seems to think that adult sensibilities are rape and drunkeness.

But, the pages fly by, expect when I had to put the book down and laugh out loud, which came about every five pages. Be it intentional or unintentional, Warmonger is hands down the funniest Who novel ever. And who else but Uncle Terrance could almost get away with throwing all the famous monster races into one tale?

So, call it a split decision. Warmonger is really, really, really bad. But immensely readable. And funny.

Just awful... by Joe Ford 19/4/05

In the past when reading back over old reviews I have written I have been struck at how melodramatic I can be. I can get extremely vocal about my feelings towards a particular piece, for good or for ill and before you know it the emotions have taken over and you are WRITING IN BIG BOLD CAPITALS with lots of !!!!'s and campaigning for the execution of certain contributors of Doctor Who merchandise. Quite embarrassing really. However when I once stated that Warmonger was a crime against literature I fear I was well and truly spot on.

This book is terrible. The Quantum Archangel terrible. The annoying thing is that with a bit of tweaking and lobotomising it could be turned into a halfway (and only halfway) decent read. I am not sure what Justin Richards was thinking when he allowed this story to go to the printers because it is so far below the average standard of his editorship it seems to almost be a joke of some kind. As if Uncle Terry and Justin wanted to prove Doctor Who could be every bit is diabolical as non-fans think it is. Terrance Dicks is an iconic figure to me, a very important part of my childhood was spent trapped inside his fiction and his contributions are always welcome. So what on Earth encouraged him to write this?

Changing one simple word could have rectified 40% of this books problems. On the back cover switch fifth for sixth (Doctor) and some of the hideous characterisation of the Doctor would make some sort of sense. You see Terrance turns the Doctor into a macho, sadistic, violent and thoroughly unheroic character in Warmonger which goes against any portrayal I have ever seen of any Doctor but would suit some (and only some) of the sixth Doctor's more extreme characteristics. I have read that this book started out as a sixth Doctor book but was changed for some reason, which is fine but it would appear the only word that was altered to shift the book to the fifth Doctor is that word on the back cover. Instead we have a fifth Doctor who shaves his head, threatens to kill people, tells Peri that sleeping with her would feel like an act of incest, decides war is the only way to solve his problems and even gets off on the power of being an insane military tactician. Paul Cornell would have a heart attack if he read this... his favourite Uncle Terrance perverting his other favourite Doc 5 in such a sleazy manner! I fail to understand how a writer who has been so close to the series for three decades can get such a fundamental aspect of writing a Doctor Who book so totally wrong.

I appreciate the ability of the PDAs is to tell stories that would be otherwise unacceptable during their TV years but between the PDAs and Big Finish we now have a HUGE gap between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani despite no signs of it on screen. A whole year is taken up in Warmonger alone where Peri undergoes a startling transformation from whiney American student to the famous Commander Peri (yes I am afraid this term is genuinely allocated to her!). Can I just ask if Peri is so capable as a guerrilla leader (ingeniously, her catchphrase is "Somebody get me a hand blaster, a laser rifle - and a knife!") and manages to run an entire campaign on her own how comes she couldn't run away from Shockeye in The Two Doctors without falling on her face or even throw a flower decoration box at a guard convincingly in Timelash? If she is so damn confident here why does she become such a miserable, stuttering wreck the second the sixth Doctor shows up? Second thoughts don't answer that... And with quality lines like "Bullshit!" and "They used to call me the scourge of Sylvana!" and scenes of her trying it on with the Doctor, faking an infection by scraping off some of her skin with a knife and being the attention of every serial rapist the galaxy has ever known I think we can well truly say Peri has reached her nadir with Warmonger. Has Terry watched the series? Does he know these characters so little?

If only the bad ended there. I'm sure I read somewhere in the BBC guidelines that books that featured lots of different Doctor Who aliens joining forces in a book you are submitting is likely to be scrapped without a thought. Clearly Warmonger was a warning to potential writers out there who might attempt this sort of thing as it features the unquestionably awful idea of the Sontarans, the Draconians, the Ogrons, the Cybermen and the Ice Warriors all joining forces to take on Morbius. Gah, I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence, let alone read about it in a book! These are some of the most xenophobic races in the galaxy and all it takes is a few soft words from the Doctor and one of their spaceships blown up to get them to ally themselves into a militia. Terry hammers home how different they all are by giving them distinct characteristics (Sontarans charge in like bulls, Draconians use complicated tactics) but aside from this there is little to differentiate them. All of these monsters have been absent for so long in Doctor Who and are written so badly and broadly (especially the Cybermen... apologetically asking if they can join the Alliance? Please!) it boils my blood to see them wasted like this.

Terrance seems to be under the impression that the primary characteristic of any thug is that he likes to rape women. And he really likes to get this point across because this book is full of characters that think of little else but screwing ladies against their will. In a book that is aimed at the intelligence of a four year old I find this utterly insulting and perverted. I have only just come around to the idea that adult themes such as rape, incest, abortion, etc can actually have a place in Doctor Who if the story is written sensitively enough to accommodate them but this insertion of mindless sex threats practically forces me to reconsider. Who is it trying to impress? Unless Terry feels he is writing a serious, adult book in which case one of us is deluded and I don't think its me. Yes rape threats do make the bad guys seem bad but when the lines are dealt with as childishly as "But where was the harm in a bit of friendly rape?", you have to wonder where the editor is.

Talking of the editor I noticed several gaping errors that where so blatant I was shocked they managed to slip onto the page. The Doctor is working under the false name of Smith because he doesn't want Solon to know who he is and thus corrupt the timeline and yet bizarrely Solon know he is called the Doctor come page 94 where he uses the name quite openly. Also it appears that an Ogron gives the Doctor his name of Supremo after none of his other colleagues can decide on a suitable title for him. So why does Aril call him Supremo six pages earlier (on page 197) before the name has even been thought up?

Another trouble is how predictable and cliched the book is. As Robert Smith? pointed out about the anagram of Rombusi is hardly an adequate disguise when the Doctor has already faced Morbius on Karn. Are we really supposed to take seriously the moment when he suddenly realises who the arch criminal is? The book suffers from join-the-dot syndrome where the book literally cannot take an easier path than the one it does, you can pretty much sum up the rest of the book after the first thirty pages. The Doctor heads of for Karn and defeats Morbius. He goes to Gallifrey and they endorse his plans with no difficulty. The Sontarans endorse his plans with no difficulty. So do the Draconians. And the rest. They conquer Morbius' planets with no difficulty. They defeat him on Karn with no difficulty. The book leaps from one plot point to another with no real struggle, no depth and with no point. A bad idea, badly plotted and badly written. Thinking about it, it is probably a good idea that there is such offending characterisation otherwise there would be absolutely nothing of interest to keep you going, just mindless monotony.

And before I go I would like to quote a small section from the book just so you can all experience the pain with me. Warmonger is a travesty of a novel (and I use the term in the loosest possible term) and both the writer and the editor are capable of much, much more. Even the cover is shite.

He raised his goblet and drained the fiery contents. "Issalon kwai!"

The Doctor did the same, echoing the toast. "Issalon kwai!"

"A traditional Sontaran toast, Battle-Marshal?" the Doctor asked.

Skrug looked surprised. "No it is a war toast from old Earth. I thought you would know it." He raised his voice and croaked:

"Issalon kwai to Tipperary...

Issalon kwai to go..."

A Review by Brian May 22/9/09

Warmonger is possibly the worst Doctor Who novel ever; a steaming pile of self-indulgent nastiness. And that's being polite.

How do I begin describing how bad this book is? Perhaps the dreadful rendering of the Doctor? The fifth Doctor is the least likely to be anything like the Supremo. Why does it take so long for him to recognise Morbius? He's on Karn, and has just met Solon and Maren. Hmm, they should be dead giveaways, don't you think? The anagrammed name is another unsubtle clue, and in The Brain of Morbius the Doctor recognises his face from the bust in Solon's dwelling place. Why does he even take part in leading a force against Morbius when he knows his defeat and faked execution are accepted history? Does he do all of this simply to save Peri? He could have found her in a much easier way. Why not locate her in the TARDIS? After all, the Davison years saw much short hopping, it would have been easy. And the threat posed by Morbius and his bunch of mercenaries never feels that great. Does the Doctor really need to rally Ice Warriors, Draconians, Sontarans and Cybermen?

No of course he doesn't; Terrance just wants all these aliens together! It's a pity, because the inclusion of the first two has some plausibility; but the Cyberleader turning up and begging to join the Doctor's alliance is just dire. So too all his subsequent appearances.

There's a whole lot more. There are so many continuity problems. The Doctor's position relative to the Time Lords is ambiguous; he's on the run from them after The Five Doctors, but the time frame for Gallifrey pre-dates The War Games. Moments of both spoken and internal dialogue suggest one correct chronology over the other; but then other moments contradict these claims. There could have been a time paradox slowly simmering here, i.e. the fifth Doctor being captured by the Time Lords before the second, which would have been quite a good subplot, but this seems far from the author's mind. In fact, he just doesn't seem to care.

I know that continuity is flexible; Dicks has contradicted his own material before, and the great Robert Holmes never allowed it to get in his way, but this book contains such a reckless mangling of Who history, seemingly carried out because Dicks believes he has the right to do as he pleases: to create the aforementioned "surprise" of Morbius's identity when it's staring the Doctor in the face; to create a younger Borusa, a character Dicks seems to think he owns the copyright to in recent years (for all I know perhaps he does!), who hasn't yet met the Doctor, and then a few pages later knows he's stolen a Type 40!

Now, onto Peri. I've commented on the use of this character in between Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani before (in reviews of The Ultimate Treasure and Superior Beings). These books manage to get away with it. And if you're a stickler for expanded universe continuity, there's the whole series of Big Finish adventures with Erimem, already set in motion by the time of this book's publication. Depending on your views of canonicity, there's a fifth Doctor and Peri partnership beyond their two televised adventures. But it's only Warmonger's that I find unacceptable, both the characters and their circumstances. Peri's realisation is almost criminal in its awfulness. Portraying her as a hardened guerrilla is so wrong; there is absolutely no way we could have such a Peri who would then go through the ordeals on Androzani Minor, while the various rape attempts are just sleazy titillation as opposed to genuine drama. Her affecting to have a venereal disease tries to be "adult" but it's simply crass. And her "Bullshit!" line (p.230) is just ghastly.

Bad jokes (the Tipperary line on p.186; puh-lease!); corny, overblown dialogue (pick a page, any page); dreadful characters; a tedious climax; an overriding unpleasantness. These all dominate Warmonger. Add the aforementioned liberties with continuity and you have a new low for the Doctor Who books and a new low for Terrance Dicks. I've just re-watched the documentary about him on the Horror of Fang Rock DVD; he truly does deserve his place in Who history and thus this book makes me even more sad.

The blame should not lie entirely on Dicks's shoulders, however. True, he is the actual perpetrator of this crime against Whomanity, but just because a well known identity offers up a novel, it doesn't mean the powers that be at BBC Books have to accept it. Perhaps if they'd said "No" and had the guts to rein in an author's whimsy, this might never have seen the light of day - which I strongly believe would have been a good thing. And I say this with the most profound sadness. 0/10