Doctor Who: The Invasion

I started listening to The Doctor Who Target Book Club Podcast last year, after buying up someone’s collection of Target novelisations, meaning I now have all but five of the published books. When I found the podcast, it seemed like a way to enjoy my purchase other than just gloating at the books on the shelf. I’m trying to get a review done for each book before the new episode goes up, but I expect some times I’ll do better than other times. This time, I even took notes, which is why it’s a longer “review”.

Doctor Who: The InvasionDoctor Who: The Invasion by Ian Marter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (8/10)

This was a very good novelisation of a very good Doctor Who story.

I actually find it harder to review good books I like than not-so-good ones I don’t. In a good story, I get caught up by the writing and the telling and fall into the story. Something has to be either really good, or annoying, to catch me up enough to come out of the story and note the point. That means reviews of good stories have a tendency to become a recollection of nit-picky little complaints.

So what notes did I make on The Invasion?

Yay, we start with a good one. Marter describes the Doctor at the TARDIS console: “like a crazed concert pianist he madly manipulated the switches and savagely kicked the column”. Yes, I can totally imagine the Second Doctor doing that with glee.

Nothing to do with the book itself, beyond Marter having a good vocabulary in the 1980s, but I’m so used to being able to highlight a word in a digital book to look it up, that I reached out a couple of times to do the same on the paper page before remembering I couldn’t. What is NAAFI tea? I need to know, because the status of the tea follows through. (According to The Telegraph: Its NAAFI Break tea, which has been served to British service personnel since 1921, is said to differ from the average cuppa due to its “premium quality blend that gives a rich, strong taste and a real military flavour”.)

There were a couple of occasions I questioned whether Jamie or Zoe would have the pop culture knowledge they display in the story. It doesn’t matter – it adds to the atmosphere in the story – but like I said above, it popped me out of the story momentarily. Jamie writes “Kilroy was here” in the dust on the top of the lift/elevator and (I looked this one up) Wikipedia tells me it’s a US expression from World War II, so I question whether it is something he would know about. Is this on the TV? I could did out my DVD and check it, but I want to get this written first. Later, Zoe comments that “Big Brother is watching us”. Same question – why would she know this? It’s also a comment that I think works better is prose than in dialog. I may need a rewatch after all, to see if it’s on screen.

But hey, another happy note – and it’s about the tea again. The Brigadier “dunked the remains of the biscuit impatiently while he waited for the situation reports. It fell apart and floated on the top.” I love that far more than it probably deserves. It’s a little moment, totally unimportant to the plot, that shows character and adds so much depth to the tale. It’s moments like this that make Marter so good at producing something that feels like a novel rather than a transcript. That can’t be said for all the other Target novelisations, some of which really are little more than a transcript with a bit of padding.

Okay, here’s the one thing that I really, actually disliked instead of just noticing. Jamie is opening a manhole cover and “Isobel, with her photographic gear slung around her neck, looked on admiringly.” Why, oh why, did we need that last word? It’s unnecessary. It’s unneeded and the fact we’re sexualising a man instead of a woman for once doesn’t make it any better. It also reduces Isobel’s character in a way that damaged her later flirting with Turner, because now she seems shallow instead of interested in the latter. I’m probably making a huge mountain out of a molehill here (and of course a woman can admire two different men), but it just wasn’t necessary in a strong book that was managing well without doing any objectifying. Grrrr.

See, I’ve finished on a sour note for a book I enjoyed reading. Something small becomes a bigger criticism because all in all, it’s a good book that I liked. Honestly, it’s a good novelisation and I’m sorry all over again that the world lost Ian Marter too soon.

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