Tuesday, 14 August 2012
‘Doctor Who and the Cybermen’ – Gerry Davis (BBC Books)
BBC Books have been re-releasing specially selected (voted for?) ‘Doctor Who’ stories from the old Target range; books that recount the old TV serials and as such were essential reading when I was a lot younger. How have they stood up to the test of time though? That’s one reason I’m working my way back through these books. The other (being totally honest) is that I loved these books as a kid and it’s always worth revisiting your childhood every once in a while isn’t it?
I’m working through these books in ‘order of Doctor’ (well, I am now) so ‘Doctor Who and the Cybermen’ (originally broadcast as ‘The Moonbase’ back in 1967) was up next. I have to say that I was a little disappointed by this one…
Here’s the blurb,
In 2070, the Earth's weather is controlled from a base on the moon. But when the Doctor and his friends arrive, all is not well. They discover unexplained drops of air pressure, minor problems with the weather control systems, and an outbreak of a mysterious plague.
With Jamie injured, and members of the crew going missing, the Doctor realises that the moonbase is under attack. Some malevolent force is infecting the crew and sabotaging the systems as a prelude to an invasion of Earth. And the Doctor thinks he knows who is behind it: the Cybermen.
Here is a book that is set up to be something special. A moonbase under siege, Cybermen marching across the moon and striking from hidden places when you least expect it, a mysterious plague that must be halted before it claims more lives. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, maybe the TV serial was (I haven’t seen it) but it doesn’t make the transition, to novel format, that it needed to.
These books were never meant to be anything more than story lines, from the show, laid out on the page and I’m one of many people who are very glad that they were there to be read (don’t get me wrong). I think what went wrong here, for me anyway, is that’s all this book is; a recounting of the TV show. That’s fair enough in itself but it doesn’t make for a particularly gripping or engaging read when everything is laid out so matter of factly. I came away knowing what had happened but there was nothing there to tell me how the characters felt about what had happened, how they felt about each other while it was happening. It may have been there, for us to see, on the show but it’s a hell of a chunk of plot to be missing in a book…
What you’re left with is something very dry that a fan might get something out of but won’t do a lot for someone who isn’t. Actually, I’m a fan and it didn’t do a lot for me. It’s competent storytelling but it could have been a lot more. I know there's only so much you can do with a book this length but there are other (older) ‘Doctor Who’ books out there that take that extra step and are better for it. I’m talking about ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and ‘Day of the Daleks’ amongst others.
I wouldn’t mind seeing ‘The Moonbase’ on the strength of what I read here, just to see the actors breathe some life into it. That was what ‘Doctor Who and the Cybermen’ really needed and it was a real shame that it wasn’t there.
Six out of Ten