Review: Doctor Who – Scales of Injustice / Author: Gary Russell / Publisher: BBC Books / Release Date: Out Now
Junior Doctor Who fans introduced to the Silurians in recent TV episodes, which have seen one of ‘classic’ Doctor Who’s most fascinating species humanised and turned into light comic relief, will most likely be utterly bewildered by this dense, dark, continuity heavy title from 1996, reprinted as part of the BBC’s new ‘Monster Collection’ novel series. Not only is the family-friendly ‘new’ Silurian on the cover of this reprint hugely anachronistic, it’s also misleading. Readers expecting a cheery twenty-first century style Silurian romp will find themselves confronted with brutal violence, light swearing, a tortuously complex narrative worlds away from the fast-paced sophistication of modern Who – and many may wonder why the BBC felt that the title is a suitable addition to a range so clearly aimed at the younger demographic who have grown accustomed to a lighter tone since the series returned in 2005.
In his all-new introduction, writer Russell (who would go on to script edit the TV series in the 21st century) professes his love for Jon Pertwee’s 1970 debut season. And whilst Russell’s characterizations of the show’s leads – the Doctor, assistant Liz Shaw and the Brigadier – are decent enough, the story itself barely resembles the era its author is so keen to recreate. The Doctor is largely peripheral to the action – which ultimately is the familiar ‘Silurians wake and want their world back’ common to all their televised appearances – whilst the Brigadier is portrayed as a man whose devotion to duty is putting his marriage at risk and Liz Shaw is a pipe-smoking (?) boffin frustrated by being the Doctor’s straight-woman.
Russell is far more concerned with his own creations – secret Governmental departments, shady conspiracies and mysterious assassins – and pages and indeed entire chapters (the book being split into seven distinct ‘episodes’ to mirror the style of much of the 1970 TV season) pass by in a blur of talking heads yakking at one another and singularly failing to allow the story to develop much in the way of momentum. Scales of Injustice creaks under the weight of its continuity references and whilst older fans may admire Russell’s enthusiastic (and often quite ingenious) attempts to weave together countless threads from the series’ long canon, casual readers are likely to quickly find themselves adrift in the backwaters of a story which bogs itself down in far too much self-satisfied box-ticking at the expense of any decent action and genuine narrative invention.
Scales of Injustice isn’t a bad book but it’s clearly a relic from a thankfully bygone age of Doctor Who fiction, lacking the sprightly pace of the more accessible novels published by BBC books since 2005. Newbies to the series are advised to approach with extreme caution.