Thursday, 2 April 2015

SEASONS OF WAR: Tales From A Time War - ed. Declan May (2015) PART 8

[Seasons of War is a charity Doctor Who short story collection, edited by Declan May, with all proceeds going to the Cauldwell Childrens charity.  It's a long book, with a lot of stories, so I'll be reviewing it in chunks of 4-6 stories at a time over the next week or so...]

I’ve come particularly to look forward to the ‘Girl with the Purple Hair’ stories which pop up intermittently in Seasons.  They’re short, precise vignettes which provide a spine for the book, without intruding into the flow of the other stories.  Which makes it a shame that number III in the series is, for me, the first mildly jarring mis-step in the collection.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s as neatly and concisely written as earlier entries, with some useful and touching commentary on the life of the War Doctor from the titular Jenny Shirt, but there’s an unexpected clumsiness in the key moment of the story, a moment which I won’t spoil but which felt, to me, a little too obvious and a little too keen to pluck at the heart strings.  It’s not a major problem – and even if it was, the quality of the other stories in this mini-series more than compensate for a very slight tonal issue like this – but it was enough to make me pause in my reading and wish that a more subtle approach had been taken.  One interesting aside is that, at one point, the author refers to ‘Kaled Deadnoughts’ rather than Dalek ones, which may have been unintentional, but did make me picture a Time War in which the Daleks go back to a time pre-Davros and absorb their own ancestors into the conflict…
Alan Ronald’s ‘The Ingenious Gentleman’ on the other hand is an absolute blast.  Cleverly starting with what appears to be the War Doctor on a white horse, Ronald throws the reader straight into the action as a famous Spanish writer and adventurer encounters a materialising TARDIS by a suspiciously giant-like windmill.  The tone throughout the first half of this splendid tale is firmly tongue in cheek, as Don Quixote and the Doctor trade stories of their respective quests and, after some genuinely gruelling (in the good, intentional sense) recent stories, it’s hard to deny that the change is a welcome one.  Even so, there’s room left later for the two heroes to interact at a less frivolous level – in fact, thinking about it, this is one of those stories where the plot is less important than the characterisation and perhaps the key thing the reader should take away from it is the idea that perhaps – one day – the War Doctor might feel able to drop the ‘War’ from his name.  Another thumbs up for both author and editor for slipping ‘The Ingenious Gentleman’ in exactly where it was needed in this increasingly impressive collection. to buy the ebook.  There's a paperback (and reviews of the next few stories) yet to come..

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