The Bodysnatchers.


Books  I knew it would happen eventually but it's a shame that it had to be so soon.  I hate to say it, but The Bodysnatchers was a slog.  From the opening pages which seem to have been written in a faux-Dickensian style through a slow mid-section to a mystifying ending, I really thought about stopping.

The main problem is the story.  The Zygons turn up in Victorian London and by pretending to be a group of humans and breeding a group of cyborg dinosaurs they're hoping to clear the planet and start their  species anew after the destruction of their own homeworld.  It really isn't that gripping is it?  So the writer, Mark Morris, develops a certain amount of atmosphere, but it's largely trading on the reader's memory of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and The Talons of Weng Chiang.  Certain moments from that story are replayed; The Doctor's run in with the police; all of the messing about in the sewers; giant dopey animals.  The first few hundred pages work very hard to set up the mystery, because the aliens actually printed on the cover we're hardly surprised when they turn up.  It's the visual equivalent of calling your story Dalek and having the The Doctor make the shocking discovery that a Dalek is involved.  Ironically, he doesn't seem all that surprised here when he sees the Zygons - perhaps he's seen the cover as well.

Particularly unforgivably we don't care too much for many of the characters.  I did sympathise with Tom, the destitute man who turned up in the opening few pages dragging his injured self to the factory he'd been let go from hoping his boss, Mr Seers, would have a change of heart was pretty gut wrenching.  But he was dispatched by a monster fairly early on.  After that, from Emmeline the daughter of Seers through to some grave robbers, we simply don't see them as anything more than plot devices or an extra pair of hands when a plan is being carried out by The Doctor.  Even dear Lightfoot is a shadow, a series of responses.  He's like a quasi-Brigadeer but with more old fashioned skepticism.  Only in the epilogue, as we hear about the aftermath of the invasion and his resegnation of the death toll do we get a sense of the man.

I could describe Sam in a similar way, but I think it's more of a fundamental problem with the character.  What the new series discovered with Rose, is that if she's going to be at The Doctor's side, she's going to have her own ideas on what's happen, her own approach to the situation, rightly or wrongly.  She has to have her own story each time.  Perhaps I'm spoilt, but Sam fits into the traditional companion role far too well, to the point that she's blanded out.  Here, much is done language wise to try and mask the fact that she's spending most of the adventure asking The Doctor about what's happening, what he's doing and why he's doing it.  At one point he says "I know you want to help, Sam, but I honestly don't have the time to explain everything.  Just this once I'm afraid you're going to have to leave it up to me."  It takes him until page 222.  I would have said it much more quickly.  It's almost as though the author is justifying the fact that she superfluous to the story and basically an irritant.

Luckily, The Doctor is about the only reason to continue reading.  There is something about him which makes him writer proof.  There is some great business in the factory when he's trying to get to see the Zygon clone of Mr Seers and I loved the bit at the end when he decided that the best way to save London from the cyborg dinosaurs was to attract them back to the TARDIS and fill the place up with them.  In this book he's an amalgam, trading on his previous incarnations - a bit of the Venusian Lullaby here, a jelly baby there.  It's true to the TV movie I suppose.  But all too often he drops a continuity reference and the reader is pulled out of the action.

The book's one great moment is when The Doctor decides to poison the Zygon's nutriant supply with a sleeping agent which turns out to be pure poison.  I can entirely imagine the moment when he stands amongst their corpses on the ship realizing what he's done, a champion of life bringing inadvertent death to his foes, his peaceful solution gone sour.  The aftermath in which the one surviving Zygon, Tuval comes to terms with what has happened and continues to work with The Doctor because he knows the whole situation is wrong.

Paul Leonard's Genocide is next with the return of Jo Grant which should be good.  Certainly it can't be any worse than this.  Oh well.

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