Tuesday, 17 February 2015

SEASONS OF WAR: Tales From A Time War - ed. Declan May (2015) PART 2

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

Whereas JR Southall’s Doctor is very much the twenty-first century version, prone to doing what’s needed and feeling a little bit sad about it later.  Like Warren Frey’s story this is a story I can easily imagine being tweaked and used as the basis for a Matt Smith or David Tennant episode.  With echoes of ‘Journey to the Heart of the TARDIS’, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and – for obvious reasons – ‘The Mind Robber’, this is the sort of tale I can picture Steven Moffat enjoying, as the Doctor does what needs to be done in what might be the Land of Fiction, and is lessened because of it.

That Southall’s less spiky interpretation of the Doctor leads straight into the second of Declan May’s ‘Doctor as uber-pragmatist’ can’t be co-incidental.  The differences are readily apparent and altogether striking.  It’s clearly the same character, but where Southall’s Stranger is taking a break from the front lines, May’s Man in the Bandolier wouldn’t function anywhere else (it’s interesting to see the various names the author give our protagonist, incidentally – seven stories in, and he’s yet to be referred to, even in passing, as the War Doctor).  As manipulative as the McCoy incarnation and as hard as very early Hartnell, had he wandered into the previous story, he’d have killed Alice on the first page and have forgotten her name by page two.  Nice to see the titular Corsair making a reappearance too.

And now we come to an unexpected (because I’ve not checked out the contents page at all) treat.  A new Kate Orman Doctor Who story!  Easily in the top five prose authors ever to write for the series, it’s fair to say that ‘The Ambassador from Wolf-Rayet 134’ is one of her lesser works, if only for reasons of brevity, but even so, it’s a delightful piece, where Orman contrives – with only a few thousand words to play with – to sketch in an entire alien species in sufficient detail that this reader at least would have been happy to have heard far more.  The particular talent of the Ambassador’s people is reminiscent of Telos’ Time Hunter series, but Orman gives the concept a twist of her own, allowing that skill to become overwhelming and then perfectly reporting the exact alien reaction to being so overwhelmed.  As with all of Orman’s writing there’s a real sense of effortless ability on display, and I’m reminded again of my desire to see the publication of single author Doctor Who short story collections…     

In contrast to Orman’s relatively small story of one ‘woman’ and her need for peace, ‘The Amber Room’ by Simon Brett and John Davies remembers that other Who staple – the big set piece (with dinosaurs).  Kicking a story off with a time transported soldier being chased by an allosaurus does usually mean that you’re obliged to pull back on the throttle a little as you progress, but that’s not the case here, where the authors immediately raise the stakes by removing the entire Earth in the next paragraph!  If I have a criticism – and it’s a small one – it’s that Leo, the soldier grabbed from an early twenty-first world of terrorist attacks and IDES, accepts the Doctor and his TARDIS with no apparent concerns.  But it’s a minor complaint, and in no way detracts from another solid, well told tale.

https://www.justgiving.com/declan-may1/ to buy the ebook.  There's a paperback (and reviews of the next few stories) yet to come...

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