Reviews selected from TV Zone #130

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10)
• Horror and humour meshing well again in the X-Files
Star Trek: Voyager steps out from its storytelling quagmire
• Experience a Beautiful Death in the latest Doctor Who novel
• and theX-Men get re-animated on video

BBC Books
ISBN: 0 563 53803 1
Written by Jonathan Morris • Out: 4 Sept
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Reviewed by
David Darlington
Everything’s happening at once...

Doctor Who: Festival of DeathIn a desolate tunnel in hyperspace sits a graveyard of broken spaceships. But these ships are not abandoned – the Montressor is populated by zombies, and the Cerberus is home to the leisure park, the Festival of Death. At the heart of this is waiting the ultimate experience: The Beautiful Death, a return journey into the afterlife, in which not all of the customers complete the round trip... and where not only do the Doctor and Romana find themselves typically under suspicion of sabotage, but the Doctor is recognized and heralded as the man who has already prevented the disaster once before. How can this be, if the Doctor has never been here before...?

An intriguing but straightforward opening? Maybe, but one delightful aspect of Festival of Death is this deceptive simplicity. As it becomes apparent that causality has been compromised and that although the Doctor has been here at an earlier time, he personally hasn’t been here yet, we begin to appreciate the threat of the fate that awaits him on his next visit – and it’s more worrying than just one more false accusation. Things then get even more complicated when the Doctor has to meet everyone again – for the first time.

Confused? Well, Jonathan Morris clearly wasn’t interested in taking a cautious approach to his first Doctor Who novel – seemingly unconnected mystifying incidents cascade with astonishing speed in the opening chapters. Connecting and resolving these in a satisfactory fashion would have been difficult enough in a more linear story – so it’s to the writer’s credit that not only do cause and effect mingle believably across several time streams, but the pacey story also reaches a conclusion that is not only satisfying, but seems inevitable in retrospect.

If the best stories are those in which the reader catch themselves saying “oh, obviously” immediately after each new development, then Festival of Death – in which this happens repeatedly – qualifies as a good story well-told. And, as befits the era, it’s funny with it. You will like Festival of Death. Believe me.

selected from TV Zone #130
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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Rating: 5
Universal Home Video • 80 mins Cert: PG • Out: 21 August 2000
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Reviewed by
Dan Ranger
Superhero shenanigans

X-Men get animated againYou can’t have failed to notice all the X-Men hoo-har going on at the minute – film, posters, toys etc. Well, Universal have justly jumped on the bandwagon and started to release the popular cartoon spin-off (you may have caught it on Saturday mornings when a prattling Gail Porter hasn’t turned your stomach with her twee Scottish hyperactivity first thing) [What foul slander is this? - Web Ed]. It all begins with Night of the Sentinels, which takes established stories from the comic book series and makes them palatable for a younger audience, and details the emerging of a mutant society told through the eyes of youngster Jubilee. It’s a so-so tale with one or two clever twists wasted on children, though there’s enough explosions and killer robots to sate anyone’s appetite.

There are one or two changes from the source material: the cast is now multi-national, and you can get most of the character traits simply from the title sequence. Wolverine is gruff, Gambit is perpetually horny, Storm always goes a bit over the top and gives Brian Blessed a run for his money in the melodrama stakes. Oh, and watch out for Dixie chick Rogue’s “You look more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” I spat out my drink in laughter – and yet I can’t decide whether it was meant to be funny or not.

Overall though, the way it’s been handled is pleasing. There’s something reassuring about heroes that fly through the air with their hands out in front of them, plus the characters are (mostly) faithful. And the theme tune rocks.

selected from TV Zone #130
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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