Reviews selected from TV Zone #131

Reviews online this month
(ratings given are out of 10)
• Find the pink & yellow sauce of our humour with Roobarb & Custard
Thunderbirds are go again in the latest home entertainment format
• Three are surprisingly good company in this Doctor Who novel
• and Farscape's first season gets an illustrated companion

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BBC Books
ISBN: 0 563 53806 6
Written by Paul Leonard • Out: 2 October
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Reviewed by
Neil Corry
Doctor Who: The Turing TestTres et machina

It’s bordering on outrageous conceit, really. Three readily-identifiable historical figures, one of whom only died in the last 10 years, becoming embroiled in a Doctor Who adventure? And are the BBC quite sure their families’ estates won’t have something to say about the inclusion of Alan ‘Enigma cracker’ Turing, Graham Greene and Joseph Catch #22 Heller as the book’s main protagonists? It’s lucky then that that the book’s so darn good.

The trouble with Doctor Who books is that it’s very rare for the chance being offered to the author of getting inside the hero’s head. As it’s become a rule that readers can never discover what the Doctor thinks, authors generally go for the next best perspective, the companion, and this is probably – on a side note – one reason why the New Adventures character Bernice is so popular. In this latest arc, however, there are no companions, only a series of good acquaintances.

For Leonard’s story, which hikes across Europe and Africa with World War II as its backdrop, another ‘temp’ companion would be too restrictive. With three distinct voices recalling their associations with the Doctor, the story is given increased depth, emotional punch and a heightened sense of mystery as the three men try to figure out their strange Doctor. Although the story revolves around the errant Time Lord, his absence becomes increasingly noticeable, particually in the latter half.

When he does appear, the book shines even more. His amnesia is used to brilliant effect. He’s waited on Earth for almost 50 years now and hasn’t appeared to age a day, with the effect that he’s worked out that he’s not exactly like the rest of us and desperate, often maniacally so, to find out who he is. Doctor ‘Who’ indeed.

It may be a little understatement to say that fans who want the Doctor to appear on every page might not appreciate Leonard’s story-telling: for instance there’s yet another unnamed adversary and the book becomes rather stodgy towards the climax. But then so does F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, included in my list of Favourite Books of All Time, which The Turing Test now happily joins.

selected from TV Zone #131
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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Titan Books
ISBN: 1 840 23178 5
Written by Paul Simpson & David Hughes
Out: 22 September 2000
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Reviewed by
Dan Ranger
Getting to the bottom of Moya

Farscape CompanionFarscape, eh? Brand new show, hardly in need of a companion book yet? Well, yes and no – there’s only a handful of episodes to comment on, but there’s a whole back history of the show to plunder. Thankfully, authors Paul Simpson and David Hughes took this option, and where more ‘jobbing’ authors who would have let this book so easily have ‘cash in’ scrawled all over it, they have stretched the remit of an episode guide beyond recognition and crammed this delightful tome with interviews, features, rare photos and designs and an awful lot of attention to detail.

Following the genesis of the series (originally named ‘Space Chase’ – thank goodness they got over that) right through to a preview of Season Two, the book stops off at two pertinent areas for Farscape: animatronics and special effects. These two highly-detailed sections simply make the book, and – along with the ‘Beginnings of Farscape’ section – are highly informative and give a brutally frank portrayal of the tv industry.

Despite one or two errors and a vexing propensity to keep listing the entire works of The Henson Company every time they are mentioned, this book is pretty flawless. The design is beautifully contemporary and joins its tv counterpart in style and execution. The only things I found personally annoying was the rather gushy attitude to each episode, but these are commonplace in official books so you pays your money and you takes your choice. One other minor infuriation is the episode synopses closing with ‘…’ just to conclude with a mock cliff-hanger. That is fair enough, but when the subsequent interviews then go on to reveal more about the episode’s finale, you feel that they could have just gone ahead and detailed the lot.

Minor quibbles in something so good. It’s a pity that the wizened leaders at Titan couldn’t have waited a few months, and we would have got the fantastic Season Two in there as well. But as an aide memoir, this book is certainly worth it. It also does what any series companion should do, and that is gives you a better appreciation of the show as you watch it. An essential purchase for any fan, and hopefully the start of a whole library of season companions by these two industrious writers.

selected from TV Zone #131
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
TV Zone footer