Monday, 25 April 2011

The Feast of the Drowned written by Stephen Cole

What’s it about: Returning to Earth, the Doctor and Rose discover that the recently departed crew members of the Ascendant are returning to haunt their families and to tempt them to take part in the feast of the drowned…

Mockney Dude: I always get the impression that Steve Cole is trying a little too hard to emphasise the already over the top qualities of the new series Doctor’s. His characterisation was always at its best when he was dealing with the original, unpredictable eighth Doctor because he could push him as far as he liked. The tenth Doctor of these New Series Adventures at this point was just there to drive the plots along – it wasn’t until later in the run that they really starting exploring the character. As such the Doctor of The Feast of the Drowned is passable but unmemorable except when he is cracking appalling puns or acting uber hyper active – both of which were pretty irritating. What’s more the smug, exclusive invitation only relationship that he had with Rose during series two is in full effect here and just as annoying as ever. He is pretty indescribable and prone to verbal execrations! He is eager to escape the remnants of Rose’s life but she clings on regardless. The Doctor picks up his assistants on the job and they usually turn out to be very handy. When you meet the Doctor you just go on paying.

Chavvy Chick: I’ve got to give Cole some credit for capturing Billie Piper’s mannerisms and speech patterns perfectly, you can literally hear Piper saying the dialogue that Rose is given in this tale (‘he never!’). He highlights the sheer mundanity of Rose’s life before she joined the Doctor and how much she has changed since travelling with him. All we need the Doctor to do now is to take every single chav from England on a spin in the TARDIS and we might have a productive society once again! Keisha is one of Rose’s clubbing crowd; the wildest, loudest and craziest of the lot. Rose used to have a crush on her brother when she was fourteen but so much has happened since then. Rose is worried that she has become hardened by death and although she has been with the Doctor for some time she still cannot judge his moods. Rose was attracted to Mickey because of his easygoing attitude, his gorgeous smile, his dark skin and playful eyes. These days Mickey digs up stuff he thinks they might be interested in, hoping to make Rose drop in. When Rose went vanishing Keisha pushed things through Mickey’s letterbox and got her mates to beat a confession out of him. Waiting all week for a Friday night to go clubbing is the sort of time travel the Doctor could never understand and yet that all seemed so distant to her now. She was only nineteen but travelling with the Doctor was making her grow up so fast – or was that grow old so fast? Rose remembers how she felt when she discovered how many nightmares skulked in the shadows of her familiar world. Rose feels a horrible sense of wrongness when she discovers that Mickey has been with one of her mates. Swanning about on other planets Rose had thought she had outgrown her former life but this little home truth grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her right back in the old days. Mickey loves Rose whoever she has become but Keisha cannot forgive her for abandoning her. Rose believes Mickey and apologises for what she put him through when she left. She changed everything so fast with that one decision to leave and they were different people back then…but some things always remain the same like how much they love each other. She even forgives Keisha for lying and wishes her well in her life before well and truly turning her back on her.

Foreboding: Did Russell T Davies like the sound of some of these ideas? You’ve got people being haunted by a dangerous source (Army of Ghosts) and monsters that have water gushing from their mouths (Waters of Mars). ‘We’re going to need Torchwood’ says one soldier.

Twists: They found the Ascendant on the seabed carved up into slices like a Sunday roast. When Rose pushed off Mickey and Keisha drowned their sorrows together and woke up in bed together the next morning – although he cannot remember anything nefarious. People are throwing themselves into the Thames and vanishing. I was so glad when the Doctor crashed the tugboat because the book had been running on the spot for 50 pages repeating the returning ghosts scenario over and over. Huntley’s death is pleasingly graphic, a strong touch of horror for the NSAs. Keisha is characterised as a selfish, self pitying liar and it’s almost as if Steve Cole has met my sister! Its rather wonderful when Vida turns on the Doctor and Rose and their accusatory, pious attitude towards everything. ‘Any scientific technique can become a weapon when there’s a will for it’ – I wish the book had more of that kind of philosophy about it. They are fighting something that has an affinity with water, can harness it and adapt it to suit a purpose and even borrow it from human beings in the vicinity. Pearls are created when oysters are in pain – I never knew that! Crayshaw is 250 years old and he was infected in 1759 when his ship went down. Figures made of water attack and if you escape their grasp they slosh down into a wave and sweep you away! Rose is dragged beneath the Thames and returns to haunt the Doctor and Mickey. It turns out nothing happened between Mickey and Keisha, he rejected her when he was drunk and because getting boys is the one thing she can do she made it all up – wow this really is my sister!

Embarrassing Bits: ‘Take me to your Vida!’ – I hope that wasn’t chosen as her name just so Cole could include this horrendous pun! There are pages and pages of the Doctor trying to be endlessly witty with Vida which should have been pruned down because most of it is cringeworthy. Sometimes there is so much dialogue and so little description you would be perfectly within in your right to think that perhaps you were reading a script. The conclusion of the book is actually extremely dull, what could have been an awesome water army tearing across the city and dehydrating the population is instead the Doctor dumping some scientific nonsense into the water

Funny Bits: ‘H2Omigod!’

Result: Disappointing because I know that Stephen Cole is capable of producing much better than this, The Feast of the Drowned scores in its handling of Rose but as an adventure tale in its own right it is perhaps the epitome of average. There are a number of intriguing ideas (which are stolen by the TV series and handled with far more aplomb) but ultimately the story is little more than a run-around with an unmemorable foe and a technobabble fuelled conclusion. There is plenty of action but the writing is lacking, there is little to make the pace of this story exciting and we keep stopping to ponder on whether Mickey is a whore or not which holds up the action. This was the wrong time to have a period of vanilla for the books but Cole writes two unmemorable books around this period and encourages more people to desert the range. Such a shame because with the arrival of Martha things are about to improve considerably: 5/10

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