Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Deadly Reunion by Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts

Plot: Just after the Second World War Second Lieutenant Lethbridge-Stewart is confronted with the truth of the Greek gods and finds his heart stolen by Persephone. Years later when he is a Brigadier and head of UNIT the stage is set for a deadly reunion…

Stiff Upper Lip: This book is more about the Brigadier than it is the Doctor and whilst I would have preferred a taut military thriller rather than a travelogue and a Pertwee run-around discovering any information about Alistair Lethbridge Stewart is nice.

Alistair had committed himself to Fiona Campbell and after spotting the delicious Sephie he soon began to regret it. He has managed to scale the North East face of Ben Nevis. He lost his virginity to a girl called Vera the night he was commissioned second lieutenant. He is not sure if he believes in the soul but he definitely does not believe in the devil. Alistair has always had a healthy respect for ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. He knows how to calm angry dogs. During his training to be an officer he slipped up and condemned a hundred imaginary men to their deaths. Just before he had passed out of Sandhurst he was given a look at his final report – for officer like qualities he received 93% (nobody had ever got 100%) and for leadership he got 90% He seems to think he is always right. Sephie deliberately leads him into the waters of forgetfulness so he will never remember his time in the Underworld. The Brigadier is still reluctant to formally admit the existence of extra terrestrials despite having met some particularly unpleasant specimens.

Good Grief: Could the Doctor be getting used to his exile? And worse – getting to like it, like some long-term institutionalised prisoner? Despite his frequent complaints and grumbles to the Brigadier (just to keep him on his toes) life as UNITs scientific adviser wasn’t bad. He’d always been restless, discontented, sceptical – it was an attitude that had taken him from a position of power and prestige on Gallifrey to become a hunted fugitive. Was he beginning to settle down? Was he tamed? Was he declining into a lovably eccentric boffin? The Doctor and Ernest Hemmingway ran bulls together in Pamplona in the thirties. You wouldn’t call it a friendship between the Doctor and the Master but they might once have been friends. There was something, a certain mutual regard – as if they both felt the universe would be a less interesting place without the other.

Twists: Demeter, Sephie and Hermy are the Greek Gods but in reality, immortal humans (“Of course we’re not really Gods but it was quite fun for a while.”) Homo superior? The Players are the same breed but they use men’s lives as a chess game to while away the never-ending boredom. Sephie is kidnapped by Hades and taken to the Underworld. When Zeus ‘retired’ he handed Sephie his powers and that is why Hades wants her. Hades means to displace Zeus as the God of Gods and become the Supreme Being worshipped by the human race – he intends to start another war, countries tearing each other apart and then he will appear as their saviour. Barry Letts’ monsters are certainly memorable – ‘a giant spiderish thing with far too many legs, a proboscis so full of blood it flopped along the ground like a balloon full of water.’ Hades is Colonel Niclovic! Things become appropriately epic – Hades throws hurricanes at their escape ship and grows to mountainous proportions and is confronted by Poseidon, God of the Sea. Terrance Dicks’ first chapter is shockingly brutal, train crashes, parishioners being gunned down… A decapitated man stumbles towards Jo and the Doctor is confronted by a bull…all in a days work for UNIT! Hippies are spiking drugs with a slow reacting drug which is causing violent incidents up and down the country. A body in the library, the vicar is found with an oriental dagger jammed between his shoulder blades. Upon exploring the Abbey the Doctor discovers Sarg, a deadly alien drug, being grown – whole planets have been ruined by this substance, civilisations collapsing in an orgy of violence. Of course the Master is involved so this really doesn’t belong in this section…but I was so happy when he turned up here he is anyway!

Embarrassing Bits: Who on Earth taught Barry Letts to write?

Funny Bits: Yates looked more like a poet or an intellectual than a soldier.
“I’ll have you know Jo that in my younger days I played lead perigosto stick for the Gallifrey Academy Hot Five – until the faculty closed us down. The Master was on drums.”
The Doctor snapped, “How often do I have to tell people – I am not a pop star!”
“Look at him man, he’s skewered between the shoulder blades, practically pinned to the desk! What do you suppose happened? He got a nasty itch he couldn’t reach?” – I would LOVE to have head Pertwee say that!
“Trap One receiving. Kindly observe proper RT procedure Trap Two.” “Never mind that nonsense Brigadier! Listen to me!”
“My dear Doctor, if everyone in the world was evil I should scarcely stand out in a crowd!”

Result: Anniversary book? Pah! There have been far better PDAs and there will be far better PDAs…why couldn’t the schedules be jiggled up a bit so something worthwhile could have taken this spot? Deadly Reunion is passable fluff but it’s riddled with flaws. The Barry Letts section is the most interesting part but is written with such hilarious ineptness (the writing doesn’t flow, the descriptions are lousy, the guy wants to focus more on the operations of a ship than on, say, plot and character) I struggled through it for nearly a week. The Terrance Dicks section is as brisk and uncomplicated as ever but plays like the ‘Best of…’ of the Pertwee era with nothing new or challenging added. There are some lovely touches in this section but it’s a pure nostalgia rush and thus easy to get bored with when the dire plot attempts to take hold. I can see a violent, psychologically unbalancing wartime thriller starring the Brigadier which pushes his character to the limits and we see through and through why we love him so much. The best this pair could think up was him getting off with a Greek God: 3/10

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