A podcast exploring the written worlds of Doctor Who...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

For November: Alien Bodies

Episode 10, in which we review Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible by Marc Platt, can be found here.  This month's recording was...well, let's just say "interesting."  Special thanks to Phil Serna of the Adventures in Time, Space, and Music podcast who helped us out with yet another brilliant reading.

For November, 2011, Erik has chosen the epic Alien Bodies by Lawrence Miles.  Few books have such a brilliant reputation than this one, so we're looking forward to next month's recording.  From the back cover:

On an island in the East Indies, in a lost city buried deep in the heart of the rainforest, agents of the most formidable powers in the galaxy are gathering. They have been invited there to bid for what could turn out to be the deadliest weapon ever created.

When the Doctor and Sam arrive in the city, the Time Lord soon realises they've walked into the middle of the strangest auction in history — and what's on sale to the highest bidder is something more horrifying than even the Doctor could have imagined, something that could change his life forever.

And just when it seems things can't get any worse, the Doctor finds out who else is on the guest list.

Alien Bodies is a milestone in the Eighth Doctor series because it introduces us to Faction Paradox, who became important later in the series.  And this is just our opinion, but ten will get you twenty that Steven Moffat has been inspired by this one.

Lawrence Miles also penned the Interference books for the BBC New Adventures and Christmas on a Rational Planet for the Virgin New Adventures, among others.  He has an infamous reputation in the fan community for being critical of the current series, but we really hope he doesn't burn any of his bridges: Alien Bodies could easily be an Eleventh Doctor story, and it could easily become the next Human Nature and find a slot in the series.

Please come and join us on Facebook follow us on twitter via @dwbcpodcastYou can also follow Erik via @sjcaustenite and Sean via @tardistavern.


  1. Cant find the link for Alien Bodies on this page :)

  2. I never quite know where to post a comment after a show. Do I post on the one where the book was announced? Or the post where the podcast is released and which has the cover of the following podcast's book selection?

    Anyway, wonderful job as always. Sound quality still a bit iffy, which I thought was much better last time in The Dark Path but what do I know.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your negative reviews of CC:TC. What a messy jumble of (potentially interesting) ideas with really no purpose or... Ugh. I can't even come up with words to be negative against it. I'm so glad I'm not alone in hating this book.

    This is single-handedly the book that defeated my attempt (back in 2003 to 2006-ish) to read every single Who novel (Target, Missing Adventures, New Adventures, BBC Books, New Zealand fan novelisations, etc) in order from the start. I got to this book and just could. not. keep. going. anymore. From that point on I skipped books like crazy.

    Alien Bodies, however... I will refrain from spoilering, but IMHO a vast improvement, even though in general I don't tend to enjoy Lawrence Miles's stuff (especially that Henrietta Street piece of cr@p).

    Anyway, keep up the good work! Always fun to see a new episode pop up in my iTunes!

  3. Dave--Alien Bodies is our assignment for November. The link for its podcast will go up in December. --Erik

  4. I notice that you again insist in episode 11 that the novels are in a separate continuity to the television series. I think this attitude likely comes from trying to use other franchises' rules on DOCTOR WHO. Yes, STAR TREK novels are explicitly non-canon and STAR WARS books are inferior canon. But the DW rights-holders have never opined on the canonicity of novels, except to say that the New Adventures were the "official" continuation of the Seventh Doctor's era -- whatever that means.

    You might want to ponder the wisdom of propagating the "not canon" viewpoint, since your goal is to get people to read the books. Some people won't read if these are labelled out-of-continuity.

    Besides, that road is awfully messy, the further down it you get. For instance, Faction Paradox books (as published by Mad Norwegian) ARE explicitly OOC, because they aren't published by the BBC, but it's hard to creditably argue that anything bearing a BBC logo or license is outside the canon. It also makes it harder to talk about the differences in the narrative assumptions underpinning a book like ALIEN BODIES, which is meant to be understood as a set of events which actually happened to the Doctor, versus those behind THE CURSE OF FATAL DEATH or Big Finish's UNBOUND series, which are licensed, but deliberately non-continuous.

    It might be, and this is just a suggestion, better to think of these books as simply "the canon of the 1990s", rather than something deliberately set apart from televised continuity. With such a long lifespan, DW tends to have stretches of continuity that are invalidated by later eras. For instance, THE SEEDS OF DEATH sits comfortably with THE MOONBASE but not THE WATERS OF MARS. MARS makes a nonsense out of what the Troughton era said about 21st century Earth attitudes towards spaceflight. We were supposed to be avoiding spaceflight and devoting our energies to Transmat beams, according to Hulke and Dicks, but apparently Davies and Ford want us to be planting colonies on Mars and making faster-than-light voyages.

    Moreover, most 90s novel writers tried very hard, often harder than television writers, to get the televised continuity right -- even if Gary Russell tried to use later books to create alternate histories for his own Big Finish characters, like Evelyn. And really the novels aren't even as discontinuous as some other licensed stuff, like the TV Comic strips with John and Gillian.

    On balance, the novels are genuine efforts to write "proper" DW stories. They may occasionally contradict other stories in other media, or even other novels -- but no more so than any two randomly selected TV stories. If you read them that way, you'll get more out of them than if you start with the false assumption that "they don't really count".

  5. Darth--
    I think you raise a valid point. I never intend to be dismissive, nor does Sean, I am sure. I completely agree that the novel writers, by and large, are much more aware of the canon they're working with than the TV writers tended to be--perhaps sometimes even to their detriment, but that's a matter of opinion, not fact. For me, though, and I am sure I don't express this terribly well on the podcast, is that canonicity is a very minor factor in determining a book's quality--if it is indeed a factor at all. Personally, I do think some of the novels we've read do seem to conflict with canon as established by the new series--but, again, that's a matter of opinion, not of fact. Regardless, the novels stand as works on their own, and their own quality and inventiveness is far more important to me than whether or not they apparently contradict "The Underwater Menace."

    Thanks for listening, and I'll try to be more careful about the canon question in future.


  6. Kevin--

    First of all, thanks for listening--it's wonderful to know there are people out there who enjoy hearing us rabbit on. And post wherever and whenever you like--I check all of the various venues and respond whenever I can.

    Sorry about the sound quality issues. Alas, I am a poor engineer, so my attempts to create a crisp, clear sounding podcast sometimes fall short of the mark. Given how long it takes us to record, re-recording if the audio is less than perfect is a tough proposition--but I do what I can to make it listenable.

    I'm glad that our dislike of CC:TC somehow vindicated your own dislike of it. From what I gather, our opinion was not exactly in the minority, either.

    Glad that our little show brightens your day!


  7. Erik --

    I think you're spot on. Continuity doesn't matter to the enjoyment of a story, especially if you've been feeding at the DW trough for a spell. After a while, it becomes obvious that you cab;t get too fussed about long-term continuity, because the writers of, say, the 1966 Doctor Who annual weren't aware of what RTD would do with the franchise in 2007, and he would reciprocally ignore the annual because such a small percentage of his audience would possess even a digital copy of it.

    And you're right to stress that, within this franchise, canon is left to our opinions, because the BBC likes it like that.

    I suppose I worry about your listeners who come from (largely American) franchises, where there actually is a statement of fact, changeable though it might be, about what "counts". One of the beauties of the DWU is that you can pick and choose from any medium to create your own canon, and the copyright holders don't dispute you.

    This doesn't happen in the STU or SWU. Try getting any SW fan to care about discussing SPLINTER IN THE MINDS EYE. It matters as much to a SW fan as the Book of Maccabees does to a Protestant. It has been well and truly cast out.

    And as wonderfully-written as a lot of the ST novels are, there's little continuity between them. Though there are some miniseries with a sense if serial storytelling, a lot of the books violently disagree with each other. The writers in a way don't care because none of what they're writing is canon. The 8th season of DS8, fir example, is achingly beautiful in a lot of places. But it doesn't, and never did, matter to Paramount.

    By contrast, non-televised DW stories are very much alive to the BBC. In a best case scenario, they'll get HUMAN NATURE-d. But they are often at least inspirational, like you noticed with ALIEN BODIES, or as certainly was the case with the whole Bad Wolf thing, which RTD lifted wholesale from the DWM strip, THE FLOOD. (Seriously, the last chapter of that may as well have been a storyboard for the end of THE PARTING OF THE WAYS.)

    I guess what I'm sayin' is that the DW books and comic strips and audios are a much more vibrant part of current continuity, because they were read or written by current TV writers. There's a much harder line between novel writers and screenwriters in other franchises, along with rules put in place to keep the two groups apart.

    I just would hate it if some new DW fan thought there was no point to the novels, as in many other franchises. You will gain zero insight into today's ST franchise by reading a random ST novel. But we only have to turn to Davies, Moffat, Jones, Cornell, Roberts and Russell to assert that yesterday's DW novelists are in control of today's continuity. If you care about Big Finish, the relevance between yesterday's authors and today's continuity is even stronger.

  8. p.s. Sorry for the spelling mistakes. My typing is compromised at the moment.