Friday, May 24, 2013

The Doctor's Family UNIT

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 3.03

Title: Last of the Gaderene
Author: Mark Gatiss
Team TARDIS: Third Doctor, Jo Grant, the UNIT boys
Adversary: The Master, The Gaderene
Originally Released: January 2000
Range and Number: Past Doctor Adventures #28

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -

2000 BBC Books Edition -
"My name is Bliss," said the newcomer, "and I bring great news for you all!"
The new owners of a Second World War aerodrome promise a golden dawn of prosperity for the East Anglian village of Culverton. The population rejoices - with one or two exceptions. Former Spitfire pilot Alec Whistler knows the aerodrome of old, having found a strange, jade-coloured crystal there years before...
When black-shirted troops appear on the streets, Whistler takes his suspicions to his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor and Jo are sent to investigate and soon discover that all is not well in the seemingly idyllic village.
What are the black coffin-like objects being unloaded at the aerodrome? What horror lies behind Legion International's impeccable facade? And what is the monstrous creature growing and mutating in the marsh?
As Culverton gears up for its summer fete, the Doctor finds himself involved in a race against time to prevent a massive colonisation of Earth. For the last of the Gaderene are on their way...

2013 BBC Books Edition -
The aerodrome in Culverton has new owners, and they promise an era of prosperity for the idyllic village. But former Spitfire pilot Alex Whistler is suspicious – when black-shirted troops appear on the streets, he contacts his 
old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at UNIT. The Third Doctor is sent to investigate – and soon uncovers a sinister plot to colonise the Earth. The Gaderene are on their way...

My Review:
The last couple of Pertwee stories I’ve reviewed have departed a bit from the norm of the Third Doctor’s era. “The Curse of Peladon” - while certainly one of my favorites - don’t employ any of the usual tropes of this era. “The Last Post” involves UNIT and much of Season 7, but it’s Liz Shaw rather than Jo Grant as the companion (not to take anything away from Liz because I think she’s one of the best, even if she gets overshadowed by what comes later). But I felt good about highlighting these other aspects of this era because the book chosen to be part of the 50th Anniversary reprints for the Third Doctor has everything that the Third Doctor is associated with - this is the salad days of UNIT. In fact, this story has a distinct “The Daemons” vibe - they aren't really at UNIT HQ, everyone’s scattered around the area, the Master is playing second-fiddle to the real bad guy of the piece, but the Master is still making his presence felt (not to mention a classic Doctor-Master barb-trading session in which each insults the other’s Time Lord cred, friends and... maybe their mothers come up. I’m not too hip to Gallifreyan slang, but I think it happened in there somewhere).  Basically, if Jon Pertwee is your Doctor or if UNIT fries your bacon, you will love this story.

(Oh - and Spitfires. Can’t forget the Spitfires. I wonder if Mark Gatiss had that in mind when he wrote “Victory of the Daleks.” For me, Mark Gatiss and Spitfires go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Sort of a strange connection, but there you are).

Really, the stars of this story are the Doctor, Jo and UNIT.  There are a requisite number of one-off characters, but they only serve to make the main players look good.  Yes, you're going to say "But that's what the one-offs are supposed to do!"  Well, they did their job very well because I don't remember them very much.  But I do remember all the wonderful scenes between the Doctor and Jo, the Doctor and the Brigadier, and anything with Sergeant Benton.  Just for good measure, there's a scene where the Doctor makes his own nitrous oxide out of fertilizer, iron filings and a kitchen sink.  Definitely something I could imagine Three doing in a televised story (Jon Pertwee: The Original Mythbuster).

Not to spoil anything (oh, who am I kidding? This is a Spoiler-and-a-Half) - this may even possibly be where the Master regenerates. At least, the Master mentions that he’s going to miss this body - that it had flair and style (something along those lines). We never actually see it happen because we’re too worried if the Doctor is going to make it out of the Deadly Column of Light, but it is nice to see the Master’s regeneration alluded to in a Pertwee-era story. Particularly since Roger Delgado never did get a proper send-off in the TV show (understandably - and tragically - so). Maybe that’s just as well, and why in all the incarnations of the Master, the character may be dead and dusted, but he always manages to come back in some capacity. It’s yet to be seen if the New Series will ever bring him back again, but he has been known to return from worse... okay, maybe there’s never been anything worse than being time-locked with Gallifrey and the Time Lords... but still - he’s a wily old fellow.

To wrap up: This was a very fun story.  I enjoy UNIT immensely and I was glad that this book came into to represent that element of Doctor Who for this project since I also wanted to highlight other lesser-attended-to aspects of Three's run.  It's hard to let everyone have their say in a project like this, even though that's what I want to do.

And if I had a hard time letting all of Three's friends and villains have their moment in the sun, just think how much more difficult it's going to be in the next round? (Spoilers, sweetie!)

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 4.01 - Rod Serling Does Who (or Philip Hinchcliffe Does The Twilight Zone - take your pick)

Previously -
Review 3.02 - The Following Takes Place Between "Spearhead from Space" and "Inferno"

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