Oct 21, 2014

[Books] Doctor Who: Corpse Marker (Monster Collection Edition)

We're coming up to the last few books in the Doctor Who: Monster Collection and this leaves us with the somewhat less-known monsters, especially for those who us a little late to the Doctor Who dance program. If anything, I figured these books would be a nice bridge for current fans to get into Classic Doctor Who stories in time, provided one has access to them.

Corpse Marker brings us the dreaded robots that had been seen in the episode, "The Robots of Death" together with the Fourth Doctor. Beyond featuring similar robots, this story was actually positioned as a direct sequel to that episode. It was certainly an interesting direction to take (somewhat similar to Scales of Injustice). But beyond just being a sequel story, it actually takes place very shortly after the episode itself.

The book certainly tried to capture the feel of a true Doctor Who television adventure and I could totally see the progression from each act of the story to the other. The final reveal as a whole was a little underwhelming though and things ended somewhat abruptly for me.

Synopsis: Doctor Who: Corpse Marker is Doctor Who novel written by Chris Boucher. It was first released in 1999 and was re-issued as part of the Doctor Who Monster Collection in 2014.

The Fourth Doctor and his Companion Leela find themselves back on the planet Kaldor, but some amount of time after the events in "The Robots of Death." And what they find is a society largely dependent on the same robots that they had faced back on the Kaldor Sandminer. But shortly after their arrival on Kaldor, the two get separated with the Doctor discovering a secret project involving new types of robots and Leela finding herself among rebel figures of some sort.

But there's another mystery unfolding - one involving the surviving crew of the Sandminer who are aware of the dangers these robots potentially represent. They're the only knows who know that robot programming can be circumvented in a manner that allows them to kill their human masters, and perhaps it's because of that very knowledge that they're being picked off one by one.

I have to admit that I haven't had enough exposure to the Fourth Doctor and Leela in terms of my Whovian life, but I'll get there eventually, I promise. So it was about time that I finally read a book involving this Doctor including one of his more notable Companions. Admittedly I was more curious about Leela than the Doctor - she does rather stick out like a sore thumb compared to other Companions.

And I really appreciated what they did her - rather than painting her as being simple-minded or primitive, we instead have a character with a deep sense of honor and a greater focus on the nature of the warrior. She's very much like a Star Trek Klingon in that regard, and is able to quickly translate the alien-ness of the different worlds that she travels to with the Doctor into terms she can readily understand.

The Fourth Doctor was a delight in this adventure and his bumbling almost seemed totally insane, except for the fact that in the end he ended up being precisely where he needed to be. And that's his way, I suppose, and it worked rather well in this narrative. It didn't necessarily feel like he got unnaturally lucky or something - there's just a highly complex chain of events that bounced him around the story as he navigated through each plot point.

The overall story was initially intriguing, but eventually a little tiring. I appreciate the effort put into creating a complex mystery with echoes of Asimov's robot-centric mysteries. But we start with the premise that we know that robots are capable of lethal violence on this world, so we don't exactly write off the robots as possible suspects. And soon enough we as readers get a full view of the robots moving about the city, clearly up to no good.

And then the final reveal of all that had been going on felt more like a whimper after all that build-up. And seriously, that was a ridiculously short end to things despite all that had gone on before. There was a decent enough idea behind the book, but I think it somehow got lost in the details of the narrative.

Doctor Who: Corpse Marker wasn't entirely bad but it wasn't great either. It had its fun moments but I think it got a little lost along the way. Thus the book gets 2.5 killer robots that weren't quite as scary as hoped out of a possible 5.


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