Sep 16, 2014

[Books] Doctor Who: Scales of Injustice (Monster Collection Edition)

I've been enjoying my little journey through the various Doctors thanks to the re-releases of key Doctor Who  novels. And while I'm still committed to eventually watching all of the Classic serials prior to the 2005 reboot of the series, I know I have quite a long way to go. The somewhat curated collection of Doctor Who books known as the Monster Collection has been a nice way to jump from Doctor to Doctor as he faces many different iconic foes.

Scales of Injustice has him once again facing the dreaded Silurians, the highly intelligent descendants of the dinosaurs that hid away underground in order to escape the cataclysm that destroyed most life on the surface. And a race of intelligent dinosaur descendants is certainly quite a fascinating idea - it's no wonder the new Who writers made sure to bring them back eventually.

Of course this novel still takes place in the classic era with our dapper, Earth-bound Third Doctor once again trying to find a way to deal with the Earth Reptiles. And he's certainly a very distinct incarnation of the Doctor - one that has a lot of flair and style added into the mix of things. And of course he has a car.

Synopsis: Doctor Who: Scales of Injustice is classic Doctor Who novel written by Gary Russell. It was originally released in 1996 as part of the Virgin Missing Adventures series of stories and was re-released in 2014 as part of the Monster Collection of novels.

A young boy has gone missing and a policewoman has suddenly taken to drawing cave paintings after some sort of incident. Given all this, the Third Doctor highly suspects that the Silurians are back and he's off to confirm if his hypothesis is correct. The Brigadier isn't quite in a position to help right away given that UNIT's funding is in question and he's going through some troubled times at home. Plus there's the fact that the Doctor managed to keep the initial findings about the Silurians secret before he could dash off.

Meanwhile his assistant and companion Liz Shaw is off on an investigation on her own. Joined by a journalist and following the leads provided by some mysterious voice on the telephone, her case has her trying to dig into the secrets of the mysterious Glasshouse. But more importantly she seems to be on the trail of individuals who don't exist. And of course there's the Silurians themselves - but not quite the same ones that the Doctor faced before. They have their own agenda that involves reclaiming the surface world for themselves and also addressing a deeper secret.

I was rather surprised at the number of key threads that this book tried to address - and they weren't haphazardly handled either. As much as the Doctor will always be sort of our hero, this novel made sure to give a lot of different characters their time in the sun, and I'm solely referring to Liz Shaw and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Even the various "villains" in the story had their respective narratives that were expanded upon, resulting in quite a number of plates spinning in the air.

The author's introduction for this edition of the book had a bit of an apology about how much death happened in this book. And when compared to other Doctor Who books that I've read so far, I have to admit that he wasn't quite exaggerating either. But these weren't all "on-screen" deaths of a gruesome nature. Many times characters just seemed to stumble across dead characters that had been killed previously - something you'd associate more with a spy novel or something.

Then again, the Third Doctor's time on Earth working for UNIT did sort of make him like a secret agent - or at least a government agent referred to as some sort of scientific adviser. So I suppose he rather fit right in with that sort of a theme. And in this book he does his fair share of sneaking around and sleuthing for clues or something along those lines. But at the end of the day the Doctor is still the Doctor.

My heart particularly went out to the Brigadier since this book decided to address the failure of his marriage. And this is more than just referring to it in passing. The Brigadier's scenes often involved moments with his wife whether in person or on the telephone as his marriage finally falls apart under the strain of his work for UNIT and his oath not to tell her anything under the Official Secrets Act. And thus his wife has done her very best to endure not knowing where her husband is for days or even weeks at a time before the latest UNIT case is resolved. You can't really fault either of them for how things turned out - it's all just rather sad.

The Silurians themselves, admittedly, weren't the most fascinating aspect of this story. The human stories seemed a lot more well thought-out and the Silurians were just there as so much background villainy. What started as a lot of paranoid rambling and such later progressed into a nonsensical attack on the surface world. It wasn't quite bad writing, but it wasn't all that great either, especially for a story with the Silurians as the central focus.

On the whole, I think that the author's desire explain away certain mentions from the show related to C19 or the supposed Glasshouse that was a focus of the book and create a compelling plot around them. But in doing so, he created this huge counter plot that sort of competed for space and attention with the main plot regarding the Silurians. At least the ending of the story felt very Doctor Who in terms of flavor and tone - that was a decent enough payoff.

Doctor Who: Scales of Injustice is a good Doctor Who adventure on its own but not the greatest showcase of the Silurians in all their reptilian glory. But it certainly had a lot of feels, whether you're thinking about the Brigadier or even Mike Yates or whoever else you want to root for from this era. Thus the book only gets a modest 3.5 Earth Reptiles lurking around the surface out of a possible 5.

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