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Such a Tragedy

By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 5 June 2024
Rating:   5

Gareth Roberts' second novel for Doctor Who shows all the signs of an early effort. Roberts has written much better later in his career. With this novel, it seems that he could not really decide what the novel was supposed to be. Therefore, it is two things in one and neither at the same time. Tragedy Day seems to be a satire or spoof of some kind, but much of that is undermined by Roberts' attempts to make it a traditional Doctor Who story as if broadcast on TV. The result is that most of the novel makes no sense, it has far too many things happening at once, and major parts are not related enough to each other to matter. Additionally, the writing is quite clunky at times, such as "she asked the slim, dark-haired boy at her side," as if every character must be introduced by direct physical description so the casting director would know exactly whom to cast. Descriptions lack the subtlety and grace of good writing. It would take far too long, and probably not be very interesting, for me to go on about all the mistakes, preposterous coincidences, and throwaway elements. Here are a couple: a human-arachnid hybrid assassin comes to a planet visited by virtually no one, a planet where he has never been before, and manages to secure a super-special James Bond style spy car built especially for him. The big ending in which The Doctor saves the day requires The Doctor to trick the villains in his TARDIS to go to a place with him, where he has never been and knows nothing about, so that he can use the anti-matter thingamajig in the dancefloor, about which he has never been told, to foil the baddies. It is just terribly thought out, and the satire is neither funny nor particularly pointed. The good things about Tragedy Day are mostly in how Roberts has written the characters of the TARDIS crew. The whole "they hate each other" mess that ran through the previous ten novels or so is totally gone now. The characters are actually likeable again. Their lines fit the characters, and I can hear the voices of the actors (even though it would be a few more years before Lisa Bowerman took the role of Bernice) saying the lines. I just wish these characters were in a better story.

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