Ah, Gary Russell. He just can't get a break. Not even from me... or can he?
Well, could he that should be. Because here's what I wrote back in the days of John Howard and my own morbid obesity:
Invasion of the Cat-People by Gary Russel
This book is something of an oddity, but not in the crazy-stuff-going-on way of Dave Stone (more on that soon) but in that it seems like the author isn't quite sure just what he's doing. This is indicated, from all places, by the title. Firstly, there's no real invasion. There's a small ship, with a handful of soldiers who don't really want anything on Earth. Secondly, the Cat-People are tangential to the plot.
However, I loved the wierdness of the plot. The wierd going-ons, the over-bloated guest cast, and the God-like powers of the Euterpians were all fun, especially when, due to some mucking about in time, we see a character's final death several chapters before it actually happens! Plus, there's a completely pointless trip to 12th Century Baghdad where there's lots of jolly running about through alleyways. Ah, what fun.
The only probem is, Russel doesn't make it quite as fun as he could. In spite of all these high-camp elements that work well, there are lots of bits that feel to be taking themselves a bit too seriously - just about every scene featuring Polly, in fact. It's a shame because this book has so much to enjoy.
The Second Doctor is, in my opinion, well done. Okay, he might seem a little cleverer than usual but there were no bits where I though "That's not my Trout!" and I'd have liked to see him perform a lot of the scenes. This is one of the few 2DAs that is sans-Jamie, and it works because Russel does a great job with Ben and Polly - most notably their culture shock at arriving in the 1990s. Apparently Polly is a bit out of character here, according to some, but I didn't notice.
One or two of Russel's quirks as a writer can be distracting - dumping gigantic blocs of character background on us without warning (Prof. Nicholas Bridgeman's literal life story is given to us over several pages) and his love of continuity. I never expected to see a Logopolis reference in a 2DA for a start! Also, Russ aparrently found some early paperwork on which Polly is referred to as "Polly Wright" and that's her new full name. Most people probably don't care, but Russel seemingly goes to a deliberate effort to mention this name as many times as possible.
In short: I can recommend parts of this book. I think anyone who reads this will find plenty that's very enjoyable, but just as easily find cringe-worthy stuff as well. Don't read for nostalgic Troughton-era fun - this is very much a 1990s book, with the 60s crew plonked right in the middle. As it is, I give it 6/10 because I had a lot of fun, in spite of its major flaws.
Next - Burning Heart by Dave Stone
Aside from the terribly bland and ill-descriptive writing.. I actually agree with myself. Well... I might boost it up to 7. But then again I haven't gone and re-read it or anything serious like that. Who knows - the long tarot scenes might be even duller the second time around?
I just liked it because this is the sort of stuff I like from Doctor Who - real 'WTF' stuff that makes no sense at all. The entire book is based on this - it's named after aliens who have bugger all to do with plot! And can names get more B-grade than that, really? You can't accuse the story of false advertising. If something's called 'Invasion of the Cat People' it's going to be ridiculous. The only surprise might be just how ridiculous.
A thing that a lot of people didn't seem to like was the depiction of Troughton. I loved it, myself. The main issue was that he apparently was too "Seventh Doctor"-ish. But this isn't true - the Second Doctor spends the entire story acting like an idea whilst somewhat ruthlessly planning the means to destroy the two enemy alien races - what's your problem, people? What else did you think he was doing on his three years in the show? Nothing but sabotage covered with "Oh, dear me, I must have gotten lost on the way to my cell!"
And if he was being McCoy he wouldn't have been acting like an idiot. He'd have pretended to have been a godlike being, people! And he probably would have convinced nobody except his audience. There may well be truth to the stories this way intended as an NA, of course, but I'm glad it wasn't. When the story relies on its "WTF?" factor so much it's greatly boosted by putting the most innocent of TARDIS teams into the darkest corners of the 1990s. And then going on a holiday to Australia, of all places! And besides, the 'house style' of the NAs would have made this so much duller, with their golden rule of 'the Doctor can never be fun'. I mean, even in Sky Pirates he isn't fun! The story is fun, but the Doctor is the sole straight man in the entire universe..
So, erm... I liked this one. Quite a bit.