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The Massacre

Novelization of the Doctor Who serial
Douglas Westwood

The Massacre is a very good book. It is also nothing like the doctor who audio soundtrack version. Nothing like whatsoever. This is good in that you get a totally different story, but bad if you were hoping for any similarity with the audio cd. All the same characters are in both versions, Catholics, Hugenouts, firebrand Abbots etc, and they have roughly the same motivations, but in the book the story is just, well, different!

Only two scenes survive from the cd - when Catherine de Whatever is remonstrating with King Charles just before he agrees to the massacre, and when Marshall Tervannes tells Simon Duval that in fact all Huguenouts are in line for the chop. Everything else differs, not least of all an amusing scene where the Abbot of Amboise, terrified by the sight of the Tardis, tries to have it burnt at the stake! In the book version, Stephen is not all that bothered by the climax of the story, taking it more or less as philosopically as the Doctor. We don't get the scene where Dodo blunders into the Tardis either - but it is still a fast paced tale and it is still filled with enough historical mumbo jumbo to make your head spin. Why does there have to be two characters called Henri?

The main problem with both book and cd is the same - in a story called 'the Massacre', we don't get to see it! There is not even a page devoted to this; the Doctor just mentions it casually at the end. This is on a par with the book the Myth Makers - we don't witness the fall of Troy as Homer is blinded!

Heigh ho....

Diana Dougherty

"Ten thousand Huguenots died in Paris alone, and the Massacre spread to bring a total of some fifty thousand deaths through-out France. It was a senseless tragedy which will never be forgotten in that country's history."

I've been on a personal quest of sorts. I've decided that I need to read the novelizations for the stories that no longer exist in the BBC archives I haven't been reading them in any particular order, just whatever strikes my fancy. And lately I've fancied Steven Taylor, so it seemed appropriate that I read The Massacre, which is in actuality a story where Steven is the lone companion even though Dodo's joining the TARDIS crew is tacked on to the end.

There's a lovely prologue at the beginning, which finds the Doctor quietly sitting in a garden alone reminiscing when he is confronted by the Time Lords who wish to discuss certain events in France 1572.

The story itself is intriguing with lots of historical fact and color but I found much of it confusing. There are so many characters that I found myself not remembering who was on what side and what their motives where. And there was so much action that I had problems visualizing it all. It wasn't that the book was poorly written, but badly edited. Like it was just chopped down to fit to size.

I've always had a bit of a problem with the Target novelizations in that they are always so short. I did find out later that the authors were severely restricted on length, but what that means is that the story isn't given its due. There were moments from the televised script that I was looking forward to reading most especially Steven's outburst at the Doctor for leaving Anne Chaplet behind to face what was certain death. I've read that scene and it's incredibly powerful the Doctor talking to himself after Steven has walked off is exceedingly emotional. But it wasn't there.

Neither was Dodo's sequence for joining the TARDIS crew, which is never fully explained. I can only imagine that Lucarotti simply ran out of room.

And that is such a shame because as much as the fan reconstructions and the BBC Audio releases help to bring the story to life, reading can do so much more. Say what you will about John Peel, but I found his novelizations for both Power of the Daleks and Evil of the Daleks riveting. He took aspects of the shooting scripts as well as other sources and gave us two quite wonderful books in which we could fully enjoy what we sadly won't be able to see for ourselves. I've always kind of had a hope that someone, perhaps the NZ Fan Club who've done such a terrific job with the previously un-novelized stories, would go back and flesh out the books for the stories that no longer exist in the BBC archives.

Until then, I'll continue to read through the novelizations and enjoy them for what they were intended to be undemanding young adult fiction.