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ReviewsReviews

Legacy

Doctor Who: The Virgin New Adventures #25
Finn Clark

Full of its own variety of dumb fun, but if you read it too much you'll go blind.

I like a fair bit about Legacy, but that most certainly does not include its continuity. This book references (deep breath) The Daleks' Master Plan, both Peladon stories, Trial of a Time Lord, Colony in Space, Creature from the Pit, Frontier in Space, The Ice Warriors, Mindwarp, Carnival of Monsters, Tomb of the Cybermen, Pyramids of Mars, Nightmare of Eden, The Seeds of Death, Kinda, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Robots of Death, Caves of Androzani and many, many more. Once you've wiped Gary Russell's man-juice off the pages, there's not much book left.

Annoying in-jokes further sandblast any goodwill the book might have built up. Izlyr from Curse of Peladon apparently retired to the planet Bennion, conveniently named after the actor who played him, while a doctor on p165 has a receptionist called Gillatt and a balding patient called Briggs. Sigh. Attempted continuity patches fall on their own swords thanks to Gary's inattention to detail. Legacy is set during the mid-39th century, the 40th century, six centuries after The Ice Warriors, a century after Curse of Peladon, more than fifty *and* less than thirty years before The Daleks' Master Plan and presumably post-3948 (when some of its reference texts were written). What, all at once?

Unwanted explanations are provided. Galaxy Five is retconned into being a mere terrorist organisation on p27 (grrrrr...), in a totally gratuitous scene whose sole purpose is to explain why the Time Lords sent the 3rd Doctor to Peladon. Well, thank the Lord for Gary Russell. I'd been lying awake at nights worrying about that. We even learn where the Robots of Death took place! Well, slap my vitals and call me Sally.

Oh, and there's even the sodding Sword of bloody Tuburr. AAAAAAAAAAARGH!

I laughed at one internal logic goof, though. The Martians are repeatedly said to be eight foot tall, but on p140 the Doctor's face is level with the Ice Lord's neck. This gave me the amusing mental image of an Ice Warrior with a five-foot-tall body and a three-foot-tall head. Oh, and shouldn't Benny have died for violating the Sacred Temple of Aggedor on pp240-243? In addition you'll marvel at the amazing tendency of incriminating night-time conversations to take place outside the bedroom doors of either: (a) Benny or (b) the Doctor.

In other words, this book is laugh-out-loud ridiculous. However it's also quite enjoyable, almost entirely thanks to its characters.

If you plough through the continuity cesspool, you'll find specks of originality. Keri the Pakhar is so cool that her species became one of the most common alien races in in Virgin novels, while Kort is so incredibly annoying that he's a whole barrel o' fun. What's more, Gary's obviously having a ball playing in Brian Hayles's toybox. His enthusiasm is infectious. Ice Warriors, Alpha Centauri and more all plot, squabble and change colour in reassuringly traditional fashion. The book's murder mystery plot structure lets the book just kick-start its characters and set them running into each other without ever achieving much. It doesn't matter. It's fun to read about these people and their comedy scenes.

Unfortunately the, uh, 'plot' sometimes intrudes. The Doctor's execution (as seen on the front cover) is taken way too seriously given that it obviously won't be for real, while the book cheats on the rules of a whodunnit by planting a false clue on p191 and then never going back to explain it. Mind you, this matters less than you'd think since Legacy's murder mystery has only one realistic suspect. Nice one, Gary.

The regulars are okay, though New Ace gets blatantly shunted off into a minor subplot on another planet. (Hey, maybe Gary liked the character as little as everyone else did back then!) The Doctor and Benny get all the screen time while Ace goes off looking for the Ancient Diadem, an artefact that warps your mind and turns you into a psychopath who only wants to destroy all life in a never-ending orgy of manipulative violence. So presumably the Doctor sent New Ace because she wouldn't be affected, then.

Most of the book is daft fluff, but bookending the trad crap are two good sections: a prologue and an epilogue. The first 25 pages are great, telling the history of Peladon with plenty of axe-swinging style. It's energetic, violent and gory. Robert E. Howard would have approved. That's the best bit of the book by light-years. Then at the end, after the trivial nonsense of the plot is over and done with, we return to what actually matters with a nifty twist regarding Peladon and the Galactic Federation. It's particularly funny if one views Gary's Federation as a continuation of the Pertwee-era European Union metaphor. There's a great story buried in Legacy, if you ignore the 270 pages of padding shoved in the middle of it. I particularly enjoyed the last Tarrol-Atissa scene, by the way, which is genuinely strong.

This book is a silly, self-indulgent, self-contradictory romp with fun character scenes and a few strong bits about Peladon. It's laughably easy to nitpick, but it's also one of Gary Russell's best novels. I enjoyed it.

Andrew McCaffrey

For the first twenty-four pages of LEGACY, I was really enjoying myself. Gary Russell opens with a short history of the planet Peladon, fleshing out a lot of background that had merely been hinted at during the first two Doctor Who stories to use that setting. This was quite entertaining and it had me completely captivated.

Then I started reading page twenty-five.

While the opening had used its continuity references as building blocks for the story, what immediately followed was an unrestrained and pointless gallivant through Doctor Who stories too numerous to count. The references during that opening were necessary, but not off-putting. I hadn't watched the previous Peladon stories in quite some time, but I didn't feel as though I couldn't follow the story because of the referencing. But I simply can't imagine what someone who without an encyclopedic knowledge of Doctor Who stories would make of some of these. I kept waiting for the book to regain the momentum that it possessed during the beginning, but it simply never did. Portions of it were enjoyable, but between the overburdening continuity references, minor sloppy plotting, and strangely worded sections of prose, there was just too much carelessness for me to really enjoy this book.

If the story outline of LEGACY had been written to its absolute fullest potential, then the book would have been a fairly average and non-demanding action adventure. But there are just too many little things dragging it below what it could have been. Pointless and gratuitous continuity references abound, and rather than enhancing the story, more often than not they are distracting and silly. There are several passages that would have seemed poor in a first draft, yet somehow made it through to the final manuscript. For example, someone is going to have to explain to me how Alpha Centauri (who's entire skull is a gigantic eye socket - he has the biggest eye in Doctor Who history) could possibly not identify an assailant that was standing directly in front of him. And Ace is relegated to a pointless and boring subplot that, despite what the narrative actually comes out and tells us, does not have any impact on the main story. Just too many minor things spoil this average adventure.

The pulpy action-adventure cliches actually work part of the time. But for every sentence that can be read with a knowing smirk, there's another one that appears with a groan. Still, I found myself somewhat enjoying the simplicity of the plot even though the book really seemed to be daring me to like it. Despite the flimsiness of the storyline, and the shallowness of the characters, I kept finding little pieces to enjoy. To put it another way, while at the end of the day I still can't say it was a good book, there were enough little moments to prevent me from labeling it as totally worthless.

This book certainly feels very earnest. It's attempting to hit quite a lot of buttons here, but many of them are missed. LEGACY may have its heart in the right place, but its brain is slightly off-center. A lot of the problems are relatively minor, but the sheer number of them prevented me from liking this one.