[With apologies to Vanessa Bishop]
And so to the second jolly romp of the month. Hinton, with a couple of duff reviews under his belt, must be feeling a little misunderstood. After all, isn't The Quantum Archangel fanwank in the style of Divided Loyalties? Whose line is it anyway, one might ask. Hinton's? Probably.
According to those in the ker know-how The Quantum Archangel is as it is because Richards gave his blessing to push the envelope on fanwank. Sequel to The Time Monster - well, what does one expect? Again, it is all about expectation. Unlike Father Time which sets itself up for a fall, The Quantum Archangel (such a tricky title to type) sets the expectation, meets the expectation and is a lot of fun along the way. Normally this type of book would have this reviewer reaching for the bile. However because one is asked to enter the world of The Quantum Archangel with eyes fully open it is a bit late at the end to rip it to shreds for doing what it sets out to do.
The novel is also at a disadvantage in that it is full of scientific technobabble that is desperately difficult to pin down without the appropriate seminar. Does it make sense? Hands in air and shout 'cunnilingus', who cares? The Quantum Archangel exists at the level it does for being an entertaining story, not because of its scientific mannerism. Hard Science can leave one cold, but not here. This is because one is unsure whether it is just as bonkers as the story itself. Where the science does help, however, is providing the novel with a little credibility (even if it is difficult to work out what it all means). For those who point at the similarity between Divided Loyalties and Hinton's book it is worth remembering that fanwank is either on the surface without depth (much of fan fiction and anything by Russell, perhaps) or on the surface with some weight behind it (!). It is difficult to see this differential when faced with back catalogue references but it is there.
There is a wonderful sense of school reunion about the piece. Almost everyone and everything is back from The Time Monster that enables progression in terms of character. Good to see everything went TOMTIT up for Stuart Hyde and Ruth Ingram having been superseded by the next generation - and the next generation of Time Experiment. Fun to see The Master as ridiculous and hammy as ever (secret connection to the Matrix indeed, take revenge on the Chronovores, Source of Traken wearing thin - snigger). Wonderful to have such paper thin characters as Anjeliqua obeying, not obeying and then becoming a god - even better to have said god looking for a super mind to become a greater god. Is that right? Who cares? This is fun! It is silly, but silly in a way that it is completely without pretension or self-belief. Interspersed with suitable set-pieces (a favourite being the warehouse rush for the Master's TARDIS avoiding a suitably diabolical trap), an awful lot of tongue-in-cheek and more referencing than any member of DWAS, The Quantum Archangel breezily zings and zangs its way to an end.
Using the Sixth Doctor and Mel for this effort is entirely appropriate. Mix over-the-top showbiz with fanwank and one gets a fluffy mix. One hopes that Mel's disillusionment with life in the TARDIS (and with the Doctor) is a pat to the other novels that seem to be able to do little with Mel without throwing in gallons of moral righteousness. It is entirely appropriate that in a parallel universe Mel would see herself as Prime Minister - doing good for all. The Sixth Doctor is as cack-handed as ever - all bombast improvisation and towers made out of assorted wood. Damn handy to have that cement around! Although Hinton has visited parallel universes on a number of occasions (as has Who) there is something quite amusing about the Chronovores munching away at these universes subverting the ideal to something Cybernetic or otherwise.
Hinton's assertion that this is a 'fun romp...dripping with camp menace' is entirely appropriate. How could it not be? It is necessarily complex and as true to a TV story in its formatting as any pretender. It sets itself up to be grander and more wild by each page coming to a god-like crescendo which makes one laugh out loud for its cheek and downright craziness. That everything ties up sweetly at the end is an added smiley face bonus. How twee, how TV Who. The concept of whom and what Kronos is about is quite an interesting little diversion bringing with it a nice sense of closure.
So a deliberate fanwank romp. Fine. Why not? Just the once. . As Ness Bishop so rightly pointed out - come back The Time Monster - all is forgiven.
In brief: Written with one hand on the keyboard.
Spoilers follow, like the time the sixth Doctor discovered that painting of himself and Jo on Karfel.
Oh dear God.
Strike one: a sequel to The Time Monster.
The last time Craig attempted to write a sequel, the book misfired because it was so cluttered with references to everything under the Martian sky, like when the Osirans came by and chatted to the Ice Warriors and they both had tea with the Ambassadors of Death, that no one really noticed that it was supposed to be a sequel to Transit and not, say, The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
This time around Craig has pulled out all the stops. The Quantum Archangel is like GodEngine cubed. You won't miss that it's a sequel to the Time Monster, but it's got even more fanwanky references than GodEngine (despite the obvious difficulty that poses). And, it has to be said, as a sequel, TQA succeeds admirably. The links to everyone's favourite Pertwee whipping story are extremely strong and Craig's quite right, The Time Monster *is* a fun romp. In fact, reading this book made me watch and actually enjoy The Time Monster immediately afterwards. Um, that was a pretty backhanded compliment, I guess.
I like the way the sense of loopiness gets preserved, with every major set piece from the Time Monster getting a look-in, complete with updated versions of the E=MC^3 joke, de-aging Stuart Hyde and the Doctor building a time-flow analogue out of an even bigger pile of junk. It takes skill to make a sequel work, especially a sequel to an almost universally derided story. On this level The Quantum Archangel succeeds.
Strike two: the physics.
Okay, so Craig's got a physics degree and he's not afraid to use it. On the downside, he's got a physics degree and he's not afraid to use it. I should point out that I have a PhD in mathematics, so I actually understood some of the jargon. But only some. Dear oh dear, is there a lot of this. What makes it more of a shame is that this is the only original thing the novel has to offer. It's nice to think that you can explain the workings of the Doctor Who universe and all the loopiness that a bunch of scriptwriters came up with over the years, but... well, the point is that they were writers, not physicists. Anyone who actually cares about the scientific principles behind the series is missing the point, I think. For all its claims to the contrary, Doctor Who isn't science, it's magic. Showing us where the rabbits are hidden only spoils it.
That said, the book is thinking big with regards to its physics. Some of the concepts it wants to explain are the wild ideas from the finest imaginations of British scriptwriters in the sixties, seventies and eighties, so the corresponding physics is huge. This just about makes the technobabble palatable. This is what we'd get if Jim Mortimore had a degree in astrophsyics, so it almost works. Almost.
Strike three and you're out: the fanwank.
Oh. My. God. The. Fanwank. Somebody kill me now.
I have never, ever seen the point of fanwank. The idea of clever parallels with decades old TV stories was done to death in the NAs and they're ten years old now. I mean it's nice that someone can tie in The Daemons to The Time Monster, as Craig does on page 251, but that someone could just as easily be me on rec.arts.drwho. And there's just so much of it, almost all of it completely pointless. I mean, just what is the point of saying "It reminded Mel of the Library of St John the Beheaded" (page 90)? It serves no function within the story, confuses anyone who doesn't get the reference and stops the flow cold. I'm not talking about all the references to The Time Monster here - they do serve a purpose. But paragraph after paragraph reads like:
"The Time Lords, destroying Minyos, colonising Drornid and Trion, interfering with Planet 5; the Osirans, completing their millennia-long hunt for the renegade Sutekh on Earth and Mars; the Jagaroth and the Daemons, both meddling with human development..." (page 117)
(No, I didn't make that up. It's there, word for agonising word.)
I have no idea why a reasonably promising book has decided to drown itself in fanwank, on top of the sequelitis and the technobabble. I mean, we've got it all here: references to every Master story, alternate realities featuring the third Doctor teaming up with the Cybermen, the Doctor as President leading the Time Lords against an Enemy who screech exterminate and call him the Ka Faraq Gatri, the Deca for all those people who fondly remember Divided Loyalties, whole summaries of Logopolis and Castrovalva, the Kaesov Marine Owse, an explanation for why the Eye of Harmony was in the TARDIS in the telemovie (naturally it was copied using block-transfer computation, what else?) and a fictional history of the universe where every old race can team up and be namechecked together. I'm amazed there wasn't an attempt to tie in the Atlantis scenes to The Underwater Menace - in fact, this amazes me so much I assume I must have missed it.
On the bright side, the book does introduce the events on Maradnias at the beginning, instead of using a fanwank example to drive a rift between the Doctor and Mel. This is a rare use of restraint in The Quantum Archangel, but I really appreciate it. I also like the characterisation of the sixth Doctor, which seemed spot on. But it's nowhere near enough to save the book from its own excesses.
Somewhere, buried deep below the masses of continuity, there's a good story trying to get out. As a sequel to the Time Monster it succeeds beyond all expectation. But as a whole, the novel sinks itself in its own fanwank. Avoid this one, unless it's been a really long time since you had a good Doctor Who book and you only read it in the privacy of your own room and feel pretty guilty about it afterwards. But if you read it too often, you'll go blind.
David O. MacGowan
Loathe as I am to dip into the parlance of the younger generation (yuk!), this 'novel' is, quite simply, pants. An afterward says that the author's friends responded to news of his latest plotline with 'incredulity'. I think this is a coded way of saying that what actually took place was the following:
"I'm writing a novel called 'The Quantum Archangel'."
"Sounds cool. What's it about?"
"Oh, you know. A sequel to 'The Time Monster', with lots of continu-"
"NO!! NOOOOOOO!! GET AWAY FROM ME!! UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!!"
People in this day and age still dark in muttered tones of 'Attack of the Cybermen'. The scars of attempting to juggle several different strands of obscure Doctor Who continuity still run deep. So for Mr Hinton to vaingloriously jump into the waters of this murky sub-genre makes for painful, painful reading. Quality-wise we're talking badly-photocopied-fanzine. You know the sort - interminably long section where the Doctor mulls over the rights and wrongs of his work in the console room (check); hints about the Academy days on Gallifrey (check); a throwaway background charcater from a shoddy 1970s episode thrust into the foreground as if he ever had any characterisation other than "oh, Woman's Lib eh?" to speak of in the first place (check); bunkum about an all-powerful race of beings whome even Time Lords fear (check); companion wonders about the Tardis corridors thinking "you know, in some ways the tardis interior is like a metaphor for the Doctor's mind...." etc (more che! cks than Troughton's emergency trousers). And yes, somehow it even tries to get away with explaining Atalntis.
And there's lots of exclamation marks. Like this!
It has one bit which promises to move away from the tediousness of this Who-by-numbers (literally, it could have been computer), and that's a passage when the Doc thinks to himself about the pleasures of getting drunk. But because this is quite a funny and original idea, and because Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks didn't write about it in the 70s, it is swiftly abandoned as the Doc sobers up to talk about interstitial quantum theory or some such rubbish. My advice is? Ignore this book. Even if you have to jump headfirst into a Blinovitch temporal paradox to do so.
Doctor Who: The BBC Past Doctor Adventures #38
Written by Craig Hinton