Another Sixth Doctor story to sink my teeth into. In a mad flurry of buying books this was the only new Doctor Who book I brought, from the pages and pages of Amazon it was the only one that really took my fancy.
So I sat down with great anticipation for another romp with my favourite Doctor.
That anticipation dwindled into a pained exasperation quite fast.
There is not much that I found I liked about this book let alone loved. A few moments here and there nearer to the end of the book made me slightly happier then I was but not by much.
Just the introduction itself tells you all you need to know. This book was clobbered together for necessity not for any great need to tell this particular story. The horrible thing is that for the majority the conspiracy it was working off of and a lot of the story was interesting.
It was let down by terrible characters and forced dialogue though.
Unlike Players, which came before this story as is hinted at when the Doctor meets Churchill again, it felt like neither of the writers had really “got” the Doctor OR Lethbridge-Stewart let alone Churchill, but that can be forgiven seeing that he wasn’t really in the story that much. Maybe the problem comes more from reading it so soon after reading Players which was just a spot on characterisation of the Sixth Doctor and all his various ways and speech patters, similarly The Last of the Gaderene perfectly portrayed the Brig in all his glory. This story didn’t.
Add on to that a few side characters who lasted a chapter or so, the fact the Doctor didn’t show up until chapter 7 or 8 and a very unlikeable one time only companion and it was a hard slog from beginning to end.
I’m not even kidding you.
Claire, a journalist in conspiracies, is a total and utter bitch. There is no other way of describing her. She’s also badly portrayed. One minute she’s out there looking for that ONE story the Big One that will get her away from the Con Channel and into main land news. That isn’t a terrible thing. The next moment though she’s scared for her life or doesn’t want anything more to do with the conspiracy or else trying to be the better person. It mixes together to make one of the biggest contradictions in the world. I can live with the conspiracy and even believe 90% of it but the walking (and one liner machine) contradiction that was Claire Aldwych.
Her dialogue was one of the worst but by no means THE worst. She, as I said, was a walking one liner machine. Always there to mutter something inane under her breath and take you out of the moment. The chapters written from her perspective were by far the worst as we were meant to feel sorry for her? Agree with her actions? Care about her? I don’t really know how we were meant to feel about her to be honest. All through the book though it felt like pop culture rained down on us and there were some very odd sayings being thrown around. Just as you were getting stuck in something odd would be said or added and it would take you out of the moment whilst you sat there and rubbed your aching head wondering why.
Spoilers for the actual story below.
So what is the story?
As I said it wasn’t a bad story. It dealt with the conspiracy of what happened to Hitler. You know the same as Elvis, Hitler is still alive and kicking somewhere out there, the Russians have covered it all up and there is a secret Nazi base out in the Antarctica full of Nazi’s working towards the Fourth Reich.
Where could it go wrong?
It isn’t even JUST that though, to add to the mysticism and the supernatural you have a UFO being shot down in Dorset and Shadow Familiars of the aliens inside the craft running around the place.
It all WORKS. Kind of.
At first I was all ready to tell you how their portrayal of Hitler was terrible, the worst I’d ever seen in my life. Then in the last part of the book we find out that actually the guy that we’ve thought was Hitler all this time is actually his son, because it wasn’t Hitler that survived the war it was a pregnant Eva Braun and with the help of Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler JR was raised to believe in the supernatural and that a “Scrying Glass” found during the war (actually the navigational controls for the Vvormak ship) will show them the way to the Fourth Reich.
This is where it all gets a bit too much for me. I liked how they managed to tie the whole conspiracy together. The body double of Hitler found in the bunker actually was the body of his son who had time travelled back in time to enlist his fathers help. You need the characters to work though. By this time The Doctor and the Brig kind of worked, the older Hitler kind of worked but everything else didn’t.
The Germans didn’t feel like Germans, it felt like they had to remind us time and time again these were Germans because they sounded like pantomime English Villains twirling their Gotch-esque (yes that is now how I’m describing Moustaches!) moustache whilst tying their victims to train tracks. Nothing felt believable. Henderson and the Vvormak worked but they became nothing to the story which suddenly was all about this fake Hitler who from the start I would never have thought was a real Hitler.
But it was Claire that was the make and break and to be honest up until her untimely death (which I will admit, and I don’t care if it makes me a bad guy, but I cheered a little when I saw she died) she was unlikable, she was horrible, she was a complete cow and to be fair I’m happy that she ended up being Eva Braun’s body double because I really honestly didn’t like her one bit.
Honestly from the moment she wandered into Brain Goldman’s house knowing full well that his widow had seen her try and snog him and still all Claire could think about was her “Big break” I wanted to murder her myself with her damn still camera. She was one of the most vile, self serving characters in the whole thing and the times we had to endure hearing what she thought of the Brig who was nothing but a charming gentleman the whole way through the damn book made me scream in anger.
I say all this and you might think “why bother with this book.”
Now I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone. Trust me I won’t. But I’m not going to tell people to stay away from it either. WWII is one of my favourite periods of time and I like conspiracies and for those two reasons it is a half decent book to read. If you don’t like the Sixth Doctor then it doesn’t really matter because he’s barely in the story and when he is he barely does anything, the story really is about the Brig and how he’s handling life after UNIT because even the bits with the Doctor tend more to be through the eyes of the Brig then Sixie himself.
Plus there is no way I would tell anyone who loved the Brig even a fraction of how much I loved him to stay away from a book where the Brig goes back in time to meet Hitler and offers him half a eaten sausage roll and a smear of pickle. That is a genius moment that I loved.
Though even in that there is its good and bad. The Doctor never seems to bother to explain to the Brig that it doesn’t matter that he can’t speak German because the translation circuits in the TARDIS will do the job, in fact there is no realisation from the Brig that he can understand perfectly what the Germans say to him. He goes from muttering about not knowing German to just acting normal.
The good of the situation though was that it made you think. The Brig, like most people, just had this picture of a raving lunatic in his head when he thought of Hitler, the thought of him being close to him or even touching him made him shudder but the more he spent time with him the more he obviously had to rethink a little and by the end he even had a tear in his eye whilst looking at the dead body of Hitler in the bunker. Why this is good is because its important to always remember that people like Hitler were humans. Its the most terrifying thing about them. Just labelling them “evil” and treating them like they are some kind of boogeymen make people forget that Hitler started off like everyone else and even at the end of his life he obviously had a human side to him. He wasn’t a mad man running through Berlin killing innocents, he was a frail old man who was scared for his life and losing a war.
The Brig is not a bad man and seeing this all happen through his eyes was the best decision because he saw it for what it was. He was clouded by prejudice but he isn’t the kind of character that doesn’t think about things so you got a nice little moment where you could just think about other people and what would drive them to be the people they are. Its one of the best bits of the book if I’m honest.
So it isn’t the best but it isn’t the worst. It is a lot worse then Players which was perfect and probably missed having a Peri type character there to make up for the Claire type character who just wound me the hell up. It held my interest though as I didn’t just throw the book in a corner and forget about it and I liked the fact that in the end the authors gave two book recommendations for anyone interested in the last days of Hitlers life, two books I will go out of my way to find at some point.