Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chat: Timewyrm: Exodus

John: I think we both liked this one a lot, despite the extremely tenuous connection both to the ‘Timewyrm’ story arc and to the title. (‘Exodus’ refers to...what, Dunkirk?) You would agree?

Dee: I think he just thought it sounded cool. I don’t know that I’d say it accurately refers to anything at all! But yes, I did like it a lot. Especially the jail sequence.

John: The jail sequence is excellent. If I had to list my Top Ten Iconic Moments of the New Adventures, it’d probably be on there. (Note to self: That would make a really good sidebar, “Top Ten Iconic Moments of the New Adventures”.) I also thought the sequences with Hitler and his cronies worked remarkably well...Dicks takes the really daring step of making them, for the most part, likeable and charming. You’re horrified by what you know they did, of course, but they seem like the kind of people who could rise to power, instead of cartoonish supervillains.

Dee: And that’s where Dicks succeeds over Peel, in many ways.. although I think that means I need to amend my earlier comments to an extent about Dicks avoiding the “getting into the head” issues. He does avoid it with Qataka, but he falls into category one with the Nazi party members. But I can live with that, because part of the lesson I think we need to learn from the whole Nazi situation is the “banality of evil” thing, as has been stated by wiser heads than mine. And Qataka does not teach that lesson.

John: Well, we never do get inside Hitler’s head. We see inside the minds of some of his inner circle, but I think that Hitler is wisely left as a fulcrum that the plot revolves around. And of course, all of the War Lords narrate their motivations during their “Evil Speech of Evil” moment. We both talked a lot about the Nazis in our reviews, but what did you think of the War Lords and the War Chief?

Dee: Erm. Um. I don’t have the background to really appreciate them, perhaps? The War Lord leader is a massive whatever. I like the concept of the War Lords, and I really did like the War Chief, the Time Lord gone bad with the failed regeneration concept. That was really awesome. It gives additional perspective on what Davison’s Doctor was afraid of at the end of “Caves of Androzani,” for me.

John: Yes, that’s a clear case of the books doing something the TV show didn’t have the budget to make look good. Another advantage of print! I was just curious to see if you enjoyed them, or even followed what was going on, given that it’s such a major case of Terrance Dicks sequelizing an old story that he knew was popular with The Fans. (“The War Games”, in case we ever want to watch it together.) I liked it, although it’ll start getting old when he does it in his next thirteen novels.

Dee: Yes, that’s a story I’ll want to watch now. The moment that sold it for me was the Doctor’s sincere “I’m sorry,” to the War Chief. That resonated as a moment of pure compassion. It doesn’t change what he has to do, but Dicks gets across that “there but for the grace” that we actually don’t see with the Doctor that often.

John: It’s interesting, now that you point it out; the Doctor always seems to be a lot more merciful to his fellow Time Lords than he is to aliens. Blood is thicker than alien sludge that oozes out from between the slats of a Dalek travel machine, I guess. But it’s balanced out here with another trait of the Doctor’s--he’s very protective of Ace in this book, isn’t he?

Dee: He’d better be, to make up for the whole Gilgamesh thing! But yes, he is. Of course, given Dicks is all confused about which Companion Ace is... But I promised myself I wouldn’t go off about mischaracterization. I will say this, though: At first, I was going into these books saying “These people have Ace all wrong!” But harking back to “Remembrance,” I really have come to realize that it’s not that others don’t get Ace, it’s that my idea of her character is so very strongly influenced by Ben Aaronovich’s conception of her that no one else so far seems to be quite “on.”

John: No, I think you’re also right in saying that Ace is mischaracterized. Dicks is, after all, the undisputed master of the Generic Companion...he wrote sixty books for five different Doctors, after all. They sort of blend together after a while. And Ace was such an attempt to do something outside the mold of the Generic Companion that when he falls back on the “screaming, fainting, plucky-yet-vulnerable female companion” tropes, they stick out like a sore thumb. Ace doesn’t even get to blow as much stuff up in this one.

Dee: No, the Doctor actually steals her stuff and does it for her! I’m not saying Dicks didn’t get it wrong. But I am saying that it really brought home to me just how much “Remembrance” cemented her character in my mind. I’ll be watching for that as we read on. And for the protectiveness thing, that’s really a Three-Sarah Jane flashback.

John: But Dicks uses it well. The moment where he realizes he’s tempted to use his borrowed authority as a Nazi to condemn a man to death just for smacking his friend around a’s a wonderful evocation of the novel in microcosm. The Doctor is not at all confident here that he’s not just abusing his power over time to make the timestream fit together the way he wants it, instead of being a cosmic crusader convinced of his own righteousness. Which hearkens back to ‘Remembrance’, and his late-night agonizing over sugar in the tea...and it’s something we’ll need to revisit in a couple of books, I think, but I don’t want to drop a big chunk of spoilers on you.

Dee: And now we go on to the novel where they couldn’t find a Biblical book title, I suppose?

John: Or where the author spoke fluent Greek. Take your pick.

Dee: OK, but with a name like “Apocalypse” for the third book of four, this better be good! My worry going in is that it’s going to make “Revelation” anticlimactic.

John: I think it’s just that they had trouble finding Biblical titles that sounded suitably dramatic for the third book. ‘Timewyrm: Paul’s Epistle to the Phillipians’ was probably not going to cut it.

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