Sunday 26 July 2015

WHO REVIEW: Temporal Logbook (Furnell, Mammone, Strickley)

Doctor Who fanfic collections - “fanthologies” - have been around for donkey's years, but there's been a lull since the series returned to TV. It seems that we're now getting something of a resurgence in the form, following the War Doctor collection Seasons of War, and with several collections lined up. The latest, Temporal Logbook, comes from Pencil Tip Publishing, and is edited by Bob Furnell, Jez Strickley and Robert Mammone, all of whom have been part of the very long-running and acclaimed fanfic series The Doctor Who Project. It is also one of the best such collections I've read, featuring an exceptionally high standard of work.

Temporal Logbook takes a very simple, but undeniably effective, approach: twelve stories, one for each official incarnation of the Doctor, collected in chronological order. If there's a theme for the collection, it's the effect that the Doctor has on people's lives, but beyond that, this is a broad and varied selection of stories mixing numerous styles.

The stand-out stories for me are the fourth adventure, “The Eternalist,” by Craig Charlesworth, and the eleventh, Michael Itig's “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell.” The former has a fascinating central concept, that of a boy who can perceive all moment in time at once, developed into a gripping but contained story with a strong element of horror, and a pitch perfect representation of the fourth Doctor. It also has perhaps the best description of the nature of time I've ever encountered. In “Heaven and Hell”, the Doctor becomes involved in the life of Pete, an older gay man, whose life is being swallowed by regret. A powerful treatise on depression and hope, it's an exploration of gay life in the UK that comes across as deeply personal. Really quite beautiful.

Relationships and personal demons feature strongly in the collection, with the more modern, emotionally aware approach given to older Doctors. The opening story, Michael Baxter's “A Modest Intervention,” is an unusual tale for the first Doctor, in which the time traveller takes a puckish glee in matchmaking. Not the sort of thing we normally expect the first Doctor to be concerned with, but he does engage it with very good reason. The fifth Doctor encounters an intriguing and controversial figure in the person of Charles Dodgson. With “Impossible Things Before Breakfast” Hannah Parry has a wonderful way with Carrollian whimsy, tying it to a strong character piece, and making unexpected parallels between the author and the Time Lord.

Several of the stories are steeped in continuity, which is fine and dandy; this is a collection for fans, after all. It's not continuity for the sake of a nod and a wink, though; it's all in the service of a good story. J. E. Remy's second Doctor story, “Breathe,” has a very Moffat-ish title, but is actually a full-on dive into the series' mythology. Featuring Time Lords a-plenty, it investigates what happened to Salamander after he was swept away into the Time Vortex. “The Telemacad” is another story that follows up on a television serial. A third Doctor story by Benjamin Pocock, it's set in ancient Greece and written in a pseudo-classical style, something which is hard to pull off without becoming trite or dull. Pocock succeeds in crafting an enjoyable tale, with portrayals of Three and Jo that are completely recognisable, even translated through archaic style. Hamish Crawford's “Mud and Metal” is the missing adventure of the ninth Doctor versus the Cybermen, a fun tale with a touch of horror.

Other tales take what could be well-worn ideas and give them something new. “The Brain Drain” by Ian Larkin has the Sixey and Peri encounter a mind-sapping cyborg, but makes her the central character, and a sympathetic one at that. Sarah Parry's “A Plague on Both Your Houses” has an excellent visual – the creepy, beaked plague doctors of the time of the Black Death – and uses it to create a gripping tale for the seventh Doctor and Ace. Some stories pair the Doctor with new companions, such as Nick Mellish's enjoyable “Changed and Confused.” A story featuring the eighth Doctor and taking place on the edge of the Time War, it's fairly slight, but has strong characterisation for the Doctor and his short-term assistant, Delaylia, a young Time Lady who is coming to terms with her first regeneration. Also, it has Voord in it. I like the Voord. Also featuring a new companion is the tenth Doctor story, “The Creature of Vengeance,” (a proper Doctor Who title there). This takes Ten and his unwitting travelling companion Sophie on a trip to Prague, for an adventure with Nazis and a memorable monster.

The collection ends with a story from the always excellent Meg MacDonald. “Many a Weary Foot” has a subtle nod to series continuity, featuring a lonely, withdrawn twelfth Doctor between the episodes Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express, who finds solace in an unlikely place. It's a straightforward character piece, no monsters, no threats to history, and beautifully told, with an extra little something for fans of the modern era of Doctor Who. It rounds off the collection perfectly, showing us the effect that an ordinary human being can have on the Doctor. An excellent conclusion to a collection I can heartily recommend.

You can buy the book from Lulu.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the fantastic review of the Logbook. It's really appreciated and it's great to know that fans are enjoying what was very much a labour of love.