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A dignified departure in a busy novel

Doctor Who: Scales of Injustice: The Monster Collection Edition - Gary Russell

Over the course of the half-century existence of the Doctor Who franchise the Doctor has been joined on his many travels by a succession of companions. Most last for a period of time, then move on with their lives after some event or development leads to a parting of the ways. On the show this usually involves a formal farewell of one sort or another or, in the rare case when a companion dies, a degree of mournful reflection. Occasionally, however, a companion abruptly disappears with barely an passing explanation and a new companion appears to fill the void. Though she was not the first to suffer such a fate there was nobody less deserving of such treatment than Liz Shaw. Introduced at the beginning of the seventh season. as a brilliant scientist she quickly proved to be a more than a capable associate of the newly Earth-bound Doctor, and played a vital role in his adventures. Yet when the eighth season began she had already decamped back to Cambridge, to be replaced by someone new.

 

Gary Russell's novel provides readers with a story of the events that led up to her departure. In it she is drawn into a conspiracy involving C-19, the government department tasked with overseeing UNIT operations in the United Kingdom. At the same time a new group of Silurians emerges near a seaside town, leading the Doctor to embark on a solo mission in the hope of avoiding the tragedies of his previous encounter with humanity's predecessors. Amidst all of this the Brigadier is forced to cope with a shrinking budget and a marriage on the verge of collapse, none of which he can allow to interfere with his job of keeping humanity safe from the extraordinary threats it unknowingly faces.

 

If all this sounds a little busy for a relatively short novel, you would be right. While Russell handles it fairly well for the most part, oftentimes characters and settings pass through the book's pages in such a rush that they often move out of the story before any sense of who they are is successfully established. Giving the characters more time to breathe might have made for a better book, especially as doing so might have given their many deaths (for a Doctor Who novel, the body count is surprisingly high) a greater impact than was otherwise the case. Yet in the end the story itself is entertaining enough, and Liz Shaw gets the dignified departure her character so richly deserved. For many fans of the series, this will be reason enough to read the book.