‘FESTIVAL OF DEATH’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Timey-Wimey Adventure with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9
I love ‘Festival of Death’!
This has been a fantastic and a pleasurable ‘Doctor Who’ novel to read. I enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end. You’ll have no problem reading the book, as it is full of delicious humour and storytelling. I enjoyed reading this book, especially when holidaying in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2015.
The book is by Jonathan Morris, a brilliant writer who has written plenty of ‘Doctor Who’ stories for Big Finish. This turns out to be Jonny Morris’ first contribution to ‘Doctor Who’, when the book was published in 2000. It’s amazing to think that this book was the first thing he ever did in ‘Doctor Who’.
‘Festival of Death’ has been reprinted for the 50th anniversary collection of ‘Doctor Who’ novels with the eleven Doctors in 2013. I can see why this book was chosen to represent the Fourth Doctor, as it is full of ‘bonkers’ humour and it contains a pretty clever, timey-wimey story that Jonny does so well.
The Doctor and Romana visit the G-Lock, a space-station in a hyperspace tunnel that contains the ultimate theme-park ride called ‘The Beautiful Death’. The Doctor and Romana arrive in the aftermath of a disaster and find that they’ve been hailed as heroes and people know them already.
Curious, the Doctor and Romana travel back in time aboard the G-Lock to find out why they’ve been hailed as heroes and to solve the mystery of ‘The Beautiful Death’ theme ride. This results in a timey-wimey adventure with the Doctor and Romana jumping back and forth in time and saving the future.
The book is divided into 18 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. The reprint of the book contains a nice introduction by Jonathan Morris on his memories of first writing ‘Festival of Death’. I enjoyed the structure of ‘Festival of Death’ and I was also able to keep track of the flow of the story.
This story takes place during the Season 17 period of ‘Doctor Who’ with the Doctor and Romana. It definitely has the Douglas Adams feel of that season, as it contains in-jokes and lovely humour. I couldn’t help but find myself laughing when I read some of the Doctor’s jokey lines during the novel.
I feel that Jonny Morris has written well for the Fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward’s Romana. I could definitely hear Tom and Lalla’s voices as the Doctor and Romana when I was reading this tale. If they ever did a Big Finish audio adaption of this novel with Tom and Lalla in it, I would greatly welcome it.
As I said, I managed to read some of this book whilst I was away in Stratford for a couple of days at the end of May 2015. Going to Stratford and walking by the River Avon mades me feel like punting on the Cam with the Doctor and Romana in ‘Shada’ and this book enhanced the reading experience.
This novel certainly starts off as being funny and humorous like a typical Douglas Adams-style of story would with Tom Baker’s Doctor making jokes. It was a surprise when it turned into a horror story with zombies, then becoming a complex timey-wimey adventure with the Doctor and Romana.
The concepts of ‘The Beautiful Death’ theme-park with experiencing death for 24 hours and being brought back to life again are very interesting. Sometimes this can be quite disturbing; especially as when ‘The Beautiful Death’ ride goes wrong and the people start turning into zombies in an instant.
You will have to keep alert reading this book, I’m afraid. This is a timey-wimey adventure and you need to keep track and remember certain scenes, as they get repeated with characters meeting each other. I’m sure I will be reading this book again with a clearer idea of what happens next in the story.
Tom Baker’s Doctor is brilliant in this novel. I really love the eccentric humour that Jonny Morris delivers for the Doctor and I certainly like the banter shared between him and Romana. It transpires that Tom’s Doctor may die in this story. I wondered on how he would manage to get out of that one.
Romana is equally brilliant in this novel. I really like it when Romana gets to be on her own at times without the Doctor and have her own adventures. She’s clearly resourceful and pretty deadpan. I found it funny when Romana gets annoyed with the Doctor and corrects him on the first law of time.
K-9 is equally delightful to read. I could also hear John Leeson’s tinny voice as the robot dog and can imagine him trundling along the floor of the G-Lock, thanks to Jonny’s Morris’ great direction. K-9 gets absent from the story as he gets thrown into a hyperspace interface, which was a shock to read.
The story has some really good supporting characters featured in this novel. There’s Evadne Baxter, who works as a ticket collector for the G-Lock. She knows the Doctor and Romana already when they first meet her. She helps them to sort out this mystery with ‘The Beautiful Death’ and the Repulsion.
There’s Harken Batt, a filmmaker who comes aboard to do a documentary about ‘The Beautiful Death’ on the G-Lock. Like Evadne, he knows the Doctor and Romana already when they meet him. Harken thinks highly of himself as a filmmaker; but he’s a willing ally helping the Doctor and Romana.
There’s Hoopy, a lizard-like alien called a Gonzie who comes to the G-Lock with two other Gonzies to experience ‘The Beautiful Death’. Hoopy has this strange language that almost makes him sound like a cool-talking dude of a lizard. He also knows the Doctor and Romana already when they meet him.
There’s Metcalfe, who runs the G-Lock station and allows the Beautiful Death ride to take place. Metcalfe is a self-important person, who accuses the Doctor and Romana for sabotaging the G-Lock. Metcalfe is not the clean-cut guy he would like to appear and he soon gets found out by the police.
There’s also the G-Lock’s computer called ERIC, who I found really funny and reminded me of a computer from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. ERIC is a self-loathing and weepy computer, who wants to end it all and die but nobody will let him. The Doctor promises ERIC he will end his life.
And there’s Paddox, a scientist who is responsible for the operation of ‘The Beautiful Death’ to take place, using his necroport aboard the G-Lock. Paddox is the villain of this story. He has had a troubled past and he wants the power of the Arboreatans to travel back in time and change history.
The monsters are the Repulsion. They live within the blackness of the hyperspace interface connected to the G-Lock. They turn people into zombies when they go through ‘The Beautiful Death’. There’s also the Arachnopods, spider-like creatures that want to eat the Doctor and Romana.
As I said before, I would love ‘Festival of Death’ to be turned into an audio drama by Big Finish. I’m sure Tom Baker and Lalla Ward would enjoy doing this story with John Leeson as K-9. It would match the Fourth Doctor stories by Gareth Roberts that have been adapted for audio recently by Big Finish.
I also wouldn’t mind if this book has its own audiobook by the BBC. I imagine this book would be read by Lalla Ward with John Leeson as the voice of K-9. It would be a great reading/listening experience in the style of ‘The Pirate Planet’; ‘City of Death’ and ‘Shada’ novelizations/audiobooks.
‘Festival of Death’ is a great Fourth Doctor novel adventure by Jonathan Morris. It has quickly become one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ novels already and it also contains some delicious humour and a timey-wimey plot in the mix. You have to keep alert in this book, but I’m so sure you’ll enjoy it!
‘Festival of Death’ rating – 10/10
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