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Review — Falls the Shadow

First Published:
Sonic Screwdriver #88

Publish Date:
January 1995

In retrospect, ugly as they sometimes were, I appreciate the covers to the Virgin range of books a little more — considering the incredibly dead-boring ‘Oh look, another circle’ approach taken by the BBC once they took over the franchise. At least Virgin tried.

Falls the Shadow has one of the worst covers we’ve yet seen on a New Adventure; and if you’ve been even casually following them, you’ll know that takes some beating. Unlike some others, it’s not just a case of poor art (though I swear I didn’t know it was Benny on the cover till I came to do this review, and noticed The Earrings™. Makes me loath it all the more. Anyway…). This cover totally lacks passion, has been airbrushed down to nothing, and is really, really boring. Luckily, just to be contrary, the book itself is really, really good.

The TARDIS has, yet again, been taken over from outside. The Doctor & Co. land in a dark basement, and when they set out find a house with far more than its fair share of weirdos, dimensionally warping rooms, and a whole lot of other surprises. The initial descriptions of this house and its inhabitants (before the TARDIS crew arrive) are somewhat confusing (largely due to a lack of context — on second reading, all is clear), but nonetheless very interesting. This is the longest New Adventure so far, at a massive 356 pages, and Daniel O’Mahony has used this length to create and then examine some extremely complex characters.

The quote on the back of the book gives a very accurate description of much of the book: ‘We are deranged. We are psychopaths, sociopaths, up the garden path,’ said Tanith. ‘We are mad, and you are trapped with us.’ Tanith and Gabriel were created by time travel — every change due to travel in time, no matter how positive it may seem, also causes an invisible amount of pain. They come from an inter-dimensional world called Cathedral, created by the grey man (as he is referred to throughout the book) to help develop cultures throughout the universe. The rest of the grey man’s race, however, are chaotically violent, enjoying destruction and pain for its own sake — and Gabriel and Tanith certainly follow in that path. Exquisite to look at, in our universe they are virtually all-powerful, and immediately start violence, torture and mayhem on a grand scale.

Continuing the pattern of many a recent book, the Doctor, Ace and Benny take massive damage. St Anthony’s Fire had a bald Ace reduced both physically and mentally to a mere shell, Parasite had some wonderfully gruesome inflictions which makes you wonder how any of the crew even came close to survival, while Venusian Lullaby had Ian trapped in a blazing oil-forest and Barbara having her torso almost cut off. Falls the Shadow goes so far as to give Benny (as well as many other characters) the opportunity to die! In this book, however, more damaging and prominent is the psychological torture Gabriel and Tanith put the locals through. This torture is brilliantly written, getting to the depths of the characters, and making you know and feel for them.

At the end, when Gabriel and Tanith are reduced to mortal form, and Ace kills them, you can hardly fault her for it. It is not a response by "Ace-the-bitch", but a pure animal response to the unimaginable suffering she and the others have been subjected to. And you approve of it. To my view, the character of Ace has been greatly revived in the past half-dozen books, starting with Terrance Dick’s marvellous Blood Harvest. Despite my love of Benny, I just can’t imagine the New Adventures without this (well-written) Ace. I guess I’ll just have to. For the moment, at least, all I can do is give a massive recommendation that you read Falls the Shadow, as good a New Adventure as we have seen yet.

End of Review

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who reviews available here:
Benny Adventure: Beyond the Sun
Benny Adventure: Deadfall
Benny Adventure: Ghost Devices/Mean Streets/Tempest
Benny Adventure: The Sword of Forever
Fanzines: Mag Bag #1
Fanzines: Mag Bag #2
Fanzines: Mag Bag #3
Fanzines: Mag Bag #4
Fanzines: Mag Bag #5
Fanzines: Mag Bag #6
Fanzines: Mag Bag #7
Fanzines: Mag Bag #8
Fanzines: Mag Bag #9
Fanzines: Mag Bag #10
Fanzines: Mag Bag #11
Fanzines: Mag Bag #12
Missing Adventure: Dancing the Code
Missing Adventure: Downtime
Missing Adventure: Invasion of the Cat-People
Missing Adventure: Lords of the Storm
Missing Adventure: Scales of Injustice
Missing Adventure: Shadow of Weng-Chiang
Missing Adventure: System Shock
New Adventure: Bloodheat
New Adventure: Death of Art
New Adventure: Dimension Riders
New Adventure: Eternity Weeps
New Adventure: Falls the Shadow
New Adventure: Legacy
New Adventure: No Future
New Adventure: Sleepy
TV: The Curse of Fenric
TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
TV: The Happiness Patrol
TV: Season 25 Review
TV: Season 27 Review (the 2005 return)
TV: The Twin Dilemma
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index

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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Wed, 20 Apr 2005.