REVIEW: "Corpse Marker" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
18 December 1999

Boucher, Chris, _Doctor Who: Corpse Marker_, (London: BBC Worldwide, 1999).

[Image of Book]

RATING: 6 (of 10)


     For those Doctor Who fans who long for a return to the dark and
exciting Tom Baker era, an offering like "Corpse Marker" might just be for
you.  Chris Boucher, writer of the magnificent adventure "The Robots of
Death," debuts his novel writing talents in the BBC line with a sequel to
that very televised story.  Boucher returns the Doctor and Leela to the
planet of the sandminers a few adventures, yet a decade after, their first
meeting with the evil Taren Capel.
     "Corpse Marker" features the Doctor and his savage companion landing in
Kaldor City years after the sandminer incident.  Interestingly, Chris
Boucher expands on the civilization that he presented in "Robots of Death."
The corporate and class intrigue between the planet's 20 elite families and
the others that are trying to get into their circle of power is one of the
major sub-plots of this novel.  Boucher paints a picture of this
civilization perhaps a bit differently than many had envisioned in the
original television plot.  For instance, the civilization is planet bound to
only their singular planet.  I for one believed that the miner was on a
planet by itself mining ore until it's stores were full and then they would
be picked up and returned to their own planet.  But Boucher strengthens his
vision of the world that he created.  
     This time around, we are introduced to the greater civilization of this
robot assisted society.  Dums, Vocs, SuperVocs all punctuate the action that
takes place in this adventure.  But somehow, people start to die
mysteriously and some security men fear that it might be the robots, which
are programmed to protect human life rather than take it, which are
responsible.  We also witness the return of the survivors of the sandminer
incident, as Uvanov, Toos, and Poul all return to face the robots that once
again seem to be running wild.  This time another class of robots, more
human seem to be running lose and they are controlled by someone else
calling themselves Taren Capel.  Plus, add to the mayhem, a group of
anti-robot rebels who worship Taren Capel as the leader of their anti-robot
movement.
     Chris Boucher weaves together an interesting story.  His
characterizations of the Doctor and Leela are spot on, and truly have the
feeling of an original Doctor Who story.  On characterizations alone, plus
the fact that this writer from his particular era seems to capture that
era's feel even after 20 years, we can hope that the BBC employs more of the
writers who originally wrote for the program.  The story, however, is not
perfect.  The plot itself takes the robot society into a time when more
human looking robots are being use.  This disarms the book's plot from the
true horror of the original "The Robots of Death."  In the show, the real
fear was of the robots which were clearly not human, but just human looking
enough that they were a reminder of our dark side.  In this story, Boucher
has robot development moving more towards human looking robots
indistinguishable from real humans.  While horrible in its own right, the
mysterious unknown capacities of the Vocs and Dums seems to be lost and we
are given more of a "Terminator"-like tale, than a sequel to those dark
scary automatons that seemed so dangerous.
     Chris Boucher's return to Doctor Who writing is definitely a read that
I would encourage.  His plot though is a bit too similar to his original
story and simply lacks a touch of the excitement that made the first
adventure in this society so compelling.  It would have been nice if Boucher
would have given us a tale in the same planet and environment but one where
the robots were more of a feature of the environment rather than once again
becoming deadly.  But, we can always hope for a return to Kaldor City, for
if the BBC realizes Boucher's writing strength, we may once again see
adventures penned by him.


(c) Copyright Zepo, 1999.


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Last Updated December 22, 1999