REVIEW: "Grave Matter" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
29 Jun 00

Justin Richards, _Doctor Who: Grave Matter_, (London: BBC Worldwide, 2000).

[Image of Book]

RATING: 5 (of 10)

     After tearing through Mark Gatiss's novel "Last of the 
Gaderene" there was a calling inside me for even more adventures 
of the good Doctor for me.  The newest Past Doctor novel released 
was the Sixth Doctor and Peri adventure called "Grave Matter."  
This offering from Justin Richards pairs up the colorful Doctor 
and his American companion as they land on the isolated island of 
     The story started with an interesting twist as the TARDIS's 
crew find themselves on a tiny island believing it to be the late 
1800s, only to discover that the time is much more contemporary.  
People on the island have being dying mysteriously and everyone 
has been acting rather a bit odd, almost as if they were 
collectively possessed.  Leave it to the pair of time travelers 
to discover a bit more than they bargained for in the fog.
     "Grave Matter"'s title and cover reveal quite clearly that 
on Dorsill the dead are returning to life.  How and why is the 
mystery here at hand.  But "Grave Matter" seemed a bit familiar 
to me, though this might not be the fault of Justin Richards.  It 
turns out that the story has a familiar theme.  All the islanders 
are acting the same way, they all seem to be becoming zombie-like 
smiling villagers.  They all seem to be possessed...  Hey, didn't 
I just read this plot in the Doctor Who novel "Last of the 
Gaderene."  Sure enough, the plot in "Grave Matter" is a mirror 
of the other Past Doctor offering, though Richards can hardly be 
blamed as his book was most likely written at the same time as 
Gatiss's book.
     The book, however, did continue to suffer from some oddities 
that distracted me.  Peri is dressed in a thick velvet dress as 
she exits the TARDIS, but then without any mention of a clothing 
change, Peri would then spend the next few days in similar dress 
even though she knows that they have landed in contemporary 
times.  She runs away from people and kicks them off, all which 
does not fit with her only mentioned style of dress.  At one 
point, Peri thinks of dialing 999 before she thinks of dialing 
911.  Why would an American think of the UK's emergency number 
first?  The plot's resolution itself seems not to make sense as 
an earlier generation of the villain is brought back to fight 
it's mutated offspring.  This plot point doesn't quite work as 
the first villain would surely hurt others rather than just 
defeating its later form.  Lastly, perhaps it's just the fact 
that I am an American and hear a different variation on the 
language most of the time, but I couldn't help but count the fact 
that Richards used the phrase "looking for purchase" three times 
when he was describing a person reaching for something.  To my 
ear (eyes?) it seemed a bit odd.
     "Grave Matter" had a few shining moments though at times it 
did remind me of a grown up version of "Children of the Damned."  
Richards boldly fleshes out his supporting characters, and even 
the Doctor's shouting seems spot on.  His book suffers from 
having a similar plot to another recent BBC books offering, and 
from a plot that doesn't quite seem resolved.  However, having 
finished the book, I couldn't help but think that had I read this 
before I tackled "Last of the Gaderene" the book's rating might 
have fared better.  I encourage you, the readers, to read both 
books and decide for yourselves.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 2000.

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