REVIEW: "The Face of the Enemy" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
20 August 2000

McIntee, David A., _Doctor Who: The Face of the Enemy_, (London: 
BBC Worldwide, 1998).

[Image of Book]

RATING: 3 (of 10)

     Sometimes a reviewer waits to tackle a book until they are 
sure they are ready to give it a good read.  Though I've owned 
David McIntee's "The Face of the Enemy" since it was released, I 
passed on reviewing it until now.  Perhaps it was because of my 
love for the UNIT stories, or perhaps because I needed to work on 
other projects.  What I hoped to find was the first BBC Doctor 
Who novel that did not feature the Doctor and a compelling read 
in which the UNIT regulars must go it alone to avert a danger to 
Earth.  What I read a bit different than I expected.
     The Face of the Enemy features a photo of the Brigadier and 
Master on the cover, so the setting for the story in the heyday 
of the Master's encounters with UNIT is established before the 
binding is even cracked.  The back cover of the book promises a 
story set opposite the Doctor's off-world adventure "The Curse of 
Peladon" (after "Day of the Daleks" and before "The Sea Devils"). 
 The book in fact starts with a prequel to the Doctor and Jo's 
leaving in "The Curse of Peladon."  As it turns out, the 
underground wars between the various mafioso gangs in England is 
escalating, and after a number of strange occurrences, UNIT is 
involved.  As the trail of occurrences warms up, a number of 
inconsistencies appear and the Brigadier is forced to call up 
reinforcements.  As the story unfolds it appears that people from 
sideways in time are invading our world and replacing their 
identical counterparts.  Is the Master an ally or enemy of UNIT's 
this time around?  Will all be set straight before the Doctor 
returns?  UNIT it would seem have their hands full.

     The problem is that "The Face of the Enemy" fails on so many 
levels.  While it can be said that any of the Past Doctors novels 
is a wasted read (after all we know the Doctor won't die), the 
argument holds rue for this novel.  In a Past Doctor novel, the 
Doctor may not win the way he hoped to.  Though the Doctor 
himself might survive the encounter, it is on the strength of the 
supporting characters and their survival that these Past Doctor 
novels are built.  But "The Face of the Enemy" doesn't just 
feature the Brigadier as the main regular character, it also 
features Captain Mike Yates, and Sergeant Benton, all of whom we 
know will survive this encounter.  To my surprise, Ian and 
Barbara Chesterton are recruited to help UNIT.  Perhaps it 
shouldn't be a surprise as they were listed as being involved in 
the adventure on the back cover (though their marriage is a 
surprise).  None the less, one can be rather sure that the two of 
them won't be knocked off when such a big deal is made of their 
return.  Plus, it would be such a betrayal of their final happy 
on-screen moment in "The Chase" if they were to make it back to 
the UK only to be killed in an alternate Doctor related 
adventure.  Add to that the appearance of Harry Sullivan, whose 
fate we again know as he will join the Doctor on board the TARDIS 
at a later time, and it seems that none of the characters are 
even in any remote danger at all.
     What about the Master?  Sure, he turns up in prison at the 
start of this adventure, but what's the point of his involvement 
and escape when we know he will be back in prison again before 
the next story ("The Sea Devils").  OK, maybe we'd like to find 
out if he caught any episodes of "The Clangers" before then, but 
this isn't even touched on in this book.  UNIT's Corporal Bell 
returns in this book, but only is a slight supporting role as she 
had in the original series (which is fine other than the fact 
that she is an unwitting spy for the enemy here, poor Cpl. Bell). 
 The other characters introduced are either killed off before 
McIntee develops them enough, or the reader never quite gains a 
liking or respect for them or their methods. 
     Those who want to avoid any spoilers may as well skip this 
paragraph because the gist of this book is about to be revealed. 
 McIntee must stoop to rehashing existing stories to create this 
brand new tale.  Put simply, this book is an uninteresting sequel 
to "Inferno" which takes place after the alternate world 
supposedly ended.  Not surprisingly, the idea that some people 
survived the apocalypse and intend to escape to our world is the 
backbone of this story.  Quite frankly, I felt betrayed when I 
discovered the plot to this story.  So simple a plot to weave, 
the inclusion of not one but seven base characters from the 
Doctor Who mythos to make up for the Doctor's absence, and a 
story that I knew would end up resolved for the better (simply 
because I know the Brigadier's comments to the Doctor at the end 
of "The Curse of Peladon").  To add insult to injury, the dangers 
seen in the story "Inferno" are disarmed by allowing people to 
survive the rubicon of the alternate universe.  Add to that Ian 
contemplating suicide and the characterizations even seem to fall 
apart.  This novel could have been an exploration of the workings 
of UNIT without the Doctor's presence, but in turn became a 
parade of overly familiar characters in a rehashed plot.  

     I really wanted to like this book.  I wanted a solo UNIT 
story to work.  I think it could have.  And I still have hope, if 
only because I am familiar with McIntee's writing and know that 
he can envision stronger plots and characterizations than 
presented here.  But "The Face of the Enemy" simply does not 
entertain as an original UNIT adventure.  It fails to spin an 
original tale, one never feels as if there is a legitimate danger 
to our planet, and quite frankly no one does anything so bold 
that we think that the Doctor's involvement is invaluable at 
times.  Rather than suffer through this book, one's time might be 
better spent whittling a Dalek out of a bar of soap.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 2000.

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Last Updated August 28, 2000