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Doctor Who: Falls the Shadow by Daniel…

Doctor Who: Falls the Shadow (edition 1994)

by Daniel O'Mahony

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1313140,542 (2.84)3
Title:Doctor Who: Falls the Shadow
Authors:Daniel O'Mahony
Info:Dr Who (1994), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, science fiction, novel, doctor who, seventh doctor, new adventures

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Falls the Shadow by Daniel O'Mahony (Author)



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Muddled epic features high concepts, but boring prose. Way too much exposition and not much of an ending either. Bad cover too. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
'Ghost Light' through the prism of Grant Morrison’s 'Doom Patrol'.

If you wanted to give someone a New Adventure to confirm their worst impressions of them, 'Falls The Shadow' would be the perfect candidate. Title pretentiously stolen from literature? Check. Doctor sidelined for a long period? Check. Much angst and torturing of the regulars? Check. Obscurer-than-thou continuity references? Check. Every idea the author’s ever had chucked in? Check. In need of a tighter edit? Check.

That though would be slightly unfair. The New Adventures were tremendously exciting at the time but hindsight suggests that theirs was an uneven brilliance, more one of magnificent moments than genius sustained over novels, let alone a series. That’s the price of Virgin’s approach, of commissioning inexperienced authors to drive the series. They had youth and enthusiasm to power their way through the writing of a novel but largely not the experience to produce a consistently brilliant work as a thematic whole. Energy and imagination were the keywords. As a result they’ve largely aged badly, ideas which were new and fresh at the time now staled by cultural familiarity.

In their desperation to take charge of the series the fans turned writers were unafraid to try new things, to bring new and contemporary influences to the series in the manner initiated by the TV show’s last script editor Andrew Cartmel. Sometimes this manifested itself as continuity porn, writers delving into the parts of the show’s history they’d loved (Craig Hinton and Gary Russell the prime examples), sometimes older writers imposed older influences (John Peel, Chris Bulis and Terrance Dicks). But, as the series went on, the influences of younger authors steeped in contemporary culture came to the fore. Paul Cornell’s 'Timewyrm: Revelation' kickstarted this, clearly influenced by the more surreal end of comics in the 80s and 90s and bringing in contemporary musical and cultural references. Once the dam was burst, the references became a flood, almost a race to see how much could be crammed in.

'Falls The Shadow' largely eschews the contemporary references, and even the continuity is well chosen – outside of past stories being used to reinforces character points the references are logically chosen to add texture to the plot and root them in the Who universe (primarily 'The Time Monster' and 'Shada'). Where it’s far less subtle is in showing the roots of the tale. O’Mahony admitted at the time that the basis of the story was him constructing a tale around the rumours he’d heard about Ghost Light – it shows but it’s a sufficiently different take not to be plagiaristic. Pop culture references appear, ranging through the titular Eliot quote, through the probability that the antagonists are dark versions of Sapphire and Steel, to Kate Bush and musicals. Again, for the most part these add texture, even if it’s odd having characters not from contemporary Earth making them.

Where the author’s inexperience shows is Morrison’s obvious influence. There’s a wheelchair bound scientist, a man hiding his face behind a mask and a woman called Jane who eventually goes mad – Crazy Jane. And the antagonists of the piece are avatars of the wounds time travellers cause by wiping out alternate time lines with the final battle in a metacultural engine of a city ruled by Easter Island heads named after a complex mathematical concept. It couldn’t be any more Morrison without slapping his name in the place of the author’s. Given the obvious influence, you probably could feasibly give him a co-author credit.

Unfortunately the piece lacks the absurd humour of Morrison – the tone of the piece is relentlessly nasty. The tone’s set early on with the deliberate torture and murder of a young child, and we subsequently get mental rape, knife and gun violence, cannibalistic plants feeding on cadavers and incestuously inclined villains. The novel’s climax is one of the TARDIS crew violently and graphically killing the antagonists. It’s not a pleasant read and, until this year, it was the sole New Adventure I’d never managed to re-read. There’s a certain mordant absurdity but the vestiges of humour are black in a novel already toned to a midnight darkness. O’Mahony was a teenager when writing this and it shows in the often morbid tones and wallowing in the darker side of human nature. It often feels like deliberately rubbing the reader’s face in excrement and broken glass, just to make them experience pain and degradation all at once. O’Mahony’s prose is a cut above the Who book standard, but that relative elegance feels decadent when expended on this subject matter.

My re-read wasn’t as unpleasant or onerous as I thought it would be, but that might be my memory exaggerating the general sadism, or perhaps I’ve just seen enough unpleasant things to render it a little tamer. It’s one of the few New Adventures that’s at least held up, partly due to the wider cultural frame of reference than usual and partly due to the prose. It’s just a shame about the actual tale the words tell. ( )
  JonArnold | Jul 26, 2014 |

There is a format that works much more often than not for Doctor Who: take an isolated building, and develop beyond the usual base-under-siege story by making the inhabitants a collection of strange indiviuals each with their own hidden motivations. Ghost Light on TV, The Chimes of Midnight on audio, last year's New Who book Dead of Winter are all good examples; so is Falls The Shadow, a Seventh Doctor story in the New Adventures range featuring Ace and Bernice Summerfield, which runs through changing topography, off-stage sex, weird androids, temporary deaths, and mysterious travellers in a satisfying and well-written text. Seemed a bit longer than most in this series, but maybe that was just my frame of mind. ( )
  nwhyte | Jun 28, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
O'Mahony, DanielAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jenkins, KevinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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