Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Menagerie by: Martin Day: Attack of the Evi Lab Mice

Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor gave a screen performance on television that is just difficult to replicate.  He famously improvised a lot of the comedic bits of scripts with Frazer Hines on the spot knowing there would most likely be no time for a second take.  This heavily improved even the weakest scripts he was in by a lot, but for Martin Day that posed a problem as his personality and mannerisms are just difficult to replicate accurately.  This proves a problem as Martin Day’s debut novel The Menagerie, relies heavily on the Second Doctor being active in the events of the story, but Day simply does not know how to write for the Second Doctor which causes large portions of the book to be quite boring as the Doctor comes across closer to the Fourth Doctor or even the Sixth Doctor, but not the Second Doctor.  Day also remains inconsistent with which companion team he is writing for as The Menagerie features Jamie and Zoe but there are points in the novel that feel like they were written for Steven and Dodo, Jamie and Victoria, and even Ben and Polly which really makes the audio jarring.  Zoe gets the worst treatment of the three as she feels like stock companion which just shows how Day didn’t get her character.  It is understandable why the characterization is off as at the time this was written only The Dominators, The Mind Robber, The Krotons, The Seeds of Death and The War Games existed in the archives, but that doesn’t explain how he knew about The Space Pirates and a lot of the earlier missing Troughton serials so this isn’t forgivable.


Day also writes a story that on the surface looks interesting with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arriving in a city where science is feared and there is a mythical Menagerie and conspiracies afoot.  The plot instead of doing anything interesting is trying to do a base under siege story without having a base and the under siege portions only start to happen in the final quarter of the novel.  The villains that do attack are interesting as they are pretty much giant mutated lab mice, but they don’t have any sort of character or fear factor as you can tell when they are going to attack from a mile away.  Day does do some interesting things with the twist of how the city is actually built on top of a scientifically advanced ghost town city which helps explain why people have fear of science even though they have electricity which is still science.


The novel is also full of subplots with Zoe being forced into the circus as a slave which goes nowhere and Jamie trying to rescue the Doctor and Zoe from prison but failing which also doesn’t go anywhere.  Day tries to keep us invested by putting in points of the mystery and filling the novel with a lot of character who really have nothing to do in this novel.  Day does kill off some characters in what can be considered slightly emotional scenes as he kills off a child in gruesome detail which is a bit difficult to get through, but most of the characters are there just so the main three characters have someone to talk to.  The society Day builds is in great detail which is a plus as this is a medieval society with knights, alchemists and kings, with a description on the back cover which will entrance everyone, but Day doesn’t do much with the premise.  The Mecrim are the villains who have no character as they cannot speak and just rampage.  We do get a lot of backstory involving just how they came to be in a laboratory supported by the Intergalactic Mining Corporation and had their DNA given to the Butler Institute from Cat’s Cradle: Warhead, which gives some nice continuity and commentary on animal cruelty, but other than that there is nothing to sink your teeth into.


To summarize, The Menagerie had so much potential to tell an interesting story from a first time author.  The novel however is written in a very amateur way that just doesn’t make me stay interested in the events taking place.  He writes for the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe in a very inconsistent way that feels closer to some of the later Doctors with too many supporting characters who make no impact and some subplots that are only there so Day can write in a lot of dialogue which just shows you how amateurish Day is and how the writing doesn’t flow from scene to scene.  The idea is a very good one and there are some things to like about this story, but you could do a lot better at finding something to read.  32/100

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