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My love of novelizations brought me again to a book based on a television series, this time to the Doctor Who novelization The Ghosts of India. It features my favorite of the companions, Donna, which would be my major motivation for buying the book in the first place; beyond that, it was to feature Gandhi and the historical period just before the English pulled out of India. It's a period I don't know much about and thought would be more interesting than Donna and the Doctor traveling to, say, some star that we've never heard of.

The Doctor and Donna arrive ten years later than they expect and find themselves in Calcutta in the midst of civil unrest. To make matters worse, the god Shiva has been spotted in a temple, "half-made" men have appeared and whisked away normal humans, and some people and animals are being infected  with a disease that makes them deformed and vicious. But caught up in the drama is also Gandhi, a rich family from England, an Indian commoner, a doctor at a refugee camp, two aliens, and a little boy.

Sound confusing? A bit. Sound good? Well, it's not.

I get tired of saying this but once again, this is a book that suffered from too much going on. Rather than include Gandhi and the Indian commoners, the author felt he had to put in a wealthy family and some British soldiers, and spent way too long developing them. It felt like everyone got their very own subplot, even though the British family got a half-hearted wave for their send-off and did absolutely nothing to further the plot (with the possible exception of their young son). The same was true for the handful of British soldiers; sure, I liked Wilkins and thought Daker was a prick, just like I was meant to, but why did Wilkins and Daker need a whole side-plot?

Perhaps because the book would have been under two-hundred pages if they didn't, which is my next problem. It felt like there wasn't enough meat to the main plot to sustain it, so all the extra bits and bobs were added. An hour of airtime can be filled with Donna and the Doctor running down the streets of Calcutta, but in a book, it only takes a page or two. It felt to me as though Morris needed something more and just kept shoving in little side issues that no one cared about. Worse, the comedic highlights that worked as sub-plots and plot points -- such as the caste issue with a servant and his almost anal-retentive insistence that everything be perfect and the Doctor not come into the room (but his fear of touching the Doctor -- got left behind for just one more loose thread that was quickly lobbed off at the end of the book. The main plot, involving aliens who are double-crossing one another, just seemed poorly fleshed out, and I was left wondering exactly what the point of it all was, since it seemed that neither really was all that adamant about their "mission."

My last comment, which is a little nitpick, is that I don't think that the Doctor and Donna were written well at all. Theirs is a dynamic of neuances that worked as long as they weren't together. Donna was portrayed when with the Doctor as either a raging bitch or way too soft; the Doctor actually seemed to not like Donna in several parts, or give up on caring about her for other things. Donna was mostly great when she was away from the Doctor, especially in her flirting with Ronny, but the Doctor never felt right to me. I've seen them both written better in fanfiction, so it sort of grated on me the whole time that they weren't, well, themselves.


the forest-dweller

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