Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Witch Hunters.

There are just some places and moments in human history which as a time-traveler it would probably best to avoid. Particularly if by your very nature you are possessed of an unearthliness that would lead you to stand out at the best of times. Consider how young Susan The Doctor's grand daughter was the original unearthly child and you would rightly think that the village of Salem at the very height of the notorious witch trials is not the best place to be when you look like the off-spring of Queen Titania of Faerie( I never thought they made enough of the wonderfully cast Carole Ann Ford as Susan Of Galifrey and her alien other-worldliness . Look how amazing and suggestive of an arch degree of intelligence and mystery they exude.) Yet the author Steve Lyons pulls it all together giving a plausible and faithful to the period of the show explanation for this classic Tardis crew deciding to rest up in such a dangerous location. He does a great job recreating the dynamics and characters of Hartnell's A team. There are some moments and particular actions I do not think would be allowed to have happened in that era of BBC broadcasting but he does not stray too far and remains smartly within the boundaries of tasteful discretion when dealing with subject matter that spirals to the depths of cruelty that human beings are capable off. Cotton Mather, Tituba the slave, Abigail and her twisted pals are all here in the text as The Doctor and his companions are truly in The Crucible and all seems lost at more that one point in the tale. Finding themselves caught up in the web of time and clutching at the threads it is built off not knowing which will seal their doom. It is a powerful atmospheric tale and a great  beginning to a series of BBC Who books called The History Collection. Journeys with The Doctor in various incarnations with different companions. I have seen all the covers and they make a very striking set.It would have been lovely to have produced the series with old style Target Chris Achilleos covers. They hold up so well themselves after all these years and would have made a nice tribute and gave a knowing sense of continuity. One of the earliest historical books  I read was The Crusaders by David Whitaker and I thought it was really exciting with a legendary (to my young mind.) Tardis crew. As I came on board with the third Doctor and Jo Grant Ian, Barbara and Susan had traveled with the Doctor a hundred years before when the whole world was in black and white. A summer was a lifetime at that age.
              I do not know if it is a by product or side effect of having been brought up a catholic but I find religious fervor or hysteria terrifying. Just as for the sake of love people will do the most inhumane things in the name of religion.It is like some constantly mutating virus that devours its host. A human stew and the secret ingredient is madness.This novel does not shy away from such notions and is all the stronger for it. I found the plight of one of the central characters to be so engaging and scary that it took me out of that comfort zone that usually comes with books outside of the regular canon. The writing was so strong I remembered this was actual human history and the real cost that came in human life. The Doctor struggles to do the right thing, trying to balance his responsibility to the web of time and his duty of care to these human beings he spends so much time with. I felt genuinely moved and like his companions hoping for things not to end the way I knew they had to.
              The Crucible by Arthur Miller( Norma Jean's Himbo.) is a timeless piece of work whose major themes are almost transferable to any era it is revived in and the text of that play is more than just referenced. I believe all the victims of this particular witch hunt were granted posthumous amnesties generations after their brutal treatment and terrifying executions.
               I do not believe the dead care about such things.
               Only the living can learn.