Saturday, 14 November 2015

Foggy Notions.

Was not expecting just how dark this book got. Ironic given it is during the great smog that almost smothered one of the great cities of the world.I suppose I actually I did not see what was coming. In keeping with a book set during the great smog which rolled over London in 1952 which after it cleared revealed a death total of four thousand people (Although it is strongly suggested there were many many more and the government of the time played with and suppressed the actual final death toll.).Throughout the history of cinema and fiction there is a wealth of material that suggests all manner of swarthy nocturnal behaviour in the fog shrouded streets of Limehouse or Whitechapel in the Victorian or turn of the century eras yet this astonishing period in the life of a world capital never gets mentioned. Men, women and children choking on a blanket of a natural and man-made fusion of sickly thick smog as it billowed and rolled across whole communities leaving death and misery in its wake. It is the stuff of nightmares. It is the stuff of the twentieth century.
The Doctor and his best friend Sarah Jane Smith travel in The Tardis back to the East End of London 1952 to unravel a mystery discovered in a photograph from this very period. The tone of the story is steeped in  melancholy from the very beginning. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are not long back from The Doctors second visit to the planet of Peladon. A visit that almost ended with The Doctor losing his life. A gloom seems to hang in the air around this marvellous being. Soon the crystaline cost of that previous visit to the fabled blue planet Metebelus Three is due to be paid as the Great Ones web reaches across space and time to ensnare The Doctor. Perhaps he senses he is nearing the end of his days with this familiar old face and that sense manifests as an air of melancholia.
This is a fantastic setting for The Tardis to arrive in. A terribly British disaster the result of a series of variables probably unique in the galaxy. David bishop's characterization of The Doctor and Sarah Jane as she was at this stage in her life are spot on. I saw that slightly sharper jaw and the more pronounced mix of bravery and intelligence she radiated as a fierce free thinking young woman. This is the same Sarah Jane who won our hearts all over again when she graduated to her own show but at an earlier stage in her life. Still some one who will not be pushed about or bullied and will always try to do the right thing despite the odds. It has to be said that the force they oppose in this story is a horrendous one that would be hard pushed to be realised in the modern incarnation of the show and would certainly not be transmitted before the watershed. The more monstrous characters being some of the East End gangsters and not the horribly alien ones. Some of the events that take place are quite awfully distressingly magnified by the attempts of those poor victims enduring them to beg their creator for help that never comes. Maybe this was the authors intentions.
               This is the third of the historical adventures I have read in this particular collection of Doctor Who books. These are three fabulous faces staring out from the spines of these books on my bookshelf. An always welcome sight. The first two I read had their dark moments but this one pushed things a bit further. Perhaps it was because in relative terms this book takes place in a period relatively familiar to the here and now that the events as they occur seem easier to identify with. Or perhaps it is my own working class upbringing in a working class area.
                The fog of history parts to reveal a...fog.