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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Novelization That Could Have Been Great, June 22, 2011
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric (Doctor Who Library) (Paperback)
Novelizations are exactly what their name implies: a previous work (usually a script) that has been turned into a novel. Novelizations therefore can range from being little more then prose version of the script it's based on to full fledged novels in their own right. The Target novelizations of stories from the original series of Doctor Who ranged between both ends of the spectrum. Falling somewhere into the middle of those two ends of that spectrum is the novelization of The Curse Of Fenric by its original writer Ian Briggs.

Briggs takes the chance to expand upon the original TV story. Some of the additional scenes were later reinstated for the expanded 1991 VHS release and the 2003 special edition DVD version but there are plenty of things that can only be found in this novelization. There's new material throughout the entire story from an agent signaling the Russian commandos where to land, to recasting Reverend Wainwright as a young man instead of the older one seen in the TV story, Miss Hardaker's tragic background that created the old woman seen in the story and a slightly different final showdown between the Doctor and Fenric to name a few examples. These changes or additions aren't for done for the sake of doing them: they each expand upon the story and give it a new interesting development.

The most intriguing additions are four "documents" placed between the four "chronicles" (chapters) that cover the scripted material and the epilogue. The documents expand on things seen or hinted at in the story proper such as Commander Millington's interest from his school days in Viking legends, the curse of the flask that plays a major role in the story that's told through an "excerpt" from an old Norse saga, a letter from Bram Stoker upon visiting the village where the story takes places (something hinted at by Reverend Wainwright) and the story of how the Doctor's first confrontation with Fenric as laid out in Arab folklore. The epilogue expands upon two things referenced as the story builds to its conclusion and suggests a rather intriguing possibility in its own right. Though these documents and the epilogue are all fairly short, they make for fascinating additions that can only be made in the context of a novelization.

All that through is undermined though by two different things Briggs does. The first is that that the novelization cuts very much like its screen version in places which leads to to a brief paragraph that cuts away from a scene and then back into it. While this of course works for a screen version, there's something rather disconcerting about it on the printed page as it tends to make the novelization feel unfocused. The second is Briggs lapses into the melodramatic ranging from stating the obvious (for no apparent reason) on page 38 about what the Doctor finds to a rather melodramatic take on the final scene of the TV story which in fact undermines it or the melodramatic opening prologue that really no purpose story wise. The issues undermine the novelization's additions and the strong nature of the TV story itself and serve to do nothing but hurt it.

With its intriguing additions that expand upon the original TV story, Ian Briggs' novelization of The Curse Of Fenric has the makings to be amongst the best of the Doctor Who Target novelizations. Yet despite making moves that would made the story into an excellent novel, its hampered by its sticking to the editing of the TV story and of the use of melodramatic elements. As a result, The Curse Of Fenric novelization is a good read but leaves one wondering if a few changes could have made it even better.
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Initial post: Dec 29, 2012 11:04:17 AM PST
Kodanshi says:
What an excellent, balanced and thorough review. Many thanks!
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