BOOK
Doctor Who
Dying in the Sun

Author: John de Burgh Miller
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53840 6
Available 01 October 2001



 


Los Angeles, 1947: The Second Doctor witnesses the murder of an old friend, a film producer called Harold Reitman. A young racketeer becomes the prime suspect for the killing, but the Doctor has his doubts. Could Reitman's death somehow be connected with a strangely affecting new movie entitled
Dying in the Sun...?

The BBC has recently released Doctor Who: The Movie (on DVD), and ironically this novel might easily have been called Doctor Who: The Movies, set as it is during the heydays of Hollywood.

The book opens with a film noir style prologue, which comes complete with bleak weather and a mysterious man in black, and it ends like an adventure serial, with a frantic chase to catch a villain's plane. During the middle bits, Miller examines the glamour of fame and the cult of celebrity, as a mysterious fluid somehow enables nobodies and has-beens alike to be adored as stars. He also touches upon the social effects of movies, with Dying in the Sun literally inspiring its viewers to take violent action as the result of subliminal messages being transmitted through alien material embedded in the celluloid. On a more earthly (and earthy) note, Polly shows an independence of spirit (more than she tended to do on the TV show) by valiantly resisting the call of the casting couch.

The author throws us straight into the story by establishing that the Doctor, Ben and Polly have already been in Hollywood for several days. After a good start, however, the novel is only intermittently involving.

The story relies upon several complicated connections between characters and organisations. Among the various plot threads that Miller weaves are the mystery of Reitman's murder, the sinister intentions of a secret society, the nature of the alien beings and their influence upon the movie. It doesn't help matters that, instead of the usual device whereby each companion investigates one or two individual plot strands, the Doctor divides his attention between all of them. Ben and Polly merely follow him obediently throughout most of the book, although Polly does become detached from the group towards the end of the tale. As a result, the Doctor seems to go off-task whenever he puts one line of investigation on to a back burner in order to examine another angle, and the story frequently loses the reader's interest in the process. This is a pity, because many of Miller's ideas are interesting in and of themselves.

As it is, I doubt that this particular work will be winning many awards.

Richard McGinlay


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