Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ace's Finale Reviewed!

Yes, TDWP has salvaged another scrap from the festering offal of their back catalogue, Mercury237 (or 23F thanks to that wierd font). I was mildly intrigued as this is about the only story of DWP Season 27 I've NOT reviewed that has ANY kind of relevence to the canon as the Eighth Doctor twigs they've forgotten to show Ace's final story. As Servalan would say, a little late in the day perhaps?

I have to say, I'm still gobsmacked at how amateur fan fics can be at times. Of course, it's all a question of balance - there are a million and one 'after-Dalek-the-Ninth-Doctor-and-Rose-screwed-like-rabbits' fics, all written to varying standards of "Hah! I laugh at you, BBC books!" quality, but about the best fic I read in 2005 was clearly written by someone under ten years of age in present tense script format where the Doctor and Rose visit an underwater civilization. Maybe it was the lack of pretention, since all the other fics were trying to be hardcore stuff, like Rose murdering an alien warlord after he repeatedly rapes her as part of her harem...

But still, the sheer crapness of these mid-90s Canadian fics hits me like a cement mixer to the cerebelum as the story begins with the Eighth Doctor - not showing any real personality whatsoever - wires up the TARDIS console to a wheel of fortune so he can spin it and get a totally random destination. This idea, so unutterably shite I deleted the eBook and downloaded it again in the belief it was some processing error rather than genuine text, goes beyond the pale as, no sooner as the Doctor masters this Game Show method of navigation that he IMMEDIATELY FORGETS ABOUT IT and plots a very deliberate course! THE WHOLE THING WAS A WASTE OF WORDS! GAAAAAH!

The Doctor, having twigged he can't remember getting rid of Ace between that hellhole between The One With The Master and The Other One With The Master And Liz And The Silurians And Oh God I'm Feeling Depressed, decides to take action... by going to Det Sen monastery. Yes, very useful fanwank there, ladies and gents, as we get a full page of "om mane padme ums". Not only is this tedious, it works on the misapprehension that Det Sen was a Bhuddist monastery (it isn't, judging by the violently keyed-up Yeti-baiting warrior monks) and that Bhuddist Monks only speak the sutra from Monkey Magic.

In either case, my jaw drops as the Doctor gets in by mentioning he and the abbot were best buds. Now, taking into account that the missing stories weren't as accessible as they are now, the fact remains that the Doctor randomly visiting the setting of The Abominable Snowmen is a particularly stupid approach. Claiming he is a mate of the abbot, that would be the 200-year-old-abbot-possessed-by-an-evil-from-the-dawn-of-time, is also rather stupid especially as he could simply say "You know the dude who stole your bell and saved you from three gallons of Cthulu spit? Yeah, that's me!" would probably be a better approach.

It turns out that the Doctor has gone to Det Sen so he can astral travel three hundred years into the past to chat with Pad-mah-sam-bar-va and get some advice about how to take it cool. We also get a lengthy explanation of why the Doctor is going to such trouble instead of, say, simply going back in time to when Paddy was a nice chap and talking to him face to face. Quite simply, it's clear the author has a very confused impression that Paddy is actually K'Anpo from Planet of the Spiders as the Second Doctor nevered referred to the stoner Uncle Fester as "his mentor" in any way, shape or form.

Basically, Paddy earns his keep by telling the Doctor to suck it up, stop whining like a bitch and either find out what happened to Ace or get on with puny excuse for a life by maybe actually getting a companion. The Doctor is so overwhelmed by this utter genius (translation: the advice a kid on the street could have given you) and considers hiding in the monastery because he finds the TARDIS gaudy in comparison - well, mate, YOU are the one who installed the fucking wheel of fortune, didn't you? So who's fault is that? After miserably spinning the wheel, which will take him to a totally random destination and thus the total opposite of "retrace your steps", the lights go out and the first episode mercifully comes to an end.

Yes, I can't imagine many season finales beginning WORSE than this.

And that includes The War Machines.

Episode two begins in a way that vaguely reminds me of The Empty Child (never a good thing, of course) as the TARDIS randomly lands somewhere, the Doctor pisses about backstage in a club and then finds out he's got the time completely wrong - in this case, what he automatically assumes to be a 1920s Harlem jazz club turns out to be a 29th century Milliways-type place that, despite not having a clue where and when he is, the Doctor is still carrying all the perfect money to get himself a coffee and immediately start chatting up a vampy blonde lesbian...

But, oh no, this is terrible! For these pentagenarian ladies are none other than KARTZ AND REIMER!!!

Yes, it's the fucking Time Brokers all over again, only with some homosexuality thrown in! It turns out though that these glorified jobsworths, employed simply by Third Zone racist policy, somehow managed to steal their jerry-built TARDIS and fling themselves into the far future to escape prosection. Even though they would still have been poisoned and Chessene still had their time machine when she left. But, still, compared to the DWAD effort, it's almost logical - if you can cope with the Doctor just HAPPENING to try and chat them up randomly in a bar and they deciding to quite happily give him their wiki entries to any passing stranger. But, to be fair, it's positively charming compared to this paragraph:

CIA was the initials of the Celestial Intervention Agency, a secret organization that operated beneath a blanket of secrecy on the Doctor's home planet Gallifrey. He had had a few dealings with them in the past, and had even worked for them for a brief period of time in exchange for CENSORED.

Fuck me, it's hard to even believe someone was shameless enough to type that, let alone let anyone else find out about it. God, my eyes are bleeding at that!

The Doctor decides to go for a job with K&R at their new, not-at-all-dodgy-sounding Mercury Mining Corporation, because not only does this tie up piddling continuity fanwank about the CIA, the Doctor has a creepy desire to do a threesome with two old lesbians. It's terrifying that the only time this guy shows sign of abstract thought he ends up qualifying for a sex offender register...

Having completely forgotten his angst and Ace, the Doctor manages to actually get a job at the MMC despite having no qualifications, references and unintentionally dissing the nationality of the interviewer, the racist git. Bloody hell, AND he's allowed a two-week trial period to muck around with MMC's top-secret business with no kind of security check at all! How the fuck did he manage that? You can't even get into McDonalds with an interview THAT bad as you call your new employer a stupid robot and run off lauging after you get the job! Clearly, my interview approach has been based on a false premise all these ideas - acting like Lawrence Miles on cheap ecstacy WILL get you the job of your dreams in five seconds!

Having got the job... the Doctor, K&R immediately piss off to a pub and get drunk. Yes, while the Doctor bitches about how uncouth all the customers are. My god, it's terrifying, especially as we segue into one of those "the afternoon was summarized thus" and we seemingly forget this is supposed to be a novelization of a TV show. I don't mind either approach, but flipping back and forth is just... annoying.

So, a quick history of MMC: it's evil. A slightly less quick history of MMC: it bizarrely focusses on mining gold and titanium rather than any cool outer-space elements that could be remotely useful.

K&R get drunk and wander off to shag, leaving the Doctor alone in the pub where his next attempt to pull ends up with a tall woman randomly beating the shit out of him. This is, naturally, the very next cliffhanger.

Episode THREE now, not even 14 pages into the book, and the woman (Taia) is quite anti-Time Lords so the Doctor improvs like mad in a soliloquy that no amount of contextualizing can possibly do justice:

"Now what do you know about Time Lords, Johnny."
"Well, I know they like their secrets to remain secret and they don't get out much, but the ones that do are right bastards. Oh, and they like to pick themselves poncy nicknames like Doctor and Master and Rani.
"I've heard of the Master," offered one of the people at the table.
"I've met him," said the Doctor. "It was about ten years ago, I was working on a freighter when this guy comes on board with a couple of Ogrons. Next thing you knew, the Captain was letting him run the ship and order us around. Two weeks later we ended up right in the middle of a war with Draconians on one side and Daleks on the other. Luckily the Draconians and the Federation managed to figure out that the Master was playing them both against each other, but I lost a lotta friends in that damn business and nearly lost my arm.”

...yeah, I'm totally lost as to why he said that either.

More reported speech reveals that a "Time Lord craft" has crashed on this planet, whatever it's called, and everyone in the pub is a salvage crew trying to claim it. Amazingly, the Doctor's social skills are so impressive that within an hour of being beaten up by the team leader, he's become part of the team even though, again, he has no relevent experience and hates all the others for being uncouth drunks.

Suddenly, some green alien dude arrives who is so awesome no one actually introduces himself and we get a VERY brief description of the Doctor and the salvagers leaving... wherever the hell they are... (the Doctor not remotely fussed that he's basically taken a vacation halfway through the first day of his new job, or abandoning his TARDIS even though you'd think it would be a useful thing on this TARDIS-salvaging mission). It turns out there's some kind of electric spider web over an asteroid belt that catches TARDISes (who apparently resemble black columns when not looking like anything... contradicting every other story ever, not least Claws of Axos), and then an "Artron Sponge" sucks the energy out of the captured TARDIS until it explodes - so, not REALLY salvage then... - in a scene that the Doctor can only compare to "the scene in Star Wars where the Tauntaun's guts are sliced open with a light sabre".

I thought that was The Empire Strikes Back, but massive insensity and shithouse pop culture references all at the same time.

As the TARDIS has exploded, it's turned inside out and shoved all its rooms and contents into space. Let's think about that - how much useful stuff can be found in the average TARDIS, anyway? But the Doctor, being trusted by absolutely everyone, easily finds the corpses of the Time Lords and shoves them all in a floating wardrobe room, even the ones that are busy regenerating and NO ONE NOTICES HIM DO IT! This baffling sequence takes a page and suddenly, I quote, "two hours later they were back in the bar". Apparently nothing interesting happened in between and, you know what? I utterly believe them.

Without making any kind of comment along the lines of "you murdering bastards lied to me" or even "where's my money for helping you murdering bastards out?", the Doctor gets drunk and then hides in all the "salvage" as it is sent to the MMC base. Luckily, some of the Time Lords regenerate with the aide of some warm towels. Finally the author decides to focus on dialogue again and the plot slows down as we meet Para (the haughty teenage Time Lord girl), Torsha (the haughty teenage boy) and Gina (the creepy little Time Tot girl). After spending ages realizing that Gina's totally useless and crazy, the Time Lords decide to get rid of the bodies of their fellow Time Lords by making them regenerate again and again until they turn to slime. I always assumed if they could regenerate at all, they were alive, but this sure shows me. Our heroes don't want the MMC to get their hands on Time Lord DNA, which is why the Doctor turns the Time Lords into raw DNA and pours it down the sink - how is a paranoid evil corporation ever going to spot that, huh?

The Time Lords then decide to oh-so-sensibly split up in the vain hope they can find a way out of this Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark archive warehouse place, pausing to explain the plot to each other YET AGAIN as they do so. Then, for some reason, a swarm of flesh-eating octopi (like Stewie in the Y2K episode) attack and eat Torsha. The Doctor WOULD have helped, but was far too busy vomiting and trying not to hurt the poor little cephalapods to do so.

Fucking hell...

Episode Four and STILL no mention of Ace, or K&R or indeed any real reason why I should keep reading this crap. It turns out these ominovorous octoposes are actually security robots (yes... because robots EAT people without warning) and the Doctor is soon found by his boss, who is still amazingly understanding that on his first day at work the Doctor ran off then broke in at midnight and got a total stranger eaten by a strangely hungry "robo-pus". The Doctor uses all his wit and imagination to explain it was all Torsha's fault and he's completely innocent. Amazingly enough, the boss totally believes it, as the heady future of the 29th century does not understand the concept of CCTV.

The Doctor leaves happily, letting Torsha to be tortured and Gina to be captured by the boss who cunningly remained in his office rather than going to bed.

Episode FIVE (yes, the previous episode lasted a page - scary huh?) begins with Gina actually turning out to be in absolutely no danger of any kind as she hacked into the computer and MMC now think they employ twelve-year-old girls in Gallifreyan robes who hang around the offices at four in the morning. The boss, it is clear, is either the most stupidest person in human history or is on tranquilizers powerful enough to take down Russell Crowe. And the boss is called "Controlla Cyba". Can you see a possible pun there?

Gina meets up with the Doctor and Gina as they discover, to their horror, that the MMC have built A DEATH STAR! Only it doesn't blow planets up in the present, it blows them up in the past... so presumably they only work if you aim them at asteroid belts. Coz otherwise it would get confusing. Rather unsurprisingly, the Time Lords decide this machine is a bad thing. But then K&R finally turn up for work and the Doctor sends his pseudo-companions to a hitherto unmentioned hotel while he spends the day either hiding in the toilet or helping K&R build the Death Star. I sort of thought it was already built. And surely the Doctor's toilet breaks are an area of the character we can afford to leave alone? Go to Lucie Miller if you want the painful details of her rebellious sphincters, say I...

Anyway, while a brain-damaged 12yo girl and Para manage a cunning jailbreak for Torsha (who now has metal hands cause that pesky 15 hour regeneration cycle never kicked in what with it not existing yet), the Doctor and K&R talk technobabble and fanwank as we discover that K&R are human. University students from 1986 who were abducted by aliens because they were so clever. My god, did everyone watch a DIFFERENT Two Doctors to the one I saw?!

The Doctor decides that he's done enough work for the day and buggers off to eat while the Cyba Controller gets a report full of "CENSORED" that leaves me utterly confused as to what the hell he's being told. Is it just an abusive phone call or something? If you don't want to tell us background details, luv, there's easier ways to do it than blanking out random words. WRITE SOMETHING ELSE FOR EXAMPLE!!

Meanwhile, the Doctor leaves Para... who seems to be the little girl all of a sudden... to be babysat by K&R (which is probably the best thing he could do for her, as I attribute my incredible well-balanced mindset to the nights Robbie and Rosie - who weren't sisters - looked after me) while he and the others determine to break into the MMC base with a spaceship or something. Why they didn't use the TARDIS, I dunno. Why the TARDIS wasn't caught by the web, I dunno. What any of this has to do with Ace or Paddy or Det Sen Monastery, I am completely bloody lost.

Anyway, episode five ends with them sending in Torsha (you know, the escaped prisoner with metal arms, the one EVERY SINGLE SECURITY GUARD WILL REMEMBER) to try and break into Cyb's office. But that cunning bastard Cyb is still IN the office. Holy repetition, Batman, didn't we get this cliffhanger last time?! Meanwhile, that cute little creepy girl has stupidly mentioned to K&R she's from Gallifrey, while the Doctor and the other one are in a very boring space battle. Which they somehow win. I'm honestly not sure, since the Doctor comes up with a clever way to kill as many people as possible but suddenly a completely random thing happens to do it for him. It's very poorly explained.

Of course, being kindly lesbian babysitters, K&R are appalled to hear of the Time Lord carnage their employers are carrying out (imagine! People who ask you to build death stars being EVIL! Whatever next?!) and the Doctor and the other one return to the planet and check harddrives for deleted stuff. Very boring. VERY boring. Brief descriptions of people using laptops is never thrill-a-minute material. God, this is literally starting to make me sick. My head's throbbing, my stomach's queasy... it's rare I react so badly. The one time something similar happened was when I watched Doctor in Distress for the first time and, I swear to god, projectile vomited. It's so ridiculous and sounds like a joke, but it's true. I mean, I didn't throw up over my monitor when Nicola Bryant sang, but about a minute after I'd seen the thing, I spontaneously technicolour yawned. It's clear that it's some kind of defense mechanism of the brain, like how when your girlfriend dumps you your mind can't cope so it turns the distress into chest pains to try and relieve the pressure, or how anxiety manifests as physical symptoms... what's disturbing is that I never once retched watching The Idiot's Lantern, and surely that would merit a reaction more than anything else? Think back to the "SHE'S A FILTHY DISGUSTING THING, MY MUVVA IN LAW!" dramatic peak. Actually don't, I'm getting nauseaus too now. Obviously there is some kind of critical mass of shit Doctor Who that causes my body to react, and no amount of annuals and TV comic exposure can build up my immunity...


Yes, all right. Back to the bloody story. Dum-de-dum-de-doo. Oh god, K&R are finally noticing that the guy who "ruined their last gig" was ALSO a Time Lord called the Doctor and wonder if there's a connection. Christ, maybe a bit of Buffalo Springfield might act as a mood stabilizer before I lose that cheese and grape lunch I had today... OK, I've lost the plot. A future TARDIS with a future Doctor dressed in a fetching purple monk's robe turns up at K&R's place and steals their info for some reason. So they just download it all over again for the current Doctor. Guh? That's padding taken to a kind of philosophical martial arts level! WHAT THE HELL!?!?

Oh wait, The Unknown Doctor (as he is called) stole their info because they were about to be busted by the MMC stormtroopers, which means there was no incriminating evidence to get them caught. Well, nice to know our hero is clever he needs this Moffat predestination crap to get out of trouble rather than, say, I dunno, being clever on his own. The next morning, our heroes decide to complete the Death Star and use it on Earth 1986 - in creepy coincidence to a conversation I've just been having, the Doctor stops the plot to explain how the plot of Tikka to Ride might make sense...

"You Time Lords are really starting to piss me off."
"I'm sorry, Virginia," said the Doctor in a calming voice," but that cannon was going to be used to destroy the Earth in 1985. You would have been killed before you ever left Earth."
"That's right," said Rebecca. "Which would be some paradox, don't you think? I mean, if we were killed before we could make the lenses, then the lenses wouldn't get made and the cannon wouldn't work and we wouldn't get killed!"
"Wrong," said the Doctor. "You're selves in the new time line would be killed, but your old selves would still have made the lenses and still have contributed to the destruction of Earth. Just because a time-line ceases to exist doesn't mean that the actions of the people in them can't have a lasting effect. It's only a paradox if both things continue to exist simultaneously. There'd be nothing paradoxical about you destroying the Earth. You'd still end killing yourselves. You'd just end up dying before you did it."
"Now you're just trying to be obscure."
"I'm a Time Lord. I've sworn an oath to be obscure."

Well, that was a decent one-liner at the end, but doesn't quite balance it out.

Anyway, the Death Star blows up or something because the Doctor sabotaged it by beating us into submission with technobbable. So the Doctor buggers off to Gallifrey with the two girls (Torsha having vanished into the narratorial ether when I wasn't looking) and gives a female cardinal a lecture that the CIA shouldn't persecute gullible lesbians building time machines. Then some random guy... sorry, some RANSON guy... turns up and offers the Doctor a job running the CIA as he can't be arsed to stay in a job. For some reason, the Doctor's horrified at actually being OFFERED a job instead of bullying his way into a position and runs off...

We then get this extraordinary final paragraph:

There were still so many unanswered questions.
A sign of a bad writer, really... This is supposed to be a season finale and you can't even tell a coherent story.

What had happened to Ace?
Well, as you did fuck all to actually look for her, is it really that surprising? You actually went out of your way to avoid going anywhere near where she might have been!

What had happened to Torborosha?
And why didn't the others notice?

How were the people with the strange tattoos connected to one another?
...huh? Oh right, the badass green dude never mentioned before or since.

Why did the Mercury Mining Corporation want to erase Earth from history?
Again, I would have expected the Doctor to actually find out by asking instead of just chalking it down to experience and running away.

Who was the Unknown Doctor, and why was he working against the Doctor?
I thought we agreed he WAS working for you? He saved your ass, bitch!

And what did the bloody CIA want with him? Ranson. After all these centuries.
By which I assume they're saying that dude in Genesis of the Daleks was "Ranson" and what a stupid fucking name it is...

And there was something else too. Some little thing at the back of his mind, but he
couldn't quite remember it.

You are a shithouse Doctor, you know that? The Skins Doctor works better.

The Doctor got up and went over to the Wheel of Fortune. He grasped one of the wheel's spokes in his hand took a deep breath and gave a mighty pull.

So I waded through those 44 pages of crap until my arm went limp to find out what happened to Ace... and she gets EIGHT mentions in the whole story, all of which take the form of asking what happened to her? I have to admit, there's no other way I'd be fooled into reading this incoherent industrial sabotage garbage masquerading as a plot, filled with questions I don't actually find it in my heart to care about the answers!! Frankly, the Time War can't come soon enough to wipe out continuity and prevent drivel like this being inflicted on the fanbase.




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