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24 February 2016 @ 07:55 pm
The Story of Martha  
The Story of Martha purports to tell the story of the year Martha spent walking the Earth at the end of Season 3 of NuWho and spreading word of the Doctor's plan to defeat the Master. I thought that sounded like a promising premise for a Doctor Who book and so picked this up. I was also interested to read something by Dan Abnett since his Primeval novels had impressed fififolle enough that she went out and bought some of his Warhammer novels on the basis of them.

The Story of Martha is an odd mix of a travelogue, a short story collection and a novellette. It starts with a series of isolated incidents as Martha travels across Europe and then moves to a more extended tale of what happened in Japan. In between are short stories Martha tells the people she meets of her travels with the Doctor, each of these written by different authors. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting from this book. I think I was hoping for some combination of travelogue and world-building so we would get to see the Master creating his factory planet as Martha walks across it. That's not really what this is. The first half or so fulfils something of this role, but when the action switches to Japan (albeit a Japan that appears to have very little to do with actual Japan and could be almost anywhere) a new threat enters the mix that is separate from the Master and the rest of the story then focuses on this plot.

I can sort of see why this option was taken, the tale of a planet being enslaved as one woman walks across it is pretty grim fare and potentially somewhat plotless. While young adult novels do seem to like their dystopias, the Doctor Who range is aiming at the the younger end of YA and must be aware that a fair number of even younger children will be reading. Travelogues can also lack any real sense of coherence - indeed, I have criticised my fair share of Andre Norton books for being largely travelogues, but they've always been popular with the sort of demographic I would think the Doctor Who books are aiming at so I'm not sure that would necessarily have been a problem.

The short stories are all a little throwaway and one can't help feeling that they mostly serve the purpose of padding.

All in all, I think this was a bit of a wasted opportunity. Its focus on the events in Japan leaves much of the rest of Martha's journey unexplored and, all in all, I feel it sacrificed the opportunity to do something a little different in favour of delivering something that was more like a typical Doctor Who story.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/185447.html.
shivver13: Ten with specsshivver13 on February 25th, 2016 12:54 am (UTC)
I was also very disappointed with The Story of Martha. I have to admit that I did not know that DW books are aimed at the YA audience, but considering that books like The Hunger Games and Ender's Game are also considered YA, I'd think that DW would aim for a higher level of story. The show itself maintains a good level for adults while still being appropriate for YAs.

What I had been hoping for was a reasonable overplot of Martha traveling the world and trying to stay one step ahead of the Master's troops (I forget the name of the mercenary commander), while hearing some of the stories that inspired the planet to support the Doctor at the critical moment. I was disappointed in two respects. First, when the main plot came to its conclusion, if I remember correctly (I read this over two years ago, sorry!), the mercenary commander basically capitulated on his own... I don't remember the details, but he either lost her trail or gave up, or something like that. Martha had little to no hand in resolving the situation. Ideally, she should have faced him down and ultimately changed his mind without violence.

The second was that Martha's stories were singularly uninspiring. They were Doctor stories, to be sure, but they were simple adventures, and nothing that demonstrated any significant strength, caring, or compassion, nothing that I'd think would make the listener think, "This is a man that we need to rescue and support, because he's the only one who can save us from this mess."

In short, the book failed to illustrate Woman Who Walked the Earth and what she did that saved the planet. This should have been Martha's greatest story, in print or on TV, but it was entirely forgettable.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 25th, 2016 10:29 am (UTC)
They're definitely aimed at the YA market, I would say, it was particularly obvious with the first few, most of which included a teenage viewpoint character - but even without that the change in prose style from the Eight Doctor Adventures to the New Series books was very pronounced.

I think one of the problems may be that the stable of authors they are drawing from are used either to writing adult focused Dr Who novels or much more straightforwardly children's book which is why I think they often feel liked they're pitched a little young for YA. But they weren't aimed at the children's market because I had a Children's Librarian ask me if I thought any were suitable for younger kids since she knew there was demand for them, but the BBC wasn't advertising them to children's libraries as something suitable for their age range.

IIRC, Martha basically evaded the bad guy and then he got nuked along with everyone else when Japan went up in flames. He was pretty irredeemable though - I'm not sure I'd have been convinced that she could talk him around.

Edited at 2016-02-25 10:30 am (UTC)
cynthia2015: pic#125932134cynthia2015 on February 29th, 2016 06:07 am (UTC)
Thats a shame. Everything Martha Jones did in "the year that never was" is done off screen.

I had no doubt that she could convince people to have faith in one man and be smart enough not to get caught.

It would have been nice to have had an in depth view of what finally made her believe she could be the best she could be.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 29th, 2016 10:16 am (UTC)
There is a bit of Martha finding her feet right at the start of the story but the whole definitely gets too caught up in the side story in Japan.
cynthia2015: pic#125932134cynthia2015 on February 29th, 2016 12:31 pm (UTC)
Spreading the word would have been very time consuming. David Tennant jokes about it in the commentary.

Maybe the stories could have been about how Martha use her medical knowledge to help individuals or something to that effect.